Skip to content

His shame, my shame

Good Friday Reflection | Lionel Windsor | St Augustine’s Anglican Church Neutral Bay

Bible reading – Mark 15:16-20:

And the soldiers led [Jesus] away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

When we picture the events of Good Friday, the focus of our mind’s eye is often on the physical suffering Jesus experienced. The events of that day were indeed terrible, weren’t they? The binding, the blows from the fists, the gashes from the thorns, the nails in the hands, the agonising breathlessness of the crucifixion process.

Yet something always strikes me when I come to read the written accounts of Jesus’ final hours before his death. The Gospels do not dwell on the physical suffering in any kind of gory detail. Rather, what comes to the fore in these accounts, again and again, is Jesus’ shame and humiliation. Of course, these accounts do not shy away from physical suffering or pretend it didn’t happen, but at the same time they do not focus on it. Rather, what is paraded before us is the humiliation and degradation that Jesus experienced from those around him.

Jesus’ humiliation is certainly at the forefront in this awful scene, isn’t it? The soldiers’ actions towards Jesus are an act of ritual humiliation. Jesus has claimed to be the Messiah of the Jewish People, the Son of Man who has all the authority in the world given to him by God. It’s unlikely that the soldiers were familiar with the exact details of what this meant according to the Jewish Scriptures, but they do know enough to understand that Jesus was claiming to be a king. And so they take their opportunity to cut down this “King of the Jews”, to rub the imposter’s nose in the filth of his own stupid pretensions. They give this mock king a mock robe, a mock crown, and mock praise. They strike his head and spit on him while praising him and paying homage to him.

The soldiers’ actions are not simply random or thuggish. No, they are calculated and purposeful; indeed they are political. The Roman occupying forces are ritually rehearsing and reinforcing their own military conquest of the Jews. “If this is the King of the Jews, then look how we worship him! This man Jesus is nothing—smack, spit—the Jews are nothing—smack, spit—their God is nothing—we are the rulers, we are the conquerors, we are the masters of our own destiny.”

If Jesus’ suffering were something that was only physical, I would not feel so implicit in it. I did not inflict any physical pain on Jesus. I did not actually nail Jesus’ hands to the cross. I did not flog him or beat him.

And yet I have done what the soldiers did here. I have lived my life as if I am the king of my world, the master of my destiny. Each of my sins, each time I fail to do what God demands, each time I worship the created things rather than the creator, I am effectively saying to God: “You are not the king, I am the king! You don’t know what’s best for me; I know what’s best for me!”. I am just like these soldiers. I treat God as an imposter, not as a king. I shame him, rather than honour him.

If Jesus were truly the King, the Son of God, you would expect him to react to this treatment, wouldn’t you? It’s what we would do, surely? We spend so much of our lives trying to manage our image, to make sure people know who we are. We want to ensure that nobody takes advantage of us. From a personal or PR point of view, this is a complete disaster for Jesus. He doesn’t react to the shaming and the humiliation; he takes it all, the blows, the spitting, the mocking.

But we would want to say: how dare these people humiliate him like this! Shouldn’t he reassert his dignity? Shouldn’t he rise up in all his majestic glory and strike these wretched soliders with a rod of iron? Surely, it’s they who deserve to be shamed and humiliated and spat on and beaten and put in their place, isn’t it?

But of course, I deserve it too, don’t I?

What is Jesus doing? He is taking the shame on himself. Instead of striking out and defending his honour, as he has an absolute right to do as the king, the ruler of the world, he is bearing the humiliation and scoffing. The soldiers, of course, thought that just proved he was an imposter. But we know he was not, don’t we? The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead tells us that he is indeed God’s king. In fact, he is a king who is so powerful, so wonderful, so honourable, that he can take the shame on himself. He can bears it. And he does it for me. My shame, becomes his shame. The humiliation I deserve, is upon him.

Crown of thorns

Published inAtonementBible talksMark

House of Windsor Editing Services

Bronwyn Windsor - House of Windsor Editing and Proofreading Services

Are you writing a thesis, book, academic article, resource, theological monograph, or anything else?

Bronwyn Windsor offers professional editing and proofreading services for writers. Press here to find out more: House of Windsor Editing Services

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.
  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on EphesiansLift Your Eyes – How it works
    Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians. Here's a video where I explain how the free online resource works.
  • Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
    I need to understand the people around me, so I can live for the gospel among them and speak the gospel to them. To do that, I need to understand the people around me. That's where Carl Trueman's book is so incredibly valuable.
  • What does Ephesians say about church?
    There are so many ideas about what the church is should be. How do we navigate them all? Here are ten key reflections from Ephesians.
  • Reading Ephesians & Colossians After Supersessionism (Cover image)Supersessionism and the New Perspective
    Here are my views on the issue of the New Perspective and Supersessionism, in light of a debate in the Harvard Theological Review.
  • The powerful Christian life: according to Ephesians
    What do we do when we feel weak in the face of powerful people? Here are seven key reflections on power from Ephesians.
  • Liturgy Song – Moore College Revue 2020
    Here's a tribute to our online chapel experience in mid-2020 at Moore College, in the full spirit of parody. I wrote it for our Moore College Revue, and had much fun performing it with Jordan Smith and Monique New.
  • My grandfather’s part in a WWII mission over Modane
    A journey of discovery of some of my family history. My maternal grandfather, Allan Fisher DFC, flew a mission over a rail yard in Modane.
  • Youth praying, Finchale PrioryWhat can we learn about prayer from Ephesians?
    Prayer: What are you doing when you pray? Who are you praying to? Why does it matter? Here are three reflections on prayer from my series on Paul's letter to the Ephesians. #liftyoureyes

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor