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identity crisis

Then he (Pilate, Roman Governor, AD 30, Jerusalem) released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27: 26-31
One particular fear I had in my early teens has never left me. I had begun to realise that my identity depended on others knowing who I was and dealing with me according to that knowledge.

I’d heard old stories of teenage sons of kings being captured, taken away and sold as slaves. Because they couldn’t prove to anyone who they were, their hope was totally gone.

If someone takes your passport when you’re in a foreign country are you a tad anxious? Think then about the position of Jesus described above - from Matthew’s AD 58 biography after Jesus had been found guilty of one particular crime and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

‘Who is He on yonder tree / dies in grief and agony? / ‘Tis the Lord! oh wondrous story! /’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!’ (Benjamin Hanby, American pastor and composer, 1833-1867) 
Sentence had been pronounced by Pilate – Pilate gave him to the soldiers. 
At that particular moment Jesus had no identity other than being a base criminal. His male disciples had all left him. His female disciples were there – but, in that society at that time, they had zero relevance.

In the two earlier Court hearings – the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman Bema – no one had even attempted to say he was the Son of God, let alone testify as to the wisdom of his teaching, his great compassion for the poor, and his miracles on behalf of the suffering and the needy.

Mathew describes Pilate by using the Greek word hegemon translated “governor”. We get our English word “hegemony” from it. Do those individuals with hegemony in our world get their hands dirty?

The hegemon there in AD 30 gave Jesus to part of his army to be dealt with. A cohort of 600 brutalised soldiers. They took him inside their HQ – where they had hegemony. This was a kind of Guantanamo Bay black site. 

What the soldiers did there is recorded by Matthew – but, I suspect, only in part. He wrote: They took off his clothes and put a purple robe on him. Then they twisted thorns together to make a crown. They placed it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand. Then they fell on their knees in front of him and made fun of him. “We honour you, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him. They hit him on the head with the reed again and again. After they had made fun of him, they took off the robe. They put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to nail him to a cross. (NIV Readers Edition)

How often do you find that a cartoonist has actually revealed the hidden truth behind the news? Unwittingly the soldiers were cartoonists. 
A naked man, but with a blood-coloured robe. 
A throne-less man, but with a crown of tangled thorns. 
A powerless man, but with a grass reed as sceptre. 
A ridiculed man, but repeated words, “Rejoice – you are the King of the Jews.”

Was he? Is that right? Did he want to be lifted up not clothed in ermine but on a blood red cross? If so, why? Did he want to be crowned not with gold but by taking on himself the tangled thorns of people’s lives? If so, why? Did he want to rule not with a sceptre of commands but by holding a welcoming grass reed? If so, why? 

‘Who is He who from his throne / rules through all the worlds alone? / ‘Tis the Lord! oh wondrous story! / ’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!’ (Benjamin Hanby) 
Then the 600 spitting men used the grass reed to thrash his head. They removed the robe. The total identity loss was back. They led him away to be staked.

He lost his real identity so that many, by relinquishing their hegemony, could take up his real identity.

Sinner Syvret

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