The soldiers led him off into the courtyard called Praetorium and summoned the whole cohort. They put on him a purple robe and plaiting a thorn crown they put it round him. Then they started saluting him "Hail, king of the Jews!" They hit his head with a reed, spat on him and kneeling down worshipped him. When they had mocked him they took the purple robe off him and put on his own clothes. Then they led him out to crucify him.
- Mark's gospel
These scenes, these last few days of Lent, seem to be full of a crowd. There was the Judas-led crowd that snaked its way to the Garden, grabbed its prey, and then snaked its way back. There was the rabid crowd in front of Pilate, suddenly enamored with the rebel Barabbas and the phrase Crucify him! And now a crowd of soldiers; a "whole cohort" possibly numbering six hundred men.
Ah, what am I typing here? Trying to sound Lent-like by drawing out something about the crowd. John Irving's character Owen Meany refers to the twelve as DOGSHIT DISCIPLES. That's what I feel like today - a dogshit disciple. About all I can mentally muster up at this verse is the vision of half-baked church dramas where men who usually wear starched clothes are led to the costume closet to pick out soldier uniforms and we get to see their white legs and they get to show off the biceps they work on M-W-F. And then there's the artistic guy chosen to play Jesus; he's got long hair, a beard, a melancholy visage, and an overall sense of meekness to him.
The corporate-by-day, soldiers-each-Easter men then throw a purple robe on him that one of the church ladies had to sew together. It was really no problem, though, because the fabric was on sale at Wal-Mart. The thorn crown differs from church to church, but its usually always an either/or: either a humble vine of briars circled round and held with transparent string OR an over-the-top weave of those huge thorns you find on those trees out in the woods. The blood that runs down the artistic guy's face is never real and it, too, is usually either/or: either a few drops placed here and there for dramatic effect, like swollen pimples, OR the melancholy visage looks like Sissy Spacek in that scary Carrie movie.
Then the toy soldiers pretend to whack the Lord, while pretending to spit on him, while actually crying out "Hail, king of the Jews!" A few of the men like this part because "hail" always comes out sounding like "hell" and that's something they've always wanted to scream in church but never felt like they could. Some of them remain standing while some of them kneel (perspective is important on stage) and pretend to worship him and mock him. This get pretty dicey because the men are nervous even pretending to mock the Lord. Oh there have been moments when they wanted to take the artistic guy out back and open up a can of whup-up on him, but not now, not while he's pretending to be the Lord. But they're even more nervous around the word "worship" - it's a fluid term these days encompassing everything from raised hands to standing for thirty minutes with no hymnal and singing songs to the Lord that you could just as easily sing to your girlfriend. The artistic guy would be very comfortable with the worship thing, but he can't join in the reindeer game because, well, in this case, he's the Lord.
This mock-worship continues while the lead soldier counts from one-Mississippi to five-Mississippi, in his mind giving the quarterback time to throw before the rush. And just like every Easter, Jesus doesn't take the opportunity to pass, so on with the defense. There is no switcheroo of the clothes onstage; christian modesty calls for periodic editing. And then they lead him off stage right or left. You notice that the Lord has really small calves. Maybe there's a song at this point, something to give the prop folks time to carry the cross onstage. Of course, it might have been there all along, just disguised as a tree.
Yeah, I feel like a dogshit disciple because there is pure torture and hatred going on in these verses and all I can muster is some comedic version put together from pieces of my past. Its like I'm mocking you or something, Lord; spitting on your passion. Dogshit disciple indeed.