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Matthew 27.27-31

‘And they stripped him...’ (v. 28)

The one experience everyone who is ill will share at the hands of others is the experience of being examined and treated by medical staff. At times this can be the most brutal form of touch, sometimes necessarily rough and invasive in order to diagnose and treat the symptoms. At such times the staff involved will usually do their best to reassure us in kindness, understanding and humility. Sadly, there are occasions when either the pressure on the health services or the personality of the individual member of staff adds to our vulnerability.

Some medical procedures are so ghastly it is tempting to feel all staff should undergo them for themselves before being allowed to perform them on others. These are the times we are at our most anxious and fearful; when we are most likely to burst into tears of distress rather than asked to be treated and touched with more gentleness and respect. It is not easy to be assertive to a consultant in a suit when you are lying on a bed wearing not even your dignity. If there is more than one person present the potential for anguish and humiliation increases.

Jesus’ humiliation was not just in front of the soldiers, but in front of the whole battalion, deliberately gathered to witness the scene. He was publicly stripped, mocked, spat at and struck; then he was stripped again of the scarlet robe and re-dressed in his own clothes. No doubt there was not only the brutality of the actions, but a brutality and despising in the manner in which he was physically handled and pulled at by the soldiers while it was happening. Was Jesus silent through divine dignity? Or was it a moment when he was fully human and forced into silence by shattering humiliation?

The brutal touch to our bodies makes us flinch emotionally and spiritually too. There is nowhere for us to hide, no part of our physical selves not on show to one or more people. It is not easy to place ourselves in the hands of others. Such an experience can make us fearful of future contact and treatment. However humiliated we feel, we have no need to hide from Jesus. His look and his touch is but gentleness and compassion. He sees, he feels, he hurts with us, and he loves.

Lord God of the scarlet robe, In silence and humiliation You showed the face of heaven To a brutal people;
Grant me courage and calm, And clothe my being
With your compassionate dignity. 

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