Praying the Gospel through the Rosary: The Crowning with Thorns

Submitted by Deacon Jim Krupka

To be crowned with thorns is not only to feel physical pain but also to suffer humiliation. The mysteries of the Scourging, Carrying of the Cross, and Crucifixion include elements of what would have been a typical Roman crucifixion. The men executed with Jesus likely experienced those steps. Scourging and the cross were instruments designed to bring on death. Crowning with thorns was different and unique to Jesus.
Scripture tells us what happened. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!”‘ (Mt 27:27-29). Three of the four Gospels record this event (all but Luke). In John’s Gospel, Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd one more time while wearing the crown of thorns. The crowds again rejected Jesus and called for His Crucifixion.
As we meditate on this mystery, focus on the intentional humiliation aimed at Jesus. The crowning of thorns tells us much about Jesus. His witness to who He was before Pilate set the stage for the soldiers to add humiliation to Jesus’ pain. Consider His continued silence in the face of the soldiers’ abuse. Our Church tells us, “It is love ‘to the end’ (Jn 13:1 ) that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life” (CCC, 616).
Looking at humanity, even today, it is easy to see how those with power have the capacity to add insult to injury. Whether it is a war crime or bully, abusive boss, parent, or spouse, humiliation often multiplies the suffering of the weak. One with power can mock and belittle to advance their power or simply as sport over a victim. Meditate on Pilate’s actions, Jesus’ appearance, and the crowd’s response. Look deep to see whether you add insult to injury in pride-filled moments when dealing with others. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, pride is “the greatest sin in man,” “the beginning of all sin,” and “Man’s first sin.” (Summa Theologiae II-II 161, 6-7; 163, 1) He further tells us that “the root of pride is found to consist in man not being in some way subject to God and His Rule.”