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Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Judges 5:1-18; Psalm 88 Acts 2:1-21; Matthew 28:1-10

Today we hear yesterday’s story told in its older poetic form (prose chronicles were a much later addition and initially not thought as trustworthy as poetic odes), and the text we are reading is some of the earliest in the older Testament, dating to the 12th century BCE. It is called the Song of Deborah (not unlike the Song of Miriam in Exodus 15:21, which is probably the oldest fragment of scripture in the Bible). It celebrates the Lord’s victory over Sisera, and is a classic war victory hymn to be sung to the entire populace. It is to be retold from the most elite (the chief priests who ride on white donkeys, through the ruling class seated on rich carpets, to the lowest class—those who walk. “Locks were long,” and “offered themselves freely,” probably refers to the war locks worn by men who offered themselves freely for battle. Deborah’s battle cry is repeated and Barak’s valiant march and victory are recounted and celebrated. Thereafter, verses 14 through 18 record the responses of each of the tribes to the call to battle, six who came and the four who did not. Finally, Zebulun and Naphtali are singles out for special honor because of their leading role in the battle reported in the previous chapter. Notice that Jael is mentioned only in passing.

Psalm 88 is the lament of one at death’s door, pleading with God for recovery. The psalmist complains that God has not only abandoned him to his detractors and tormentors, but actually is behind the fact that his friends and neighbors are hunting him. He reasons that after death, the Lord will not be able to help. Will God’s loving kindness be proclaimed from the grave, and his wonders be known in darkness? It is both a question and an argument for the Lord to act for his own name’s sake. How can the psalmist sing the Lord’s praises in Sheol? And so, he pleads for rescue from death for his own sake as well as the Lord’s reputation. Interestingly enough, this psalm is one of the few laments that does not end on a note of triumph as do so many laments, but, rather, leaves the psalmist waiting for God to come and act.

The Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, was an agricultural pilgrimage festival for Israelites, a day on which the faithful from far and wide returned to Jerusalem. By now, the community of Jesus’s followers has grown to 120 or so disciples. They are gathered in that same common room where they had gathered after Jesus’ crucifixion and where he had appeared to them. They have been meeting, praying and waiting, as Jesus had told them to do, and, suddenly, the Holy Spirit descends upon them endowing them with the ability to speak foreign languages. We are then told of the devout Jews who have gathered in Jerusalem for the festival, and the countries from which they have come as part of the diaspora, who are astonished to hear Galileans speaking to them in their native languages. All are perplexed, but the cynical among the people think the disciples are drunk, having imbibed in too much new, sweet wine. That sets the context for Peter’s first sermon, the prologue, which is today’s lesson, explains that they are not drunk; it is much too early in the day for that! (More than one reader has mused about what Peter would have said if this had occurred in the evening!) No, they are drunk on the Spirit, just as the prophet Joel had promised (Joel 2:22-28). Peter quotes Joel telling his listeners that this is a sign of the last days—God is pouring out his Spirit on all flesh just as God promised to do.

The Sabbath past, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary return to the tomb to hold vigil at Jesus’ grave. Is this “other Mary” Jesus’ mother or another—we do not know, though clearly the readers of this gospel did, for Matthew feels no need to identify her beyond her name, giving support to the argument that the “other Mary” is indeed, his mother. As they approach the tomb, an earthquake erupts as an angel of the Lord descends from heaven. He comes, rolls back the stone from the door of the cave, and sits down upon it. The guards are terrified and fall, silent, fainting in fear and become like dead men. The angel says to the women, “Do not fear…,” almost always the first words out of the mouth of any heavenly messenger sent to God’s people. Yes, they are looking for Jesus who was crucified, but look; “he is not here, he has been raised, just as he said he would!” That said, the angel invites the women to come to the tomb to see where Jesus’ body had been placed, just as they had seen from afar on Friday evening as the day was drawing to a close. Then the angel commissions them to return to the others with the message of his resurrection and promise to meet them in Galilee. The women rush away from the tomb and to the disciples, in a mixture of joy and fear, but on their way, suddenly Jesus meets them with his familiar greeting. They fall to the ground, take hold of his feet to assure that this is more than a vision, and they worship him, the first time anyone has done so. Jesus’ next words to them are, “Do not fear," and drawing them back to their feet he charges them to tell his brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see him.

