Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
The last verses of this section take the kingship theme a bit further. For Matthew reports that even after he had been flogged in preparation for the crucifixion, Jesus was given to the soldiers who mocked him mercilessly, placing a scarlet robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a staff in his hand. Then they fell before him in mock homage, crying, “Hail, king of the Jews.” They spit on him and struck him on the head again and again. This was human nature in its most brutal and inhumane form. Yet even so theirs was an innocent brutality, if one can use that word. For it was a lesser sin than Pilates who sinned against his knowledge and responsibility, or the leaders’ who sinned against their law and knowledge of the Bible, or Judas’ who had betrayed his Lord.
At the moment of this sadistic beating no one on earth looked less like a king than Jesus. His flesh had been stripped to ribbons by the scourging.Roman scourgings were so severe that many prisoners died from them before they could be crucified. Blood would have been running down Christ’s head from the wounds inflicted by the thorns. Spit would have been clinging to his face. Jesus didn’t look like a king then. But no ruler seated upon any earthly throne at the pinnacle of worldly power was ever more entitled to be called a king than Jesus was.
Jesus was not only a king, he was the “King of kings,” not only a lord, but “Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Today he rules the universe, and one day he will return in judgment, as he told Caiaphas: “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).
This is of immense importance, for what was true of the King in the days of his humiliation is no less true of his kingdom. Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, wrote about the similarity between the King and his kingdom more than a century ago. He wrote that today “pure Christianity in its outward appearances is an equally unattractive object and wears upon its surface few royal tokens. It is without form or comeliness, and when men see it there is no beauty that they should desire it.” There is a nominal Christianity which is tolerantly approved by most men, but the pure gospel is scorned and rejected. The real Christ of today, among men, is unknown and unrecognized as much as he was among his own nation eighteen hundred years ago,Spurgeon said, “Evangelical doctrine is at a discount, holy living is censured, and spiritualmindedness is derided….”1
1 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Jesus, the King of Truth, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 18 (Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim Publications, 1971), p. 699.