Mocking of Jesus

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The Mocking of Christ by Matthias Grunewald, c. 1505 Mathis Gothart Grunewald 062.jpg
The Mocking of Christ by Matthias Grünewald, c. 1505

The mocking of Jesus occurred several times, after his trial and before his crucifixion according to the canonical gospels of the New Testament. It is considered part of Jesus' passion.

Sanhedrin trial of Jesus The trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin

In the New Testament, the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus refers to the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin following his arrest in Jerusalem and prior to his dispensation by Pontius Pilate. It is an event reported by all four canonical gospels of the New Testament, although John's Gospel does not explicitly mention a Sanhedrin trial in this context.

Crucifixion of Jesus Jesus crucifixion as described in the four canonical gospels

The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st-century Judea, most likely between AD 30 and 33. Jesus' crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although there is no consensus among historians on the exact details.


According to the gospel narratives, Jesus had predicted that he would be mocked (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32). The mocking of Christ took place in three stages: immediately following his trial, immediately following his condemnation by Pontius Pilate, and when he was being crucified.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Jesus predicts his death

There are several references in the Synoptic Gospels to Jesus predicting his own death, the first two occasions building up to the final prediction of his crucifixion. Matthew's Gospel adds a prediction, before he and his disciples enter Jerusalem, that he will be crucified there.

Pontius Pilate Fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, c. 26–36 CE

Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27 to 36/37 CE. He is best known today for being the official who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion. Pilate's importance in modern Christianity is underscored by his prominent place in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. The Coptic and Ethiopian Churches venerate Pilate as a saint.

The New Testament narratives of Jesus being mocked are filled with irony, while the mockery focuses on Jesus' prophetic and kingly roles. [1] [2]

Irony Rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning

Irony, in its broadest sense, is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or event in which what appears, on the surface, to be the case, differs radically from what is actually the case.

First stage

Gerrit van Honthorst, The Mocking of Christ, c. 1617 WLA lacma The Mocking of Christ.jpg
Gerrit van Honthorst, The Mocking of Christ, c. 1617

After Jesus' condemnation by the Sanhedrin, some spat on him (Mark 14:65). He was blindfolded and beaten, and then mocked: "Prophesy! Who hit you?" (Luke 22:63). This was done by those men who "held Jesus" (Luke 22:63, King James Version). The New International Version translates this as "the men who were guarding Jesus", but Joel B. Green takes the phrase to refer to the "Chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders" mentioned in verse 52. [3]

<i>New International Version</i> English translation of the Bible

The New International Version (NIV) is an English translation of the Bible first published in 1978 by Biblica. The NIV was published to meet the need for a modern translation done by Bible scholars using the earliest, highest quality manuscripts available. Of equal importance was that the Bible be expressed in broadly understood modern English.

Joel B. Green is an American New Testament scholar, theologian, author, Associate Dean of the Center for Advanced Theological Study, and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Green is a prolific author who has written on a diverse range of topics related to both New Testament scholarship and theology. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church.

Green suggests that Jesus suffers the mockery that is typical of prophets, and that his suffering suggests his "solidarity with God's agents who speak on God's behalf and are rejected." [3] Susan R. Garrett sees Mark's inclusion of the mockery as an example of irony, since Jesus is indeed a prophet, at the very moment his prophecy that Peter would deny him was being fulfilled. [4] The prophetic assignment is not always portrayed as positive in the Bible, [5] [6] [7] and prophets were often the target of persecution and opposition. [8]

Prophet person claiming to speak for divine beings

In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.

Denial of Peter episode from the Passion of Christ

The Denial of Peter refers to three acts of denial of Jesus by the Apostle Peter as described in all four Gospels of the New Testament.

