NPM09: Descending Theology: the Resurrection

by Mary Karr

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

Source: Poetry (January 2006).

The final lines remind me of verse 17 of 1 Corinthians 15.  After Paul has told the church the implications of resurrection, he gives them a personal application: if Him, then you; if not Him, then not you.  If Jesus is risen from the dead, then so will (are) you; if Jesus is not risen from the dead, then neither will (are) you.

Why Was Jesus Crucified?

Around this time of year, the majority of the questions I get asked are:  “why did Jesus die?”,  “who killed Jesus?”,  and “what does Jesus’ death mean to Christians?”.  Larry Hurtado at Slate gives a good answer, especially in unpacking the oft-forgotten phrase from the Creed, “crucified under Pontius Pilate.”

Here’s a gret quote:

In fact, Jesus’ crucifixion posed a whole clutch of potential problems for early Christians. It meant that at the origin and heart of their faith was a state execution and that their revered savior had been tried and found guilty by the representative of Roman imperial authority. This likely made a good many people wonder if the Christians weren’t some seriously subversive movement. It was, at least, not the sort of group that readily appealed to those who cared about their social standing.

HT: @FakeSpurgeon

NPM09: Good Friday, A.D. 33

Mother, why are people crowding now and staring?
Child, it is a malefactor goes to His doom,
To the high hill of Calvary He’s faring,
And the people pressing and pushing to make room
Lest they miss the sight to come.

Oh, the poor malefactor, heavy is His load!
Now He falls beneath it and they goad Him on.
Sure the road to Calvary’s a steep up-hill road —
Is there none to help Him with His Cross — not one?
Must He bear it all alone?

Here is a country boy with business in the city,
Smelling of the cattle’s breath and the sweet hay;
Now they bid him lift the Cross, so they have some pity:
Child, they fear the malefactor dies on the way
And robs them of their play.

Has He no friends then, no father nor mother,
None to wipe the sweat away nor pity His fate?
There’s a woman weeping and there’s none to soothe her:
Child, it is well the seducer expiate
His crimes that are so great.

Mother, did I dream He once bent above me,
This poor seducer with the thorn-crowned head,
His hands on my hair and His eyes seemed to love me?
Suffer little children to come to Me, He said —
His hair, his brows drip red.

Hurrying through Jerusalem on business or pleasure
People hardly pause to see Him go to His death
Whom they held five days ago more than a King’s treasure,
Shouting Hosannas, flinging many a wreath
For this Jesus of Nazareth.

by Katherine Tynan, from Herb o’ Grace (electronic edition)

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  They say that about March (although the past two years are proving them wrong),  but consider it in the context of Jesus for a moment.  Jesus enters Jerusalem right before the feast of the passover, and the city treats him like a king:

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  John 12:12-13

Jesus here is treated like we assume he should be.  He is treated as an equal (at least) of the Roman emperor, and praised for coming in the name of the Lord.  He is lauded as the King of Israel.  For many people in the crowd, this wasn’t just some emotional parade; for them, Jesus represented an end to the exile they had been living in for their entire lives.  He was the return of the true King.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Lion of Judah, the successor to David and the one who would bring God’s presence back to the temple.  He is hope incarnate.

Of course, I don’t need to tell the rest of the story.  Within days, the crowds would yelling something else.  They would not see him as hope, but as a criminal.  He was not David, and would not defeat Israel’s enemies.

We see it a bit differently.  We see Jesus entering a city full of people who (relatively speaking) had no idea what he was about to do.  Many thought he was there to throw off the shackles of Rome, but Jesus had a much larger mission.  In other words, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a lion, but would leave a sacrificial lamb.

Maundy Thursday

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,  rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”   (John 13:3-10)

Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ humiliation is quite similar to what my own would have been.  No, Lord, you can’t do this; you can’t lower yourself that much.  How could the one we all understand to be the King of Israel act as if he were a servant?  Please, stand up.  Frankly, you’re embarrassing us.

