Wednesday, August 15th. Mark 15:26-20

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:16-20

 

Now the soldiers go on trial.  Guilty!

 

Mark tells us that they gathered the whole cohort.  While this might be an exaggeration (a cohort could include nearly 500 soldiers and Jerusalem was a busy place during Passover), it emphasizes Jesus’ powerlessness.  He is all the more alone given the sheer number of soldiers who are doing everything they can to humiliate him.

 

We see them, don’t we?  We remember the gang of bullies surrounding that day’s victim on the playgrounds of our elementary schools.  We’re read of the horrors of concentration camps.  We’ve seen torture scenes in movies and television shows.  Whether we want to or not, we think of Abu Ghraib and secret “detention centers” and it sickens us to see what happens when people tear others apart.

 

I exchange letters with people I know who are in prison.  I’ve been a volunteer chaplain in a prison.  I know there is a vast difference between the myths people on the outside carry about how prisoners are treated and the realities on the inside.  Prison guards have very difficult jobs.  They are not well paid.  They are most often the conduits for contraband.  They can take their frustrations out on the prisoners in cruel and demeaning ways.  There is nothing pretty or romantic about that.

 

We imagine this scene – a bloodied Jesus surrounded by cruel men, all the more cruel as the “crowd effect” kicks in as they dehumanize and debase him.  They cover the open wounds on his back with a royal purple cloak.  They dig thorns into his head.  They laugh as they kneel before him, oblivious to the irony that they are in fact kneeling at the feet of the King of kings.  Then they tear the cloak off his back, re-exposing his whipped back to the pain of the air.

 

And then, as they had so many other times, in so many other places, to so many other nameless faceless sacrificial lambs, they led Jesus out to crucify him.  They have had their fun with him.  Now it is back to work.  Another day, another dead body.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, as we listen again to this darkest of times, as we walk so slowly through these last days, strip away the veneer that protects us from what this story is really saying.  Expose in us the depth of the brokenness of sin, of cruelty, of pain, that our rejection of you and of your way of being in the world creates.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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