Tag Archives: Crucifixion

Have You Read What He Said? – A Poem

You think He’s a prophet, a great teacher,
nothing more, nothing less

Seriously?
Have you ever read
the many crazy things He said?

He spoke like a street corner sandwich-board

From that time on Jesus began to preach,
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Or a homeless man rambling on
about angels and demons

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.
The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

He was homeless, with no place to lay His head

No one listens to a crazy man with a sandwich-board
or the homeless man rambling on

You surely don’t call them prophets, or great teachers
just crazy, nothing more

He spoke like a paranoid schizophrenic
certain the ones in power were after Him

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered
over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and flogged and crucified.

He was plagued by delusions of grandeur
claiming He was God; had always lived and always would
even after He died, He claimed He would rise again

“On the third day I will be raised to life!”
 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

No one would listen to someone who made such claims today
They would lock Him in the loony bin, put Him on meds
until He understood He was just a man

The leaders of His day did even worse
They crucified Him because He claimed He was the Messiah
the Son of God

Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man
sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Then the high priest said, “Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

But He offered some great advice, you say
and spoke of love and forgiveness

That He did, but His advice, His commands
turned many away who thought His teaching too hard

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. . .
And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. . .
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him up on the last day.
For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

Those who followed Him then, those who follow Him now
do so not because He was a great teacher or a prophet
but because He was who He said He was
Immanuel, God with us
nothing more, and certainly nothing less

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It Is Finished – An Elfje

Black
the sky
when He died
redeemed my lost soul.
Atonement.

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The Crowd Shouted – A Holy Week Poem

As I sat in church on Palm Sunday thinking about the coming events of Holy Week, I was again struck by how the tables turned on Jesus from the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday to the crucifixion of Good Friday. And so the idea for this found poem was born.

The Crowd Shouted

The crowd shouted:
“Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He
who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Pharisees looked for a way
to arrest Him,
but they were afraid of the crowd
because the people held that He was a prophet.

Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with You,
I will never disown you.”
And all the other disciples
said the same.

As He taught in the Temple court,
the large crowd listened
to him with delight.

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now we can see
that you know all things
and that you do not even need us to ask.
This makes us believe that you came from God.”

Now the betrayer
had arranged a signal with the guards:
“The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!”
and kissed Him.

Then all the disciples
deserted Him and fled.
Peter denied Him again,
with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

“What shall I do, then,
with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.

The crowd shouted all the louder,
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

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I Remember You, Lord

Today I want to share a song by Mac Powell of Third Day called I Remember You. It is a short but beautiful song that is perfect for this Lenten season. As we look forward to Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, this song is a wonderful reminder of what it is we focus on during Lent.

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Psalm 124 – If God Was Not on Our Side

The date today is 12/4, so I decided to post Psalm 124. It is a wonderful Psalm that reminds us that we would be completely lost if the Lord had not been on our side.

He was on our side when He entered Mary’s womb. He was on our side when He was born in a lowly manger, helpless and cold.

He was on our side when He spent 40 days in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan. He was on our side when He resisted that temptation and made a way for us to do so, too.

He was on our side when He was baptized in the Jordan by John. He was on our side as He walked with His disciples and taught them what they needed to pass on to future generations about us.

He was on our side when He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but told her to leave her life of sin. He was on our side when He gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, and fed the hungry.

He was on our side when He condemned the Pharisees for their legalism that kept the people in darkness.

He was on our side when He hung on the cross wearing a crown of thorns, His side pierced with a spear. He was on our side when He took all our sin upon Himself.

He was on our side when He rose again from the dead. He is on our side even now as He sits at the right hand of the Father.

Praise be to God that He has been and always will be on our side!

Psalm 124

    A song of ascents. Of David.

 1 If the LORD had not been on our side—
   let Israel say—
2 if the LORD had not been on our side
   when men attacked us,
3 when their anger flared against us,
   they would have swallowed us alive;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
   the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
   would have swept us away.

