bible blog 1138

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily  readings along with a headline from world news:

HAGUE JUDGES DUTCH GUILTY OF HANDING OVER 3 MOSLEMS TO MLADIC AT SREBENICA

Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic

Mark 15:22-32

New English Translation (NET)

22 They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which is translated, “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 Then they crucified him and divided his clothes, throwing dice for them, to decide what each would take. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The king of the Jews.” 27 And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way even the chief priests—together with the experts in the law—were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

cross2The central event of the Christian story is described with great restraint. There is no attempt to do anything as trivial as plucking the heartstrings of the reader.  The narrator is depicting something terrible and astonishing: the death of the son of God. It is however an ironical account. The believing reader, instructed in the scriptures, that is, the Jewish Bible, can see that Jesus’ tormentors, who think they are acting out of freewill, are in fact fulfiulling the will of God set out in prophecy. The details of the wine, the division of the clothing, the outlaws, are all “foretold” in scripture. The laughter of God echoes in the dark, without in any way detracting from the evil that is being done. 

The reader also knows that God will in three days rebuild the temple of Jesus’ body and that he, the risen Lord will indeed save others.

Even if the modern reader does not hold Mark’s view of prophecy, he/she can reflect that evil is forever predictable; it is what human beings do when there is no check on their power. It is what the Romans did to failed rebels; what the conquistadors did to native Americans, what Stalin did to his own people, what Hitler did to the Jews and homosexuals, what Pol Pot did to almost everyone, what the Israelis have done to Palestinians, what the US Government is still doing to its prisoners in

prisoners of the Serbs

prisoners of the Serbs

Guantanamo. The mixture of ruthlessness, cruelty and stupidity produces the same banal horrors in every time and place. Only goodness is unpredictable and free, because as Simone Weil never ceased to point out, its source is the Creator.

Mark knew this; he knew the crucifixion was not unique in its evil. He had enough knowledge of Rome’s favourite punishment for rebels, foreigners and slaves, to see that Jesus was not treated any more harshly than many other victims of the Roman peace. His narrative restraint shows his respect for all brutalised victims. What makes Jesus’ death unique is his goodness, the goodness of the holy son of God. It is his readiness to suffer the sadly familiar cruleties of human evil which offers a way of defeating them.

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