3.12.2008

Stations of the Cross IV >> Because we can

Mark 15:16-20

How arrogant we can be in our certainty that we are right, that there is no other possible way to look at events or our own lives!

This arrogance usually asserts itself in private, because that is the only place we can be sure no alternate perspectives will meddle with our surety. The image of Roman soldiers taking Jesus into an inner courtyard for a little fun is all too familiar, not unlike the soldiers who debased their prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Listen! Hear them making sure everyone is present accounted for, so everyone is implicated. There's safety in knowing that no one has the moral high ground to accuse you, at least without convicting themselves as well. Jesus is alone and vulnerable, already bleeding and broken from his scourging at Pilate's hands. The now-famous photos from the prison in Iraq show soldiers debasing and trying to break prisoners who are already completely at their mercy – and reveling in it, smiling for images that document their brutality.

So, too, Jesus' captors have some fun at the expense of their beaten prisoner. “He's already physically damaged...let's mess with his mind.” Their mockery is painful, pressing sharp thorns into his aching head. Wrapping him in cloth of purple – reserved for kings and the powerful – and kneeling before him, must have been even more painful, because they were taking Jesus' very identity, his most cherished gift from his Father, and totally dismissing it, humiliating him (as if he could think straight enough to be humiliated at this point!) and rendering him as less than a person, stripped of the last shreds of dignity. One can see them bragging about their cleverness and macho to other soldiers – if not taking pictures of it and posting them on the Internet.

The temptation to take advantage of those too weak or marginalized to fight back is always present – in Jesus' day, and in ours. The more power one has, the harder it is to see others of lower rank, the broken and humiliated, as people, too. The cycle of dehumanization and violence displayed by these soldiers did not start with them, and it continues to echo into many situations in our world today.

The good news for us is that in this story Jesus is beginning to ascend the throne of his real yet invisible kingdom, by his refusal to save himself at our expense. He could have simply called in angels at any time to overthrow the high priests, to give Pilate a spine, to defeat his captors. But while that would have shown God's glory, it would have left Jesus different from and disconnect from us, from people who can't by their own power overcome oppression. What makes Jesus different from other 'gods' and binds us to him is that his power is less evident in his glory than in his weakness. He doesn't exhort us to transcend our humanity, but instead immerses himself in it, showing us how powerful it is to embrace our humanity as God intended it.

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