Friday, April 06, 2007

More Good Friday

Info: All About Good Friday:

Ecce Homo

Human beings do so much judging.

I found myself wondering last night, did anyone think to offer him food, or drink, or something warm to wear ? What happened when he needed to go to the toilet ? Even today in civilised countries, it can be a bit tricky even for someone, 'helping with enquiries' to have space or privacy for urgent personal need.

Through all this time, Jesus referred to himself as 'The Son of Man'. The law, the way of the world persisted in judging him from it's own point of view, even where individuals were perhaps more suited to make these judgements - and who was, really, qualified to judge ? From the law's point of view the judgement was perfectly right. Whatever Jesus was really saying, it is a fact that his words, his personality, his very being was stirring up people. It was endangering the fragile peace in the middle east - oh - do these words sound familiar ?

Think of Him as a man. The Son of Man.
What has he gone through ?
An intense meal, with deep, intimate prayers, connections with his friends.
The agony of fear, and the agony of affectionate betrayal..
Then up all night : dragged from one court of law to another, stood before the Sanhedrin, Before Pilate, Before Herod and back to Pilate again.

And then scourging. Even a light scourging could and did kill.
Mockery and complete lack of dignity.
A sceptre of reed and a crown of thorns. More appropriate than we could believe possible.
A purple robe.
And indeed, that reed sceptre. The papyrus made from reeds would carry these words, these events through time and space.

We have, each of us, power over others, in the way we treat them we express our worth. Our real worth, value as we are in ourselves. The way we judge others reveals us.

Oddly enough I don't seem to be able to find in the records a verdict of guilty - except on the grounds of blasphemy. Herod was curious and irritable. Pilate was inclined to want to talk more, almost to enjoy Jesus company.. and the people were angry. Their man was being revolutionary rather than a rebel. He took nothing from the Law, but by entering the heart of the Law, and doing it and being it, he transformed into something that many people just couldn't take. Died perhaps so that the law could live on as it had always been and still is - as a tool of judgement, and not of insight.

When you think about it, the first man Jesus died for was Barabbas. Literally died in his place. And there is another odd thing about that. Bar-Abbas was also called Jesus. Translate Jesus Bar-Abbas name, and you find that he is Son of the Father.

What am I getting at here ?
Just thinking of the man, any man, no one deserves to be treated as Jesus was treated. For we are all Jesus BarAbbas. Isaiah uses the word Jeshua to mean 'well of salvation'. Each of us has it in us to be the well of compassion, the child of the Father.

Okay, the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory made their judgement, and exist still today.
So does our choice, doesn't it ? For until we begin to walk in utter trust ourselves, none of us is really qualified to judge others. Our very Father in Heaven sends rain to the just and the unjust. One thing is very clear, however. So long as our sensible judgement protects itself, we're not going to be big enough to enter the kingdom. So long as this Judgement is a matter of how wrong Pilate was, or the Jews, or the woman next door, and not, how have we ourselves treated the child of our Father we really aren't going to be small enough to enter the door, or big enough to inhabit the weight of the Kingdom.

The Way of the Cross

Three Hours:

Mary Magdalene: Banned by Law

This poem is by Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., a monk/theologian of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN. McDonnell started writing poetry when he was 75-years-old. His latest book of poetry is Yahweh’s Other Shoe (Liturgical Press). McDonnell, founder and president of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, writes of his poetry, “I wrestle with God ‘flesh to flesh, sweat to mystery,’ and I limp away.”

This poem appeared in the March 2007 issue of The American Benedictine Review .
Mary Magdalene: Banned by Law

From women let no evidence be accepted,
because of the levity and temerity of their sex;
neither let slaves bear witness. –Flavius Josephus

Obviously only men fleeing the flow
of blood upon the hill are properly fit
to testify before some Thomas protests No,
not possible that the dead has sprung the pit
of rot. We women beneath the nailed hands
are light of head, fickle of heart, no court
in the land will trust our word. If banned
by law, who will say yes to our report,
the blaze cremating all our logic. No,
no one builds on shifting sand. You need
a rock, like Peter to whom he says Get,
behind me, Satan. Go! Only he will lead.

Christ sends his Magdalene to him who keeps
the keys. Go, tell the news to him who weeps.

–Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B.

The Thief on the Other Cross: A Good Friday Monologue
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

I don't belong here, I really don't. Heaven is the last place I expected to end up after all I done. But I'll tell you how I got here.

I am -- I was -- an armed robber, I guess you'd call it. Me and the others would live in caves in the Judean hills near the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. We made our living on the people who came down the road. We wouldn't take people in the big groups that passed. They traveled together just on account of us. But a family might be an easy mark, as well as anybody fool enough to travel alone.

