Tag Archives: Resurrection

Jesus Wept

But who were the tears for?

The Raising Of Lazarus By Vincent van Gogh

It is related to us in John 11: 1-44,  that after Jesus was told that Lazarus, brother of Mary & Martha, was ill, that he did not go immediately to them in Judea; He stayed another 2 days in Jerusalem. Upon His arrival, we learn that Lazarus was already dead had been interred four days earlier. It seems then , from the timeline we are presented with, it was almost a week after being told about Lazarus, before Jesus went to see the ones’ he loved.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, He wep(John 11: 35) at the news of Lazarus’ death; but why?

Jesus knew that the power of the Father, through the Holy Spirit could resurrect Lazarus. Knowing this, it seems unlikely His tears were for Lazarus, so who were they for? Might they be tears of shame, that he allowed not only the suffering of Lazarus until death but also the suffering of Mary and Martha, all of which He could have prevented.

Perhaps His tears were for Mary and Martha, for what they had endured, after all untill He called Lazarus from the Tomb, they probably thought He’d let them all down.

Maybe it was because He new the resurrection of Lazarus would be in vain. Maybe he knew that Lazarus woud be executed in the future by the Pharisees (John 12: 10). He might have been hoping his delay would save Mary and Martha from even more pain and suffering, but when He got there emotion took over and He felt compassion for Mary and Martha and compelled to do something.

We’ll never know. I just offer a possibility.

In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.

Interview With Mary Magdalene

Christ and Mary Magdalene by Rembrandt

Something a little different from me, so I hope you like the audio post that follows this introduction.

As with all my posts, the script is entirely by me. With thanks to my friend Jenny, who provided the voice of Mary Magdalene in the recording.

I present a fictional news interview with Mary Magdalene, set outside Jerusalem on what is now Easter Sunday.

 

Wash Your Hands

and fold the towel when you’re done.

WashHandsIn Jesus’ time, when a carpenter completed a piece of work, it was fairly common practice for him to wash his hands and then dry them on a linen cloth, which he would leave neatly folded on top of the finished item. It was a way of letting anyone who inspected the object know that it was complete. Jesus was a carpenter, so would almost certainly have been shown this little ritual by his (earthly) father, Joseph.

On the day of resurrection, after Mary had called Peter and John to Jesus’ open tomb, they saw in it that although most of the grave clothes were left where they dropped, the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head in death had been left in its place where his head would have rested.

I wonder if this might have been a sign that Jesus himself was now complete, the finished article? Now he was ready to go to his Father? Maybe his crucifixion wasn’t only to take away the world’s sins, perhaps it was also the last aspect of humanity that Jesus had to experience for God to comprehend the full complexity of his creations and what death means to mankind.

If the folded head cloth was meant as a message, would any of the remaining 11 disciples discern it’s meaning. Five of the disciples’ occupations, before becoming followers, were unknown so one might have been a carpenter. Peter, who saw the folded head covering, had been a fisherman so probably wouldn’t have guessed its significance.

There were also up to five women who visited the tomb, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. Even if one of these women had guessed the significance, if any, of the head cloth remaining in its place, would the men give credence to such insight, given women’s place in that society?

I think the act of leaving the head cloth in place, neatly folded might be a metaphor with Jesus’ former carpentry profession; a sign of His completeness and readiness to go home to His, and our, Father.

Doubting Didymus

Did the disciple we know as Thomas get a raw deal?

Doubting Thomas, by Caravaggio

Didymus, whom we know better as the disciple Thomas, is one of the only two disciples whose name has survived in fairly common usage in today’s language, Judas being the other. I imagine that at some time you have heard someone referred to as ‘a Judas’ and in Thomas’ case, you have probably heard someone called ‘a doubting Thomas’

Thomas, was sceptical that Christ had risen again. He was the only one of the remaining eleven disciples, Judas having already killed himself, who was not present at Jesus appearance in the upper room a week after Mary Magdalene told the disciples their Lord had returned. Thomas, when told of Jesus appearance, is reported to have said “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 25 NIV).

