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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Motherof Jesus (Part 16)

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now finished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, “I’m thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it up to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of his bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the one they pierced. After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’s body. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and took his body away. Nicodemus (who had previously come to him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes. They took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the fragrant spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews. There was a garden in the place where he was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it. They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish day of preparation and since the tomb was nearby.
John 19:25-42

Dear God, there are some things in this story I never noticed before. The first thing is that Mary’s sister was there. Jesus’s aunt. I’ll get back to that in a second.

As I’ve been focused on Mary for the previous 15 prayer journals to you I’ve come to see this whole experience through her eyes as a parent a little more vividly. So the first thing that came to my mind as I read this story yesterday and today is, “Well, this isn’t how this was supposed to work out at all.” What a devastating day! It’s one thing to lose your son, but it’s another to lose him so violently. And even more to have lost the man who was supposed to be the Messiah! She saw this coming. She saw the track he was on from at least the time she and his brothers tried to get him and take him home. This just wasn’t going how she and Joseph foresaw it after they visited with the angels, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and the wise men. I’m sure she and Elizabeth talked a lot about who their boys would be when they grew up, and now they were both dead–killed brutally.

I’ll bet she wished Joseph was there to hold her. I wonder what kinds of conversations she and her sister had had over the previous 34 years. I’m sure the early years were filled with home and wonder. Perhaps big dreams and Israel’s liberation and conquering power. Then, in recent years, concern that this was all unraveling. Perhaps this was too much for her son. Maybe he had lost his mind. Now they stood there together, Mary possibly feeling loved by her sister, but also maybe a little judged. How embarrassing to have this happen to your own son.

And if you’re Jesus, looking down, you see your mom, your aunt, and then John–apparently the only disciple that had the nerve to show up. It doesn’t mention that Jesus’s brothers were there. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus didn’t trust them because he made John responsible for his mother’s care. I’m sure their relationships were pretty strained and frayed by that point. Perhaps they were angry with Mary for supporting Jesus. I don’t know. It’s all conjecture, but the picture is pretty clear. She is standing there with her sister, Mary Magdalene, still another Mary who was married to someone names Clopas, and John. Her son’s life is over. And it sure looks like it was all a waste of time–Bethlehem, the stable, the rumors and innuendo, the flight to Egypt, the children slaughtered in Bethlehem, raising him… Now it was all over and all she had left was to live out the rest of her life.

Of course, we now have the advantage of knowing that that isn’t the end of the story, but let’s just sit with Mary in the seeming failure for another day or two. Sometimes as parents we just don’t know what is going on with our children. I talked with someone today whose son ended up failing out of their first year of college. It just didn’t work. His mother homeschooled him, and so she, at least in part, feels like it’s an indictment against her and how she prepared him for college. He feels like a failure. His father feels it too. But maybe this is a door that you needed to close for him to find the path you have for him. Maybe, like Mary, they simply can’t see what you’re doing. I know I’ve certainly had to embrace that level of faith sometimes with my own children.

Father, help me to be at peace with the fact that sometimes things just don’t go according to my plans because my plans can be vain, shortsighted, and foolish. In fact, help me to let go of my plans and simply look to you in this moment of this day, thank you for what you done that I can see and that I can’t see, and then be at peace in your presence. Let me give my utmost for your highest, regardless of what it costs me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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“No Insult Like The Truth” by Charlie Peacock — No cancer like ambition, no cure like crucifixion

“No Insult Like The Truth” By Charlie Peacock

I’ve run my ship aground
on the rocks of the soul
There’s no lie like independence
there’s no demon like control
I’ve fanned the burning embers
til my house was on fire
There’s no parody like power
There’s no fever like desire
I’ve drained the wine of darkness
to the dregs of deceit
There’s no drug as strong as pride
There’s no blindness like conceit
I’ve railed against the mountain
With a pickaxe and a file
There’s no minefield like presumption
There’s no death wish like denial

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

I’ve adjusted my prescription
til I couldn’t trust my vision
there’s no killer like convenience
there’s no sickness like omission
I’ve amended resolutions and resisted explanation
There’s no trap door like emotion
There’s no pit like reputation

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

There’s no cancer like ambition
There’s no cure like crucifixion

There’s no cancer like ambition
There’s no cure like crucifixion

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

This is part of a series dissecting the song “No Insult Like the Truth” by Charlie Peacock. In the series, I am taking two of the statements he makes and exploring the depth of meaning behind them and what I can learn about myself in the process

Dear God, so I’m up to the bridge of the song. I notice he says it twice. “There’s no cancer like ambition. There’s no cure like crucifixion. There’s no cancer like ambition. There’s no cure like crucifixion.”

