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Yeshua in Context » Cross, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Passion Narratives, Spectacular Commentary » The Mockery and Abuse at the Cross

The Mockery and Abuse at the Cross

The following comments on Mark 15:16-24 are derived from Yeshua in Context, chapter 15. I felt that in this shorter version, these comments highlight the artistry of Mark, his way of showing but not telling. Note especially in this comments how Mark uses the innocent sufferer theme of the Psalms without specifically citing the references. No doubt the Yeshua-community knew these references and associated them already with Yeshua’s death.

Unlike the many statements leading up to the crucifixion, the story of how it happened itself is concerned less with theology than with presenting in stark reality the betrayal of a good man, the senseless mockery, the brutal misunderstanding of what his kingdom is all about. Meaning is between the lines, a midrashic retelling of the innocent sufferer theme in the Hebrew Bible.

In the case of the story of Yeshua’s death, many different texts about the innocent sufferer are used. So even details like soldiers gambling for Yeshua’s clothes are connected to ancient words about an innocent sufferer’s indignation. Yeshua suffers like the just men who were persecuted in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.

Pilate calls up a whole cohort, more than 500 soldiers. This is part of the irony. To crucify Yeshua the might of Rome has to be called out. The historical reason for this is simple: Pilate needs to be ready in case a rebellion breaks out over this crucifixion. Rome must be ready to meet and repel any resistance. There will, of course, be none.

The parading of Yeshua in a mock robe with a fake scepter is a Roman tradition in triumphal parades of prisoners. The mocked person would be hailed as Caesar. History records many similar examples (Evans and Wright, Jesus, the Final Days, 27).

The irony of Mark’s messianic secret theme (see Yeshua in Context, chapter 6) is now fully realized. When misunderstood and crassly presented, Yeshua’s kingship is a matter for the Roman provincial government to mock. What can a man and a few disciples do to Rome?

In Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham discusses evidence that Simon of Cyrene and his sons Alexander and Rufus were the source for this part of the story. Peter has dropped out of the story and the women don’t enter in until 15:40. Simon and his sons must have been known to Mark’s community. Few characters in the gospels are named and Bauckham argues effectively that the evangelists only listed names of eyewitnesses whose stories they knew of first or second-hand.

Is the wine with myrrh to ease the pain of the victim or to prolong his agony? It seems that in mentioning the wine and the gambling over clothes, Mark is drawing on two texts about innocent sufferers without specifically citing the connections. They give me gall for food, vinegar to quench my thirst (Psa 69:22(21). They divide my clothes among themselves, casting lots for my garments (Psa 22:19(18). Mark’s account is short, brutal, and effective. The great man, Yeshua, is abused as an innocent sufferer. In the next scene the ironic meaning of it all will come to the fore.

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Filed under: Cross, Intertextuality in the Gospels, Passion Narratives, Spectacular Commentary

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