The Passion Of The Christian

David Kupelian explores what it really means to ‘take up your cross’
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

– Mark 8:34-37

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

– Luke 9:23

“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

– Matthew 10:38

 


Every Easter, many dazzlingly eloquent words are written and spoken about Christ’s “Passion” – a singular historical event, graphically portrayed in films like “The Passion of the Christ,” “Jesus of Nazareth” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” That these screen depictions serve to powerfully rekindle many believers’ gratitude for what Jesus endured for their sake is undeniable. But I wonder, how often does that appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice ignite a fire in the belly of believers to “take up the cross” themselves?

But first things first. What in the world does “taking up your cross” really mean?

‘I die daily’

In ages past, Christians dwelt a lot more on the concept of taking up the “cross” than they do these days. Today, the phrase “it’s my cross to bear” is usually a self-congratulatory reference to the fact that we have to put up with a vexing medical condition, or a child in trouble with the law, or perhaps an overbearing, live-in mother-in-law.

Admonitions from the pulpit may not shed much more light. Oh sure, a well-intentioned minister will reverently read one of the scriptures cited above on “taking up the cross,” and he might even briefly plug the ideal of self-denial. But too often this amounts to a polite nod to a notion that seems both archaic and almost irrelevant, or at least unattainable, and the pastor just moves on to more pleasant topics – like how grateful we are for Christ’s death and resurrection.

It wasn’t always so. Throughout past centuries, Christian philosophers and mystics dwelt at length on the crucial, life-and-death need for repentance, resignation, “mortification,” the “crucifixion” of sin in man, and the “death of the carnal man” or of “the creaturely self” and so on.

The Apostle Paul said it most powerfully and succinctly when he wrote: “I die daily.”

Unfortunately, much of what has been written in more contemplative eras about this inner transformation of man is highly poetic and allegorical – an attempt to use mere words to chart the narrow path that connects man’s lowly estate with God’s heavenly one. Although such archaic language may be profound, it’s probably insufficient for Christians today, buffeted as we are on the outside by a voracious and atheistic secular culture, and on the inside by what is increasingly a simplistic and far less rigorous Christianity than that embraced by our forefathers.

Please allow me to take a stab at this, from a somewhat different angle – this command from Jesus Christ that each of His followers “take up his cross daily.”

Killing the creature

What exactly is this “creaturely self” that Christian thinkers throughout the centuries have so colorfully warned we must “slay” or “crucify” if we’re to inherit the Kingdom of God?

It’s self-evident that we’re all born with a troublesome nature called “pride.” Basically, pride is the part of us that wants to be like God. It loves being praised, quickly puffs up with angry judgment over the real or perceived wrongs of others – and as a rule is oblivious to its own faults. Moreover, you can think of pride as a “life form” – a living, breathing “something” which, like any other life form or “creature,” can be fed or starved. When it’s fed, it grows and enlarges; when it is starved, it diminishes and dies – daily.

As our pride – our “sin self” – diminishes and dies through obedience to God, the direct result is that our good side, our true God-centered character and identity, enlarges.

We’re not talking about matters of dogma here. Nor is this just a matter of outward behaviors and “works.” So please don’t e-mail me with arguments about “faith vs. works.” This is about real change – about transformation – the mystical heart of the true Christian life, about “dying to the world.” Not an archaic, poetic and hopelessly idealistic notion, but the very heartbeat of our everyday life, as we deal with stresses and problems (“trials and tribulations”) in our lives.

Of course – and this is something of a divine paradox – as Christians, we know we can’t save ourselves, and yet we are most definitely called to obedience. So, let’s not slough off our responsibility to “die daily” by comfortably presuming on the unending mercy of God. His mercy is unending, indeed, but also balanced with justice, and these two seemingly contradictory qualities work together mysteriously and wonderfully toward our redemption, but only in the truly sincere human soul that doesn’t tempt God.

A different kind of love

To understand what “taking up the cross” means, we have to understand why Jesus Himself had to suffer.

More pointedly, if our loving God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent – which He is – why then did His own Son have to be tortured and executed? Countless people throughout the ages have asked, “If God is love, why would he require his own son to endure such torture and death?” Indeed, many have judged God, concluding: “I could never worship a god like that.”

Although we say “God is love,” we don’t really know what either one is, do we? “God” is beyond our comprehension – like understanding infinity. And “love” – well, we use that word to describe our “strong feelings” for anything and everything we’re attracted to.

Let’s talk about real love.

There’s one element present in almost every authentic manifestation of real love among us human beings. And that is – are you ready for this? – suffering. From the ultimate expression of love – “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” – to the simple act of being patient with others, love implies forbearance, longsuffering and kindness in the midst of problems.

Here’s how Webster defines “patience”: “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, or anger.”

Certainly, Jesus’ words as he was dying on the cross – “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – are the kindest, most patient words ever spoken.

Thus, patience is nothing less than the basic “cell” or building block of love for each other. The very idea of being patient implies suffering with grace. The recipient of your patience – say, your spouse or child – experiences that patience as love, just as they experience your impatience as a lack of love.

Still, why is love inextricably tied to suffering?

Just think: God is the architect of an awesome expanding universe involving heavenly bodies and distances and speeds and temperatures beyond human comprehension, as well as of a never-ending microscopic cosmos of orbiting particles and universes within universes, all too small for human eyes or minds to conceive. And yet, there’s one thing the Creator of all couldn’t just … create out of thin air. And that’s love.

Oh sure, He loves us. But I’m talking about our love for Him and for each other – fulfilling Jesus’ two greatest commandments. The only way God could “create” loving children was for us to have a choice: a choice to love Him, or to be our own god – literally, a choice to make something more important than our own lives, well-being and comfort – a choice to love, in other words – and to be able to demonstrate that love, which involves suffering.

After all, if I compel you to “love me,” is it real love? Of course not. Love always involves a choice.

Jesus’ teaching that there’s no greater love than laying down your life for a friend doesn’t only mean that you have to be willing to die for someone else by jumping into a lake to save them, or taking a bullet meant for them. Remember, Paul said, “I die daily.” It’s a different kind of “death” that’s being called for. You have to be willing to let your pride-self die – for the sake of your “neighbor” – and particularly, for your family’s well being.

Small example: If someone puts you down or treats you in a cruel or unjust way and you become angry and upset, you’ve simply failed to find God’s love in that moment and to extend it to the offending person. All of us have fallen for this temptation over and over – I know I have many times. But if we are genuinely patient – that is, if we suffer the cruelty with grace, and resist the temptation to puff up with anger because our pride was offended – we can then respond to the other person with the energy and spirit of God’s love.

So do I need to be a martyr?

Do an Internet search on the phrase “Take up your cross” and you’ll discover sermon after sermon on the necessity of being willing to be tortured and executed for Christ.

