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Showing posts with the label #Stations

Jesus is put in his sepulcher.

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Descending, as it were, to the grave.Mark 15.42-47 • Matthew 27.57-61 • Luke 23.50-56 • John 19.38-42.On the afternoon of Good Friday, after a flogging and crucifixion, Jesus died. Roman custom was to just leave the corpse on the cross for the birds to pick at, but Jewish custom was to bury people immediately. On the very same day they died, if possible. And since the next day was Sabbath—and in the year 33, also Passover—they especially needed to get everybody off the crosses and buried posthaste.Now in previous generations, “buried” means buried: Dig a hole in the ground deep enough for animals to not get at the corpse, put the body in, fill the hole back in. In Jesus’s day, Jewish custom had changed. Now what they did was wrap the body in moist linen strips, and put it on a stone slab in a sepulcher. This way the body would rot quickly—and after a year or so, there’d be nothing left but bones, which were then collected and put into an ossuary. (They figured in the resurrection, all…

“My God, why have you forsaken me?”

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The heretic idea the Father abandoned the Son.Mark 15.33-36 • Matthew 27.45-49.Before he died, Jesus shouted out something in a language his bystanders didn’t recognize. And a lot of present-day commentators don’t recognize it either. We know it was Psalm 22.1, but some of us say Jesus quoted it in Aramaic; some say Hebrew. Which was it?The reason for the confusion is that Mark and Matthew don’t match. Both of ’em recorded Jesus’s words as best they could—but they did so in the Greek alphabet, which doesn’t correspond neatly to Hebrew and Aramaic sounds. So here’s what we got. (And if your web browser reads Unicode, you might actually see the original-language characters.)VERSEORIGINALTRANSLITERATIONPs 22.1, Hebrewאֵלִ֣י אֵלִ֣י לָמָ֣העֲזַבְתָּ֑נִיElí Elí, lamá azavettáni?Ps 22.1, Aramaic (Syriac) ܐܠܗ ܐܠܗܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢ Elahí Elahí, lamaná šavaqtaní?Mk 15.34, Greekἐλωΐ ἐλωΐ, λεμᾶσαβαχθανί;Elo’í Elo’í, lemá savahthaní?
(or σαβακτανεί/savaktaneí in the Codex Sinaiticus.)Mt 27.46, Greekἠλί ἠλί…

When Jesus made John responsible for his mother.

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And why not any of his siblings.John 19.25-27.Only John has this story. Which has caused no end of speculation about Jesus’s family situation.John 19.25-27 KWL25 Standing by Jesus’s cross were his mother, his mother’s sister Salomé,Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary the Magdalene.26 So Jesus, seeing his mother and the student he loved standing by,told his mother, “Ma’am, look: Your son.”27 Then Jesus told the student, “Look: Your mother.”From that hour on, Jesus’s student took her as his own.John’s list of the women who watched Jesus die is the same as the other gospels, with the addition of Jesus’s mom and himself. He never referred to Jesus’s mom as “Mary,” because he was trying to refer to as few Marys as possible, so as not to confuse everybody with how common the name “Mary” was. (Same as his own name; notice in his gospel the only “John” in it is John the baptist.)Anyway. All these people at the cross, save Mary the Magdalene, were family. Salomé was Mary the Nazarene’s sister; Mary …

The “unbelieving” thief.

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When one of the guys crucified with him, threw in his lot with him.Mark 15.27, 32 • Matthew 27.38, 44 • Luke 23.32-33, 39.Okay. Did the believing thief, now the unbelieving thief.The gospels state two thieves were crucified with Jesus—Mark 15.27 KWLThey crucified two thieves with Jesus: One on the right, one at his left.Matthew 27.38 KWL38 Then two thieves were crucified with Jesus, one at right and one at left.Luke 23.32-33 KWL32 They brought two others with Jesus, evildoers to be done away with.33 When they came to the place called Skull, there they crucified Jesus and the evildoers,who were at right and at left.—but they never did identify them, so Christian tradition named ’em Dismas and Gesmas. Never did say which one was on the right, and which was on the left. All we know was at first, both were railing at Jesus—Mark 15.32 KWL“Messiah, king of Israel, has to come down from the cross now, so we can see and believe him.”And those crucified with Jesus insulted him.Matthew 27.44 KW…

Jesus comforts the believing thief.

