More than a Torn Curtain

Apr. 3, 2012

Luke 23:44-45

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

When I was about 9, my Mom taught me how to sew. I started with lines on pieces of paper and no thread in the sewing machine needle, practicing stitching. Eventually, I cut out a pattern and began to sew together pieces of fabric to make a hanger cover, a pair of shorts and eventually many other pieces.

For years, I loved going to the fabric store and looking at fabric. I loved to touch and feel the various textures and weights. I learned that cotton feels very different from polyester which feels very different from gingham and so forth.

Selecting fabric for my next project was a big deal. Once I committed and the fabric was cut, there was no turning back. I would take the bolt of fabric to the cutting table, let the employee know how much I needed and watch her carefully measure it. I could tell which people had a lot of experience cutting fabric and sewing. The ones who most impressed me where the ladies who could make a little cut at the appropriate place and then tear the rest of the fabric with their hands. It took experience and skill to be able to do this. Believe me … I tried it at home many times before I was able to tear fabric this way.

The Jewish people worshiped God at the Temple. It was about a 10 minute walk from the crucifixion site. There are many special places within the Temple yet the inner court is reserved just for priests. Only priests could enter this area and offer incense at the altar. The Holy of Holies was the most sacred area of the Temple. Here, the Ark of the Covenant was stored, which housed the Ten Commandments, as well as a jar of manna which the Israelites ate for 40 years in the wilderness and Moses’ staff.

Once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and offered a sacrifice for the Jewish people. After slaughtering an animal, he offered the blood to God to make amends for his sins and the sins of the people.

A think purple curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the inner court. This is the curtain that was torn at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a powerful image because it represents Jesus’ blood now atoning for all of our sins. With the torn curtain, God is approachable by all people. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, access to God is available for everyone. A curtain is no longer necessary. We can now approach God all by ourselves. We can go directly to Jesus as our High Priest and he reconciles us to God, once and for all. We can no longer hide behind someone else’s inadequacies to approach God. Jesus makes God approachable for everyone.

This seemingly small detail is more than a tear of material. It’s a redefining of God’s relationship with humanity. As perfectly human and perfectly divine, Jesus becomes the only necessary high priest. When the wise men brought frankincense to Bethlehem, it seemed strange. But their gift is no longer a mystery because Jesus becomes the priest of all priests. He makes God completely accessible for you. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: The veil is rent; in Christ alone the living way to heaven is seen; the middle wall is broken down, and all the world may enter in. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Finished? What is finished?

Apr. 2, 2012

John 19:30

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

In John’s gospel, we’re told Jesus shouted “It is finished” as his life ended. He would have spoken these words in Aramaic. While this phrase is translated “It is finished’ in English, in Aramaic, it would have been one word. Emphatically Jesus shouted, “Completed! Finished! Done!”

Our definition of “finished” is much shallower than Jesus’ definition.

I am a list maker and I love to cross things off when I complete them. In fact, sometimes I’ll write something I planned on doing today and have already done just so I can cross it off the list! It’s finished!

Jesus’ understanding of being finished is not the same as crossing something off a to-do list. His words are not a to-do item. They are not a cry of defeat. Jesus is completing his life purpose; his reason for coming as a human being to earth. Jesus has completed what he started.

But what is the “it” he has completed? This is an important question because it gets to the meaning of the crucifixion. For Christians, the cross is a sign that says we follow Jesus. But what does the cross mean? For me, it’s a reminder that Jesus die for me, for you, for all of humanity.

What’s the significance of this? How does this work? Why did he have to do this? Quite honestly, I can give you theories and ideas, but I can’t explain it completely. We can read the gospel accounts and pull together Jesus’ reasons. Through metaphor, Jesus cites many purposes:

  • Jesus compares himself to a wheat kernel that falls to the ground and die. Jesus is the seed that will die but then can become many seeds.
  • On the last night of his life, Jesus shows his great love for the disciples when he washes their dirty, yucky feet. By doing this job, usually reserved for a servant, Jesus teaches the disciples to wash others feet and demonstrate love.
  • Jesus calls himself the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. This concept comes from the Jewish Passover Meal. Waiting for Pharaoh to release them from Egypt, the Jews kill a lamb and paint their doorposts with lamb blood. The angel of death passes over their homes and does not kill the eldest child because the lamb represents the eldest child. For Christians, Jesus is our sacrificial lamb. Just as the Israelites were liberated from slavery with the lambs’ blood, Jesus liberates us and frees us with his blood.

