Posts Tagged With: crucifixion

Luke 23: Evil Won The Day

There is no mistaking Luke in this chapter.  Jesus was innocent.  He did nothing wrong.

“I find no fault in this man,” said Pilate to the chief priests and the crowds. (23:4)

“I [Pilate] examined him in your presence and I found no evidence in him of the charges you’re bringing against him.  Nor did Herod.” (23:14-15a)

“There is no sign that he’s done anything to deserve death.” (23:15b)

“What’s he done wrong?  I [Pilate] can’t find anything he’s done that deserves death.” (23:22)

“We’re [the criminals crucified with Jesus] getting exactly what we asked for.  But this fellow hasn’t done anything out of order.” (23:41)

“This fellow,” he [the centurion] said, “really was in the right.” (23:47)

Remember Luke is writing to the Gentile world where it might have been easy to write Jesus off as another rabble-rouser who got himself killed.  Maybe some said Jesus just got what was coming to him.  Luke makes it clear: he was an innocent man.  Pilate thought so.  Herod said as much.  Soldiers and bystanders saw it.  One of the criminals crucified beside him realized it.  Even one of the Jewish rulers, Joseph of Arimathea, wouldn’t go along with the court’s decision (23:51).  This was unjust, plain and simple.

And yet, Jesus was killed.  Pilate caved to the pressure of the crowd.  The conniving, power-hording Jewish leaders got their way.  Herod sat by and watched his people nail an innocent man to a cross like it was just another sideshow in the circus that was his kingdom.  Wright phrases the tragic reality of the situation well:

But they [the Jewish rulers and people] went on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he be crucified; and eventually their shouts won the day. (23:23)

Some days those who can shout the loudest win.  Some days wicked things are done.  Some days innocent bystanders are struck by gangbangers’ bullets.  Some days desperate meth heads break into houses and hurt the homeowners if they stand in the way.  Some days drug cartels take over whole parts of countries making them unsafe for virtuous people.  Some days angry citizens bomb their own federal buildings.  Some days terrorists fly planes into crowded office buildings.  Some days high school graduates are carted halfway across the globe to fight wars generals are not sure can be won.  Some days delusional loners cut down good people while they watch movies or shop in malls.  Some times evil wins the day. . . .

What injustice or act of evil do you lament today?

Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Matthew 27: Let His Blood Be On Us!

I am struck by the utter irony of this passage:

“So what shall I do with Jesus the so-called Messiah?” asked Pilate.

“Let him be crucified!” they all said.

“Why?” asked Pilate. “What’s he done wrong?”

But they shouted all the louder, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate saw that it was no good.  In fact, there was a riot brewing.  So he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.  “I’m not guilty of this man’s blood,” he said.  “It’s your problem.”

Let his blood be on us!” answered all the people, “and on our children!”  (27:22-25)

Of course, the crowd means they will gladly take the guilt of killing Jesus.  His death is justified.  He is a law-breaker and blasphemer.  He incites riots and disturbs the peace.  Look at the company he keeps: he likely has some hidden sin.   If he really is God’s son then he can save himself.  But he won’t.  This guy is a ruffian.  We’ll answer for spilling his blood.

The irony is that by the end of the day that is exactly what happened.  Jesus’ shed blood was potentially “upon them and their children,” but not at all in the way they had imagined.  That blood signified redemption and atonement.  It meant they all had the potential to be saved by the very man they had crucified.  And if they accepted that invitation that blood would wash away their sins.  Were some of these same people among the 3000 saved on Pentecost forty days later?

What an amazing reminder of the grace of God!  He gives them what they want, and so much more!

What did you notice today?

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Matthew 26: Two Very Different Roads Converge

We are approaching Jesus’ death and I am struck by how there are two very different roads to the same place, Mt. Calvary.

The chapter begins by telling us that Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders are both contemplating the same event, but have very different intentions:

Jesus said to his disciples, “In two days’ time, as you know, it’ll be Passover!  That’s when the son of man will be handed over to be crucified.” (26:1-2)

The chief priests got together with the elders of the people. . . . They plotted how to capture Jesus by some trick, and kill him. (26:4)

Next, we have the two groups making preparation for death.  An unnamed woman comes to Jesus and anoints his head with very expensive perfume, unbeknownst to her as preparation for his burial.  She does this as a sign of honor.  Meanwhile, the chief priests strike a deal with Judas to lead them to Jesus in a private place so they can arrest him without a scene.  Preparations are made for betrayal.

When Jesus is arrested in Gethsemane, a stark divergence is seen again.  Everyone around Jesus — including impetuous Peter — operates by force.  Swords are brandished, an ear is cut off, and Jesus is manhandled away to the house of the high priest.  In contrast, throughout it all Jesus operates by peace.  He so opposes force that he heals the high priest’s slave’s ear and chastises his own defender Peter.  These are two radically different ways of operating in the world.

Both groups see Jesus’ body as an object to satisfy a need.  For Jesus, his body is an instrument of “forgiveness of sins” and healing (26:28).  Later, as the palace guard spat on Jesus and beat him, they show that Jesus’ body is simply an object on which to show hatred and humiliation.

Yet, both of these roads end up at the same place.  However, for one it is a cross of shame, mockery, and elimination.  For Jesus it is the cross of victory, love, and forgiveness.

What did you see anew in this very familiar chapter?

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mark 15: The King of the Jews

As a child of the 1980s, Michael Jackson has always been a fixture in my memory.  Whether it was as a child with the Jackson 5 or his “Thriller” album (was there a household in America that did not own a copy of that record?) or the sad carnival sideshow that his life became, we all knew the “King of Pop.”  He spoke and we listened.  He acted and we paid attention.  He went on tour and he commanded hundred of dollars per ticket.  That is power, freakish though it may be.

Before there was the King of Pop, there was the King of Rock and Roll.  Just about anybody over age of 65 here in Memphis has their own personal Elvis Presley stories.  He shaped an entire genre of music.  He has a street named after him.  And a trauma center too.  His end was as sad as Jackson’s, but who can deny Elvis’ royalty?

The latest king plays basketball, King LeBron James.  Love him or hate him, none can deny he elicits strong emotions.  When the Miami Heat comes to town, count on a sold out arena.  This King has had his image plastered on magazine ads encouraging us to come “witness” the works of this king.  He has been emblazoned on murals the size of buildings.  He is at the height of basketball prowess, and even Michael Jordan knows it.

I grew up in Canada where the British royalty remains an honored institution.  Life stops for a royal wedding.  My mother still has a commemorative plate from Charles and Diana’s wedding in her china cabinet and that was twenty-five years ago.  Now, simply say the name “Kate” and we know you are referring to Kate Middleton, the new Duchess of Cambridge.  Beside her always is the dashing William, the next king of Britain.  I am too young to remember the coronation of Elizabeth II, but be assured that William’s coronation will be a fete unequaled in pomp and circumstance.

Then we come to a coronation of an entirely different sort today:

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard–that is, the Praetorium–and called together the whole squad.  They dressed Jesus up in purple; then, weaving together a crown of thorns, they stuck it on him.  They began to salute him: “Greetings, king of the Jews!” And they hit him over the head with a staff, and spat at him, and knelt him down to do homage.  Then, when they had mocked him, they took the purple robe off him, and out his own clothes back on. (15:16-20)

This is a very different king.  Power means something very different to this king.  People respond differently to this king.  There must be different principles in this kingdom.

What affected you anew in this heart-rending chapter?  

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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