Monday, April 30, 2012

The Eunuch with Brass...



An angelic messenger from Lord God instructed Philip: "Get up from your prayers and meditation and rush south to the Wilderness Trace from Jerusalem to Gaza!" So Philip got off his knees and used his feet to answer the call.
 
On the same road was a man from Ethiopia who had been castrated so that he could serve as the head official of Queen Candace's treasury. He followed the Lord, but was considered an outsider by the devout and the religious authorities. Worse, he was considered mutilated and spiritually unclean! He was returning to Ethiopia from a pilgrimage to the Holy City. As he was being driven home, he was reading a scroll of scripture from a Prophet. The Spirit told Philip to join this man.
 
He asked the Treasurer: "Sir, do you understand what is written there?"
 
The man showed his great wisdom by answering: "How can I understand its many layers without a teacher and guide?" He followed up his words by acting - he invited Philip to help him and asked: "Who does the Prophet Isaiah talk about when he says 'Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter-house, and like a lamb he was silent when sheared. Nakedly humiliated, man's justice was withheld from him. Who can understand these people, that they took his life?'"
 
Then Philip began teaching him, starting with the open scroll. He put it into the context of his own witness, and shared how he felt upon seeing his risen Master. Along the long desert highway, they eventually came upon an oasis. The long faithful official excitedly exclaimed to Philip: "Look my friend! It's water! Who is to keep you from baptizing me here and now and ending my life as an outsider?"
 
Philip and the new disciple strode out into the water, and the Queen's servant was baptized then and there. Before he was even dry, Philip was taken away by the Spirit. The man never saw his teacher again, but he went back to his home in Africa rejoicing and full of the Spirit - bringing the good news with him.
 
Philip discovered himself suddenly near the old Philistine region near the Sea. He worked his way up the coast to Galilee, teaching and preaching as he went.
 
(A retelling of Acts 8:26-40)

Friday, April 27, 2012

For The Love of Money


Jesus:
 
"I'm a true shepherd. A real shepherd would die to save his flock! Those who tend sheep for money are neither personally invested in those sheep, nor do they lovingly know each by its name and nature. When the wolf comes for the sheep, who could blame the contractor for running off?

"I'm a true shepherd. Not only do I know and understand each and every one of you, each of you know me - the same way as the Father knows His Son and I know my Abba! The time has come. My sheep are in danger. I must give myself to the wolves.
 
"Even so, my work here is not done. I have millions of other sheep in thousands of other pastures that need to hear my voice and follow it home. At the gathering, all shall become one flock. I lay down my life so that I may be able to take up this new life! The owner of the sheep loves me for my care of the flocks. No one can steal my life, but I can surrender it. I have ultimate power - the power to die as I choose and the power to live again as He chooses. This is His will. Let it be."
 
(Retelling of John 10:11-18)

 
 

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

(Psalm 23, KJV)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apostolic Poetry - Who The Hell Gave You The Right?


They had defamed holy ground
Doing an unauthorized miracle
An open act of holiness, healing
During dawn's rush to judgment
The apostles were to be tried
 
The religious leaders gathered
The most powerful and richest
The most munificent of families 
The defenders of their own faith
The good upholders true religion
 
"Rise before us you prisoners
You are now among your betters
By who's authority do you preach
By what right do you heal the sick
In our Temple and without our fiat"?
 
Overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit
A fisherman named Peter spoke
"Bureaucrats and church elders
You're grilling us on a good deed?
You want to know how we did it?
 
See! Here is your healthy man!
Listen to the witness' testimony
The name of Jesus the Christ
The rabbi from little Nazareth
Healed this broken man, not us
 
The Messiah who was a builder
The Messiah that you executed
The Messiah that God raised up
From sealed and guarded tomb
From your fear-driven judgment
 
Jesus, who was the building stone
That you builders refused to accept
Because he didn't fit your blueprints
Jesus, who is now the building stone
That bears the weight of his Church
 
As you again stand in judgment
Know that there is only one name
In heaven, hell or here that saves
Know that it is that same name
That you tried to erase from earth"
 
(Acts 4:5-12 as retold by Tiwago)

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Want To Know What Love Is


This is how we can recognize real love - Jesus gave his life to save us! We are commanded to really love one another. When I say "I love him to death", it too often means that my greedy-needy love will kill him. Real love means that I will offer my life as a sacrifice or as a tribute with no expectation of love back. How can this kind of love live in me uncorrupted if I have all the riches of the world and I refuse to help those in need?
 
