Mark 15: 16-20 is the scene of Jesus being led away for punishment, crucifixion. Jesus has been flogged so his back is bleeding but Mark shares how the soldiers, the guards, still have a little “fun” mocking their charge. He’s covered with a purple robe, crowned with a crown woven together from thorn branches, given a reed for a scepter and spat on while they chant, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Somehow life is all upside down. Jesus is the King but his kingdom is not of this world. Sometimes life feels for us upside down. We hear the words that God is love and yet we hear the diagnosis: Cancer, Covid, operation. We watch the news reports and it certainly seems that the innocent are the victim of cruelty. Our candidate is not elected and we are convinced there has been hanky-panky, foreign interference is what we talk about now.
Spiritually we sometimes talk about “the dark night of the soul.” St John of the Cross wrote a poem about days that seem meaningless as the person is journeying spiritually to God. For people who struggle with depression, mental illness, or perhaps even prisoners of war, this scene is comforting. We would like to think of God as all powerful in glory but the scene today presents a God, Jesus, who is powerful enough to walk through the depths of humiliation, rejection, and mockery. We see a God who knows what it means to be at the bottom of the food chain, who has experienced police brutality and injustice. I don’t often think of God as having walked those paths because I want to think of God as understanding “my path.”
After the soldiers have their fun, they return Jesus to his own clothes and lead him away to be crucified. “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” shares Psalm 23, “for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.” When we are forced to walk through the shadows of life, we know that our God is with us and has gone before us and allows us to draw strength from him. It is not a pretty picture but bad times are not pretty. Our God understands.