By combining these and many other metaphors Jesus used to explain his work and purpose, we find not one reason Jesus came to this world and die; we find a whole bunch of reasons. Through metaphors, Jesus helps us create a larger and more complete understanding of his purpose.

But Jesus’ life is more than a metaphor. It’s more than logic. The reason he came needs to become personal and emotional. Want to know why Jesus said, “It is finished?” Hold up a mirror. Look at the person you see reflecting back. The reflection you see is a sign of Jesus’ wondrous love for you. Stare at the reflection until you feel it.

On the cross, we find our brokenness and our need to be loved. When we begin to see God’s deep love for us, we see the world in the light of the cross. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant all of these things and so more. What does the cross mean to you? This Holy Week, I encourage you to discover this for yourself.

Let us pray: It is finished, the battle is over. It is finished; there’ll be no more war. It is finished, the end of the conflict. It is finished and Jesus is Lord. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Quenching our Thirst

Apr. 1, 2012

John 19:28-29

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

In this passage, Jesus says the shortest of his phrases from the cross: “I thirst.” With death approaching, Jesus’ body shows signs of wear. He has not eaten or drunk since celebrating his last meal with his closest disciples the night before. Literally, he is getting thirsty. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of his words. There’s more than a thirsty man dying on a cross.

If you have ever been with a person who is dying, there comes a point when the person can no longer eat or drink. The swallowing muscles no longer work and it is not possible for the person to drink. At this point, water jugs are replaced with a small glass of water with a stick with a little sponge on the end. This stick with a sponge on it is just a much smaller version of what the soldiers gave Jesus. We see how human Jesus was, that in his dying process, his body went through the same physical process that all human bodies go through.

Earlier in John’s Gospel, we hear about instances when Jesus speaks of water and being thirsty during his ministry. One account happens in John chapter 4 and is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus is thirsty and he has no way to get water out from the deep well, so he asks the woman help. She questions why he wants her to give him a drink. This is his reply: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

He tells this woman that he can give her a drink of water that will allow her to never be thirsty again. He is the one who can satisfy her … and our … hearts when we dry up. When JC is on the cross and dying and says that he is thirsty, he wants us to remember his words to the woman at the well. He wants us, like the Samaritan woman, to get refreshed daily by the water available only from Jesus.

Jesus’ words, “I thirst” from the cross should cause our hearts to break. They should also make us ask ourselves, “What am I thirsting for in this life?” What do I really, really yearn for? We know that people can’t live without water. Too often, our humanity takes over and we long and yearn for something that we think will really make us happy. What Jesus says to us is this: Drink from my cup to find happiness and your soul will always be satisfied. Too often, we look for satisfaction is every other place than Jesus. We pursue every other option and wonder why we’re still not happy. We get mad at Jesus and say, “Don’t you love me enough to help me be happy?” when Jesus has given us everything we already need to be happy.

As Jesus says these words to the cross, I don’t think he was just speaking to the folks gathered around the foot of the cross. No, he’s thinking of you, of me, of all humanity and our need for water. He’s thinking of these words from Psalm 42:1: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

As Jesus is dying on the cross, he’s thinking of all of humanity and our need for water to live. And he’s promising to offer this water for ever. No, he will not forsake us; he will quench our thirst. As he dies, he wants us to remember of his great desire to fulfill our deepest longings.

Let us pray: Fill my cup, Lord. I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more; Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole! Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Forsaken by God?

