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Good Friday!

Etching of crowded crucifixion scene by Nicolaes de Bruyn 17th C
17th Century etching of The Crucifixion (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; John 19:25-27) by Nicolaes de Bruyn

I often wonder why we now associate Easter with eggs and rabbits in church as much as outside of church. I think it is because to accept the reality of what happened to Jesus on the cross is too horrific to bear. It is also easy to gloss over it because the gospel writers didn’t do a description of it, but that was because they didn’t need to go into descriptions of what it was like because their readership knew. Crucifixion was not something that only happened on Good Friday to Jesus and the two unnamed robbers either side of him. It was something that the readership of all the gospels would have seen on a regular basis. It was the Roman’s way of punishing and letting the local populace know what would happen to them if they disobeyed the might of the “Pax Romanus”. For those who fell foul of Roman it was a brutal. Again something that is often not explored.

But Jesus knew the horror of what he was walking towards. He talks of “carrying your cross” which again has become a nice sanitised sermon about setting out on a journey to “give up self”. I think when Jesus said about carrying your cross, him and his disciples had just walked past a row of dying people hung on crosses. Jesus was saying “are you willing to die a humiliating death for what is right and true?” It is the same as turning the other cheek. To carry one’s own cross does not mean that we defend ourselves, or even willing submit to giving up “ego” but that we let someone else have their way even if it is the wrong way to realise the greater good, or as Aslan said in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” so we can “release the deeper magic.”

We need to remember that Jesus wasn’t all nicely wrapped up in loin cloth hanging serenely from the cross for all to see. He was beaten, crushed, naked and possibly with an erection because apparently when a man is in horrendous pain or when the body is wrenched as it would be on the cross the penis goes erect, which is a place of total humiliation. This is why the Romans did this. Not only did it kill slowly but was humiliating. It was not a nice death and Jesus opted in for this kind of death.

My husband shared a story – and I can’t find a link for it – about a church that makes a Jesus on the cross out of bread. From what I can remember of it they did a naked Jesus and when someone played the soldier who speared Jesus side he accidentally knocked off the bread penis. But that got me thinking about how high Jesus would have been from the ground for a grown man to be able to push is spear into Jesus’ side. I am thinking these crucified people would probably have been hanging just off the ground with their feet almost touching. I wonder if it is worse to be almost touching the ground rather than up high like Jesus is portrayed in many church renditions. I don’t think he was high up and able to see across everyone. Possibly when he spoke to his mother and to John he was only head and shoulders above them.

I’ve also wondered the bits in the Bible during the crucifixion where it says people didn’t understand what he said. Ok some of it was because he was slowly losing the power to breath as his lungs were stretched – another thing that we don’t talk about it in church. But also the site of the crucifixion was really busy with people. There would be those who were quietly weeping aas they watched their family members die hoping ot to be open grief probably did not happen because of fear of reprisals from the Romans. But there would also be the crowd who were there to jeer and catcall to make themselves look good in front of the Roman authorities. They would be wanting to heard saying how pleased they were that these people were being crucified. They were fitting in and covering their backs, denying association with those hanging there. Remember that when Jesus was crucified it was not a sombre religious occasion but something people were fearful of, were glad it was happening to someone else. It was humiliating! Horrendous!

Yes church talks of Jesus rejected and alone but do we really know how rejected and alone. And also how quickly we would probably be to fit in with the crowd rather than stand out say he was our friend and maybe be in the next lot to be crucified?

Crucifixion was crap, horrendous, brutal. I often wonder if that was why the early established church shortened the time from crucifixion to resurrection? So one doesn’t have to dwell on it for too long. Jesus says he’ll be in the belly of the earth three days [about 72 hours] and yet the church shortened it to two nights, about 36-40 hours in total. Half the time. Are we all too willing to brush over the horrors not just of what Jesus went through but of the horrors that goes on in our world now?

Perhaps today should be called “Horrendous Friday” not Good Friday. Though of course it is good Friday because we know what happens next so again maybe that’s why we gloss over the bad bits?

