Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lent 10: The Torture and Humiliation of the King

When I first looked through the book and read through the chapter titles in "24 Hours that Changed the World," I wondered if it would be worthwhile to spend an entire chapter on the torture and humiliation prior to the crucifixion. I wondered if it would have been better for them to break up some of the other chapters: you could easily discuss Peter, Judas, the Sanhedrin, or Pilate in an entire chapter. However, it's also very easy to just gloss over the torture and humiliation. The gospels spend very few verses on it. Growing up, we didn't spend a lot of time on it. When Mel Gibson put out The Passion of the Christ, it was very difficult to get past all the violence of the movie to probably really understand it. And, honestly, rather difficult to believe much of the violence wasn't put out there to try to shock us.

The violence was very very real. The flogging itself most likely almost killed Jesus. The gospels spend very very little time on the physical torture, yet we can guess that hours were probably spent on the flogging. The Romans had specially trained soldiers to inflict the torture. In Sunday's sermon, Pastor Tim and Brian brought out visual aids: a whip, a cat o' nine tails, a crown of thorns, a purple "robe" and a cross beam -- a smaller version of what Jesus possibly carried.

More powerful to me than the violent part of the torture is the emotional torture. God became human and experienced the full breadth of emotions we humans can and do experience. Adam Hamilton put it very well in the daily reflection book:
There are many different dimensions to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Among them is the idea that in Jesus' suffering and death, God was fully identifying with us and was able to experience what we go through as human beings. God knows what it means to feel small, to be attacked mentally and emotionally, and to be physically abused.

Each week of this study has allowed me to see myself in various people. In this study I have found myself identifying with Peter, Judas, Pilate, the Sanhedrin. In looking at this week, I didn't know if I would be able to find myself within these verses. But find myself I did, in a place I didn't want to: in the Roman soldiers. Once again, it is going along with the crowd. I can remember as a child the times I jumped in on the ganged up teasing of the group, even though I had been subject to that ganged up teasing.

The soldiers actually called together their entire squadron -- 300-600 men -- to participate in this humiliation. There were probably some who weren't quite sure what was going on, yet fell into the "fun." We humans can easily fall into the trap of the charismatic speaker. I'm sure not every person who was involved with the Nazi party was evil or started out believing the Jews needed to be killed off. It is easy to get on that slippery slope of believing one small part of the propaganda, then a half truth, then a bigger lie, then a flat out falsehood: demonizing the one you are supposed to be "against." It is so easily seen right now with the health care debate going on. Americans seem to be falling on one side or the other and are believing the lies and half truths about the other side, when the true version most likely lies somewhere in the middle.

The final part of this chapter puts us on the road to Golgotha. After the torture, Jesus is forced to carry his own crossbeam to Golgotha. Physically and emotionally beaten, Jesus would have had a very difficult time carrying the beam very far. Rocky and I recently watched The Real Jesus on the National Geographic channel. For the show, a recreation of a Roman cross was built and an actor who is similar in build to a Galilean man of the 1st century attempted to carry it. This healthy man could carry the crossbeam about 150 ft before the weight became too much for him. It is no wonder that Jesus, in his state, needed assistance. Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service. He probably had never even heard of Jesus, but was most likely a Jew who had come from Cyrene to celebrate Passover. He happened to be in the wrong place at the right time -- or maybe the right place at the wrong time. Or perhaps even the right place at the right time: it is assumed that he became a follower of Jesus after as his sons are mentioned by name in Mark as if the reader should know who they are. In those short minutes, I wonder what happened to convince Simon to follow Jesus? Did one of the disciples go to him after the fact and explain exactly who Jesus was? Did he invite Simon to join them? Was he among those Jesus appeared to after the Resurrection?

Pastor Tim boiled down this chapter to 2 questions: will you be one who helps build the cross or one who helps carry the cross?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wendy,

    There's no easy way to say this - I know A'mom had said she would try and contact you, but I don't know if she meant via Facebook or not, so I thought I would post here in case.

    On Friday, we received word through off-kilter that teawhisk passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Tuesday night. Her husband contacted o-k because she was the only board member he knew how to get in touch with. Everyone is in a state of shock, and we've been trying to get in touch with those we know are on a Lenten break so that the news isn't an unexpected shock when you return to the board.

    I am sorry to bring such sad news just before Easter Sunday, but I thought you would like to know.