Mar. 31, 2012

Mark 15:33-34, 39

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

When we hear these words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we think of when we feel God has abandoned us. There are a thousand ways we feel God was conspicuously silent and absent. Christ’s words often become our words. As Jesus says these words, he identifies with and has compassion when we walk through dark and difficult places. Jesus knows how this feels. He experiences our loneliness.

In this prayer, we have a Savior who completely and fully understands us. Because of his love, Jesus suffers greatly for us. He knows what he is doing and marches with his eyes wide open. When he lays down his life for us, we see grace’s costliness. Jesus bucked physical pain as well as the emotional, mental and spiritual pain of being obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Did Jesus really think God abandoned him? If we answer “Yes,” we deny Jesus’ divinity. Through the Trinity, God is three persons who act as one. In this moment, the Son can’t experience the Father’s presence. How can someone fully human and fully God be abandoned by God? If this happened, Jesus’ two natures would be split. How else do we ponder the impossible proposition that on a certain Friday afternoon God died?

 

At the cross, the Father is with the Son. But heaven is silent. There is no answer. As Jesus cried out, I envision a big tear falling from the Father. When one person of the Trinity suffers, all three persons suffer. It was not just Jesus on the cross. It was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who hung between good and evil, life and death, darkness and light.

 

At the cross, God is a suffering servant. He’s the one willing to be hung up and publically humiliated. Jesus teaches us true love. He wants us to understand the world will be changed through sacrificial love. With these words, Jesus invites us extend sacrificial love.

What have you sacrificed to show God’s love to another? What are you willing to give up to demonstrate God’s love?  We say, “I should go visit that person, let them know I’m praying for them, offer to do something for them.” We justify our lack of action. “I don’t want to offend them. What if they ask me to do something? I don’t have time. I can’t do that.”

When disappointed in God, our normal response is to ignore God and turn away. On the cross, Jesus doesn’t curse God, choose not to pray and pretend God doesn’t exist. When he feels most forsaken, he prays. Even if confused and unsure about faith, speaking to God is an act of faith. Jesus also worships God. The words we spoke were familiar. He learned them as a child in the first stanza of a well-known Jewish hymn. They are the opening words to Psalm 22 and could be paraphrased, “God, where are you when I need you?” When we pray, our prayers go like, “God give me this. God, grant me this. God deliver me, preserve me, rescue me, save me.” In his dying moments, Jesus did not ask for deliverance. He asked for God’s presence, “God, where are you?”

In death, Jesus thinks of this hymn and prays these words. Read Psalm 22 and see the references to Jesus’ crucifixion, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ death. After Jesus cries out, we hear a centurion, a non-Jewish Roman guard who would not have had Jewish understanding of a promised Messiah, declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

Who is Jesus for you?

Let us pray: I’m forever grateful to You. I’m forever grateful for the cross. I’m forever grateful to You that You came to seek and save the lost. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Your Mother, Brothers and Sisters

Mar. 30, 2012

John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

No mother should have to watch their son die the agonizing death of crucifixion. But Mary did. Fortunately, she was not alone. Three other women and the disciple Jesus loved, John, were with her.

Mary never had a normal life. She gave up her dreams when she agreed to carry, deliver and raise the Messiah. Like all mothers, Mary raised her son with a preconceived notion of what his life would look like. But Jesus broke these notions. Her expectations had to change. She had to set aside being his mother and become one of his followers. She was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary vocation and faith.

As Jesus began his ministry, the disciples and Mary were with him at a wedding in Cana. The wine was running out. Mary asked Jesus to make more wine. He says, “Woman, what concern of this is yours? My hour has not come.” Jesus now took direction only from his Father. Mary must take a back seat. This had to be hard.

Jesus had brothers and sisters. It wasn’t until after his resurrection they began to understand who he was. We assume Mary’s family was torn in two because of this. Mary had to choose whether to follow Jesus or not. We see her choice at the foot of the cross.

