Friday, March 29, 2013

A Good Friday meditation

[Editor’s note. My atheist readers may want to skip this post altogether, as I ain’t gonna change your minds and you ain’t gonna change mine. Still, I welcome everyone, one and all. --RWP]

I thought they’d be gone by now, but I’m in my fifth week of having shingles and they're still very much here.

Having the shingles on Good Friday can be very instructive.

In western Christendom, today is the annual commemoration of the day Jesus Christ (Hebrew, Yeshua Ha’mashiach, Jesus the Messiah) was crucified around 29 or 30 A.D. (Latin, anno domini, in the year of the Lord), or as the politically correct now say, C.E. (in the common era). In eastern Christendom (the Orthodox churches), this commemoration will not occur until May 3rd.

I told you in an earlier post that shingles were excruciating, and I told you that I pondered the word excruciating and realized it means “out of the cross” or “from the cross.”

I don’t mean to imply in any way that shingles are the worst pain a human can experience. My dad died of pancreatic cancer. My mother-in-law died of bone cancer. My mother died after an eight-year battle with cancer. Each of them experienced excruciating pain.

And then there’s Jesus. He was crucified. He was nailed to a cross.

Shingles are as nothing compared to that.

Historians will tell you that a lot of human beings were crucified by the Roman Empire over the years. So what was so different about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?

I’m glad you asked.

He had done nothing wrong. He was the Son of God. He was the Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world. And we killed Him.

So now I am in pain and Jesus suffered for me. We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Praise the Lord! But our attention on this Good Friday should not be on the pain Jesus experienced or on his method of execution but instead on what his death accomplished.

That He died for my sins makes me free from the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). That He rose from the dead three days later gives me everlasting life (John 11:25-26). Yes, my body may die, but He will raise me up on the last day (First Corinthians 15:52-57). He is the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29-30).

These things I believe.

I do not follow Him perfectly or as faithfully as I ought to. Nevertheless, I follow Him.

God help me. I’m a Christian.


  1. Hi Bob. Thanks for inviting me to read this. I hope the Lord eases your physical pain soon as He has healed our spiritual pain.

  2. "My atheist readers may want to skip this post"

    That would be two, I think.

    "I ain’t gonna change your minds and you ain’t gonna change mine."

    I don't see it as being an all or nothing situation in which one of the two must either reverse course or stay on the same course--but rather as an occasion for expand awareness of the other person's position, somewhat as if the other person represented a foreign country in which one might not choose to live, yet might choose to learn about.

    "My dad died of pancreatic cancer. My mother-in-law died of bone cancer. My mother died after an eight-year battle with cancer."

    Yet, you oppose euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

    "a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."

    Out of all the billions of people who have lived, only one was sinless, and that one was God. Does this not imply that he had an advantage over us, and was not, therefore, tempted as we are tempted?

    Anyway, happy Easter. I know that this is a very special time for you--and for the church--and I wish there was some way in which we could share that.

  3. Ruth, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, and also for your expressed hope concerning me and my shingles.

    Snowbrush, well, there is you and that other fellow who shall remain nameless, but there are others also who don't comment all that often whose blogs have revealed them to be atheist or agnostic. I've even had a few commenters from among your collection of commenters, who woulda thunk?

    I do like your idea of expanded awareness of each other's position and being an ambassador of another country, which is right out of scripture (2 Corinthians chapter 5). Also, my favorite author Flannery O'Connor referred to "the undiscovered country" in some of her writings.

  4. May God give you comfort Bob. It's very hard to put up with bad pain, and I hope you have painkillers...

    You might enjoy our Dunedin Bishop Kelvin Wright's sermon:

  5. Correction for Snowbrush and others: I was wrong about Flannery O'Connor. She referred to her "true country" (not the undiscovered country) and after her death a man named Carter Martin wrote a book entitled The True Country: Themes in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor that was published by Vanderbilt Press in 1994. "The Undiscovered Country" is the subtitle of the motion picture Star Trek VI and I believe Hamlet also mentioned it in his soliloquy.

    Bottom line: I remain supremely confident even when I am completely confused.

  6. Katherine, thank you for your kind thoughts. I do have painkillers but I am trying very hard not to abuse them.

    Watching Bishop Kelvin Wright's Easter sermon was a very worthwhile 9 minutes and 35 seconds. I recommend it to others.

  7. All, I wanted to share something with you. I received an e-mail from a childhood friend regarding this post. He wrote (among other things): If I was really tacky, which I'm not, I would write on your blog, "How does your Jewish half feel about your allegiance to the false messiah?"

    I replied: I'm glad you're not really tacky....If you had put that on my blog I probably would have said something to the effect that I do appreciate my Jewish heritage immensely, even though it was kept hidden from the community when I was young, and even though we now worship in a Methodist church I suppose that I am
    technically what some people call a Messianic Jew, someone who is Jewish who accepts Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews of His time were expecting a different kind of Messiah, one who would deliver them from Roman occupation. God had a different idea.

  8. "How does your Jewish half feel about your allegiance to the false messiah?"

    I've wondered if you feel as accepted by other Christians as you would if you were a gentile, or if run into prejudice even at church. I'm 3/16 Native American, and one of the things I think of when I think of Christianity is the way Christian America treated the Native Americans, yet Christians have a much longer history of oppressing Jews, and even with your acceptance of Christ, the harm that has been done to your forebears in his name must have surely represented a challenge for you.

  9. Snowbrush, my "Jewish half" is just sort of there as a fact in the background. I have never been a practicing Jew and began attending Christian churches at the age of four or five. As far as I have been able to tell, I have always been accepted by genuine Christians, by which I mean those people who are attempting to follow Christ by loving God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. It is difficult for me to include hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church variety under this definition because of their actions; I am probably not accepted by people like that, with whom I have very little contact. The southern racists in my childhood town hated everybody not like them: blacks, Jews, Catholic, you name it, and still probably considered themselves "in the fold." I never felt that their opinion mattered. I do not consider Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen as Christians. To my way of thinking, only God can judge, and if they are, they certainly have a lot to answer for.

    No one can really be "half-Jewish" or "half-Christian" though -- you are either one or the other. My heritage and bloodlines are Jewish, but my culture and religion have always been Christian. In this regard I consider myself somewhat like our President Barack Obama, who is half-black and half-white. Even though he was raised by a white mother and white grandparents, he has chosen to identify primarily with and work among the black portion of the population. Yet he is still half-black and half-white. I don't think of myself as half-Jewish and half-Christian. It's probably more accurate to say I had a Jewish mother and a Gentile father and let it go at that. I know the rabbis in Israel would consider me Jewish because I am the child of a Jewish mother. But I would be an apostate Jew, in their opinion.

  10. Maybe it was because my little town in Mississippi--Brookhaven--had a Jewish mayor when I was a boy, but I grew up unaware that racists hated Jews. I still don't know how to explain the presence of a Jewish mayor in south Mississippi. The town did have a synagogue, but I never was aware of any services there, although I suppose there must have been.