May 16, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 15:16-20.
The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.
According to historians, this kind of coarse treatment of prisoners sentenced to crucifixion was common. So, why did Mark make a point of it? Jesus was intent on turning everything upside down. Mark continued weaving this thread through his narrative by upending his readers’ understanding of what it meant to be king in God’s kingdom. As Moloney puts it in The Gospel of Mark, “[I]t is in the moment of suffering, insult, humiliation, and finally death that Jesus is king.” Donald Senior in The Passion of Jesus Christ adds, “Jesus is a King, but as the taunts and mockeries of Jesus’ opponents unwittingly affirm, not a king in the human mode of power.”
Mark took pains throughout his gospel to explain to the small Jewish Christian communities who expected the imminent return of Jesus that the kingdom to come required a complete transformation. Jesus wasn’t a king in the mode of David. He wasn’t going to rule from a royal throne having his every need attended to by countless minions. He wasn’t going to maintain the status quo to further enrich the wealthy and powerful.
Jesus came to change all that by encouraging us to change ourselves. Jesus was the servant of God’s people despite the prospect of having to endure suffering, insult, and humiliation. He was modeling for us what it means to be king in God’s kingdom. And perhaps preparing us for the consequences in being God’s suffering servant. It’s a sobering possibility, but one that I must be willing to accept if I’m serious about working to bring about God’s kingdom here and now.