As Mary watched her son die, imagine her recalling the words the old man Simeon told her at the Temple. With Jesus just eight days old, Simeon told Mary a sword would pierce her heart. At the cross, Jesus sees and feels Mary’s pain. As the soldiers roll dice and gamble for his cloths, he knows she is thinking of the child she bathed and dried. She’s thinking of the little boy she showered with kisses. She’s thinking of the man he’d become.

As her oldest son, it is Jesus’ obligation to care for her mother. Before he dies, Jesus ensures Mary’s care. He upholds the fifth commandment and honors his mother. He sees John nearby. He lovingly says: “Woman, here is your son.” To John, “Here is your mother.”

Mary will not have to worry about food, shelter or needs as John accepts responsibility. Mary, her friends and John stand beneath the cross for you and me; for all who believe. Here are your mother, brothers and sisters of God. Family is not based on blood but on faith and belief. Jesus broadens God’s family and elevates our understanding of community. Your “family” just got bigger! We can’t claim disinterest for each other when we share life through Jesus. We’re in this together, even when we don’t agree, like each other or appreciate each other. In God’s family, we are all equal.

As a Christian, I pray you will discover that no matter where you are, you are with family. Your relationship with God allows you to connect with others normally you would not be able to. Our lives might be different but we are family. God needs people who will say, “I will” help someone else. I will sacrifice time and resources to support the ministry of God’s church. I will tutor a child; I will visit the feeble and frail. I will make a phone call. I will give more than receive.

Jesus knew how difficult it would be for us to live into this new way. Let us learn courageous faith and hope that it is enough to trust. Let us work together as God’s family and become what God has called us to be.

Let us pray: I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod; for I’m part of the family, the family of God. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Remember Me

Mar. 29, 2012

Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It’s been said a lot can be learned by the company a person keeps. And it’s true. A lot can be known about Jesus by who he hangs around with. Most often, his company was sinners; people far from God like reprobates, crafty, ill-reputable folks. The religious leaders, well, they most often were grumbling about Jesus.

Should it be any surprise that as Jesus is dying, one of the last conversations he has is with a big-time sinner? Different gospels use various words to describe the two mean crucified with Jesus. Luke’s gospel uses criminals, some use thief. We know these guys did bad stuff. We know they used violence when committing crimes. They are the worse of the worst.

Jesus’ life mission was to seek out and save the lost. As Jesus hangs on a cross, barely able to speak, he reaches out to the worse of the worst. Up to the end, Jesus still seeks and saves the lost. He never stops his life mission.

As you are dying, would you choose to have your last conversation with the worst sinner you can imagine? This is what Jesus does. And if this is almost too much, Jesus offers him everything. He offers paradise.

When Jesus was a live, paradise in Persian terms, meant a walled garden. Kings often had beautiful walled gardens. They were considered the most beautiful places on earth, a little piece of paradise on earth.

In the Old Testament, the most famous garden is the Garden of Eden. Human beings were banished from this garden, from this paradise, because they sinned. When Jesus speaks of “paradise” with the thief, he is removing the ban that keeps human beings from paradise. As a result of his death, people will once again be able to experience paradise. The ban is lifted.

Who is the first person Jesus invites into paradise? A thief. If Jesus is willing to allow this person, who intentionally committed crimes with violence forgiveness, I pray that you see how willing he is to extend you forgiveness.

Jesus is a God of second chances. One thief asks for a second chance. Even though he knew very little of Jesus, he takes a chance. He probably had not been baptized, didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity or had any theological training. He simply asks Jesus to let him into his kingdom. It was the only question he knew to ask. With faith barely the size of a mustard seed, he simply says, “Jesus, remember me.” And Jesus does.

Notice Jesus’ reply, “Today.” Did the thief go to heaven that very day? I don’t know. What I do believe is the thief discovered he could experience God today. We envision having to wait until we die to experience God’s kingdom, God’s paradise. As Jesus speaks of paradise here, he’s stretching us to say that we can begin to experience God NOW. We don’t have to wait until we die to experience God. For the thief, he began feeling peace, joy and contentment immediately.

