Crucified man

As the clouds gather over Jerusalem at the approach of Good Friday, I invite you to listen to the beautiful and true words of Graham Kendrick’s song Crucified Man.

I have placed all my hope in a crucified man
In the wounds in his side, his feet and his hands
I have traded my pride for a share in his shame
And the glory that one day will burst from his pain

I’ve abandoned my trust in the wise and the proud
For this fragile, mysterious weakness of God
And I dare to believe in his scandalous claim
That his blood cleanses sin for whoever
Will call on his name

Live or die here I stand
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

I believe as they beat on his beautiful face
He turned a torturer’s chair to an altar of grace
Where the worst we can do met the best that God does
Where unspeakable hate met the gaze
Of unstoppable love

At the crux of it all there he hangs
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified….

Man of sorrows, man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

When the purest and best took the force of our curse
Death’s victory armada juddered into reverse…
And either we bow or we stumble and fall
For the wisdom of a suffering God
Has made fools of us all

I gladly admit that I am
But I’ve placed my hope in a crucified …

Man of sorrows man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

I have buried my life in the cold earth with him
Like a seed in the winter, I wait for the spring
From that garden of tombs Eden rises again
And Paradise blooms from his body
And never will end

He’ll finish all he began
Creation hopes in a crucified man

When I stand at the judgement
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Like the thief nailed beside him
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 2006 Make Way Music

Three kings

Jesus before PilateThe stage is set. Jesus has entered the Holy City of Jerusalem amid the heat and frenzy of Passover week. He has overturned the tables in the Temple courtyard in a prophetic sign of coming judgement, thus sealing his fate as a troublemaker in the eyes of the religious authorities. Tomorrow evening, he will share one final meal with his closest associates before a kiss – oh blessed irony! – finally sets in train an inevitable sequence in which he will be tried, tortured, condemned and executed.

Allow me to introduce you to the three key figures in the upcoming trial of the Son of God. Each is a “king” of sorts. The challenge to us is: to which king will we pledge allegiance?

Pilate

Palestine was important to Rome for much the same reasons that the Middle East is politically important today: it stood at the crossroads of East and West, and lay along a crucial supply route by which the Empire transported grain from Egypt to Rome. As governor, Pilate’s job was to keep the population firmly under Roman control so that nothing could interfere with Rome’s practical and strategic prerogatives.

Pilate is king of his little province in the traditional way that we understand kingship: Rome is top of the political pile because it has more military might than anyone else. Pilate’s means of enforcing his kingship are the blunt instruments of violent power. Get on the wrong side of him and you’re likely to end up as food for the vultures. Continue reading

The vexed question of Jesus’ death

Christ on the crossWhat exactly was going on when Jesus died at Calvary is a question that has occupied great minds through the ages. Within much of the modern western church, there is a single accepted explanation of what Christ accomplished on the cross. I’d like to suggest, however, that the question of the atonement can be approached from a different angle which, to me, makes much more sense both scripturally and theologically.

I’d like to set out two possible explanations for what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. I’ll begin by painting a brief portrait of the events of Jesus’ passion, then I’ll set out two alternative explanations as to what was happening at the cross. In conclusion, I’ll quote a couple of scriptures and leave you with a question.

Jesus’ passion: a synopsis

Jesus came to earth as the perfect embodiment of God. The three years of his public ministry he spent teaching about and demonstrating the love of God through stories, signs and miracles of healing. But he got on the wrong side of the religious and political authorities by openly flouting the intolerance of the religious elite and making the treasonous claim that he was the Messiah, which means nothing other than king.

In the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, the crowds that had cheered him on soon turned into an angry mob when it became clear that he was not going to lead the hoped-for victorious uprising against Rome. He was arguably accused and condemned to death not once or even twice, but three times: once by the religious court of Caiaphas, once by the political court of Pilate and once by the court of public opinion. He died the shameful death of a convicted criminal, hanging bloody and beaten from a cross outside the city walls.

Then, in a totally unexpected move, he rose from the grave on the third day. Continue reading

Not a bloodthirsty God

God, not being a bloodthirsty God, did not require or desire the sacrifice of his Son to himself. Nor was it an offering to ‘pay’ the devil in order to ‘buy’ man’s freedom, since nothing was owed to the devil. But the empirical result of Christ’s death was the destruction of sin, the destruction of him who had the power of death (the devil) and the destruction of death. The death of the sinless one and his resurrection had these results.

— Summarised/paraphrased from St. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), Archbishop of Constantinople, also called Gregory the Theologian

Repost: What kind of Messiah?

With Holy Week now underway and Easter almost upon us, I thought it was a good time to dig out this post from last October.

Cross manAn ancient world of pain
A people bowed under the weight of cruel injustice and oppression
Living like strangers in their own land
Good people struggling to hope for a brighter future
Trying to make sense of how God could have let this all happen
When they have always done their best to be faithful to Him
Somehow believing, against all odds, that their faith will not be in vain
Waiting, hoping, watching for Messiah to come

And who is this baby lying in a smelly barn
The secret of his birth known only to his parents
Forced to flee in the night as the tyrant’s sword brings death to many like him
Growing in obscurity, just another country boy learning his father’s trade
As the world goes on and the suffering continues?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this man, baptised as one of many
Wending his way through deserts and fields
No place of his own to call home
Creating a stir with his stories and feats
Bringing his message of hope before moving on
And leaving so many things unchanged?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this would-be king, riding on a donkey’s colt
No sword in his hand, no crown on his head
Weeping as the crowds cheer him on
No tight-knit support group to organise his campaign
Only a ragtag bunch of dreamers, rogues and misfits?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this despised one, hanging on a cross
A crown of thorns upon his bloodied head
Abandoned and denied by his followers
Publicly shamed and humiliated
Spat on and beaten half to death
Hope snuffed out, just like so many times before?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this risen one, Light of the world
Living in the hearts of his children
Still bringing hope in the midst of pain
And joy where only sorrow has any right to be
Still refusing to play the world at its own game
Showing instead that there is a more excellent way?

Strange kind of Messiah
You could almost miss him if you didn’t know him

[ Image: Jes ]

A prayer for Holy Week

Lord Jesus Christ,
in this sacred and solemn week
when we see again
the depth and mystery of your redeeming love,
help us to follow where you go,
to stop where you stumble,
to listen when you cry,
to hurt as you suffer,
to bow our heads in sorrow as you die,
so that, when you are raised to life again,
we may share in your endless joy. Amen.

(Source: Living a Life-giving Lent)