Christianity 201

April 16, 2022

The Day In-Between

At the table, they asked “Is it I?” With the identification kiss in the garden, they probably saw clearly who it was that was betraying Jesus, which prompts Jesus to reply, Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48). The act earns the phrase “a Judas kiss” which in turn earns its own Wikipedia page, describing it “an act appearing to be an act of friendship, which is in fact harmful to the recipient.” (It’s also a song by Petra.)

Because we looked at Judas just three days ago, we’ll move on.

Equally motivated by self-interest, Peter finds it convenient to say he doesn’t know Jesus. Three times. The third time he’s emphatic, “A curse on me if I’m lying — I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:69-75) (NLT)

Really, Peter’s dialogue in the courtyard is a microcosm of where the other ten find themselves. Mark 14:50, one of the saddest verses in scripture tells us, “Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.

You can just hear one of them call out, “All right, guys it’s every man for himself.”

Would we have done any different?

But one writer sees an upside that I hadn’t considered. The article was titled, “Why Christ was Glad that His Disciples Scattered.” That kinda got my attention. The website is BeBlesstified.

…Many times, in the comfort and conveniences of our 21st Century lifestyles, we will read about or hear in a sermon about the disciples scattering and deserting Jesus just before He went to the cross. We may even think to ourselves, “What a shame”.

We may wonder what we would have done had we been in that situation. I can quickly and confidently answer that…we would have done the same thing.

How do I know that?

Because it was God’s will that they scatter.

What could they have done to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion? Nothing…because it was God’s will.

What good would it have done if they had died with Him, because that’s exactly what would have happened had they stood with Him.

Had they stood with Jesus at that time and were crucified with Him, how would we have gotten the Gospels? Who would have told us of what they experienced while they were with Him?

He was preparing them to spread the Gospel, not to die with Him.

But they don’t know that.

They don’t know all that we know and in their minds, the one who they (and just a week prior, everyone else) thought was going to save Israel is being taken down from the cross and placed in a donated tomb.

And don’t think that a death like that doesn’t shake you up. Even after the resurrection, even after the appearance of Christ in his glorified body, even after he’s taken up to heaven; just eight chapters into the Book of Acts we have another death — the martyrdom of Stephen — and another scattering of the disciples.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (8:1)

Again, some see an upside, that without the spreading out geographically, the Good News would not have reach so many communities so swiftly. But let’s also face that some of their scattering was in the interest of self-preservation.

Even so, the word about Jesus is shared albeit to a limited audience:

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. (11:19)

But now we’re getting way ahead of ourselves in the story. We’re not there, yet.

We’re in that in-between day when the eleven disciples and probably around 70 to 90 others who can be considered part of the core group of followers are truly sheep who’ve lost their shepherd. But for the eleven, it also means three years invested in the teaching of a particular rabbi have come to naught.

At this point, I can’t help but think of the large number of people in the last 2-3 years — especially here in North America — who were invested in the teaching of some key church leaders, and had to watch as empires crumbled and brands were forever tarnished. At some point the analogy breaks down, but I think the heartbreak and despair is similar in both cases. Or even the embarrassment of having been a follower of __________, only to watch __________ fall from grace.

Back to our story.

Were those three years of discipleship lost?

Is it time to go back to fishing? Can an ex-tax-collector get his old job back? Is it possible to sign on with another rabbi as a transfer student? Maybe an opening at Wal-Mart (or equivalent)?

We’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens.

 

April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday: There Has Never Been Such a Silence as This

This day.

This day that is not Good Friday, not Easter Sunday.

In many respects, the Roman Catholic Church somewhat owns today in the sense that some of our best available commentary and liturgy is from Catholic sources. Today’s words are recent writings from a variety of Catholic and Evangelical sources.

From writer Hayden Royster:

Today, in many liturgical churches, there’s no service or liturgy on Saturday; instead, they’ll wait until evening to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass. These vigils begin the lights extinguished, the holy water drained and the tabernacle empty. Some traditions will actually perform a funeral service using the​ E​pitaphios,​ ​an embroidered cloth that depicts a buried Christ​. In Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries, sorrow takes a more explosive form: people will purchase large, ugly effigies of Judas Iscariot (Jesus’ betrayer), string them up on lamposts, attach firecrackers to them and light ‘em up…

Holy Saturday is also, traditionally, a day of triumph. According to the Nicene Creed, Saturday is the day of the Harrowing of Hell, that spectacular event wherein Jesus descended into Hades, gathered all of the righteous people, and “opened Heaven’s gates for those that have gone before him,” in the words of the Catholic Catechism.

Now, not every Christian tradition holds to this piece of the Easter story; admittedly, the scriptural evidence for it is pretty sparse. But even those who don’t believe in the Harrowing still view Holy Saturday as a day of great expectation…

From John 19, NIV:

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

From the Video Channel of Fr. William Nicholas:

How do we understand and observe the Day before Easter, between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? Father Bill discusses a useful outlook and ways to remember and observe the “time in between” before launching into the 50 Days of Easter.

From the website All About Jesus Christ:

Jesus’ Tomb – The Stone

The stone at Jesus’ tomb serves as a reminder of other elements of Christ’s life. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus is asked to turn a stone into bread (Matthew 4:3). Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35) as well as the living Stone (1 Peter 2:4, NIV). In Mark 12:10, Jesus refers to Himself as the stone that the builders rejected, which becomes a capstone. If necessary, stones would cry out, proclaiming Jesus the King of Kings (Luke 19:40). Jesus appeared before Pilate, who sat upon the judgment seat, the Stone Pavement (John 19:13). It is not surprising, therefore, that a stone should serve as a phenomenal part of Jesus’ tomb. Upon Jesus’ death, the earth convulsed violently — rocks split, tombs opened, and bodies were raised from the dead (Matthew 27:50-54). This was certainly a prelude of things to come.

To assure that Jesus’ tomb . . . and its contents . . . remained undisturbed, Pilate ordered a large stone positioned against the entrance. A sloped channel assisted the guards in rolling the boulder. A deep groove cut in bedrock at the tomb’s entrance firmly settled the stone. At the urging of the chief priests, Pilate further secured the Jesus’ tomb by placing a Roman seal on the stone, stationing four Roman soldiers at the entrance. To guarantee maximum security, every three hours fresh, alert (i.e. not sleeping as indicated in Matthew 28:13) guards would be exchanged.

From Romans 6, NIV:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

From another Roman Catholic website, Aleteia:

…For many centuries there was even a strict fast on Holy Saturday, permitting no food to be eaten in observance of this painful day. Many would stay in the church throughout the night of Good Friday, keeping Jesus company in the tomb.

A homily from the 2nd century confirms this general atmosphere in the church, “What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.”

One of the reasons for this “great silence” is to enter into the pain of Jesus’ death and the loss the apostles must have felt. Think about it for a minute.

While Jesus taught them continually about his resurrection, the apostles likely had some doubts, seeing the death of their master. They might have thought to themselves, “If he is the Messiah, why did he die? I thought he said he would rise from the dead?” In this way Holy Saturday is that day of doubt and sorrow, not knowing what to do or what to believe.

Even the Easter Vigil begins in silence, in the complete darkness of the church.

However, the good news is that Jesus, the light of the world, has truly risen and dispels the darkness and any doubts we may have had. The church erupts in pure joy at the Easter Vigil and music, bells and light lift up our hearts to God.

Only after experiencing the silence of Holy Saturday can we truly appreciate the loud and joyful celebrations of the Easter Vigil…

This day.

This day that is not Good Friday, not Easter Sunday.

But something is about the take place.

Something is about to happen which will change the course of history.