Friday, March 11, 2011

Shaming the King

We have been looking at the humiliation of Jesus. It has several steps. We are in a series of postings about the third step: his crucifixion.

The story of Jesus’ crucifixion focuses on him as King. It was right for the King to have glory,[1] but Jesus turned away from glory to the cross. Because Jesus showed them no glory, characters in the story shamed him.

Turncoats and Traitors

Jesus as King had notoriety.[2] On two occasions, crowds accepted him as a king of glory.[3]

The first time was when Jesus had fed 5,000. He “perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king.”[4]

The second time was when Jesus made his final entrance into Jerusalem.

They took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”[5]

That was on Sunday. By Thursday, they were demanding that Jesus be crucified.

Many Accusations, Only One Answer

Under Roman occupation the Jews could not carry out capital punishment. The leaders wanted Jesus dead. They accused Jesus of an offense that would interest the Romans and call for capital punishment under Roman law: that He said he was a King.

They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”[6]

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”[7] Jesus said He was a king. He described his Kingdom. Pilate saw that Jesus was not a rebel against Rome. He told the Jews he found no fault in Jesus.[8] The leaders accused him more vehemently. Jesus stood silent. Pilate was greatly amazed at his silence.[9]

Jesus was silent against many accusations. The only question Jesus answered was whether He was a King.

Jesus Showed Herod No Glory

Pilate discovered that Jesus was a Galilean. This gave him an out. He sent Jesus to Herod Antipas who had jurisdiction over Galilee. Herod was in Jerusalem for Passover.

Herod questioned Jesus at length, but Jesus did not answer anything.[10] The chief priests and scribes accused him vehemently. Still, silence.[11]

At first, Herod was glad to see Jesus. “He was hoping to see some sign done by him.”[12] He was hoping to see kingly glory. Jesus showed him no sign.

Herod found nothing worthy of death in Jesus. He sent Jesus back to Pilate.[13] Before sending him back, however, because he saw no glory in Jesus, “Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, [and] arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe.”[14]

A King or an Insurrectionist

Pilate customarily released one prisoner of their choosing to the Jews at Passover. The Romans were holding Barabbas, a notorious prisoner.[15] He had committed murder in an insurrection.[16] Pilate asked the crowd whether they wanted him to release the insurrectionist or “the King of the Jews.”[17] The crowd cried out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”[18]

They chose one who tried to throw off the reign of a kingdom and rejected a King who came to bring his reign. They call Jesus “this man,” refusing to acknowledge him as what Pilate called him, their King.

Pilate Presented Jesus as Humiliated King

When the crowd chose Barabbas, Pilate flogged and scourged Jesus. That was common. Then the soldiers did something not common, something done only to shame Jesus as a king.

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”[19]

Pilate wanted to release Jesus.[20] He addressed the crowd, “What shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews”[21] and “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”[22]

We Have No King but Caesar

Pilate continued trying to release Jesus.[23]

But the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and … said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”[24]

Mockery by the Roman Soldiers

Pilate saw that “a riot was beginning.”[25] He delivered Jesus to be crucified.[26] Pilate’s soldiers mocked Jesus. Each mockery was directed against Jesus’ identity as the King. They:

  • Clothed him with a purple robe.[27]
  • Twisted a crown of thorns.[28]
  • Put the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.[29]
  • Put a reed in his right hand, like a scepter.[30]
  • Bowed the knee before him.[31]
  • Mocked him by saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”[32]
  • Worshiped him in mock worship.[33]
  • Struck him with their hands.[34]
  • Struck him on the head with a reed, their scepter-like reed having power over his scepter-like reed.[35]
  • Spit on him.[36]

Placard of Accusation and Judgment

The Romans wrote the accusation on which Jesus was condemned on a placard. They put the accusation over his head: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”[37] They wrote the accusation “in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.”[38] Let everyone read the shame.

The leaders said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”[39]

Mocking the King on the Cross

When Jesus was on the cross, characters mocked him as a king without glory.

  • “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.”[40]
  • “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”[41]
  • “The soldiers also mocked Him … saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.’”[42]

They were like Herod. Unless they saw glory, they would not believe.

Jesus hid his glory. He hid it deeply under its opposite. The cross was the hiddenness of God under shame, weakness, and foolishness. It would become the hiddenness of the Christian life[43] under humility, trial, prayer, weakness, and foolishness.


1.  See the posting, What Is It about Kingdoms?
2.  See the posting, King of the Gospel.
3. Most of the time Jesus was rejected, ridiculed, condemned, spied on, plotted against, and threatened with death. See the posting, Jesus’ Humiliation: Life of Suffering.
4. Jn 6:15
5. Jn 12:12-13
6. Lk 23:2
7. Lk 23:3; Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Jn 18:33, 37
8. Jn 18:36-38
9. Mt 27:14; Mk 15:5
10. Lk 23:9
11. Lk 23:10
12. Lk 23:8
13. Lk 23:15
14. Lk 23:11
15. Mt 27:16
16. Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19
17. Mk 15:9; Jn 18:39; Mt 27:17, 21
18. Jn 18:40
19. Jn 19:2-5
20. Lk 23:20
21. Mk 15:12
22. Mt 27:22
23. Jn 19:12
24. Jn 19:12b-15
25. Mt 27:24
26. Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Lk 23:25; Jn 19:16
27. Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2
28. Mt 27:29; Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2
29. Mt 27:9; Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2
30. Mt 27:29
31. Mt 27:29; Mk 15:19
32. Mt 27:2; Mk 15:18; Jn 19:3
33. Mk 15:19
34. Jn 19:3
35. Mk 15:19
36. Mk 15:19
37. Mt 27:37; Mt 15:26
38. Lk 23:38; Jn 19:20
39. Jn 19:21-22
40. Mt 27:42
41. Mk 15:32
42. Lk 23:36
43. Col 3:3

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