Where Was Jesus on Saturday?

tomb_stone

It’s Easter Saturday (more accurately Holy Saturday), the space between the sorrow of Good Friday and the joy of Easter.

What was Jesus doing on Saturday?

Maybe we should start with the why of Easter Saturday. In theory Jesus could have resurrected any time after His heart stopped beating. “It is finished!” could have been followed with “Surprise!” as He got down from the cross in His new body.

In Jewish tradition, it was not possible to say that a person’s spirit had truly left their body until the third day after their death. Remember that they counted the day that something happened as the first day. So Jesus rose on the Sunday, the third day after His death.

The delay was for our benefit, so that we would know for sure that He had died on the cross, not merely stunned as some people try to make out. Jesus’ death was truly beyond doubt. Not too many people survived a crucifixion, which in Jesus’ case included a spear thrust through His side.

So the delay was for our benefit, that we would know that the death was real and the resurrection was real.

Jesus’ body remained in the tomb, as far as we know. The opening was sealed and guarded by soldiers in case someone stole the body. They remained there until the events of the resurrection on Sunday morning (see Matthew 28:1-6).

Jesus’ spirit presumably returned to the Father for some high fives and celebration at the completion of the great rescue plan.

In 1 Peter 3:19 we are told that after His death “He went and preached to the spirits in prison.” It is not clear who these spirits are or what He preached to them about or why this happened. But we do know that this particular event happened outside of the constraints of physical time.

Regardless, we do know that Jesus died on Good Friday at the hands of well trained and experienced executioners. We know that He was, by any measure, dead. When He died He took the sins of the world and put them to death also, lifting from us the burden of guilt.

He invites us all to live in resurrection life, being a part of His Kingdom for ever.

 

 

The Cricket Scandal

The news reports have been full of the cricket cheating scandal for a week now.

Many people have commented about the issue. The overwhelming response is disappointment and anger at the cricket team.

That’s the surprise for me. When we are daily bombarded with the poor behaviour of politicians, footballers, celebrities, and the banks why would we expect anything else?

We have abandoned any basis for morality with the rejection of christianity and the embrace of secular humanism. The overwhelming popular morality is “It’s OK if nobody gets hurt.”

Nobody got hurt with the ball tampering plot, so what’s wrong? Cricket Australia tried to avoid the “c” word- cheat.

Nobody got hurt when Barnaby Joyce traded in his wife for a younger model- except for his wife and daughters of course, but people move on.

In both cases some people have claimed that the original “sins” were compounded by lying and covering up. Really? We get upset about lies in a post-truth age? Sandpaper or yellow tape, really who cares?

We do care, because deep down we know that there are objective standards of moral behaviour, right and wrong. We might give ourselves a free pass with our own faults, but we expect better of our “betters”.

God has set some rules that are universally applicable. Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery.

On the eve of Good Friday some commentators are starting to come around to the idea of forgiveness and redemption.  Real redemption only comes from the cross of Christ and only after we acknowledge our own sin.

There’s the rub. We want forgiveness without repentance from sins we don’t acknowledge and a saviour we refuse to believe in. We think others should set a better example without thinking the same should be true of ourselves.

So after a four day long weekend we will be ready for next week’s scandal and asking ourselves again, “How can this be happening?”

Reading The Bible

bible-Sunlight

I was talking to one of my parishioners the other day about daily Bible reading. She said to me, “I find it so hard because my first reaction when I start to read is, I’ve read that before and I know what’s in it.”

This is a real problem for many people, especially christians who have been diligent for many years in reading the Word. At times I have (still do, occasionally) fallen into this trap.

So how do we overcome it?

I think the key is to approach our devotional time with expectation. We must expect that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us something that we need to know. To do that, we must slow down the process, slow our reading, become more meditative.

Here are some keys to reading the Bible more effectively.

  1. Stop using devotional books such as “Word For Today” and “Every Day With Jesus.” These are excellent resources, but the problem is that they can give you the “right answers” before you have worked at reading the word of God. They then stop you from digging deeper into the Scripture because you think you have got what you need. If you have been a committed christian for more than 5 years you need to cut the string. You don’t need it. I know it’s like parting a toddler from its dummy but really you can do this.
  2. Use a plan of some sort. I use the Revised Common Lectionary, because of my Uniting Church roots and because it gives you four passages a week from various parts of the Bible. You might prefer to go through a book of the Bible (a section of about a dozen or so verses), but don’t stick to your “favourite” books.
  3. Journal. This is the key to slowing down. Write down your thoughts. Use pen and paper rather than an electronic devise such as a tablet or computer. Yes you can type faster than you can write, and yes it is more legible. But remember that we are trying to slow down, to spend quality time with God.
  4. Use a meditative approach. The ancient process of lectio divina directs a method of contemplating, praying and living the Scriptures. There are many articles on the internet about lectio divina, including this brief description.

