March Reading from The Message
There can be no Easter without death. There is no resurrection, in all it’s death-defying glory, without the pain and injustice of the cross. But even in His moment of greatest suffering, Christ reassured and saved. Darkness will come, but we belong to a savior that defeated it… and will do so again.
33 When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
34-35 Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”
36-37 The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”
38-39 Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
40-41 But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”
42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
44-46 By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours—a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!” Then he breathed his last.
47 When the captain there saw what happened, he honored God: “This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!”
The Death of Jesus
The death of Jesus is the centerpiece for learning how to deal with the fundamental violation of life, this sacrilege visited on creation that makes up so much of what happens in us and around us. We begin to deal with the “What’s wrong with the world?” at the place where the gospel deals with it: the death and burial of Jesus.
The death of Jesus confirms our experience that there is, in fact, something terribly wrong and that this wrong isn’t simply a logical working out of cause and effect, of the way things are. Jesus, born of a virgin, died on a cross—there is no logical connection between those two facts.
Jesus’ suffering, recorded in his laments, tears, and death, provides the authoritative gospel text for finding our place in history—this history that seems to be so much at variance with what is given and promised in the creation itself, in the life abundant all around us.
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