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Gerard van Honthorst_1622_Crowning with Thorns

Crowning with Thorns, Gerard van Honthorst, c. 1622

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the praetorium); and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him. Mark 15:16-17

During Lent, we are reflecting on Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. So far, we have reflected on the Agony in the Garden and The Scourging. This week we will look at the third Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary, the Crowning with Thorns.

Following an incredibly brutal scourging at the hands of his persecutors, Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers. They put a purple robe on him (an indication of royalty) and fashioned a crown out of thorns, placing it upon His head. Christians today continue to be persecuted just as Jesus predicted to his disciples, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). When one stands for righteousness and all that is holy, the worldly taunt and mock that which runs contrary to their actions. This is particularly true for those who believe that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Mockery and pain of persecution can be endured when these sufferings are united with the suffering of Christ.

And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. Matthew 27:29-30

Battered and beaten, tired and bleeding, Jesus endured insult after insult from the Roman soldiers. They spit on Him and beat Him on the head with the reed they had put in His hand. The thorns of His crown were driven deeper into His scalp. His body screamed in anguish yet He never uttered a word against His attackers. Jesus humbly submitted to unbelievable abuse out of love for not only his attackers, but for the whole world. Jesus is our model of suffering, enduring all even to the point of death.

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified.” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified.” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:22-24

Pilate declared that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood and washed his hands of the affair. No one is innocent. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. How many times have we turned our backs on Jesus and followed our own selfish interests? In a sense, we cry “crucify him” when we choose sin over righteousness.

“And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Do you mean these words of the “Our Father” when you pray them? Do you understand the gravity of these words? When you pray these words as part of the Lord’s Prayer, you are asking God to treat you with the same mercy that you have shown to others. We tremble at the thought of how many times we have failed to show mercy to those who have sinned against us, especially within our family. Lord, forgive us for our lack of compassion.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

Are you holding unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone, especially your spouse or children? Unforgiveness towards anyone blocks God’s mercy from being efficacious in our lives. It is a cancer that destroys relationships. Heaven help us if we do not extend the full mercy of God to those who have offended us.

Pilate went out again, and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gab′batha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:4-16

Pilate knew what was right. He saw that Jesus was innocent of any crime. Giving into public pressure, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.

Nothing has changed in 2000 years. Marriage is held up to the courts and public opinion shouts “Crucify! Crucify!” Innocent men, women and children are being ripped apart to satisfy the cries of a society that honors free choice over obedience, self-interest over eternal truths, freedom to do as one pleases over serving the ones they once claimed to love. Jesus suffers along with those in difficult marriages. He was beaten and bruised for our iniquities. He died for the sins of the world. Do not give in to the cries of the popular culture, a culture of death. Hold onto the cross of Christ and do not lose hope. In spite of the abuse, mockery, pain and suffering, keep focusing on the victory of the Resurrection and new life in Christ.

When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26

As impossible as things may look in a struggling marriage, nothing is impossible with God. Jesus healed the sick, cleansed lepers, and raised the dead. His miracles continue today. Jesus can heal a sick marriage and raise it to new life.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

May the Lord bless you and keep you, O faithful child of God.

Next Week: The Carrying of the Cross