Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – Paul raises the alarm to not back track to a sinful previous time

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15 – 20)

Paul is on a roll, beloved reader. The “He” of verse fifteen is Jesus; in verse fourteen Paul moved from taking about the Lord God to talking about the Son of God “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Verse 14b) In most of Paul’s letters if you haven’t read what his discourse was several verses back, it is hard to know what/who the pronouns mean. When Paul gets “hot” on a topic, he tends to forge ahead in his setting down of theology. I often wonder if his readers needed to trace back to previous paragraphs/passages (or even letters) to follow what he is saying. And to be quite honest beloved reader, it was only when I read ahead that I felt secure in writing on the same theme of yesterday. So, let us follow where Paul in going in his discourse.

“And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him– provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.” (Verses 21 – 23)

I posed the question yesterday as to how the called and chosen people of the Divine changed from the faithfulness that Abraham exemplified to the people of Israel (and Judah) that Amos was railing against. I expanded that question to recent generations and how as humanity we have fallen away from the compassion and care that had been instructed to us by Christian faith. (I did get a little soapbox-y yesterday, but my heart breaks when I hear news and reports of the unkindness we find in the world. Certainly there are still people who care and carry on Jesus’ example of compassion and love. I think, beloved reader, I am digressing.)

Paul raises the warning and concern that his readers should stay firm in their beliefs and not “digress” to the “evil deeds” that they committed before. They have, he says, been made “holy and blameless”. I would like to believe that extends to kindness, care, and compassion. Paul, you must understand, is intent on preaching a gospel of salvation that saves one from a life of sin and the consequences of that.

“I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Verses 24 – 28)

I would apply Paul’s to my theme of yesterday by wondering if being aware of and living out “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints” would result in living a life of caring, compassion, love, and shalom. Beloved reader, what do you think Paul would say? Yes, me too!

May you beloved reader live in the light of the wisdom of Jesus Christ who was sent from the Divine. Selah!

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Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – Being called forth to be what sort of Christian?

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” ( Colossians 1:1 – 8)

I imagine in my mind the conversation between Epaphras and Paul about the Colossians; stories of the care and faithfulness, giving ways and patience, compassion and unconditional acceptance. I do not know if that is how Paul would describe what a “model” Christian would be. I know that is, in part, how I would describe one. I am not sure if Paul would put more emphasis on the “living in hope of salvation” or the treating of others as fellow “saints”. Sometimes I suspect there might have been a “them” and “us” mentality then; I know it is not a good image of how an authentic Christian should be now. At least, again, from my perspective. But you, beloved reader, are welcome to imagine the Colossians how ever you want to.

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Verses 9 – 14)

So much of how we picture Christians of the early church is based on Paul’s description. And that is okay, if we all agree on how to interpret and understand what Paul said. The things is, we don’t. So we are left to fashion for ourselves, individually and in our faith circles, how a good model authentic Christian should act. How I would love to sit with you, beloved reader, and hear from you as to how you act out your Christian faith. But I am here, at my keyboard, and hear little if anything as to what your thoughts are. You, on the other hand, get to hear from me quite often as to my perspective and opinion. I guess that is another thing Paul and I have in common – not much feedback from our readers! Or at least not much recorded feedback . . . which in the long run is pretty much the same.

So I must, as Paul does, pray “for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and commend you the Divine. Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistles Passage – Knowing what you should believe in and why

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.” (Galatians 6:1-6)

The Revised Common Lectionary sets verses 1 to 6 in parenthesis, which means that it is acknowledge as accompanying the passage that the RCL is actually focused on. Often the RCL will do this when the periphery passage in some way pertains, proceed/follows, or explain/sets the context for the focus passage. Often times this “extra” passage has interesting things in it as well. For example “For all must carry their own loads”; everyone should be responsible only for themselves. Not correcting another or judging another (although Paul sometimes seems to hold that privilege for himself) or getting into another’s business (ditto). This must refer back to the “spirit of gentleness” that one must use in restoring the one detected in a transgression. (Is Paul gentle?)

The other verse I take note of is “Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.” I could (but did not) look up what the biblical commentators say about this. That is, which way the sharing goes; the taught to the teacher, or the teacher to the taught. Think about it, beloved reader, because there is a difference. I believe the desired direction is that the teacher shares with those who are taught the good things – the benefits and blessings of the teachings. I am not sure if the verses that follow (that is the ones the RCL wishes to highlight for this day) are indicative or illuminating of that verse.