There’s no cancer like ambition

So what does cancer do? It grows until it takes what is alive and kills it, replacing it with itself. It’s absolute killer if not treated and removed. If not cured. Is Charlie right to hold ambition out as an exceptional vice above the others? Is ambition worse than independence, control, power, desire, pride, conceit, presumption, denial, convenience, omission, emotion, or reputation?

The thing that ambition can do that is dangerous is it will ultimately lead me to replace you with me. Even if I am ambitious for your and your kingdom, the danger is that I will start doing it for myself and my glory instead of your glory. My own wisdom will start to take hold. And I suppose I could say that my ambition will lead to all of the things that have come before it in the song. Ambition leads to independence, control, power, desire, pride, conceit, presumption, denial, convenience, omission, emotion, or reputation. Yes, I don’t know that I can say this definitively, but an argument can certainly be made that ambition is like a cancer in my soul.

There’s no cure like crucifixion

The know that my sin creates cannot be untied. Sometimes the damage done in relationships by hurting others cannot be undone through talking and reason. It requires sacrifice and humility. In terms of my relationship with you and the healing of my soul, the only thing there is to do is ask your forgiveness and that the sacrifice that Jesus made be applied to me as well. I must die to myself. I must put myself up there on the cross with Jesus, crucified, buried with him in baptism, and walk in newness of life. There’s no cure like Jesus’s crucifixion, but my own death to self is part of that as well.

Father, help me to sink into you. This is my first day back at work after a nice vacation. Help me to walk in your light and your power. Help me to walk humbly with you. Help me to hear your voice in the noice and in the still, quiet moments. Help me to carry you with me to others. Help me to bring glory to your name.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Passion Week – The Crucifixion: John 19:23-30 / “Thief” by Third Day

The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “The Crucifixion” as was created by Eric Gill.

John 19:23-30 [ESV]
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Dear God, I spent some time with this image this morning before I left town for the day, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Now, its late in the evening and my wife has gone to bed. I have some time to really sit with it and consider what Eric Gill wanted to share.

  • Jesus is obviously the focus of the image. He has the halo around him that Catholics and some others put around Saints and the Holy Family. He looks thin. He has his thorn of crowns. He is totally naked, but Gill gives him some modesty by covering him with someone’s outstretched hands. Could this be Jesus’s mother helping to cover her boy?
  • It appears that three women have the halo as well. One has her face hidden and the other two are shown. Is this Gill showing us Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary’s sister, and Mary Magdalene?
  • There is one man in the picture. Is this John? He is standing near the three women, so I would say it is probably John, readying to take care of Jesus’s mother.
  • Oh, there are two other men in the picture too. One is on the cross on the left and the other on the right. The one on the left is only shone by his face, but he has the Saint halo. There are five haloed people in this image, and he is one of them. The other man on the cross is shown not only with no halo, but his nakedness is shown as well. Gill allowed Jesus and the other dying man some modesty, but to the man who mocked Jesus Gill gave a complete humiliation.
  • Gill included the writing at the top of Jesus’s cross, and he gives us the version of the cross that looks more like a capital “T” than a lowercase “t.”

Last night, I sat with the image of the last supper. Now, this image shows the culmination of what happened over the next 18 hours. It happened that fast. No due process. No jury of peers. Just humiliation and death.

I was talking with my dad this evening about how sometimes the plan we would lay out on paper is the wrong plan, and the plan that will accomplish your actual will looks terrible on paper. I would say that this whole thing with Jesus is a prime example of that.

Then there is the haloed man on the cross to Jesus’s right. While I was driving today, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in about 20 years. It’s called “Thief” and is by Third Day.

“Thief” by Third Day

I am a thief, I am a murderer
Walking up this lonely hill
What have I done? No, I don’t remember
No one knows just how I feel
And I know that my time is coming soon

It’s been so long, oh, such a long time
Since lived with peace and rest
Now I am here, my destination
I guess things work for the best
And I know that my time is coming soon

Who is this man? This man beside me
They call the King of the Jews
They don’t believe that He’s the Messiah
But somehow, I know that it’s true

They laugh at Him in mockery
And they beat Him ’til He bleeds
And they nail Him to the rugged cross
They raise Him, yeah, they raise Him up next to me

My time has come and I’m slowly fading
I deserve what I receive
Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please, please remember me?

