Posts Tagged ‘crucifixion’

It was quite political back then as well. Governments were corrupt and so was the religious establishment.

Everyone thought they knew how things would go. For the disciples, they had a miracle worker as their teacher/leader. He could stop a storm and raise people from the dead. Surely he would prevail.

The Sanhedrin and Pharisees had a prophecy and traditions to uphold. They were “all in” and were confident that they would know and recognize the foretold Messiah. But this young upstart, this Jesus, was just another rebel, using tricks and magic to sway the masses.

And the Romans, well, they had their law and order and strength to rule the whole world. Their gods had blessed their Caesar and they were loyal to a fault. Why would they even question that authority? God help the man who tried.

Just One More Death

He was just one more punishment, one more lesson for the masses, one more death. That one they called Jesus, he could have talked his way out of it; the evidence was sketchy at best. The crowd could yelled louder to release him. Even the disciples wondered why he didn’t stop the proceedings.

None of it made sense to the human mind or to the naked eye. sometimes it’s the worst of times that must happen to shed light on the truth.

” By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
   Who could have imagined his future?” Isaiah 53:8 [RSV,CV]

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All executions were performed outside the city walls. Anything that was unclean or tainted was destroyed or thrown away there. Jesus broke up a lot of traditions, but the greatest one was starting something holy in an unholy place.

Hebrews 13:12-13
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

Two thousand years ago, the followers of Christ were considered unclean, much like lepers. They were law breakers and rule breakers. They were teaching others that the temple traditions were no longer necessary. They were breaking down societal structures. They all deserved to be cast away and thrown out from the protection of the city gates. This was the mindset of Paul of Tarsus and the crusade of his companions to obliterate the Christ-ians.

Now, some two thousand years, the tables have turned, and the very same believers in that former renegade, Jesus of Nazareth, are the ones who inhabit the “city” and have created their own order and culture of “righteousness.” It seems that anyone who might question or disagree with the current regime is cast outside the camp.

They are a new set of Pharisees who are putting people under microscopes before they are allowed inside.

But I believe Jesus is still outside the city. Jesus is still rubbing shoulders with the prostitutes and homeless, the poor and the outcasts, the disenfranchised and the orphans, the persecuted and the different, the prisoners and the ex-prisoners. The way of Jesus will always be the way of paradox. When we become to comfortable, we may have strayed onto the wide road [Matthew 7:13-14].

I am equally challenged here. I may go outside the “camp” for a visit, but every night I still run home to my comfortable bed and my air conditioning, my habits and my rituals.

I am yet afraid outside my “personal city” walls. I am afraid that I will be lost, that I will be hurt, that I will be shut out.

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What does it mean “to enter?” I guess there has to be a designated portal or opening, a path or direction. Entering implies leaving. Entering also implies that an observation is made from the inside, coming in.

Hebrews 10:19-20a; 22
Therefore, brothers [and sisters], since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart . . .

I remember, back in Indianapolis, I was asked to pledge a high school sorority of some notoriety because it was made up of girls from three separate north side high schools. It had a very long history, apparently as far back as the 1930’s and, based on a cursory Internet search, it was still around in the 90’s. I only mention it because it was the first time I experienced the power of the word, “Enter.” Like most of these types of organizations, there was great hierarchy between the members and the pledges. There were many rules and a lot of “etiquette,” for lack of a better term. And one of the requirements before each pledge could come into a room of members, she had to ask permission to enter. I will never forget that feeling of being made to wait to “enter.”

Another strong memory about entering is from the theatre. There is nothing that can compare with the first entrance onto a stage. There are jitters and nerves, there are fears and expectations, as well as a zillion other feelings. To enter from the sidelines and into the performing area, is literally, like leaving one existence to penetrate another.

The Most Holy Place is not just a place where God hangs out sometimes. This is where God is all the time in a unique and accessible way. This IS God.

In Old Testament times, the “Most Holy Place” was only entered once a year, and then with grave and solemn preparations, including bells on the priest’s robe to insure the people could hear him moving around (some even said a cord was tied to his ankle to drag him out if he died in there – but this is not fully substantiated). That High Priest was the only one who could enter. That was the Law.