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When one of the guys crucified with him, threw in his lot with him.Mark 15.27, 32 • Matthew 27.38, 44 • Luke 23.32-33, 39-43.Jesus was crucified at about “the third hour [after sunrise],” Mk 15.25 and died at the ninth. Mk 15.34-37 Sunrise on 3 April 33, in that latitude (and before daylight-saving time was implemented), is at 5:24 AM. But “third hour” and “ninth hour” are hardly exact times; figure roughly from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM he was on that cross. Six hours, slowly suffocating.His cross was in between that of two evildoers Lk 23.33 or thieves. Mk 15.27 Christians like to imagine these guys were worse, like insurrectionists, or highwaymen who murdered their victims. ’Cause karma: If you’re getting crucified, it’d better be for murder or something just as awful. One of these guys implied they were getting their just desserts, Lk 23.41 so shouldn’t that make ’em murderers? Death by crucifixion sounds like way too extreme a penalty for mere thieves.But we have to remember we’re deali…

The women who watched Jesus die.

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His male students had run away, but his female students stood by him. Typical.Mark 15.40-41, Matthew 27.55-56, Luke 23.49, John 19.25.Various Christians like to point out, “There were actually two groups of people following Jesus: There were the disciples, and there were the women.” Though y’notice they seldom bring up the women till we get to one of the stories in the gospels about the women.With some due respect to these Christians, there were not two groups following Jesus; there was one. His students. The people who supported him, served him, and listened to his teachings. The Twelve were a special group of students whom Jesus singled out, and of course there were plenty of students who didn’t stick around after Jesus taught something too hardcore for them. But everyone who followed him, he considered a student. That includes the women.Yes, history describes Pharisee rabbis as only instructing young men—and I remind you in Jesus’s culture you were “a man” at age 13, which is why I…

Nope, Jesus didn’t sweat blood.

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It’s a misinterpretation of the verse… and Luke didn’t write the verse anyway.Luke 22.44.Before his arrest, Jesus went to Gethsemane and spent some time in intense prayer. ’Cause he didn’t wanna get beaten and tortured to death. Who would?Certain preachers love to point out that Jesus was so incredibly stressed out by his soon-coming passion, he was sweating blood:Luke 22.44 ESVAnd being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Turns out this is an actual medical condition. It’s called hematidrosis (from the Greek for “bloody sweat”) or hematohidrosis (“bloody water”). It’s rare, but possible. Blood vessels under your skin break from the stress, and blood comes out your pores. It looks creepy. But not a lot of blood comes out of you this way, so it’s largely harmless. Might cause a little dehydration, so drink some Gatorade; you’ll be fine.Preachers find this fascinating. And they love to point out how Luke, the tradi…

Jesus prays at Gethsemane.

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Jesus’s passion begins with the place he prayed for this cup to pass.Mark 14.32-41 • Matthew 26.36-45 • Luke 22.39-46 • John 18.1.The first of St. Francis’s stations of the cross was when Jesus was given his cross. (Duh.) But Jesus’s suffering began earlier that day, so St. John Paul’s list also began earlier—with Gethsemane, the olive garden on Mt. Olivet, where Jesus prayed he might not go through the crucifixion.In fact he was so agitated at the idea, he sweat blood. Something The Passion of the Christ left out—but to be fair it isa textual variant, possibly added to Luke in the second century. But let’s get to how the gospels depicted it. First the synoptic gospels—Mark 14.32-41 KWL32 They went to a place named Gat Semaním/“oil press,”and Jesus told his students, “Sit here while I pray.”33Jesus took Simon Peter, James, and John with him—and began to panic and freak out. 34 Jesus told them, “My soul is deathly sad. Stay here. Stay awake.”35 He went a little ahead, fell to the groun…

Stations of the cross: Remembering Christ’s suffering.