“Are you living with a martyr’s attitude, that is, willing to suffer and/or die for the cause of Christ?” asks one sermon on the topic. “We are to be Jesus’ present-day martyrs, as millions in the past literally were proven to be by giving their lives for the cause of Christ.”

Others regard the “take up your cross” reference as a call to the celibate, monastic life.

And of course there are lots of references to the conflict between man’s “natural will” and God’s will, and how they are at war with each other.

Indeed, “taking up the cross” has always been a common sermon topic. Most typically, listeners are admonished to visit the sick, feed the poor, put their spouse’s desires ahead of their own, tithe and volunteer time for church work, and the like. And while these are all fine actions to take, the problem is, one can do all of them and still remain the same faithless, resentful, doubtful, guilt-ridden, but heavily compensated “nice” person. Worse, the approval and adulation we receive from others for our “good works” often serves to further blind us from seeing and repenting of our well-concealed sinful nature.

The point is, we’re not so much in need of a behavior change as we are of a nature change. The “cross” Christ prescribes for us is an instrument of death. But just as He died to bring life, we are supposed to “die” to sin that we may share His life.

All of which boils down to this: The real “cross” we have to bear is that we have a fallen nature, which we need to understand and relate to properly — which allows God to change us.

Let’s start with an obvious example – sex. Men in particular are born with a sexual nature that needs to be restrained. If not, men would want to express this drive virtually all of the time. Obviously, men need to control this “animal nature” or “creaturely self.”

Likewise, what if somebody wrongs you so egregiously that you have an impulse to do him bodily harm? You better restrain that impulse too, right?

So much for the obvious. How about something more subtle?

Let’s say we suffer from envious thoughts. To covet is to break one of the 10 Commandments. So how do we deal with these troublesome feelings? How do we “restrain” them? Certainly not by wallowing in them and indulging them. But also not by repressing them, or attempting to manufacture “good” thoughts and feelings in their place. The Christian answer might be to pray, but what form of prayer? Try this out: If you notice envious thoughts, just observe them – honestly, sincerely, without escaping or trying to change them or making excuses for them or justifying them or getting upset over them. Just see what you see, with poise and dignity – and quietly, wordlessly, cry inwardly to God for help. He will.

This is true transparency, which is resignation of your will to His. It calls forth the very process of regeneration, imperceptible though it may be to us.

Put another way, “dying” to the world is like fasting – but not from food. The real “fast” God desires is that we fast from evil thoughts, from anger, from envy, from lust, from greed and so on. He wants us to abstain from being irritated by provocations, from becoming impatient and angry toward others, from temptation of all sorts.

The truth is, we’re never closer to God than when we’re just plain quiet and still, aware of all of our defects in each precious moment, looking at ourselves first and foremost, without judgment or worry, and having quiet faith that God is there with us and that He will help us.

Shortly before His Passion and death, Jesus gave his disciples what He called “a new commandment” – namely, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Of course, since He had previously brought forth the Old Testament commandments to love God “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), how was this Last Supper commandment then “new”?

It was new because He was raising the bar to a higher standard. He was now asking us to love one another as He loved us.

We are supposed to live the way Jesus lived, and to suffer the way He suffered. (I said, the way he suffered – with love for each other through obedience to the Father – though obviously not to the extent He suffered.) And, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that does not mean only sharing the Gospel of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection with as many people as possible. We are called to a still higher standard – to live as He lived – or maybe to put it more aptly, to love as He loved.

Love and logic

In the classic story of “Ben-Hur,” Judah, long-consumed by hatred and a desire for revenge against Masala for falsely condemning him as a galley slave and imprisoning his mother and sister, now lepers, witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus.

In the final unforgettable scene, Judah tells his betrothed Esther: “Almost the minute He died, I heard Him say, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

Esther, amazed, responds in a whisper: “Even then …”

“Even then,” echoes Judah. “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.”

The real Passion of Christ must connect directly with our own internal programming and strengthen our own spirit, as it did in the story of “Ben-Hur.” We too must die the death God has prescribed for us – the death of pride, the ancient compulsion to be our own god – that we may share the true life He prepared for us, and which His Son purchased so dearly for us.

One of the main reasons I’m a Christian is simply because it makes so much sense to me. If God wanted to demonstrate His love for mankind, how else could He do it? Go ahead, tell me! What could He do to demonstrate the depth of His love? Make mountains of pomegranates for everyone? Give everyone a great job and a big house and three luxury cars? Give us everything our proud little hearts desire?

No, if God wanted to demonstrate His love for us, and at the same time provide us with the perfect, ultimate example of real love for our fellow man, what could be a more perfect expression of love than the willing suffering and death of His Son – Who while dying asked God to forgive His tormentors? The sheer beauty, logic and power of it is transcendent. If you’re looking for love in this loveless world, that’s it.

I know some will be offended by this message, as though by even mentioning and holding up the standard Jesus clearly demanded of His followers, I am somehow denying the sufficiency of His substitutionary death for all mankind.

But you see, there’s something really wrong with today’s Christianity. Over 70 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, but our country’s government, laws, culture and institutions, from its education system to its entertainment industry – are increasingly and overtly hostile to Christianity. Even Christian families all too often are falling apart. Clearly, we’re missing something big.

So, can you handle a little tough love? Here it is: Just continually telling each other about Jesus’ death and resurrection is not enough. It’s not what He taught. Jesus didn’t say, “Just talk about me and you’ll be saved.” Rather, He said: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) And “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10) And “… he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13 KJV)

So, while as Christians during the Easter season we reflect on the Messiah’s suffering and sacrifice, the question is: What are we willing to suffer and sacrifice? Can we face our own sinfulness? It’s the one enemy most of us don’t really want to confront.

To take up our cross – to “lose our life” for His sake so that we “shall save it” – we need to repent. And we cannot repent without looking in the mirror and honestly facing the sin in our minds and hearts. To stand transparent before God so He can heal us through understanding and repentance may be as hard as watching Jesus being scourged and crucified, but watch it we must.

God honors the sincere soul who, with quiet dignity, simply faces the darkness within and repents. This is the heartbeat of our life, without which there is no real life. Each of us has this moment-to-moment choice to make, whether to defend, excuse and enlarge our sinful, hell-bent nature, or whether to pick up our cross, deny our (wrong) self, and follow Jesus – first to death, and then to life.

https://www.wnd.com/2004/02/23485/

Why an empty tomb is such a big deal

Bill Federer recounts important people who knew their ‘Redeemer liveth’

 

Jesus crucifix Bible (Pexels copyright-free image)

George Washington’s tomb is engraved with the Scripture, John 11:25, where Jesus told Martha: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; sayeth the Lord. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546) remarked: “Our Lord has written the promise of the Resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in the springtime.”

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) was the president of the Continental Congress, 1782-83. He was a U.S. Representative from New Jersey, 1789-95, and helped frame the Bill of Rights. He was also director of the U.S. Mint, 1795-97, under Presidents Washington and John Adams.