 6 Praise be to the LORD,
   who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
   out of the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
   and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

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Lifting Up Jesus: How to Grow His Church

This past weekend I was listening to Audio Adrenaline in my car. The CD I was listening to has the song “Beautiful” on it twice, and with several trips to various places I managed to hear that song probably 7 or 8 times. The lyrics of this song took my thoughts in 2 entirely different directions, both of which I want to share today. But first, a video of the song:

The first direction this song took my thoughts was based on the lyrics:

Your name is, beautiful
It drips off of my lips like drops of gold

There are so many beautiful names of Jesus in the Bible. Prince of Peace, Son of God, Spotless Lamb of God, Savior, Lord, Son of Man, Immanuel (which means “God with us”), the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and more. Each of these beautiful names truly does drip off of my lips like drops of gold. As the name of Jesus is on our lips, we become a blessing to others and to those who do not know Him.

Which brings me to the second direction this song took my thoughts in, based on the lyrics:

When I lift You up they come running
When I sing Your song the world’s turning to You
Just the sound of Your name is a beautiful thing
I love You, I love You, I love You

A couple of years ago I was on the leadership team at my old church. We were talking about ways to increase membership in the church, and someone suggested we turn to a consultant who helped churches with church development and growth based on a program called “ABC’s of Natural Church Development.” This program was based on an extensive survey of churches around the world to determine what made people join churches and stay there. It was a pretty good program that identified the 8 characteristics of growing churches as:

  1. Empowering Leadership
  2. Gift-based Ministry
  3. Passionate Spirituality
  4. Effective Structures
  5. Inspiring Worship Service
  6. Holistic Small Groups
  7. Need-oriented Evangelism
  8. Loving Relationships

But as we went though the steps outlined in this program to determine which of these two areas our church was weakest in, I kept thinking that there was something missing, but that it was also more complicated than it needed to be. It seemed to me that 2,000 years ago Jesus told us what was needed for church growth. It was the method He employed and that the apostles employed with great success. After God the Father had spoken from heaven that His name had been glorified and would be again, Jesus said:

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:31-33 (NIV).

Jesus drew people to Himself through His willing sacrifice for our sins, through His divine love revealed when He was lifted up on the cross. He did not say it was His great teaching or example that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was effective church structures that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was empowering leadership that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was inspiring worship services that would draw people to Him. He did not even say that it was loving relationships that would draw people to Him.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe the characteristics set forth in the ABC’s program are important for a church. And men and woman who are in love with Jesus, who are truly sold out on His love and sacrifice, should and will work to exhibit these characteristics in their congregations.

But when it comes to church growth, to adding numbers to the church membership roll and Christian souls to the Kingdom of God, the way to do that is to lift up Jesus. We must lift up His name and His sacrifice on the cross, and by doing so we will draw people to Him. They may not join our particular congregation, but that should not necessarily be our aim. Our aim should be to draw people to Jesus Himself. Once drawn to Him, He will do the work necessary to inspire His believers to gift-based ministry and need-oriented evangelism. He must be the center of all that the church does and teaches. We must do as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV).

When we lift Him up, they will come running. Let us never forget the power of the name of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to draw people to Him for their own salvation.

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Peter’s Denials Weigh Heavy on Saturday

Before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny that he even knew Jesus, not just once and not just twice, but three times, before the night was over. As all that Jesus said was true so was this prediction. Standing in the courtyard outside the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, when he was recognized and people suggested he had been with Jesus, Peter denied ever having known him. John 18.

I’ve been thinking about how Peter must have felt on Saturday. His Lord is dead. The man Peter believed was the Son of God was gone and he hadn’t stood up for his Lord, his Master, his friend when the time came. Peter remembered that Jesus had predicted what he would do, but that knowledge was not a comfort to Peter. I imagine Peter was feeling a lot of fear on this day after the crucifixion. And guilt. Tremendous guilt and sorrow. The scriptures say that the rooster crowed as Jesus had predicted.

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. Luke 22:61-62 (NLT).

I suspect that the desire to weep — both over the loss of Jesus and his own shame — continued throughout the following day. That kind of sorrow doesn’t go away easily. That kind of pain is hard to live with.

