It has been so long since the United Kingdom has crowned a new monarch, that very few can remember the process that comes with a coronation. And so we miss that pattern that is clearly present in John's Passion. Jesus' execution is also his coronation, with Pilate the unwitting emcee (See Malina and Rohrbaugh's Social Science Commentary on John). May we not miss Jesus crowning accomplishment as we mourn his seeming defeat.
Crowning and Homage (John 19.2-3)
And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face.
Proclamation (John 19.4-5)
Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’
Acclamation by the People (John 19.6-7)
When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered
him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’
Enthronement (John 19.13-16)
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in HebrewGabbatha. ow it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
Naming and Royal Title (John 19. 19-22)
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’
Presentation of Coronation Gifts to the King (John 19.28-29)*
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.
Coronation Gifts from the New King to His Courtiers (John 19.30)*
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
This last sentence needs the most explanation. "It is finished" should really be "It is accomplished." These are the words of someone who has finished a good day's work, not someone who is defeated or worn out. Jesus on the cross accomplishes the work that God has given him to do.
Jesus bows his head before he dies. A normal human struggles for every last breath and then the head droops only after death. Jesus gives the royal nod of approval before his death.
And Jesus "hands over his spirit," not "gave it up." This is not merely a spirit returning to God, but Jesus giving his spirit to his disciples (see John 7.39). It is his coronation gift to his small court of a few women and the beloved disciple.
*Mailina and Rohrbaugh do not note these stages in Hellenistic coronations, but they were part of court culture in the ancient middle east and remain part of coronation ceremonies to this day.