|photo by Jerry Daughtery's Connecticut/ Flickr|
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account."
--Isaiah 53. 3
Matthew’s gospel doesn’t linger over the scene we find in Station 10. He hurries by, saying: “And when they had crucified him...they took his garments...” Matthew must have been embarrassed by this story.
We don’t see many pictures of Jesus naked. Artists in those first renderings of the baby Jesus covered the infant’s privates. It must have been their way of saying: this holy one really is not like us—he is sexless and sinless. But this Tenth Station puts it bluntly: Jesus was stripped. And so we may avert our eyes—but here he is as human and vulnerable as the rest of us.
He has come a very long way. His scourging and torture, Pilate’s washing his hands, the crowds screaming for blood. And then the crown of thorns, the purple robe, the laughter, the spittle and the terrible falls. Could he have missed their hisses: “How weak he is, this Messiah.” Pain piled on top of pain—surely this is enough.
But no. We come to the Tenth Station. A naked Jesus. This may very well be the worst. All his pretensions have been abandoned. All his friends are hiding or silent except for a little cluster. He is alone.
To be stripped is to be violated. The last shreds of respect are gone. Jesus stands helpless and naked—this may be the final indignity. No place to hide. No one comes to his rescue. They have done all they can do. And so he stands before us ashamed and afraid. Stripped.
Leonard Boff asks: “How many people have been stripped naked in the subterranean depths of repressive systems and mechanisms! How many have been violated, bestialized, and subjected to every kind of harassment! Husbands are forced to watch their wives being raped. Wives forced to see their husbands tortured and castrated, their daughter violated, and their children executed. These violations of the sacred rights of the human person, of the poor in particular, are justified in the name of the legitimate defense and security of society.”*
Jesus is naked and vulnerable—ashamed, as we have been ashamed. Wanting to run away and hide as sometimes we want to run away and hide. Whatever shames we and the rest of the world have felt—Jesus is one with us all.
David Read, great preacher of another era told a story in one of his sermons about the boy who came home naked and ashamed. He had done terrible things. But the father in the parable ran out to meet him and put his arms around him and whispered, “ My boy...My son.” The father yelled to his servants: “Bring forth the best robe and sandals and a ring.” He covered the boy’ shame and nakedness—with what Read called, the dignity of faith.
And as we ponder this painful Tenth station—we all know the story Jesus told is really our story. He takes all the indignities—and there are many—and covers them with a grandeur of love and forgiveness.
*Leonard Boff, Way of the Cross-Way of Justice (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1982) p. 84