He Cannot Save Himself; a poem for Good Friday

He Cannot Save Himself

Many questions were asked of him,
though no answer was heard.
Pilate pressed him to respond,
but Jesus spoke not a word.

As prophesied by Isaiah,
like a lamb he was silent.
Which angered the crowd even more,
and they began to riot.

Governor Pilate faced the Jews,
and in order to honor custom,
told them that at their choosing,
he would release one prisoner among them.

He knew that Jesus was delivered
out of envy, malice and vice.
But the crowd choose Barabbas,
shouting “Crucify Jesus Christ.”

Pilate washed his hands before them,
saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd said “Let his blood be upon us,
and upon our sons.”

They stripped off his own garments,
placed on him a robe and crown.
And then pretended to worship,
before him kneeling down.

They placed on his head
a crown made of thorns.
Then they spat, hit and slapped him,
and mocked him to scorn.

They compelled the man Simon
to carry his cross.
And divided his garments,
by casting lots.

They made for him a sign,
placed over his head.
“This is Jesus, King of the
Jews” the words read.

Thieves were crucified with him,
on his left and his right.
One was loud and boastful,
the other more humble, contrite.

“We are guilty of our crimes,
and deserve to die this way.”
And when Jesus saw his faith,
promised paradise that day.

“He cannot save himself” they mocked,
as his blood fell to the ground.
But they were crucifying an innocent,
in whom no guilt was found.

This was God’s plan of salvation,
established before there was time.
Each event had been prophesied,
and now fell perfectly in line.

The trial, the false witness,
his hanging on a tree;
It was all prophesied clearly
in Isaiah fifty-three.

So the words of their mocking
are actually true, you see.
He could not save himself, for
on the cross… he saved me.

Clark J. Bunch
re-posted from 2/17/2009

Holy Week: Three Prayers of Jesus

When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he gave them a simple formula (such as in Matthew 6).  We often called this the Lord’s Prayer, but Model Prayer or even Disciples’ Prayer would be more descriptive.  Here are three prayers Jesus himself prayed during Holy Week.

The High Priestly Prayer (John 17) This entire chapter is a prayer spoken by Jesus that we call the High Priestly Prayer.  The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to detail the ways Jesus acts as our high priest, continuously going into God’s presence and making intercession on our behalf.  His prayer in John 17 casts Jesus in the role of High Priest, bridging the gap between man and God, between the unholy and Most Holy.  Jesus has only a few days left on earth at this point in the story, and is about to take his place at God’s right hand.  Jesus prayed for his followers of that day and all that would ever believe and follow in the future.  Jesus literally prayed to God for us. Continue reading

The Cross Isn’t Pretty

There’s a little icon on my desktop that represents a trash can.  A real trash can would be showing its age by now, but my icon always looks exactly the same.  It never gets filthy, never dents, never smells, and the lid always closes no matter how much “trash” is inside.  The icon represents a trash can, but a real trash can isn’t pretty.  So it is with the cross.

We wear crosses of gold and silver about the neck, carve them into our church pews, paint them in our artwork and place them above our church buildings.  As an icon, the cross represents Christianity.  But our images have no splinters, rusty nails, nor do they drip with the blood of the slain.  The image of the cross is meant to remind us that the broken body of Christ was hung on the tree.  Our communion wafers are perfect little squares, and the wine/juice tastes sweet, but the body of the Lord was broken and his blood poured out.  Flesh was ripped away by the whip.  Blood and sweat mingled and dripped to the ground.  The air was ripe with the smell of blood and the stench of death.  The cross was an instrument of torture and execution.

I’m not suggesting we do away with the symbols.  It is our nature to forget, and we must be reminded of what God has done.  Rainbows actually are beautiful, but they remind us of mercy in the face of judgment.  Baptism represents death of the old man and rebirth of the new.  Passover reminded the Jews of what God had done for them, just as communion does for us today.  Our hope is in the resurrection, made possible by the crucifixion.  We must remember what God has done.  But remember as well… it wasn’t pretty.

The Foolishness of the Cross

Paul wrote to the Corinthians “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  (1 Cor 1:18, KJV)

This is one of those occasions where I prefer the King James translation.  The ESV uses word of the cross instead of preaching, and chooses folly over foolishness.  The meaning is unchanged.  For those of us that have been Christians for many years, or perhaps in church our whole lives, we worship at the foot of the cross.  We sing hymns about the cross, decorate our churches with images of the cross; we glory in the crucified savoir.  Paul reminds us to never loose sight of the fact that to the world, to the unsaved, to those hearing the gospel for the first time – it sounds foolish. Continue reading

The Importance of the Resurrection

Jesus, resurrectionThere was a time I wondered why so much emphasis was placed on the resurrection.  Jesus died on the cross as the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Even if there had been no resurrection, his sacrificial death would have brought salvation; what could be more important than that?

