In the Face of Mockery and Shame

Scripture Focus: Mark 15.29-31
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way, the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!

From John: Coming up this month is a strange anniversary in popular culture. The anniversary of Britney Spears’ public breakdown was the dominant story and source of humor for both “news” and late-night comedians in February 2007. I was reminded this week that Craig Ferguson was a significant exception to that rule. When he showed up to work that evening, he threw out the raft of Britney jokes written by his staff and instead did a truthful monologue discussing his misgivings about how his industry mocks vulnerable people and his own struggles with addiction in the past.

If an agnostic comedian can see the dangers of weaponizing and monetizing shame and mockery, certainly those who follow Christ can as well. This post from 2019 helps us see how Christ dealt with shame and mockery.

Reflection: In the Face of Mockery and Shame
By John Tillman

Most dictionaries define crucifixion with a mention of Jesus. But to some crucifixion is simply extreme punishment and to some, it is specifically tied to undeserved or unjust punishment. But crucifixion carries another, important implication—shame. 

The mockery of the passing crowds was not by accident, but part of the punishment’s design. Despite the many artistic depictions of loincloths, victims were hung naked in a public place specifically for the purpose of shaming them.

Crucifixion was common and so was public shaming of the crucified. It would be an unusual day in Jerusalem if there was no one for the crowds around Golgotha to mock.

The same is true today. It is an unusual day when social media does not hoist on a hashtag a victim for our mockery and derision.

Mockery and shame is an industry, and like any industry on the rise, growth is based on demand. The industry of shame might not have replaced the industry of journalism yet, but it has disrupted the market. Journalism, staring down the rise of shame-based tabloids, has blinked, and adjusted its business model.

We, as a culture, demand to shame others. We seem to think it is our right. The mob justice of destruction and vengeance through shame is the only system of justice our culture trusts. 

When preachers (or devotional writers) talk about sin and culture it is natural for Christians to first think of the sins of others. Take captive those thoughts now. Don’t allow yourself to engage in spiritual “whataboutism.” Brush aside thoughts of others’ wrongs. The Holy Spirit comes to help us see our own sins. If you are reminded of others’ sins, you aren’t listening to the right spirit. 

Focus on how Jesus responded to shaming and mockery.

Hebrews says that Christ “scorned the shame” of the cross. This is not a reference to “clapping back” at accusers. Christ did not scorn the shamers.

In the face of all the mockery and pain, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

With mockery and shame removed as options, some may be at a loss for how to communicate in our world. This is why we must ask the Holy Spirit to convict us and respond on our behalf, making us salt and light with words of truth and love.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 40.1-4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 45 (Listen – 4:10) 
Mark 15 (Listen – 5:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 46 (Listen – 4:10) Mark 16 (Listen – 5:16)
Genesis 47 (Listen – 4:10) Luke 1.1-38 (Listen – 5:16)

Read more about He Rejoices Over Us
Savior! Sanctifier of our Souls…remove our guilt, our shame, and our injuries to ourselves and others…

Read more about Repurposed Weapons
May we no longer be swords and shields but basins and towels.
No longer aggressors but comforters.

In the Face of Betrayal

Scripture Focus: Mark 14.18-19
18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

Genesis 44.33
33 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.

From John: In 2019, when I first wrote this post, I missed that it also applied so well to what is happening in the Old Testament passage. After Judah’s impassioned plea, Joseph meets his betrayers with a preview of the forgiveness offered to the repentant by Jesus. We all need a reminder from time to time that when we inevitably betray Christ, he will receive us back.

Reflection: In the Face of Betrayal
By John Tillman

Jesus was familiar with the entire spectrum of betrayal. 

He was betrayed on a national level.

Jesus was the rightful king. The Messiah. But he was never accepted by those in power. He was the rejected king, the rejected cornerstone. In some ways, he was never truly allowed to return from exile in Egypt, being forced to live his entire life in obscurity. Even at the height of his popularity he stayed in out of the way places to avoid those who wanted to kill him. He only returned to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry for the purpose of being rejected and killed.

He was betrayed on a broad, societal level.

Jesus experienced Twitter-storm levels of betrayal. The religious leaders, just a few days prior, wanted to arrest and kill Jesus but refrained for fear of the great crowd that supported him. In a matter of hours, the crowd that was his protection, became the engine that drove the wheels of government to crush him.

He was betrayed on an intimate and personal level.

Even though Jesus knew betrayal by Judas was coming, the intimacy of it—the sign of the kiss—still shocked him. And Peter’s betrayal, cursing and denying Christ after so boldly claiming that all could fall away and he would still not, is one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the New Testament. The account in Luke contains the cinematic detail of Christ, in the midst of being beaten and accused, hearing the cock crow and turning to catch Peter’s eye just after what Peter had done.

Pause right now and film this scene in your own mind. Imagine Christ’s face looking at Peter in that moment.

Imagine his face looking at Judas.
Imagine his face looking at Jerusalem.
Imagine his face looking at the crowds berating him and calling for his death.

The look you imagine on Christ’s face in these moments says a lot about what you believe about who Jesus is and what his character is like.

Imagine his face looking at you.

Our sins are an intimate betrayal. Yet still Jesus looks at us with longing. He weeps for our mistakes and sins, but longs for our repentance and return.

Look full in his wonderful face this week. Do not despair over your betrayal as Judas did. Weep over it as Peter did. And wait. Jesus will lovingly come to you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 44 (Listen – 4:38) 
Mark 14 (Listen – 8:37)

Read more about Praising Christ’s Righteousness
Praise God we are free from the delusion that humans and human institutions are infallible.