Becoming a genuine Christian during the Great Awakening, Elias Boudinot was baptized by Rev. George Whitfield and helped to found the American Bible Society in 1816. Elias Boudinot stated in New Jersey, July 4, 1783: “No sooner had the great Creator of the heavens and the earth finished His almighty work, and pronounced all very good, but He set apart … one day in seven for the commemoration of His inimitable power in producing all things out of nothing. … The deliverance of the children of Israel from a state of bondage to an unreasonable tyrant was perpetuated by the Paschal lamb, and enjoining it on their posterity as an annual festival forever. … The resurrection of the Savior of mankind is commemorated by keeping the first day of the week. … Let us then, my friends and fellow citizens, unite all our endeavors this day to remember, with reverential gratitude to our Supreme Benefactor, all the wonderful things He has done for us, in our miraculous deliverance from a second Egypt-another house of bondage.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) wrote in his sermon “The Leafless Tree,” delivered March 8, 1857 at New Park Street Chapel: “If we read the Scripture’s aright the Jews have a great deal to do with this world’s history. They shall be gathered in; Messiah shall come, the Messiah they are looking for, the same Messiah who came once shall come again, shall come as they expected him to come the first time. They then thought he would come a prince to reign over them, and so he will when he comes again. He will come to be king of the Jews, and to reign over his people most gloriously; for when he comes Jew and Gentile shall have equal privileges, though there shall yet be some distinction afforded to that royal family from whose loins Jesus came; for he shall sit upon the throne of his father David, and unto him shall be gathered all nations.”

In his Easter Address, April 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan stated: “This week Jewish families and friends have been celebrating Passover. … Its observance reminds all of us that the struggle for freedom and the battle against oppression waged by the Jews since ancient times is one shared by people everywhere. And Christians have been commemorating the last momentous days leading to the crucifixion of Jesus 1,950 years ago. Tomorrow, as morning spreads around the planet, we’ll celebrate the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus.”

Reagan continued: “Both observances tell of sacrifice and pain but also of hope and triumph. … Men and women around the world who love God and freedom – bear a message of world hope and brotherhood like the rites of Passover and Easter that we celebrate this weekend. … We want peace. … And then they ask, ‘Do you think that we can have these things one day?’ Well, I do. I really do. Nearly 2,000 years after the coming of the Prince of Peace, such simple wishes may still seem far from fulfillment. But we can achieve them. We must never stop trying.”

Well-known British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his 1975 work titled “Jesus”: “As Man alone, Jesus could not have saved us; as God alone, he would not; Incarnate, he could and did.”

Sir Lionel Alfred Luckhoo (1914-1997) was knighted twice by the Queen of England. He was the only person to have been an ambassador for two sovereign nations simultaneously, Barbados and Guyana. He served as Lord Mayor of Georgetown, Guyana, and presided as Judge of the Supreme Court of Guyana. Sir Lionel Luckhoo was acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most successful criminal attorney.

At the age of 64, after studying world religions, Sir Lionel Luckhoo accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior on Nov. 7, 1978. Addressing audiences worldwide, including presidents, kings, parliaments, cabinets, bar associations, and the United Nations, Sir Lionel Luckhoo stated: “The bones of Muhammad are in Medina, the bones of Confucius are in Shantung, the cremated bones of Buddha are in Nepal. Thousands pay pilgrimages to worship at their tombs which contain their bones. But in Jerusalem there is a cave cut into the rock. This is the tomb of Jesus. It is empty! Yes, empty! Because He is risen! He died, physically and historically. He arose from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God.”

In his Easter Message, April 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated: “The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance. Now … you don’t have to be a Christian … to have strong values, to believe in strong values or to pass those values on to your children, but the point I always make is that it helps. We’re always trying to tell our children not to be selfish, but is there a better way of putting it than ‘love thy neighbor’? …”

David Cameron continued: “We’re always telling our children to be tolerant … but is there a better way of explaining tolerance than saying, ‘do to others as you would be done by’? It’s the simplest encapsulation of an absolutely vital value and the Christian church and the teaching of the Bible has put it so clearly. We’re always telling our children that they must make the most of what they have; they must not waste what they have been given, and is there a better way of putting that than ‘don’t hide your light under a bushel, make the most of your talents.’”

Spanish King Felipe VI stated Dec. 13, 2016: “Europe needs … to be honest and respectful to both our common Judeo-Christian values and origins.”

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote in the foreword of the Hungarian translation of his book “Out of Concern for Europe: An Appeal”: “Europe cannot be the new home for millions of people in need … (as many refugees come) from different cultural backgrounds. They follow in significant part, faiths other than Judeo-Christianity, which is one of the foundations of our values and social order.”

In an Easter address in St. Peter’s Square, April 1, 1956, Pope Pius XII stated: “This year’s celebration of Easter should be primarily a recall to faith in Christ, addressed to people who, through no fault of their own, are still unaware of the saving work of the Redeemer; to those who, on the contrary, would wish to have His name wiped out of the minds and hearts of nations; and finally, in a special manner, to those souls of little faith who, seduced by deceptive enticements, are on the point of exchanging the priceless Christian values for those of a false earthly progress.”

John Milton Hay (1838-1905) was private secretary to President Lincoln and ambassador to Great Britain under President McKinley. As Secretary of State, 1898-1905, John Milton Hay negotiated over 50 treaties, including the Open-Door policy with China; the Panama Canal; the Alaskan boundary; the Philippine policy. John Milton Hay worked for the New York Tribune from 1870 to 1875, where he published the poem:

Sinai and Calvary

But Calvary stands to ransom
The earth from utter loss;
In shade than light more glorious
The shadow of the Cross.

To heal a sick world’s trouble,
To soothe its woe and pain,
On Calvary’s sacred summit
The Pascal Lamb was slain.

Almighty God! direct us
To keep Thy perfect Law!
O blessed Savior, help us
Nearer to Thee to draw!

Let Sinai’s thunder aid us
To guard our feet from sin,
And Calvary’s light inspire us
The love of God to win.

Philanthropist George Hay Stuart (1816-1890) served as the president of the United States Christian Commission, which was formed out of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in New York, Nov. 14, 1861. During the Civil War, the United States Christian Commission raised millions of dollars in private donations to provide supplies, hospital stores and clothing to the army and navy. George Hay Stuart helped distribute over 30 million gospel tracts and New Testaments to the soldiers. One of the workers was D.L. Moody, who later became a world renowned minister.

George Hay Stuart stated: “I have prayed for this union; and I have labored for it, simply because I believed that it would bring glory to my blessed Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. … I have labored and prayed for it, because it would bring brethren together, now unhappily divided, to see eye to eye, that the nations that have so long bowed down to idols might learn of Jesus and Him crucified. … Since these twenty-four hours have passed away eighty-six thousand four hundred immortal souls have gone to the judgment seat of Christ. … I never hear the funeral bell toll without asking myself the question, ‘What have I done to point that departed soul to the Lamb of God that died to save a perishing world?’ Brethren, buckle on your armor for a great conflict; buckle it on for giving the glorious Gospel of the Son of God to the millions of the earth who are perishing for lack of knowledge.”

