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“The marvel of heaven and earth, of time and eternity, is the atoning death of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery that brings more glory to God than all creation.”

C. H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpg

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Weeping at the Foot of the Cross

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On Good Friday, we celebrate the saddest day in history.

Blood streamed down his face. Massive thorns stuck to the head of their Maker. Groans of agony came from the mouth of him who spoke the world into being. The soldiers beat him. They flogged him. They tortured him.

As he inched through the streets of Jerusalem, his cross pressing into his lacerated back, many shuddered at him. The face of God, which Moses could not look at and live, could no longer even be recognized as human (Isaiah 52:14). Women hid their children from the bloody mass of flesh before them. Men taunted him. Soldiers clubbed him. Angels shrieked in horror.

Every prophecy about his suffering was being fulfilled. By judgment and oppression, he was taken away. His sheep scattered when their enemies struck him. One of his own sold him and betrayed him with a kiss. He found no rest as they beat him, spit on him, and mocked him through the night. In the morning, he gave his back to those who struck him, his cheeks to those who plucked his beard.

He stepped forward to Calvary as a lamb to the slaughter.

His Love Was Rated-R

I remember the first time I watched The Passion of the Christ fourteen years ago. The sight of Roman ninetails sinking their claws into his back seemed to pierce my soul with Mary’s (Luke 2:35). The blood. The screams. The anguish. I could never again thoughtlessly tell others that Christ died for them. The scene forbade cliché. It was grizzly, ghastly, gruesome — rated-R.

I rarely cry, but as I watched Jesus shed his blood all over the Roman courtyard, I could not help but weep. As they held the nails over his hands and feet — his mother watching him — every swing of the hammer pierced my heart. Only the heartless could watch unfeelingly. Has there ever been a more tragic scene?

I did not consider his wounds enough. I did not weep over his suffering as often as I felt I should have. But how does Jesus respond to me, and people like me, who take Good Friday to grieve over his unbearable sufferings? Two thousand years ago he said to those weeping for him that day, “Weep not for me; weep for yourselves.”

Silence on the Set

Of the many horrors of Calvary, one that was especially acute was the shame of it all (Hebrews 12:2). His was a public execution. The condemned usually were naked. To add to this, the prophecy reads, “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” (Psalm 22:7). It is one thing to suffer; another to do so before a whole nation as they ridicule you.

But mockery was not the only sound made on his behalf. A host of women trailed behind him, lamenting the expiring prophet. They followed Jesus’s drops of blood — as so many of us do today — with drops of tears.

But upon hearing their sobs, Jesus, battered and broken, turned his face towards them and spoke these gracious, yet shocking words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).

This part of the passion didn’t make the movie.

On that first Good Friday, Jesus turned to his loudest sympathizers — those who are not cursing him, mocking him, but wailing on his behalf — and silenced them. He commands their tears escort him no further. He opts to press into the night without their mourning.

Weep Not for Me

Jesus did not need their tears two millennia ago, and as unpopular as it may be, Jesus does not need our tears today. And this fact owes to us seeing his passion through the eyes of faith.

Weep not for me, he said. As if to say,

I am saving my people. I have prayed, tender souls, and know my Father’s will concerning this cup — shall I not drink it (John 18:11)? My hands willingly grasp this wood because my food is to do my Father’s will (John 4:32, 34). And his will is glorious: he sent me to serve and give my life as a ransom for my people. My body is broken, and my blood is spilled for you (Luke 22:19–20). Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Do not weep over the labor pains that give birth to your salvation and unshakable joy (John 16:20–22).

Weep not for me, as if to say,

I am not a helpless victim. I am a warrior-king with thousands of angels at my beck and call (Matthew 26:53). One word from me and this horror would end. One word from me and Rome would be destroyed. One word from me and all would be eternally condemned. But I was sent to save the world, not condemn it (John 3:17). Trust that no man — or army — can steal my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord, and I will take it up again (John 10:11–18).

Weep not for me, as if to say,

I am conquering. You see my heel being bruised and you mourn — but look through the eyes of faith and see the serpent’s skull trampled (Genesis 3:15). Although I walk as the Lamb, I conquer as the Lion — the predator, not the prey, will hang on the cross (Revelation 5:5–6). I am a King who shall rule the universe from a tree. And I shall make this cross my scepter. As they lift me up, I thrust my enemies under my feet as a footstool (Psalm 110:1). My triumphal entry is followed by a triumphal exit. Why should you weep over my hour of glorification (John 12:27–28)?

