Friday, April 2, 2010

Lent Reflections: The Crucifixion

Fitting, isn’t it, that I end up writing about the Crucifixion on Good Friday? I can honestly say I did not plan that.  I have some extra time this morning and thought it would be a good time to write down my thoughts.

The service the last 2 Sundays have been so, I’m not sure exactly what word to use: disturbing? horrifying? convicting?  The replica cross is eerie and even more so when Brian was pounding in the nails.  It felt strange to continue on with the service, like everything is normal, after a sermon like that.

Jesus was crucified at 9 a.m.  It had probably been about 3 hours of flogging, humiliation and carrying that heavy crossbeam to Golgotha.  It took 6 hours for him to die.  He was only 2-3 feet off the ground so his mother and followers were able to look into his eyes, talk to him, touch him.  Horrifying.

In this chapter, we also discussed a theory of atonement that is the one that makes the most sense to me.  The other two theories discussed in the book were 1. the substitution theory in that Jesus took our place, receiving the punishment for us, and 2. the subjective influence theory in which Jesus’ suffering and death demonstrated the depth of human sin and the breadth of God’s love for us.  The final theory is the sacrificial offering theory.  Throughout history, humans have offered sacrifices to the gods for various reasons.  The Jewish people offered sacrifices to God through the Temple priest.  The sacrifices were offered not to turn away God’s wrath, but to express the people’s repentance and their desire to be reconciled to God.  One goat was offered as a sacrifice and another, the “scapegoat” was given the sins of the people and sent into the wilderness never to be seen again.  In Jesus’ death, he acted as high priest representing all of humanity.  With His death, he opened the door to God to us. This sacrifice allows us direct access to God.  This is shown in Matthew, Mark and Luke as all 3 gospels mention that when Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  The curtain blocking access and the view of the Holy of Holies was torn and we are no longer separated from Him.

Yet, at the time, his disciples didn’t understand.  I can imagine their despair.  The last 3 years, they had left their families and followed him.  They most likely, much like Judas, thought it was all over.  Did they leave the cross before he died?  John probably took Mary somewhere, though I’m sure she waited until Jesus had died before leaving.  But they all left. No one was there to bury him.  The women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome were the ones to go to the grave 3 days later to anoint his body, so they were probably at the burial, or at least knew where the body was located.  Perhaps the anointment was women’s work, which is why the disciples didn’t go. Or maybe they just stayed in hiding, still fearful for their own lives.  What do you supposed they talked about those two days? Or did they talk at all?  Perhaps they just sat in silence, pondering the last three years, wondering whether or not it had been worthwhile.  Fortunately, for them and for us, they did not act irrationally.  They waited.  And three days later were rewarded greatly!  How wonderful for us that we already know how this story will end.

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