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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

March 2016

By Ellen M. Scarano

Palm Sunday

Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem where the crowd cheered and welcomed him with open arms if not totally open hearts. Other than being walked in astride a donkey, the entry wasn’t remarkable. I have to assume by that day Jesus knew what was coming and exactly who he is. Was there a party in the streets or did Jesus go directly to the temple to remove the money changers from God’s house? Other than fulfilling the old prophecy about the king riding in on a donkey (Zech. 9:9), is there any other significance to the donkeys?

What’s really quite extraordinary, other than Jesus taking the punishment for our sins, is Jesus was willing to die to fulfill God’s requirement and plan to save his most important creation—human beings.

He was willing to die for people who’d lived and already died their earthly death. Plus, his death made all of us who were born and died afterward qualified for the same redemption–before we were even born!

Before his ascension, after the Resurrection, Jesus tells the disciples he will go to prepare a place for them, which also includes other believers. Preparation of the full Kingdom of God must require time, then, because it’s been more than 2,000 years since the Resurrection. Just as creating Earth, other planets, moons and galaxies took time, but it was the first place prepared for us, God’s creations.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? -John 14:1-2

Monday

Mary—what was she thinking, watching the crowds listening to Jesus? Did she witness her son cleaning out the temple? Did she try to convince anyone who left the group of followers to stay?

Mary managed a regular life of caring for a husband and children, cooking, cleaning, repairing, sewing, buying, tending animals, helping neighbors. Even though they lived far apart, she kept in touch with relatives, which we learn from her long visit with Elizabeth and Zachariah, the parents of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin.

Mary knew Jesus wasn’t just a regular little boy in the neighborhood. When did she know for sure he is God living as a human being where human beings live? When did she know he’d have to die a cruel and gruesome death? When did she know the outcome of not only Jesus’ resurrection—dead, then alive again—but what it means for everyone who believes IN and believes him?

We don’t read of Mary having sleepless nights full of worry or crying jags from anxiety or fearful discussions with Joseph or a close friend.

We don’t even read Mary cried at the cross, but being a mother we can assume she was weeping softly, with acceptance and wonder, believing some extra special good would come in spite of her dear son’s death, even if she didn’t understand yet.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.- Luke 2:19

Tuesday and Wednesday

From Scripture, it seems Jesus taught and prayed, with and for the disciples and other followers. Passover was coming so it was a time of preparation, which was traditional. Cleaning the house, shopping for food and preparing it was likely “women’s work.” The disciples had left their jobs when they became followers, “fishers of men,” at Jesus’ invitation.

Prayer time was cleaning each person’s spiritual house.

Were the disciples and other followers contemplative? Melancholy? Baffled? Carrying on as before or sharply aware of change coming, yet not knowing what the change would be? Were they waiting for Jesus to say what they’d do after Passover; which new town they’d head for in order to spread his message?

Or was it just another holiday week, becoming ready for visitors and feasts?

People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. –Luke 17:27

Holy Thursday

We call it Holy Thursday now, but it was Passover—the supper which would be the last with Jesus as they knew him that day, but they didn’t know it.  This regular Passover meal they’d observed in their families all their lives would be different from any other in the past or future.

Were the angels of Heaven and demons of hell in a battle that night? Did the angels just watch as God the Father allowed his Son to be arrested, tried, beaten and spit upon, crucified on a cross of wood, with nails in his hands and feet?

Were the disciples afraid they would be next—beaten or crucified one at a time or as a group to convey a message to local people and anyone who might hear what happened–a good and loving Man was killed though guilty of no wrong? But they’d better not talk about it or teach what he taught.

Would I have been a believer or in hostile opposition to Jesus and his followers if I’d lived back in the days he lived among the people?  I have to think I am me, chosen by God to live now instead of then, so I believe I would have been a believer, as I am now. The person I am, whether created and born in the First or 20th Century is who I am.

This life is it, the one life. This life has meaning, significance, purpose and a place in God’s story. I won’t be back again as someone or something else to “try again.” If reincarnation is true, then Jesus’ dying for my sin, making the Way, being the Truth, giving me the gift of eternal Life, would be for nothing.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.-Hebrews 9:24-28

Good Friday

Seeing the death of Jesus with our eyes is significant.

Compared to today’s population, there were few people back in the days Jesus lived among the people. Like today, some were very attentive; others lukewarm, paying attention to big events, maybe, like the buzz about Jesus in the marketplace, his teaching in the Temple, the display of righteous anger at the money changers.

