The Crucifixion: Jesus' Triumph


One of the ways Mark’s gospel deals with the dilemma of Jesus dying as a condemned criminal is to cast the execution itself as an act of triumph, a celebration. Jesus’ death was not a sign of shameful weakness (as people in that culture might have expected it) but of power. In this case, he has described the crucifixion using elements from a Roman triumph, ritual parades held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievements of a successful army commander.

In a Roman triumph, the triumphant general (the triumphator or the vir triumphalis, “man of triumph”) wore a laurel wreath and an all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga, regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly. During the procession, the triumphator was showered with praise, with shouts of acclamation and acts of homage being given to him. Now read how Jesus’ mocking is described:

And the soldiers led him away within the court, which is the Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothe him with purple, and plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it on him; and they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote his head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off from him the purple, and put on him his garments. And they lead him out to crucify him.

A few stuff which go into depth on this issue.

Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion: The sacred way as Roman procession (subscription / login required to read full article)

Recognizing the Triumphant Conqueror in Mark’s crucifixion scene

Translating the Triumph: Reading Mark’s Crucifixion Narrative

Triumphus Christi: On the Connection of Crucifixion and Triumph


[INDENT][INDENT]“Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians, 15: 54-55

Painting by Diego Velazquez



Very interesting patrick. I have never heard of any of this. Thank you for sharing!


Good insight I hadn’t heard or considered before. Thanks!

But, it could be argued that the triumph was not in the crucifixion, but in the resurrection. Had Jesus died (in any fashion) and then NOT risen, his death would have been meaningless.

Since Mark’s Gospel (as well as the other 3) were written retrospectively, and the resurrection was already known to have happened, then yes, the evangelist could present the crucifixion as a triumph.

However, had it been recorded in real time, or had the emotions of the moment been captured in real time (and the other gospel do this more so than did Mark), the crucifixion is seen as a disaster, or scandalous, because of the lack of faith or understanding that Jesus would, as he promised, rise on the third day.

And, indeed, it is the resurrection that is viewed as the “miracle of miracles” (St. JP II). Of John’s 7 signs, the greatest (the resurrection) was the last, and the crucifixion was not one of the signs.

Peace and all good!


Thanks this is very interesting - the purple robe, the crown, the 200 soldiers, the wine, a triumphal march to his death. But still this reading always makes me cry. Jesus was so tortured and reviled.


On the other hand, if Jesus had died in any fashion, his death would also have been meaningless. The crucifixion is as equally triumphant as the Resurrection. Both are super important.


Yes, that’s what I said…without the resurrection any type of death would have been meaningless

And. yes, both the crucifixion and the resurrection are “super important”…but, only when considered as a set {crucifixion, resurrection} is the crucifixion important. In the set {crucifixion} without the resurrection, his death would have been no different, no more meaningful then the death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans of thousands.

Peace and all good!


Just to clarify for folks: when I say ‘triumph’, I don’t just mean just the abstract concept. I mean the triumphus, the celebratory Roman military parade. So, in what is literary dramatic irony*, Mark presents Jesus as the victorious King being paraded to His cross - where He will be enthroned - like a victorious Roman general in a triumphus. He’s even dressed for the part: the wreath of victory (= the crown of thorns) and the purple cloak is there. And of course He has the band of soldiers ‘praising’ Him.

Here’s a nice dramatization of a triumphus: from the HBO drama series Rome. This is Julius Caesar having his own triumphus after his victory against the Gauls.

  • Let’s do a little experiment: play a Jesus film - any will do - and watch the scenes where Jesus is crowned with thorns and carries His cross and is nailed to it. Now imagine triumphant music playing (let’s say, something like the Hallelujah chorus or Worthy is the Lamb that was slain† from Handel’s Messiah).

Yeah, the result is a little surreal and ironic, but that’s really the same thing you have in Mark’s passion account - and to an extent, in the other gospels. While the Roman soldiers are of course mocking and killing Jesus, he would have us interpret Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion as - ironically - proclaiming His true identity as King. “Yes, Jesus really is King. See? This is His coronation ceremony. The soldiers don’t realize it, but they are crowning Him as King.” If the gospel of Mark was a movie, triumphant epic background music might probably play over the mocking and the crucifixion scene.

† Hey, the lyrics take on a deeper meaning. “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.” :wink:

Or if you can’t be bothered to do that: if you’ve ever watched The Passion of the Christ, do you remember that scene where this quite bombastic, epic music plays while the cross is being raised up? Upbeat music playing over this gory, sad scene. Without that background music, that scene would simply be a clip of a condemned, beaten Man nailed to a cross. That’s a good example of on-screen dramatic irony.


Very clear explanation, thank you!


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