James Logan (1674-1751), who was secretary for William Penn, and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, 1731-39. He stated: “Remember thou art by profession a Christian; that is, one who art called after the immaculate Lamb of God, who, by offering Himself a sacrifice for thee, atoned for thy sins. … Rouse with the more simple servants of nature, and borrowing one hour from the sleep of sluggards, spend it in thy chamber in dressing thy soul with prayer and meditation, reading the Scriptures. … Remember that the same enemy that caused thy first parents to forfeit their blessed condition, notwithstanding the gate is now open for restoration, is perpetually using his whole endeavors to prevent thee from attaining this, and frustrate to thee the passion of thy Redeemer.”

John Robinson (1576-1625), pastor of the Pilgrims, stated in his Leiden letter: “Thus this holy army of saints is marshaled here on earth by these officers, under the conduct of their glorious Emperor, Christ. Thus it marches in this most heavenly order and gracious array, against all enemies, both bodily and ghostly: peaceable in itself, as Jerusalem, terrible to the enemy as an army with banners, triumphing over their tyranny with patience, their cruelty with meekness, and over death itself with dying. Thus, through the Blood of that spotless Lamb, and that Word of their testimony, they are more than conquerors, bruising the head of the Serpent; yea, through the power of His Word, they have power to cast down Satan like lightning; to tread upon serpents and scorpions; to cast down strongholds, and everything that exalteth itself against God. The gates of hell, and all the principalities and powers on earth shall not prevail against it.”

Robert Morris Page (1903-1992) known as the “Father of U.S. Radar,” was the physicist who invented pulsation radar used for the detection of aircraft. The holder of 37 patents, Robert Morris Pages served with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.; received the U.S. Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award; the Presidential Certificate of Merit; the IRE Fellowship Harry Diamond Memorial Award; as well as the Stuart Ballantyne Medal of the Franklin Institute.

The son of a Methodist minister, Robert Morris Page wrote: “The authenticity of the writings of the prophets, though the men themselves are human, is established by such things as the prediction of highly significant events far in the future that could be accomplished only through a knowledge obtained from a realm which is not subject to the laws of time as we know them. One of the great evidences is the long series of prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah. These prophecies extend hundreds of years prior to the birth of Christ. They include a vast amount of detail concerning Christ himself, His nature and the things He would do when He came – things which to the natural world, or the scientific world, remain to this day completely inexplicable.”

The Democrat Party’s candidate for president in 1896, 1900 and 1908 was William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). Memorialized with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, William Jennings Bryan gave over 600 public speeches during his presidential campaigns, the most famous being “The Prince of Peace,” printed in the New York Times, Sept. 7, 1913, in which he stated: “The world had known love before … but Jesus gave a new definition of love. His love was as wide as the sea; its limits were so far-flung that even an enemy could not travel beyond its bounds. Other teachers sought to regulate the lives of their followers by rule and formula, but Christ’s plan was to purify the heart and then to leave love to direct the footsteps. What conclusion is to be drawn from the life, the teachings and the death of this historic figure? Reared in a carpenter shop; with no knowledge of literature, save Bible literature; with no acquaintance with philosophers living or with the writings of sages dead, when only about thirty years old He gathered disciples about Him, promulgated a higher code of morals than the world had ever known before, and proclaimed Himself the Messiah.

“He taught and performed miracles for a few brief months and then was crucified; His disciples were scattered and many of them put to death; His claims were disputed, His resurrection denied and His followers persecuted; and yet from this beginning His religion spread until hundreds of millions have taken His name with reverence upon their lips and millions have been willing to die rather than surrender the faith which He put into their hearts. How shall we account for Him? Here is the greatest fact of history; here is One who has with increasing power, for nineteen hundred years, molded the hearts, the thoughts and the lives of men, and He exerts more influence to-day than ever before. ‘What think ye of Christ?’ It is easier to believe Him divine than to explain in any other way what he said and did and was. And I have greater faith, even than before.”

In his masterpiece Messiah, 1742, composer George Frederick Handel wrote the line: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

After comments on divine inspiration, George Washington Carver was criticized in a New York Times editorial, Nov. 20, 1924. In his defense, Carver received letters from around the nation. He replied to one from Rev. Lyman Ward, Jan. 15, 1925: “My dear Bro. Ward, Many, many thanks for your letter of Jan. 4th. How it lifted up my very soul, and made me to feel that after all God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. I did indeed feel very badly for a while, not that the cynical criticism was directed at me, but rather at the religion of Jesus Christ. Dear Bro. I know that my Redeemer liveth. I believe through the providence of the Almighty it was a good thing. Since the criticism was made I have had dozens of books, papers, periodicals, magazines, personal letters from individuals in all walks of life. Copies of letters to the editor of the Times are bearing me out in my assertion. … Pray for me please that every thing said and done will be to His glory. I am not interested in science or any thing else that leaves God out of it. Most sincerely your, Geo. W. Carver.”

Brought to you by AmericanMinute.com.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/04/why-an-empty-tomb-is-such-a-big-deal/


Hey, Revolutionaries! No Drifting Down the Secular Leftist’s River of Deception

George Orwell likely never said it, but he should have: “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Whatever its source, is there a popular dictum more apt for the state of things in 2019?

On a daily basis, twenty-first century society tees up circumstances fairly pounding the table for the facts; or some outbreak of commons sense or ground-level decency. All you would-be “revolutionaries”? Provide any of the above and you’re practically there!

Twenty-three-year-old actress Madeline Carroll was churning along nicely in the mid-2000s, landing “family-friendly roles” in film and television. Then she hit her teens and — no surprise — lascivious Hollywood decided the young starlet’s career trajectory needed to change. Performing opportunities became increasingly objectionable to Carroll who, as a Christian, had adopted the radical — revolutionary? — perspective that her work choices ought to please the One she claims to follow.

“I was going to be the … teenage girl that wanted to sleep with everybody in the school” she recently admitted to the National Religious Broadcasters. “[I]t was really devastating for me, because I had [gone] from so much happening to literally nothing happening.”

Her agents were miffed at her for declining these shots at money and fame, but her mother reaffirmed:

“It’s better, Madeline, to err on the ways of righteousness than err on the ways of the world.”

At age nineteen, a big screen part arrived — but nudity was required. She rejected the offer.

“You know, you’re crazy,” chided her agent. “if you don’t want to do nudity, I don’t know what to tell you. Because that’s literally all there is in this industry.”

An exaggeration from an exasperated handler, perhaps. Still, I’m reminded of reading somewhere that first-century Christians simply forswore any involvement in the theater of their day: sexual depravity flatly saturated every aspect of it.

