Posts Tagged ‘crucifixion

30
Dec
08

Too Offended By the Nails

crucifixionThis past Sunday, our pastor did a “Cannon Sunday” service.

I’d never heard the term before, but apparently it refers to the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s, during which attendance is traditionally so low that you could fire a cannon over the pews and not hit anyone.

So, no formal sermon, no choir, the normal music director wasn’t the one playing the organ.

Figures that it would be a pretty heavy attendance that day.

But, that’s not my point. I’m going tangential on you. Point is that instead of a sermon, the pastor answered questions handed in from the congregation and randomly selected from the pile. Sort of a town-hall style sermon.

One of those questions wasn’t really a question, and it went something like this:

I am so offended by the image of those railroad nails being driven through Jesus’ hands and feet that I cannot get past the the pain and suffering and refuse to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

I don’t get this. The pastor, for his part, deftly honored the person’s question instead of calling him or her out as a flaming dipwad, and mentioned how it shows sensitivity and compassion to so hate the image of crucifixion and the suffering it entailed.

Now, I can get down with that point, of course. We rarely spend enough time truly understanding and appreciating how much Jesus suffered. This wasn’t some simple execution and not some simple form of torture. Crucifixion remains one of the most excruciating and prolonged methods of killing a person that there is.

That said, the person who handed in the question is still a flaming dipwad.

Sorry if that seems harsh. But it’s how I feel. Honestly.

Because, you see, before he died, Jesus told us to remember him through the Lord’s Supper. Or rather, our imitation of it. Our symbolic representation of it. He called upon us to break bread in his memory, as a remembrance of his soon-to-be-broken body, and to eat that bread as a symbol of taking him into our lives. And we were to drink wine in the same manner as a remembrance of the blood he was shedding as part of the new covenant with God.

He exhorted us to take that bread during worship. It is one of the ways we honor Jesus.

To refuse to take Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper—whatever you call it in your Christian denomination or specific church—is a kind of insult, I think. To say that you are so offended by the crucifixion of our savior that you cannot honor what amounted to his dying request…well, it is silliness at best, and ignorant at worst.

Remember that Jesus paid the price for us. He suffered for us. He told us we would often suffer in his name, but we never have to suffer as much as he did. Nothing we can go through can equal the crucifixion plus bearing all of our sins and having his own heavenly father have to turn His back and cut off the connection between them for a time.

The least we can do is eat a piece of bread without getting caught up in some overblown and, to me, somewhat insincere indignation over what he suffered.

Jesus knew what he was getting into. Let’s respect that, not put such a sharp focus on his suffering that we lose sight of what he wants us to do. And to feel. And to be.

29
Aug
08

It’s Just a Crucifixion

OK, I’m probably already on shaky ground with the headline for this post, because saying “it’s just a crucifixion” is kind of like saying, “sure, that woman was raped and tortured, but at least they didn’t damage her face.” Just bear with me. I have a point, truly, and it might even be a good one.

So, this morning I was catching up with my main blogs, and saw this post at Deus Ex Malcontent. (The original MSNBC story on the controversy is here, and I’ll copy past it in the comments after I post this in case the link should change later.)

First off, I felt I had to produce a valid excuse to use that crucified frog image to your left, because it’s just so freaking weird and absurd, but as it turns out, it has inspired a real meat-and-potatoes topic for today.

Second off, it’s just a crucifixion, folks.

If Elmer Fudd runs his finger across his throat with a “hhrrrrkkkkktt” sound to threaten Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, do we get up in arms about how it disrespects people who end up getting Columbian neckties? Is every overblown scene of someone being zapped to hell in the electric chair (whether in a drama or a cheesy horror flick) an insult to those families who have had loved ones executed that way?

Crucifixion was a terrible and cruel form of execution, let there be no doubt. I said as much in my post What Jesus Endured. But it was a form of execution that was practiced on tons of other folks prior to Jesus, and after him as well. That Christians chose to pick a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion as the major symbol of the faith is all well and good, but Jesus wasn’t the only person to be nailed to a tree wearing only a loincloth. The people who built up the institutions around our faith in Jesus picked an image that was very stark and intense, but also one that could be easily misused. The crescent and star of Islam and the Star of David for Judaism are more abstract and maybe we would have been better served with something more along those lines. Maybe we should move more toward the fish symbol or flying doves or something if we can’t handle the crucifixion being used in art in a less-than-flattering manner.

And yes, when someone “mocks” the image of Jesus crucified, it is in many cases an attempt to ridicule or slight Christianity. So what? Even if that’s the case here—and I’m not convinced it is—didn’t Jesus tell us we would catch a lot of shit for following him? Let’s take our hits like grown men and women and move on. Whining and bitching like little babies isn’t going to get us respect and it isn’t going to change attitudes.

