Morning Musing: Mark 15:43-45

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Pilate was surprised that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had already died. When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Conspiracy theories are everywhere we look these days. Some are new. Some are enduring old ones. There are still people, for instance, who believe the moon landing was a fake and that we never went. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories surrounding the death of JFK. More than a quarter of the country believes the government is hiding aliens in Area 51. Nearly a quarter is convinced 9/11 was an inside job. The trouble with conspiracy theories and those who have bought into them is that there is no way to convince them otherwise. Any evidence to the contrary is automatically discounted as part of the cover-up. You could fly someone who is convinced the moon landing was fake to the moon itself, but they’d just insist it was all an elaborate hoax. Well, when it comes to Jesus, one of the most enduring conspiracy theories is that He didn’t really die on the cross. At the risk of being a part of the cover-up, let’s talk this morning about why that is absolute nonsense.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 15:37-39

“Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed his last. Then the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing opposite him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Did you ever have anything as a kid that your parents made off limits to you? What was it? Sometimes parents put restrictions on what their kids can access as a matter of selfish convenience, but most of the time, they do it for an entirely better reason than that. My parents made throwing dirt clods from the garden at the shed off limits for me when I was growing up. If you’re wondering why they had to do that at all, just put yourself in the mind of an elementary-aged boy and you’ll understand. The explosion of dirt when those clods hit the wall of the shed was just so satisfying. I ignored this restriction, of course, and soon thereafter broke the window in the side of the shed with an errant throw. That was why they put that restriction in place, by the way. Other times a restriction is put in place because the thing on the other side of the line is genuinely harmful for us. There are fences and no trespassing signs around power substations. Those are to protect people from being electrocuted. Restrictions generally have reasons. Well, the people of Israel had a restriction around God. You didn’t go into His presence unless you were prepared for it. This restriction was actually put in place by God Himself. And it held until God took it down. Actually, He ripped it in half. I mentioned yesterday the tearing of the temple veil when Jesus died. This morning let’s dig a little deeper into just what that meant.

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Morning Musing: Mark 15:29-32

“Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads, and saying, ‘Ha! The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross!’ In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever made somebody’s bad day worse? There aren’t many things that can make you feel smaller than that. It often happens in a moment when, at first, we don’t even realize what’s happening. The other person is dealing with some awful bit of bad news, and in a moment of weakness offends us somehow. For our part, instead of responding graciously, we snap right back and then double down on our retort, adding insult to the injury she’s already suffering. Then we learn the truth. Or perhaps you’ve been a victim of this kind of thing. You were having a terrible day for some reason and somebody else came along and started dumping their junk all over you, making you feel even worse than you already did. That’s an awful place to be. It’s also a place Jesus understands with intimate familiarity. Let’s talk about it.

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Morning Musing: Mark 15:24

“Then they crucified him and divided his clothes, casting lots for them to decide what each would get.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

There are certain moments when you know things have changed. If you happen to be a fan of the Oakland Athletics, in their 2014 Wild Card game against the Kansas City Royals, that moment came in the bottom of the 8th inning with their ace, John Lester, pitching against Royals shortstop, Alcides Escobar. Lester had been dominant all season and he had led his team to a 7-3 lead against a Royals team that had surged late in the season, but had over the course of a generation perfected the art of crushing the hopes of their fans. Then, on a 1-1 pitch, Escobar sent a drive right up the center. Both the shortstop and the second baseman ran for it, but as they crossed paths just beyond the bag, the ball went rolling on to the centerfielder, and Escobar was safe at first. That moment marked the turn in the game. It was the moment the A’s lost it. All the momentum then shifted in the Royals’ favor and they went on to complete a comeback for the ages. (And, as a Royals fan, it marked the two greatest seasons they’ve had in my lifetime.) This highlight video is worth watching, and if you’re really interested, you can actually watch the game in its entirety here. What has me thinking about that day this morning (beyond wishful thinking as the Royals are wrapping up another barely mediocre season) is that for Jesus’ followers, we have reached the moment in the text when they knew things had changed. It was the moment they knew they had lost. Let’s talk about it.

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Morning Musing: Mark 15:16-20

“The soldiers led him away into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called the whole company together. They dressed him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on him. And they began to salute him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They were hitting him on the head with a stick and spitting on him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying him homage. After they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his clothes on him. They led him out to crucify him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The news coming out of Afghanistan right now is pretty grim. Most recent was the story of a pregnant woman murdered with a knife in front of her family. Other stories are worse than that. The brutality and cruelty of the Taliban is grotesque. There’s simply no other way of putting it. Yet while they are the latest thugocracy on the block, they are hardly the first. When Hitler’s Third Reich held Germany in its iron grip, there were officers assigned to the concentration camps who would commit unspeakable atrocities against Jewish prisoners during the day, and go home at night to lovingly kiss their wives and tuck their children into bed. How does this kind of thing happen? The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this post, but as we continue working our way through the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, we see today that He was the victim of such a twisting of humanity.

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