Toys come to life

002[1]A great excerpt from C.S. Lewis was in my devotional for today:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life?  Well suppose you could really have brought them to life.  Imagine turning a toy soldier into a real little man.  It would involve turning the tin into flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt.  He thinks you are killing him.  He will do everything he can to prevent you.  He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know.  But what God did about us was this.  The Second Person in God, the Son, became human himself: was born into the world as an actual man–a real man of a particular language, weighing so many stone.  The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s  body.  If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

[from Mere Christianity]

Movie Review – “Son Of God”


Let me begin by saying, if it isn’t already obvious, that I write this as a believer.  I also write this as someone that is more than just a little familiar with the Biblical story of the Son of God.  I enjoyed the film and found it to be quite powerful.  It is more in the tear-jerker category than I had expected.  The emotional impact that the Passion sequence had on me was more than I had expected.  Overall, I would recommend this film for high school students and up.  With parents, middle schoolers would possibly be okay with the intensity of the crucifixion.  I think it makes a difference if the viewer cares about what is happening to the Jesus figure.  The film is not as gory as “Passion of Christ,” but it is quite intense and the violence against Jesus is graphic enough.

Some specific bones that need to be picked:

History Channel — why?  Why?!  Why do you sometimes stick to the Biblical narrative and other times not, even when it would have no effect on the run time.  This is why I cannot “highly” recommend this movie.  I am sure that it is fine for some measure of evangelism.  Giving a video version is desirable  for those that hate to read, yet still want to know who this Jesus is.  I am not sure that the level of the special effects is quite enough to draw in those that are totally “unchurched.”  Yet, those that saw the movie with me, and are also active Christians, had the diminishing experience of knowing the story already.  The plot line is known–the guy dies at the end, except it is not the end.  It is not the end for him or for the story.

If you want to talk with me about aspects of the film after you have seen it, comment on this post.

[To avoid spoilers at this point in time.]

There are a number of non-historical and untraditional things that the History Channel does with the story.  A few embellishments are done really well, a few are careless.

Winning the Lottery on a Bad Day

Amos 5:12-24

For I know how many are your transgressions,
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and push aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
In all the squares there shall be wailing;
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning,
and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing;
in all the vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through the midst of you,

says the Lord.

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?

I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


I have to admit it, I have on a few occasions played the lottery.  To many this might not seem like much of an admission.  It is a low level form of gambling.  Yet, it is still gambling.  Our church, among many others, has a social statement against gambling.  We could spend our money more wisely by simply saving it.  I could have spent my money on something useful.  Nonetheless, one day I was caught up in the fever for millions.  I imagined taking a bite out of world hunger and having enough for a little vacation cottage.  We joked and dreamed about what we would do if we suddenly won millions.  My son teased me and referenced the common wisdom that winning the lottery is similar in probability to being mauled by a regular bear and a polar bear in the same day.  When I didn’t win, he impersonated the Etrade baby commercial showing his surprise face.

Amos knew about this type of bad news a long time ago.  Those who do not follow God, will not know of a jackpot.  We who are faithful saints and sinners have hope in that even when things are going badly, we will know of a day when God redeems us fully.

Amos calls us to change our ways of turning away from God and turn to actively carrying out a just world.

May we turn to love God and one another, caring for each other, until that great day when God turns dark against wickedness, evil, and sin–ending bad days forever.  That will be the greatest jackpot.

Sometimes It isn’t One or the Other

I think that one of my childhood friends invented the concept of twist flavor.  At least, that is the way it seemed to me.  Way back, in that small town outside of Baltimore, there was a corner store with “penny” candy (most items were a nickel, dime or quarter).  In the summertime, the shop owner carried ice cream.  I remember going in one time and ordering my vanilla cone.  Then he stepped up and the shopkeeper asked him what flavor would he like, vanilla or chocolate?  He said, “both.”  He chuckled and said something like, i’ll see if I can squish them both into the same cone.  I am sure my jaw hit the floor.  My friend was a little more sassy and crafty than I was.  I thought you had to pick one.  Sometimes, it isn’t one or the other, it is both.

As the readings point towards Sunday, “Good Shepherd Sunday” in Eastertide, we see two images of God come into view.  From Revelation 5, the lamb slaughtered and triumphant (which is two in itself) and the Good Shepherd who knows the sheep which is the Gospel reading this Sunday.  How can this be?  Can both flavors of ice cream be in one cone?  Silly Andrew, God can be wherever or however God wants to be.