Second stage

Edouard Manet, Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, c. 1865 Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers.jpg
Édouard Manet, Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, c. 1865

After his condemnation by Pontius Pilate, Jesus was flogged and mocked by Roman soldiers. They clothed him with a "purple" (Mark 15:17) or "scarlet" (Matthew 27:28) robe symbolizing a royal gown since purple was a royal color, put a crown of thorns on his head symbolizing a royal crown, and put a staff in his hand symbolizing a scepter. They knelt before him and said, "Hail, king of the Jews!" (Matthew 27:29). This was done as a mockery of Jesus' kingship. After this, they spat on him and struck him on the head with the staff repeatedly. [9]

Flagellation of Christ biblical scene

The Flagellation of Christ, sometimes known as Christ at the Column or the Scourging at the Pillar, is a scene from the Passion of Christ very frequently shown in Christian art, in cycles of the Passion or the larger subject of the Life of Christ. It is the fourth station of the modern alternate Stations of the Cross, and a Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. The column to which Christ is normally tied, and the rope, scourge, whip or birch are elements in the Arma Christi. The Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome claims to possess the original column.

Legionary professional soldier

The Roman legionary was a professional heavy infantryman of the Roman army after the Marian reforms. These soldiers, alongside auxiliary and cavalry detachments, would first conquer and then defend the territories of the Roman Empire during the late Republic and Principate eras. At its height, Roman legionaries were viewed as the foremost fighting force in the Roman world, with commentators such as Vegetius praising their fighting effectiveness centuries after the classical Roman legionary disappeared.

Tyrian purple, also known as Tyrian red, Phoenician purple, royal purple, imperial purple or imperial dye, is a reddish-purple natural dye. It is a secretion produced by several species of predatory sea snails in the family Muricidae, rock snails originally known by the name Murex. In ancient times, extracting this dye involved tens of thousands of snails and substantial labor, and as a result, the dye was highly valued. The main chemical is 6,6′-dibromoindigo.

Peter Leithart notes that at the end of the scene, the soldiers "reverse the whole coronation with an anti-coronation. They spit in contempt instead of kneeling in reverence, pull the scepter from Jesus’ hand and beat His crowned head with it, strip off the scarlet robe and replace it with Jesus’ own robe." Leithart goes on to suggest that, at this point, the Romans "remove the veil of irony and reveal what they really think" about the Jews and their God. [10] The crowning/de-crowning of a mock king is what Mikhail Bakhtin calls the "carnivalesque." Carnivalesque expresses “life drawn out of its usual rut” and “the reverse side of the world (monde à l’envers)" in which normally suppressed voices of the culture mock everyday social hierarchies and the voices of the status quo. [11] The soldiers not only mock Jesus; they mock the whole notion of kingship modeled on this world. The irony is rich because the type of king they mock—one who lords over others with scepter, crown, and robe—is not the type of king Jesus is or the type of kingdom he brings (cf. Mark 10:45 and Son of man came to serve). Their mockery speaks truth beyond what they could possibly know. [12]

Robert J. Miller suggests that the gospel account is deeply ironic since Jesus is exercising his kingship through submission and suffering: "the Roman legionnaires have unwittingly furthered God's secret purposes by dressing Jesus up as a king." [13] In fact, the irony operates on two levels. James L. Resseguie points out that there is verbal irony in the way the soldiers "mock Jesus as a dismal failure and a pretend king" (that is, the soldiers are themselves being ironic) as well as dramatic irony in that the readers "know that the acclamation rings true in ways that the soldiers could not possibly understand." [14] Luke 23:11 also mentions that "Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him" (New Revised Standard Version).

Third stage

Hendrick ter Brugghen, The Mocking of Christ, c. 1625 Hendrick ter Brugghen - Die Verspottung Christi.jpg
Hendrick ter Brugghen, The Mocking of Christ, c. 1625

Jesus was also mocked while he was on the cross. According to Mark 15:29-30, this was done by those who passed by and hurled insults at him and told him to come down from the cross. Mark 15:31-32 points out that "the chief priests and the teachers of the law" also mocked him among themselves, saying: "He saved others, but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Finally, those crucified with Jesus also heaped insults at him (Mark 15:32).

