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Showing posts with the label #Stations

Jesus dies. And takes our sin with him.

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Mark 15.33-39, Matthew 27.45-54, Luke 23.44-48, John 19.28-37.Around noon on 3 April 33, it got dark, and stayed that way till Jesus died. Obviously God was behind it, but we don’t know how. No solar eclipses in that part of the world, that time of year, so that’s out. Volcanoes have been known to darken the sky. So has weather. Regardless of how he pulled it off, God decided he wanted his Son’s death to happen in the dark.As he was hanging on the cross, various folks were taunting him, and Matthew describes the head priests, scribes, and elders even taunting him with a bit of Psalm 22:Matthew 27.43 KWLHe follows God? God has to rescue him now, if he wants him—for he said ‘I’m God’s son.’ ”Psalm 22.8 LXX (KWL)He hopes for the Lord, who has to release him,who has to save him because he wants him.Considering this psalm was so obviously getting fulfilled by Jesus’s death, taunting him with it just showed how far the Judean leaders’ unbelief went. They really didn’t think the psalm applie…

The crowd shouts for Barabbas.

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Mark 15.6-11, Matthew 27.15-21, Luke 23.17-25, John 18.39-40.We actually have nothing in the Roman records about this custom the Roman governors had of releasing a prisoner every Passover. Doesn’t mean they didn’t do it; just means they kept it off the books. Which is understandable. Fleshly people tend to think of mercy and forgiveness as weakness, not strength; of compassion and generosity as something that other people will take advantage of, not benevolence. “If you give a mouse a cookie” and all that.Anyway we have four historical records which indicate the Romans totally did free a prisoner every Passover: The gospels. Apparently Pontius Pilate had on hand an guy named Jesus bar Avvá, who’d been arrested during “the riot.” We don’t know which riot, and Christians like to speculate it was one of the more famous ones, but it had to have been fairly recent: Romans didn’t keep people in prison for long. They either held them for trial, flogged and released them, or crucified them.Po…

The crowd shouts for crucifixion.

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Mark 15.8-14, Matthew 27.20-23, Luke 23.18-25, John 18.38-40.When Jesus stood trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect quickly realized Jesus was no insurrectionist. Jesus’s claim of being Judea’s king was no political threat to the Roman senate and emperor. Case dismissed.Except it wasn’t, because the Judean senators had somehow got a crowd together which was calling for Jesus’s death. And the easiest way to get Romans in a murdery mood is to disturb their peace. That’s the one thing Romans valued most: Social stability. Not actual peace, like Jesus gives us; just the appearance of peace, where nobody grumbles too loud, would do for them. And if they didn’t get it, they’d crucify everybody till they did.The head priests knew this, so of course they got a crowd together, and made sure they were good and noisy.Mark 15.8-14 KWL8 Rising up, the crowd began to ask, as usual, for Pilatus to do for them.9 In reply Pilatus told them, “You want me to free for you ‘the Judean king’?”10 —…

Jesus confuses Pontius Pilate.

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Mark 15.1-5, Matthew 27.1-2, 11-14, Luke 23.1-4, John 18.28-38So I already wrote about Pontius Pilate, the ἡγεμών/igemón, “ruler” of Judea when Jesus was killed, a præfectus, or “prefect,” a military governor, sent there by the Romans. After the Judean senate held their perfectly legal trial and sentenced Jesus to death, because of the Roman occupation they weren’t allowed to carry out that sentence themselves; the Romans had to execute Jesus for them.But first the Judean leaders had to convince Pontius it was in Rome’s best interests to execute Jesus. The prefect wasn’t just gonna execute anybody the Judean senate recommended. Especially over stuff the Romans didn’t consider capital crimes, like blasphemy against a god the Romans didn’t respect. So what’d the Judeans have on Jesus?Simple: He declared himself Messiah. Messiah (i.e. Christ) means “the anointed,” and since you only anointed kings, it straight-up means king. Jesus declared himself king. That, the Romans would consider tr…

Jesus’s crucifixion.

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Ever bang your funny bone? That’s the ulnar nerve. The equivalent in the leg is the tibial nerve.About 26 to 24 centuries ago, humans in the middle east figured out the most painful way to kill someone: Take four nails. Put one through each of these nerves. Then hang a victim, by these nails, from whatever—a wall, a tree, a pole, a cross.If you stretch out their limbs, it’ll squeeze their lungs. They’ll find it extremely hard to breathe. Can’t inhale unless they actually push themselves up by their pierced ankles, and pull themselves up by their pierced wrists. And each pull feels like they’ve taken these nerves and crushed them with a hammer, all over again.Leave ’em like that, to die slowly, by asphyxiation. It might take all day. Multiple days, if the person has a strong enough will to live. But they’ll die eventually, in agony. There’s no real way to stop the constant pain. It’s so intense, Latin-speakers had invented a new word to describe it: Excruciare, from which we get our wo…

The legality of Jesus’s trial.

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If you only read the gospel of John, you might get the idea Jesus never even had a trial. ’Cause in that book, first Jesus went to the former head priest Annas’s house, then the current head priest Caiaphas’s house, then the governor Pontius’s fortress, then to Golgotha. No conviction, no sentence; just interviews followed by execution.But John was written to fill the gaps in the other three gospels. They contain the story of the trial. Yes there was one. Jesus was brought before the Judean senate, presided over by Caiaphas, and legitimately found guilty of blasphemy and sedition. Then he was sent to Pontius… who publicly stated he personally didn’t find Jesus guilty of anything, Lk 23.4, Jn 19.4 but he had little problem with sending Jesus to his death all the same.No Jesus wasn’t guilty of blasphemy; he’d only be if he weren’t actually the Son of Man. But of course the senate absolutely refused to believe that’s who he is.And either way, Jesus actually was guilty of sedition. Becaus…

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

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In both the Nicene and Apostles Creed, a Roman governor gets mentioned by name—specifically so the creeds can cement Christ Jesus’s death at a specific point in history: ΣταυρωθέντατεὑπὲρἡμῶνἐπὶΠοντίουΠιλάτου/stavrothénta te ypér epí Pontíu Pilátu, “and he was crucified for us under Pontíus Pilátus.” This was the guy who ruled Jerusalem and Judea on behalf of Rome for a decade, from the years 26 to 36. The way Romans did names was family name (nomen) first, so in English he’d actually be Pilatus Pontius. But English-speakers just tend to call him by his cognomen, his nickname: Pilate.Pontius was the fifth governor of Judea. The reason we know so much more about him than his predecessors or successors, is obviously ’cause Jesus was executed under his rule. We know of him from the gospels, from Flavius Josephus, from Philo of Alexandria, and from Publius Cornelius Tacitus.
The Pilate stone, on display in Jerusalem. Wikimedia Plus in 1961 archaeologist Antonio Frova found the Pilate st…

Stations of the cross: Remembering Christ’s suffering.

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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: Many Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists use stations of th…

Jesus is put in his sepulcher.

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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 God needed was the bones—same as in Eze…