No more than the with the birth of Jesus, our years of bad misinterpreted nativity plays, years of bad films, how we view this event has been clouded. People in the first century would have understood the symbolism when Jesus was being crowned King and led to His execution. Mark (of the no-nonsense gospel) makes the point simple, the crown of thorns, the purple robe, the royal staff.
Let us compare Caesar’s Coronation with Jesus’ Crucifixion
Caesar’s Coronation & Procession
- The Praetorian guard (6,000 soldiers) gathered in the Praetorium. The incoming Caesar would be brought into the middle of the gathering.
- Guards went to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, got a purple robe and placed it on the candidate. The candidate was also given an olive leaf wreath made from gold and a sceptre for the authority of Rome.
- Caesar was loudly hailed as triumphant by the Praetorian guards
- A procession began through the streets of Rome, led by the soldiers. In the middle was Caesar, and walking behind him was a sacrificial bull whose death and blood would mark Caesar’s entrance into the divine pantheon. Walking next to the bull was a slave, who carried an axe to kill the bull.
- The procession moved to the highest hill in Rome, the Capitoline Hill (Head Hill). On this hill was the Capitolium temple.
- The would-be Caesar stood before the altar and was offered by the slave a bowl of wine mixed with myrrh. He took it as if to accept and then gave it back. The slave refused, and the wine was poured out either onto the altar or onto the bull. Right after the wine was poured out, the bull was killed.
- The Caesar to be brought this second in command on his right hand and third in command on his left hand. They then went up to the throne of the Capitolium
- The massive crowd acclaimed the inaugurated emperor. And for the divine seal of approval, the gods would send signs, such as a flock of doves or a solar eclipse.
Jesus’ Crucifixion & Procession
- Jesus was brought into the Praetorium in Jerusalem. The whole company of soldiers (200 approx) gathered there.
- Soldiers brought Jesus a wreath of thorns, a sceptre (a stick) and a purple robe.
- Sarcastically the soldiers hailed, mocked and paid homage to Jesus.
- The procession began. Instead of a bull, Jesus became the sacrifice. But he could not carry the instrument of death and be the sacrifice. So they stopped Simon and gave him the cross to carry
- Jesus was led up to Golgotha. (Note in Aramaic, Golgotha is not translated precisely as “skull hill”) – that is Calvary. If we are to split hairs, Golgotha means “Head Hill”! (like the Capitoline
- Jesus was offered wine, and he refused. Right after that, He was Crucified
- Next, we read about the account of those being crucified on His right & His left.
- Jesus was then mocked, and a divine sign confirmed God’s presence (the temple curtain ripped in two, the sky was darkened, tombs burst open, and the dead walked about. And lastly, the Roman guard who had undoubtedly pledged allegiance to Caesar (the other God) was converted and acclaimed Jesus as the Son of God.
Because of how Jesus died, He is placed at the very centre of the political, social, religious & economic world. Jesus said, “unless a seed dies, it cannot bring life”. The cross is the way. The cross is where all the world’s wrath had been poured out on God. On the cross, we can see what Love looks like when it stares evil in the face. From the cross, we can hear what Love has to say to evildoers – “Father forgive them for they know what they do” (Luke 23:34)