Third Day sings a great song about Peter’s denials from Peter’s perspective. It’s called “Can’t Stand the Pain.” I found this video of it with clips from the movie The Passion of the Christ. The scene where Jesus turns and looks at Peter is heartbreaking.

But Peter’s heartbreak of Saturday is not the end of the story. After the Resurrection, John records this conversation in John 21:15-17 (NLT):

 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
   “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
   “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
   “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

There are a couple of things that I love about the story of Peter’s denials, and the Lord’s restoration of Peter after the Resurrection.

It proves that anyone can be restored by our Lord. It doesn’t matter what you have done before, even if you have abandoned Him and denied Him in the past, if you love Him as Peter did, Jesus will restore your relationship with Him.

It also shows how weak humans are without the Holy Spirit. When Peter denied Jesus, the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon him and his fear and sin overtook him, causing him to deny Jesus out of his own sense of self-preservation. If you compare this to how Peter boldly proclaims Jesus after he is filled with the Holy Spirit, the difference is astounding. See Acts 2. This shows me that without God we cannot be the bold and faithful followers He desires, but with His Spirit indwelling us we can do all things. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NLT).

At our Good Friday service last night, our pastor said something that I had never thought of before. Peter wasn’t the only one who was probably feeling such guilt and sorrow on Saturday. All of the disciples had abandoned Him, and so they were all probably feeling fearful and lost. But there is another disciple whose actions were equivalent to Peter’s denials.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. John 18:15-16 (NLT).

This other disciple (possibly John) followed along and watched as Jesus was unfairly tried by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. This disciple “knew the high priest,” and yet he didn’t speak up for Jesus. Although he didn’t deny that he knew Jesus, he did not defend Jesus either. He watched silently as Jesus was found guilty, and then spit on, beaten, slapped, and mocked. See Matthew 26:57-68.

Saturday weighed heavy on all the disciples. As a follower of Christ it weighs heavy on me, too, knowing that my sin was upon Him on the cross. As Christians today, we are blessed by the knowledge that the crucifixion was not the end of the story, and so that weight is bearable. But as they sat together in the locked upper room on Saturday, the disciples didn’t have that luxury of knowing what would happen the next day. Even though Jesus had told them He would rise again, the brutality of His flogging and crucifixion surely caused them to doubt and fear. I know it would have had that effect on me if I had been there. So today, in rememberance of the disciples who once deserted Him, denied Him, and silently watched as He was tortured and killed, but who later brought His truth to the world, I will ponder their sorrow and shame, and leave the celebration until tomorrow.

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Were You There? Mary Magdalene and Mary Were

It’s the beginning of Holy Week, and so I thought it was appropriate for Music Monday to post one of my favorite old hymns by Johnny Cash called “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”  I found this live video of Johnny with the Carter sisters:

I wasn’t there when they crucified my Lord. I wasn’t there when they took Him from the cross. I wasn’t there when they laid Him in the tomb. I wasn’t there when the stone was rolled away. But I’ve read the testimony of those who witnessed all of these events. And just thinking of these things that He did for me causes me to tremble.

There were many witnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. As necessary as these events were for our salvation, if they had been the end of the story it wouldn’t have been enough. The greatest of these events is the Resurrection. The account of the first witnesses to the Resurrection was recorded in Matthew 28:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8 (NIV).

One thing I find quite interesting about this passage is that the first witnesses were the women. During this time, the testimony of a woman was not admissible in a court and essentially meant nothing. But both the angel of the Lord, and further on in the passage Jesus, tell them to go tell the disciples what had happened. And Matthew, in his effort to give a full and accurate account of the event, told it like it happened.

I have heard arguments that Jesus did not really rise from the dead, but that the disciples stole His body from the tomb and then made up a story about His resurrection. But if the disciples were trying to perpetrate a fraud and wanted to convince others that their lie was true, they would never have told it in such a way as to rely on the testimony of women.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there when Jesus was crucified, when they took Him from the cross, when they laid Him in the tomb, and even when the stone was rolled away. Their testimony of what they saw has been passed on to us today in the Gospels and I choose to accept the testimony of these women. How about you? I know you weren’t there either, but you can trust the witness of those who were.