Posted August 1, 2014
Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 31

Judges 4:4–23; Psalm 143; Acts 1:15–26; Matthew 27:55-66

Deborah was a prophet, one of the few women to occupy that role in Israel’s life. She sat daily at a palm tree in the hill country of Ephraim, delivering oracles to those who came to her with questions and giving judgments when there were differences between families, tribes and so on. But, “The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.” The commander of Jabin’s army was Sisera. Jabin’s city-state “kingdom” was located on the trade route that crossed from the sea over and up into what is now Damascus. Sisera was prosperous and strong. Nine hundred chariots of iron speaks of Sisera’s tremendous military superiority—Israel is trapped under Jabin’s cruel rule. But Deborah, in her prophetic role, delivers word from the Lord to Barak from the tribe of Naphtali. He is to gather 10,000 men from his own tribe and 10,000 from the neighboring tribe of Zebulun and encamp on Mt. Tabor, awaiting God to draw out King Jabin’s army, under the leadership of Sisera. God will give them into Barak’s hand. Barak says he will do so, but only if Deborah goes with him. This is not cowardice on Barak’s part, but rather his recognition that he needs Deborah’s divine guidance if the battle is to be a success. She agrees, but also tells him that when the day is over, the glory will not be his, but will belong to a woman. Barak does as he is told, summons the men (the 10,000 is probably an exaggeration, and more likely represents “ten military units” similar to squadrons or companies; the ancient biblical writers tend to use number more symbolically than factually). In the mist of the drama, we have an interlude to introduce Heber the Kenite. Descendants of Moses’ father in law, the Kenites were metal smiths, and as such, were politically neutral so as to be able to provide military weapons to all sides. The story resumes with Sisera being told that Barak has taken to Mt. Tabor with troops, and so Sisera pursues him. As Sisera and his troops approach, Deborah announced “Up! The Lord has given him into your hands.” That is precisely what happens. Just as at the Red Sea, the Lord throws the chariots and army into a panic before Barak. In the midst of the battle, as Barak is pursuing the chariots, Sisera dismounts his and flees on foot to the tents of Heber the Kenite, and approaches Heber’s wife, Jael, standing at the door of her tent. She sees him fleeing and invites him into the safety and protection of her tent (such hospitality in the middle east of that age was not simply expected, but demanded between neighboring people who lived peaceably together—Sisera has a right to expect such help.) Jael agrees: she will hide him. Telling Sisera to lie down she covers him with a rug. He asks for a drink and she gives him milk from a skin. Thereupon, he asks her to stand at the door of her tent and if anyone asks of him, say “No, he is not here.” Appearing to agree, she goes to get a tent peg and hammer (women in that day were responsible for setting up the tents), then comes softly to the rug under which Sisera lays, and drives the tent peg through his temple, killing and pinning him to the ground. When Barak, who is pursing Sisera, arrives at the tent, Jael comes forth from her tent and invites Barak in to see his enemy lying dead. The chronicler ends the story attributing not only this victory to God, but also the ultimate destruction of King Jabin of Canaan by the Israelites.

Psalm 143 is the cry of one who has suffered defeat and turns to the Lord for help, recognizing that no one is righteous before the Lord, yet the Lord is merciful. He remembers the old days of victory, the days when the Lord was at hand. And so he stretches out his hand in search of God, lest he go down to the Pit. Pleading for God’s steadfast love, he has asked God to deliver him from his enemies, teach him his ways, and let God’s Spirit lead him on level paths. He is but God’s servant, and pleads no right of his own. Rather, he asks God to do all this because of God’s righteousness and steadfast love--God's name’s sake.