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One of the ways we remember, and appreciate, Jesus’s death.In Jerusalem, Israel, Christians remember Jesus’s death by actually going down the route he traveled the day he died. It’s called the Way of Jesus, the Way of Sorrows (Latin, Via Dolorosa), or the Way of the Cross (Via Cručis). When I visited Jerusalem, it’s part of the tour package: Loads of us Christians go this route every single day, observing all the places Jesus is said to have suffered. Really solemn, moving stuff.But most of us Christians don’t live in or near Jerusalem, and some of us can’t possibly go there. For this reason St. Francis of Assisi invented “the stations of the cross.” In his church building, he set up seven different dioramas. Each represented an event which happened as Jesus was led to his death. The people of his church would go to each diorama—each station—and meditate on what Jesus did for us all.Yeah, this is a Catholic thing, ’cause Francis was Roman Catholic. But it’s not exclusively Catholic: M…

Falling down—and other false memories of Jesus’s passion.

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Certain things in our passion plays aren’t necessarily in the gospels.One of the odd things you’ll notice about the traditional 14 stations of the cross, is how often Jesus falls down. He does it thrice.Gets condemned, is given his cross, falls down.Encounters his mom, Simon of Cyrene, and St. Veronica; falls down.Encounters the daughters of Jerusalem, falls down.Then he’s stripped and nailed to the cross, so he’s not gonna fall down anymore—unless we count when he’s taken down from the cross, and likely they didn’t drop him in so doing. Still: Three of the stations of the cross involve Jesus falling down. And in St. Francis of Assisi’s original list of seven stations, Jesus falls in the second and fifth stations, so when Christians expanded it to 14, they added a fall.Yet in the gospels, he doesn’t fall down. Although we can certainly imagine he did, what with being weak from sleep deprivation and blood loss, and the fact he clearly wasn’t up to carrying his own cross. But the gospel…

The mourning of Jerusalem’s daughters.

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And Jesus’s cryptic-sounding response to them, which ain’t all that cryptic when you know your history.Luke 23.26-31.Only Luke tells this part of the story.Luke 23.26-31 KWL26 As the Romans led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a certain Cyrenian coming from the fields,and they put the crossbeam on him to carry behind Jesus.27 Many crowds of people followed Jesus.The mourning women among them were also lamenting him.28 Turning to the women, Jesus said, “Jerusalem’s daughters, don’t weep for me.But weep for your own. For your children.29Look, the time’s coming when they’ll say,‘The sterile, wombs which never begat children, breasts which never fed, are awesome!’30Then they’ll start ‘to tell the mountains, “Fall on us!” and the hills, “Bury us!” ’Ho 18.131For if they do this when the wood is moist, what’ll happen when it’s dry?”Some teachers never can stop teaching. Even when they’re being dragged off to be crucified.Various Christians don’t know what to make of this passage, so they skip…

Vinegar to drink.

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Even the Romans’ offer of something to drink was a form of torture.Mark 15.23, 26 • Matthew 27.33-34, 48 • Luke 23.36 • John 19.28-30Back when David was in deep doo-doo, Ps 69.2 he wrote Psalm 69. More griping about his enemies. But when he talked about his comforters, Ps 69.20 he commented,Psalm 69.21 KWLThey gave me bitter food, and for my thirst, they made me drink vinegar.It’s a memorable idea, and one which no doubt the authors of the gospels thought of when Jesus was getting crucified. ’Cause Jesus didn’t wanna drink what they provided.Our culture might be unaware: Back then, you didn’t drink the water. You never knew where it came from, and rarely was it pure. Fastest way to get dysentery or cholera. So the ancients drank wine, either full-strength or watered-down. (Or beer, if your culture made beer.) The alcohol killed any bacteria. Ignore all those teetotalers who claim “wine” back then was actually grape juice: Grape juice was as potentially harmful as water. It needed to b…

The St. Veronica story.

