Seeking the Living

In 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, we wake…

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

Death’s impact

Jesus’ death has an immediate impact. The Roman centurion who had overseen his execution is struck to the heart by the manner of Jesus’ death, the first of an endless stream of believers touched by the cross of Christ. “This man was truly just.” The wording of his confession fits perfectly with Luke’s portrayal of Jesus in the passion. Jesus the martyr prophet was indeed a just man: totally committed to God’s cause; willing to face death for the sake of the gospel. Continue reading

Death of the Savior

Over the many years I have come to know that there are many conflict situations in which there are clearly the innocent and the guilty, but there are more situations when those categories are not so absolute. There is innocence but it is not complete, mostly, infinitely more so than the other, but not complete. The same seems to hold true for the quilty. 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. Continue reading

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

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 resolve 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

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. In 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

Peter’s Denial

The arrest of Jesus leads into three successive and connected scenes: Peter’s denial (vv. 54-62), the mocking of Jesus (vv. 63-65), and the trial before the religious authorities (vv. 66-71). What is interesting is that in the midst of the Passion narrative of Jesus, there is the scene in all four gospels that concentrate on Peter and his response.  Luke’s account is unique in the following respects: sequence – in that the denials occur in the courtyard before the mocking and interrogation; structure – Luke does not connect the denial as a caused by the trial; and detail – such as the servant girl sitting at the fireside where there is light to clearly recognize Peter  – and most vividly, it is Luke that reports Jesus looked Peter “dead in the eye,” bring the full gravitas of the denials to Peter. Continue reading

The time of testing

Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Actually, no gospel says that.  Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.”  What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.”  There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane.  Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers.  Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading

Teaching at the table

Who of us has not been part of a trivial argument in the middle of what is supposed to be a festive gathering of family and friends? A trivial moment that absorbs the energy from the group, refocuses everything from the “forest to the trees?” Only later did we discern what an amazing moment was in the making, something important at hand, a memory for a lifetime, and we frittered it away. Welcome to the Last Supper. Continue reading