The Body of Jesus
As Jesus enters the holy city of Jerusalem, the crowds cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David” (Mark 11:9-10). “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel” (John 12:13).
They look to the king who would restore all things with shouts of admiration and wonder, not knowing that he would soon mount the throne of his cross and from there draw all things to himself. After Jesus humbled himself, after he suffered, after he died and visited the dead, God highly exalted him. Jesus is the unimaginable king. He is the king of every height and all lowliness. All things bow to him, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Phil. 2:10).
His suffering begins not with the cross of Calvary but with the human condition he assumes. He goes out to a suffering humanity with evident disregard for religious scruples about purity. He is often among the unclean, as he is now, as we see him, with our mind’s eye, in the home of Simon the leper, sitting at table with him. Mark does not say that Jesus healed him, so we have reason to imagine Simon’s flesh still encrusted with scales or sores.
In a sense, this is the reason Jesus was put to death. He violated purity laws over and over again to reach suffering humanity. Indeed, immediately before and immediately after saying that Jesus sat at table with Simon, Mark mentions death in two very different ways. The chief priest and scribes look for a way to arrest Jesus and so foreshadow all the anguish to follow. A woman approaches Jesus with an alabaster flask of pure nard, breaks it open, and pours it over him in devotion. Jesus interprets this action as an anointing for his burial. We see two postures toward the body of Jesus: vicious abuse and tender affection.
We are not, of course, only talking about the Jesus who walked the earth so long ago. The risen Lord said to Paul, “Why persecutest thou me?”
Today, we see what Jesus suffers every time a person is abused. They laid hands on him, arrested him, spat on him, blindfolded him, struck him, beat him, bound him, led him away, handed him over, accused him. Still, they were not satisfied. They put a robe on him and a crown of thorns in mockery. After they hung him on a tree, those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads. The chief priests and scribes mocked him. The story of Jesus is the heart-rending story of mob violence against human dignity and the integrity of persons.
The only reason we tell this story and remember it is because the love and mercy of God exceed all human depravity. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness, here, is not violence with impunity but the power of love to change human beings. The love and forgiveness of Christ change us, change the way we regard each other, and the way we treat human bodies.
There is another way. A woman lovingly anointed the body of Jesus in the home of Simon the Leper. Joseph of Arimathea took the dead body of Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb. Can we learn to revere human bodies and human lives? Can we show some tender love for the human race? Can we see each other anew?
Look It Up: Hymn 172
Think About It: Such love causes me to tremble.