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Nope, it’s not in the bible. But it’s really popular.One of St. Francis’s original stations of the cross was when St. Veronica let Jesus wipe off his bloody face on her veil. Some of you have already heard this story, or bits of it.And others of you are going, “Where’s that found in the bible?” Well, it’s not found in the bible at all. It comes from Christian tradition. It’s a really old tradition, and a really popular story. So popular, it’s still in the traditional stations of the cross. And while I’m trying to discuss the biblical stations of the cross, I feel I still need to give a mention to St. Veronica… ’cause a number of Christians aren’t entirely aware this story’s not in the bible. Some of ’em even remember seeing it in a bible somewhere. But that’s a false memory. It’s really not there. I’m not kidding.As for whether St. Veronica herself is in the bible… she actually is. She’s traditionally identified as the woman in this story:Mark 5.25-34 KWL25 For 12 years, a woman had a…

Jesus confuses Antipas Herod.

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Jesus takes a little side trip to get mocked by the ruler of his province.Luke 23.4-12All the gospels tell of Jesus’s suffering, but only in Luke do we find this bit about Jesus being sent to Antipas Herod. The other gospel authors skipped it ’cause it didn’t add anything to their accounts. Doesn’t add much to Luke either. But it’s interesting.It begins right after Pontius Pilatus, at the time Judea’s Roman prefect, was presented with Jesus for crucifixion. Pilatus didn’t see any reason to crucify him, ’cause as John related, he figured Jesus’s kingdom wasn’t any political threat to Rome. (But it did take over Rome all the same.) So he didn’t feel like crucifying Jesus… and a loose comment the Judeans made, gave Pilatus the idea to hand off the problem to Herod.Luke 23.4-7 KWL4 Pilatus told the head priests and the crowd, “I find nothing of guilt in this person.”5The crowd prevailed over Pilatus, saying this: “He riles up the people,teaching throughout Judea—having begun such behavior

Jesus gets flogged.

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Beaten for our transgressions.Mark 15.15 • Matthew 27.26 • Luke 23.16 • John 19.1Jesus’s flogging was definitely part of his suffering. But it’s actually not one of the traditional the stations of the cross. I know; you’d think it was, considering how much time Mel Gibson spent on it in The Passion of the Christ, where they beat the hell out of Jesus—as if there was anything of hell in him. But nope; traditionally the stations of the cross began with Jesus getting his cross, ’cause they’re the stations of the cross, not Jesus’s pre-cross sufferings. They’re part of St. John Paul’s list though.And no, there’s no historical evidence that the Romans beat Jesus more than usual. The only details we have about his flogging is that he had a flogging. Takes up only a sentence in all four gospels.Mark 15.15 KWLPilate, wanting the crowd to stop it, released bar-Abba to them.He handed over Jesus, who’d been flogged, so he could be crucified.Matthew 27.26 KWLThen Pilate released bar-Abba to them.…

Jesus given a robe and crowned with thorns.

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When the soldiers had their sick “fun” with Jesus.Mark 15.16-20 • Matthew 27.27-31 • Luke 23.11 • John 19.2-3, 5-6People became Roman soldiers for all sorts of reasons. Some because they wanted to become Romans, and serving in their army was a path to citizenship. Some as punishment: It was either military service, or slavery and prison. Some for the adventure, or to get rich, or because they couldn’t imagine any other job options. Some because how else are you gonna get to crucify barbarians?So it’s safe to figure the soldiers under Pontius Pilatus weren’t there to make friends with the Judeans. On the contrary: They likely grew more and more tired of the Judeans all the time. Especially any self-righteous Judeans who figured Romans were inferior because they were gentile, or illiterate, or stole. (Soldiers tended to abuse their power so they could steal and extort. Lk 3.14) Plus since the Caesars had exploited Herod 1’s death so they could seize Judea for themselves, the Judeans rea…

What became of Judas Iscariot.

