The Mocking of Christ

In the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary we contemplate the Passion of Christ as things go from bad to worse, beginning with His agony, which reflected a level of anxiety so extreme that it caused His sweat glands to fill with blood. This is followed by the scourging, which according to the Shroud of Turin left Him with about 110 bloody abrasions on His back. But the torture only continued:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head (Matthew 27:27-31).

Possible remains of Pilate’s praetorium in Jerusalem

The praetorium must have been an enormous structure because a cohort numbered 400 or more. As for the specific thorny vine that formed the crown there are a few candidates, and they have one thing in common, their thorns are all very long, pointed, and sharp. We have to ask the question of why Our Lord Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, was subjected to this.

Euphorbia milii “Crown of Thorns”

In the New Testament the death of Our Lord is often likened to that of the Paschal Lamb on the Jewish Passover:

All the inhabitants of the earth will worship it [the Antichrist], all whose names were not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life, which belongs to the Lamb who was slain.

The word for “slain” in Greek is sphadzo, and means to butcher, slaughter, often with reference to animals for the purpose of sacrifice or food. Paschal lambs and other animals were killed in a humane manner in 1st-century Palestine. Jesus was not.

The explanation comes from the Old Testament, from the words of the prophet Isaiah:

But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all (Is. 53:5-6).

Jesus was severely punished for something He did not do; it was something we did. It was not a simple execution like what befell John the Baptist but punitive, involving prolonged sufferings. Isaiah continues,

But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain. By making his life as a reparation offering, he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days, and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him (Is. 53:10).

Isaiah wrote these prophetic words about 700 years prior to the death of Christ. In fact, looking at the passage from the Book of Revelation cited above it was the plan of God even before creation. There existed a “Book of Life” with names written in it of those who would be redeemed, even before anyone committed any sin.

In St. Paul’s epistle to the Church of Ephesus he explains that the purpose of creation of the world was for God to be glorified for His love for us manifested through His Son:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved [Christ] (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Though we were deservedly dead, the scourging, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus was so that we can be raised and adopted sons and daughters of God.

…even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:5-7).


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