“I laid it down before God and I let my dream die,” confessed the Los Angeles native. “And I truly didn’t think that I was ever gonna pick it back up again,”

Then, 2018 … another head-snapping reversal: Carroll won a major part in the religious-oriented film I Can Only Imagine. The movie opened in that week’s Top 5, wrapping it’s run with an imposing $83 million haul. She’s now collaborating on launch of a “new faith-based studio, Kingdom Studios”. “It’s time for Hollywood to wake up,” presses Carroll, “that there are people out there like me … that want to do something for His glory.”

Nice denouement to her personal drama — practically deserving silver
screen treatment. But before the inspiring third-reel of her story rolled, an ambitious young girl first had to refuse to go along with Tinsel Town’s status quo: No, I won’t disrobe in living color before audiences full of men so they can rush home and masturbate to my mental image. Not gonna be a part of that.

To libido-obsessed modern minds, them’s earthquaking words! And from a woman who pledged she wasn’t going to supinely go-along-to-get-along; at potentially disastrous professional cost. If the entertainment machine is hurtling toward the hot place, looks like it’s going to do so without Madeleine Carroll’s complicity.

Prospective revolutionaries, call your office.

Speaking of imperiling one’s career track: over the past three years upwards of eighteenintrepid souls have quit their positions with Britain’s National Health Service over concerns children are being misdiagnosed as transgender and administered harmful hormone treatments in the process. Each of these former NHS-employees were operating with teams tasked with determining whether kids as young as three should be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, the effects of which are irreversible.

One staffer worried, “This experimental treatment is being done on not only children, but very vulnerable children.”

Carl Heneghan of Oxford University’s Centre of Evidence-based Medicine concurred, slamming the therapies as an “unregulated live experiment on children.”

These erstwhile NHS clinicians apparently arrived at the same conclusion — enough so that they determined to take attention-grabbing action.

In the span of a few dizzying years, transgender orthodoxy has become an inexorable steamroller before which nearly any cultural resistance, even mere reluctance, obsequiously yields. Count the “NHS Eighteen” as those comparatively few professionals modeling the courageous exception: they’ll no longer have a hand in medically trendy-but-ghoulish hazarding little one’s lives.

It’s the same noteworthy spirit driving a piece over at nationalreview.com where Graham Hillard lately admonished “Conservatives Shouldn’t Use Transgender Pronouns”.

“He”, “she” swapped out for “ze”, “zir”? Someone’s birth certificate specifying “male”, but collectively we’re obliged to fake he‘s “female”? And now humanity has to say grace not only over men’s and women’s willingly disfiguring their bodies, but over the disfigurement of language on behalf of their mental/emotional confusion, as well?

Hillard takes outspoken exception. “Renouncing” such balderdash “may come at a price,” he contends, “[but c]onservatives should pay it.”

While conceding transgender zaniness has become pandemic, he maintains sensible people “are to blame … if our conciliatory language impairs our ability to declare that this is wrong. It is not real. We have to stop it. … [I]f the central transgender assertion is a lie … then God forgive us if we utter a word in its favor.”

Hillard is candid about the risks involved:

To be sure, conservatives will pay a price for their stubbornness. … Jobs may be lost or friendships ruined. Our own children may one day condemn us. What is at stake, however, is the irreplaceable right to say of one thing, “true,” and of another, “false” — to define the basic realities from which our politics proceed. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Let us not pretend otherwise.

If those embracing Judeo-Christian principles and valuing America’s founding ideals truly believe what we so snappily profess, how can we co-operate, even on the margins, with the demented, reality-disdaining forces assailing this age? Civilization-engulfing fecklessness impacts persons in the most jarringly practical ways: how they conduct themselves, the decisions they take. Civilization-preserving wisdom ought to inform our responses against the same.

Shrugging at the omnivorous fithifying of our culture, at LGBTQ depredations of troubled children or the common understanding of words isn’t an option, either. Hey, it’s just the way things are! is nothing less than a dodging-responsibility card for the culturally passive; the bleat of those complacently drifting along the Leftist-secularist lazy river swamping every front.

Meanwhile, nowadays, those enunciating unfashionable but society-preserving truths should, properly, be labelled revolutionaries. And those moving beyond what their mouths sell, actually walking out its implications? For them, Mr. Orwell, or whoever coined the original adage, should have formulated an even loftier encomium.

Original here

 

Accountability

 

April 19, 2019 by Discerning Dad

Exodus 32:21-24: He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

The idea of accountability is not something most people love to volunteer for. It has been a part of many leadership examples and activities during my career. Some people are naturally accountable to feedback, listen earnestly, and decipher how they can improve based on if the feedback was constructive or not. Other people, however, get very defensive when they receive feedback; they make excuses, and find other people to blame. I can tell you that my favorite people to lead are those who are accountable. They have a positive attitude and own up to their mistakes. It takes overall less work to lead these types of people.

Self-reflection and seeking out input from those your trust is important. John Wesley was so concerned with building a righteous fellowship that he devised a series of questions for his followers to ask each other every week. Some found this rigorous system of inquiry too demanding and left. Today, the very idea of such a procedure would horrify many churchgoers. Yet some wisely follow just such a practice. Chuck Swindoll for example, has seven questions that he and a group of fellow pastors challenge each other with periodically (C. Colson, The Body).

Aaron was a big help to Moses. God allowed Aaron to join Moses after Moses complained about not being a good speaker (Exodus 4:14). Aaron was side by side with Moses through all the miracles and exodus of the Israelites. Aaron was also the first High Priest of Israel. For all of the positives of Aaron, he had two major flaws; he gave in to peer pressure and he was not accountable to his actions as we saw in Exodus 32. Aaron knew the power and miracles of the Most High God. He knew the commandment to have “no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). So why did he give in to the Israelites demand for a golden calf while Moses was away? Aaron was weak; he feared what man thought of him more than God. He gave in and probably prepared his excuse ahead of time for when Moses came back. He had to have known things would not have ended well based on the nature of God, but he still did not have the backbone to make a stand.

It’s really in Aaron’s excuse that stood out to me as how unaccountable he was to the whole situation. He blamed how evil the people are, not how evil HIS actions were. He tried to diminish his hand in the matter when he stated that “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” I mean, I’ve heard some poor excuses from my kids before but this is just laughable right? The better response would have been confession of his sin, asking for forgiveness and pleading with God on behalf of the people. Instead what happened as a result was that about 3,000 people died that day.

Athlete Wes Fessler is quoted as saying, “good men are bound by conscience and liberated by accountability.” Holding yourself responsible for your actions may be difficult but it is freeing, the weight of the guilt and blame can only be pushed aside or pushed to someone else for so long until it comes crashing back at you.