Then, a new way comes along and through the single sacrifice of the Christ: all could (and can) enter, all could (and do) have access, all (could and can) engage God in a personal and unique way.

Here’s the sad part: most of us don’t know how to stay there. Legally, through the work of Christ and our faith in the process, we’re in. But we don’t stay in. We act like high school sorority pledges who stand and wait until someone calls us in (perhaps through a Sunday morning worship service or particularly moving sermon or song). We stand like actors and actresses waiting in the wings for our “cue.” We forget about the freedom.

One of our family dogs, a black lab mix, is totally goofy. From the first day we adopted her (at about 4 months), she was afraid of doors and entrances. We had to coax and dangle treats and demonstrate over and over again that no harm would come to her. Finally, she would come in (or go out), and everything was fine. . . until the next time. And we’d have to start all over again.

Humans act the same way; bona fide Christ followers and yet we still stand at the entrance and wait, afraid to enter because it’s not familiar, it’s so unlike “here,” it’s Godspace. We forget the new and living way.

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It’s important to seize and exercise forgiveness; otherwise, the whole point of the Christ/Messiah sacrifice is lost. It’s God’s forgiveness and intentional dis-remembering that manifests in the crucifixion and renews our direct access to God.

Hebrews 10:17-18
Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

It’s big: forgiveness. There is more power in forgiveness than any other aspect of faith. Forgiveness works for both believers and non-believers. It’s like gravity. If it’s genuine, it generates freedom.

But here’s the part that took me a long time to truly understand. Forgiveness is for the giver moreso than the receiver. It is my act of forgiving that frees me from the results of unforgiveness.

I did not say that this makes forgiveness easy. But it’s benefits are not lessened or increased by its difficulty.

Forgiveness begins with a choice, not with a feeling.

When I forgive, I can begin to let go of the expressions and allies of unforgiveness like anxiety, anger, distrust, bitterness, hardness of heart, worry, conversations and images stuck in replay, negative expectations, disappointment, and even ill health.

To withhold forgiveness is a direct assault on the heart that the Holy Spirit is mentoring within.

I begin each day now with my acknowledgement and need for forgiveness — specifically! I name everything that comes to mind. Sometimes, those things are from yesterday and sometimes, I’m surprised to find a piece of old baggage cropping up, a hidden room who’s door must be opened, a pebble that is not a pearl at all, but a stone of that has been secretly growing within a shell of resentment. God reveals as I am able.

Some people are slow to forgive because they believe this sets the other person free. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once we let go, the judgment lands at the feet of God. While I hold on to any pain that someone else has caused me, no matter how unfairly, I hinder the work of God.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord [Deuteronomy 32:35.” [Romans 12:19, Amplified]

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Batik by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese, Malaysia

Sometimes it’s not worth engaging in discussions that will go nowhere, particularly if people are getting upset and defensive. No one gains. If anything, more is said than should have been said and the controversy escalates. I have seen this happen a hundred times. I’m done.

Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

We had a controversy in our local community that was extremely divisive. Conversations were misrepresented; newspapers reported incomplete information and often, with only one side of the story or pure hearsay; while social networks were used to accuse and inflame an already unstable situation. And to what end? The people in the center of it all felt no better, just wrenched apart emotionally. The only thing that lessened the impact was the wisdom of a few who said: don’t engage, don’t add, don’t comment. And eventually, this proved the best choice; the furor abated and people moved on with their lives.

When Jesus stood before the different “authorities” on those fateful days before his crucifixion, he, too was silent. What would have been the point? No one would have believed him more that day than any other day. There was nothing more to be said. His great controversy had to be endured and he knew the meaning from the beginning. He may not have known how the whole thing would play out, the passing from one dignitary to another (think about it: he saw three “leaders” in the course of 24 hours who could have changed the world), but he knew the outcome would be the same: torture and death to the body.