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Not as it should be

I was woken by rain hammering down on the skylight in the roof. I look at the window and see the rain pouring down. Things are not as they should be for Easter Saturday. I know as Brits we will laugh, shake our heads and say “typical British Bank holiday”. But rainactually we know they aren’t all like that but also we know this isn’t how they should be. Thanks to good old Facebook memories I was reminded of a picture I took from my window this time last year of the tree outside my window starting to blossom. This year it is still bare branches. Spring really is later this year.

But I wondered what the first disciples thought the day after Jesus died. Things definitely were not as they should have been. Things weren’t right. This isn’t why they had followed Jesus. They had expected more. There might even have been some who remembered his teachings about dying and rising again. But he was dead and had not risen again.

How often do we wait for something to happen and it always takes too long? Even if we know that date of a birthday, wedding, celebration it always takes too long to come easter-saturday-crossabout. Imagine not knowing the date? But also imagine not knowing for sure what would happen?

So this Easter Saturday, as things are not being as they should be, I am going to ponder the disciples and share this piece I wrote a while ago

How? What had happened?

What is wrong with the world?

Why is it continuing?

God why can you not make it stop?

Just give us time to grieve.

This is too much.

There was so much promise.

So much expectation.

And now he’s dead.

All hope of promise is gone.

It’s over.

All that we gave our lives for.

All that we gave up.

Gone! Over!

It is finished.

And who cares?

Us few that’s who.

The Passover continues

The people celebrate

They are free at last.

How? Why? Who could have let this happen?

God how could you have let this happen?

You should have stopped it.

He claimed to be your son.

We believed him.

We are walking dead now.

They will come to get us soon.

Gone! Over!

It is finished!

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Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.


It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

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God Is So Clever

I’ve blogged before on why I believe in God and what makes me follow Him but I just love it when He does something really clever!

We have started going to a Kesher course. Kesher means something to do with the way Christianity and Judaism is joined together. In honesty I went because I like the woman who is running the course and wanted to support her. And at the time when she set it up we didn’t know many people and so wanted to connect with others. Anyway I am so glad we did. We have only been twice but I am stuck on one thing that we learned this week.

shutterstock_232986844So when Jesus gets crucified the Bible says that Pilate put up a plaque above Jesus on the cross that said “King of the Jews” and the Jewish leaders who wanted him crucified for this very reason got really angry with Pilate and wanted him to take it down. I’d always thought all that was odd. The reason the Jewish leaders had bullied Pilate into crucifying Jesus was because he had declared himself as king, so they said and “they had no other king than Caesar” is what they said. So why get mad about what was there? But also why did Pilate have that plaque put up anyway?

Well it turns out that every person who was crucified had a plaque with their name and what their crime was at the top of their cross. We do often forget that crucifixion wasn’t a heads_on_spikesspecial punishment in Roman times but was something they did quite a bit and then they would leave the crucified person there for ages as an example. A bit like we use to do over here and leave the condemned man hanging on the gibbet at the crossroads or in a cage on the side of the city walls, or heads on poles from Tower Bridge. That sort of thing. As an example. And to be a good example it was good to remind people what the crimes were that could get you crucified.

So Pilate had this plaque which says “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” done because that was the rules that went with crucifixion. Well according to our teacher on Friday the way it would have been written the starting letters above Jesus’ head would have given an acrostic which would have said YWYH – which is the way the Jews would write God and it was unspoken. So here is the man they condemned with the word that Jews saw as too holy to speak in an acrostic above him as he was dying. Wow! Now I think that is so clever of God to get all that sorted.

I think He was still trying to make them see that Jesus was truly God but they still didn’t believe it. Instead these Jewish leaders defiled themselves and went before Pilate, the heathen Roman, on the eve of Passover, to demand he take the sign down. They were so angry that they would rather be unclean and not able to celebrate their most important highhorsefestival. Amazing!

But it also got me thinking of how often we get so stuck on our high horse – whether follower of Jesus or not – that we miss totally what God is trying to say and would rather miss out that accept.