Likewise, we can experience God now. Today, you can begin to experience Jesus’ paradise, just as this thief did. Simply ask.

Let us pray: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Labeled: “The King of the Jews”

Mar. 28, 2012

Luke 23:38

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

People are often quite particular about their name. We like to have our name spelt right, pronounced correctly and personalized. When mail comes addressed to “The Vielhuber Household,” I know we are one of a whole bunch of people who have received this impersonalized letter.

I’ve spent much of my life as Diane; even though it really is Dianne. I can spot a telemarketer within five seconds of answering the phone because they never quite know how to pronounce our last name. And when I met someone who knows Rick for the first time, I can often tell what era he or she first became acquainted with him. If they knew him in grade school or younger, he is Ricky. A high school classmate? They call him Rich. Folks after high school call him Rick. I’ve never heard him called Dick, who is my Dad, even though they both have the proper name of Richard.

All four gospel accounts mention a sign identifying who Jesus is. But each gospel has the inscription just slightly different:

Matthew’s Gospel: This is Jesus the King of the Jews

Mark’s Gospel: The King of the Jews

Luke’s Gospel: This is the King of the Jews

John’s Gospel: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews

People who love details may question why the four authors can’t agree on something seemingly so simple. But then again, how many pieces of mail do you or I receive in a year with the wrong name?

I believe the chosen words have to do with who the desired audience the gospel author is writing to. What they do all agree is that this man is the King of the Jews. Did Pilate really believe this when he asked for the inscription to state this? I view it more as a taunt than a declaration.

In some ways, this insignia becomes Jesus’ grave marker. When we die, our remains are buried in a specific location and a marker is put on this sight to designate whose remains are located in this plot. While Jesus’ body goes into a garden tomb, it’s not necessary to have a marker outside the tomb after the body is gone. It is only at the crucifixion that he is identified.

So many details that happened as a part of Jesus’ crucifixion seem ironic or odd to be recorded. As a detail lover myself, I sometimes wish for more details. As we continue to explore this story, may we ponder why specific details are included and their importance. Through details, each gospel account becomes more personalized. No, the details will not all be the same. But that’s OK because I know Ricky, Rich and Rick are all my husband.

Let us pray: We will glorify the King of kings; we will glorify the Lamb. We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Sticks, Stones and Words

Mar. 27, 2012

Luke 23:35-37

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

We see the peak of the opposition to Jesus. I imagine the folks basically spitting their sneers towards Jesus. He’s hanging on a cross and dying. What can he do in retaliation? Very little. Almost nothing.

Growing up, I remember being told and saying to myself, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” While this sounds great when you are 8 or 9, believing this at any age is really much more difficult. This is because words do hurt. I’m confident you can quickly recall a situation in which spoken words still hurt you to this day.

“Let him save himself,” the crowd roars. The remark drips with sarcasm. In tense situations, we often use sarcasm. Sometimes it does break the tension, sometimes it ignites a laugh. But I’ve also been the giver and receiver of sarcasm that only hurt and offended more. In these situations, we often dig deeper holes then mend the broken relationships.

As these events unveil, I cannot help but imagine Jesus reciting various Old Testament scriptures in his mind. He’s now fulfilling these words. Observe:

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him.” (Psalm 22:7-8)

Psalm 22 is a prophetic lens into Jesus’ crucifixion. Turn to it this day. Read all the words. Underline lines and phrases that remind you of the crucifixion story. This Psalm was a hymn the Jewish people sang when they felt abandoned by God. We hear the people abandon Jesus with their words. “How could have their words not hurt?” I wonder. And then I’m humbled by the times my words have hurt others. I’m dismayed that I’ve used sarcasm too often to deflect a tense moment and it didn’t work. Try as I might to save myself in these situations, I can’t.

I would not have been as strong as Jesus. The crowd’s hurtful words would have broken me and humiliated me. I would have prayed for a speedy death, just to escape their hurtful snares.

But then again, Jesus wasn’t just a human. He was the Messiah, the Chosen One. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe; Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘tis all that I can do. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Who is the “them?”

