The cross of Christ

The crucifixion was a time of great emotion for Jesus. He was most like us at that point. He pleaded with God and at one point even felt abandoned.

During the rest of his life he was quite casual about everything, as if doing miracles such as walking on water, feeding thousands of people with a handful of food, and raising people from the dead were everyday occurrences. He would pray to his Father before each miracle he did, and he even sighed occasionally as if this was all too tedious and common.

Yet on the cross he was scared. He wasn’t sure if this was going to work out. He hoped this was going to be like the test of Abraham, where there was a reprieve at the last minute.

The difference was that on the cross, Jesus wasn’t in charge. He wasn’t performing the miracle. It was being performed on him. He was passive for the first time in his life. At that point, he was the most like us because he wasn’t in control of the situation.

Poem – the two Josephs

Joseph (of Nazareth)
held Jesus the baby,
wrapped in swaddling cloths.
Just born,
fragile,
holy child.

Joseph (of Arimathea)
held Jesus the man,
wrapped in burial cloths.
Just crucified,
fragile,
holy man.

Two different Josephs
attended Jesus,
as he entered this world
and as he left it.
Two different Josephs
were with him
and tenderly
held him,
wrapped him in cloth.
Two different men
cared for this man
who cares for all of us.

Jesus again predicts his crucifixion

Some Greeks had come to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover festival. They went to Philip, who was from the village of Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested to see Jesus.

Philip told Andrew and they then went together to tell Jesus. Jesus told them “It is now time for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, unless a kernel of wheat is put into the ground and dies to its nature, it remains just a kernel of wheat. But if it dies to its nature, it produces a large crop. Anyone who loves his life will lose it, and anyone who hates his earthly life will have the same life eternally. To be my servant is to follow me. My servant is wherever I am. If you serve me, you will be honored by my Father. Now I am troubled in my soul. Should I ask the Father to rescue me from what is coming? But what is coming is why I’m here. Father, may your name be glorified!”

Then a voice came from heaven, saying “I have already glorified it, and I will give glory to it again!”

Some in the crowd thought they heard thunder, while others said “An angel just spoke to him!”

Jesus said “That voice was for your benefit, not mine. This is now the time when the world will be judged. This is now the time when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be overthrown. As for me, I will draw all people to me when I am raised up.”

The crowd replied “The Law says that the Messiah will never leave. So why do you say that the Son of Man must be raised up? Who is the Son of Man?”

“The light will soon leave you,” Jesus answered. “You should walk while the light is still here so you don’t get caught in darkness. Anyone who walks in darkness gets lost. Believe in the light while you still have it so you can become children of light.”

After saying this, Jesus retreated and hid from the crowd.

JN 12:20-34

The closely guarded tomb

The next day the chief priests and Pharisees assembled before Pilate and said “Sir, we remember that while that liar was alive he said ‘I will rise again after three days’. Therefore, we request that you give orders for the tomb to be secured until then. If not, his disciples may steal his body and tell everyone that he has been raised from the dead. If they do that it will make a bad situation worse.”

Pilate told them to use some soldiers as a guard saying “Go make it secure in the best way you know.” Then they left and secured the tomb by putting a seal around the stone and posting guards.

MT 27:62-66

Jesus’ side pierced

The Jews didn’t want the bodies to stay on the cross through the next day because not only was it the Sabbath, but it was also the first day of Passover. They asked Pilate to have the men’s legs broken to hasten their death so that their bodies could be removed before the Sabbath began. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified alongside Jesus. They saw that Jesus was already dead when they came to him, so they did not break his legs. However, a soldier used a spear to pierce his side and blood and water immediately flowed out.

The one who saw this has told you this so that you might believe. He speaks the truth and is convinced that what he is saying is true.

These things fulfilled the Scriptures that say “None of his bones will be broken” and “They will look upon the One they have pierced.”