And yet we can all clearly see (with enough hindsight, of course) that every step Jesus took expressed his humility.  Every time he faced a group of religious leaders who ridiculed him or escaped from an angry crowd, Jesus was “lowering” himself.  The one who created everything was forced to live as a man; the prince had become a pauper.

Here, Jesus is doing exactly what Paul described in Philippians 2:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

At this time of year, it is easy for us to think about Jesus is purely individualistic terms.  This season is about Jesus dying for us, for our sins.  And yet on this day we are forced to consider another aspect of our Lord’s ministry.  Following his example, we “lower” ourselves, doing things many may consider beneath us.  We feed the hungry and minister to the poor.  We take the Gospel to places others refuse to even think about.  We become servants to all, putting others ahead of our own needs.  Just like Jesus did.

Holy Wednesday

“Is it I, Lord?”

This is the question the disciples asked Jesus when he announced someone would betray him.  What an incredibly insightful question; they each knew, or at least feared, they had the capacity to betray their Lord.  They had been following him for a while, they had seen every miracle and listened to every teaching, yet there seems to be a fear that they would be the ones to turn against Jesus.

Even though Peter would disagree, saying he would follow Jesus anywhere, each of these men would abandon Him in due time.  They would all run away, fearing for their lives.  Soon they would learn that, while they weren’t the ones to betray him, they did not have the strength to face their enemies.

Of course it would be easy to be hard on the disciples, as if we wouldn’t do the same exact thing.  As if I wouldn’t have run away long ago, even before there was a fear of death.  As if I wouldn’t have been the one to betray him.

This is a hard lesson to learn: that we have the capacity within us to both follow and betray our Lord.  That we are constantly living out the same scenario, at once following and rejecting Jesus.  We pray “Is it I, Lord?” hoping the answer is no, yet knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that our time will come.  Thirty pieces of silver?  Has it ever been that much?

And yet the context of this gives us hope.  The disciples are sitting around the table, receiving the bread and blood from Jesus.  He gave the bread of life to Judas, knowing what would follow.  He gave the wine to Peter, knowing he would deny even knowing him.  He served the rest, knowing they would run in fear.

The hope we see in this is almost unimaginable.  Those who have the capacity to betray him are invited to his table.  Those he knows will turn their backs on him and run away are given his body.

Easter Quotes

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death with death

Eastern Orthodox hymn

Easter would hardly have been, for two thousand years, the spring and center of Christian life and prayer, would hardly have provided the focus of Christian worship and the form of Christian hope, if the word Easter were simply the name of something that once happened in the past.

Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Angel to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Mark 16:6 ESV

Death in vain forbids him rise.

Charles Wesley, Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Those first-century Jews who expected the Resurrection saw it as a single event, the raising to new bodily life of all at the very end. But it is central to Paul and, after him, to all other early Christian writers, that the Resurrection is now a two-stage event– or better, a single event taking place in two moments, as Paul puts it: Christ the first fruits, and then at his coming, those who belong to him.

N.T. Wright, in The Resurrection of Jesus

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4

To live in the light of the Resurrection– that is what Easter means.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

(Some quotes taken from Christianity Today, April 2007)

Good Friday

No matter how much I try to write a Good Friday post, I can’t seem to muster up any good thoughts. For one thing, this day confuses me. How am I supposed to feel? Happy? Sad? I know how to feel on Christmas or Easter day, but in this day there is a tension I don’t think should be resolved.

Anyway, because I am an inarticulate hick, perhaps these words, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux and translated into English by J.W. Alexander (based on Gerhardt’s German translation) will provide something for you.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,

Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;

O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!

Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;

Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.

Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;

Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,

Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.

How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!

How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;

From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.

Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;

Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.

I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;

Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.

Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.

Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;

Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;

O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,

When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,

Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,

When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.

O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,

Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;

Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!

When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,

But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Holy Thursday

Holy ThursdayAnd as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Mark 14:22-25

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 6:54-58

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God

the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”–

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:6-9

The Triumphal Entry

Triumphal EntryRejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall speak peace to the nations;

his rule shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will stir up your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Zechariah 9:9-13 ESV

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

Revelation 6:1-2

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11-16