What are we supposed to see when we behold this innocent man, beaten and condemned? What are we supposed to feel when Jesus shows us his wounds and says, "Look at my hands and feet . . . . Touch me and see"? More importantly, what are we supposed to do in response to the ethical imperatives of the Lenten journey? How we answer these questions will define both the journey we are making toward the empty tomb and the affirmations we will speak as our own on Easter morn.
The Lenten journey is mapped by an imperative, twice spoken, from different perspectives. The first perspective is that of Pilate, who presents Jesus-bound, scourged, crowned with thorns, and wearing a purple robe-with the words, "Behold the man" (John 19:5). The second is that of the resurrected Christ who says to the disciples, "Look at my hands and feet . . . . Touch me and see" (Luke 24:39). Pilate offers the perspective of the onlooker, one whose power and privilege make it possible to endorse the abuse of another person and to look on their suffering from a safe distance. Christ's words, on the other hand, convey the experience of one whose first-hand experience with suffering makes it impossible to ignore the reality of brokenness and loss The Lenten journey requires that we understand what it means to view suffering from both perspectives.
Samuel E. Balentine is Professor of Old Testament and Director of Graduate Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He is the author of numerous books, including Job in the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series, for which hs serves as Old Testament General Editor. He is Series Editor of Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church, Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encylopedia of the Bible and Theology, and Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Handbook of Ritual and Theology in the Hebrew Bible.