Simon of Cyrene: The Cross-Bearing Life

The cross-bearing life of the Christian isn’t a theory about which we have opinions, it is a way of life in which we learn by experience.

Mark 15:21-24


fender-benderLiving as we do on the I-25 corridor between Denver and Colorado Springs, rarely does a week go by when we are not stuck in some kind of traffic slowdown for an inexplicable reason. Traffic slows nearly to a halt and then, almost as quickly as it stopped, it breaks loose again so that the interstate resumes its resemblance to a NASCAR race.

One of the main reasons for these instant slowdowns is rubbernecking. A fender bender on the side of the road, someone getting pulled over, will cause people to slow down and take a look. Occasionally it’s more serious—a real accident with police, fire, and ambulance on scene. We naturally slow down to look, wanting to know what happened but also being glad that it didn’t happen to us.

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The Wife of Pilate: Dreaming of Jesus

Matthew 27:15-26

keep-calm-it-was-all-a-bad-dreamSo, here we are, all rested and ready to worship this morning. Hopefully you had a good night’s sleep and pleasant dreams, but that also raises a question: Do you remember what you dreamed last night? Or how about any dreams you may have had in the past?

Scientists tell us that all of us dream during REM sleep, but very few of us remember those dreams. The ones we do remember are often the scary or anxious ones and scientists tell us that the reason is that when we’re anxious or depressed our dreams take on a more vivid quality that make them memorable. I still remember a dream I had when I was about 8 or so when killer elves were trying to climb up on my bed and I was beating them back with my Bill Mazeroski autographed baseball bat. For a kid who was afraid of the dark, that kept me awake for weeks and still makes me shudder.

Sometimes those dreams are recurring ones that grab us when we’re most anxious about something—like the dreams I’ve had over the last several months where it’s Sunday morning but I forgot to prepare a sermon and show up at church late underdressed and frantic. That’s a scary dream, let me tell you, especially when it happens just before the alarm goes off on Sunday morning!

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Joseph of Arimathea – The Secret Disciple

Mark 15:42-47

ossuaries

First century tomb with ossuaries on the Mount of Olives, near the Church of Dominus Flevit in Jerusalem.

When we say the creeds, one of the key lines of Christian doctrine that we always recite is our belief that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified dead and buried.” It’s interesting to me that we have holy days to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, but we don’t often say much about his burial—it’s just an assumed fact. And yet, in our New Testament lesson from I Corinthians 15, Paul mentions it again as part of the “first importance” of the Gospel record: that Christ “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised according to the Scriptures.”

All four Gospels record the burial of Jesus in some detail, and many argue that they do so because the details of the tomb and the disposition of the body of Jesus are critical pieces of evidence that support the claims of the resurrection two days later—that Jesus was really dead and was buried in the usual way—the body washed and wrapped in a cloth and then laid out in a tomb that was either a natural or man-made cave. The body would then be anointed with spices to help keep down the smell and hasten decomposition. A year later, the family would return to the tomb and collect the bones, placing them in a stone box called an ossuary, that would then be put in a niche in the back of the tomb. All of this is stated and implied in the burial stories.

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Barabbas – A Zealot’s Life

The life of Barabbas raises the question: “What am I zealous for?”

Matthew 27:15-26

jerusalemIf you were a pilgrim in Jerusalem during the Passover in the spring of 29AD, one of the questions that you might have heard on the lips of people as you walked around the marketplace or in the courts of the Temple would have been a question that Jews had been asking for quite some time: “How and when will the kingdom of God come?” It was a question that would have been especially relevant during the festival as people gathered from around the Mediterranean world to worship at the temple and celebrate the meal that commemorated the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt under Moses—a question about when God’s final liberation would come.

After all, those who gathered in the city knew that they were not truly free—at least not yet. The Romans had come in 63BC under Pompey and took over the city, the latest in a parade of conquering empires that had dominated or at least threatened to dominate Israel for nearly 600 years. In various ways, Jews were wondering if this was the year when the Messiah would finally come and save them and set them free for good.

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Pontius Pilate: What is Truth?

First in a Lenten series looking at six characters from the Passion of Jesus

John 18:28-38

N1204PilateStoneIn 1961, archaeologists were excavating the Roman theater that was built by Herod the Great in the seaside town of Caesarea Maritimia, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Herod built the theater in 30BC, along with the entire city patterned on the Roman model, as part of his tribute to the emperor Augustus. Somewhere during the fourth century, the original theater was remodeled and, as was very common in the ancient world, some of the stones from elsewhere in the town were repurposed for the construction. One of these stones was used as part of a set of stairs leading up to the seating area of the theater, the mason seeing it as simply another piece to the construction puzzle. When the archaeologists found it some 1600 years later, however, they discovered a faint Latin inscription on the stone that was a historical bombshell. The inscription read:

[DIS AUGUSTI]S TIBERIEUM

[PO]NTIUS PILATUS

[PRAEF]ECTUS IUD[EA]E

Filling in the blanks of the stone that had been weathered by the elements and trampled by centuries of Roman feet, the archaeologist recognized this as a dedication stone of a long lost building constructed to honor the Emperor Tiberias, who was the Roman ruler at the time of Jesus—but a building built by the “ Praefectus Iudeae”—the Prefect of Judea—one Pontius Pilate.

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