The headless body of the king was added to the altar, to burn along with the white bulls, while a fragrant incense was added to the flames so as to cover up the sulfuric smell of the burning flesh. With that completed, the bodyguards of the adopted son of Caesar, each holding their fasces that symbolized Rome’s power to execute the justice that Rome alone could bring to the world, used those very same instruments in a physical demonstration of that power, slaughtering the traitorous rebels that had taken up with the enemy. These men, traitors that they were, and branded with the mark of that beastly king, were not considered fit to be buried or burned, so their bodies were taken outside of the city and thrown into the dump. Before their bodies would have a chance to burn, I’m sure that the vultures and the scavengers gorged themselves on their rotting flesh. A fitting end. Now, we are off to celebrate. Caesar has ordained it!”
This study has been entitled the “Triumph of Jesus,” though it can rightly be said that Jesus has yet to be seen playing a role. Before tying everything together, let it be said that the Gospels present a picture of Jesus’ “triumph.” The best example of said “triumph” is to be found in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew.
Keeping in mind the description of the “triumph,” along with the speculative (historical-fictional) narrative that has been constructed, along with the fact that the original audience of this Gospel (like the audience of Revelation) would have been well aware of the tradition of the Roman “triumph,” one reads: “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand, and kneeling down before Him, they mocked Him: ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They spat on Him and took the staff and struck Him repeatedly on His head. When they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him. As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry His cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means ‘Place of the Skull’) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink” (Matthew 27:27-34a).
One can easily identify the stark contrast. The world in which Jesus lived viewed the triumphal procession in Rome, in celebration of its glorious military victors and their prowess, as the greatest possible public event. Yet the Creator God, through Jesus His King, did something dramatically different, new, and completely unexpected. His King will undergo a mock coronation and will then experience a triumphal procession of shame, suffering, and humiliation. His procession would not end on Capitoline Hill, with the execution of a vanquished king. His procession, however, would end with a sacrifice, albeit of a different kind. Jesus’ “triumph” would culminate in a thorn-crowned King carrying His own cross to an ignominious hill named for the skull, so as to undergo death Himself.