And Then…What Happened?

Yes.  He died, succumbing to all his wounds.  It didn’t take long.  By three in the afternoon, he was gone…with a distinct, loud cry. Some people didn’t understand what he had spoken at the end.  Sounds of thunder and a darkness were noticed across the countryside.  The earth shook.

They didn’t even have time to break his legs, as was the usual custom, to hasten death.  Into a  rock tomb his body was hurried before the sun could set, wrapped quickly, unwashed, grimy, still seeping blood, unprepared for proper burial rest.  A huge rock was quickly rolled across the tomb’s doorway and guards were put in place.  This was a strange business and the authorities did not want any trouble cropping up.

But real trouble was on the way.   In the darkness, before long, something happened to this man.  He had been dead.  A thorough punishment, a violent whipping and brutal piercing had accomplished the killing.  Did the Roman soldiers realize that he was beaten and whipped for their sakes!  That he had nailed down sin? Did the Jewish authorities, the Law Keepers, know that he had  brought about the completion of their Law?  No, they didn’t know it.  Not then.

When the WORK was done, all the powers of the God of the Universe, the God of All Heaven pressed back down into him and he was transformed.  He lived again, not just surviving, but totally renewed. The yoke was thrown off of him… first one of all.  The yoke of death.   It was RESURRECTION.  The first fruit of the Newness of Life.  He was ushered out of the darkness by angels too bright to look on.

He was seen by many.  His friends, his followers, hundreds of people saw him over a period of days.  He had fresh new life.  An incorruptible body.  Heavenly powers.  But his piercings remained for all to see, to examine. It could not be explained.

This was real trouble for the world.  The entire world, not just his city, not just for Rome, but all.  He had accomplished a change in the world which could not be denied, could not be ignored, could not be destroyed.  He lived again.  He gives us that same life.  He lives today.

He is the Lord of Life.


“Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah Chapter 53 NIV version of the Bible

 

Painting at top by Caravaggio~ 16th Century
Christ portrait by Il Cuercino~16th Century

What Kind of Person?

What kind of person arrives at a place where the next thing to do, the next choice, is to be nailed to a cross, resulting in death?

The Romans who practiced this form of capital punishment used it for criminals, enemies of the state, those who came against the Laws of Rome, and by this time in history, defiance of the demands of the Emperor .  The accused, in this case a young Jew, could call for help from the Temple leaders. There could have been a way out, a compromise.  A person could always plead for mercy.   Advocates could wrangle, argue, demand, plead, bargain.  But that didn’t happen.  There was no friend on the horizon.  The young Jewish man did not call for any human help… did not retract his claims…

The Romans despised those going to the cross. They mocked them. So did everyone else. The lowest of the low went to the cross.  Public humiliation, public stripping, public execution.

So what kind of person would chose this?  I guess it would be someone who thought it might do some good, might provide something for others, might undo a curse or tear down a prison, might turn things around and bring a new kind of life.  It certainly was not an easy decision, not an easy road.  Only a very strong person would chose it.  Stronger than death, it would seem.

A Victor would do this.  An all-time Winner.  A Lover of Souls.  A Savior.

Statue of Cristo Rey, Uribici Soler sculptor, Mount Cristo Rey, New Mexico. Photo by Max Bower

 

Easter Day

The Strife is O’er

The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won,
The song of triumph has begun.  ALLELUIA!

The powers of death have done their worst,  but Christ their legions hath dispersed:  let shout of holy joy outburst.  ALLELUIA!

The three sad days are quickly sped, He rises glorious from the dead:  all glory to our Risen Head!  ALLELUIA!

He closed the yawning gates of hell, the bars from heaven’s high portals fell: let hymns of praise His triumphs tell!  ALLELUIA!

Lord!  By the stripes which wounded thee, from death’s dread sting thy servants free, that we may live and sing to Thee.  ALLELUIA!

ALLELUIA…ALLELUIA…ALLELUIA

The Journey

I see myself in a field of mud; it is so “boggy”, that I can hear my shoes sucking air as they slog through this rich, brown, heavy mud.  It is deep and messy, but I don’t mind.  I am looking ahead to a waving field of green and white which is before me.  As I approach I see that it is a field of lilies!  Huge, tall crisp-stalked ones. I move in among them and see that I have to push them aside to walk through. They bump against each other, heavy and crisp with water filling their stalks and dew on their leaves.  The flowers are pure white and curl perfectly into shape.  Walking is easier now; I know I am going to a thrilling place.

Beyond the lilies, the earth is perfectly smooth and covered in a fine green grass.  A little further and I have walked into a forest of gigantic trees! It is so cool here.  Filtered light and a freshness in the atmosphere charm me.  I notice that the huge dark trunks are growing far enough apart to create a feeling of space and grandness of scale.  Beyond, I see the end of the forest and reluctantly walk on.  I am tempted to stay among these powerful tree trunks. It’s a place that radiates protection and rest. But, the light and openness beyond the trees beckon me on.  Walking out of the forest, the sky seems endless and deeply blue. I am in a big place and I can see forever! The open space and sloping plain of grass lead on.

Then I see it!  The path downhill leads to a small brown low-roofed cottage. The late afternoon sun is still warm and bright, but the cottage down the hill is in the shade now and has a glowing lamp lit in the window. I am glad to see it welcoming me. Dusk drops down quickly on me as I reach the cottage entrance.  The door is wide open!  I walk in unafraid through the low cottage door.

The interior glows with beauty…. burnished, well cared for and simple.  Of course, Jesus is there near the entrance, quietly waiting for me.  The only word to describe Him is PURE.  He offers me a beautiful silver chalice with wine.  He motions to a loaf of brown bread on the table.  He welcomes me silently, but his eyes direct me to look out a huge  window.  I see that the cottage is nestled on the edge of blue eternity… out there  blue mountains and endless blue space fill the distance and I know that we are going on to an indescribable place.  We simply step off into space together and the ultimate journey begins.

 

Enter Into His Gates

Enter Into His Gates

With Thanksgiving

And Into His Courts

With Praise…

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples ahead telling them, “Go into the village in front of you and you will at once find there an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. Should anyone say anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them’, and he will send them immediately.”

All this happened to fulfill the prophet’s saying—‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold your king is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey’.

So the disciples went off and followed Jesus’ instructions. They brought the ass and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and Jesus took his seat. Then most of the crowd spread their own cloaks on the road, while others cut down branches from the trees and spread them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and the crowds who followed him all shouted, ‘God save the Son of David! ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! God save him from on high!’

And as he entered Jerusalem a shock ran through the whole city. ‘Who is this?’ men cried. ‘This is Jesus the prophet,’ replied the crowd, ‘the man from Nazareth in Galilee!’…”
              Matthew 21:1-11   The J.B. Phillips Version of the New Testament

 

Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, Israel