“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.”
Scientific and technological progress are registered in the world. Sensitivity to higher values increases, but global injustices, wars, political, economic and social upheavals provoke concerns and dismay. Ideologies considered timeless, are collapsing, certainties are lessening, political personalities disappear, athletes and movie stars, as soon as the light and cameras that frame them are turned off, fall into oblivion. Everything is called into question. Even dogmas are reread and reinterpreted; certain religious practices that seemed indispensable and irreplaceable turn out to be old and worn; they have had their day and are abandoned.
In the face of these upheavals, someone rebels, another resigns, many are discouraged and think that the end of everything, even of faith, has come. How to evaluate these realities? How to deal with more alarming events? How to get involved in the history of the world, with anguish and fear or with commitment and hope?
The anxieties, pains, the groans of the dying prelude the imminent death; the pangs of a woman in labor herald the beginning of a new life.
Jesus taught us the proper perspective: “When these things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near” (Lk 21:28).
In a world that seems doomed to ruin by its own frenzy of violence, the unbelieving looks down to earth and despair, convinced that we are approaching the end. The disciple remains stable in the test, raises his head and in every cry of pain perceives the groaning of creation that “suffers the pangs of birth” (Rom 8:22). In everything that happens, he takes a prelude not to death, but to a happy event: the birth of a new humanity.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “The fate of the world is in God’s hands, so I look up.”
Exhortations to give alms are frequent in the Bible: “The upright man gives without stinting” (Prov 21:26). “Give your bread to those who are hungry, your clothes to those who are naked; give alms of everything you have over” (Tob 4:16).
If there is a price to pay to enter the kingdom of heaven, how much would it be? Will it be sufficient to give something in charity?
In one of his famous homilies (Hom. In Evangelia 5:1-3), Pope Gregory the Great (590-614) deals with the issue and says, “The kingdom of God is priceless; its worth all that you have;” then he illustrates his claim with examples from the gospel.
In the case of Zacchaeus, the entrance into the kingdom of heaven was paid “half of the property” he owned, because the other half served to repay four-fold to those he had defrauded (Lk 19:8).
In the case of Peter and Andrew, the kingdom of heaven was worth the nets and the boat, because the two brothers had no other (Mt 4:20).
The widow bought it for much less: only two mites (Lk 21:2).
Someone enters even by offering only a cup of cold water (Mt 10:42).
The price to pay is easy to establish: the kingdom of God is worth all that you have, little or much that be.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “The kingdom of God is a treasure that is priceless, to get it you have to give everything.”