‘Let’s go back in time and listen to the voices who mocked Jesus. Hard though it is, let’s hear what they said against him and uncover what it actually means.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” asked Pontius Pilate. Did he really want to know, or was he hurling out one of those sick jokes that come up among soldiers? He could not see a man with an army. His followers, all disappeared by now, are all ordinary folks and broken people. Is he going to rule the world with that lot?
Pilate thinks a king would gather to himself unanswerable power, but Jesus does not really give him much of an answer. Political failure? Today, the lasting truth is that Pilate is gone and the risen Jesus rules billions of souls.
We broken souls have been the bearers of the news of real enduring glory.
“Crucify Him!” they shouted, all he louder. They knew what they were asking for, excruciating torture. Not a great audience response for Jesus. He has been voted off. It was due to a kind of envy, the Gospel says. Envy is the currency of all marketing. We humans have so much and we crave for more.
So, in the corridors of power, we skillfully make systems that make us into the winning side, we take most of the big fish and the resources. Yet, if we look away steadily enough, the other skill of envy, our rules simultaneously make millions poor.
In a nutshell, this envy is the cause of nearly all the sufferings and loss. In the name of justice, someone will have to re-balance the ledger.
“He said he would rebuild the temple in three days,” they scoffed at him, “Ay, that’s a good one. You said you saved others, now save yourself!” So the mockery went as people passed the crosses along the road. These are the ones who took pride in the magnificent temple of King Herod, built by cruel taxation. Jesus’ faith is not about magnificent religious ritual.
The church has built such regal blasphemies in God’s name. Somehow though, these accusers had heard his promises – to surpass it all. In three days Jesus did raise up a different way of life. So, for our sake, upon this Friday, upon this cross, he will not save himself, for he has pledged himself to save us from our own religiosity and walk the better way.
Consider: your name and my name were before him on this very day.
We have heard three mocking voices so far. The last cry uttered against God this day, comes from Jesus himself.
“My God my God why have you forsaken me?”
They never heard Jesus say anything remotely like that before, for he simply loved his heavenly ‘Abba’. Has Jesus’ intimacy with the Father failed at last? Is it as shredded as it sounds? Sin and darkness have taken their toll on his heart of hearts, bitterness has crowded his exhausted mind. All our alienation from God, all our stubborn pride, all the hubris that nails terror into human souls is pounding Jesus’ spirit to death. And yet, he speaks to his father. He is not silent in this tumult of darkness.
Even the bitterness he shares with Abba. This Love can carry even this pain, all the pain we get, all the pain we give. The people standing near him don’t get it, they think it’s about Elijah or deliverance or something. Good news was breaking – God is listening to lament, and love wins.
When our hearts are breaking, that’s how the light gets in. That’s the truth about us. We have seen in the words of torture, mockery and apparent failure the uniqueness of Jesus’ light, love, power and payment for all human horrors and hubris. Romans says, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
By Rev Dr Ian Robinson, Uniting Church Chaplain to the University of Western Australia, who will lead the Makes You Wonder taster on Saturday 21 March.