Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
— Matthew 27:27-29
After Jesus was scourged, Pilate delivered Him to the Roman soldiers so they could initiate the crucifixion process. However, first these soldiers dragged Jesus through the worst mockery and humiliation of all. Matthew 27:27-29 describes what Jesus went through at this stage of His ordeal: “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!”
Verse 27 says the soldiers “…took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.” The “common hall” was the open courtyard in Pilate’s palace. Since Pilate rotated between several official royal residences in Jerusalem, this could have been his palace at the Tower of Antonia (see April 4). It also could have been his residence at the magnificent palace of Herod, located on the highest part of Mount Zion. All we know for sure is that the courtyard was so large, it was able to hold “the whole band of soldiers.” This phrase comes from the Greek word spira, referring to a cohort or a group of 300 to 600 Roman soldiers.
Hundreds of soldiers filled the courtyard of Pilate’s residence to participate in the events that followed. Matthew 27:28 says, “And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.” First, the soldiers “stripped him.” The word “stripped” is the Greek word ekduo, which means to totally unclothe or to fully undress. Nakedness was viewed as a disgrace, a shame, and an embarrassment in the Jewish world. Public nakedness was associated with pagans — with their worship, their idols, and their statues.
As children of God, the Israelites honored the human body, made in the image of God; thus, to publicly parade someone’s naked body was a great offense. We can know, then, that when Jesus was stripped naked in front of 300 to 600 soldiers, it went against the grain of His entire moral view of what was right and wrong.
Once Jesus stood naked before them, the soldiers then “…put on him a scarlet robe.” The Greek phrase is chlamuda kokkinen, from the word chlamus and kokkinos. The word chlamus is the Greek word for a robe or a cloak. It could refer to a soldier’s cloak, but the next word makes it more probable that this was an old cloak of Pilate. You see, the word “scarlet” is the Greek word kokkinos, a word that describes a robe that has been dyed a deep crimson or scarlet color, which is suggestive of the deeply colored crimson and scarlet robes worn by royalty or nobility. Did this cohort of Roman soldiers who worked at Pilate’s residence pull an old royal robe from Pilate’s closet and bring it to the courtyard for the party? It seems that this is the case.
As Matthew continues the account, we find out what happened next: After the soldiers “…had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head.…” The word “platted” is the Greek word empleko (see January 25). Thorns grew everywhere, including in the imperial grounds of Pilate. These thorns were long and sharp like nails. The soldiers took vines that were loaded with sharp and dangerous thorns; then they carefully wove together those razor-sharp, prickly, jagged vines until they formed a tightly woven, dangerous circle that resembled the shape of a crown.
Afterward, the soldiers “…put it upon his head.…” It was this kind of crown that the soldiers violently pushed down upon Jesus’ head. Matthew uses the Greek word epitithimi, a word that implies they forcefully shoved this crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head. These thorns would have been extremely painful and caused blood to flow profusely from His brow. Because the thorns were so jagged, they would have created terrible wounds as they scraped across Jesus’ skull bone and literally tore the flesh from His skull.
Matthew called it a “crown” of thorns. The word “crown” is from the Greek word stephanos, the word that described a coveted victor’s crown. These soldiers intended to use this mock crown to make fun of Jesus. Little did they know that Jesus was preparing to win the greatest victory in history!
After forcing the crown of thorns down onto Jesus’ brow, the soldiers put “…a reed in his right hand.…” There were many beautiful ponds and fountains in Pilate’s inner courtyard where long, tall, hard “reeds” grew. While Jesus sat there before them clothed in a royal robe and crown of thorns, one of the soldiers must have realized that the picture was not quite complete and pulled a “reed” from one of the ponds or fountains to put in Jesus’ hand. This reed represented the ruler’s staff, as seen in the famous statue called “Ave Caesar,” which depicted Caesar holding a staff or scepter in his hand. The same image, also showing a scepter in the right hand of the emperor, appeared on coins that were minted in the emperor’s honor and in wide circulation.
With a discarded royal robe about Jesus’ shoulders, a crown of thorns set so deeply into His head that blood drenched His face, and a reed from Pilate’s ponds or fountains stuck in His right hand, “…they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” The word “bowed” is the Greek word gonupeteo, meaning to fall down upon one’s knees. One by one, the cohort of soldiers passed before Jesus, dramatically and comically dropping to their knees in front of Him as they laughed at and mocked Him.
