Mockery

Preaching and Worship Resources about Mockery

Often stemming from arrogance and sometimes including contempt and mimicry, mockery is ridicule of absurdity, real or imagined.

In Scripture

Mocking the messengers of God "The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy" (2 Chron. 36:15-16).

"Surely there are mockers around me, and my eye dwells on their provocation" (Job 17:2).

"I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me" (Ps. 22:17).

"But at my stumbling they gathered in glee, they gathered together against me; ruffians whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; they impiously mocked more and more, gnashing at me with their teeth" (Ps. 35:15-16).

"I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me" (Ps. 69:12).

"The arrogant utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law" (Ps. 119:51).

"Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse; whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt" (Prov. 9:7).

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Prov. 20:1).

"I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long" (Lam. 3:14).

"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, `Hail, King of the Jews!' They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him" (Matt. 27:27-31).

"Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, `You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.' In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, `He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, `I am God's Son.' The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way" (Matt. 27:39-44).

Points to Ponder

People who like to mock other people are often resistant to rebuke ("whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse"). You can see the pattern in comment threads following online news pieces. Someone will mock a statesman, and another reader will attempt to show that the mockery is inappropriate. The mocker then turns his scorn on the other reader. This suggests that mockery may come from the kind of arrogance that makes its owner unteachable. Rebuke of him is therefore futile.

Several psalms and proverbs associate mockery with drunkenness. Drunk people lose the restraints of civility or decency and thus may text, Tweet, or otherwise post derisions that their sober self barely recognizes.

What is it about mockery that hurts so much? Mockery causes shame. It strips off our bark. It exposes us. Mockers isolate some feature of another human being and then hold it up so everybody can see it and laugh and whistle. You isolate what you find so peculiar about another human being. Maybe you imitate it. Or, best of all, you force your victim to mock himself. So if you are a Nazi, you capture a rabbi and you make him preach. If you are Babylonian guards, you force the Jewish exiles to put on a nightclub act for you with their sacred temple songs. In the 16th century, Calvinists could simultaneously mock and murder Anabaptists by drowning them. ("You believe in baptism by immersion? Here, get your fill of it.")

Much childhood mockery seems to arise from ignorance and insecurity. Provincial children mock an accent or a style of clothing. Cruel children mock another child for being clumsy or homely. Ignorant children ridicule classmates who are artistic or gay. But knowing that the mocker is ignorant does not remove mockery's sting. Mockery hurts. Most 12-year-olds would rather be slugged than mocked. If you are the parent of a child who is being mocked by a group, and you see it just once, you will never forget.

In "What Was it Like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?" Johannes Neuhausler tells us that Nazis had a special fondness for mockery as a pleasant way of killing time and entertaining visitors. The camp commandant at Dachau used to lead bigwig Nazi visitors to the jail where especially distinguished prisoners could be presented. Much was made of the presenting: it showed who controlled whom. In looking over their visitor list, the Nazis could decide which prisoners they wanted to feature. It was so amusing on a given Thursday to feature a scabby, dehydrated bishop or a professor now clearly insane. It was so satisfying to gather in a ring around some humiliated officer or artist or journalist, to have them in your power, to make them go through their paces. Sometimes the prisoners were stripped and forced to run back and forth in front of the guest assembly's whistles and catcalls.

Matthew shows us some of the depths of Jesus' suffering. Here are some Roman soldiers who are bored sick with their job. But they've gotten hold of this Jewish carpenter who thinks he's a king. So the soldiers set him up and run him through their burlesque. They strip him down and dress him up. They hurt him and jeer at him and smack him around. In a vile irony, they kneel before their king not in humility, but in mock humility. They horse around with the Lord of life, never seeing for a moment that he had come into the world to absorb just such wickedness as theirs. The soldiers think they have a fool on their hands and they think that's funny. But he is a Jewish fool, and that's not so funny. These soldiers are as anti-Semitic as an occupying force can be. They hate Jews and try to hurt them whenever they can. Doesn't everybody know Jews are hard to govern? Doesn't everybody know they're pushy and demanding? Aren't they famous for their chutzpah? And now here's one who takes the cake. So, then, time for a little worship. "Hey, there, King of the Jews!" they shout at this silent man. "Yo! King of the Jews!" "Hey! Kike-King! Jew-King!" In another cultural context they would have said "Nigger-King." And in his crucifixion, the mockery continued — all of it a mortification, a humiliation, a horror.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.