Mark 14:1 – 15:47
Welcome His Folly into Our Lives
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Mark 14:1 – 15:47
Welcome His Folly into Our Lives
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
The story just proclaimed
presents Jesus as mocked three times,
by three different groups:
first, the religious authorities;
then the secular authorities;
and finally the ordinary people, the crowd.
These instances of mockery
have unexpected results.
The pretensions of each group
The stage is cleared of rivals,
and the true king is enthroned.
Jesus appears first
before the religious authorities.
What brings him there?
He acts and talks
contrary to vested interests,
against conventional claims.
And so he is taken captive at night.
He is identified by a false kiss,
surrounded by an armed posse,
and deserted by his followers.
Once Jesus arrives at the high priest’s house,
he stands alone before the religious authorities.
They eagerly seek a reason
to put him to death,
but even their false witnesses
cannot produce sufficient evidence against him.
Jesus then indicates
that he is the messiah.
The authorities regard this
They hit him, spit at him,
and mock him.
They ridicule his role as prophet.
How ironic this scene is!
These religious authorities blindfold someone
who sees and speaks God’s truth
and attack him.
By doing so,
they expose themselves
as void of religious awareness.
It is not Jesus who blasphemes.
They are the blasphemers,
abusing God’s name by their words and deeds.
Now Jesus appears before the secular authorities.
As the religious leaders fail to recognize him
as a prophet,
so the secular authorities fail to see
he is a king.
The high priest led Jesus
to declare his messiahship;
now Pilate leads him to declare his kingship,
but once again Jesus is rejected.
Pilate treats him as a fraud.
He turns Jesus over to soldiers
who clothe him and crown him
in a mock ritual,
even striking him with his own scepter.
And so these secular authorities
expose themselves as unworthy.
They mock the king in front of them.
Jesus appears before the crowd
and they call for his crucifixion.
He appears before them again
once he is crucified.
These are people who welcomed him as a hero
when he entered Jerusalem in triumph
only a few days before.
He stands before them next to Pilate.
A short time later
he appears before them helpless,
hanging from the cross,
suspended between earth and heaven,
his blood seeping from his wounds,
taking him down to death.
Not far from his cross are the mockers,
cowardly and cruel,
who hurl abuse at him.
What they attack
is his relationship with his Father.
They call on him to rescue himself.
But Jesus refuses to abandon
his trust in God.
Those who mock him on the cross
show that they are void of faith.
They see the world
solely in terms of brute power.
They refuse to live as God’s children.
A triple mockery,
and in each case,
those who revile Jesus
reveal their own bankruptcy.
Thus the pretensions of each group
and the stage is cleared of rivals,
in order that the true king can be enthroned.
In today’s story, Jesus is mocked three times.
A series of ironies takes place as well,
all of them pointing to a wisdom
that stands in judgment on our folly.
When Jesus enters Jerusalem,
the crowd welcomes him as king,
yet days later they call for his crucifixion.
They are disloyal to him
and to their own best interests.
Often enough we also show ourselves disloyal–
to him and to ourselves.
In their lives and in ours,
how ironic this turns out to be!
For a king to be enthroned,
there must be an anointing.
That happens to Jesus
shortly before he goes to the cross.
A woman pours expensive oil on his head
as he sits at supper in Bethany
at the home of Simon the leper.
This woman serving as high priest,
this anointing at the dinner table,
this king consecrated in a leper’s house–
all of this is high irony,
a monarch set apart not to rule,
but to be buried.
It is the high priest in Jerusalem
whose words reveal Jesus as the messiah,
and it is the Roman governor there
who proclaims him to the crowd as king.
these two speak the truth.
That they run from this truth,
that they drive Jesus on to his death–
this also is ironic.
Irony reaches a climax
when Jesus arrives at Golgotha.
There he is announced as king of the Jews
by a mocking sign attached to his cross.
Ironically the sign declares more truth
than its maker intended.
Most ironically of all,
the cross, an instrument of shameful death,
becomes the throne for this king,
that place from which he reigns,
the center of his realm.
The places of honor on right and left,
once coveted by his disciples James and John,
cannot be given away,
for they are occupied already–
by convicted criminals.
So Jesus is enthroned
upon the hard wood of the cross.
Israel’s messiah, the Son of God,
becomes a victim
to bring to an end all victimization.
He drains the cup of our human experience
to the last bitter drop.
He even knows what it’s like
to feel deserted by God.
and only then does somebody get it right.
This is the final irony of today’s story,
and it appears in the last spoken sentence.
For the one who gets it right
is a most unlikely somebody.
A Roman centurion is marking time
until the death occurs.
He is there to make sure
that none of the crucified
are rescued by their followers or friends.
He is a gentile, an officer of the empire,
one who looks as an outsider
on the turbulent life of Jerusalem
during Passover season.
He is there simply to maintain order.
A criminal dying on a cross
is something this centurion has often seen.
He knows how contemptible it is,
particularly for Romans.
Yet death on a cross
looks different on this day,
with this prisoner.
And so the tough soldier blurts out about Jesus,
to no one and everyone,
“Truly, this man was God’s Son!”
The centurion has for a moment
glimpsed the supreme irony of enthronement
on a cross of shame and death.
A couple decades later,
St. Paul makes a similar point
when writing to the Christians in Corinth.
He tells them that the message of the cross
is sheer folly to those who are perishing,
but to those who are being saved,
it is God’s power at work. 1
To the extent that we do not
come to an awareness
like that of the centurion and Paul,
then we inevitably mock Christ and his cross,
and thus reveal our own fatal folly.
To the extent we do come to this awareness,
we honor Christ and his cross
and show that we welcome
God’s own foolishness,
which is the most sublime wisdom.
Do we accept God’s folly for ourselves,
or do we not?
To refuse this folly is a terrible thing,
even when done politely.
It places those who refuse
together with the characters in today’s story
who mock Christ,
who reject him as prophet, king,
and son of God.
yet we remain free
to make this refusal.
The Cornish poet Charles Causley
presents this terrible refusal in polite terms
at the end of his “Ballad of the Bread Man”:
“He finished up in the paper.
He came to a very bad end.
He was charged with bringing the living to life.
No man was that prisoner’s friend.
“There’s only one kind of punishment
to fit that kind of a crime.
They rigged a trial and shot him dead.
They were only just in time.
“They lifted the young man by the leg,
they lifted him by the arm,
They locked him up in a cathedral,
In case he came to harm.
“They stored him safe as water
Under seven rocks.
One Sunday morning he burst out
Like a jack-in-the-box.
“Through the town he went walking.
He showed them the holes in his head.
Now do you want any loaves? he cried.
‘Not today,” they said.”
Today we accept the bread
the crucified one offers us.
Today and always
we can honor his cross
and welcome his folly into our lives.
May we do this.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.
Copyright, 2015, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.