Wednesday, 1 April 2015


The might of the Roman Empire ridicules the Lord of heaven and earth! What a cheek! The Crowning of Thorns sums up the complete misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God, and what it meant for Jesus to be king. In all four Passion Narratives His enemies rightly call Him, ‘King.’ But what tragic irony –none of them understood what His sovereighty meant.

Certainly God’s People had longed for Him to send His Messiah-King to defeat the forces of evil and establish His sovereignty. When Jesus preached the Kingdom of God everyone at first thought He would fulfil their hopes and longings. But when Jesus refused to be their king, leading an uprising against the Romans, they became disappointed and disillusioned with Him. Enthusiastic support turned into hostility. Now they used His preaching of the Kingdom to persuade the Roman Governor, Pilate, that Jesus was a threat to Rome –even though Jesus never claimed to be King.
That is, until His arrest and trial. Only when He was utterly powerless, did Jesus admit that He was, indeed, king. But He added that His kingdom was like nothing on earth. If it were, He could summon His legion of angels to rescue Him. But to appease the mounting hostility of Christ’s enemies the Roman governor, Pilate, sentenced Jesus to be crucified, under the title, "King of the Jews."
That gave the bully-boy Roman soldiers sufficent excuse to mock Jesus as an upstart king. He provided an easy target; He must have looked a very sorry sight, an unlikely monarch, who was absolutely powerless. So far, this form of ridicule was humiliating enough. But then it escalated from verbal mockery into crude physical violence. Jesus was repeatedly struck and spat upon. We all know that to spit on someone is a deep and disgusting expression of contempt. That humiliation is what the God of glory and majesty suffered!

The Crowning with Thorns is presented as a parody of the homage paid to Caesar. Jesus is seated on a chair –a caricature of a throne. He is clothed in a soldier’s red cloak, taking the place of royal purple. A reed, representing a sceptre, is placed in His hand. He is crowned with the thorns. The evangelists see this more as completing the mockery of the Kingship of Christ, rather than labouring the size of the thorns and the pain they would have caused. Finally, the Roman soldiers knelt before Jesus in mock obeisance to the King of the Jews – a caricature of the homage shown to the emperor. The words, "Hail, King of the Jews" parodied the greeting, "Hail, Caesar." It’s been suggested that the thorns with which Christ was crowned are a caricature of the rays on the emperor’s crown, signifying his divinity. This emblem was to be found on Roman coins. Unwittingly this mockery acknowledges Jesus as both king and God.
In sharp contrast, we see the silent dignity of Christ, even though He was such a sorry sight –utterly powerless, and with no supporters. Like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Lord, He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows. And yet He did not raise his voice in protest. He did not strike back, when he could so easily have done so. We see the sharp contrast between the pagan Roman Empire, which used force to establish its rule, and Jesus who conquered and ruled through the power of self-sacrificing love. The God of glory, power and majesty had become like a hunted wounded animal. Those hearing the Passion Narratives would have seen Jesus fulfilling the role of the Suffering Servant of the Lord, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled my beard. I hid not my face from shame and spitting." (Is. 50.6).
The Crowning with Thorns sums up the tragic irony of Christ’s Passion. In condemning Jesus Pilate was so right in giving Him the title, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The crowd was so right in hailing Jesus as King, so, too, the Roman soldiers as they crowned Him with thorns. But that was all in mockery. Everybody gave Jesus the correct title, but not one of them understood the nature of His soveriegnty. It was indeed like no earthly Kingdom. Jesus would be enthroned on the cross; He would defeat evil by the power of His love, not by force of arms. His would be a Kingdom of love, truth, justice and peace.
For me the Crowning with Thorns must mean much more than being right in my understanding of the Kingship of Christ. Since I believe in His sovereignty and call Him "Lord," He must reign in my heart and mind. I must seek first His kingdom and obey Him. Otherwise He will disown me, and the honour I show Him will be a mockery.
Isidore .O.P.

No comments:

Post a Comment