Tag Archive | crucifixion

Expectations for a Friday

expectations blogOn Good Friday, I posted my desire to see the crucifixion through new eyes, to see it for the first time instead of as a story I’d heard a million times. I wanted to be moved by the suffering, experience the human pain. I thought I needed to see his sacrifice in terms of my sin and be brought to tears.

I was wrong.

My church had a Good Friday service, but because of a car situation, I missed it. I faced that with a mix of guilt and relief, because I was fearful of meeting Jesus on Friday. I didn’t feel strong enough for tears and self-analysis, especially in a public setting. So when I had to stay home, I had a lot of conflicted emotions, but the one thing I knew was that I had to spend some time at the cross.

I mentioned in my Friday post that I like to skim the crucifixion and head straight to the resurrection. I’m probably not alone there. So, to avoid this, on Friday I chose to read all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ death from the betrayal in the garden through his burial. Then I would stop reading and simply live with his death for a day.

I thought I knew what I would find. Nope.

This time around, the first thing that hit me was that the story is all about Jesus’ POWER.

He owned the confrontation in the garden, holding back his disciples and going peacefully with the authorities. He owned the conversations with the priest, Pilate, and Herod, saying exactly what he needed to say to fulfill his goal, which was his death. He owned the walk to the cross, warning the mourners about the state of their hearts. He owned his crucifixion, offering forgiveness, calling a man to himself, and settling his mother with a new son to protect her. He owned the forces of nature, as the sky darkened around him. Finally, he owned his death, taking a purposeful final breath and turning over his life voluntarily.

That’s power. He wasn’t a victim. Although my sin drove him there, he was willing, able, and in control the whole time. I don’t know why I find this so comforting, but I do. God didn’t turn Jesus over to something out of his control. I’m not sure Jesus was ever more visibly manifesting his divinity than he did during those final hours of his life.

Second, I spent time thinking about the crucifixion being more than the pain of his physical body.

I’ve heard this before, but because I went to the stories wanting to be moved by the physical suffering, I saw it differently. On many occasions Jesus prayed and then said This isn’t for me; it’s for you. In John 12 God speaks from Heaven, and again, Jesus points out this is for the people, not him. Miracles were also a sign for people. Much of what Jesus did was a way to show mortal, physical humans heavenly truths that are nearly impossible for us to understand.

Now, I want to be careful here. This is not an attempt to diminish Jesus’ physical suffering at his death. I’ve heard long discourses about crucifixion and the physical pain involved. It was awful. But I think it was a pale comparison to the true suffering. People who were crucified didn’t always sweat blood the night before. Something so much deeper was going on.

Here’s where I break into fanciful conjecture with no research behind it. It’s just a tiny idea sparked by the darkened sky and the assumption that Jesus’ payment for my sin was more than time spent on a cross.

I don’t really understand how Jesus, fully God, could die. I’m not doubting it. Not one little bit. But I can’t quite wrap my head around it, either. When Jesus took our sins, God had to turn his back on…himself? Was the Trinity momentarily broken? Was that perfect, eternal unity torn? I don’t know the mechanism by which Jesus paid for sin. I trust it, and that’s enough, but I also wonder and imagine.

However, the sky went dark. I wonder if all of creation, just for a moment, understood and felt that split when God turned away from Jesus. Maybe Jesus himself didn’t darken the sky. Maybe God didn’t darken the sky. Instead, perhaps all the physical laws of God’s world experienced a moment of loss and death as the very fabric of the universe knew the brokenness of the creator. I wonder if that darkness isn’t a better sign of the true sacrifice than the man bleeding in Jerusalem. Regardless, both point to something deeper and darker and more painful than what humans witnessed that day.

I didn’t weep on Good Friday. I almost feel guilty for my reaction, but I experienced overwhelming hope. I felt loved. I felt God’s power. I felt secure. The world around me looks darker and scarier every day, but Jesus owned his death. He was never a victim. Every minute before and after that was and is in his control. The souls he paid for–with suffering so great the sky threatened to disappear–he doesn’t lose. The world he created doesn’t spiral out of his hands.