My children, let us really love - not with big words or eloquent love sonnets, but in our unthought reactions and our deliberate deeds. By this we will know that we act from real love and not for gain, and our hearts will be comforted. Those who seek profit have no doubts in themselves, while those who love always have self-questioning hearts. God is greater than the human heart, he knows our true motives. He will reward and ease our doubts with His boldness.
 
We live boldly (love boldly; serve boldly; give boldly; and ask boldly) when we follow His core commandment to love both the Son and everyone. We live in His love and His love lives in us. By this we'll know we are Christians.

(Retelling of 1 John 3:16-24)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jesus and the Holy Can-Opener

R. Stevenson

While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

He asked, "Do you have any food here?" They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.
Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled."

He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, "You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You're the first to hear and see it. You're the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you're equipped with power from on high."
(Luke 24:36b-48; The Message)


Meditations:
  • How have I shared food with Christ?
  • How have I heard the teachings of Christ?
  • How have I understood scripture?
  • Has my mind been opened, or is my can still preserving old understandings?
  • Do I read the Bible to understand the Spirit, or is the Spirit in me to interpret the Bible?
  • Am I still waiting in the city? 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - The Fourth

Photography by Tiwago

When I call out
You answer me
You're my strength
You sheltered me
In my time of need
Give me Your grace
Hear my pleas
 
Sing out!
 
Know, my people
God sanctifies
His faithful ones
The Lord hears
When we call Him
When you're hurt
Don't sin in reaction
Sleep and pray
In silence - hear
 
Sing out!
 
Serve righteously
Trust in your Lord
Many are good
Only if they see
Results from God
He gives me joy
Beyond wine and
Endless buffets
 
I can lie and sleep
In Your shalom
Only you Abba
Can blanket me
With real safety
 
Sing out!
(Retold by Tiwago)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Peter and the Paparazzi

Masolino da Panicale

Pete spoke to the crowd:
 
"People! Why do you gawk at us like this? You act like we're wizards! We have no magical powers. You act like we made the crippled man walk because of some perceived super-religiousness! You act like WE made him walk somehow! The God of our forefathers, the God of our founders, the God of our saints, the God of all our ancestors has made manifest the glory of His Son and Suffering Servant, Jesus: the Jesus that YOU handed over to Rome; the Jesus YOU rejected; the Jesus YOU forced Pilate to crucify!
 
Yes, you. You turned on the Anointed Sanctified One. You thought the Life-Giver less than a vile Life-Taker. Don't deny it! We here all saw you do it! You sent him to the tomb, but his Father took him out of it!
 
No, it wasn't us. It was this man's faith that made him rise up before your very eyes. Just the mere name of Jesus gave this man strength, this man you all know - ask him!
 
Friends, I know that you murdered Jesus not because you are evil, but out of fear and ignorance; just as our rulers and religious authorities did. It had to be this way. The prophets told us it would be so. His Messiah would suffer! But Jesus prayed for you while suffering on the cross - he asked that you all be forgiven because you knew not what you were doing. So confess and change your ways! Return to God! You shall be absolved."
 
(Retelling of Acts 3:12-19)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Did Jesus Pass Gas?

Are we unknowingly becoming gnostic?

Do we try to deincarnate the incarnate God because we so hate or distrust the bodies He graced us with or the emotions He endowed us with? We disgust ourselves, and Jesus is perfection - ergo, He couldn't be disgusting like us? Yet...

Jesus wept. Jesus sweat. Jesus bled. Jesus ate. Emmanuel!

What does it mean that God is with us? "Hey right on dude! I'm with you."? Or is it like when we say that a man was with a woman? Or like saying that a woman is with child? Is "with" side by side, or is "with" a unification?

Born as God's body, Christ died as our body, so we could live on as His body. Christ had flesh so that it could be pierced. Christ had flesh so that He could know real pain. Most of all, Christ had flesh so that He could know serious temptation.

I do not want a sterile neutered Messiah - I want an advocate that stood in my shoes for me. I want a Christ like me, so I can envision a me like Christ.

