Matthew 27:27-32 and Waldenström’s Commentary
Gospel Lesson for the Liturgy of the Passion
[Dr. Paul Peter Waldenström based his comments on a Greek New Testament text which he translated into Swedish. Tommy Carlson has translated both the Biblical text and Waldenström’s comments from the Swedish text, 2nd Edition, 1902. — Ed.]
Then1 the governor’s soldiers took Jesus in to the Pretorium2 and gathered the whole cohort3 around him.
1. This story is also told in Mark 15:16-20, John 19:2-3.
2. To the inner part of the palace (Mark 15:16). The scourging as well as the trial took place outside the praetorium toward the street. See John 10:1f. The governor’s official residence in Jerusalem was called the praetorium. Likely it was a part of the northwest corner of the temple. Others have thought it was Herod’s palace. This seems to be contrary to Luke 23:7.
3. That is to say the whole contingent of the Roman soldiers who were stationed in Jerusalem. It was a so called Roman cohort consisting of 400 to 500 men.
Verse 28—and they took off his clothes1 and placed on him a scarlet red soldier’s mantel,2
1. In some reliable manuscripts it is written dressed. If this reading is correct, the soldiers first scourged Jesus naked, then dressed him in his own underwear, and then dressed him in the red mantel. This does not seem likely.
2. Through this they wanted to ridicule him for what he had said—that he was a king. Kings and Caesars also wore similar mantels. However, they were purple in color and of a finer weave. Mark and John say that the mantel on Jesus was a purple mantel to represent purple. Matthew is more precise in his account.
Verse 29—and they braided a crown of thorns1 and placed it on his head and (placed) a reed in his right hand and fell on their knees before him and mocked him saying: Be glad,2 king of the Jews.
1. Mockingly representing a royal diadem. They placed the crown of thorns on him to scorn, not to physically torment him.
2. In Greek the common greeting means “Be glad.” It also implies a wish for happiness. In Hebrew the common greeting expresses a wish for peace (Judges 19:20), of God’s grace or help (Genesis 43:29), of blessing (Judges 6:12; Ruth 2:4. Compare Luke 1:28). In the Swedish language greetings are common with a wish for a good day, a good night, etc.
Verse 30—And they spit upon him and took the reed and beat1 him on his head2 See Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67.
1. Several times as the text implies.
2. After this was done, Pilate tried one more time to set him free, according to John 19:4f., but failed.
Verse 31—And when they had mocked him, they removed the soldier’s mantel and dressed him in his own clothes1 and took him away to crucify him.
1. If verse 28 is read dressed, then they put his mantel on him.
Verse 32—But1 when they came out2 they found a man from Cyrene3 by the name of Simon.4 They forced5 him to carry his cross.6
1. This story is told in Mark 15:21f. and Luke 23:26 as well.
2. Out of the city. Because the crucifixion had to take place outside the city. See Numbers 19:3f. and Acts 7:58.
3. Cyrene, the capital of Lybia Cyrenaica, a province in north Africa, is on the Mediterranean coast where many Jews lived.
4. He had just come from the country side and was on his way to the city (Mark15:21; Luke 23:26). In the group that followed Jesus (Luke 23:27) there was no one willing to be subject to the disgrace of carrying the cross for him. But it was determined that this stranger was not too good to do it. Possibly Simon was a bondsman (slave). Others assume he was known as a follower of Jesus and therefore forced to carry the cross. This is possible though nothing is said about it. We know that later on Simon was a disciple of Jesus (Mark 5:21).
5. Same word as in chapter 5:41.
6. According to Roman custom, the one condemned to crucifixion must carry the cross to the place of execution. Jesus did this according to John 19:17. But apparently he could not carry it all the way so they had to rely on someone else, namely Simon, to do it. The cross consisted of two parts—the post and the cross-arm. Only the post was carried by the condemned person. It was placed on the back of the neck and across the shoulders. Then the arms were stretched out on each side and tied to the post. Thereby he was forced to keep his balance. At the place of execution the cross-arm was attached to the post. The pictures showing Jesus carrying the whole cross are very misleading.