JN 19:31-37

Women with him

Many women were there who had followed and helped Jesus from when he was in Galilee. They were watching the crucifixion from a distance. They included Mary Magdalene, Mary who was James and Joseph’s mother, Salome, and the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee). Many other women had traveled with him up to Jerusalem.

MT 27:55-56, MK 15:40-41, LK 23:49

Jesus dies

Darkness came over all the earth from noon until three. Jesus knew that all the Scriptures had been fulfilled at this point. Around three pm he yelled out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”

The people standing by thought he was calling out for Elijah. Jesus then called out, saying “I’m thirsty!” Someone ran to get a sponge, soaked up some sour wine that was in a nearby jar, and put it on a long hyssop reed to hold up to his mouth so he could drink. Another person said “Let’s wait to see if Elijah comes to rescue him!”

After Jesus had some of the wine, he said with a loud voice “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands. It is finished!” He bowed his head, breathed his last, and released his spirit.

Suddenly the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary ripped in half from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks broke in half, and the tombs of the dead were broken open. The bodies of the righteous were raised from the dead. They left their tombs after Jesus was resurrected and walked to Jerusalem, where many people saw them.

The centurion and the soldiers who were guarding Jesus saw all that had happened and were terrified. They said “This man really was the Son of God!” The crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle went home, striking their chests in grief after they witnessed the events.

MT 27:45-54, MK 15:33-39, LK 23:44-48, JN 19:28-30

Death predicted (Get thee behind me)

From that time on, Jesus began to let his disciples know that he must go up to Jerusalem, saying “The Son of Man is about to greatly suffer and be rejected by the elders, scribes, and the chief priests, and then rise after three days.

MT 16:21, MK 8:31, LK 9:21b-22

Speaking privately to him, Peter began to chide him saying “Don’t say such things! This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned and told Peter “Get out of my way, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s needs but your own instead.”

MT 16:22-23, MK 8:32-33

What is so good about Good Friday?

Imagine the early disciples on the first Good Friday. It certainly wasn’t good in their eyes. Their leader has just been killed, by the state.

This wasn’t a drive by. This wasn’t a domestic dispute. This wasn’t an accident. The authorities put him on trial and then the crowd decided that Jesus was going to die. They freed a murderer instead.

They knew they were upsetting the status quo with their little group but they didn’t know it would lead to Jesus being crucified.

They’ve been up all night with him. They were keeping watch while he prayed. Well, they weren’t really doing a great job of it. He kept finding them asleep. They were sleeping in bits and pieces, outside, on the ground. It wasn’t a restful night. He’d told them what was going to happen but they didn’t really get the severity of it. They certainly didn’t think it would end like it did.

The soldiers came, with Judas. Here’s someone they know. It will all work out OK, they are sure of that. Nope. There’s a fight. A soldier’s ear gets cut off. Jesus gets taken away. Nothing makes sense anymore.

And then this. No last minute reprieve. He’s dead.

Crucifixion is a terrible way to die. It is humiliating. It is long and slow. You suffocate to death, nearly naked, in front of everybody. Meanwhile you are in agony because of the nails that are holding you onto the cross. No anesthesia. No mercy. It is a cruel death – one designed to send a message. Don’t challenge the system or you’ll meet the same fate.

Everything has turned upside down for them. Nothing makes sense. Everyone and everything appears to be against them, and the person they would ask for advice is dead.

They are wondering if they are next.

Where is the person who stilled the raging sea? Where is the person who healed all those people? They are needing healing themselves right about now. There is a raging storm in their hearts, and there is nobody there to say “Be still!”

Let us sit in this moment.

Scattered. Lost. Abandoned. All hope is lost.

Don’t run away from this feeling. You have to live thorough it.

We are those disciples.

We are wondering where is God now. We think God has forsaken us.

We don’t see a happy ending to this story.

Sit with this feeling. Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story. Don’t rush ahead to Easter. You know how this ends. They didn’t. Be those disciples. Feel this loss. Feel all hope draining out of you. Feel the exhaustion and the fear.

And know that God is still with you, even in this moment, even in this agony.