“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Paul would say one good thing is “eternal life”, and one’s teacher teaches accountably (that is, “sow to the Spirit”) then both the teacher and the taught attain that. But Paul is not talking just of teachers but (perhaps) exemplars too.

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.
So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Verses 9 – 10)

The “family of faith” – who is your family of faith beloved reader? We talk of faith circles, fellowship of believers, churches, etc. Are these all names for the “family of faith”? I believe so. Where then does the family start and end? If we have a “large” family, then we have plenty of work to do. And “good work.” Notice though Paul includes “the good of all” , not just the family of faith.

“See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” (Verse 11)

Let me see if I can explain this. It is thought that Paul used a secretary to write some of the letters, or gave broad outlines of what was to be written. The secretary would then write the letter as if it came straight from the hand of Paul. The readers might have been aware of this. But when the letters are large, it was indicative that Paul was writing it himself, his thoughts and theology alone.

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.” (Verses 12 – 13)

Evidently it was preaching that the Christ’s death was what saved (and the only thing that saved) someone resulted in persecution. By pressing the issue of being circumcised they satisfy the rules of Judaism and the law. They (those who teach and pressure the Gentiles on the issue of circumcision) do not obey the law themselves, but they make every appearance that they force the law on others. This statement may be why Paul wanted it clear that he was saying this, and that the Galatians can trust that circumcision was not necessary for Christian faith and salvation.

“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Verses 14 – 16)

I could have added to the title of this “and how to live it out”, but I did not. First, Paul is talking about faith issues and where one’s hope of salvation and eternal life is. Yes, he talks about work and good work, and teaching well and sowing in the Spirit. But these come from faith, and are not actions. Let us first get our faith beliefs aligned, then we can see what we should do with them. Selah!

Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Substitute Acts Passage – Exciting times, and not so exciting

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16:16)

I became aware, beloved reader, of a change in perspective of the writer of the book of Acts. At first the perspective was “they” and “them” and at some point it changed to “we” and “us”, as the writer joined the journey along the way – which I think actually he did. What took me off guard was the the change just . . . . happened. No foreshadowing or announcement that he joined Paul. The shift happened in the midst of the telling of Paul’s vision of the man from Macedonia asking for someone to come; this happened after they went down to Troas. But rather than lingering on this point, let us catch up to Paul and company.

“While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.” (Verses 17 – 18)

I did have to wonder why this slave girl annoyed Paul. While she spoke the truth, after a fashion, it was not testimony born of free will and knowledge of the Lord but the mischief of the Evil One that dogs the steps of God’s ministers. That, if you cannot tell, was a pretty good paraphrase of what the biblical commentators said. My take on it was that Paul saw her captivity to the demon and the profit that her owners were making off her distress and possession, and decided to put an end to it.

“But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” (Verses 19 – 21)

I could give again a biblical commentator’s observation on this, but . . . . that is a way of thinking that I just cannot call my own. Paul’s action was borne of compassion for the slave girl and a desire to free her soul and spirit. The slave girl’s owner’s response was borne of greed and callousness to another human being. It is fits in line with Paul’s preaching of salvation and freedom from sin. The consequences of Paul’s actions also fits into the broader theme of the disciples and apostles of Jesus being threatened, oppressed, and punished for preaching. And by the end of the story, the resilience and determination of Paul and his company, and the protection that was afforded them.

“The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.” (Verses 22 – 27)

Some comments and commentary need to be interjected here. First, remember that the writer of the book of Acts wanted his audience, Theophilus, to know what was going on with the apostles and disciples after Jesus returned to heaven. And for Theophilus to understand these things, and perhaps the reason, rationale, and message that the disciples and apostles shared to others. So if it seems that every little turn in the road is described and narrated, it is because the writer of the book of Acts wanted to make sure that all was told – no detail or circumstance left out.

Second, that the jailer was responsible for his prisoners; not to tend to them carefully and compassionately. But to ensure that the desires and demands of the Roman state in punishing the prisoners was met and carried out. A jail break would mean the jailer would pay painfully with his life.

“But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verses 28 – 30)

There is quite a leap here, and not well narrated so that the average reader might understand the circumstances. Paul and Silas saved the jailer’s life by assuring him there was no reason for the Roman state to exact any punishment. AND that the power that Paul and Silas had outweighed what the Roman state could do. What I think the jailer was asking was how he could be protected and redeemed by the protection that Paul and Silas had.