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His death… however it happened, since the scriptures don’t match.Matthew 27.3-10 • Acts 1.15-26Technically Judas bar Simon of Kerioth, the renegade follower of Jesus whom we know as Judas Iscariot, isn’t part of the stations of the cross. Whether St. Francis or St. John Paul, neither of ’em figured his situation is specifically worthy of a meditation for Good Friday. Although we should study him some, ’cause he’s an example of an apostle gone wrong—an example we don’t wanna follow. Nor repeat. But Jesus was too busy going through his own suffering to really focus on what was happening with Judas.So Judas came up when he turned Jesus in to the cops… and in three of the gospels, that’s the last we hear of him. The exceptions are Matthew—and since the author of Luke also wrote Acts, it’s kinda in another gospel, ’cause Acts is about how the apostles started Jesus’s kingdom. But that’s a whole other discussion.Here’s the problem: For the most part, the Matthew and Acts stories contradict …

Jesus sentenced to death by the Senate.

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What Jesus was actually convicted of.Mark 14.61-64 • Matthew 26.63-66 • Luke 22.67-71I’m discussing the three synoptic gospels because if you read John, the way it’s worded makes it sorta look like Jesus didn’t even have a trial before the Judean Senate. First Jesus went to the former head priest Annas’s house, Jn 18.13, 19-23 then he went to the current head priest Caiaphas’s house, Jn 18.24, 28 then he went to Pilate’s headquarters Jn 18.28 with the death penalty already in mind. Now, it may have been that in between stops at Caiaphas’s house they went to trial, but John neither says nor suggests so. John was probably written to fill in some blanks in Jesus’s story, but every once in a while like this, it creates whole new blanks.Anyway, back to the synoptics. My previous piece was about Jesus testifying about himself. Today it’s what Jesus was guilty of, and why they sentenced him to death.Mark 14.61-64 KWL61B Again, the head priest questioned him, telling him, “You’re Messiah, the…

Jesus testifies about (or against) himself.

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The head priest got to the meat of it: Did Jesus consider himself their king?Mark 14.60-64 • Matthew 26.62-66 • Luke 22.67-71Messiah means king.Christians forget this, because to us, Messiah means Jesus. So when the ancient Judeans wanted to know if Jesus was Messiah, to our minds their question was, “Are you the guy the Prophets said was coming to save the world and take us to heaven?” and there are so many things wrong with that statement. One of ’em being that’s not what anybody in the first century meant.If you know your American (or British) history, you’ll remember a tory is someone who prefers the status quo, and a whig is someone who really doesn’t. (I’m not gonna use “liberal” and “conservative,” ’cause the United States is such a mess, everybody’s a whig.) Regardless of how you like or hate the status quo, “Messiah” means one of two things:Tory: You’re a traitor. ’Cause the Romans and Judean senate are in charge, and you’re here to overthrow ’em, and we can’t have that.Whig:…

Jesus accused with false testimonies.

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The best his accusers could bring against him were perjurers.Mark 14.55-59 • Matthew 26.59-61 • Luke 22.66 • John 2.18-22All my life I’ve heard preachers claim Jesus’s trial wasn’t just irregular, but downright illegal. What basis do they have for saying so? Next to none.It’s because they interpret history wrong. They point to rulings in the second-century Mishna and the fifth-century Talmud. They assume the first-century Jewish senate actually followed those rulings. That’d be entirely wrong. The Mishna consists of Pharisee rulings and traditions. The Talmud is a Pharisee commentary on the Mishna. Now, who ran the senate in Jesus’s day? The head priests. Who were Sadduccees. And the Sadducees believed Pharisee teachings were extrabiblical, and therefore irrelevant.So when the Mishna declares trials shouldn’t take place at night (although Luke actually says it took place during daytime Lk 22.66), and declares there shouldn’t be same-day rulings, preachers nowadays declare, “Aha! This …