The Deliberate Cruelty of a Not So Good Friday

Photo: Dr. Carolyn A. Roth

After Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Jewish leaders took him to Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine. The Jewish leaders demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus.  Pilate was reluctant to order Jesus’s death because he could find no crime that Jesus committed. Finally, to shut the Jewish leaders up and avoid rioting in the streets, Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified. This Bible story sounds like a political faction lobbying a ruler and achieving their agenda. Not much difference between then and now.

Jesus was turned over to Roman soldiers who took him to their quarters. To mock Jesus’s claim that he was a king, soldiers put a purple robe on him. Instead of a jewel-encrusted, gold crown or the traditional Roman crown of flowers, the soldiers put a crown made from thorns on Jesus’s head. Mockingly, soldiers hailed Jesus as king even though they recognized no king but Caesar. Again and again, soldiers struck Jesus on the head and face with a reed.  Soldiers spit on Jesus in a parody of the traditional kiss given to Roman rulers.

After soldiers had sufficient “fun” torturing Jesus, they removed the robe, put Jesus’s own clothes on him, and led him away to be crucified. The soldiers didn’t remove the crown of thorns from Jesus’s head.  Jesus wore the thorn crown through the Jerusalem streets carrying his cross. He wore the thorn crown on the cross.

Credible sources identified the plant used in the crown of thorns as the Jerusalem thorn.  Jerusalem thorn bushes have a pair of unequal length, hard, sharp thorns. The longer of the two thorns is up to one inch. Stems and twigs are flexible and hairless. The flexibility of stems and twigs made it  ideal to weave into a thorn crown.

Symbols of the Jerusalem thorn include grief, suffering, and sin. Although these are valid symbols, the situation described in the gospels suggests “cruelty.” A cruel act is one devoid of human feelings as grief, pain, and injury are inflicted.

Jesus had been flogged and condemned to death; he was going to be killed very soon. It was deliberately cruel for Roman soldiers to ridicule and tortured Jesus, to include placing a braided crown of thorns on his head. So many Washington politician acts seem cruel when viewed from my home.

Often cruelty is deliberate; but, sometimes cruelty is merely neglect of something we know we should do. Are you cruel, perhaps neglectful, to your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers? Are you cruel to your enemies or those of different political persuasion than yourself? Is cruelty toward enemies more acceptable than cruelty toward family members and friends?

Recently, a politician said that we need only be civil to others once they are civil to us. I don’t believe or agree. Jesus wouldn’t agree either. Jesus said the we are to love enemies and to be kind to individuals who deliberately hurt us. A pastor averred that love includes holding ourselves and others accountable for actions and non-actions.

Daily, as I watch cable news stories, I see examples of deliberate cruelty; or worse yet, failure to take positive actions. In reality, there is nothing benign about neglect or doing nothing is a deplorable situation.

At this time it is hard for me to see positives in certain political positions. Do you have that challenge? What can we do to make ourselves less cruel?

Bible Reference: Mark 15.1-20.

Dr. Carolyn A. Roth

Dr. Carolyn A. Roth is a spiritual woman who believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. She is the author of eight books, most of which are Christian nonfiction. Her passion is delving deeper into the Bible to glean wisdom nuggets from relatively obscure passages. Carolyn is a retired university professor who lives in Roanoke, Virginia with her husband, Bruce. Read more at

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