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The Mockery of Christ

Matthew 27:29 (ESV) … “and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Matthew takes several similar words and actions, and starting from both ends, works his way to the center? In verses 27 and 31b the soldiers lead Jesus somewhere; in verses 28 and 31a they put on and take off a cloak; in verses 29a and 30 they do something to Jesus’ head (note also the repetition of the word reed). But then, as we finally arrive at the center there is no parallel because we have arrived at the point, poetically and thematically. The point is that these soldiers pay homage to Jesus as king (v. 29b), but mockingly so.

Let’s find out the likely intent behind Matthew’s structure. Of all the historical details surrounding the sufferings of Jesus, Matthew focuses on mockery, and he employs irony to help us rightly apply the many mockeries. You see, here in verses 27–31 we are given none of the physical, emotional, or spiritual sufferings of Christ. We are not told that “Jesus cried out in pain” or that he prayed in anguish to the Father—“Enough with this mockery! I’m your beloved Son. Do something. Save me.” Instead Jesus is once again silent. We hear only the voice of the mockers. Their words—such “instruments of torture”—must have pierced our Savior’s soul. But they are recorded here, and recorded the way they are recorded—as a chiasm—to ironically teach us what to call Jesus. We are to acknowledge him as the crucified king. We are to acknowledge him as the sovereign who, by means of his sufferings, reigns over Heaven and earth. Here we see more clearly than before that the King of kings is the King of Pain and that that King will soon rule from a wooden cross, not a golden throne.

This closing scene of Jesus’ two terrible trials foreshadows the closing, triumphant scene of the Gospel. To the one to whom has been granted “[a]ll authority in heaven and on earth” (28:18; cf. 26:64), we are to say, “Hail, King of the Jews! Hail, King of the Gentiles! Hail, King of the Heavens and the Earth!” As much as the cross of Christ casts a shadow on the whole of Jesus’ life, so too does the crown of Christ cast a brilliant light over all the darkness of his sufferings. The soldiers’ adoration and enthronement is a farce; yet if we remove their appalling attitudes from their actions—take away the parody of the wreath of thorns as golden garland, a soldier’s cloak as royal robe, a reed as scepter, and the adulation due Caesar conferred upon Christ—we have the truth set before us. As these joking Gentiles bow before Jesus (cf. 2:11; 15:22), so all the nations are to give to the true King of the kingdom of God the veneration due his majestic name. Put simply, their scorn is our call to worship.[1]

[1] O’Donnell, D. S. (2013). Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (pp. 851–852). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

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