This still is taken from the film The Passion of the Christ, a film that divides opinion. Released seven years ago, it depicted the Passion with absolute realism. It moved away from the stained-glass window imagery of a clean man carrying a lolly-stick cross, to images of grotesque torture. Criticisms of the film surrounded the extent that its director, Mel Gibson, offered these scenes - though none of us can truly know the answer to that.
The process of the torture of Jesus was chilling. It showed a Roman centurion scourging Jesus with a maniacal look of pleasure in his eyes as layers of cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue were ripped from the frame of the accused. Whilst I have never been tortured, I have always been struck by the glee on one hand or complete impassivity on the other of depictions of torturers. They either couldn't care less or derive cheap thrill from the pain being meted out on the bound creature in their grasp.
This is a moment of particular significance for me. Whilst I gain no pleasure from re-enactments of needless violence, I am frustrated by the ways that actual events such as this are toned down in the interests of decency. Good Friday is not about a man receiving a stern reprimand, but about a frail tired man being torn apart square-inch by square inch. The main thrust of my sermon last Good Friday is that as Christians we have a duty to let this in, and not look away from events that might right cause us to be ill. Why? Because every nerve-shattering, flesh tearing, bone splintering cut into the flesh of Jesus was received out of love for us. This was the price. This.
They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt in homage to him [Mk 15: 19]
My prayer at this Station is for those who are subject to torture this day.
Lord Jesus, you faced the torment of barbaric punishment and mocking tongue:be with those who cry out in physical agony and emotional distress.You endured unbearable abuse:be with those who face torture and mockery in our world today.To you, Jesus, the King crowned with thorns,be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,now and for ever. Amen