What does that look like, though to see God fulfilling both images?  This, surely, must be one of the richest mysteries of Christianity.  God crucified and yet victorious.  God gentle and leading us by voice.  One image is the prime example of power that is even powerful in weakness, unable to be defeated.  The other is a humble scene of grass and safety.  The knowing and counting eyes contrast against the eyes and horns.  The quiet of the outdoors contrast against the loud and lauded singing of a new song.  Yet, they are both true.  Like chocolate and vanilla twist, the two are delicious together.


Revelation 5:1-10Image

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.”

Psalm 23Image

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Second Time is the Charm (or Third, or Fourth…)

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the Imagehem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

See also Psalm 121 for today’s readings.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel really stupid that you didn’t pick up on something the first time around?  (I sure hope so, because I am known to run into things and miss something two or three times!)  The disciples make me feel better.  They miss things from Jesus multiple times.  This past Sunday we heard the Resurrected Jesus appear to the disciples in the middle of a fishing disaster.  They thought they could go back to life as usual.  Did they forget the call?  Did they forget whose they were?  Did they forget that Jesus had made death die?  So there they were much like the first time, fishing and not getting any fish.  Much like the grave getting no permanent victims.  Things have changed. you are going to have to look at things differently.  At least when they listened to Jesus and tried the other side of the boat (before and after Easter morning) they recognized the work of God among them.

A saying goes something like, “you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

Jesus is alive, has been alive, and will be alive.

Are we living like we know it?

Are we showing that we know it?

Are we sharing that we know it?

Pick your side

one night with the kingBelow is the reading for today from Esther which is celebrated in the Jewish feast days of Purim. Purim means lots, referring to the lottery the evil Haman (boo hiss) used to determine when the massacre of the Jews was to occur.  Esther orchestrates a very crafty exposure of the plot and saves her people.  Read the whole book of Esther (only 10 chapters) for the whole story.  “One Night with the King” is also a very good movie version of the story.  I found this set of connections from site:

Many have noted the echoes of Purim in the Nuremberg war crime trials. In the Book of Esther, Haman’s ten sons were hanged (Esther 9:13); in 1946, ten of Hitler’s top associates were put to death by hanging for their war crimes (including the crime of murdering 6 million Jews). An 11th associate of Hitler, Hermann Göring, committed suicide the night before the execution, a parallel to the suicide of Haman’s daughter recorded in the Talmud(Megillah 16a). There are rumors that Göring was a transvestite, making that an even more accurate parallel. One of the men seems to have been aware of the parallel: on the way to the gallows, Julius Streicher shouted “Purim Fest 1946!” See: The Execution of Nazi War Criminals. It is also interesting that, in the traditional text of the Megillah (Book of Esther), in the list of the names of Haman’s sons, the letters Tav in the first name, Shin in the seventh name and Zayin in the tenth name are written in smaller letters than the rest. The numerical value of Tav-Shin-Zayin is 707, and these ten men were hanged in the Jewish year 5707 (the thousands digit is routinely skipped when writing Jewish years; there are no numerals for thousands in Hebrew numbering). They were not hanged on Purim, though — they were hanged on Hoshanah Rabbah.

Another echo of Purim is found in the Soviet Union a few years later. In early 1953, Stalin was planning to deport most of the Jews in the Soviet Union to Siberia, but just before his plans came to fruition, he suffered a stroke and died a few days later. He suffered that stroke on the night of March 1, 1953: the night after Purim (note: Jewish days end at sunset; you will see March 1 on the calendar as Purim). The plan to deport Jews was not carried out.

Yesterday evening I read from Letters and Papers from Prison by Deitrich dietrichBonhoeffer for our Congregation Council  meeting.  Yesterday was the day of his martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis.

Yet, in Christ, weakness has become powerful.  The witness of Dietrich has become a great testimony against evil.  Honestly, life wins so pervasively, I feel bad for the wicked and hope and pray that they might pick the right side and live.

Esther 9:1-5, 18-23

Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain power over them, but which had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes, the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin; and no one could withstand them, because the fear of them had fallen upon all peoples. All the officials of the provinces, the satraps and the governors, and the royal officials were supporting the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. For Mordecai was powerful in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces as the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the open towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, a holiday on which they send gifts of food to one another.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor. So the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them.

Luke 12:4-12

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.

Flexing My Muscles

Image1 Samuel 17:1-23

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three eldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle; the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. Jesse said to his son David, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.” Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

Acts 5:12-16

Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.


I have stopped flexing my muscles in the mirror.  Mostly because I cant see much difference in the before and after.  If I face a giant, I am going to have to rely on some skills.  It is true that courage is the the greater part of valor.  Sometimes, you just have to be the one that will accept the challenge and do what you can.  Miracles are what happen when God meets our morsel of courage mixed with a kernel of faith.