A week earlier, before Jesus’ appearance in the upper room, Luke writes (Luke 24: 11) that when Mary Magdalene told the disciples that Jesus had risen, they did not believe her. I think it is important to remember that when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was the only one not present. The rest had not only seen the Lord, they met him all together.

For Thomas, Jesus’ resurrection was second hand information on both the first and second appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion. The first time when Mary Magdalene brought the news from the open tomb and on the second occasion, when the other disciples told Thomas what they had seen.

After what they had witnessed at Calvary, can we really blame Thomas for his skepticism? If it had been one of the others instead of Thomas, would he have put his doubt into words? How often do we keep quiet about things today,  just so as not to stand out in a crowd, or look silly in front of our peers? Perhaps Thomas was the only one with the courage to speak out about his doubts.

The disciples had all seen Jesus perform miracles, including resurrecting at least two people, Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, although in both those cases their bodies were whole and without injury. In Jesus’ own case not only was the cadaver mutilated, it would mean a dead man healing himself.

Try and imagine yourself in Thomas’ place, would you have found it easy to believe such a momentous event without evidence of some kind? Thomas doubted, he was skeptical but let us not forget what Peter did; he lied. Three times, Peter denied knowing Jesus at all. Thomas never denied the Lord was alive, he just wanted something more than second hand testimony, after all since Peter had already lied, why should Thomas believe him at all.

Poor old Thomas’ woes don’t end there. When he sees the Lord for himself and Jesus allows him to touch his wounds, Thomas believes and he cries out “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus next words though “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” might be taken as an implication (at least in the NIV translation), that Thomas is less blessed than those who believed without seeing the Lord. Whilst almost certainly not intended like that, it can be read that way, so suppose that that was how Thomas took it?

When Thomas did see the risen Lord and touch his wounds, are we to believe that at least some of the other disciples in the room did not also want to reach out and touch but were afraid to, perhaps even afraid to ask? If I were a betting man, I would give good odds that they all the other disciples watched very closely as Thomas was given licence to, and had the courage to, touch Jesus’ wounds to satisfy himself. Perhaps Caravaggio’s picture that I included with this post makes the point. We do not know who the two disciples are in the picture with Thomas but, just look how closely they are watching what he does.

Thomas touched Jesus wounds almost two thousand years ago. We have no option other than to rely on the accounts in The Bible, on which to have faith. Could we have the same confidence in our faith without Thomas’ actions? So, to answer my own opening question; Yes I think Thomas (or Didymus) does get a raw deal, at least in the way his actions are reported in ‘the press’.

There is an old Chinese proverb that seems
to me it might be appropriate to Thomas:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”
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The Cross – 3. Life

Previous, 2. The Hill

Vacant

Grinding sounds, growing light,
The stone rolled back,
Death robes empty, neatly folded,
A vacant tomb,

A missing body.

A woman weeping,
A man in the garden,
‘Mary’ he says,
‘Rabboni’!
Understanding. Resurrection.

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The Cross – 2. The Hill

Previous, 1. The Garden

IMG_0383 copyLying, in pain
Flesh lacerated by the cruel whip
Knowing his fate
condemned by twisting his own words
mocked and abused
darkness falls, blood dries
no sleep, no rest
awaiting dawn

The cross drags, shuffling slowly, a cruel weight
Rough timber against torn, raw flesh,
Crown cutting in, a trickle of blood
A stumble, a fall, pain, he stands again
The city gate
The final hill, Golgotha

A nail, a hammer blow,
A searing pain through the wrist
Another, the other wrist, the feet.
Raised high on the cross, looking down
Vision blurred by agony.
Hanging like a thief with thieves

Each tiny movement torture
a few words pass from his lips
To a man on another cross
A drink refused, foul wine vinegar
A spear in his side
A cry, desolation, abandoned
Darkness, peace, release.

Next (final): 3.Life