Holy Week Reflection No. 5 (Good Friday)

And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him,they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him,wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Question: What do you see in the Cross of Christ?

For more thoughts on this Good Friday, visit Amber's place. My wife has a way with words.


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Holy Week Reflection No. 4

"When it was evening, he reclined at the table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, 'Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'" Imagine the twelve disciples in the dim-lit room, roasted lamb and bitter herbs. See them commemorating the eve of their release from Egypt, the night where the angel of death saw lamb's blood on Jewish lentils and spared the lives of his people. This night is about remembering the connection between death and freedom, the dichotomy between judgment and mercy.

But here in this moment of celebration, Jesus tells them that one will cast him outside of the blood-washed lentils. One of them will turn him over to murderers. He will soon taste the sting of death.

"And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, 'Is it I, Lord?' He answered, 'He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.'"

I have often wondered at their confusion. Wouldn't you know whether you were Jesus' betrayer? Wouldn't you know if you intended to cast him outside the Passover covering, to deliver him to the death angel? Evidently, the disciples found themselves equally prone to a fickle heart. In humility (or perhaps just confusion) they found themselves all traitors and finks, all stool pigeons, snitches, and turn-coats.

Jesus stares down the dipping dish, names the betrayer by proximity.

Can you hear the collective sigh of relief from those who sat on the far side of the table, those without easy access to Jesus' bowl? Can you hear their collective gasp at the realization that man who Jesus must have trusted the most (he was the treasurer, after all) would conspire against him?

"Judas, who would betray him answered, 'Is it I, Rabbi?' He said to him, 'You have said so.'"

Judas rises. The passion of Christ is coming. There will be blood.

Question: Today, ask yourself, "Is it I, Lord?"

*Scripture reading from Matthew 25:17-25


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Holy Week Reflection No. 3

"Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at the table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.'" As we draw nearer to the cross we find Jesus reclined at the supper-table of a weepy-skinned leper. Jesus, God-with-us, is feasting with the unclean. These are the broken ones, and he knows that he will soon salve their spiritual sores by way of sacrifice. There is a palpable tension as a humble woman approaches Jesus and anoints him with an extravagant gift.

See her hoping to bring him joy? See her wasting her possessions in praise?

See the disciples lost in the orthopraxy of the moment. They are the ones who have walked too many dusty roads with Jesus, who have seen him befriend the sinner, the poor, the leper. And after all, what was the proof that Jesus was the Messiah? He had cited the prophets, said that he was anointed "to proclaim good news to the poor...." (See Luke 4:18.)

"Anyway," the disciples may have thought, "why waste the perfume for the dead on the Messiah who is alive?"

What if the disciples' chiding was founded in right-thinking and zealous admiration? What if it was from genuine concern, from a deep-seated love for the poor and broken among them? Even still, they missed the nuance of the moment.

Here came the lowly, turning her affections to Jesus, savior, a dead man walking. And in that moment, she turned her thoughts to him only.

"But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it it to prepare me for burial. 'Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.'"


Question: Have you become so fixated on the good works of the gospel that you've forgotten the praise-worthy Messiah? Have given yourself to defense of the oppressed without praising first the Christ of the oppressed?

*Scripture taken from Matthew 26:6-13.


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Holy Week Reflection No. 2

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps." At 1:30 in the morning I woke, head clear as day, with the notion, "we are living in the most decadent of days." I immediately thought of entertainment, how a political commentator said yesterday, "entertainment has become so decadent as to keep our eyes averted from what matters." I thought of the news, how our society has become so rights-centric that we can no longer talk about mutual submission to our brothers in love (much less to our Lord). I thought of the church, how we're prone to following, maybe, the same self-centered, entertainment based mudslide. (For more on this topic, visit Sarah Bessey's Holy Week reflection on the topic.)

"As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered... 'go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.'"

At 1:32 in the morning, I asked myself whether I am sliding into the same rot-hole of decadence. After all, isn't it difficult to see your own failings when you're content to consider the foibles of others? And in that, isn't it easy to excuse degrees of failings because, let's be honest, at least your not as bad as so-and-so? Isn't it easy to be influenced (even a wee bit) by the very culture we say we eschew?

"And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.'"

At 1:33 in the morning, heart racing like a jack-rabbit, I asked whether I was ready to receive him. I mean, really ready to receive him. And I'm not talking some old-school, Southern Baptist notion of prayed-the-prayer-walked-the-aisle-and-saved kind of ready to meet him. I wondered whether my lamps were trimmed, whether I'm prepared for dawning of the coming not-yet, or whether I've been shortsighted, prepared for anything but.

I wondered whether my heart thumped with excitement, or terror.

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Lord, have Mercy.

Questions: Are you prepared, waiting expectantly for the coming of the King? In what ways do you find yourself unprepared?

*Scripture reading for Holy Tuesday found at Matthew 25:1-13.


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