Stumbling toward the cross – Station 10

Station 10 – Jesus is stripped of his clothes

When the procession finally reached its destination, Golgotha, Jesus’ humiliation continued as he was stripped of his clothes. The dehumanization embedded in this act reaches beyond Jesus and grasps at the hands and ankles of everyone surrounding the scene. It is often difficult to imagine the brutality and cruelty involved in the torture and execution of Jesus. Beyond that, our aversion to stare into the face of pain causes us to jump over the suffering of God, or justify the suffering by elevating it to become the will of God and a necessary component of the carbon, human Jesus; we tell ourselves that he had to suffer in this way to mend the chasm and rift between humanity and the Divine.

As crowds amassed around the hill where Jesus would be put to death, the onlookers were stunned and struck with fear at the power of the authorities. This was the price for acting out, for speaking up, for protesting, for siding with the under privileged and unprivileged. In the face of injustice, I am constantly stunned and numbed and unsure of what I can do to make a difference. Often times I resign to ignorance and pretend that I am unaware so that I can continue in habits of consumption that are damaging to people and the earth. This is the way in which we cope. I am an onlooker and a participator in oppression to the extent that I prefer to consume and satiate myself rather than serve others and risk my status and reputation and comfort and luxury for the sake of others and for the earth. 

The mob mentality struck Jerusalem on the day that Jesus was murdered. The thirst for violence and the quest for a scapegoat took over. Upon the ones whom it did not completely take over, a paralyzing silence and numbness fell over them. We remember Veronica who bravely stepped out into the procession and wiped Jesus’ face. This simple act was one of desperation that signified her resentment of reality and was a small action of protest demanding great courage.

As we reflect on Jesus encircled by crowds who do nothing to stop the violence unfolding, I am torn by the memories of the news story from Richmond, California that made national headlines. On October 24, 2009, a fifteen-year-old girl was brutally beaten and raped by a group of men outside of the homecoming dance at her school. This act of inhumanity, cruelty and depravity lasted more than two hours. Police and news reports state that there were as many as 10 men involved in the attack and another two dozen people stood on the sidelines and watched. One of the young people who witnessed the event made this statement:

“They were kicking her in her head and they were beating her up, robbing her and ripping her clothes off; it’s something you can’t get out your mind. I saw people, like, dehumanizing her; I saw some pretty crazy stuff. She was pretty quiet; I thought she was like dead for a minute but then I saw her moving around. I feel like I could have done something but I don’t feel like I have any responsibility for anything that happened.” [1]

The eyewitness account is heartbreaking and disturbing. The indelible imprint of violence shakes, stuns, and disrupts us. The events that took place that night completely disrupt our senses and elicit outrage. In light of Jesus entering into humanity and suffering alongside us, we must say that Christ suffered tremendously on October 24, 2009, and we must also say that Christ suffers tremendously with all victims of violence (as well as with the perpetrators of violence). What is our reaction to violence? Does it disrupt and disturb us? Does it do so more if the victim’s skin looks like ours? If they were one of us? How does the cross influence the way we look at violence?

The suffering of Christ on the cross demands our attention, as does the suffering all around us. It can often be difficult to relate to and be moved by the idea of Jesus dying on the cross. It is not real to us. It has been spiritualized and has lost the capacity to disgust and disrupt us. But when we look into the depth of humanity’s oppression and violence and ability to remove any shred of humanity from another, we look into Christ crucified.

Prayer: May I not be numbed and ignorant of the injustice and suffering of my neighbors, but see, weep, and wage peace with my life.

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1. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=7111732
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