The Triumph of the Defeated
There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
“Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on his head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around his shoulders; and they began coming up to him and saluting him, ‘Hail king of the Jews’ and they struck him on the face” (Jn 19:1-3).
How come Jesus does not react as he did when he was struck by the servant of the high priest (Jn 18:23)?
The enthronement of a mock-king was a well-known game in antiquity. A prisoner who was to be executed after a few days was clothed in the regalia and treated as an emperor. A cruel mockery put into action against Jesus.
In the scene described by John, there are all the elements that characterize the enthronization of an emperor: the crown, the purple cloak, and the acclamation.
It is a parody of kingship and Jesus accepts it because it shows in a more explicit way what his judgment is on the display of power and the pursuit of glory of this world. To aspire to sit on a throne in order to receive honors and bows is for him a farce even though, unfortunately, is the most common and grotesque comedy played by people.
In the final stage of the process (Jn 19:12-16), Pilate takes Jesus outside and made him sit down on a high platform. It is midday and the sun is at its zenith when in front of all the people Pilate, pointing to Jesus crowned with thorns and covered with a purple robe, proclaims: “Behold your King.” It’s the time of enthronement; it is the presentation of the ruler of the new kingdom, the kingdom of God.
For the Jews, the proposal is so absurd as to be provocative. They furiously react with an indignant rejection: “Take him away, crucify him!” (Jn 19:15). A king like him they don’t even want to see; he disappoints all expectations; it is an insult to common sense.
Jesus is there, at the top, for all to contemplate, lit by the sun shining in all its glory; he is silent, does not add a word because he has already explained everything. He waits for everyone to rule and make their choice.
One can bet on the greatness, the majesty of this world, or follow him, giving up all goods and preferring defeat for love. The success or failure of a life depends on this choice.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Who becomes servant of the brothers and sisters reigns with Christ.”