Posted in Lent devotions

Jesus in the middle of my mess

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Friday, March 26, 2021. Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash.

And with [Jesus] they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:27)

On most days, I don’t believe Jesus minded hanging out with robbers. He didn’t mind the company of sinners and tax collectors. He was OK with lepers, blue-collar fishermen, Samaritans, Canaanites and Gentile hog-farmers. He was just one of the guys, or as the Old Testament put it, “numbered with the transgressors.” When the Word became flesh to dwell among us, “us” included these two criminals who were crucified that day with Jesus.

These two men might never have met Jesus were it not for their shared sentence. Jesus didn’t spend time with those on death row. Not until today, the day of their execution, their last day alive.

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I saw the sign

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Thursday, March 25, 2021.

And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:25-26)

The sign above Jesus’ head reminds me of some of the dog-shaming photos I’ve seen on social media. Photos of a retriever with a handwritten sign saying, “I ate a whole stick of butter.” Or a dog wearing a note stating, “I ate mom’s lunch. Again.” Or, “I have chewed up five pairs of glasses this week.”

Jesus’ shaming sign read, “The King of the Jews.” Shamefully nailed to a cross, he would have been an embarrassment to every Jewish person as well as himself and the disciples. This is your king? This is the best you can do? Why would we want to take you or your people seriously?

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What will happen to all your stuff?

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Photo by Edge2Edge Media on Unsplash.

And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. (Mark 15:24)

Jesus is nailed to a cross. He’ll hang on that cross till he’s dead. The soldiers now divide up his clothes, the last possible humiliation. Naked for all the world to see, Jesus suffers and dies for the very people who have rejected and despised him.

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No thank you.

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash.

And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (Mk 15:23)

My dad never let the dentist give him novocaine when he had a cavity filled. I am still in awe of him. Me? I’m like, “Doctor, give me the shot, the gas, everything you’ve got!”

We grew up with a dentist who was pretty stingy with the novocaine. When I got a job and moved away from home after college, my first visit to the dentist was amazing. Yes, I had a cavity to be filled. But I felt nothing, since they went right to the novocaine. I was amazed. I thought a dentist appointment was supposed to be torture, designed to make you talk. This guy almost made it enjoyable!

Those about to be crucified were offered a wine-myrrh cocktail, designed to give you a buzz. It would make you easier to manage, especially if nails in the hands and feet were involved. It’s kind of like a shot of whiskey before the doctor stitches up your wound. Or cuts off your leg in a civil war field hospital.

Make mine a double.

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Skull Hill

“Scenes from the passion” devotion for Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash.

And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). (Mark 15:22)

If I mention the “place of a skull,” might think I’m talking about a Mexican restaurant! There, the decor often includes ornamental “Day of the Dead” skulls. In their culture, that is a day of celebration. Golgotha, however, is a place of death.

Golgotha is a place of crucifixion. Criminals were executed on this hill outside the city of Jerusalem. Some think this hill was a rock formation that actually looked like a skull. Given that most who were crucified were not buried but simply tossed down the hill, there may have been a lot of old skulls lying around, too.

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I am part of the story!

“Scenes from the passion” devotion for Sunday, March 21, 2021. Photo by RoseBox رز باکس on Unsplash

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)

I’m always fascinated by Simon’s experience as he simply walks through a gate into Jerusalem and is conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha. I imagine he’s just gotten into town from a town in northern Africa and he has no idea what is going on. Suddenly a soldier grabs him, says, “Carry this,” and just like that he is part of the passion of Jesus.

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Mocking Jesus

“Scenes from the passion” devotion for Saturday, March 20, 2021. Original art by Susan Zendt (c) 2001.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16-20)

Jesus has been handed over to the soldiers who will crucify him. But before they do, they get their whole battalion together to dress him up like a king, hit him, spit on him, and mock him.

Why would they do that? Why would hundreds of soldiers shout and humiliate an already beaten and bloody man? Just for fun?  Because they could? Because it gave them some sense of satisfaction?

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Didn’t they feel anything?

“Scenes from the passion” devotion for Friday, March 19, 2021. Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash.

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Mk 15:15)

So Pilate’s approval rating spikes when he releases Barabbas, scourges Jesus, and hands him over to be crucified. My question is, why scourge Jesus? Why beat him with a lead-tipped whip? He’s being executed by crucifixion. That’s what the crowd demanded. Isn’t that enough cruel (but not unusual) punishment enough?

That’s what Roman soldiers did to weaken the person to be crucified to prevent resistance to the execution. In other words, it made their job easier if they could beat him almost unconscious before stretching him out to nail him to the cross.

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What am I going to do with you?

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Thursday, March 18, 2021. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” (Mark 15:12-14)

What a crazy moment. Pilate must have been certain that the crowd would beg for the release of their king. Instead they have demanded the criminal Barabbas. Great. So what am I going to do with this guy?

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