Looking at the Crucified King

I stepped on a nail last week. It hurt. Really hurt. But something tells me it didn’t hurt as much as crucifixion. I don’t imagine that one nail in the foot feels as bad as a nail/stake all the way through the foot. Nor does it hurt like a nail all the way through the hand or wrist. I don’t even suppose that a nail in the foot hurts like carrying a cross…or being scourged…or wearing a crown of thorns.

In Mark 15:16-32, Jesus is paraded to the cross and it is intended as a mocking parody of a triumphal procession. He is taken to the Praetorium and the whole Roman cohort is called together. This suggests that we are gearing up for a victory, we are “rallying the troops” as they say. Jesus is then dressed in purple, given a crown, and hailed as king. But it is done out of scorn rather than sincerity.

The procession now winds it way through the streets to the place of sacrifice. A criminal would often have a sign around the neck signifying the crime committed. Or, the triumphant king might have a sign which told of all the peoples he had conquered. Jesus’ crime is that He had confessed to being the King (Mark 15:2-3). Triumphant kings during this time often had two people with them. (Consider that within the Gospels there is a request to be on the right and left of Jesus in His glorious kingdom (Mark 10:37; Matthew 20:21)). In the parody of a triumphal procession, Jesus, at the cross, has a man on His right and a man on His left. But they, the text says, were criminals. Jesus is then ridiculed by the onlookers.

In popular Christian belief, the cross has essentially been viewed as a grand, honorable thing. Crosses are made out of gold and worn around the neck. Crosses are built into ornate church architecture and stained glass. But there was nothing prestigious or beautiful about a cross in its original context. It was the death of a low status slave—a person whose value was seen as being that of a few nails, a few pieces of wood, and horrendous pain.

Jesus and the cross is all about the King and His Kingdom. The ironic truth is that Jesus is the King. They say “Prophesy,” and yet Jesus’ prophecies are coming true as Peter denies (Mark 14:65-72). They called Jesus a King, and although they meant it mockingly, it was the truth. They led Jesus through a satirical triumphal procession, without knowing that this King would be triumphant.

They could not comprehend a King and a Kingdom where service is more important than status, where prayer is more important than carnal power, and where meekness is better than might. At first glance, this may not seem like much of a Kingdom, and in the eyes of many, Jesus may not seem like much of a King. But stay near to the cross and continue looking at the King and His Kingdom. Stay close to the cross and keep looking. Spend enough time close to the place where the King is enthroned, and you might just say, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).