Who or what is your Christ?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Doing Easter

We use the Bible selectively to exclude those unlike us, to justify injustice, to ignore our own big sins so we can judge the minor ones of our neighbors. At the same time we conveniently overlook the passages which we don't like!

 
The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
 
(Acts 4:32-35; Common English Bible)
 

We are so excited that the Son was reborn. He died so we don't have to be nice to people, right? He died so that I can have every thing I ask for, right? 

Or did he die to be like us so that we could live to be like him?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Completing Our Joy

Photography by Tiwago


We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete.

This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us. 

My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world.

(1 John 1:1-2:2; Common English Bible)

 

Meditations:

  • In verse 1:3, by inviting others to have fellowship with us, what fellowship are we inviting them into?
  • In verse 1:4, is John saying that even though he is in fellowship with the Son and the Father, his joy won't be complete until others join the fellowship?
  • If saying that we are sinless is a sin, is failure to confess that we are all sinners also a sin?
  • If we say we are sinless, how does that make Jesus' life on earth a lie?
  • I tried to quit smoking many times, it would have been easier to give up. How does the "don't sin, but if you do" statement help us to not sin?
  • If I stress too much that Jesus died for my sins, what message from 2:2 do I lose out on?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Son Rise


He Qi
 
 
I have been going through a time of frustration and depression, on top of being a natural pessimist. I don't see Easter morn as 100% unadulterated joy. It has elements of angst to it that draw me.
 
In John's sun-rise service (20:1-18), Mary of Magdala asks us twice: what have you done with the Lord?
 
This question haunts me. Have we kept him safely dead and buried? Have we exhiled him to heaven where we don't have to worry about him for a while? Have we domesticated him into some sort of guardian angel?
 
Mary did not recognize the risen Lord when she saw him, yet we (so far removed in time) are convinced that we  know him? Mary only recognized him when he spoke her name. I'm reminded of an old Gary Larson cartoon - a dog hears "Blah, blah, blah, Ginger", while a cat hears: "Blah, blah, blah, blah."
 
Based upon what I've learned in church, would I recognize the Lord? Based upon my spiritual relationship with the divine, would I even recognize my own name?
 
What have I done with the Lord?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday Batman!

I could not decide between these two versions of Matthew 27:61-66 - what do you think? Which one will get me the most flak?



A. Cat Woman and Batgirl where sitting outside the criminals' hangout. The Joker, Penquin, Riddler and others had gathered to discuss how to take care of batman once and for all. "No matter what we do, no matter how impossible, he always escapes!" After much finger pointing, they realized that their problem was that while they were busy gloating, they always left him unwatched! So they decided to put him in a deep hole, block the opening with a massive boulder, and put in place a 24/7 guard of trusted henchmen. "Let's see him get out of this one!"
 
"Batfans, is this the end of Batman?"
 
  

B. United in faith, love, sorrow and compassion, two very different Marys sat outside the door - waiting to be let in to church. Representatives from the government and high-placed Church authorities were meeting to discuss the faction that the women represented. Some were saying that Jesus would return; such a return would be very bad for business! The highest ranking goverment official told the Church leaders: "You have Trustees, Boards and Committees - make your churches the most secure tombs that you can. Make sure that he can never get out of the boxes we have built to contain him."

And that is what they did.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good? Friday


I have been asked before, "Why did Jesus have to to die?" I think maybe that the Son of God didn't have to die, but the Son of Man did. To be with us I feel, to be incarnate, to be true advocate is to learn, grow, love, suffer and die as we do. Emmanuel. 


Just watch my servant blossom! 
   Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
   At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human—
   a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
   kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
   what was unthinkable they'll have right before them."
Who believes what we've heard and seen?
Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
   a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
   nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
   a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
   We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
   our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
   that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
   that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
   Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
   We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
   on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
   but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
   and like a sheep being sheared,
   he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
   and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
   beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
   threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
   or said one word that wasn't true.
Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
   to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
   so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
   And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
   he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
   will make many "righteous ones,"
   as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
   the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
   because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
   he took up the cause of all the black sheep.
(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; The Message)
 
 
 
God, God...my God! Why did you dump me
      miles from nowhere?
   Doubled up with pain, I call to God
      all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
   I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
      leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?
   We know you were there for our parents:
      they cried for your help and you gave it;
      they trusted and lived a good life.