“They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (Verses 31 – 34)

How many of you, beloved reader, have had as much action and drama in your Christian lives? If you are like me, these “high moments” are far and few between. It would almost seem that our tame and normal lives do not carry the impact that Paul and his companions had on their world. Have we ever saved someone from slavery and demon possession? No. Have we had our beliefs and convictions tested? No. Has the Divine’s power and strength been exerted so visibly on our behalf? Probably not. It tempts me to drop all that I am doing and rush out to live a life that makes such a powerful statement. The mundane and minutiae of my life peeks at me from around the corner, and I know rather than go off on a wild trajectory I will follow the worn path that I have tread before. My life is not a New Testament story. But it is a story lived out in light of God given truths. And I guess for now that will have to suffice. Shalom.

Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Acts Passage – Going on a journey & being lead by the Divine

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.” (Acts 16:9 – 12)

A couple of questions occurred to me as I prepared to write about this passage; actually two main questions and ones that I have wondered about since I was reading the bible for the first time on my own – how did Paul know the man was from Macedonia? The answer must be, I thought then as now, there was something distinct about the man that convinced Paul it was someone from Macedonia. In our modern times we sometimes suppose (and to our shame) and prejudge that someone has a certain “look” about them. We think – that person must be from such and such a place because of the way they look and dress. In our modern times, we should not judge like that. But in the times that Paul lived so few people traveled and intermingled in marriage/children that people of specific geographic areas shared many common attributes.

The second question is, why did Paul believe it was a message from the Divine that he was to go to Macedonia? Could it have not been just a random dream? That question rests greatly, I imagine, on how certain Paul was that the man was from Macedonia and what Paul’s past experience was in discerning what Macedonians look like. If the dream gave clear signs of the man’s background and identity – things that Paul would not have known from his own experience, it probably was a message from the Divine.

“On the [S]abbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.” (Verses 13 – 15)

Decades ago when I first encountered this passage (and quite honestly up to this point) it never occurred to me to wonder why they were gathered outside the city by a river (apparently there were not enough male Jews/male worshipers of God to constitute enough for a synagogue/temple) nor why a man of Macedonia called them there, and yet it was to a woman they first ministered to and converted. Nope, have no explanation for that. And you can bet the biblical commentators of this passage had nary a word of explanation for that. That of course may be to their credit, that they let pass the fact that a man called Paul and his colleagues to convert women. Apparently, in addition, the journey into Macedonia signifies the movement of conversion from the central area where Jews were in predominance to what the biblical scholars called the more “European” parts, ie. Gentile. And indeed that is where Paul seemed to be called to, outside of the traditionally more Jewish areas.

But actually I do not want to belabor the point – sorry if it seems that I already have. My point really is that when the Lord God calls us, we need to travel to where the Divine has directed us. Even if it is somewhere we have never been before. Even if it goes against the norms we have known previously. Even if it takes us outside of our comfort zone. Paul, the Paul who exhorted women to be silent in worship services, was lead to a powerful woman who ran her own household and who was very successful. He did not question the appropriateness of her conversion but went where his Lord God lead.

May we do the same! Selah!

Third Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Acts Passage – Pondering on our conversion stories

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (Acts 9:1 – 3)

You know beloved reader, Saul/Paul really did not change who he was – he just changed sides. The same perseverance that fueled his persecution of the new believers motivated him to preach and make converts to belief in Jesus Christ. When one takes about changing one’s life and being “reborn” it does not necessarily mean they are a totally “new creation.” It means their purpose and goal in life has shifted. But it is the same person with the same gifts and talents – just re-purposed for the Divine.

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Verses 4 – 9)

Now my perspective in the above comments may come from my own “conversion story.” Which really was not a conversion as much as growing into faith. At each critical stage of development in my life I re-committed myself to the Divine. Young child, older child, coming into adolescence, adolescent, very young adult, and then young adult. After deciding to attend seminary, it was less of a new step and more of a being steeped in faith. For others maybe it was a complete change and turnaround, just as Paul I am sure would tell his conversion story.

“Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (Verses 10 – 12)

Now it is at this point of the story where, for me, a deeper faith story comes to light.