Luke 23:36-37 mentions mocking by Roman soldiers: "The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, 'If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!'" (New Revised Standard Version). In Matthew 27:42 people, priest and the elders mock Jesus, and shout at him while he is hanging on the cross: "He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God." [15]

According to Luke 23:39, one criminal on his left who hung there together with Jesus on the cross, hurled insults at Jesus: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" [16]

Thus, whereas the first stage involves mockery by Jews, and the second stage mockery by gentiles, the third stage has both together. [17] Leithart notes that at this point "Jews and Gentiles, governors and criminals, scribes and commoners, all humanity joins in a single chorus of blasphemy." [10]

Timothy C. Gray notes that in the Gospel of Mark, the mocking of Jesus on the cross "takes up the two charges leveled against Jesus at his trial": firstly, that Jesus "threatened the temple with destruction" (14:58 and 15:29); secondly, that Jesus "claimed to be the Messiah" (14:61-62 and 15:31-32). [18]

Theological significance

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Mateo Cerezo, Ecce Homo , 1650
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Peter Leithart argues that in the person of Jesus, God himself was mocked. He suggests that "for Matthew, the cross is mainly about man’s mockery of God," and notes that while Paul says in Galatians 6:7 that "God is not mocked", this is precisely because God has been mocked. [10]

Many Christians see Jesus' suffering as being redemptive. Francis Foulkes argues that the emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus' suffering and death being "for us". [19] In this way, some Christians see the mockery that Jesus endured as being borne on their behalf. For example, Philip Bliss wrote in his hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Savior":

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior! [20]

The scene when Jesus was mocked while he was on the cross, is also a manifestation of the mercy of God through Jesus, who himself is mocked, humiliated and in pain. Two men were crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on his right hand and one on his left (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28,32, Luke 23:33, John 19:18), which Mark interprets as fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12. According to Matthew and Mark, respectively, both of the "thieves" mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32); Luke however, mentions that:

39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 He replied to him, "Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise." 23:39-43

Jesus promised to this thief that he will be with him in the Paradise, right in front of those who were mocking him. God saves through Jesus, because God is full of mercy, a mercy revealed through Jesus Christ, that says to a thief: "Today you will be with me in Paradise." [21]

See also

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  1. Larry Chouinard, Matthew (1997), p. 487.
  2. David L. Tiede, Luke (1988), p. 398.
  3. 1 2 Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (1997), p. 789.
  4. Susan R. Garrett, The Temptations of Jesus in Mark's Gospel (1998), p. 118.
  5. Commentary on Jeremiah, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004
  6. Isaiah (Commentary), John Goldingay, Hendrickson, 2001
  7. Commentary on Isaiah 6:8-13, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004
  8. ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992
  9. "Matthew 27". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  10. 1 2 3 Peter Leithart, God is Mocked, Credenda/Agenda.
  11. Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 8. Ed. and trans. by Caryl Emerson. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 122.
  12. James L. Resseguie, "A Glossary of New Testament Narrative Criticism with Illustrations," in Religions, 10 (3) 217), 3-4.
  13. Robert J. Miller, The Complete Gospels (1994), p. 50
  14. James L. Resseguie, Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction (2005), p. 74; see also "A Glossary of New Testament Narrative Criticism with Illustrations,
  15. "Matthew 27:42". Bible Hub. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  16. "The Crucifixion of Jesus, Luke 23". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  17. Klaas Schilder, Christ on Trial (1939), p. 177.
  18. Timothy C. Gray, The Temple in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Its Narrative Role (2008), p. 181.
  19. Francis Foulkes, Death of Christ, Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
  20. The Cyber Hymnal: Hallelujah! What a Savior
  21. "The Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief". Beliefnet. Retrieved 18 April 2014.