Tuesday, July 26, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Crowned with a Crown of Thorns - Part I

Matthew 27:27-31:

[27] Then the soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band; [28] And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. [29] And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. [30] And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.
[31] And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on him his own garments, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20:

[16] And the soldiers led him away into the court of the palace, and they called together the whole band: [17] And they clothe him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon him. [18] And they began to salute him: Hail, king of the Jews. [19] And they struck his head with a reed: and they did spit on him. And bowing their knees, they adored him. [20] And after they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own garments on him, and they led him out to crucify him.

John 19:2-15:

[2] And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment. [3] And they came to him, and said: Hail, king of the Jews; and they gave him blows. [4] Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him. [5] (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he saith to them: Behold the Man.
[6] When the chief priests, therefore, and the servants, had seen him, they cried out, saying: Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Take him you, and crucify him: for I find no cause in him. [7] The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. [8] When Pilate therefore had heard this saying, he feared the more. [9] And he entered into the hall again, and he said to Jesus: Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. [10] Pilate therefore saith to him: Speakest thou not to me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?     [11] Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin. [12] And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him. But the Jews cried out, saying: If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar' s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar. [13] Now when Pilate had heard these words, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha. [14] And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews: Behold your king. [15] But they cried out: Away with him; away with him; crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

I'm going to approach this mystery a little bit differently. I feel this is a very important mystery to reflect upon, and I want to make sure I do it right. It has recently been brought to my attention by a very dear friend of mine that my many of my posts are missing what he considers to be an essential quality. Namely, that of the joy and hope and love and happiness of the teachings of Jesus and the life that the Church offers us.

While it was my intention to dig into more of the historical and theological truths found in these mysteries, I admit that for some of them, particularly those relating to Jesus' Kingdom, this was a definite oversight on my part.

Therefore, because in this current mystery we see Jesus crowned, it is fitting that I expound in much greater detail the meaning of His Kingdom, and the purpose He has set for it for our great good.

The approach that I am going to take with this mystery is to present it in three parts. The first part, which I will be doing today, will be the typical kind of reflection that you've seen from me before. I will examine the event itself, talk about some of the meaning that can be found in it, and hopefully elucidate some of the theological importance of some of it.

The second part will be a deeper examination of Our Lord's Kingdom, how it relates to the whole of human history, human suffering, and human flourishing.

In the third part I will delve deeper into the centrality that suffering takes in His Kingdom, at least for the time being. I will examine how Jesus approaches suffering both in this mystery, and the others, why He approaches it this way, and why doing likewise will lead to great joy for us.

So, without further adieu, let's begin.


Immediately following Jesus' scourging, Jesus is dressed in purple robes and crowned with thorns. It is difficult to imagine that, even at this point, Jesus could endure any more pain and suffering. Even so, He does. The primary form of suffering He endures here is that of mockery, but don't be fooled, this is accompanied by much physical pain as well.

The Purple Garments and The Crown of Thorns

Together, along with the reed scepter, these things that were placed upon Jesus was symbolic of Roman royalty. Purple was relegated strictly to the Roman royal houses and guards. This may be why there is variation among the Gospels regarding the colour, alternating between purple and crimson. It may have been red, but treated by onlookers as representing the royal colours. That was certainly the apparent intention of the Roman soldiers who dressed Him in these robes.

The crown is something of an oddity to us, because of our place in history. When we think of crowns, we typically think of those medieval, highly jeweled golden crowns with high ridges. Or, we think of the dainty tiaras that princesses and queens might have worn.

The Roman crown was much different. In fact, crowns were not relegated strictly to kings or emperors. Rather, there were a wide variety of crowns in Roman culture, the vast majority of which were presented to Roman soldiers who had accomplished some feat of victory (varying by degree) on the battlefield.

There were some such crowns (of the kind presented to soldiers), presented for certain particular feats of victory, that were made of gold, but in general the Roman crown was a plant. These varied from laurel leaves, to flowers, to shrubs, ivy, oak leaves, parsley, and more.

The kind of crown worn by a Roman emperor were called "Corona Radiata." This kind of crown was also presented to the gods and deified heroes, and were typically symbolic of the emperor's own divinity.

