Mocked and Alone {into the story}

The soldiers also came up and mocked him…“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
{Gospel reading for the 26th Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday, Luke 23:33-43}

Scripture tells us that when Jesus hung on the cross, the religious leaders scoffed at him and the Roman soldiers mocked him. If it were not enough for Jesus to bend under the weight of the entire world’s sin, to be abandoned by friends and followers, to feel the Father’s dark absence – if all this were not enough to crush a man, then perhaps the ridicule of his persecutors would finish him off. I find that I can bear a good bit of pain and hardship, but the death-nail usually arrives with that one glancing jab, that one dismissive gesture – that moment when it finally lands for me – I am alone.

It doesn’t matter if (as for Jesus) an enemy delivers the word or the silence. Of course, we expect our foes to deride us; however, we also expect our friends to come to our rescue, to have our back. We expect our friends to see us in our distress and in our aloneness – to see us. As Jesus was scoffed and mocked, there were no friends, no rescue. Jesus was, in every way, alone.

As Jesus hung alone in agony, the soldiers attached a sign, a jeering act of sarcasm, above his bruised and bleeding head: This is the King of the Jews. The Romans didn’t believe this at all; they were heckling. Look here, he says he’s a king – and we’ve got him on a skewer. Even one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus piled on, deriding Jesus. You’re no Messiah – a Messiah would be able to save himself from all this. You’re a joke.

But in the strangest of turns, we find that these men’s taunts in fact proclaimed the bold irony of the gospel. Indeed, this was the King of the Jews. This was God come to humanity. This was the most impossible moment: God, in Jesus, surrendering himself to the most horrific anguish – all for the sake of love. And the criminal was actually right. The Messiah could save himself. Only, the Messiah chose not to.

If Jesus had saved himself, he could not have saved us. Jesus willing entered into the abyss so he could carry us out of it.

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