I carried a sword, took it off a soldier once, but usually a strong staff would do the trick. The threat of a beating and they would give up without a fight. I wouldn't hurt a person much if I didn't have to -- and never the women and children. But I've been known to break a few bones in my day, God forgive me. I don't think I actually killed anyone, but then I never stayed around long enough to find out.

We lived in the hills, near camps of the Zealots, those revolutionaries who were trying to overthrow the Romans. Even went on few missions with them, to tell the truth.

It was through one of my Zealot friends that I actually heard Jesus the first time. Ben-Rabbah knew one of the disciples, Simon -- not Peter, the other Simon, the one who had been a Zealot before becoming a disciple.

So we went together down to Jericho when Jesus was coming through. I was working the crowd. Rich Pharisees would linger near the edge, listening intently so as to find some teaching they could report him for. Miserable swine! I'd lift their fat purses as easy as pie. They never feel a thing in crowd like that.

After Jesus finishes his talk, Ben-Rabbah takes me over to met his friend Simon the Zealot. One thing leads to another and Simon introduces us to the Rabbi.

We shake hands and Jesus looks into my eyes for an uncomfortably long moment. It feels like he can see right into me, who I am, every black thing I have done. "You know," he says with a wisp of a smile, "there's forgiveness for you in my Kingdom. How about it?"

I drop my eyes, say something non-committal, and shuffle away. The next day I'm in the crowd again, but listening this time, not working. Jesus is talking about his Kingdom, comparing it to a mustard seed, calling it the Kingdom of Heaven. I so much want to go up there after he has finished and take him up on this forgiveness thing, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

It wasn't much later when me and my friend Jake -- the guy on the third cross -- get caught at night by a Roman patrol. The others run off, but they catch us, beat us silly, drag us into Jerusalem, and throw us into their stinking prison. No mercy for us.

And so it happens that the same day they crucify Jesus, they crucify me and Jake, one of us on the right, the other on the left. This ain't no normal crucifixion. Mobs of people are there because of Jesus. Those self-righteous Pharisee pigs come, too, making fun of Jesus, talking so high and mighty:

"If you're some kind of messiah, come on down from that cross," one shouts. "Savior, save yourself -- if you can!"

Jake begins cat-calling, too, if you can imagine that. I yell at him, "You miserable thug, don't you have any fear of God? Can't you see that we're going to die just like he is? Show a little decency. We're getting exactly what we deserve, but he ain't done nothing wrong."

Jake quiets down after that and the Pharisees lose interest. But I can't get Jericho out of my mind. I can't forget Jesus' eyes, his readiness to forgive, his invitation. And so I call over, though it's hard to breathe and talking makes it that much harder.


He turns his head towards me.

"Jesus, I was there in Jericho. Simon introduced me to you. Remember?"

He looks at me for a moment and then nods his head just a little. He does remember.

"I never forgot what you said. I wanted to say yes, but just couldn't. And now look at me -- look at us!"

He is in bad shape -- exhausted, in excruciating pain, back oozing, flesh laid open from the scourging, breath labored. He isn't going to last as long as me. I can see that. But somehow I can see beyond all that. He was the Messiah, is the Messiah, no matter what those priests and Romans and Pharisee pigs have done to him. And when he dies, he will be with God. I know it! In a few hours, maybe less, he will be vindicated. He will be reigning in this Kingdom he told us about.

"Jesus," I call, quietly now.

He opens his eyes again. They are the same eyes, the same piercing, loving, honest eyes.

"Jesus," I say, "when you come into your Kingdom, would you remember me? Please?"

His words are labored. He is parched, near death, but I can still hear him pretty good: "Truly, I say to you...." I can see in his eyes that he means it. "... Truly, this very day you'll be with me in Paradise."

His eyes droop and he is fading now. But I believed him. That's what got me through those next few hours until they broke my legs and killed me. I did believe him!

And then I find myself in heaven. Don't deserve to be here, but here I am. I guess that's what a man like me gets for accepting a King's pardon, don't you think?
This story is fictional, of course, though it is based on the account in Luke 23:32-43. The criminals described by the Greek word lestes, "robber, highwayman, bandit." Since Josephus used this as a derisive term to refer to the Zealots, some have thought that it might mean "revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla" here. (lestes, BDAG 594; K.H. Rengstorf, lestes, TDNT 4:257-262). However, in this story I take the thief as a highwayman or bandit, like the one who had robbed the man in Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).


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