So, as a matter of kind, because Jesus was crowned and mockingly adored as a king by the Roman soldiers, this crown would also have been a symbol of divinity. Little did they know, they mocked the true King, and the true God, and crowned Him as such.

There were five kinds of crowns that were made out of flowers (which included roses). They were the "Corona Obsidionalis," which was the highest military honour, granted to generals who broke a siege, the "Corona Funebris" and the "Corona Sepulchralis," which were worn at funerals, the "Corona Convivialis," which was worn at private celebrations of festivals, and the "Corona Nuptialis," which was a crown picked by a bride for the wedding.

So, all at once, this crown made of the stems of roses, and used for mock kingship, represented:

1) Jesus' Divinity
2) Jesus' Kingship
3) Jesus' breaking of the siege of Sin on humanity, the highest victory
4) Jesus' death
5) Jesus as Bridegroom
6) Jesus' Resurrection, a new festival celebrated in perpetuity in His Kingdom, the Church

This is no insignificant event. While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark make a brief account of this, John's Gospels goes to some length to highlight the meaning of this question of Jesus' Kingship, involving Pilate's interrogation of Jesus in light of this, and Jesus' answer that His Kingdom is not of this world.


The central character of Jesus' suffering here is humiliation. Before I go into this in some depth, I want to call to mind something that may be missed by many who meditate on this mystery, which is the physical suffering that Jesus' continues to endure here.

We may have this image of Jesus scalp being pierce by the thorns that are pressed down onto Our Dear Lord's holy and innocent head. We all know how painful a very small and minor pinprick can be. We can imagine how much more painful this must have been. Indeed, if you've ever worked with roses, pricking your fingers on the thorns is really, very unpleasant. But these were many thorns, pressed into His scalp. His precious blood must have run down His holy face, and down His neck. I really don't know how He endured so much pain.

But there is perhaps an even greater pain than this that He suffered at this time. When the cloak was placed on His torn, wounded, and bleeding body, the stinging pain of the garment on His open wounds must have been terrible. While the robe settled on His bleeding body, His blood must have begun congealing against it, causing it to stick. After they finished mocking Him, they tore this cloak off of Him, reopening all of His wounds, and tearing off bits of flesh from all over His body. Then, in this state, they place His own clothes back onto Him, which He had not worn since before His scourging.

I can't even imagine. It makes my heart ache to think on this, on how all the muscles, all the nerves endings must have screamed out in pain, how His body must have shaken.

But, beyond all of this physical agony, the central sorrow of this mystery is the humiliation that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Not only did they laugh at Him, laugh at His pain, laugh at His wounds, and laugh at His rightful Kingship, but they also spat on Him, and beat Him, punching His holy face.

In the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus suffered the sorrow of betrayal and abandonment. Now, He suffers scorn and rejection.

All of Jesus' pain has accumulated. Nothing has gone away. He has still been abandoned, He has still been betrayed. He stills carries the weight of the world's sins on His shoulders. He still faces death. The Mystery of the Agony is still with Him. The Mystery of the Scourging is still with Him. All of His wounds are still there. They continue to be re-opened and exacerbated each time He moves, and the robes brush against His open wounds.

As His ordeal continues, we see new forms of suffering added onto those that have gone before, none leaving Him even to His death. Now, added to these sufferings, He receives humiliation. Why? What is the purpose of all this suffering. To what end is He moving?

I will examine these questions in more detail in later parts. God bless you.

1 comment:

  1. Certainly, the Crowning of Thorns reminds us of the pain and the humiliation Jesus went through during his Passion. It's also a reminder that in our own lives we will endure pain and humiliation as well, which help to find peace and happiness beyond the nicer things like success, prestige, praise or just being overindulgent with anything.

    I once talked to a Priest and he told me "Jesus came to this world to be humiliated". I think he came for much more than that, but what I got from the talk is that sometimes it's better to resist the temptation "to have the last say" in a conversation or argument. Defending ourselves, talking back, smart mouthing -signs of pride- and will not bring any peace to the heart. Sometimes it's better to "let the thorns sink in", put up with the pain of getting our pride knocked down and abandon ourselves in the Love of God, knowing that He knows better and he'll take care of the situation.