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Showing posts from March 29, 2015

Easter and the Grave - Easter Series #5

Jesus said to a disciple volunteering to follow him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Luke 9:58) This would be true for him in life as well as in death. Jesus had an "itinerant ministry," meaning that he did not establish a location from which he went out but rather went out to wherever to do ministry. Those who would follow would be doing the same thing. Jesus sent out the twelve and he also sent out seventy-two others "ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." (Luke 10:1) And so, when he enters Jerusalem just before his final Passover meal, neither does he have a place to share the Passover or a grave in which to lie his body after his crucifixion. But, as God is always preparing the way ahead of believers in life, so he was preparing a place for Jesus to rest in death. Joseph of Arimathea had prepared his own grave for future use but now would provide it for Jes…

Easter and the Cross - Easter Series #4

Punishment and power was the message the Roman Empire wanted conveyed by using the cross as an instrument of death. They were in charge of your life and your death. It was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die and reserved for criminals. Crucifixion resulted in the whole body weight being supported by the outstretched arms which were nailed to the cross just above the wrists. There was a massive strain on the wrists, elbows and shoulders, often resulting in dislocation, as the body was lifted up to allow inhaling. The lungs were pressed upon as the rib cage and internal organs sank by the downward press of the body's weight. To inflate the lungs, the victim would have to endure extreme pain in his arms and feet to coordinate a pull and push up so that he could take a breath. It would eventually become too unbearable and he would trade breathing for pain. So, asphyxiation accompanied by the physical shock of the previous scourging and the nailing to the cross as we…

Easter and Innocence - Easter Series #3

We look into the face of a baby and see innocence. We do not see an evil smile or a fist raised high in rebellion. But this seeming innocence fades. Instead, there is a selfishness that is revealed. Arguments over toys, fights among siblings, pouting and wrong doings become evident. The Passover required a lamb without blemish or defect to be sacrificed for personal sin. (Luke 22:7) The lamb was not to be lame, blind or disabled. This offering was to be pure, completely whole. This was necessary for sin to be covered by its death. Jesus was offered by God as the Passover lamb for he was pure, clean, without any defect. His birth and life were proof of that and his death would further substantiate it. Paul explains the purpose of Jesus' death on the cross by saying, "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:7) Innocence is necessary to cover sin and none of us can declare ourselves to be innocent. We are all guilty because of our personal sins an…

Easter and Bunnies - Easter Series #2

Marshmallow, chocolate, or hard candy bunnies are everywhere at Easter. They are the symbol of the beginning of Spring when birds lay eggs and hares birth litters. They convey a fertile earth springing to life after a long Winter night. The German Lutherans created the "Easter Hare" who would judge the goodness of children bringing them a basket full of colored eggs, candies, and sometimes small toys. (Some would call this "second Christmas.") So, these symbols and the folk lore about baskets of goodies have been carried into today's Easter. Soft bunnies and colored eggs are cute and traditional but distract us from the real meaning of this time of Passover, initiated the night before the Jews departed from Egypt. Its message was one of obedience by the people to sacrifice a lamb and place its blood on the top and sides of the home's entry door. (A line connecting one side to the other and intersecting with a line from top to bottom actually formed a cross.) …

Easter and Eggs - Easter Series #1

When did Easter get tied to eggs? Why are they colored? When our children were younger we used to attend multiple egg hunts on the Saturday before Easter. This was about the joy of finding eggs in unusual places and breaking them open to eat all sorts of treats. Usually these were colored plastic eggs with small offerings of chocolate and other candies inside but once in a while a hard boil original would be found, too. That was a downer. Coloring eggs is an ancient practice, predating Christian traditions. I remember boiling and coloring them in my younger years. Originally they were boiled with flowers to get their color but today there are kits of colors and also ways to even put a design on the shell. Christians in early Mesopotamia stained eggs red in memory of the blood Christ shed on the cross for mankind. The egg became an Easter symbol of rebirth and resurrection. We go along with these ancient traditions and modern marketing schemes but still need to pull back to remember the r…

People or Possessions

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and his twelve disciples encounter a storm of such force that even the seasoned fishermen among them are fearful of losing their lives. They are focused only on their survival, but Jesus, as he often does, stills the storm and amazes the disciples. Another different kind of storm is just around the corner. As they reach their destination, they are immediately met by a demon possessed man. He is naked and living in caves hewn out as future graves. Although chained by his own people, his powerful possessors enable him to break free so often that the people out of fear exile him to an outlying area. This is a bigger storm than on the sea. His presence immediately begins a confrontation. The demons occupying him cause him to torture his own body and desire to remain within him but Jesus will not permit it. What he will permit is for them to leave and enter into a herd of 2,000 pigs. (Luke 8:26-39) The pigs cannot tolerate their new possessors and rush dow…