Today, did not begin so easily, I had to mentally push myself to get moving and get on with the day.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that God rewards those who show up.  Show up for worship.  Be available for your family and friends.  Put you smile and your faith out there and give someone a lift.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

This picture is closer to what I look like when I go hulk.


Linen: The Fabric of Extremes


2 Samuel 6:1-15
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. David was angry because the LORD had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day. David was afraid of the LORD that day; he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come into my care?” So David was unwilling to take the ark of the LORD into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

It was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of theLORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Cotton had a great advertising campaign several years ago. “Cotton: The fabric of our lives.” It has been updated and continues (cotton). Personally, I was never really sure why they needed to advertise. I always though cotton was more comfortable than the synthetics that I suppose they were competing against. From jeans to undergarments, t-shirts to big bath towels, cotton always seemed like the best to me. Maybe it was all those polyester zipper shirts that were cutting into the profits.

Long before cotton, though, the best fabric was linen. Made from the flax plant fibers, linen was and is adored for its cool breathable properties. Linen dates back to the earliest uses in fabric, and continues to be a durable breathable fabric.
The linen in today’s readings makes me wonder.  My question has been, who folded the linen? Was it the angels or Jesus himself? If the Resurrected Jesus handled the linen, then perhaps the linen producers are missing an extremely powerful endorsement. What was the Shroud made of,…yes, linen.
Then there is David, first he is scared of the Ark of the Covenant, then he realizes that if it is treated with honor and respect, it blesses its caretakers. So he goes to extreme lengths to show his fervor and devotion by dancing around it, offering praise to God and making repeated sacrifices. God seems pleased. What was David wearing,…yes, linen. An ephod was a minimalist garment that amounted to an apron with shoulder straps. There is some disagreement if that was all he wore, or if it was the extra decorative layer on top of his robes. Either way,…Linen: The Fabric of Extremes – good in heat, used by King David, and the Messiah himself.

The Tough Part

Revelation 12:1-2

A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birthpangs, in the agony of giving birth.


Psalm 118

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,

‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’

The LORD is my strength and my might;

he has become my salvation.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

‘The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;

the right hand of the LORD is exalted;

the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.’

I shall not die, but I shall live,

and recount the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD has punished me severely,

but he did not give me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them

and give thanks to the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD;

the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me

and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing;

it is marvellous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.


When the regular days roll back around, we find ourselves dealing with the questions of “So what?” and “What next?”  Jesus has risen from the dead.  Now what do we do about it?  Can we go on with our plans and finish off the last bits of the ham or the red velvet cake as though everything was normal?  If the Resurrection has already happened, then what does that mean for us today?

Clearly everyday tensions like a call from a woman escaping a domestic abuse situation and North Korea flexing yet another war-painted muscle give me pause to notice that the “newness of life” does not come easily and quietly to a world of sin that is being defeated day after day.  The lie is perpetuated by the enemy that nothing has happened.  The scattered forces of darkness quake at the thought that Christians are proclaiming in unity such bold news as “death has been put to death.” and “Love conquers all.”  The tough part of the Resurrection becomes more obvious as we try to return to our “normal” lives and realize that even just singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” has sent trembling shock waves into the shattering remnants of hell.

The Gospel according to John Bible Study – Passion Story

Perspectives, Purposes and Meanings

Begin by reading through the four major scenes.  Make note of things that you did not notice before or remember.  John notices different things than the other Gospel writers, so it is likely to have questions.  (For further study:  Mt 26 & 27 | Mk 14 & 15 | Lk 22 & 23)

Four Major Scenes:

1- Arrest in the Garden (John skips the agony prayer) [18:1-11]

2-Interrogation by the offended parties (former and current High Priest?!) [18:12-27]

3- Trial of will and wits Between Pilate and Jesus [18:28-19:16]

4-Golgotha Glorified [19:17-42]


Paradox threads:

 Death and triumph – through all of the Passion Story, there is the shadow of death, betrayal, corruption, greed, and lust for power which is in turn overshadowed by the glorification of the Son, authentic friendship and family, forgiveness, clarity of authority and supremely demonstrated love.  The hour of glory has come, yet it does not look like shiny brass and diamonds. 

