THE SOLDIERS’ MOCKERY
The soldiers led Jesus away into the hall, which is the Praetorium, and they called together the whole company. They clad him in a purple robe, and they plaited a crown of thorns and put it on him, and they began to salute him, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck his head with a reed, and they spat on him, and they knelt down before him and worshipped him. And after they had made sport of him, they took off the purple robe, and clad him in his own clothes. And they led him away to crucify him.
The Roman ritual of condemnation was fixed. The judge said Illum duci ad crucem placet), “The sentence is that this man should be taken to a cross.” Then he turned to the guard and said, I, miles, expedi crucem, “Go, soldier, and prepare the cross.” It was when the cross was being prepared that Jesus was in the hands of the soldiers. The Praetorium was the residence of the governor, his headquarters, and the soldiers involved would be the headquarters cohort of the guard. We would do well to remember that Jesus had already undergone the agony of scourging before this horse-play of the soldiers began.
It may well be that of all that happened to him this hurt Jesus least. The actions of the Jews had been venomous with hatred. The consent of Pilate had been a cowardly evasion of responsibility. There was cruelty in the action of the soldiers but no malice. To them Jesus was only another man for a cross, and they carried out their barrack-room pantomime of royalty and worship, not with any malice, but as a coarse jest.
It was the beginning of much mockery to come. Always the Christian was liable to be regarded as a jest. Scribbled on the walls of Pompeii, whose walls are still chalked with coarse jests to-day, there is a picture of a Christian kneeling before an ass and below it is scrawled the words, “Anaximenes worships his God.” If ever people make a jest of our Christianity, it will help to remember that they did it to Jesus in a way that is worse than anything likely to happen to us.
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