Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. (Jn 19:1-3)
Pilate still wants to find a way of setting Jesus free. He thinks perhaps the Jews will be satisfied with a flogging. After Jesus is whipped he lets his soldiers have fun with him. They dress him as a king and address him as king of the Jews while beating him repeatedly.
I wonder what that had to be like. I can imagine the pent up rage in the soldiers finding an outlet here. You can just imagine a bunch of young twenty some things. They joined the Roman army, and get stationed in a back water where every day they have to fear for their lives because of messianic pretenders, and zealots. They have to put down rebellion after rebellion in which they lose friends from time to time. They patrol the market place and get stabbed in the back by an unsuspecting passerby. The people they are with just seem to be a bunch of backward stiff necked hicks. When they are off duty they can’t relax among the people either. I suppose they feel much the same way many of our soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq feel. Perhaps there is a bit of condescension towards the culture they are in to begin with. Jewish society could be very different from the rest of the Roman world.
Now these young men are given an object to scorn with all the pent up rage and anger. They take it out on Jesus. Jesus feels it in every blow, the hatred for his people striking him with hardened fists. “King of the Jews!” Jesus represents even the ones who hate him. They pound his face repeatedly, his nose bleeds, his eyes swell shut, his ears turn to grapes. “Hail! King of the Jews!” They make sport of him. And with blow after blow Jesus turns the other cheek. He has one purpose, to die for those who hate him that they might find forgiveness in his name.