In the end, being killed (and how) isn’t what makes Jesus special. What makes him special is how he lived (sinlessly), why he died (for our sins) and how he followed up that death (by rising back to life and ascending to the right hand of the Father).

Moreover, Jesus never asked us to defend him. He doesn’t need to be protected by us. He can handle his own business. He told us to lift him up in glory when we interact with others (or at the very least not deny him) and to be shining lights for him. That means showing Christ-like character, not trying to prevent people from mouthing off about Jesus.

04
Aug
08

What Jesus Endured

Even though I mention Jesus often enough around here, it’s very rare that I have a post that is focused mostly (or even solely) around him. Big oversight there. Going to start correcting that.

Anyway, today I was reminding myself (as I try to do from time to time) that Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion are nothing to be taken lightly. The worst thing he had to do for us was bear all sins of humanity, past, present and future and suffer a temporary separation from God, his own father, with whom he had been in constant spiritual contact up until that point. But there is no way for mere mortals like us to understand that kind of suffering. It really has no parallel. But what we can appreciate is the physical and emotional suffering Jesus went through. We don’t have to have gone through something as serious as what Jesus did to appreciate how bad it was.

Problem is, we need to actually make ourselves do it.

Otherwise, we just think, He hung on a cross for a few hours. Big deal. We may not say it, but it’s what we think, really. We gloss over it and that is a kind of disrespect. Son of Blue saw The Passion of the Christ a couple years ago and he said that he cried as he saw the character of Jesus in the movie suffer. I haven’t seem the movie yet, but I know it’s something I should do soon. (yes, I have my own wimping out that I need to get over.)

In the book The Case for Christ by journalist Lee Strobel, there is a gut-wrenching description of both Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion and what he likely experienced from both of those terrible abuses (which I have read a couple times as a refresher course on real suffering). I don’t have the time or patience to try to type that out, nor do I really have a good setup on my desk to prop up the book to even try doing it effectively. But I did find an article at the Web site Our Catholic Faith by a physician, Dr. C. Truman Davis, that decribes both from a medical perspective, and I’ll borrow a bit from there to give you a taste (I encourage you to go read the whole article for a fuller picture) . If you’re squeamish, you might want to leave now; I’d prefer that you stay, though. It’s probably something you need to take to heart every once in a while to understand just how much Jesus loved us and just how much he was hurt for his three-year ministry on this planet.

The Scourging

The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

The Crucifixion

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain.

This is no joke, folks. If you wonder why it’s so important to God that we “pay” for our salvation by accepting Jesus as lord and savior and acknowledging him as our introduction to God’s grace…well, consider how it felt to God to know His son would go through all this—plus spiritual suffering that is unimaginable to a human—when Jesus hadn’t done anything to deserve any punishment of any kind.

People sometimes accuse God of having been cruel when he told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Of course, God pulled the plug on that in the end, because what he wanted was not a death but for a proof of Abraham’s total faith in Him. But while that may seem a cruel test, even without actually having Abraham carry it out, remember this:

God did sacrifice His son by allowing him to die a wrongful death. And Jesus accepted this fate out of love—a love that is so deep I don’t think any of us could come close. That is something we should never forget.

That is something we should all shed a few tears over in our lives.

14
Jul
08

Cycle of Trees

I know it’s probably questionable how many people actually want to read my poetry, and so that’s why I haven’t posted any around here lately (if you are curious to look at what poems I have posted in the past, click here and sift through the Getting Creative posts; there are only a couple pages worth at this point in my blog’s life, so it’s easy hunting) but here’s another one from my vaults, written during a brief period when I wrote several Christ-inspired poems.

I have another post I’ll be doing today, but it’s more of a rant than anything else, and whatever spiritual spin I will put on it will be slight, so I thought this poem could help fill what otherwise might be a  spiritual vacuum in today’s postings.

 

  

The first tree—
A tree in a garden was our downfall
Or rather—
The man who ate off it
caused our
fall

          Oh, Adam, why?
          You poisoned your soul
          corrupted your seed
          damned descendants—
          for a taste of fruit
          You listened to Satan’s lies
          You drowned out your Father’s love.

The second tree—
—Our family tree—
—Adam’s tree
was as corrupt as his broken spirit

Humans born sinners
from the
start

Because of disobedience

But it pleased God
to make a way
to replant—
—that family tree

          A second Adam
          to obey and serve
          and make us children of God
          —again.

          Jesus.

The third tree—
A tree of death
upon which a godly man was nailed

A grim tree
But a tree from which
Jesus’s spirit leapt—
carrying our sins with him

 He restored the way
—to God

          The only son
          defeated sin and death
          reclaimed—
          what Adam lost
          —for us

The fourth tree—
The new family tree

Its fruit those who love Jesus
And who can be called
—children of God

Not because they deserve to
But because
The son of God let himself
be nailed—

To a tree.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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