And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
      something to step on, to squash.
   Everyone pokes fun at me;
      they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
   "Let's see how God handles this one;
      since God likes him so much, let him help him!"

And to think you were midwife at my birth,
      setting me at my mother's breasts!
   When I left the womb you cradled me;
      since the moment of birth you've been my God.
   Then you moved far away
      and trouble moved in next door.
   I need a neighbor.

Herds of bulls come at me,
      the raging bulls stampede,
   Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
      like a herd of buffalo on the move.

I'm a bucket kicked over and spilled,
      every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
   My heart is a blob
      of melted wax in my gut.
   I'm dry as a bone,
      my tongue black and swollen.
   They have laid me out for burial
      in the dirt.

Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
      thugs gang up on me.
   They pin me down hand and foot,
      and lock me in a cage—a bag
   Of bones in a cage, stared at
      by every passerby.
   They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
      and then throw dice for my clothes.

You, God—don't put off my rescue!
      Hurry and help me!
   Don't let them cut my throat;
      don't let those mongrels devour me.
   If you don't show up soon,
      I'm done for—gored by the bulls,
      meat for the lions.

Here's the story I'll tell my friends when they come to worship,
      and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
   Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
      give glory, you sons of Jacob;
      adore him, you daughters of Israel.
   He has never let you down,
      never looked the other way
      when you were being kicked around.
   He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
      he has been right there, listening.

Here in this great gathering for worship
      I have discovered this praise-life.
   And I'll do what I promised right here
      in front of the God-worshipers.
   Down-and-outers sit at God's table
      and eat their fill.
   Everyone on the hunt for God
      is here, praising him.
   "Live it up, from head to toe.
      Don't ever quit!"

From the four corners of the earth
      people are coming to their senses,
      are running back to God.
   Long-lost families
      are falling on their faces before him.
   God has taken charge;
      from now on he has the last word.

All the power-mongers are before him
      —worshiping!
   All the poor and powerless, too
      —worshiping!
   Along with those who never got it together
      —worshiping!

Our children and their children
      will get in on this
   As the word is passed along
      from parent to child.
   Babies not yet conceived
      will hear the good news—
      that God does what he says.
 
(Psalm 22; The Message)
 
 
 
Yes, a Savior that died as a criminal sounds foolish. But aren't we all foolish? We are a people that call the shopping day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday", and the day we tortured and executed the Messiah "Good Friday"! 

Thank you Abba for entering into our foolishness.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday's Washing

Sieger Koder
They had gathered for fellowship before the big holiday. He knew that he soon had to go back home, but he was sad because of the loved ones he would leave behind here. He knew they would feel betrayed, alone, afraid and sorely tested on his account. Judas had already made his deal with the devil. So Love arose from the table, took off his outerwear and donned a towel. The Rabbi poured cool clear well water into a basin, and washed the feet of his startled followers, one by one. Until that is, he came to Peter. He had to smile - it was ALWAYS Peter!

 
Peter pulled back his feet quickly: "Teacher! What are you doing?"
 
Jesus answered: "This won't make a bit of sense to you now, but later on you'll cherish this moment."
 
"Lord: you musn't demean yourself so! I will not allow you to do this - it is I who should wash your feet!."
 
"Peter. If I don't do this, you will no longer be mine!"
 
He chuckled as his friend went all Peter on him: "Well heck then! Don't just wash my feet - wash my dirty hair and my flithy hands too!"
 
"You may not be spotless, but you are already clean enough. Just as not all of you here are clean, but the rest of you are clean enough."
 
After re-dressing, he returned to the table and asked: "Why do you think I did this? You call me Master and Lord, which is correct for I am. So if your Lord and Master has washed your stinky old feet, shouldn't you do the same for each other? I will not always be here, so I have set the example - as i have done for you during our time together, so must you do for others. You are no more special than I am, is the worker greater than her employer? If I am not above serving the poor, dirty and unloved, then neither are you. Now that you know this, you'll be blessed if you serve."
 
"I am giving you a new commandment: LOVE EACH OTHER! As I have loved you, you must love each other even after I am gone."
 
(Retelling of John 13:1-17 and 34)
 
 
 
 
...and they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday's Woes


 
After talking to his friends and students, Jesus became troubled: "A loved one will betray me."
 
