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It’s Holy Week! (Part 3)

Originally posted April 4, 2012

Monday, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of Atonement.  Wednesday, we looked at the entrance of Jesus into the story. Today, let’s look at the Passion of Christ and the rest of the Jesus story.

21. Jesus is arrested, abandoned and denied by his disciples, beaten, mocked, and sentenced to death by Rome’s most barbaric form of execution.

22. Jesus is forced to carry the crossbeam through the crowded streets of Jerusalem up to the site of his execution.

23. Jesus is too weak to complete the trip and collapses.  A member of the crowd is chosen at random by the guards to carry the crossbeam for Jesus the rest of the way.

24. At Golgatha, Jesus is stripped naked (yes, as naked as he was born).

25. The guards attach Jesus to the crossbeam with iron spikes through his wrists and to the stake with spikes through his ankles and raised to hang between two thieves until his struggle for breath overcomes him and he gives up his spirit to God and completes the sacrifice.

26. At the moment of his death, there is an earthquake and the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple is torn in half from top to bottom.

27. Jesus’ execution lasts only six hours, considerably less time than most people endured the experience.

28. Jesus is buried and mourned, and the disciples hide in fear that they will be arrested and executed next.

29. The women at the tomb discover Jesus’ resurrection early in the morning three days later.  They become the first bringers of the good news (gospel) that Jesus is alive.

30. Jesus appears to his disciples and to many other people over the 40 days following his execution, eating and drinking with them and allowing them to touch him to prove that he indeed has retaken physical form.

31. Jesus ascends into the clouds after promising to send his spirit to be with his followers and to return again one day soon to bring the kingdom of heaven.

There are so many wonderful moments in this part of the story of God.  Jesus, a physical human being, dies a physical human death (of the worst kind), and is resurrected to again be a physical human being.  The women are the first evangelists.  Jesus promises to leave his spirit with those who believe in him.

But my favorite moment is the moment of Jesus’ death when the curtain is ripped in two.  Remember the curtain? That piece of fabric hanging in the entrance to the Holy of Holies?  It served as a reminder of the barrier between God and God’s people.  It blocked people from God’s presence with them.

In fact, only the people considered to be the cleanest and most holy were even allowed near the Holy of Holies. Even the high priest, the holiest person out of all of God’s people, was only allowed inside once a year to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the Ark to atone for the sins of the people.  God was just too holy to be with the people.  The people were just too unholy to be with God.

But God came to the people anyway, in the physical human form of Jesus.  God became the ultimate blood sacrifice–the last and final atonement for all the sins of all people everywhere throughout all of time.  God ripped the curtain (top to bottom) at the moment of Jesus’ death to show the people that there was no more need to separate the holy from the unholy–the sacred from the secular.

And when I think that God, his son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
that on that cross, my burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my savior God, to thee.
How great thou art! How great thou art!

So get ready for Easter, people.  The curtain gets ripped today.  The body of Jesus gets buried and the spirit of Jesus enters the place of eternal damnation on Saturday.  And then Sunday–oh glory!–we get to celebrate the living-breathing-walking-talking-eating-drinking-teaching-healing-actual-physical-human/divine-Jesus for defeating death, ending forever the need for blood sacrifice, forgiving sin, and making possible the presence of God in the world and in the body of every believer everywhere until the kingdom of God returns to us again one day soon.

People, get ‘a ready.  Jesus is ‘a comin’!

It’s Holy Week! (Part 2)

Originally posted April 3, 2012

Monday, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of Atonement.  Today, let’s look at the entrance of Jesus into the story.

13. Then Jesus is born, and he is called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

14. No longer is God among the people yet blocked from their access.  Jesus lives with the people, learns and grows with them, eats and drinks, sleeps, speaks, heals, reprimands, and teaches.

15. Jesus says that those who see him and know him also see and know God.

16. Jesus is anointed at Bethany for his coming death.

17. When the people celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem–what we call Palm Sunday–they acknowledge that Jesus is fulfilling the long-anticipated role of the Messiah, the one who has come to save them and restore the original order as God intended.

18. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet as an example of their role in each others’ lives.

19. Jesus breaks bread and passes the cup of wine to his disciples to foreshadow his impending arrest and execution.

20. Jesus prays in the garden with his disciples nearby–by some accounts so fervently that the capillaries break on his forehead and he begins to sweat blood–not only that he might yet be spared his role as the sacrifice for the people’s sins but also that he accepts that role.

This is what I love about the Jesus part of the story of God.  Here we see Jesus in his human vulnerability.  Though he is fully divine and capable of changing the end of the story, Jesus is also fully human and willingly becomes the final blood sacrifice as the atonement for the sins of the people–this time not only the people of God but all people everywhere throughout the course of history.

The scene in the garden is one of my favorite Jesus moments.  We see Jesus at his most intimate, praying to God not for the sake of others but for his own sake.  We see the intense struggle between the divine and human in Jesus.  This is no small matter, this business of execution and sacrifice.  This is not easy or pleasant, but it is worthwhile and shows the extent of God’s love for the people–of Jesus’ love for the people, all people.

Blessed is the one who lays down their life for the sake of a friend.  And Jesus has called us friends.

I like to think the blood Jesus sweats during his prayer foreshadows the finality of his sacrifice. Like the blood sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, the first drops of Jesus’ blood are spilled in the garden as he struggles to accept his role as the animal sacrificed on the temple’s altar.

But my favorite moment is still coming…

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