The blood of Jesus was a more excellent sacrifice than that of bulls, sheep and birds.  His death on the cross brought an end to the temple sacrifice system.  The entire Gospel pivots around the cross.  It is the universal symbol of Christianity.  But the implications of resurrection are equally powerful, a fact that I can now appreciate as well.  Continue reading

Thoughts on Holy Week: Jesus’ Prayer from the Cross

jesus_crossIn his first sermon (Mark 1) Jesus offers a simple message: “Repent and believe the gospel.”  As he hangs on the cross some 3 years later, what is Jesus doing?  We have only a handful of words spoken by Jesus during the crucifixion, but there are some powerful lessons to be shared in them.

As he hangs on the cross, he was in between two thieves.  One of them mocked Jesus, but the other asked to be remembered by him.  Jesus replied that he would be with him in paradise.  Even while dying on the cross, Jesus won a convert!

But even more amazing: Jesus said the prayer of intercession for the very people crucifying him that day. Not just of the Roman soldiers, but for those really responsible, including the Jewish people, the priests and the Sanhedrin.  “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He prayed for the very people taking his life.  Taking the form of a servant is one thing.  Washing feet is another.  Praying for those that despitefully use you is another entirely.  But none of those compare to asking forgiveness for the very people that are nailing you to a cross, where you will slowly bleed and die.

The Gospel is Offensive

communion-bread-and-cupThe Gospel is good news.  It is the power of God unto salvation.  It is the story of God with us.  As Christians, we believe all these wonderful things, and more, about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  But the vast majority of people will say “Thanks but no thanks,” and some will get defensive first and then angry.  For better or worse, hearing the good news offends people.

Jesus has a long conversation with some Jews that “had believed him” in John 8:31-59.   In verse 39, the Jews respond to Jesus that Abraham is their father.  In 41, they say that God is their only father.  Jesus’ final statement, “Before Abraham was I am,” is the Gospel.  Jesus is using language that only God would use (i.e. the burning bush), and seems to make a play on words with God’s name.  It was not only blasphemy to use God’s name this way, he is saying that in fact he is God; God with us.  That’s good news.  But on this occasion, it’s not good news for Jesus.  They were picking up stones with which to kill him as he escaped from their midst. Continue reading

Jesus Shaped Spirituality

jesus-shapedWhat is Jesus Shaped Spirituality?  That is precisely the question that the InternetMonk tried to answer earlier this week.  In short, it is about making sure that our Christianity is modeled after the teachings and examples given to us by the Jesus of the Bible. 

If you’re a regular at this site, you know that I have written several posts on the examples given by Jesus.  Click “Jesus’ Examples” in the Categories list at right for a complete listing.  Each post is a specific lesson (or lessons) that we are to learn from something Jesus did himself, and in many cases encouraged his followers to go on doing.  Jesus didn’t lecture on how to be a Christian; he went around ministering to people’s needs and told his followers to keep doing the same things they had witnessed him doing. 

iMonk explains what a Jesus Shaped Spirituality looks like when we read the Scriptures and are challenged to conform to the image of Christ.  It’s not about denomination, emerging or church tradition.  It’s about each of us taking up our cross and following Jesus Christ.  Check it out. 

“He Cannot Save Himself”

He Cannot Save Himself

Many questions were asked of him,
though no answer was heard.
Pilate pressed him to respond,
but Jesus spoke not a word.

As prophesied by Isaiah,
like a lamb he was silent.
Which angered the crowd even more,
and they began to riot.

Governor Pilate faced the Jews,
and in order to honor custom,
told them that at their choosing,
he would release one prisoner among them.

He knew that Jesus was delivered
out of envy, malice and vice.
But the crowd choose Barabbas,
shouting “Crucify Jesus Christ.”

Pilate washed his hands before them,
saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd said “Let his blood be upon us,
and upon our sons.”

They stripped off his own garments,
placed on him a robe and crown.
And then pretended to worship,
before him kneeling down.

They placed on his head
a crown made of thorns.
Then they spat, hit and slapped him,
and mocked him to scorn.

They compelled the man Simon
to carry his cross.
And divided his garments,
by casting lots.

They made for him a sign,
placed over his head.
“This is Jesus, King of the
Jews” the words read.

Thieves were crucified with him,
on his left and his right.
One was loud and boastful,
the other more humble, contrite.

“We are guilty of our crimes,
and deserve to die this way.”
And when Jesus saw his faith,
promised paradise that day.

“He cannot save himself” they mocked,
as his blood fell to the ground.
But they were crucifying an innocent,
in whom no guilt was found.

This was God’s plan of salvation,
established before there was time.
Each event had been prophesied,
and now fell perfectly in line.

The trial, the false witness,
his hanging on a tree;
It was all prophesied clearly
in Isaiah fifty-three.

So the words of their mocking
are actually true, you see.
He could not save himself, for
on the cross… he saved me.

The Invisible Sky Bully

godThe invisible sky bully; have you ever heard God referred to that way?  Even worse than calling him the “invisible man in the sky” is the notion that God pushes people around because he is bigger than them.  A real bully is often a coward, and throws his weight around or intimidates those smaller than himself with words.  Those promoting the sky bully myth would have you to believe that God orders people to worship him, and sends to hell anyone that doesn’t.  It makes it easier to not believe in a God that could be like that, or helps people to doubt there is such a God.  In a way that’s good, because there isn’t a god like that. Continue reading