In the interim between Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension, Jesus’ followers have grown tenfold, from the women and twelve who had hidden behind locked doors, until he appeared in the midst of them, into a group of some 120 followers, with the men of the original twelve clearly in leadership. Peter now steps forward to give a theological read on Judas, what he did and why, and what became of him. The account of Judas’ death is quite different than the one reported in Matthew, and, of course, Luke does not include the account in his gospel. Quoting Psalm 109:10 he then lays out the criteria for apostleship: a man (the Greek word is aner, meaning male), who had accompanied them with Jesus from the beginning until he was taken up from them—one of these must join the other eleven in being witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Two are proposed: Joseph called Barsabbas, also known by his Roman name, Justus, and Matthias. They pray and then cast lots for who is to join them in “this ministry and apostleship” from which Judas turned aside. The lot falls on Matthias, about whom, by the way, we never hear another thing. On the other hand, there will be another, named Saul, who does not fit Peter’s criteria who is also “sent” (the foundational notion behind the word apostle), and who will be joined by others, including not only the Twelve in Jerusalem, but also Jesus’ brother James and then a host of others whose names appear in Paul’s correspondence, both Jews and gentiles and at least one woman.

All have abandoned Jesus except for the many women who had followed Jesus to Jerusalem, and who have been looking on from afar. Among them are the three Marys: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joseph and James (is this Jesus’ mother or are Joseph and James not Jesus’ brothers), and Mary the mother of the sons of Zebedee—James and John. They look on as Joseph of Arimathea, who Matthew names as a disciple of Jesus, goes to Pilate and receives permission to take the body down and bury it. He does so, wrapping it in a clean linen cloth and placing it in his own new tomb. Rolling a large stone over the mouth of the cave, he goes away while the three Mary’s continue to look on. That next day, the chief priests and Pharisees return to Pilate—on the sabbath! Remembering that Jesus had said, “after three days I will rise again,” they ask Pilate to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise, some of Jesus’ disciples might come and steal the body and tell people he had risen, creating an even greater deception. Pilate grants the guards permission to do this, and so the chief priests and Pharisees go, and with the guards, seal the tomb. Notice that this time, the chief priests and Pharisees quote Jesus correctly, whereas in the trial, they had twisted his words to say that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. They know that he said he would rise on the third day and want to do all they can to stop it. The other interesting thing about this is that what they fear—Jesus’ dead body being stolen and developed into a rumor of his resurrection.  It is precisely one of the stories that the synagogues will spread to deny Jesus’ resurrection.

Posted July 31, 2014
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday, July 30

Judges 3:12–30; Psalm 65; Acts 1:1–14; Matt. 27:45–54

“The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord….” This is the Deuteronomic school’s historian’s way of saying the people have fallen into idolatry and worshipping the gods of the people who were not driven from the land. And notice that when judgment comes, it comes at the hand of the Lord through one of Israel’s enemies—whether Ammonites, Moabites, Jebusites, and so on, the people they had initially conquered to enter the land. In this case, it is the Moabites whose King Eglon the Lord strengthens to make him an instrument of God’s judgment against Israel. Eglon, who in an alliance with the Ammonites and the Amalikites, subjugate Israel, take “the city of palms,” (probably Jericho), and force the Israelites to serve him. After 18 years of this servitude, the people cry out to the Lord, who hears, determines their punishment has lasted long enough and “raises up” someone to rescue them. In this case it is a left-handed man from the tribe of Benjamin named Ehud. King Eglon is “a very fat man.” Ehud fashions a double-edged sword a cubit long (about the length of a forearm), and straps it on his right leg, under his clothing, so as to appear unarmed (armed men would have a sword visibly strapped to the left side of their body). The Israelites send Eglon a tribute through Ehud, and in the ensuing interaction, after the tribute has been paid, Ehud and those that brought the tribute with him, are sent away. As they pass by the “carved stones,” probably the memorial Joshua set up after crossing the Jordan, Ehud leaves the men and returns to tell Eglon he has a secret message for him from God. Eglon dispatches his guards and draws near to Ehud who uses his right hand to cover his voice and whisper in the king’s ear, while drawing his sword with his left hand and thrusting it so deeply into the king that the hilt disappears under his layers of flesh. Thereupon, Ehud escapes, locking the door behind him. He is long gone by the time the King’s servants discover the dead king. Back among the Israelites, Ehud uses the same language we would expect from Joshua: “The Lord has given them into your hands,” and he leads the Israelites in battle against the Moabites, blocking the crossing at the ford of the Jordan so the Moabites cannot flee to their home country east of the Jordan. None do, about 10,000 are destroyed and Israel is freed from their oppressors for about the next eighty years.