And He looks at me still holding on
The tears fall from His eyes
And He says I tell the truth
Today, you will be with Me in paradise

And I know that my time, yes my time is coming soon
And I know that my time, yes my time, is coming soon
And I know Paradise, Paradise is coming soon

Songwriters: Bradley B. C. Avery / David Carr / Johnny Mac Powell / Mark D. Lee / Samuel Tai Anderson

Father, in the end, so much happened in 18 hours. The world changed in 18 hours. All of human time and space changed in 18 hours. Mercy came to the world in those 18 hours. And the plan looked absolutely terrible on paper, but it’s exactly what we needed. We needed our Passover Lamb. I needed a Passover Lamb. I needed mercy. I needed grace. I needed freedom. And the sacrifice all came in these 18 hours. But at this point on that Friday night, the plan looked like it had all fallen apart. We just never know what you’re up to. They didn’t know it then, and I don’t know it now. But I trust you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 27:56

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

Matthew 27:56

Dear God, it’s interesting that Matthew skips so much detail. We will find out in other Gospels that John was there with his mother. We will get Peter’s redemption scene along the water. There’s just a lot that Matthew leaves out.

I can’t remember how much the other Gospels mention her, but I’m curious to see how much them mention James and John’s mother. I know she gets mentioned as a foolish person asking for greatness for her sons, but I don’t remember anything beyond that. In this case, Matthew is careful to point out that she is here at the cross, but she’s not there at the tomb on Sunday morning. Was she too busy being worried about her boys? Was she part of hiding them? Of course, anything would be a guess, but it is notable that somewhere between Friday night and a Sunday morning her priorities shift.

Father, I’m grateful the other Gospels give us more about Peter’s redemption. I’m also glad we get more details above John. Continue to teach me as I go through this process and get into Mark tomorrow.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – The Most Important Moment in History (Matthew 27:45-56)

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Dear God, there is a lot in this passage. I wonder why they brought up Elijah in verses 47& 49. What did he have to do with this? Was there a prophecy about Elijah saving someone.

There’s so much here, I almost feel like I need to bullet-point everything that happened:

  • Jesus felt abandoned by you.
  • Someone offered him a drink (though I’m not sure whether that was merciful or cruel since it was wine vinegar).
  • There are the comments about Elijah and watching what happens next.
  • Jesus gave up his spirit and died.
  • The curtain of the temple split.
  • There was an earthquake.
  • Tombs opened and some of the deceased resurrected at the time and appeared to people after the resurrection (it’s unclear if they stuck around).
  • The women watched.

I think the importance of this passage is simple—it is simply the most critical moment in the history of the earth. You abandoned your son for my sake, and in that moment there was separation in the Trinity. You let a piece of yourself die for me.

Father, I’ve never really thought about the fact that, since you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, a piece of you died that day. I’ve always separated it in my head somehow. But you did more than give up your son. You gave up yourself. Greater love has no one than this… I know that I take this for granted. I try not to, but I do. Perhaps that is my greatest sin of all.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Two Sides to Every Story (Matthew 27:32-44)

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Dear God, I wonder if Matthew was there, hiding in the wings, or is this what was told to him? We know that John followed Jesus all of the way through the trial and to the cross, so he has much better details for us than Matthew does. I guess what I notice here is how we revisit some of the things Jesus had been saying all week to gall the chief priests and Pharisees. But are they the things he actually said, or things they heard that he said? Did he ever call himself the King of the Jews or the King of Israel during that week, or did other people call him that? We know that he incited them to action during the week, but did he actually say what they think he said?

 

One thing I continue to learn with each passing year is that there are two sides to every story. It is rare that someone is just inherently evil or mean. Usually, if they do something that one would perceive to be mean It is because they are trying to simply do something to either protect their interest or trying to respond to a tricky situation. For example, I am working through a conflict right now between our organization and one of our support organizations. I think they have been frustrated with us and have ascribed negative intent to our actions. I think that they think we were being intentionally negligent when the truth is that we thought we were following the correct protocols and no one told us that something we were doing was a problem.

 

Father, I offer you my day. As I work through this issue with the other agency, I ask that you help me to not ascribe negative motives to them, but instead realize that there is a side to their story as well, and it is probably not nearly as sinister as I might think. Help me to lead my staff through this conflict as well. So far, a lot of the blame has fallen on them, and I want to somehow protect them while simultaneously ensuring that we all emerge from this process in a better place than we have ever been before.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Matthew

 

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