Jesus Ridiculed, Mistreated, Mocked, and Crucified-Part 1

Matthew 27:27-32


From Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, 2006, AMG Publishers.

[27] Pilate's band of soldiers (spera [4686], a cohort of between four hundred and six hundred Roman foot soldiers), then took Jesus into the large hall in the Praetorium.

[28] This was the third time Jesus was mocked, the first being before the Sanhedrin as described in Mark 14:65 and Matthew 26:67-68 and the second being before Herod as described in Luke 23:11. This third time took place in the palace of Pilate as described also in John 19:2-3. "And they stripped (ekdsantes, the aorist participle of ekdō [1562] from ek [1537], out of; and dnō [1416], to go down, to sink, as contrasted to endō [1746], to dress; from en [1722], in; and dnō; v. 28) him.

To the Greeks, dressing was conceived as dipping into something, and undressing was emerging out of it. Thus, "dress" (énduma [1742]; Matt. 3:4; 6:25; Luke 12:23; etc.) was usually plural because of the various items of clothing one wears.

The Roman soldiers clothed Jesus with a "robe" (chlams [5511], an outer garment of dignity) to mock His alleged kingship. "Scarlet" (porphra [4209]) was a dye derived from a reddish/purple shellfish found in the Mediterranean. It was of great value in biblical times (Mark 15:17). In this verse, the robe was designated simply as scarlet or red (kokknēn [2847]).

[29] The soldiers also braided a "crown" (stéphanos [4735], a wreath) from thorn bushes, a further sign of mockery and humiliation (Mark 15:17; John 19:2-5). A common bush in Israel today grows sharp thorns over an inch long, which could have been the type used. The soldiers conveyed a message of scorn to the Jews that this Man could not possibly be their hope of freedom from Roman domination.

There Jesus stood, seemingly helpless, wearing a crown of thorns. Peter comments, "being reviled (loidoromenos, the present passive participle of loidoréō [3058], to revile, reproach, make fun of), He reviled (anteloidrei, the imperfect tense of antiloidoréō [486], to revile against) not (ouk, the absolute not') again" (1 Pet. 2:23; a.t.). The imperfect tense means it was not His custom to treat others as they were treating Him. Jesus did not react to their ridicule and torment.

The soldiers also put a "bamboo reed (klamos [2563]) in His right hand" (a.t.). They may have wanted to tempt Him into striking them, though the attempt would have been futile because the instrument was innocuous.

To complete the royal mock-up, the soldiers "having kneeled" (gonupetēsantes, the aorist active participle of gonupetéō [1120], to fall down on the knees; from gnu [1119], knee; and pptō [4098], to fall) to feign worship, they "mocked" (enépaizon, the imperfect tense of empazō [1702], to deride, ridicule, scoff; from en [1722], in; and pazō [3815], to play, make fun of) Him. The imperfect tense implies that this went on for some time. While doing this, they repeated, "Hail (chare, the present tense of charō [5463], to rejoice, be glad, cf. Luke 1:28], King of the Jews!"

[30-31] The soldiers then "spit" (emptsantes, the aorist participle of emptō [1716]) on Jesus. Spitting was a common mark of derision and contempt, as it still is in the Middle East. The word "spitting" occurs only in the Gospels and always in connection with Christ. Jesus even prophesied that He was going to be spat on as the Messiah (Mark 10:34; Luke 18:32). During His passion, He was spat on by both Jews (Matt. 26:67; Mark 14:65) and Roman soldiers (v. 30; Mark 15:19). Old Testament references to the insult associated with spitting are Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9, and Isaiah 50:6.

After taking the reed from Jesus' hand, the soldiers "were striking" (étupton, the imperfect tense of tptō [5180], to smite) Jesus on the head, the imperfect tense indicating a repetitive beating. Following all this abject humiliation, the soldiers put His original clothing back on Him and led Him to the place of crucifixion.

[32] After mocking Jesus inside Pilate's majestic hall, the Roman soldiers then led Him outside where the Jews were waiting. There they compelled a man named Simon to carry Christ's cross.

Simon was from Cyrene, a Greek settlement on the north coast of Africa. Today Cyrene is called Benghazi, a large city in eastern Libya. In 96 B.C., this region became a Roman senatorial province and in 27 B.C. united with the island of Crete. It was progressive in commerce and philosophy, producing men like philosophers Aristippus and Carmeades, the poet Cellimachus, and, later, the Christian orator and bishop Synesius. As Roman provinces, Cyrene and Palestine were economically linked.

Mark 15:21 introduces Simon as the father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Possibly Paul refers to the latter son when he says, "Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine" (Rom. 16:13). If this is the same Rufus and Paul sent greetings to his mother, we can infer that the family came to faith in Christ. She must have been loving and caring because Paul speaks of her as his own mother.

We read that "they compelled" (ēggreusan, the aorist tense of aggareō [29], to press into service, draft) Simon to carry the cross. In an interesting combination of determinism and freedom, Jesus commanded His followers to freely volunteer the second mile after being compelled (aggaresei) to go the first (Matt. 5:41).

Up to this point in Scripture, the noun "cross" (staurs [4716]) and the verb "crucify" (staurō [4717]) have been used symbolically to mean the burdens of life and bearing those burdens. The root derives from the verb hstēmi (2476), to stand.

The burdens we carry in life are of two kinds. Those we carry to survive are called "loads" (phorta [5413]), similar to the weighted cargo a boat carries. Each boat is sized to carry a certain load without sinking. There is a correlation between the weight of the load and the amount of water displaced when afloat. Disobedience to this law results in catastrophe. A second noun is called a "burden" (bros [922], weight). One chooses to shoulder this weight for others. And persons have their own (dion [2398]) loads to bear, according to their created capacity and training.

The Greek verb for "bear" is bastzō (941), to carry or bear something and remain standing. The Greek verb for the action of taking up and transferring a burden to oneself that others cannot bear is arō ([142], to take or lift up, to raise). This is the verb used here: "Him they compelled to bear (, the aorist subjunctive of arō) his cross" (cf. John 15:2). Before this occasion, the Lord Jesus used the verb arō, to take up one's cross symbolically, meaning the load that is his or hers to lift up and carry. Now the theology was being enacted in the physical event.

The word "cross" does not occur in the Septuagint. In the Greek classics, a cross (staurs) was like a stake (sklops [4647]), used to enable something to stand (hstēmi [2476], a derivation of staurs). According to A. T. Robertson, Plutarch, a famous Greek biographer and philosopher, wrote that each malefactor carried his own cross (A. T. Robertson, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 395).

If Simon of Cyrene carried Christ's cross, why then does John report, "And [Jesus] bearing (bastzōn, the present participle of bastzō) his own cross (TR, MT) went forth into a place called the place of a skull" (John 19:17)? Luke 23:26 says that as the soldiers led Christ out, they took hold of Simon and placed the cross on him to carry behind Jesus. Apparently, after the scourging and torment, the cross was placed on Jesus, and He began to carry it. But then perhaps He fainted or was too weak to continue. On seeing a man passing by (pargonta, the present active participle of pargō [3855], to go along or near in Mark 15:21), the soldiers compelled him to lift up () the cross from (off) Jesus. This implies that Jesus was about to collapse-if He had not already-under the weight of the cross.

Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) served as president of AMG International for over 40 years, was the founding editor of Pulpit Helps Magazine (Disciple's predecessor), and authored dozens of exegetical books.

Comments Click to Comment
© 2018 Disciple Magazine. All rights reserved.
6815 Shallowford Rd | Chattanooga, TN 37421 | 800.251.7206 | 423.894.6060 | fax 423.894.1055
Terms of Use | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy