Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (Mark 15:16-20; John 19:1-3)
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they slapped him in the face.
The last hours of Jesus's life were full of many cruel and brutal ironies. Jesus finally hears the words due him: "Hail, king of the Jews." And, finally he receives the crown due his regal title. But wait, instead of sincere praise, we hear the mocking yelps of the Roman oppressors and instead of the golden crown of a king or the olive crown of victory we see the thorny crown of suffering pressed into his taut skin. The Roman soldiers relished the opportunity to pay tribute to this king of sorrow by offering not gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but a crown of thorns, a beating rod, and a cross of shame and death. Unbeknownst to these mocking and jeering soldiers, their actions are indeed crowning Jesus as king and enthroning him as the sovereign Lord. Paul in Phil 2:5-11 notes that because Jesus humbled himself, because he endured the humiliation of the cross, including the crown of thorns, God therefore exalted him to the highest place. For Jesus, the path to glory as King of kings included the path of disgrace. Because he willingly and humbly wore the crown of thorns, Jesus would receive the crown of universal worship.
We cringe at what we read and our stomachs twist at what we see depicted in the image, but do we register in our hearts and minds that this is the life in which Jesus calls his disciples to participate? No health and wealth gospel here, no road to prosperity. What we find here is the way that leads to the cross, a road that leads to a shameful and certain death. Are you really ready to pick up your cross and follow Jesus along this way of the cross? Hopefully, you're having second thoughts because if you aren't, I would question if you truly grasped the weight of this call to DIE!
Pray and meditate upon the words of the hymn "Crown him with many Crowns."
Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon his throne;
Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own:
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King
Thro’ all eternity.
Crown Him the promised One,
Messiah, Israel’s king,
Who walked in servanthood along,
The path of suffering.
His honor struck in shame,
His sacrifice adorns,
His head bowed in humility,
Enhanced with twisted thorns.
Crown him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those he came to save;
His glories now we sing
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of peace,
Whose pow’r a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
And all be pray’r and praise:
His reign shall know no end,
And round his pierced feet
Fair flow’rs of paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown him the Lord of love;
Behold his hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified:
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me:
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
Jesus takes up his cross (Mark 15:20; rf. 8:34-38)
20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
"Pick it up," Jesus says. "I know its heavy; I bore its weight along with its shame, rejection, and loneliness." He pauses and with a deep breath stretches out his pierced hand. "Trust me. Take my hand and come with me." "The way ahead is dark and will involve your death, but it will result in your LIFE." "Pick it up."
O God, whose blessed Son steadfastly set his face to go to the city where he was to suffer and die; let there be in us this same devotion which was in him. Forgive us, we beseech thee, our many evasions of duty. We have held back from fear of men. We have ranked security and comfort higher than justice and truth, and our hearts condemn us. But thou, O Lord, who art greater than our hearts, have mercy upon us. Purge us from the fear that is born of self-concern. Beget in us the fear that we may be found wanting in loyalty to thee and thy purpose of good for mankind. Fill us with the compassion of him who for our sake endured the cross; that we may be delivered from selfishness and cowardice; and that, dedicating our lives to thy service, we may be used of thee to help one another and to heal the hurt of the world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Dawn to Dark: A Book of Christian Prayer).
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross (Luke 23:26)
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
On several occasions Jesus urged his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. We can see, then, why this scene from the last hours of Christ are in our Gospels. On the one hand, the cross we are to carry is our own, yet on the other hand, it is the cross of Christ we are called to pick up. It is a cross that is to be carried alone, and yet it is something we cannot do without help. Elsewhere in the Scriptures, we are encouraged to participate in the death of Jesus, in much the same way that Simon participates in carrying of the Creator's cross. The frailty of Jesus's humanity should be a reminder of our own frailty and serve to keep us from attempting to carry our cross under our own strength.
Dear Lord, the powerful example of Simon reminds me that I am also to take up the cross and follow you. You have called me to die to myself so that I might live for you. I confess that sometimes I resist this call, even though I know that in dying to myself I find true life in you. So help me, Lord, to carry my cross, to give my life away so that I might receive the abundant life of your kingdom. I could not do this were it not for the fundamental fact that you took my place on the cross. Through you, I am forgiven and invited into the fullness of life. In your death, I am raised to new life. All thanks and praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for bearing my sin on the cross, so that I might bear the cross into eternal life, both now and forever. Amen (Mark D. Roberts).
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)
27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' 30 Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
After being silent for so long, Jesus speaks. He turns to those women who mourn his approaching death and warns them rather enigmatically of the future for those who'd follow him. I'm reminded of Jesus's statement elsewhere warning the disciples that if they treat the master this way, then you can expect that they will treat the servants likewise. "If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" It is remarkable that Jesus in all his suffering is still caring for those around him. We should take at least two things away from this scene: (1) the road ahead for Jesus-followers is not easy (What will they do when it is dry?) and (2) life on the way of the cross is to be marked by utter and selfless concern for others.
Father, help us be formed in the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to our world, lived a perfect life, and died that we might live a new life. May we be filled with his never-ending love, nurtured by the truth of his living word, and guided through his perfect example. Amen (Dawn to Dark: A Book of Christian).