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Psalm 118 – Blessed Is the Lord

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem less than a week before His trial and crucifixion. So it seemed appropriate to post a portion of Psalm 118. Verse 26 is what the people shouted as Jesus entered on the donkey, as recorded in Matthew 21. I find it interesting that this same Psalm talks about the Lord’s right hand doing mighty things and being lifted high, a foreshadowing of Jesus being lifted high on the cross before the week was out. May this wonderful prophecy be a blessing to you this Holy Week as we journey towards the saving grace and resurrection of our Savior.

Psalm 118

 1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   his love endures forever.

 15 Shouts of joy and victory
   resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!
 16 The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;
   the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
   and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

21
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
   you have become my salvation.

 22 The stone the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
23 the LORD has done this,
   and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The LORD has done it this very day;
   let us rejoice today and be glad.

 25 LORD, save us!
   LORD, grant us success!

 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
   From the house of the LORD we bless you.
27 The LORD is God,
   and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
   up to the horns of the altar.

 28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
   you are my God, and I will exalt you.

 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   his love endures forever.

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The Thief Knew the Miracle of Forgiveness

My favorite song by Third Day is called “Thief” and is sung from the perspective of one of the two thieves hanging on the crosses next to Jesus. It always brings tears to my eyes. I have seen Third Day in concert five times, and they have played this song every time. I was delighted to find this live version on YouTube:

The exchange between Jesus and the two criminals is recorded in Luke 23:32-43. One of the thieves joins in with the crowd in mocking Jesus. But the other, the one from whose perspective this song is sung, sees Jesus for who He really is.

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Luke 23:39-42 (NLT).

Two thieves dying next to Jesus. One demands that Jesus save him from the cross, the other asks for mercy. One is stuck in his own conception of what it means to be saved and what he thinks Jesus should do if He was God. The other casts all of his own ideas aside and trusts in Jesus.

I’ve been reading The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop and came across a passage the other day in the background chapter on Jesus that touches on the different ways in which people viewed, and still do view, Jesus. Some clamor only for grand miracles; others see Him for who He is and trust in His love and mercy for the forgiveness of their sins. Writing about the people’s’ reaction to Jesus’ miracles, Bishop writes:

He dreaded to hear the word miracle. He understood the weaknesses of man—he had promised his Father to give his life in expiation of these weaknesses—but it was an almost horrifying thing to learn that they preferred the working of miracles to being told the road to heaven. They were children, and everywhere he went they grinned and rubbed their hands together and nodded their heads and asked for “a sign.”

They had asked the same thing of John the Baptist and he had had no patience with them. He had roared back that the time of the Messiah was growing shorter and that they had better repent here and now. Signs, he warned them, could come from Satan. But Jesus could not answer in that manner. With all of his heart he loved the people. Their childishness seldom moved him to anger; his response was pity, and more love. Over and over, he would repeat the same lessons to the youthful minds in mature bodies and they would listen, or debate the lessons with him, but, when they warmed to the task of looking fairly upon his face, they would always ask for “a sign.” And, no matter how many times he bowed to their whims, and effected a miracle, they would ask again for “a sign.” Without proof, they would have no part of him. And in grieved him that his chosen twelve needed many miracles too. The Day Christ Died, pg. 105-106.

I love the patience Jesus shows with those who demanded miracles. Even the mocking criminal next to Him on the cross did not anger Him, but this mocker was included in Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NLT). But eventually, those who demand a sign and refuse to see Jesus for who He is lose out on the greatest miracle of all — the forgiveness of sins. The mocking criminal may have been included in His prayer, but He did not say to that criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NLT).

Which thief are you more like? Do you want God to just fix everything right now and do things the way you think they should be done? Do you constantly seek more proof, more miracles? Or are you willing to trust that God has a better way? Do you understand that the forgiveness of your sins by our Heavenly Father is greater than any sign or miracle that you could ever see?

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