Harmony of the Gospels


(34) Mockery of Roman Soldiers

Scripture: Matthew 27:27-30 (focal passage); Mark 15:16-19

Tom Lowe



Following Pilates sentencing Jesus to a horrible death by crucifixion the soldiers could do anything they wanted to do to our Lord; they mocked Him and beat Him mercilessly. Remember, before this He was scourged (whipped).


Time: Friday of Jesus Final Week

Place: Jerusalem

(Matthew 27:27) Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the  [1]common hall, and gathered unto him the whole  [2]band of soldiers.
(Mark 15:16) And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called 1[1]Praetorium; and they call together the whole 2[2]band.

Pilate officially turned Jesus over to his soldiers for execution. They took Him into the common hall or governor’s quarters, probably in the castle of Antonia. Once there, they gathered the whole band, sometimes called a “cohort,” which included six hundred men, although on occasion the number was much less.

(Matthew 27:28) And they stripped him, and put on him a  [3]scarlet robe.
(Mark 15:17a) And they clothed him with 3[3]purple,

After assembling the whole garrison, they staged a mock coronation for the King of the Jews. What followed is hard to imagine! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe suffered unspeakable indignities from cruel, vulgar soldiers—His unworthy, sinful creatures. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, in imitation of a king’s or emperor’s robe. It was a military robe, usually fastened at the shoulder, such as the Roman soldiers wore. This sham of kingly majesty was nothing but meanness and was intended to expose the Lord to the spectators, as a ridiculous fraud.

They stripped him; the shame of nakedness came in with sin ([4]Genesis 3:7); and therefore Christ, when he came to satisfy for sin, and take it away, was made naked, and He submitted to that shame, so that he might prepare for us white raiment, to cover us ([5]Revelations 3:18). The pictures you see of Christ on the Cross are an artist’s attempt to prevent offending our delicate sense of decency by removing the shame of nakedness; He was naked except for the purple robe, but when He was on the Cross He was totally naked.

That robe has a message for us. Since scarlet is associated with sin ([6]Isaiah 1:18), I like to think that the robe pictures my sins being placed on Jesus so that God’s robe of righteousness might be placed on me ([7]2 Corinthians 5:21). If they had only known! It was God the Son they clothed with purple. It was their own Creator they crowned with thorns. It was the Sustainer of the universe they mocked as King of the Jews. It was the Lord of life and glory they struck on the head. They spat on the Prince of peace. They mockingly bowed their knees to the King of kings and Lord of lords. If Christ was treated like this by the soldiers, none of his followers should think it is strange to be used in the same way ([8]1 Corinthians 4:9;  [9]Hebrews 10:33).

(Matthew 27:29) And when they had  [10]platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they  [11]bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying,  [12]Hail, King of the Jews!
(Mark 15:17b) and [10]platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,
(Mark 15:18) And began to salute him, [6]Hail, King of the Jews!

They twisted a crown of thorns and pressed it down on His head. But beyond their crude joke, we understand that He wore a crown of thorns so that we might wear a crown of glory. They mocked Him as the King of Sin; we worship Him as the Savior of sinners. Thorns came in with sin, and were part of the curse that was the product of sin ([13]Genesis 3:18). Therefore Christ, being made a curse for us, and dying to remove the curse from us, felt the pain of those thorns. Christ was crowned with thorns, to show that his kingdom was not of this world. It was the custom of some heathen nations, to bring their sacrifices to the altars, crowned with a wreath of flowers; this crown of thorns was the garlands with which this great Sacrifice was crowned. The thorns were pressed into His scalp causing blood to trickle down His face and onto His beard, and on to the ground.

They also gave Him a reed—a mock scepter. They put the reed in His right hand; this was good enough for such a King. They didn’t know that the hand that held that reed is the hand that rules the world. That nail-scarred hand of Jesus now holds the scepter of universal dominion.

They knelt before Him and addressed Him as King of the Jews. Not content with that, they spat on the face of the only perfect Man who ever lived, and then they took the reed and struck Him on the head with it. They pretended to pay homage to Him in order to ridicule Jesus’ make-believe act and claim to be the Son of God. Here they bowed the knee, in disrespect to Him who was, soon after this, exalted to the right hand of God.
Jesus bore it all patiently; He didn’t say a word. “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3).

All this was designed to make a spectacle of their prisoner, while torturing Him in the process. If they had meant it for a cruel joke or entertainment He would not have been tortured so horribly; they could have set a crown of straw on the Lord’s head instead of one made of thorns.

(Matthew 27:30) And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and  [14]smote him on the head.
(Mark 15:19) And they [7]smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

When homage was paid to the king, the subject would kiss him as a token of his allegiance, but here they spit on Jesus. It was Samuel who kissed Saul, and Paul urges us to kiss the Son. But here they spit in His face; that blessed face which outshines the sun. It is strange that the sons of men would ever do such an act of wickedness, and that the Son of God would ever suffer such humiliation

They took the reed, and hit him on the head with it. It was presented to the Lord to mock His royalty; and now they have made it into a real instrument of their cruelty, and His pain. They hit Him on the head, which drove the crown of thorns deeper into his scalp. They continued making sport of Him until they thought He might die—pain to Him and pleasure for them. Thus was He despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He underwent all this misery and shame, so that He could purchase for us everlasting life, and joy, and glory.

___________________Special Notes_____________________

  [1]PRÆTO´RIUM (in the Revised Version translated palace, Matt. 27:27; John 18:28, 33; 19:9), the headquarters of the Roman military governor, wherever he happened to be. In time of peace some one of the best buildings of the city which was the residence of the proconsul or prætor was selected for this purpose. Thus at Cæsarea that of Herod the Great was occupied by Felix, Acts 23:35, and at Jerusalem the new palace erected by the same prince was the residence of Pilate. After the Roman power was established in Judea, a Roman guard was always maintained in the Antonia. The prætorian camp at Rome, to which St. Paul refers, Phil. 1:13, was erected by the emperor Tiberius, acting under the advice of Sejanus. It stood outside the walls, at some distance short of the fourth milestone. St. Paul appears to have been permitted, for the space of two years, to lodge, so to speak, “within the rules” of the prætorium, Acts 28:30, although still under the custody of a soldier.
  [2]BAND. The “band of Roman soldiers” referred to in Matt. 27:27 and elsewhere was the tenth part of a legion. It was called a “cohort,” and numbered 400 to 600 men. 
  [4]And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 
  [5]I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 
  [6]Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 
  [7]For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 

  [8]For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 
  [9]Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
 [10]“to weave, twist, plait,” is used of the crown of thorns inflicted on Christ. 
 [11]to fall on the knees, the act of imploring aid, and of expressing reverence and honor.  
  [12](when used as a greeting) to rejoice exceedingly, to be well, thrive 
  [13]Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 
  [14]Applying a blow with the hand or any instrument, or with the fist [or a hammer], or with the palm; as well as from an accidental collision); by impl. to punish; fig. to offend (the conscience):— beat, smite, strike, wound.
 [14]crack, jolt, swipe, strike, hit, bash (informal), thump, whack, wallop (informal), clout


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