So what does accountability look like when it comes to following God? Here are some examples
– Hearing a message from a Pastor and applying it to your life vs. thinking about someone specific that it BEST applies to… like your spouse sitting next to you.
– When your sin is confronted, exposed, or you confess, be completely open about why it happened to begin with. Do not blame someone else or your circumstances.
– You’ve probably heard the term “accountability partner”; I feel there is a definite benefit to this. Someone who you can be open and honest about, someone who can walk along side you without judgment but will push you past where you want to go versus where you need to go in Christ.
– Seek out feedback; ask someone close to you how they see your walk with God? What are ways they think you can be a better disciple of Jesus?

If we are penitent and contrite in our responses to the feedback we receive or the sin that is revealed in us, we have a real chance at growth in our spiritual walk with the Lord. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). Despite what your fleshly inclination might be, choose repentance, choose humbleness, and you will find the freedom and forgiveness of God.

Discerning Reflection: What is an area of my life that I am not accountable to God about? Why am I hesitant about seeking out feedback from other Christians? Do I have an accountability partner and if so, am I making enough time with them?

Prayer: Lord, help me be accountable to my sin, help expose areas that need to have your light of truth reveal to me. Thank you for your grace and patience with me. May I be a good example to those around me and help them as well on their walk with you, Jesus, Amen.

Tim Ferrara

Original here

 

VIDEO Keeping the Faith – He Is Risen

Let your prayer be accompanied by faith, and don’t give an ear to doubt.
April 14, 2007

KEEPING THE FAITH

When the missionaries left, the new believers were on their own. But this group kept encouraging each other in Christ while they waited for a Bible in their language.

In the inky darkness, chirping crickets can be heard. Nearby, a river flows between muddy banks, many days’ journey from the sea. The Peruvian Amazon basin makes up 60 percent of the country and contains only 5 percent of its inhabitants. There are few roads. Here, in some of the most remote places on earth, members of indigenous tribes may travel hours by canoe to reach the next village.

Christian missionaries have visited some, but not all, of the tribes in the region. Sometimes they stay to disciple new converts. But often, they can only introduce Jesus and then move on, leaving the rest to God.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
—Matthew 18:20

village

Most Amazonian tribes have inherited some form of traditional religion from their ancestors. Evangelical missionaries have brought the gospel to some of them, but in the more remote communities, there are still no churches and no pastors.

These communities, often a few dozen houses on stilts in a clearing, have no church building and no local fellowship to join. Those who believe the gospel are the first to depart from the old ways and embrace the light of truth, and there’s nowhere for them to go when they set out on the Christian life. They’re surrounded by the ancient tribal religious ways, with nothing to nurture their newfound faith.

That’s what happened to Arnaldo and Raul, members of the Capanahua tribe. A team of missionaries brought the gospel to their village about a year ago. Arnaldo and Raul believed and received new life in Christ.

“I was overjoyed,” Raul says. “God touched my heart.”

“There’s nowhere for them to go when they set out on the Christian life. They’re surrounded by the ancient tribal religious ways, with nothing to nurture their newfound faith.”

Arnaldo and Raul

Arnaldo and Raul accepted Christ as their Savior several years ago when missionaries passed through their village. “I was overjoyed,” Raul says.

Arnaldo wanted to remember the wonderful event that changed their lives forever. The missionaries were gone. But there’s a sweet sense of family in everyone who carries the indwelling Christ, drawing us to each other through love. In a model reminiscent of the earliest Christian gatherings, he began inviting the other new believers to his home. They spoke of what they had learned, fellowshipped, and rejoiced in the Lord. We would call this a house church. The body of Christ blossomed, bonded together in love, “the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14).

This bond of love is what holds any church together, from a few people to a megachurch 20,000 strong. But in a house church, togetherness takes on a special meaning. To enter someone’s home is to be received in a circle of family and shared trust.

Arnaldo’s meetings expressed the biblical notion of hospitality, with everything that requires: brotherly love, service, generosity. But they had no Bible and no study materials. “Nada, nada,” says Arnaldo. The Word of God exhorts us all to grow in Christ, but this church was bereft of Scripture. Deep in the thick jungle, they kept their faith strong by memory and the Spirit within.

Marcos Costa knows many Christians in this plight. As director of the Aurora Training Center, a ministry facility in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest, he has made it his mission to equip local believers with tools they need to mature in their faith. “How are people going to change if they don’t have the Word of God?” he says. “We need these tools.” And tragically, believers without a Bible are deprived of the deep love and joy that reading Scripture engenders as it brings us closer to the Lord.

FINDING A WAY

In Touch Ministries is working with Marcos and others like him to distribute devices from the Messenger Lab. Together in “the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5), even the most isolated recipients can listen to the entire Bible and dozens of sermons. It’s like a pastor, says Marcos. “The Torch functions as preacher, discipler, and comforter … It feeds and edifies. The Lord uses it for everything. It’s the missionary I don’t have.” The Torch currently offers Scripture in six tribal languages of this Amazonian region, and Dr. Stanley’s messages in Spanish. And with its solar-powered lantern, it will even light up those dark jungle nights so the group can pass the evenings together.

Arnaldo pastored his church for a year, always longing for the Word of God. Finally, he and Raul made the journey to Aurora, eight days by motorized canoe, for a church planting seminar. In Touch Ministries would be giving out Torches and micro SD cards in Capanahuan, the heart language of their tribe.

“This is the first time we’ve been given any Christian materials,” Raul said. “Now we finally have a Bible. I feel really good. Very happy.”

A Peruvian man holds an In Touch Torch

At the Aurora Training Center, Christians from regional tribes receive In Touch Torches with the Bible in their own native language and sermons from Dr. Charles Stanley in Spanish.

Around the Amazon basin, small fellowships like Arnaldo’s are appearing, and the Torch helps them flourish. Aurora attendees, many of whom already pastor a church in their own home, were taught how to plant another—just the way Jesus instructed His disciples. “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it” (Matthew 10:11-13 NIV).

The visiting pastor leaves the Torch with the “man of peace” he has identified. This man takes up the mantle of hospitality and invites the believers for weekly meetings. They listen, learn, and pray as a body, breaking bread and remembering the instruction: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25 NIV).

“The Torch functions as preacher, discipler, and comforter … It feeds and edifies. The Lord uses it for everything. It’s the missionary I don’t have.”

—Marcos Costa, Director of the Aurora Training Center

As Marcos tells people like Arnaldo and Raul, wherever two or three are gathered, there is a church. With the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, they can grow strong in their faith and continue to bear fruit for the kingdom. But they need Scripture, “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17 NIV).

For this, Arnaldo and Raul traveled far on the winding rivers to find the Word of God and bring it home. Now, their little church can rejoice in its life-giving power as they listen together in the Torch’s glow.

 

Original here


Ravi Zacharias: He is Risen Indeed

Easter Joy Belongs to the Melancholy

The celebration of Christ’s resurrection stands in contrast to Christmas joy.

Easter Joy Belongs to the Melancholy

Image: Maxim Dužij / Unsplash

Easter joy has been harder to come by this year. Between the growing ugliness of American politics and the acrimony within the church body, I’ve found it harder to anticipate looking up from the broken body of my Lord to rejoice this Sunday in the resurrected and ascended Christ.