Psalm 65 celebrates God’s abundance as it appears on the earth; but first, this is the God who forgives all our transgressions! This is the God who invites people into his presence to bless them. This is the God who welcomes them in his holy temple; this is the One who answers prayer and is abundant in forgiveness. Now the works of God are rehearsed: this is the God who is known to the ends of the earth—the one who makes “the dawn and the sunset shout for joy!”—what a marvelous phrase for the glory of the sunrise and sunset! God’s sovereignty over creation is remembered, almost to the point of this being a creation psalm. The psalm turns to bless God for God’ lavish acts of provision: abundant rain and water for a plentiful crop of grain, the hills dripping with the fatness of the flocks. Even the pastures of the wilderness drip with such abundance. And so, the psalm blesses God’s deliverance as well as God’s good provision and abundant blessings from the earth. All praise is due to the Lord.

We begin our journey through the Book of Acts, the second book of Luke’s two volume Church history, the first being his gospel. It is addressed to Theophilus, which literally means “God-lover.” Thus begins the transition from the basic story of Jesus and his gospel to the spread of the good news from Jerusalem, to the outer edges of the Empire. Luke begins by telling of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection until the day when he “went up into heaven." During that time Jesus continues to reveal himself to the disciples by “many convincing proofs.” In other words, he was not with them on a 40 day retreat but continued to come and go and make himself known in ways that were irrefutable. Finally, he gathered them and told them not to leave Jerusalem but wait there for what the Father has promised. “John baptized with water;” he tells them, but they are “to be baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit.” Something totally new is about to take place. The disciples can’t stand it and ask, “Is this the time you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” That, of course, is what they have been expecting from the Messiah from the very beginning. Jesus tells them that this is not something they are to know. The Father has set a time, but for now, they are going to receive power to become his witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utter ends of the earth. This is bigger than restoring the kingdom to Israel. God has grander things in mind, and they are to be a part of it. Having said this, Jesus is lifted up, out of their sight, while they are left—mouths hanging open—wondering where Jesus has gone and when he will be back. This is evidently the first time he has disappeared out of their sight in this way. After all, he has come and gone before, but never quite like this. Suddenly, “two men dressed in white” are standing next to them asking, “Why are you wasting your time sky-gazing. Jesus, who has been taken up into heaven from you will come in the same way you have seen him go. And so, the disciples return from the Mt. of Olivet to Jerusalem and to the room where they had met on Thursday evening for the Lord’s Supper and where they have been staying since. Now of one mind (the first time that has been said about them!), they devote themselves to prayer as they wait. The eleven are named, and with them are the women who had followed and served Jesus, as well as “Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

At noon, darkness falls over the whole land and for the next three hours all wait in silence. About 3 pm, Jesus calls out in the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Those standing by misunderstand and think him calling for Elijah to come and save him. One of them runs to get a sponge of wine to give him a drink, but others say “Wait; let’s see if Elijah comes.” Jesus gives one last cry and is dead. At that very moment, the curtain in the temple that veiled the Holy of Holies shielding its sacred presence from the profane is suddenly torn in two from the top to the bottom. Matthew is doing more than reporting on events; he is making a theological statement. God is no longer veiled behind a curtain, and access is no longer limited only to the High Priest once a year on the “Day of Atonement.” “Top to bottom,” means that it took divine action to do this. The darkness that covered the earth for those three hours is now gone, and in the earthquake that accompanies Jesus’ death, rocks are split and tombs are broken open. It is reported that many of the saints (Jewish martyrs) were raised back to life and walked the streets of the city that night, for Jesus’ death has meant their release from captivity. In the midst of the chaos, the Roman Centurion in charge of the crucifixion detail cowers in fear saying, “Truly this man was God’s son.”

