Jesus in the Praetorium
“Then the governor’s soldiers took jurisdiction over him and brought him to the Praetorium where the whole Cohort was gathered.”
“But the soldiers led him inside of the courtyard, that is the Praetorium, and they gathered the whole Cohort together.”
What strikes me about this passage is the number of soldiers present. A Cohort is a tenth of a Legion in Roman terms, which marks the number here at about 500 soldiers. This is the same term that is applied to the band of soldiers that Judas acquired from the priests to arrest Jesus, though those soldiers were most likely part of the Hebrew Temple Guard while these are Romans. One may speculate as to why so many soldiers needed to be present at the flogging of a single man. As Jesus and Pilate had already had a discussion about where Jesus’ Kingdom resided, perhaps Pilate was trying to show Jesus his own earthly kingdom or give Jesus a taste of the Roman kingdom. The number may also have to do with the timing of the event. This is Passover where the city of Jerusalem’s numbers would have swelled greatly. Perhaps he had all the soldiers there so that he could complete his judgment of Jesus. Jesus was being tried as an insurrectionist, so perhaps Pilate wanted to ensure that there would not be any more violence, this time brought on by those supporting Jesus. The answers to these questions we just cannot know on this side of the veil.
There is a significant theological purpose for what happens here, which ought to be noted. This palace or courtyard, known in Roman terminology as a Praetorium, was gentile ground. The Jewish priests had refused to enter these courts for doing so would have made them ritually unclean, and such would have made them ineligible to offer the sacrifices of the Passover that day. But note, in the Old Testament giving of the Passover commands (see Exodus 12), one of the instructions was that the passover lamb was to dwell in the house of those offering the lamb as a sacrifice. Typically this was done for a period of four days, though this was likely not consistently practiced given the prevalence of sellers haunting the streets and temple courts during this time. Nevertheless, here we find Jesus, having spent 4 days in the house of Jerusalem, now entering the house of the gentile — a reminder that the Gospel is not just for the Jewish people, but is for people from far off whom God will bring to himself…Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Remember, beloved, that there are no accidents in God’s providence and all things happen for a purpose. Jesus entered into this depth of sorrow for you and for me and for all of the elect through history that are trusting in Him as Lord and Savior. He is our Passover Lamb and we find our hope in Him.