No. 4 – Ecce Homo
And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head and dressed him in a purple robe. 20th c artist Otto Dix presents a prisoner crowned and woven into a barbed wire fence, dressed in purple.
Behold the man. Look. Look. At what humanity can do, and does. Every day. Sickening violence that we cannot name.
What stories do we tell ourselves to justify this? What narratives do we believe? We begin when we say, I am the winner, you are less than me, you are not like me, you are different, you are not one of us, you do not matter as much as us, you are not a person, not a man, you are a pig, you are a cockroach.
Lord Have Mercy.
Pilate is a winner and shows Jesus just how powerful he is by having him flogged. A show of strength against a bound victim who has no way out. we recognise this power which is exercised behind front doors in every parish and which every parent who has smacked their child in anger has tasted.
Pilate has the power to crucify and the power to release. He has a choice. Thank God he is conflicted.
The religious leaders hook into his deepest insecurity,’ if you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor’. Pilate is the one without power when it comes to the emperor, and now he, like Peter before him, pushes aside his instinct to do what is right, and responds in self preservation.
But Jesus, all the gospel writers tell us, does not fight for his life; does not argue in self defence, does not justify himself. he gives no answer. His words are offered from the centre of his being, from his purpose, from his journey, his undefended self, his love for his enemy, his lack of counter accusation. He continues to live and speak out of his understanding of who his Father is – the one who orders earthly authorities and the one who calls every betrayer back to their vocation to be faithful people, every defended person to step out of the gates of their fortress into pilgrimage.
love your enemies, forgive, join a new open system of those who hear my words and do them.
James Alison offers us a helpful insight here. What Jesus victory looked like was a failure. .’so great is the power behind Jesus teaching and self giving that he was able to fail, thus showing once and for all that ‘having to win’, the grasping on to meaning, success, reputation, life and so on is of no consequence at all.’ Jesus loses to the sacrificial game in order to undo it , thus enabling creation to be unsnarled from our truncation of it into a violent perversion and trap.
There is a non rivalistic creative power for which death is simply not a reality. ‘
Pilate and the chief priests choose to serve the empire, that traps with a heavy yoke of slavery, war and violence, that names its Caesar as lord.
The church names Jesus as Lord. Pray for the church, Gods people real people caught up in huge systems of government, policy, market forces, complex organisations, and algorithms.
Dix, not satisfied to paint this Christ and be present to him, paints himself into his picture. A double statement of presence. Like us he is a watcher, a viewer of suffering humanity, ashamed but determined not to look away. Is he the face of our, ‘pointing of the finger, speaking of evil humanity?’ Is he directing us his viewers to ‘behold the man’, or is he reaching out and in a gesture of neighbourly love, gently taking the Christ by the hand?
Time to Respond: Gently dismantling the words of hate and ties that bind from the cage and laying them at the foot of the cross
Canon Karen Rooms