The word “mocked” is the Greek word empaidzo, the same word used to describe the mocking of Herod and his bodyguards (see April 19). As Pilate’s soldiers mocked Jesus, they said to Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” The word “hail” was an acknowledgment of honor used when saluting Caesar. Thus, the soldiers shouted out this mock salute to Jesus as they would to a king to whom honor was due.
Matthew 27:30 goes on to tell us, “And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.” The word “they” refers to the entire cohort of soldiers who were present in Pilate’s courtyard that night. So as each soldier passed by Jesus, he would first mockingly bow before Him; then he’d lean forward to spit right in Jesus’ blood-drenched face. Next the soldier would grab the reed from Jesus’ hand and strike Him hard on His already wounded head. Finally, he would stick the reed back in Jesus’ hand to make Him ready for the next soldier to repeat the whole process.
The Greek clearly means that the soldiers repeatedly struck Jesus again and again on the head. Here was another beating that Jesus endured, but this time it was with the slapping action of a hard reed. This must have been excruciatingly painful for Jesus, since His body was already lacerated from the scourging and His head was deeply gashed by the cruel crown of thorns.
When all 300 to 600 soldiers were finished spitting and striking Jesus with the reed, Matthew 27:31 tells us that “…they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.” The robe wrapped around Jesus had no doubt had time to mesh into His wounds, for it took a great amount of time for so many soldiers to parade before Him. Therefore, it must have been terrifically painful for Jesus when they jerked this robe off His back and the material ripped free from the dried blood that had coagulated on His open wounds.
But this would be the last act of torture Jesus would endure in this stage of His ordeal. After putting His own clothes back on Him, the soldiers led Him from the palace to the place of execution.
As the soldiers mocked Jesus that day, hailing Him as king in derision and ridicule, they were unaware that they were actually bowing their knees to the One before whom they would one day stand and give an account for their actions. When that day comes, bowing before Jesus will be no laughing matter, for everyone — including those very soldiers who mocked Jesus — will confess that Jesus is Lord!
Yes, a day is soon coming when the human race will bow their knees to acknowledge and declare that Jesus is the King of kings. Philippians 2:10,11 talks about that day: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If you have a friend who doesn’t know Jesus yet, don’t you think it’s time for you to introduce that friend to Jesus Christ? Your friend will one day bow before Him anyway; the question is, from which place will he bow before Jesus — from Heaven, from earth, or from hell?
Everyone in Heaven will bow low before Jesus on that day, as will everyone who is alive on earth at His coming and everyone who has gone to hell because they didn’t bow before Him while they lived on this earth. So the big question is not if a person will bow before Him, but from which place will he choose to bow before Him?
Isn’t it your responsibility to help lead your friends and acquaintances to Jesus? God’s Spirit will empower you to speak the Gospel to them. If you pray before you speak to them, the Holy Spirit will prepare their hearts to hear the message. Why not stop today and ask the Lord to help you speak the truth to those friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers whom you interact with every day?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, open my eyes to those around me who are unsaved and in need of salvation. You died for them because You want them to be saved. I know that You are trusting me to tell them the Good News that they can be saved. Please empower me strongly with Your Spirit, giving me the boldness I need, to step out from behind intimidation and to tell them the truth that will save them from an eternity in hell. Help me to start telling them the Good News immediately, before it is too late.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare by faith that I am a strong witness for Jesus Christ. My eyes are opened and my spirit is attentive to recognize opportunities to speak the Gospel to people who are unsaved. When I speak to them, they listen with an open heart and want to hear what I have to say. Because of my bold witness, my family, friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers are getting saved!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. How long has it been since you shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with your family, friends, acquaintances, or fellow workers?
2. Since the people in your life will bow their knees before Jesus at some point in the future anyway, don’t you agree that you should help them do it now so they won’t have to bow their knees to Him one day from hell?
3. How long has it been since you’ve bowed your own knees to pray or to worship Jesus? Don’t you think it would be a good idea for you to make this a part of your daily spiritual routine?