They all looked at each other, trying to see if someone looked guilty. Little Johnny was sitting between Peter and Jesus, so Peter nudged him: "Ask him who. I'll beat the son of a ..."
 
Jesus told John: "It will be the one that I feed next."
 
Jesus dipped a morsel of bread into the blood red wine, and gave the intinction to Judas with an unfathomable look. Judas accepted the the gift. As he did, Satan entered him as a parody of the Spirit. Jesus looked lovingly into his troubled eyes: "What you must do, do quickly - it is my time." Only Judas discerned his message. Some thought that Jesus was sending him out as the group's accountant and banker to buy more wine, or that he was to tithe to the poor from the donations that the group had received. After swallowing the suddenly sour bread and wine, he left the communion of disciples and went alone out into the darkness.
 
Then Jesus spoke to them: "The Son of Man has just been glorified, and through him the Father is also glorified. Since the father is glorified in His Son, then God is glorified in Himself, because in the Spirit all are glorified together."
 
(Retelling of John 13:21-32)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wait Y'all!

Photography by Tiwago


We often use key words and tags to better allow search engines locate our messages. in this message from Isaiah, what words stand out to you?


But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,
The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
Yes, he'll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
He'll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
Yes! God says so!
Also at that time, people will say,
"Look at what's happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
This God, the one we waited for!
Let's celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
God's hand rests on this mountain!"

(Isaiah 25:6-9; The Message)



After "God", "all" and "wait" jump out at me.

What part of all don't I understand? Surely bigots, Pharisees, lawyers, and politicians aren't a part of all? Surely all is just reserved for the peoples of the Book? He means the chosen all right? The Christian all? The protestant all? The Methodist all? The Manhattan United Methodist Church all? The second pew from the front on our right all? The not y'all all?

But wait, there's more! We all want all our blessings right now. I tap my feet impatiently waiting for the microwave. I want what I want when I want it. If God isn't a god who delivers on demand, then I'll create one who does!

God is the God of all that was, is and shall be. She is that which is so special that we wait with breathless anticipation. He is that where the final ultimate joy is infinitely better than the joy of the hunt.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April's Follies

Michelangelo's Pieta
In only two days the eight-day Festival of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin. The high priests and religion scholars were looking for a way they could seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. They agreed that it should not be done during Passover Week. "We don't want the crowds up in arms," they said. Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. "That's criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year's wages and handed out to the poor." They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly."

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the cabal of high priests, determined to betray him. They couldn't believe their ears, and promised to pay him well. He started looking for just the right moment to hand him over.

On the first of the Days of Unleavened Bread, the day they prepare the Passover sacrifice, his disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations so you can eat the Passover meal?" He directed two of his disciples, "Go into the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him. Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, 'The Teacher wants to know, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?' He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare for us there." The disciples left, came to the city, found everything just as he had told them, and prepared the Passover meal.

After sunset he came with the Twelve. As they were at the supper table eating, Jesus said, "I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators, one who at this moment is eating with me."

Stunned, they started asking, one after another, "It isn't me, is it?" He said, "It's one of the Twelve, one who eats with me out of the same bowl. In one sense, it turns out that the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures—no surprises here. In another sense, the man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man—better never to have been born than do this!"

In the course of their meal, having taken and blessed the bread, he broke it and gave it to them. Then he said, "Take, this is my body."  

Taking the chalice, he gave it to them, thanking God, and they all drank from it. He said, "This is my blood, God's new covenant, poured out for many people."

"I'll not be drinking wine again until the new day when I drink it in the kingdom of God." They sang a hymn and then went directly to Mount Olives. Jesus told them, "You're all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it's my fault. There's a Scripture that says, 'I will strike the shepherd; the sheep will go helter-skelter.' But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee."

Peter blurted out, "Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I won't be." Jesus said, "Don't be so sure. Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." He blustered in protest, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you." All the others said the same thing.
They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, "I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me." Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: "Papa, Father, you can—can't you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?" He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open, and they didn't have a plausible excuse. He came back a third time and said, "Are you going to sleep all night? No—you've slept long enough. Time's up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let's get going. My betrayer has arrived."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: "The one I kiss, that's the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn't get away." He went straight to Jesus and said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up. One of the men standing there unsheathed his sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest's servant, lopping off the man's ear.

