Satirical Jesus, Mocking Pilate, Ironic God (3/3)

The death of Jesus was supposed to be the end of the story. Death is the ultimate "end" we have come to fear. The great irony of God that is revealed on Easter is that death is not the end - but rather the necessary step into a new resurrected beginning. The irony of the end being the beginning still flabbergasts us to this day. How is it possible that the one who was killed still lives today? How can the work of peace come by non-violence? How can forgiveness be for the enemy? How can a dead God give life to the world?

How can all this be? 

Christians call it Easter. Perhaps the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 1) are most appropriate here:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
   and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ 
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


Satirical Jesus, Mocking Pilate, Ironic God (2/3)

Editor's Note: This post continues from an earlier post. Want to read that one? Click here.

After Jesus made his satirical commentary on the Roman Triumph and the "peace of Rome", word got to Pilate. This did not sit well with him. People in power know that satire is a potent weapon that exposes and calls people to action. Satire can raise consciousness to issues that the "powers that be" would otherwise work to keep hidden. (You see this in America anytime President Trump comments about Saturday Night Live. One would think that the president of the U.S.A would have more to do then offer constant comments on a silly late night television show, but satire is powerful).

To stop Jesus' satire from continuing, Pilate hatches a plot. Specifically, he schemes a fake or mock trial for the satirical Jesus. In Matthew 27:15-23 we read:

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him." Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"

First off, just two notes here about Pilate:

  • Pilate had the reputation of being too cruel (even for Roman standards)
  • Pilate was so cruel that he was recalled from his post in 36 A.D.

I remind us of this because the story is often told that Pilate is a helpless victim who is caught up in the master-mind work of the Jewish authorities (note the anti semitism in this interpretation). To be sure, Pilate was a puppet of Rome but not of the Jewish authorities. He was their ruler. Pilate is very much in charge of this situation and wanted to prove to Rome that he can keep this area under control.

Notice the mocking trial that Pilate puts on:

  • He gives the crowd the "decision" as to whom to release
  • He offers up a known enemy of the state as an alternate (We don't know if this Barabas was caught again and killed at a later date.)
  • He puts a robe on Jesus
  • He puts a crown of thorns on his head
  • He identifies him as “King of the Jews”

Pilate’s mock trial of Jesus was not so much about how Pilate felt about Jesus but more about how he felt about the crowd who participated in the satirical triumph parade just days before.

In Pilate’s trial, he is saying, “You think your little show here in the streets is going to make a difference? I am still in charge and, by the power of the sword, torture and fear I will have peace in this region!”

The execution of Jesus is not funny. It is not funny at all when someone is tortured or killed. It is not funny at all when innocent people are killed for any reason. Be in in the streets of Syria, the cells of death row, police doing their job, people of color obeying the law, or Jesus on the cross.

When innocent people are killed, it is tragic. And in the tragic we often wonder why God did not act to keep the action from happening. Which leads to the final post in this little series - the Ironic God.

Source: By Antonio Ciseri - ...

Why would a God thirst?

The NRSV translation of the Bible put John 19:28-29 in this way: "After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth."

Some talk about the scripture that is being fulfilled is Psalm 69:21 - "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." Meaning the fulfilment comes in the type of drink that was given to Jesus. 

I guess. But does the drink type serve as a convincing argument for Jesus as Messiah? And, in his final moments, I question that Jesus is thinking, "Oh, hey I could fulfill an obscure scripture about drinking vinegar if I just request a drink. I know, I will say 'I thirst.' That will do it." 

Perhaps it is a misunderstanding to interpret "I am thirsty" as fulfilling one verse of of the scriptures. Perhaps in this line, Jesus fulfils all of scripture?

Throughout the biblical witness, there is a revealing story about the nature of God. That is God is a God who is constantly pouring God's self out out of love for creation. This is made most evident in the life of Jesus who identified himself as the source of the water of life (John 4). But even after death, when Jesus' side is pierced and water and blood flow out, God continues to be poured out onto creation. 

Could it be that Jesus is thirsty because he has poured himself out so much out of love for creation that he himself grows thirsty? He gives the water of life to others to the point that he goes thirsty. Could it be that God goes without the waters of life so that others may have their thirst quenched? 

On a smaller scale, Christians fast for similar reasons. We do not eat so that others may. And so when we give away our food so others may be fed, we become hungry. When God gives the waters of life away so creation may drink, God becomes thirsty. 

The thirst of God in Jesus is also a bit different from the thirst of other gods of the day. Other god's have a thirst that cannot be quenched. They have an thirst that demands that creation offers up sacrifice after sacrifice in order to quench their thirst. These gods are thirsty for more. God in Christ is not thirsty for more, but thirsty because he gave all that he has. 


Are we avoiding our passions?

According to the thought of the desert fathers, "the passions" were the attitudes, desires and actions that keeps us from right relationship with our neighbor, self, world and God. 

Dorotheos said "A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart." Giving way to our passions results in metaphorical suicide of our relationships.


In this season of Lent, we talk about fasting or avoiding the things that keep us from right relationship. Dorotheos continues to say "A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate."

Not a bad situation to be in. Avoiding the passions keep us protected and we are safe. However we are still forced to carry the burden of the heaviness of the breastplate the rest of our life.  

So how are we to live with these passions? We are to uproot them. Dorotheos says, "But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy's heart." 

Of course we know that we are not to give way to the things that keep us from right relationships but we cannot settle on avoiding the attitudes, desires and actions keeping us from right relationship. We must uproot them.

The thing about uprooting passions is that it is much harder than avoiding because when we uproot our passions we have to allow part of our own selves die with these passions. If we uproot our anger then our desire to be correct will have to die. Uprooting passions takes not only the sweat of the brow but also the blood of our lives. 

A young monk sadly said the following to the holy Poimen: "My body, Abba, has been weakened by ascetic practices, but my passions do not yield." "The passions, my child," answered the wise Father, "are similar to tough thorns; in uprooting them, your hands of necessity bleed." - Source