Weep not for me, as if to say,

Sunday is coming

For the rest of the post…

Note: What do you think? I believe we need to be careful what statements we put on church signs. ~ Bryan

The other day, I posted this picture of a church sign created by someone who clearly lacked self-awareness.

17879957_10155204924134568_315700429073642464_oI had so many questions for the pastor who signed off on this…

Did he think the torture of Jesus was funny?

Was he trying to be cool and hip? (Because he was neither.)

Who was he trying to impress?

I had no clue. But the only thing the sign seemed good for was giving atheists a good laugh.

My Patheos colleague Jonathan Aigner, an evangelical Christian, didn’t get it either. He thought it was in bad taste, at the very least, so he left a message saying as much on the Facebook page for . This isn’t what he sent them, but it summarized his concerns:

It’s an obvious pun, when humor is clearly inappropriate. We’re talking about murder, and not just any murder, we’re talking about the violent, grotesque crucifixion of our beautiful Savior. While these good Baptists may have meant it well, there’s an inescapable glibness in the words.

The church definitely saw his message because this happened not long after he pressed “Send”:

About 20 minutes later, the phone in my office rang. “Hello, this is Jonathan,” I answered as usual, expecting to hear a choir member with a question, or perhaps a return call from that publisher I’d recently contacted.

Nope. It was none other than Living Hope’s pastor, whom I do not know. He had apparently found my name, looked me up, and called me at my office. I was dumbfounded.

He didn’t really seem angry. He was confused. Incredulous, even. “This is straight from Scripture. I can’t believe someone would think this was in bad taste.”

It gets even more interesting from there, and I would urge you to read about their conversation here.

When it comes down to it, though, it looks like the church tried to “sell” the story of Jesus to an otherwise uninterested audience and chose an awful way to get the message across.

They also issued a statement on Facebook Thursday night. There’s no apology or even any acknowledgement that it came across the wrong way. They basically said that Jesus getting nailed to the cross is in the Bible (get it? GET IT?) as if that’s supposed to clear everything up.

For the rest of the post…

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus Christ’s institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper, which is described in the Christian bible. The day is also known as Passion Thursday, Paschal Thursday or Sheer (or Shere) Thursday. It is the day before Good Friday and occurs during Holy Week.
Stained Glass of the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday remembers Jesus Christ’s institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper.

©iStockphoto.com/sedmak

What do people do?

Many Catholic and Anglican churches continue traditional Maundy Thursday rites that may include handing out special coins known as “Maundy money” to the aged and poor. Churches may also have the blessing of holy oil and feet washing as part of their Maundy Thursday service. Some churches have a tradition that involves priests washing the feet of 12 people to symbolize Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Many Maundy Thursday church services take place in the evening. Maundy Thursday is known as “Green Thursday” (Gründonnerstag) in Germany, where green vegetables and salad, including spinach salad, are served as part of the tradition. Maundy Thursday is known as skjærtorsdag in Norway and is a day off for workers and students. It is known as skärtorsdagen in Sweden and is linked to a folktale about a witches’ day.

Public life

Maundy Thursday is a public holiday in countries such as (but not exclusive to):

  • Colombia.
  • Costa Rica.
  • Denmark.
  • Guatemala.
  • Nicaragua.
  • Norway.
  • Paraguay.
  • Many regions in Spain.
  • Uruguay.

It is not a public holiday in countries such as AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdom and the United States.

Background

Maundy Thursday occurs during Holy Week and remembers when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper, an event that is told in the Christian bible. It also commemorates the practice of ceremonial foot-washing to imitate Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper as a sign and example of humility and love. Holy Thursday also commemorates the events that took place on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.

A special Eucharist commemoration on the Thursday of Holy Week was first mentioned in the North African Council of Hippo’s documents around 393 CE. There have been many references to Maundy Thursday observances after that date. Maundy Thursday was also known as Shear, Char, Shrift, and Sharp Thursday. These names are believed to have derived from cutting or trimming hair or beards before Easter during the 14th century. This particular custom signified spiritual preparation for Easter.

Roman nobility practiced washing other people’s feet during the mid 19th century. This practice is no longer common in some Protestant churches but many Catholic and Anglican churches still celebrate this Maundy Thursday rite.

For the rest of the post…

Today is “Good Friday”. I heard someone say this morning that “Good Friday” should be called “Great Friday” instead. I agree! It is “Great Friday” because nearly 2000 years ago Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross for our sins!

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