Why do you believe?

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9) Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – The Resurrection

resurrection-of-christ-iconIn the Book of Job, chapter 14, Job is pondering the deeper things of life. He is asking the age old question in the face of pending or possible death?  Will a person, once dead, live again? (יִ֫חְיֶ֥ה cf. Job 14:14). The question has now been answered. The tomb is empty. The defining conviction of Christian hope is that because Jesus was raised from the dead, the grave is not the final reality of human experience. “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is risen. Continue reading

One Short Sleep Past

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death…. One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.” So wrote the 17th century poet John Donne about the freedom from the seemingly unsurpassable power of death and the promise of new life, eternal life at the core of our Easter celebrations. Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – Responses to Jesus’ Death

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” 48 When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; 49 but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. 50 Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, 51 had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, 56 they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.  (Luke 23:47-56) Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – The Death of A Savior

It is a sometimes very difficult pastoral situation, when a person has been truly wronged by the events that have unfolded with in a marriage, and I know that ultimately – in one form or another – I will let the person know that there are no innocent parties.  Indeed some are infinitely more innocent, but in the end there is rarely complete innocence.

Indeed we stand rightly condemned. But this gospel reveals that in the simple act of trust, there is salvation, beyond merit or worth, beyond categories of innocence or guilt. There are no scales. There is only the promise that our Savior remembers those who trust. We stand before complete innocence. Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – Condemned to Death

Up to this point in the narrative the chief priests, scribes, and leaders have been the ones who have been active throughout the arrest, hearing and trials of Jesus. While in the privacy of the Sanhedrin gathering, the charges brought against Jesus by this group were religious.  Once the assembly moved to the public forum involving Pilate, the charges became secular – “misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.” (23:2)  In the start of this section, “the people” are now present. Previously the people have supported Jesus (cf. 19:47-48, 20:1, 20:6, 20:19, 21:38) – what will they do now? Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – Delivered to Prefects and Kings

Alan Culpepper commented that reading the arrest and trials of Jesus is, for him, like watching film footage of John Kennedy’s motorcade winding through Dallas in 1963 or the 1986 launch of the Challenger space shuttle.  We know what is coming, we know we have no power to undo them, but are compelled to watch because we honor the loss of great people doing what was theirs to do.

At a more intimate level we know that the encounter of Jesus and Pilate is a scene wherein both face the test of their convictions. Pilate knows and announces the verdict – innocence, but in the face of an unruly crowd does not have the conviction to persevere.  Neither Herod nor Barabbas provide an avenue to resolved the crisis when the leaders of Jewish Jerusalem are ever at work to animate the crowd to bend Pilate’s to their will. Continue reading

Gospel of Luke – Trial before the Sanhedrin

Where in the scene of Peter’s Denial (Luke 22:54-65), the focus and center of the narrative was Peter, here the focus returns to Jesus. Is this trial (hearing, meeting) by the religious authorities of Jerusalem, the role of Jesus as prophet and Messiah is at the forefront of the narrative. Jesus had foretold the primary events of this scene—both Peter’s threefold denial before the crowing of the cock (v. 34; vv. 56–61) and his own maltreatment (esp. 18:32; cf. 20:10–11 and 22:63–65). Continue reading

Spy Wednesday

thirty-pieces-of-silverToday is known as “Spy Wednesday”, a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for thirty silver coins. This event is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6. We know that Judas’ betrayal was but part of a larger vortex of events that would lead to Jesus’ arrest, trails, scourging, crucifixion, and death. Only Matthew (Matthew 27:3-6 ) narrates Judas’ own death.

For all this, Judas’ name is synonymous with betrayal, and Dante, in Canto XXXIV of his “Inferno,” places him in the very lowest circle of Hell, being devoured eternally by a three-faced, bat-winged devil. Virtually every image we carry about Judas comes from Dante or a later artistic portrayal of the man – e.g., reddish hair color (Harvey Keitel in “The Last Temptation of Christ”) or his fiery disposition (“Jesus Christ Superstar”). Continue reading