Friday, March 29, 2013

Yes / No reactions to Jesus

"Woman Onlooker at the Cross" - still shot from The Passion of the Christ movie
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 23:26-56

"Now as they led Him away … " Luke 23:26

Jesus' steady progress through the events of His last hours reminds me of words from Isaiah:
 "Therefore I have set My face like a flint
And I know I will not be ashamed" - Isaiah 50:7.

What I notice today is how this flinty life affects those it touches as it carves its way through the little bit of history in today's reading.

Simon a Cyrenian, a seemingly innocent passerby, is pressed into service to carry Jesus' cross. Out of the blue he gets pulled into this eternal story.

The multitude that follows consists of mostly the curious who, by the end of the day leave, 'beating their breasts.' I'm not sure what that means. Obviously something they see amazes, puzzles, even troubles them.

Within that multitude are women who were Jesus' close friends and followers. They have made their commitment to Him long ago and never falter in it. Jesus, even in His weakness, talks to them one last time. They stand at a distance watching everything. They see where Joseph buries Him and go home to prepare spices to give Him a proper embalming.

The 'rulers' in the crowd (presumably scribes, Pharisees, and council members) have their victim where they want him at last. They gloat and hurl sarcastic insults.

The Roman soldiers are mostly a rough, uncouth bunch. They too mock Him, gamble for His clothes, and torment Him with sour wine. However, the centurion, after he observes how things play out—the unnatural darkness and Jesus' final cry—has a change of mind, concluding, "Certainly this was a righteous Man!"

Jesus' cross is planted between the crosses of two thieves. One curses Jesus to his death but the other proves himself a believer.

Joseph of Arimathea, the Jewish council member
who hasn't been in on the council's decision to kill Jesus, plucks up his courage and asks Pilate for Jesus' body. Then he buries it in a new tomb.

These Yes / No reactions to the touch of Jesus' life, even in death, remind me of His words in other places. On one occasion He describes His presence as a sword, dividing even close family members (Matthew 10:34-39). Talking about what will happen at His second coming He says, "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Then two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left …. He will separate one from the other, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats" - Matthew 24:40,41; 25:32).

I ask myself, if I had been a player in this story, how would I have reacted to Jesus? What about you?

And what about now? As we encounter the sword of Jesus' claims now, do we find ourselves falling on the Yes side, or the No?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your claims and how they sift me. I want my life to be a continual Yes to You. Amen.

MORE: Good Friday

Today the church celebrates the death of Jesus. The liturgy for Good Friday begins with this collect:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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