 

I often use the SOAP method pioneered by Wayne Cordeiro. Most of my Reflections published on my blog are in this format. Remember that this is a process for structuring your thoughts and writing in your journal.

  1. Pray. Ask God to show you what He wants you to see. Open your heart and mind to Him.
  2. Scripture: Read the passage. Is there a verse, sentence or phrase that leaps out at you? If not, read the passage through again and again until the most important phrase becomes obvious.  Write down this Scripture next to the letter S.
  3. Observe: Read the passage again and now summarise briefly what the passage is about. What is happening? What is said? This is the context for your highlighted Scripture.
  4. Application: Looking again at the highlighted Scripture, what does this mean? What does it mean for me today? How can I carry it with me, put it into practice?
  5. Prayer: Write down a short prayer asking God to help you with this.

This is a really simple but profound way of reading the Bible. It will bring your devotions to life.

The key to it all is that you are spending time in the presence of the Living God. It’s not about gaining knowledge or self-improvement. It’s about relationship with God.

 

Easter in Australia

Bernard Gaynor writes:

 

‘There’s not much else to do Good Friday’.

These words come from the philosopher extraordinaire, Jack Ziebell, who otherwise passes his time as the captain of the North Melbourne footy club.

He was urging people to get down to the temple of bread and circuses and worship whatever out of pure boredom and idle curiosity this Friday. Apparently the nation has the day off but no one is quite sure why.

Jack Ziebell may not realise it, but his few words speak volumes about the cultural malaise that is eroding away the social fabric of Australia and tearing it apart. We have lost all bearings with our past and so have no idea where we are headed, let alone what we are doing now.

But just to make things clear, this is what Good Friday is all about:

Good Friday

You might think it’s all a bunch of fairy tales. But here is the practical reality of that: if ‘Good Friday’ is meaningless, don’t expect the state to keep it as a day free from work much longer.

Meaningless days are days of work.

And even if you think the Bible is a book of fiction, it is still the story that has transformed our culture and society.

Good Friday is the most epic of epics in human history.

That Man on that cross.

According to the writers He was hung there after being falsely accused. And after the false accusers contradicted themselves. And after the man who sentenced Him even questioned whether truth mattered at all. And after the rabble outside bayed for the release of a murderer instead of the one who had given them bread for their bodies and their souls.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

And to cap it all off, the official crime Christ was convicted of was claiming that He was divine.

Then, to demonstrate the blinding folly of the accusation, He rose from the dead. In other words, the accusation was true and it was because Christ is God that His body was broken.

None of us today would have acted any differently than the central characters of this story because we are all flawed and weak and self-interested.

Just like they did 2,000 years ago, we would have welcomed Christ as King on the Sunday and then cheered as he was executed a mere five days later. And then, just as they did, we would have descended to the truly bizarre: placing a guard over a dead man’s tomb.

That’s the first part of the story.

It, more than any other narrative, captures the truly flawed essence of human nature. We might live in a newly humanist world but the most human of all stories was written two millennia ago.

But it’s the second part of it that makes it so vast, so immense and so far beyond the scope of human understanding that we are only left to wonder.

It’s the fact that the risen Christ died not just by us, but for us. The sequel to the pain of Good Friday is the hope and forgiveness and glory of Easter Sunday.

However, like I said, you might think it is all a load of rubbish.

Nonetheless, that ‘rubbish’ transformed the Western world. All our notions of justice and truth and forgiveness and society and morality come from the story of the cross.

That, in itself, is worth more than a footy game.

But I do believe this story is true. Every word of it.

The twelve men who stood with Christ during His life all gave their own after His death.

One by his own hand. He could not live with his actions.

The rest by the hand of others.

For what the world today claims to be a lie, they gave a life.

And here’s the hard reality: the only alternative to accepting the truth of this story is to believe that these men – every single one of them – willingly died for something that they knew to be false.

That, truly, is too much to believe.

No one dies for a lie. And they certainly did not either. Instead they, like the society around them, were transformed by that Man on the cross.

That, also, is worth more than a game of footy.

But, sadly, Australia has forgotten all of this and thrown in a real epic for bread and circuses.

We are returning to the barbaric paganism of Roman times. They had their games back then too. But until Christ transformed society, the contestants in those games only received the man of the match award if they survived it.

Jack Ziebell might like to ponder that next time he’s out spruiking an event for the culturally dead Australian Football League (which is the true Pontius Pilate in this modern day matter) that thumbs its nose at the glory of our civilisation and demands a return to those dark ages that enveloped the world before the sun rose over that empty tomb.