The tears came, although they waited a day. But on Friday, God knew exactly what I needed to see and hear, what my heart could hold at that moment. I am thankful for a God who, even after such a sacrifice, still cares about the needs of his individual children. Thank you, Lord. Amen and amen.

 

 

 

Passion lost, passion found

Passion week palm sunday

AppleMark

Yesterday began Passion Week or Holy Week. In our church, we celebrate Palm Sunday by walking, as a church, through the parking lot or church property, carrying palm fronds, and singing or speaking Hosannas.

This year, our church is in a new location. We now meet in an urban area in a building whose first purpose is to feed the homeless several times a week. There is only one door in or out, so we couldn’t leave one way and enter another for our Palm Sunday processional. Instead, we walked around the block. We passed the entirety of the building that feeds the homeless. We walked past the  coroner’s office. We walked through a less-than-lovely part of town, carrying palm fronds, saying Hosanna.

It felt strange.

A woman visited our church yesterday, and I wondered what she thought of walking around an urban block with a whole bunch of strangers, looking kind of strange. I ended up walking beside her, and after a minute she started to laugh. She admitted this was kind of fun and suggested someone should be filming us.

As we headed past the coroner’s office on an unkempt street with more gravel than concrete, she said something that I won’t forget. Remember I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know what she believed or how she’d found us or anything about her except she was willing to be part of this bizarre spectacle, and by the end she was saying Hosannas with the rest of us.

“I feel like we’re putting armor around the church,” she said quietly. She looked at me. “We’re putting up a protective wall. Invisible wall against evil. Nobody can see it, but evil can see it, and it can’t come inside.”

Later I learned this woman’s name, although I lost track of her at the end of the service and didn’t get to talk to her again. I hope she comes back. Already I love her smile and her laughter and her insights. I’d love to know more about her and become part of her family. We’ll see if that happens.

All day I thought about those words, especially in the context of Holy Week, the week we remember Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. He set his face to get there, because he had a date with death. He knew we are all vulnerable to evil. He knew we all need protective armor to keep evil out. It wasn’t as simple as walking with palm fronds. Jesus’ armor over us is blood. Because he covered us in blood, we have the ability to call on the Spirit with our voices and palm fronds, to laugh in the face of a dark world as we make spectacles of ourselves.

I’ve been around for a whole lot of Holy Weeks. Sometimes I don’t see it any more. It becomes rote and ritual, and I worry more about what quick bread to take to Easter service than what the week means. It was Jesus’ entire life goal, to set his face to Jerusalem, disappoint a nation who wanted a king, and die a bloody, horrible death. And yet, too many years I don’t get it, don’t feel it, don’t let that truth shake me to my very core.

During our service yesterday, a man was reading from Isaiah 52/53, speaking of Jesus being pierced and crushed for us, that our iniquity was laid on him, and before he finished reading his voice was breaking and tears were falling. He got it. He hadn’t forgotten or lost his passion for passion week. I listened to him struggle, and I looked at the words, and I looked ahead at a stranger who reminded me that I don’t have to bleed for safety now. I have armor, and the weeping man in front was reading about the source of this safety, the horrible, terrible event that rescued me, that covered me with protection.

I have said before that I’m thankful for tears. I’ve been a stoic for much too long. Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I saw the words again, felt the pain again. The passion stirred. The Spirit spoke, perhaps wept at the memories of the beloved son in his moment of loneliness and isolation when God turned his face away. I heard that heavenly weeping, that shudder from the past, when God made everything right in the world by letting something go terribly, terribly wrong.

I hope you spend time this week reflecting on Jesus’ final week on earth, on his purpose, his goals, his pain, his blood, and his victory. The world doesn’t care, and I live in the world, so this week will look like most other weeks. But I plan to set aside time to think and read–and obviously to blog, which is another way I think–and let the stirrings of passion fan into a flame.

I am armored. I did nothing to get that. Evil can’t get through the wall. A very real person did that for me, and this week, I hope to grow closer to him and not take any of his life or death for granted.