Mark 15:16-24

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.

 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. Mark 15:16-24

There is a lot of power in a uniform. I know that from personal experience. As an athlete, it was an exciting day when they pulled out the new uniforms for the season (even the same old raggedy uniforms from years past.) You put that uniform on and you were suddenly playing for your school, your community, instead of just for yourself.

When I needed money in my first year in the seminary, I got a job as a patrolman for a security company. I dressed just like a police officer. I had a badge, brass buttons the needed to be polished, black boots, a stripe down the leg of my pants. I carried a billy club instead of a gun but I had the same long hard flashlight. And they taught me how to use it if need be. They also said that it was my uniform, and the respect it engendered, that gave me the authority to do my job.

Today my uniforms are a black shirt with a white tab in the collar and a robe on Sunday. Only when I am dressed like that do complete strangers ask me to pray for their loved one when we meet in a hospital elevator. There is power in that too.

And, if not handled appropriately, power is a dangerous thing.

I suppose it was just another day on the job for those soldiers. They got dressed that morning in the garb that set them apart. The uniform that brought more fear than love. They went to work. There was a special prisoner that day. Some said he was the king of the despised, low life, superstitious, Jews amongst whom they were there to control.

They went to work on Jesus. They weren’t concerned about justice or honor or civic duty. They stripped him. They beat him. They hurt him. They humiliated him. They used him as a model to the crowds – THIS is what happens to you if you cross Rome!

The irony is that they dressed Jesus like the King he was. They even recruited a servant to help him carry his cross. But, in the end, stripped of his clothing, stripped of his dignity, his throne would be a cross. His humiliation would be his exaltation.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we pray today for all people who wear uniforms as signifiers of their authority, that they might do the jobs entrusted to them with dignity, excellence, compassion, and mercy. We pray for those who have suffered, even died, at the hands of those who abuse their authority. We trust your love for all people and your particular concern for the powerless, as you yourself experienced the ultimate powerlessness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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