by Kathy Matuschka
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Those who passed by hurled insults at him (Mark 15:29a).
Read Mark 15:22–32
As the marketing urges us to prepare for Christmas, it may seem strange to be reflecting on Christ’s passion. While the stores arrange their displays of glitz and glamour, Christians approach the season of Advent by pausing to reflect on the transience of this world. As we join all creation in groaning with longing for the restoration of all things, it seems timely that this week, we will reflect on God’s amazing rescue plan for us and all creation.
Today, I invite you to notice the behaviour of the members of the public who passed by Jesus while he was on the cross, hurling insults at him as they went. And then the chief priests and teachers of the law, who scapegoated Jesus more privately. (Rather than leading the charge of abuse, the Jewish leaders repeated the comments of the crowd … bravely amongst themselves.)
And if you can bear to, look at Jesus, staying on the cross and taking the fear and anger of all humanity.
In Leviticus 16, Yahweh gave the Hebrew people a process of atoning for their sins. It involved two goats, one of which was sacrificed on the altar and the second which carried the ‘wickedness and rebellion’ (Leviticus 16:21) of the people into the desert. This second goat took their anger and fear far away from the Hebrew people, which was essential to the process of setting them free to start again.
Together, the goats pointed ahead to Jesus Christ dying on the cross for the sins of humankind. Jesus was a willing sacrifice and also a scapegoat – the Son of God who came among us to absorb our anger and abuse while offering himself as the greatest gift ever.
In our world today, nations are paying a high price for the anger and fear that is characteristic of all humankind. Scapegoating behaviour powers wars and other abuses of power because when we scapegoat, we decide that a person or group of people is ‘other’ than us and, therefore, does not require our respect and care.
Have you ever experienced being scapegoated? If so, do you struggle to forgive those who hurt you? Are you experiencing being scapegoated today? Take comfort: Jesus knows how you feel. By staying on the cross for us – even while being scapegoated – Jesus rescued us from all the fear and shame we so often pile onto one another.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the scapegoating you endured on the cross for me and all humanity. Through your Spirit, please set my heart free from the urge to retaliate when I feel abused. Amen.
Kathy Matuschka serves within the LCA Queensland District as Assistant Director for Mission. Kathy and her husband Mark have three wonderful adult children, one lovely son-in-law and another officially joining the family next month.