When I shared my struggle with a good friend, he suggested I revisit a collection of sermons that the 19th-century priest John Henry Newman preached in Oxford in response to the challenges of his own day. After turning to Newman, I found a surprising insight: In his view, my tempered joy is not merely acceptable or tolerable but rather called for as a deeply Christian response to Easter.

In a sermon titled “Keeping Fast and Festival,” Newman begins with a comparison of Christmas and Easter. At Christmas, he says, we rejoice with the “natural, unmixed joy of children.” Easter joy, however, is not the same. This joy is experienced as “a last feeling and not a first.” It grows out of tribulation, as Paul writes in Romans 5, emerges from the harvest (Isa. 9:3), and comes after (and out of) Lent and Good Friday.

In other words, if living through Lent teaches us even a little about how Christ bears the world’s suffering, then our Easter enthusiasm should look different from our response to God’s arrival as a baby at Christmas. It should feel more seasoned, more aged, and more worn. Easter joy isn’t the joy of children, says Newman, but rather of convalescents who have received the promise of healing, who are starting to get well but still regaining our strength after a Lenten season of confronting our weakness and sorrowing over our sin.

Newman’s image of Christians as convalescents brings to mind the story of healing at the end of The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis. At the culmination of the book, Diggory, the young hero, watches Aslan plant a magic apple in the newly created Narnian soil. A tree immediately grows from it. In Narnia, the apples have immense power of healing and strengthening. Aslan then gives Diggory a fruit from the tree and sends him back to our world to help heal his sick mother.

When Diggory gives his mother the magic apple, he doesn’t see immediate recovery. In our world, filled with the vigor of redemption, not creation, her healing is slow and gradual. Diggory first notices that her face looks a little different. Then a week later, she’s able to sit up. Finally a month later, she’s well enough to sit in the garden with her son. In the midst of this process, Diggory struggles to believe that her healing is really happening. But “when he remembered the face of Aslan, he [does] hope.”

We, too, should often (although not always) expect our healing to look more like Diggory’s mother’s—one marked by a tempered joy that doesn’t preclude struggle. As George Herbert writes, even as we grow in faith and rest in God, we still often feel “thin and lean without a fence or friend … blown through with ev’ry storm and wind.”

Like many exposed to various stripes of evangelicalism, it’s easy for me to place a high premium on subjective experience, emotiveness, and outward expression. As such, it’s easy for me to fear that my perceived lack of joy at Easter—or any other time of year, for that matter—is due to weakness and sinfulness. While that may be true at times, Newman challenges the belief that it is always true, rejecting the lie that “since it is the Christian’s duty to rejoice evermore, they would rejoice better if they never sorrowed and never travailed with righteousness.”

However, worrying about my own lack of “appropriate” emotion is not the solution and, in fact, may be part of the problem. When I refuse to let go of disappointment with my own brokenness and that of the world, I fail to recognize not only “the languor and oppression of our old selves” that persists this side of heaven but also the reality of the new life given to me. The solution is not to emote more or blot out the sorrows of this world but rather to turn in prayer, not inward, but upward.

“We must beg Him who is the Prince of Life, the Life itself,” says Newman, “to carry us forth into His new world, for we cannot walk thither, and seat us down whence, like Moses, we may see the land, and meditate upon its beauty!”

Easter joy does not require us, then, to leave this present hour behind or to be unbruised by the events of this world. Instead, it comes when, like Diggory, we return to the brokenness around us (including our own brokenness) with the comfort of Christ’s presence and the instruments of grace that he provides for us throughout the paschal season.

In this act of return, joy comes wearing a different, darker guise, but it also appears deeper, better, and more miraculous than anything we could ever expect.

Elisabeth Rain Kincaid is an assistant professor of moral theology at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. Her research focuses on questions of moral formation, the development of virtue, and the intersection of law, business, and theology.

different version of this piece originally appeared at Covenant, the weblog of The Living Church magazine.

 

Original here

It is Finished

Bible Verses

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:26-27 & 32-55

Explanation

It was normal in Rome for there to be a gap of two days before a prisoner’s judgement and execution, but in Roman colonies, such as Israel, the sentence was often carried out straight away. The Jews especially wanted the death of Jesus to take place as soon as possible, as the next day was the Sabbath (the Jewish holy day) and the final ceremonial meal of the Passover celebrations was to take place after sunset.

Jesus would have been dressed back in his own clothes for the procession to the place of execution. The procession would have been made up of four top roman soldiers per prisoner and under the charge of a centurion. It was normally led by the centurion with one of the guards walking in front of each prisoner holding up a white board with the crime of the prisoner written on it. The processions normally took the longest route possible through the streets to show the prisoners off to as many people as possible. But Jesus’ procession went quite a short way to get the place of execution, because the execution needed to take place as quickly as possible.

The procession left Pilate’s palace and went through the first gate to a busy shopping area of the city. The shops would have been closed for the Passover celebrations, but there still would have been a large crowd watching with sympathy and pity on the condemned prisoners.

Jesus would have been followed in the procession by the two other prisoners who were to be crucified with him. (They had been convicted of theft.) Prisoners were made to carry the cross-piece of their own cross which was tied across their shoulders. (Often their heads were also tied back to make the journey as painful as possible, but there is no evidence that this was done to Jesus.)

Jesus had not eaten, drank, or slept since being arrested the previous evening and had been beaten many times. It was not surprising, therefore, that he was so weak that he collapsed under the weight of his cross piece. However, he did not collapse until he reached the city wall. The Romans would not have wanted him to die before he was executed, so they pulled a man called Simon of Cyrene from the watching crowd to carry the cross. (Simon was probably a Black Jew on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations and was camping on the road outside the city. It is thought that he became a follower of Jesus and one of the leaders of the early Church.) Jesus was probably carried the rest of the way by two Roman soldiers.

The procession carried on through the outskirts of Jerusalem until it came to a place called Golgatha (which means ‘the skull’ because it is a rocky out-crop that looked like a skull).

When the procession reached Golgotha, the soldiers would have first put the uprights of the crosses into the ground. These would have been about two metres (6 feet) high, just high enough that the prisoners feet would not touch the ground. The cross pieces were then laid on the ground and the prisoners were re-tied to them with arms extended, so that the plank went across the shoulder blades, and were tied on at the elbows. Large iron nails were then driven through each wrist nailing the prisoner on the cross piece.

The cross-piece was then connected to a rope and pulley and pulled up onto the upright, guided by soldiers using ladders. (In very large Roman places of execution, there were permanent scaffolds set up, so the prisoners could be raised up very easily. But Golgotha was probably not big enough.) The cross-pieces were then nailed and / or tied onto the upright. A small rough wooden seat was put onto the upright to help support some of the prisoners weight. Lastly, the prisoner’s feet were nailed to the upright, either individually or sometimes a huge nail was used that went through both feet, one on top of the other.