“But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Verses 13 – 17)

We, as believers, may do the “easy” stuff of faith. But there are those called to risk a great deal . . . . or everything in the name and for the sake of the Divine. And I speak from experience when I say, you cannot always know how it will turn out. All you can do is be faithful to the call of the Divine. Saul/Paul was in dire straights – blind and dependent on those who he had originally sought to persecute. As you may remember, beloved reader, in the Jewish society of that time there was no possible way for someone who was blind to make their way in the world. Blind men (and women) were dependent on charity and alms, and family members who might undertake for them. Saul/Paul must have been frantic.

Ananias must have been equally shaken. To voluntarily go to where Saul/Paul was staying and identify himself as a follower of Jesus. Who knew if it might have been some elaborate plot to catch a “Christian”?

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Verses 18 – 20)

And woe betide to anyone who tried to dissuade Paul of his faith in the Lord God and Jesus Christ. Adamant to the extreme. Unwilling to settle for half or lukewarm faith. All or nothing for Paul!

Who were you, beloved reader, before you came to faith? What is your conversion story? What skills and talents that you had before have you used in service of the Lord? Are you using the best of your skills and talents in service of the Lord? And finally, what skills, talents, and traits did you have to turn aside from because of your new faith? Important questions! May you continue your journey through the post-Easter season toward what the Divine has called you to, retaining the very best of yourself! Selah!

Holy Week – Friday: Epistle Passages and Gospel Passage – The story moves ahead with great speed

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I went back and read the complete article – that actually comes from a longer study that Blosser did. He says “Paul had to explain the death of Jesus to a religious culture that had sacrifice at its center. Thus Paul saw the cross as the ultimate sacrifice that once and for all negated the need for all further sacrifice. Paul does not argue the theological issue of whether salvation is achieved by sacrifice but only the divine status of Jesus as God’s ultimate sacrifice.“ [Let’s let Jesus speak for himself] I also went back to make sure my comments on previous days reflect accurately what Blosser said. If you read the article yourself, and you find discontinuity, that would be because I made a misstep. I must admit I was relieved to see that it was indeed Paul’s intent to explain Jesus’ death to “old school” believers that caused him to make the emphases that he did.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:16-22)

I was also relieved to read that Paul’s basis his contentions and arguments on Old Testament scripture – that is, he basis his discussion on what was already established in the “old school” thinking. I think maybe I can move on now! And, because Paul has the Old Testament “covered” I can move on to the Gospel passage, which holds the essence of the story of Good Friday during Holy Week.

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” (John 18:1-9)

It is, beloved reader, a long story; it actually lasts from Maundy Thursday evening to Friday evening, the cusp of the Sabbath during Passover. While the Romans had all the time in the world to decide the fact of Jesus, the Jews who were pushing for his death and the disciples who were eager to discern what the outcome would be felt the rush to have this business completed. In other words, from the time Jesus was confronted in the garden onward anxieties were high. We know Peter was anxious because he drew his sword.

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Verses 10 – 11)

Jesus was taken from one location to another, which only added to the turmoil.

“So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.” (Verses 12 – 14)

For example, Peter got nervous and did the very thing he swore he would not do.

“Again Peter denied it [knowing Jesus for the third time], and at that moment the cock crowed.” (Verse 27)

Jesus was questioned, and his disciples witness the full brunt of the animosity that the Jewish leaders had against Jesus.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Verses 19 – 23)

Then Jesus was taken to another place, and yet another confrontation.

Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (Verse 24)

And from there yet somewhere else. And the whole situation escalated.

“Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” (Verses 28 – 38)

By this time the situation was getting quite chaotic. The Jewish leaders wanted action. The disciples, I would imagine, could not keep up with going from one place to another – not mention not being allowed in.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” (Chapter 19, verses 1 – 7)

At this point the tide events carried things away. Pilate tried to reason with both Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus knew what would eventually happen – had known for a long time – and did not try to make an intervention for himself. The Jewish leaders knew what they wanted, and would not be dissuaded.

Then he [Pilate] handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (Verses 16 – 22)

By this point the disciples had caught up with Jesus and were there for his death. They saw his clothes being divided. And faced the reality that Jesus was taken from them.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (Verses 23 – 27)

And they witnessed his death.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Verses 28 – 30)

According to what the disciples believed, this was the end of their travels with their Master. Final arrangements needed to be taken care of.

“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (Verses 38 – 42)

For the disciples this was the end. And from their perspective there would have been no reason to call this day “Good Friday.” The reason why it now is called that . . . . will be revealed in a few days. Shalom!