I was struck today reading the Luke account of Jesus’ trial and death.
A key feature of that dreadful day was mockery. Yes there was torture, betrayal and crucifixion. And they are terrible, terrible things. And in that context mockery may seem a minor thing.
But not to the Gospel writer:
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’ And they said many other insulting things to him.
Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
Mockery. There’s something about it that makes our blood boil. Something modern too. Long gone from our setting is the beating and public execution. But the mockery? It’s a thread that runs from there to here.
I love that picture above. The scorning soldier. Jesus breaking the fourth wall and looking at us as if to ask, “Well, what would you do?”
It’s easy for doubters to reject the veracity of the gospel accounts on the basis that someone like Jesus could never have existed. But someone like themselves? A mocker? A scorner? The text is a mirror to the reality of who we are and what we are like.
On this Easter Friday morning we live in an age of mockery. Mockery and scorn packaged so ironically and neatly in a tweet, meme, Instagram or Facebook message. And I am the first to admit that, as a wordsmith, I find it easy to bypass truly winning an argument by cheating and using the equivalent of anabolic steroids: mockery. It’s sweet, delicious and poisonous.
We mock, and sit back satisfied with our best effort at humiliating an opponent. Or we are mocked, and we surge with indignation, prepping up our best counter-mockery, and seeing how many “likes” it will get.
Plenty, probably, if this fractured and fracturing tribal culture is anything to go by. Plenty of likes.
But none from Jesus. None from the one who bore not merely the brunt of brutal execution, but of brutal mockery. It’s gone out of fashion to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” But what would Jesus do? Not what we do. Not what we have shrugged our shoulders about and said “Meh, it’s a social media world, mockery comes with the territory.”
Jesus wouldn’t mock and scorn his enemies. And he didn’t outsource that task to us. Let’s leave the last word to that disciple of Jesus who learned all of this the hard way, St Peter, who could not stand the pressure of being associated with the mocked one:
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
Such a small thing in the grander scheme of what happened that first Easter Friday. Yet seemingly so often beyond us. There’s been a lot of mockery done this week around the name of Jesus by a lot of wordsmiths and would-be wordsmiths who have descended into foul mouthed rants.
The opposite of mockery according to St Peter? Entrusting ourselves to the one who judges justly. Just like the One mocked beyond any level that we would put up with. Just another small, but significant thing that the Son of Man did to show what true humanity should look like.