Shame: 24 March 2015

Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio - The Crowning with Thorns - Google Art Project.jpg

This Crowning with Thorns by Caravaggio shows the cruelty of the two torturers as they hammer home the thorns. The official leaning on the rail looks bored as he oversees the death of God. While Christ is suffering real pain with patient endurance. The painting is about “how … to give pain and feel pain, how close pain and pleasure sometimes were, and how voluptuous suffering could be on a golden afternoon.”

Matt 27 27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers round him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. 30 They spat on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

1 Peter 2 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 ‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ 25 For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Why did they strip him? Why this naked abuse? Perhaps because when the accused is naked and the accusers are clothed, shame and humiliation are most intense. Solzhenitsyn was once interrogated naked before a Russian tribunal. He said it was very hard to reply to any question before one’s clothed accusers. To be forced to reply naked is the most irrational of humiliations.

Humiliation! Francis de Sales reminds us that “we cannot gain the virtue of humility without humiliation”. Jesus, who was longsuffering in his tolerance of human abuse, waited through the naked mockery. Even this humiliation could not keep him from holding on to his identity. No level of taunting or torture could force him to forget who he was: The Saviour for which he now stood trial. He knew that on the cross, he would endure the mockery of Satan that he might destroy it forever.

In his nakedness, then, he really knew no shame because shame comes from knowing you have done something wrong. Jesus knew this was not the case. He had done nothing wrong.

Lord, I am ashamed that in your lonely hours of persecution, the full weight of my sin fell upon you. It was my sin for which you were hated, mistreated, and abused. As I think of the pain and humiliation that followed you to the cross, may I desire more than ever to be pure. Help me see in your vivid example that there is a purity of life so real, it is incapable of shame.