Posted July 30, 2014
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday, July 29

Judges 2:1–5, 11–23; Psalm 54; Romans 16:17–27; Matthew 27:32–44

We begin today with the book of Judges, which continues the history of Israel as it occupies the land. We have skipped the first chapter, which is essentially a chronicle of each of the tribes occupying their own land. The important thing to note there, if you read the chapter, is that the heads of the tribes often do not completely drive the Canaanites out of the land as they were commanded to do, but allow them to stay, often with the rationale that they will serve them. Doing so, they make themselves vulnerable to precisely what Joshua warned them about: the impact of foreign wives, intermarriage, and ultimately incorporating other gods and worship practices into Israel’s life, violating the covenant that God has made with them. We are told that so long as Joshua and the elders who had led with him remained alive, the people remained faithful. But, when that older generation died, a younger emerged that did not know nor remember the Lord and his work on Israel’s behalf. In Judges, there is a familiar pattern that is outlined in today’s lesson: the Israelites “do what is evil in the sight of the Lord,” a formulaic saying which means that they begin to worship the Canaanite god Baal and Astarte (goddess), as well as the Lord, sometimes abandoning the Lord altogether. The Lord’s anger is “kindled against Israel,” and God gives them over into the hands of the Canaanites who oppress them. After a period of oppression, the people cry out in repentance to the Lord, who relents and sends them a “Judge”—a military champion who delivers them out of the power of the Canaanites and leads them back into covenant faithfulness. As long as that Judge “rules,” the people remain faithful. But, once that Judge passes from the scene, the cycle returns with people falling even more deeply into apostasy. The book chronicles the period of time between entrance into the land around 1150 BCE and the people evolving from tribes into a “state” that demands a king in 1020 BCE. The book contains some of the most dramatic and heroic episodes of life as Israel transitions into the land.

Psalm 54 records a prayer of trust from David when Saul was seeking his life (1 Samuel 23:19), and offers a model of prayer for any who are in trouble. “Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.” The insolent have risen against him, the heartless seek his life; their disdain for God and God’s ways and judgments enables them to pursue the psalmist with such ruthlessness. Then the psalm voices its faith and trust in God—“Surely, God is my helper, the upholder of my life.” Vengeance is left to God—“Surely he will repay my enemies for their evil.” Notice that this conviction is based upon God’s faithfulness! God not only rescues; God cuts off the enemy—the deliverance is complete. The psalm ends with the promise of a freewill offering in the temple, giving thanks to the Lord, for he is good. And now, what the psalmist sought has taken place: The Lord has delivered him from every trouble. The psalmist’s eye has looked in triumph on his enemies, for deliverance is not deliverance until it includes vindication.

Paul brings his letter to a close. First he warns the Romans about the destructive power of dissensions, especially those that will emerge from people coming in and teaching in opposition to what Paul has taught. He then reaffirms the Roman’s obedience, and his joy in them, reminding them that their faithfulness is known throughout the Empire. As they remain faithful, God will “crush Satan” under their feet—they will remain victorious over these temptations. Paul then turns to naming those who are with him: Timothy, his companion on the second and third missionary journeys and others in the community. Notice that Tertius, the secretary to whom Paul is dictating this letter, inserts his own greeting, before Paul names his host and other officials in the city. The book closes with a final majestic doxology which incorporates many of the themes of the book. Scholars debate over whether this was written by Paul or was a post-Pauline addition to end the book on a theological and doxological note, rather than simply final greetings between Paul and friends. In addition, it does not appear in some of the earliest manuscripts of Romans. This final section speaks of the gospel as the revelation of the mystery of God, to “bring about the obedience of faith, through Jesus Christ,” and ends on the note of worship: “to whom be the glory forever, Amen!”

The cohort leads Jesus out to be crucified. Because Jesus no longer has the strength to carry his own cross, a man from Cyrene, named Simon, is enlisted to do so for him. They reach the public site for execution and offer Jesus wine mixed with a pain killer, but upon tasting it, he refused to drink. After crucifying him, the soldiers sit down, divide among them what is left of Jesus’ clothing and keep watch. Crucifixion was Rome’s way of intimidating the people and suppressing revolt, and so, attached to the cross above Jesus’ head is a placard listing his offense: “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Matthew includes the other two men crucified with Jesus, naming them “bandits”—today we would say “political terrorists”—and quickly turns to the crowd of Jews mocking their king. Ironically, the charges they hurl at him speak the truth: in destroying the temple of his body, he will rise up again in three days. He can save himself, but he won’t. For if he does save himself he will not save others, and the entire purpose of his life will be lost. Their faux pleas for him to entrust himself to God’s care turn out to be precisely what is taking place: he does trust God to deliver him, and God will, but in a way none—from the highest religious official, to the bandits on either side of him—could possibly imagine. For now, a righteous man dies in the midst of the unrighteous, and does so for their sake.