But Jesus also knew about the third day. He knew about the results. He trusted God, despite the pain, the desolation, the anger, and the very air of evil that encircled him. Words were nothing.

And so, Jesus, as foretold throughout the histories and prophecies, rose from the dead. That event put all controversies into perspective.

When all is said and done, most stories have an opportunity for resurrection and transformation. With God, there is always hope. There is no irredeemable act. Even in the face of evil, we must hold fast to our belief that “love wins” — God wins!

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Becoming is a series of resurrections. In order to optimize the resurrections of the heart, soul & mind, there must be deaths–crucifixions, to be specific. But a number of hindrances to the deaths as well as the awakenings play out in my life. Categorically, the biggest obstacle is idolatry.

Colossians 3:3-5
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

This type of idolatry is not just worshiping a statue or foreign god, it’s putting Self up on a pedestal. The earthly nature illustrated in this verse (immorality, impurity, sex, evil desire and greed), is all about self-pleasure and choices made without concern or care for the other. Idolatry is another way of acting out extreme narcissism.

To crucify or “kill” these tendencies, desires, and controlling habits, I must first be willing. Jesus gave us the way to the cross. It didn’t seem very fair at the time. And it was a painful process, a breaking down of everything. His body was stripped of all protections. He was laid bare both physically and mentally.

Can I lay bare my own ego that wants to defy the Spirit and doesn’t want to understand or trust the paradox of faith in a Christ? Sexual behaviors and addictive pursuits are not the only features of an earthly nature. I have other consuming thoughts like ambition, notoriety, fame, power, wealth, and control. These too must be crucified before they can become the seed that dies and transforms into a thriving plant or tree. [John 12:24]

This remains unknown territory. I must willingly walk my personal “Via Dolorosa” and encourage my ego to let go of the survival skills I have developed over the years out of pain and fear and abandonment. They push people away. They block the free flowing release of the Spirit within. And what’s on the other side of crucifying the old ways? The old idolatries? I don’t really know. I only have a promise and a faith in the One within.

But I do know this: until that earthly nature loses its grip on my life, I’ll never know the truth of a truly resurrected life. They cannot live together.

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Now that would be true freedom: to partake so fully of the work of the cross and thereby be dead to the wiles of the world, as in the profane and avaricious, covetous and greedy. But I get sucked in all the time. Why else would I continue to live beyond my means?

Galatians 6:14
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have three dogs in our household and our oldest (and smallest) dog has suffered the most from the acquisition of the other two, both in the same year, both only a year old and full of energy. He knows he is supposed to be the alpha dog, but he hasn’t figured out how to make it so. Mostly, he tries to prevent the other dogs from eating at mealtimes. His other tactic is to hoard the chewies and toys. It’s not that he necessarily wants them to eat or for play, but he believes it’s his right to have them all.

Am I any different? So often, I simply want what others have. It looks so appealing on them: the nice car, the designer clothes, the perfect hair, the manicures and pedicures, the successful honor students, the cohorts of friends, the dinners, the barbecues, the season tickets, and so on.

I mean, I can appreciate the amazing things that people like Mother Teresa have accomplished, but come on, own nothing? Eat the same as the poor (which means not eating regularly)? Wear the same “drapey” thing every day? What about having my teeth cleaned twice a year? And my eye doctor visit or my gyno exam? What about learning how to cook a gourmet meal? And how would I get my skin tags and moles removed?

It’s an amazing thing, the cross. That work, the ultimate sacrifice, made it possible for me to have relationship with God, creator of the universe. It also avails me to be set free from the web of “gotta have it.” But I haven’t appropriated that aspect of the cross at all. I have accepted the primary benefit but shrug off the other half of the equation. It’s when I step into this realm that I’m pretty sure, I can serve others freely.

I don’t serve others because it’s still, despite everything, it’s all about me. God forgive me. Give me courage to let go of the threads that I am holding (and not that hold me) in this worldly web. Christ died for me so that I could die to the “world” as we have come to know it. There is another world outside this one, that kingdom world, that is calling me.

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