Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.Mark 15:12-21
Our text today takes us into an inverted world. When Jesus came to Jerusalem as the Messiah sent from God, his disciples would’ve expected him not only to ascend to the throne of David but also to expel the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel. However, not only did his people reject him, they appealed to the very pagan power they detested—Rome—to execute him. The reason why Pontius Pilate kept referring to Jesus as the “King of the Jews” was because the Jewish leaders had accused him setting himself up as king and conspiring against Rome—a charge serious enough for the Roman prefect to involve himself in the case. Of course, we know Pilate acquiesced to the Jewish pressure to crucify him and whatever the disciples had expected of Jesus didn’t come to pass. Yet, Mark the Evangelist tries to show us that Jesus’ Passion was in fact his royal ascension, albeit a perversely inverse one.
When Jesus was brought to the praetorium, he was greeted by no less than a few hundred soldiers keen to mock him. However, what they made him go through was a parody of an emperor’s triumphal procession. First, the soldiers mock him by dressing him up like a emperor, complete with a crown and a purple robe. Then, they acclaim him as the King of the Jews by imitating the imperial acclamation meant for the emperor (“Hail, Caesar!”). They even genuflected to him as though to the emperor! Finally, they led him out of Jerusalem to be crucified, an inversion of a triumphant emperor’s reception into Rome. At Golgotha, the soldiers would raise Jesus on his cross as though an emperor escorted to his seat of power. Perversely, it’s in the nadir of suffering and shame that Jesus ascended to his place as the Messiah, a complete inversion of worldly expectations. Hence, John the Evangelist could have Jesus refer to his Passion as the hour “for the Son of Man to be glorified.” For the eyes of faith, Jesus’ perfect obedience in the face of suffering and shame is the pathway to his messianic glory.
The inversion here lays bare the perversity of our world. How depraved our human hearts must be to assail an innocent and guiltless man with such cruelty! How in need of healing we must be! Thanks be to God that “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Is. 53.5). May his Holy Spirit heal us and show us the pathway of obedience to glory.