Posted July 29, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday, July 28

Joshua 24:16–33; Psalm 57; Romans 16:1–16; Matthew 27:24–31

The people respond to Joshua’s warning and challenge by affirming that they will serve the Lord alone, they will put away the idols of foreign gods that they have among them, and they will remain true to the Lord and his ways. Joshua warns them a second time: they cannot serve the Lord, for he is holy and demanding and unforgiving of those who abandon him. Yet again, the people insist on their fidelity. And so, Joshua makes a covenant with them, gives them statutes and ordinances and names them witnesses against themselves. He sets up a large stone in their place of worship as a memorial to the moment. It has heard their oath and will stand as witness against them should they violate it. Joshua then sends them home, to the portion of the land that they have inherited (“their inheritance,”) and the narrator simply tells us that Joshua died. He was 110—ten years younger than Moses, who, you will note, has slipped decidedly into the background by now. It is almost as though Joshua is the law giver and God’s agent in making the covenant. The chronicler now ties up loose ends, recording the burial of Joseph’s bones in the plot that Jacob had purchased, and concludes that the people did keep the covenant throughout all the days that the elders who were Joshua’s contemporaries lived. Eleazar, Aaron’s son and Chief Priest also dies. The people are in the land as God had promised, and the transition generation is gone. The stage is set for a new era and new challenges.

Psalm 57 is a psalm of trust from someone in the midst of personal trouble. Others seek his life and he finds that his only sure refuge is the Lord. So, he lifts up and strengthens his soul by praising God. It is attributed to David when he was fleeing Saul’s murderous rage and contains lovely and classic expressions of trust and praise for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. God is exalted as merciful, and will catch the psalmist’s enemies in their own trap. Notice how the psalm narrates the deeds of the wicked that are then interrupted by acclamations of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Twice God is called upon to “Be exalted above the heavens” and let his glory be over all the earth. The psalmist insists upon his own steadfast heart and calls upon it to sing and make melody. He will sing with such joy that he will awake the dawn, giving thanks to God among the nations.

As Paul brings his letter to a close he sends greetings to fellow workers who are in the church in Rome, 27 by name, of which a third are women! Phoebe is listed first as she is the one who has brought the letter to Rome from Paul’s hand in Corinth. Phoebe appears to have been a woman of substance as there was a house church in her home. Several of the women are listed as deacons, and at least one—Junia—Paul speaks of as an apostle! She and her husband were “in the Lord” before Paul, and they had been fellow prisoners with him. It is quite possible that they were contemporaries of Jesus and eyewitness of his ministry, given the fact that they are spoken of as “among the apostles”. Some older English translations still include the masculine form of Junia’s name [Junias], a change made to the text by a copyist at a later date when, because the issue of women in leadership was considered scandalous by the culture, women had ceased to be in such positions. The change was probably less a cover-up than a copyist thinking he was correcting an error. Prisca and Aquila had come from the Roman church when the Jews had been exiled and worked together with Paul in Corinth and Ephesus, and had “risked their own necks” for him in the riot at Ephesus. They are to greet one another with a holy kiss—the ancient sign of Christ’s peace among early Christians, and the origins of the “passing of the peace” in modern Christian worship.

Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing; unable to control the crowd’s lust for Jesus’ blood, he will not have it on his own hands. Then he releases Barabbas, has Jesus scourged—the preparation for crucifixion—and hands him over to the soldiers for crucifixion. After the scourging, the soldiers take Jesus back to Pilate’s headquarters, and engaged in some cruel pastime to while away the hours with soldier’s games until the sun comes up. They mock this King of the Jews with scornful symbols of royalty. Note that in this time of contempt, the soldiers were clueless as to what was going on here between Jesus and the religious leaders. This was simply their way of dealing with the enemy, not unlike soldiers in other times and places that have taunted and abused their own prisoners—it is what warfare does to us. This was, after all, in their eyes, another would-be pretender to Caesar’s throne—their enemy. When they had tired of their games and the sun was up, they lead Jesus off to be crucified.

Posted July 28, 2014
The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

Author: The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012

The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.

© 2014