Mar. 26, 2012

Luke 23:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his cloths by casting lots.

This is the first phrase Jesus says as from the cross; the first of his seven words or phrases from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Who is the “them” Jesus is talking about? As he looks down from the cross, Jesus sees various people. He sees Roman soldiers laughing, shaking dice and gambling for his clothes. Merchants and money changers thrown out of the Temple earlier in the week are still angry at Jesus for stopping their income source. He sees the people responsible for his death and asks for them to be forgiven; the priests and the Pharisees, the people convinced he had to die. Even Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who ultimately turns Jesus over to be crucified is forgiven. No, he’s not at the foot of the cross. He’s back in his palace where he washed his hands of the whole deal.

Is there anyone else Jesus was praying for? The church believes he was praying for us; praying for every human being ever born. There’s a song that says, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, you were there. I was there. Jesus is the Lord of time and space. From the cross, Jesus is staring through history, until he comes to me and he cries out my name, Dianne, Father forgive Dianne, for she doesn’t know what she has done. Likewise, this statement is for you.

When we say “I forgive you,” we imply the person sinned against you. As Jesus says this, he makes it clear people have violated God’s path. They need forgiveness. We are broken and we need to be fixed. As Jesus says these words, he’s not focusing on you as a sinner. He’s offering you grace.

We should be overwhelmed as we realize that Jesus is dying an incredibly painful and slow death. Speaking from the cross is extremely difficult. Yet, his first words from the cross are a prayer in which he asks his heavenly Father to forgive you, long before you were even born.

When a person has a heart condition, they usually go to the doctor. If the doctor discovers there is serious blockage, surgery may be necessary. Jesus has diagnosed our need for forgiveness and offers us the cure. From the cross, Jesus looks down through swollen, blood-shot eyes. His body is breaking down and cannot withstand more pain. But he doesn’t get angry or desire to get even. He simply prays for forgiveness. God answers Jesus’ prayer by offering a cure. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We are the “them.” We’re sinners. We need forgiveness. Jesus came to save you and prayed for you. God has already answered the prayer through heart surgery conducted by the divine physician who laid down his life.

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. We are the “them.” Thank God there is a diagnosis and a cure.

Let us pray: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

The Unnamed Thieves

Mar. 25, 2012

Luke 23:32-33

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.

They are not named. We’re not sure what crime they committed. We simply know them as the thief on the right and the thief on the left.

At some point, a judge had determined they were hopeless causes and sentenced them to die. The judge saw no possibility that these two thieves would ever be anything but criminals and so they were condemned to die on crosses.

I’m not quite sure how a person prepares or approaches execution. My guess is these men approached death like another crime: no emotion, no expression. Just get it over with. While on the outside, they appeared hardened and tough, I’m thinking that inside they had to quiet their fears. They had to be afraid to die and certainly didn’t want anyone to see this fear.

Had they heard of Jesus of Nazareth before the day of the crucifixion? We don’t know. We can assume that most everyone in Jerusalem had. But they might not have seen him. Maybe some of their friends had gone to see Jesus teach; watch him heal the sick and lame, see if what people said about him was true. Maybe some of these friends came back and said he was different from all the other rabbis and peddlers of truth. Maybe the unnamed thieves had heard that Jesus acted different. Maybe they had discovered that Jesus would actually sit down and eat with their low-life friends.

Like Jesus, the thieves had to carry their cross-beams through the Jerusalem streets, outside the city gates to Golgotha. Like Jesus, they were laid across the wooden cross by the Roman soldiers. Like Jesus, their crosses were raised skyward and they had to endure the pain, agony and discomfort of crucifixion.

Yet, they were someone’s son. They were someone’s friends. Maybe they had wives and children. They had lived lives and now they were dying. While unnamed in the Bible, these two thieves did have names. And God knew them. Jesus knew them. And he loved them to the bitter end. Who does this? Only the Son of God.

Let us pray: O how marvelous, O how wonderful! And my song shall ever be: O how marvelous, O how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne