Category Archives: Easter

Easter Sunday: “My Lord and My God”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:26-31

I think that maybe Thomas has gotten a bad rap. Why do we call him “doubting Thomas” when the thing he does at this climactic moment in John is to believe?

You may recall that, just before this scene, we are told about an incident where all of the disciples – except Thomas – were witnesses to an incident in which Jesus, thought dead, suddenly appeared among them. Upon hearing the story, Thomas responded that he would have to touch Jesus’ wounds to believe. However, when Jesus appears again in this text, he no longer finds it necessary. He simply believes.

The Gospel of John will continue for one more Chapter, which contains a sort-of post-script that gets tagged on at the end. However, the main story concludes in Chapter 20 with a blessing for you and I. Like Thomas was before Jesus appeared for a second time, we are stuck with relying on witnesses to believe in Jesus’ Lordship, Kingship, and God-hood. We did not see the empty tomb, and Jesus has not appeared to us – at least not in the way he appeared to the disciples.

Just as the disciples are blessed by his life-giving presence, so we too are blessed when we can “see” Jesus for who he is, based on these accounts. John concludes by urging us to find life ourselves by hearing his story and believing that Jesus is the “Messiah” (a Jewish term for the person who would bring God’s justice into history) and the “Son of God” (a Greek term for the supreme human authority in the Earth).

For Reflection: How is the Easter story speaking to you today? In what ways has John helped you to better see and believe in Jesus, the King of Creation?

Easter Morning Roundup

Brian McLaren offers up a song about how resurrection liberates us from the cycle of violence and vengeance.

Scot McKnight reminds us that the stone table has cracked.

Richard Beck has written a great piece on how resurrection – a story of the “victim” who still lives – shouldn’t be good news, but – miraculously – it is.

And in his daily email devotional, Richard Rohr says this:

The Risen Jesus is the lasting image and eternal icon of what God is going to do everywhere for everybody in all of time.  God’s exact job description is this, according to St. Paul: I am the God “who turns death into life and calls into being what does not yet exist” (Romans 4:17).  Starting in Genesis, Yahweh is always creating something out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), which becomes the bedrock meaning of grace.  Jesus stands forever as God’s promise, guarantee, and lifetime warranty of what God has always been about and will forever do: turn crucifixions into resurrections!

God Forsaken

Sundown on Good Friday is a time of God-forsakenness. Yet it is also a time that is pregnant with hope, not only for personal redemption, but for all of humanity.

Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

“He trusts in the Lord;
let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.

From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

But you, O Lord, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.

The Last Week

51PSR1C9SYL._SL500_AA300_[1] About a week ago, I mentioned in a tweet that Sheila and I are teaching Sunday School out of The Last Week, a remarkable book by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan about the final days of Jesus’ life, as told in the Gospel of Mark.

If you are interested in marking the days of Holy Week through prayer and meditation, a great way to do it is by reading through Mark’s account. We have put together a brief devotional guide for our class to enable them to do just that, and I thought I would share it here.

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Some Background. Jesus lived during tumultuous times in Roman-occupied Israel. The Romans, in cooperation with the authorities in the Jewish temple had set up a system of economic and political domination that caused a few, elite in the cities to become very rich, while economic conditions in the countryside were worsening dramatically. Jews had a love/hate relationship with the temple – they were dependent on the system of sacrifices that occurred there, but those in charge of the temple endorsed, and even benefitted from a harsh system of oppression. Jesus’ ministry was almost exclusively directed at the impoverished masses in the countryside. None of his ministry – except when he came to Jerusalem – took place among the wealthy landowners who inhabited the cities. His message was a political one – it taught of a “kingdom of God” in which, among other things, the poor were treated with justice. For Jesus to come to Jerusalem during a major feast, being hailed as a king by a large crowd of beaten-down followers, must have been a very frightening thing to those in charge of the temple.

What Happens During Mark’s “Passion Week”? Mark’s take on the “passion” of Jesus is different from what we might imagine. Jesus is passionate about justice for those who have been oppressed and marginalized by the corrupt temple authorities, and he is ultimately killed because he confronts this system, and refuses to back down. For Mark, the point is not the amount of suffering that Jesus underwent (this is normally what we think of as Jesus’ “passion”), rather Mark focuses on Jesus’ passion for God’s kingdom, and it is that passion that gets him killed. To walk through the Passion Week with Mark requires us to be confronted by the same Jesus, to reflect on the ways that we may ourselves be involved in modern-day versions of domination systems, and to contemplate what it means to oppose those systems. What role can we play in liberating those around us who also find themselves in the margins and shadows of society?

Here are our readings for this week:

Palm Sunday (Mark 11:1-11). Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a planned, political demonstration (see the story that immediately proceeds this in Mark 10:46-52 to see how Jesus had pre-arranged this event). It invokes Zecheriah 14:4 9:9, in which the King of Peace rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. It should contrasted with the intimidating display of force that is involved when a Roman Governor comes into town, mounted on a horse and surrounded by a regiment of a brutal, Roman-trained killing machine.

Monday (Mark 11:12-19). Jesus goes into the temple and shuts down the process of converting currency, something that is necessary for the temple system of sacrifices to take place. He condemns the temple authorities openly, accusing them of using the temple as a “den” while the undertake robbery outside the temple. To understand more about his reference to a “den of robbers,” read Jeremiah 7. If one engages in injustice outside the temple, one cannot expect to find God’s protection inside it. This story is sandwiched between a two-part story of a fig tree that is cursed by Jesus, and that then withers. It seems to suggest that, in the same way the fig tree is cursed by Jesus and then destroyed, so the temple – which is “cursed” by Jesus on this day – will meet its end.

Tuesday (Mark 11:20-13:37). In this long text, Jesus is confronted by the people in charge of the temple, who question his authority, and then attempt to humiliate him by asking “trick” questions that are designed to trap him in his words. It doesn’t work. Note especially Jesus’ story about the wicked tenants (12:1-12). Again, he is suggesting that the “end” of the temple has now come. At the end of the day (Chapter 13), Jesus foretells that the temple soon meet its destruction. The actual destruction of the temple in 70 CE was probably happening around the time Mark wrote his gospel.

Wednesday (Mark 14:1-11). On this day, a woman pours expensive perfume on Jesus in an act of devotion, an event that Mark views as Jesus’ preparation for burial – a sign that his fate is now sealed. Notice how, when the disciples object to such extravagance, Jesus makes a statement which assumes that his disciples will always be present in the midst of poverty (“The poor you will always have with you,” v. 7).

Thursday (Mark 14:12-72). Notice again the elaborate plans Jesus has already made for Passover, as his disciples are led, in almost a clandestine way, to the place where the meal is to be held. There, he tells them of his coming death, and its meaning, but alerts them that he will be raised, and that he will later meet them in Galilee. Note how everyone gradually deserts Jesus. Eventually, even Peter turns on him. Though later editors will add in additional stories, this is the last that we see or hear from any of the eleven in Mark’s original gospel.

Friday (Mark 15:1-47). Today, Jesus is executed and buried. Notice, during this reading, how God’s judgment now comes on the temple. The land becomes dark (see Amos 8:9), and the temple curtain is torn in two (15:38), seeming to suggest that God has “left” the temple. Jesus himself quotes from a scripture (Psalm 22), in which it at first appears that God has deserted him, but which later indicates that God will vindicate him. Even the Roman soldier, a symbol of the Imperial domination system, declares Jesus – not Caesar – to be the true Son of God (v. 39).

Saturday (Nothing). Nothing is said in Mark’s gospel about the Sabbath day. This is a day to sit in silence, reflecting on the sober, reality of Jesus’ mortality. He lies silent, in the tomb.