Jesus the Crucified King

John 19:1-16

John Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him."

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!"

But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him." The Jews insisted, We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. "Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "

Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.

"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Commentary by Donald Senior, C.P.

The motif of Kingship intensifies in the concluding scenes. When the crowd selects Barabbas to be freed, Pilate has Jesus scourged (19:1-3). The soldiers perform a cruel coronation parody: after being beaten, Jesus is crowned with thorns, robed in purple and offered mock homage: "Hail, King of the Jews!". The mockery is punctuated with further violence as the soldiers strike him "repeatedly".

All of this prepares for the bizarre scene that follows as Pilate leads his beaten prisoner, robed in his mock royal trappings out to the crowds. Pilate hopes this will quench their desire to have Jesus destroyed.

For Pilate and the characters in the drama, this is a complete humiliation of this royal pretender. Jesus is a buffoon, without power or following, garbed in mock symbols of royalty. But for the reader of the Gospel there is another truth. Jesus truly is "king"; he is God's royal Son. What is being mocked here is not Jesus but any crown whose power is based on violence and falsehood. Pilate presents Jesus as a pitiful "man" but the eye of faith knows that this human being is the Word made flesh, the "Son of Man" who came down from heaven to reveal God's love for the world.

Again irony courses through John's narrative: Jesus must die, his opponents shout, "because he made himself the Son of God" (19:7). John's Gospel has proclaimed that Jesus will die precisely because he is God's Son who gives his life for the world.

Stung by the crowd's rejection of Jesus and still seeking a way to release this mysterious prisoner, Pilate again interrogates Jesus. Pilate's claim to power is brushed aside: the only power is that which God gives (19:11).

When Pilate once again pleads with the crowd on behalf of Jesus, they threaten to accuse him of disloyalty to Caesar (19:12). Once more irony drips from the words: "Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar"--just so, the reader of the Gospel can say. Jesus is a king and the nature of his kingship is diametrically opposed to the abusive power that takes life from the innocent.

The scene ends with the crowds demanding Jesus be crucified. The symbolism is very strong. Pilate leads Jesus out and sits on the judgment seat. "Behold your king," he says to taunt the crowds, but they reply: "we have no king but Caesar." From the perspective of John's Gospel, Pilate is right and the Jerusalem crowds could make no more terrible choice.

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