Jesus said to them, "What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I've been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm the prophetic writings." All the disciples cut and ran. A young man was following along. All he had on was a bed-sheet. Some of the men grabbed him but he got away, running off naked, leaving them holding the sheet.

They led Jesus to the Chief Priest, where the high priests, religious leaders, and scholars had gathered together. Peter followed at a safe distance until they got to the Chief Priest's courtyard, where he mingled with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. The high priests conspiring with the Jewish Council looked high and low for evidence against Jesus by which they could sentence him to death. They found nothing. Plenty of people were willing to bring in false charges, but nothing added up, and they ended up canceling each other out. Then a few of them stood up and lied: "We heard him say, 'I am going to tear down this Temple, built by hard labor, and in three days build another without lifting a hand.'" But even they couldn't agree exactly. In the middle of this, the Chief Priest stood up and asked Jesus, "What do you have to say to the accusation?" Jesus was silent. He said nothing.

The Chief Priest tried again, this time asking, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "Yes, I am, and you'll see it yourself: 'The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One, arriving on the clouds of heaven.'" The Chief Priest lost his temper. Ripping his clothes, he yelled, "Did you hear that? After that do we need witnesses? You heard the blasphemy. Are you going to stand for it?" They condemned him, one and all. The sentence: death. Some of them started spitting at him. They blindfolded his eyes, then hit him, saying, "Who hit you? Prophesy!" The guards, punching and slapping, took him away.

While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard. One of the Chief Priest's servant girls came in and, seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, "You were with the Nazarene, Jesus." He denied it: "I don't know what you're talking about." He went out on the porch. A rooster crowed. The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around, "He's one of them." He denied it again. After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again. "You've got to be one of them. You've got 'Galilean' written all over you." Now Peter got really nervous and swore, "I never laid eyes on this man you're talking about." Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows twice, you'll deny me three times." He collapsed in tears.

At dawn's first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate. Pilate asked him, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?" He answered, "If you say so." The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations. Pilate asked again, "Aren't you going to answer anything? That's quite a list of accusations." Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.

It was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner, anyone the people asked for. There was one prisoner called Barabbas, locked up with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the uprising against Rome. As the crowd came up and began to present its petition for him to release a prisoner, Pilate anticipated them: "Do you want me to release the King of the Jews to you?" Pilate knew by this time that it was through sheer spite that the high priests had turned Jesus over to him. But the high priests by then had worked up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas. Pilate came back, "So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?" They yelled, "Nail him to a cross!" Pilate objected, "But for what crime?" But they yelled all the louder, "Nail him to a cross!" Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion.

The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: "Bravo, King of the Jews!" They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross. There was a man walking by, coming from work, Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus' cross. The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning "Skull Hill." They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn't take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.

They nailed him up at nine o'clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: "You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you're really God's Son, come down from that cross!" The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: "He saved others—but he can't save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We'll all become believers then!" Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.

At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o'clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Some of the bystanders who heard him said, "Listen, he's calling for Elijah." Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down." But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, "This has to be the Son of God!"

There were women watching from a distance, among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed and served him, and had come up with him to Jerusalem. Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation (that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave Joseph the corpse. Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Joses, watched the burial.


(Mark 14 and 15; The Message)




April Fools!








I always hated April Fool's Day. I was never confident enough to be able to handle being the butt of someone-else's "cruel" joke. And yet, there are some stories that are just so awful that you hope beyond hope that it is just an April Fool's joke - that like Bobby's death on Dallas the ensuing season was all just a bad dream... But then, after riding the roller coaster of Lost and getting invested in their lives, I hoped that it wouldn't be devalued by their waking up to find that it was only a redemptionless dream!
The passion story contains many fools, many pranks, and many times that you want someone to wake you. It feels like a dream of falling, and you know deep down that if you don't wake before you hit, you will die for real.
Jesus is a lousy prankster. I could never get revenge for past pranks because I couldn't keep a poker face, I would try too hard, or I would I would giggle. Over and over again, Jesus tried to tip them off to the coming prank - he would die, but in three days he would rise again. But they didn't catch on - God would cloud their minds. God is the Master Prankster!