  • Can you think of a time when a loved one died and the family was glad that their family member was spared further pain?
  • How does Jesus make death more than just bearable, but a triumph?
  • Other religious rebels were killed in the same way, so that any hint of a rebellion was squelched.  Was there any way to actually stop Jesus?
  • There is a sense to triumph in death within created order as Jesus predicts in his cryptic response to Philip [12:24] after his Palm Sunday that in order for a grain of wheat to bear fruit, it must fall to the earth and die.  Does this make “natural” sense to you?  Or is death always ugly?
  • Is death really necessary?  What else could God have done to ensure the permanent glorification?  Is it possible to have an Easter without a Good Friday?


Love’s application that does not look like love–“The crucifixion both fractures and reconstitutes the familiar patterns of fatherly love.  At one level the crucifixion is utterly inexplicable on the basis of love.  Ordinarily, a father who loved his son would do everything possible to protect the child from harm.  No loving father would allow his son to be treated this way.  Yet God is no ordinary Father and Jesus is no ordinary Son.  John finds that in the end, the only thing that explains the inexplicable is love.  If God truly loves the world as well as the son, then the only way to bring the world back to relationship is by communicating love to it.  And God does this in the crucifixion.  The Son is able to bring love into the world because he receives love from his Father(3:35; 10:17).  The Son is also willing to bring love into the world because he himself loves the Father(14:31; 15:9-10).  Love is what the Father and Son share, and this love is what is given to human beings—through the life and death of Jesus.  The reason is that the love that comes from God makes it possible for people to relate to both Father and Son and to become part of a community that is shaped by their love (17:23-26).”  -The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel by Craig R. Koester (2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

  • What is the most painful part of the crucifixion, in your opinion, for Jesus to lovingly endure? The nailing?  The slow suffocation?  The naked humiliation?  The giving up of his family to another?  The dehydration?  Remember, Jesus chose this 18.4.
  • Those who claim to follow and love Jesus—do they show it?  Do we only love others when things are good?
  • Notice also how Judas is contrasted as acting outside of love.  Judas is described in the arrest scene as “standing with them.”  How do you feel when you are singled out for doing something loving versus doing something that smacks of betrayal?
  • When the side of Jesus is pierced, so that the soldiers can be sure he is really dead, blood and water come out.  Do you see this also as a connection to the sacraments of love—Baptism and Communion?

Light and darkness–In the midst of darkness, the story takes shape with the arrest.  Jesus and his disciples are outside the city’s lights (as primitive as they were) and on the other side of the city’s wall in an olive tree filled garden and hillside.  This is the “dark side of town,” a quieter place that Jesus and his disciples frequented.  They come to arrest him with lanterns and torches.  It is not too hard to imagine the faces of the leaders confronting the rag-tag band of Jesus followers with torchlight flickers illuminating small patches of their faces.  A detachment of Roman soldiers (around 600) and police of the High priest’s office are all there, literally crowding around him.  Is it overkill, or were they concerned about the rumors of his previous “slips through the crowd.”  That many people, even in light battle gear, makes a dark muffled sound to the already present darkness.  Yet, as John records Jesus saying, he is “the Light of the World.”  Before each authority, Jesus behaves with dignity, compassion, and composure.  Even in the well-lit shiny walls of Pilate’s praetorium, Jesus seems like the only brightness of innocence.

  • What do you make of Pilate—historically known as an exceptionally nasty person, now almost speechless in the presence of Jesus?  Can such great, arrogant, and powerful people be unnerved? 
  • Jesus proclaims within Pilate’s headquarters, “My kingdom is not from this world.”  Imagine the bright shining golden streets by comparison with where Jesus is now.  Would you ever chose to leave the beauty of heaven to be in the midst of darkness like he was then?
  • The last thing that Pilate says to Jesus is “What is truth?”  I have always imagined him saying this sarcastically.  What if it had a ring of truth (pardon the pun) to the question?  What if Pilate was really trying to figure out truth amidst so many false shreds of authority, power, politics, and information?  Certainly it is a challenge for leaders to “keep the peace” sometimes hiding the small truths to keep the greater truths of society safe.  What about, though, when even the larger truths are lost in the mess and shuffle?
  • How is Pilate’s inscription “King of the Jews” a mixed sign of light and darkness, glory and contempt?  Why does he seem to defend it [19:19-22]?  What would you have the sign read?



Closing Questions:

Where would you be standing in relation to the cross?  In 19.25 and following, John describes who was still there near the cross.  Who was not there?  What sorts of things bring you closer to the cross? 

What do you think about the statement, “If Jesus forgives you, what does it matter?”  Does the pain and agony of the cross as an extreme gift of love mean that our responses should be similar?  What if our following of Jesus is less than spectacular?  What does the radical love of Jesus demand?