There were no instant messages or photos or news crews to follow him around and report miracles or viewpoints. For many people, news was old before it reached them. If you didn’t live near the cities, news of Jesus’ actions didn’t reach you soon, if at all.

The crucifixion was begun during the night with the “trial,” or more like a hearing, with Pilate, then travelling to see Herod and back again.

Farmers, shopkeepers, fisherman, housewives and slaves got up early and started their daily jobs as usual. Used their toilets, splashed water on their faces, got dressed, ate breakfast foods, and off to work.

If aware or interested, they may have heard rumors and murmurs about this wandering rabbi who’d been taken to Pilate overnight by soldiers, even when he hadn’t broken any law.

Christians learn Jesus died on the cross to pay God’s penalty for our sins. One sin, just one, deserves the death penalty, according to God’s rule.

God made the rule, knowing full well the requirement of a flawless, perfect, blood sacrifice could never be paid by a human being because people aren’t perfect.

God came to live among the people. God paid the price HE required for redemption and eternal fellowship with him. THIS life on earth has meaning to God. There is no do over—we die once and then the judgment.

But why crucifixion? Such an act is at once hard to reason—Jesus dies and my sins are gone? Where did they go? God writes if we confess our sins he will blot them out and not remember them! It’s uncomfortable to confess, meaning admit when we do wrong or fall short in word or deed, and hard to believe sins can be forgotten.

Why the drama–pain, punishment by scourging, accusation of a man who’d done nothing but good for all the people, nailing him to hard boards to dangle in agony for hours until he died?

Why? Because seeing a healthy, fit man in the prime of life hanging there in extreme pain with no way to get away from the punishment is the visual the people needed to even begin to understand what was done for them.

Jesus could have been “found dead” on the street then discovered alive three days later. Judas or one of the men who paid him to betray Jesus could have killed him with bare hands or pushed him off a cliff or poisoned him.

But, no. Not only was the dying gruesome, it was a perfect visual representation of how much evil had been conveyed to Jesus—as if he looked on the outside the way people’s spirits look on the inside on account of sin. The pain, the burden, the seeping away of life, the sorrow, AND the words of forgiveness to the thief next to him, caring for his mother as he handed over responsibility for her welfare to John—it all showed, clearly and simply.

Sunday, Resurrection Day

If Jesus had just made a little speech after the Last Supper, telling everyone their sins were gone if they only believed him, it would be easy to ignore. Talk has always been cheap when it’s just talk.

Imagine it: “After tonight, My Friends, at high noon tomorrow, all of your sins will be forgiven. That’s right. What’s that? Yes, even the ones you do after tomorrow. Yes, Yes, and all the sins of your family who comes after you AND all the sins committed by those who came before you and already died the human death—yes, all forgiven. Anyone who believes this will have a place with God in heaven for eternity.”

Hmm. Feels good, sounds good, no bloody ritual to do, no hours of sitting in the temple smelling incense burn for days on end.

Jesus cured people who’d been sick, crippled, blind and even dead and still the people didn’t believe who he was. They once claimed he did the devil’s work! How could they just take his words as truth when they hadn’t believed what they’d seen with their own eyes or heard from reliable friends and family members who’d seen these miracles?

There is no way a merely human mind can perceive or know what it felt like in his Spirit for Jesus to have the weight or pain of taking all the people of the world’s sin onto him. ALL the people, yet his act of love is rejected daily.

We see the violence in our world today which has never been this prominent or gruesome or blatant.

The Holocaust was completely awful yet was acted out in secrecy for quite a while. When we saw how the Jews and others had been treated in the concentration camps, it was more than our minds could take in without hurting our senses and our sense of humanity and how it could go so wrong.

Today’s violence is open, publicized, written about and celebrated—abortion, beheadings, burning people alive, blowing up people who congregate for nothing more than worship, entertainment or to share a meal, boats full of refuges fleeing wanton governments, drugs stealing the lives of every type of person without regard for high or low status.

God knows all these things and bears them with us because we cannot bear them alone. Does he show more of it to us in order to invite more people to turn to him for guidance and protection?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

God will honor the asking and invite full relationship with anyone who asks. Come as you are, not how you want to be or think you should be. Yes, we need fixing and redemption from sin, but that’s God’s job. We just have to show up, be willing to allow it.

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. John 6:37

The act that killed Jesus, Who banished sin and eternal death forever, had to be something no one could forget.

Here we are, more than 2,000 years later, still remembering, still believing, still thanking, still pondering, (still rejecting), this sad, hurtful, beautiful, hopeful, powerful, wonderful, divine act of love.

Happy Resurrection Day.

All Bible quotes from the NIV Bible at biblegateway.com

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