Why do we mock people
Jesus is condemned, scourged and "delivered up to be crucified" (v. 15). He is led away as a man of pain covered in blood. Bone fragments and pieces of lead were incorporated into a Roman scourge, which did not fail to have their effect. Then the soldiers receive their order to execute. You don't start right away. First the cat plays with the mouse. It is like in many armies in the world: in action they tend to be barbaric. War seduces people to dehumanize. The psychological stress creates overpressure. In the absence of leadership, the troops then “need” their “fun”. At all times she finds ways and means to do so. Images of the torture scandal in Abu Ghraib (Iraq, 2003/04) come to mind.
The Roman cohort has the opportunity to play cruel games with the delinquent in the protected area of their base. As King of the Jews he is condemned, as “King” he is now mocked and insulted. Whoever wants and can can participate. The costumes begin: As a purple cloak, the soldiers put some piece of cloth over Jesus that they spare. Perhaps it is the remains of a reddish, scarlet-colored soldier's coat (cf. Matthew 27:28). Then the acanthus wreath follows as a substitute for a far better wreath. Acanthus is a thistle-like weed that grows wild in the field and is weeded there in spring (a crown of thorns as an instrument of torture is only mentioned around 200 AD). Finally the soldiers shout Ave! out. For fun they greet their sacrifice as King of the Jews: Hail, King of the Jews!
The pipe is noticeable. According to Matthew 27:28 it is given to Jesus "in his right hand" as a substitute for a scepter. The soldiers use it for their mockery: they take the pipe and hit Jesus on the head. At the same time they spit at him, fall on their knees and pay homage to him according to an old custom (Proskynesis). At some point a saturation is reached. The game served its purpose. Jesus is stripped of his costume and put back into his own blood-soaked clothes.
Now the last way begins. Jesus is brought to the place of execution outside the city. A random passer-by, named by him, has to carry the crossbar when Jesus is too weak. The firing squad arrives at a prominent rock that looks like a skull. On Golgotha, Jesus is given a numbing potion. Jesus rejects him.
The ambiguity of the mockery could not be greater. The soldiers play like a king. In fact, Jesus is King (cf. Evangelical Hymns No. 123). They pay homage to him as a mockery of the king of the Jews. He is king of the world as a returning lord and end-time judge. Jesus gives himself completely and utterly in the way to the cross, to his passion. He stands up for us. Mark 10:45 emphasizes: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. We are grateful to see Jesus' path in this holy week.
How many people are dehumanized, degraded and ridiculed today? Do we think of them, pray for them, and stand with them? Maundy Thursday is undoubtedly a day of suffering. Suffering calls for solidarity. There are many ways to accompany people in suffering. In times of social distance during a pandemic, imagination and a lot of responsibility are required.
Psalm 22: 2–6.12.20 (Evangelical hymn book Württemberg No. 709)
meets a lot of people today.
Grant that we will help
and go - post coronam11 - among people,
so that they don't despair.
In these days,
O living God,
many people ask questions:
How to live with corona, illness, flight and war?
Grant us that we dare
to hope and sing even today
of your victory.
Because Christians worship a God who has walked the path of devotion and self-sacrificing love to the cross, mockery remained with them for a very long time in early Christianity. The oldest representation of the cross dates shortly before the middle of the third century. It is known as the mocking crucifix from the Palatine Hill (Museo Palatino Inv. 381403).
The figures are about 33 x 27 cm. Jesus is depicted as crucified with a donkey's head. A beardless admirer stands in front of the cross with a footrest. Both are dressed the same way. They wear a short, sleeveless tunic (colobium, slave garment) and thigh bandages. The admirer's left hand is raised in greeting. Both look at each other, and both are mocked by the scrawled inscription: 1Alexa3menoV se3bete (= se3betai) qeo3n, Alexamenos worships his god. The scribbling offends and denounces: The slave Alexamenos, as a member of a religion that is not allowed, Christianity, can no longer be sure of his life. It is, in my opinion, about the only depiction of the cross before Emperor Constantine, who lived from 306 to 337 AD. reigned: a Mocking crucifix.12
11 German: after Corona
12 Mutschler, Bernhard, The Mocking of the King of the Jews. The mockery of Jesus in Jerusalem from the perspective of a parodied royal audience. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener 2008, p. 139 (fig.).
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