Read more about The Naked Emotion of God
Hosea…shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable.

For Those Yet Unseeing — Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: Mark 8.17-18
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? 

From John: It is important for us to intervene when we see injustice, or become blind to it. It is important for us to respond when God prompts our hearts, or become immune to his influence. It is important for us to obey when he speaks to us, or become deaf to his still, small voice. May this repost from 2019 help keep open our eyes and ears and soften our hearts. 

Reflection: For Those Yet Unseeing — Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Often people of faith express the wish to be able to stand among the disciples, seeing and touching, and experiencing Jesus first hand. There’s nothing wrong with such a fanciful wish as long as it is simply a wish to stand in his presence. (We know in faith that we will stand in his presence, and bow down.) 

Often, this wish comes with assumptions. 
We assume that faith comes easily when we witness miracles. 
We assume that the disciples were ancient simpletons and that our quick modern minds would easily decipher Christ’s pedagogy of parables. (We ignore that science tells us that our species’ intelligence has been identical for eons.)

We are wrong on both those counts.
Those who witnessed the miracles of the Bible still struggled to have faith.
Some modern scholarship has not brought us greater understanding of Christ, but has muddied the waters with doubt, conjecture, and fringe theology presented as “faith” accompli—as if it has always belonged to the mainstream.

Junk science is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of scientists. Junk theology is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of theologians. It is ironic that some who reject junk science are willing to accept junk theology and some who reject junk theology are quick to accept junk science. Both groups are blind, deaf, mute, and immobile.

When we pray this prayer of intercession for the blind, deaf, mute, and immobile in our culture, may we not forget to include ourselves.

A Prayer of Intercession from Great Britain
Thank you, God, for the Church,
Help us to share fully in the church family.

We pray for people who are blind:
Help them to see Jesus.

We pray for people who are deaf:
Help them to hear Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot use their legs:
Help them to walk with Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot speak clearly:
Help them to know that Jesus understands.

Please help us all to serve you.
Fill us with the fruit of the 
Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. — Psalm 119.130

Today’s Readings
Genesis 38 (Listen – 4:24)
Mark 8 (Listen – 4:29)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 39 (Listen – 3:08) Mark 9 (Listen – 6:16)
Genesis 40 (Listen – 2:59) Mark 10 (Listen – 6:42)

Read more about Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened
There is no level of spiritual achievement or growth at which one is not susceptible to hardening of the heart and the spirit. Christ’s call echoes again. Calling us deeper into every discipline we pursue.

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

Vengeance, Arrogance, and Partiality

Scripture Focus: Genesis 37.34-35

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him. 

Mark 7.20-23

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Reflection: Vengeance, Arrogance, and Partiality

By John Tillman

There are disagreements among biblical interpreters about Joseph and how he related to his brothers. 

Some see Joseph as innocent. They argue Joseph did nothing wrong. His brothers are simply vengeful and jealous. This view’s popularity comes partly from seeing Joseph as a “type” of Christ in the Old Testament. (Where Moses shows us the conquering Christ, Joseph shows us the suffering servant.) Joseph, however, is no more sinless than Moses or anyone else. This view seems unrealistically idealistic.

Some see Joseph as a spoiled, arrogant braggart. They argue that, although Joseph was a victim, he provoked his brothers to anger and jealousy. This view is more realistic but problematic for blaming the victim.

Some blame Israel’s parenting and favoritism. They argue that Israel’s partiality humiliated his older sons and spoiled his younger. This view only shifts the blame to prior generations, absolving the descendants.

Seeing any biblical character, other than Jesus, as blameless is a bad idea. Rather than one person or group, all involved in this dysfunctional drama are blameworthy in different ways. 

Malefactors are responsible for their actions, regardless of provocation or incitement. Joseph’s brothers have no excuse even if he had been the worst braggart and spoiled brat that ever existed. 

Joseph is also not innocent. The scripture gives us an important clue about this when even Israel rebukes Joseph after being disturbed when Joseph shared his dreams. Joseph’s words and manner of sharing his dreams must have been far out of line for his doting father to take him down a peg about it. 

Finally, Israel reaps the consequences of his partiality when he mourns Joseph. It is the fruit of the seeds of division that he planted and he must sip its sour wine for years.

Were the brothers vengeful and jealous? Yes, and so are we.

Was Joseph prideful and insensitive to the effect of his privileges? Yes, and so are we.

Was Israel blind to his partiality and the harm it was causing? Yes, and so are we.

The actions of everyone involved grew from their inner sinfulness. What comes out of a person is what defiles them, not what happens to them. What we do and say is an overflow of our hearts.

May our hearts find hope and be changed by our suffering servant Jesus.

May we find in Jesus forgiveness to replace our vengeance, humility to replace our arrogance, and justice to replace our partiality.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

Read more about Humbling Nebuchadnezzar
Humility will save you and your nation. Pride will destroy you and your nation.

Read more about Abandon Human Vengeance
The tactics of human vengeance are escalatory. We always hit back harder than we were struck.

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brad
I loved how this commentary highlighted afresh the especially current relevance of Jesus’ ministry, his focus on the marginalized, elevating their status and making them central figures in the gospel story.  As Jesus’ followers, we get to continue his example in treating all people with dignity and respect, being God’s image-bearers. 

Originally published, April 13, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 31 & 1 Timothy 2.

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. — Psalm 98.1– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 34 (Listen – 4:15)
Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped you better understand scripture?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

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