Soldiers Having Fun


Bible References: Matthew 27:27-37; Mark 14:16-24.  

Heart of the Story: At Jesus’s trial, Roman soldiers tortured him. At his crucifixion site, Roman soldiers wanted him to drink “gall” so his suffering would be reduced.

Back Story: Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea as he had authority to order criminal’s execution. To help him maintain law and order, he had a legion of Roman soldiers. Pilate’s solders kept the peace through brute force.

Story Line: While Governor Pilate was ambiguous on whether to have Jesus crucified, Pilate allowed his Roman soldiers to torture Jesus. Roman soldiers took Jesus to the Praetorium, the soldiers section of the governor’s palace, and gathered the entire company of soldiers around him. The soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothes and flogged him severely. Then, put a scarlet robe on him. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put the thorn-crown on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, knelt before him, and mocked Jesus with, “Hail, king of the Jews.” The Roman solders spit on Jesus’s face in parody of giving a King a kiss. They struck Jesus on the head repeatedly. After the soldiers were finished with their “fun” they put Jesus’s own clothes back on him. It is unclear whether or not the soldiers returned Jesus to Pilate or immediately led him away to be crucified.  

At the crucifixion site, the Roman soldiers saw what bad shape Jesus was in. They felt sorry for his horrible suffering and offered him “gall” to drink. Gall was distilled from the opium poppy. It causes pain relief, sleepiness, and at time hallucinations. Jesus refused the gall.

Relationships: To be perfectly fair to the Roman soldiers, Jerusalem was not the easiest place to be stationed. Jewish leaders were stiff-necked and had a sense of entitlement. Likely, these soldiers took out their frustrations on Jewish leadership on Jesus.

These Roman soldiers were deliberately cruel to Jesus. A cruel act is one devoid of human feelings when grief, plain, and injury are inflicted. When the Roman soldiers put the crown of thorns on Christ’s head, they were being deliberately cruel.

At the same time, the Roman soldiers at Golgotha, the crucifixion site, seemed much more humane after they saw Jesus’s condition.

Reflection: When have you acted cruelly? When have you acted humane? How did you feel after each behavior?

Copyright March 28, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website at to learn more about Bible characters.

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