Once prisoners were in the crucifix position, they could sometimes take days to die. They either died of exhaustion or more commonly they drowned when their lungs filled up with body fluids and blood.

People watching crucifixions often offered the dying a drink of strong wine and Myrrh (An embalming agent and anesthetic. It was also one of the three gifts brought to Jesus as a baby by the Magi or Wisemen!), but Jesus only took a small sip and refused the drink as he did not want his senses dulled.

Because Jesus was the main prisoner to be executed, his cross was placed in the centre, and probably the highest, of the three crosses, with each criminal on either side of him. The sign with the crimes of Jesus written on it, that had been carried in the procession, was then nailed to the very top of the upright. It said ‘The King of the Jews’ in Latin (so Romans and educated people could read it), Hebrew/Aramaic (so the Jews could read it) and Greek (so Greeks and other educated pilgrims could read it). This term would have been very insulting to the Jews, and the Romans would have meant it to be so! Because of this, the Jewish Priests called out in very sarcastic jeers, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

Jesus’ clothes were then divided among the four soldiers that had escorted him to Golgotha. His clothes would have consisted of, a Jewish prayer head covering, a cloak, a linen girdle / undergarment, his sandals and his main robe. The soldiers would have drawn lots for the first four items, but who would have the main robe, that would have been made of good quality cloth and so was worth quite a lot of money, was decided by gambling with dice. This made an Old Testament prophesy come true, where it says in the book of Psalms 22:18 that: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

Jesus’ prayer “Father forgive them” although primarily directed at the soldiers, also involved the Jewish leaders for killing the Son of God.

The soldiers continued to make fun of Jesus and offered him some cheap wine they were drinking while the gambled at the bottom of the cross upright.

Then one of the other criminals hanging next to Jesus mocked him, sarcastically asking Jesus for help. But the other criminal realized who Jesus was. He knew that he was innocent of any crimes and told the other criminal to keep quiet and said that they really deserved to be there, but that Jesus didn’t. By asking Jesus to remember him when he entered into paradise (or heaven), the criminal would have meant ‘judgment day’ or the end of the world that was talked about in the Jewish scriptures. He would have been very shocked (and so would have all the onlookers) when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. The Jewish onlookers would have understood this to mean that Jesus was claiming the power to judge people and decide who would enter Heaven.

There is a very powerful and moving song telling this part of the Easter story called ‘Thief’ by my favourite Christian rock group called Third Day. It is written from the perspective of the thief who knew who Jesus was.

It was noon when the sky went dark. It was called the Sixth hour because the hours of the Jewish day were measured from sunrise, about 6.00am. By this time, Jesus had been hanging on the cross about two and one half to three hours. Also by this time, John had gone and brought Jesus’ mother Mary and few other women followers of Jesus to the Cross. These were the only disciples of Jesus to be there when was executed. John was the only disciple who had been with Jesus all the time since he had been arrested.

The sky stayed black from noon until 3.00pm. The darkness would have not only been in the sky, but also in Jesus’ heart as he experienced all the the sin, pain and death, past, present and future that ever existed on earth.

At about this time Jesus died. He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). This is the first line of Psalm 22 (The Psalms were/are Jewish and Christian songs & poems.). In those times, if you wanted to start a Psalm you didn’t used a number, but the first line. By saying this Jesus was bring the onlookers attention to the whole Psalm, which accurately describes His crucifixion and death, although it was written hundreds of years before! But the Psalm doesn’t stop with the death, at the end of it, it talks about God (Jesus) coming to rule over the earth and people praising him!

After this Jesus spoke his words: “It is finished” meaning his work on earth, and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”. This is a quote from Psalm 31 verse 5, meaning that Jesus gave up his will and life fully to God, trusting in him, even into death. The words were yelled as in triumph at the end of a battle, not whispered in defeat.

This had a profound effect of the Roman centurion in charge of the crucifixions as he recognised who Jesus was.

As Jesus died, a violent earthquake shook Jerusalem. It tore in two a large curtain that hung in the Temple. The curtain was about one metre thick and made of the heaviest and most expensive cloth. It separated the main part of the inner Temple from the ‘Holy of Holys’, the room at the very centre of the Temple that only one Priest was allowed to go into once a year. It tore from the top to bottom. The curtain represented the separation of God from man, so the curtain being destroyed would have been a very shocking symbol to the Jews and a sign that something powerful had happened – Jesus had opened God to everyone!

Jewish law stated that a dead body could not be on display after sunset, especially not the Sabbath. This would have started at Sunset and remember, it would have been the Passover Sabbath, the most important Sabbath of the year. So the bodies would have be to removed quickly. People being crucified could sometimes take days to die. So to speed up the death, the arms and legs of the prisoners were broken and then they were stabbed through the heart. This would have happened to the other two men being crucified with Jesus, but when the soldiers got to Jesus they found him already dead.

This fulfilled another prophesy which said the Messiah would be like the Passover lamb, i.e. perfect with no broken bones. All that happened to the body of Jesus was that his side was pierced to drain out the body fluids and make the dead body easier to handle. For a crucifixion, Jesus had died very quickly. But he had been beaten several times before he was crucified and was so a lot weaker than a normal crucifixion victim. More importantly, as the Son of God, he is the only person who ever lived who could ‘dismiss his own spirit/soul’ and so die by a word of his command!

Then Joseph of Arimathea who was a Jewish council member and a secret friend of Jesus came to ask the Romans for the body of Jesus. He had not been called to the ‘trials’ of Jesus, because Annas and Caiaphas thought he might stop the trials and call them unlawful.

Joseph was a rich land owner and had a tomb ready for a burial nearby. It was probably where he was going to be buried, but he was willing to give it up for Jesus. The Tomb would have been a large cave with two body shaped niches carved into the side walls. Joseph and another council member called Nicodemus (who had also got to know Jesus quite well) took the body of Jesus to the tomb and quickly embalmed the body. Mary and the other women would have also gone to the tomb, but would have only watched this initial embalming. They planned to come back on the Sunday morning, just after sunrise, to embalm the body properly. This would have been the earliest time under Jewish law that they would have been allowed to return to the tomb after the Passover Sabbath.

The quick embalming consisted of wrapping the body in bandages, like a mummy. The bandages would have been soaked in Myrrh as it has a strong but pleasant smell and covered up the smell of a dead body. (You might remember that Myrrh was one of the gifts given to the baby Jesus by the Wise Men/Magi in the Christmas Story!)

The body would have then been laid in the niche and a very large stone was rolled in front of the tomb entrance. At the request of the Jewish leaders, the Romans put a guard of the best and most highly trained soldiers on the tomb to make sure no one could steal the body.

The disciples then left to mourn and await the sunrise on Sunday, when they could go back to the tomb and embalm the body properly.

https://www.whyeaster.com/story/death.shtml