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Mockery, Scourging of Jesus (Mark 15:16-20)

Analysis and Commentary

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Jesus and the Crown of Thorns

Jesus and the Crown of Thorns

    16 And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. 17 And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, 18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.
    20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

Jesus’ Physical Abuse

It’s true that beating prisoners was a Roman practice, but the scourging and mocking of Jesus is likely presented by Mark because it fulfills certain Jewish prophecies. Micah 5:1, in particular, declares that “with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel on the cheek.”

The scourging which occurred at the end of the previous passage was an especially vicious form of torture. While the victim was tied to a pillar, soldiers would strike him with whips that had pieces of bone or metal inserted in the leather. This had the effect of stripping the flesh off a person’s body, piece by piece.

The Roman soldiers attempt to mock Jesus by giving him a royal cloak and a crown designed to be an instrument of torture (here the cloak is royal purple; in Matthew, though, the cloak is scarlet). In so doing, however, their actions are for Mark an example of deep irony: in mocking Jesus, the soldiers also express the truth — that Jesus is the King of the Jews.

It’s plausible that Roman soldiers would have acted this way, especially if they had been soldiers originally born in the Syrian or Palestinian region and were less disciplined than soldiers from Rome itself.

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