Summary: A king who leaves his own position in glory to take on the sins of his people – that is a king worthy to follow.
“We are going up to Jerusalem,” [Jesus] said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him” (Mark 10:33-34).
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
A Roman scourging was a terrifying punishment. The delinquent was stripped, bound to a post or a pillar, or sometimes simply thrown to ground, and was beaten by a number of guards until his flesh hung in bleeding shreds. The instrument indicated by the Marcan text, the dreaded flagellum, was a scourge consisting of leather thongs plaited with several pieces of bone or lead so as to form a chain. No maximum number of strokes was prescribed by Roman law, and men condemned to flagellation frequently collapsed and died from the flogging. Josephus records that he himself had some of his opponents in Galilee scourged until their entrails were visible (War II. xxi. 5), while the procurator Albinus had the prophet Jesus bar Hanan scourged until his bones lay visible (War VI. v. 3) (Lane, p. 557).
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The scourging and now the brutal mocking took place indoors away from the eyes of the crowd. The scourging was an official act under supervision of some kind. The next takes place as nothing more than a gang of bullies who have a victim all to themselves. The soldiers given charge of Jesus called together the whole company of soldiers. There is no purpose in this other than to make a party out of brutalizing Jesus.
17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” They find the charge against Jesus amusing and play the joke for all they can. They find some old material of purplish color, the color of royalty, and throw it on his back, which has been shredded by the scourging. They take the branches of a thorn bush, weave a crown, and set it on his head so that the thorns drive into his flesh. As the blood streams down his face that mockingly address him as king.
The sport is too much fun. As with bullies who have ganged together against a defenseless victim, the soldiers become more cruel. 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. Again and again they strike him with a wood staff. Again and again they hit him. Jesus must be staggering on his feet, knocked about with each blow. It makes them want to hit him again. He staggers to one side of the circle. They bow before him, then stand and hit him so that he staggers to the other side. They bow and then hit him again. And on it goes until they are ordered to proceed with the crucifixion.
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).
With two other victims, they march Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem as a lesson to the people of what happens to those who fall under Roman justice. The beam of the cross is laid upon the shoulders of each condemned man. As they near the city gate, it is clear that Jesus cannot continue under the weight of the beam and the strain of his scourging and beatings. The soldiers exercise their rights to commission any nonRoman into service, and they grab Simon, probably a Jewish pilgrim for the Passover who had traveled from Cyrene, which is on the coast of Libya. (By the way, that Mark is able to name Simon and his sons probably indicates that they had become believers and well-known in the early church.) With Simon bearing the cross, Jesus is now able to stagger to Golgotha, just outside the city on a low hill where travelers may pass by.