Monday, March 31, 2008

Reactions to the Ressurection: The Beloved Disciple

Peter and John run to the Grave (1896)
James Tissot

Peter therefore went forth,
and the other disciple,
and they went toward the tomb.
And they ran both together:
and the other disciple outran Peter,
and came first to the tomb;
and stooping and looking in,
he seeth the linen cloths lying;
yet entered he not in.
John 20:3-5 RV
Mary was the first to notice anything different, or unexpected. She tells Peter and "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved" that Jesus has gone from the tomb. The two men run toward the tomb, BD being younger (presumably) runs faster then Peter. He gets to the tomb, and sees the linen cloths. BD is the first to see Jesus is not there. Mary did not look into the tomb, however she knew something was "wrong".
Simon Peter therefore also cometh,
following him,
and entered into the tomb;
and he beholdeth the linen cloths lying,
and the napkin,
that was upon his head,
not lying with the linen cloths,
but rolled up in a place by itself.
John 20:6-7 RV
Peter catches up. BD hasn't entered the the tomb, only stooped and looked. From his vantage point, he can only see the lower have of where Jesus should be. He only see's linen cloth. Once Peter enters the tomb, we find out that the napkin that was placed upon Jesus' head is lying elsewhere, away from the linen cloths. I assume where his head should be, as is noticed when Mary looks in later:
and she beholdeth two angels in white sitting,
one at the head,
and one at the feet,
where the body of Jesus had lain.
John 20:12 RV
For Mary, angels have replaced the linen.
Then entered in therefore the other disciple also,
which came first to the tomb,
and he saw,
and believed.
John 20:1-8 RV
BD enters the tomb. When he sees the whole picture, he believes. He is the first to do so, and without seeing Jesus risen. He knows what has happened. Interestingly, we don't find out what Peter thinks.
For as yet they knew not the scripture,
that he must rise again from the dead.
John 20:9 RV
The fact that this follows BD believing can only make sense if Peter hasn't believed as yet.
When Thomas confessed his faith, Jesus said:
blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.
John 20:29 RV
This is what has occurred with BD.
He is the example for all future believers.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reactions to the Ressurection: Thomas

Doubting Thomas (1879)
Carl Heinrich Bloch

one of the twelve,
called Didymus,
was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him,
We have seen the Lord.
But he said unto them,
Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails,
and put my finger into the print of the nails,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.
John 20:24-25 RV

Doubting Thomas was a term I knew before coming to the faith. I didn't know it was Christian term at all. The disciples tell Thomas of the risen Jesus when he arrives, and he doubts they are correct. He will need proof before he will believe Jesus has risen. Not only will need to see Jesus for himself, he will also need tactile proof. For it to be Jesus, he will need to touch the wounds from the nails, and the wound from his side. He will not be fooled but any wound. He needs to put his hand inside them. No fake wound is going to catch him out.

And after eight days again his disciples were within,
and Thomas with them.
Jesus cometh,
the doors being shut,
and stood in the midst,
and said,
Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas,
Reach hither thy finger,
and see my hands;
and reach hither thy hand,
and put it into my side:
and be not faithless,
but believing.
John 20:26-27 RV

Thomas gets his chance. Jesus offers him His hands and side for physical inspection. This is completely opposite to Mary Magdalene:
Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father
John 20:17 RV
It is more important for Jesus that Thomas believes, than not. If that takes physical proof, so be it. Jesus wants Thomas to believe.
Thomas answered and said unto him,
My Lord and my God.
John 20:28 RV
It seems that although Thomas did doubt, the appearance of Jesus, and His words, are enough. Not only are they enough, Thomas also recognises Jesus as God. He is first to do so.
Jesus saith unto him,
Because thou hast seen me,
thou hast believed:
blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.
John 20:29 RV
Jesus tells Thomas that those who have not seen, yet
believed are blessed. Both Thomas and Mary needed to see Jesus before they would believe that Jesus had risen. Are they not blessed? I think Mary recognised Jesus as The Son of God: her constant referrals to Him as "the Lord" make that clear. Yet, she was not expecting Him to rise from the dead. Her genuine concern at the empty tomb is not about Him rising and going off; it is about suspecting dodgy dealings. Thomas had been told by others that Jesus had risen, but would not believe until he touched Jesus' wounds. Some need more proof than others.
For Jesus, this is not a problem. As long as they get there at sometime.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reactions to the Ressurection: Mary Magdalene

Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early,
while it was yet dark,
unto the tomb,
and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb.
She runneth therefore,
and cometh to Simon Peter,
and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved,
and saith unto them,
They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb,
and we know not where they have laid him.
John 20:1-9 RV

Before the sun rose, Mary made her way to the tomb. She was on her way to anoint Jesus.
In the other Gospels, Mary goes with others, but here she is alone.
Mary is the first to see the tomb, she sees the stone rolled away.
She doesn't think anything supernatural; she thinks "they" have stolen the body.
Who are "they"? It can only be someone opposed to Jesus. Considering the Friday's actions, this is not an unreasonable conclusion.
Mary runs, and tells Peter, and the beloved disciple what she has seen. They run to see for themselves.

So the disciples went away again unto their own home.
But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping:

so, as she wept,

she stooped and looked into the tomb;

and she beholdeth two angels in white sitting,

one at the head,
and one at the feet,
where the body of Jesus had lain.

John 20:10-12 RV
Mary is on her own once more. She will now look for herself. She sees two angels instead of Jesus' body. They ask her why she is crying. She replies to the angels with the words she spoke to Peter and the Beloved Disciple. She turns around and sees a man. She thinks he is the gardener (John 19:41) She does not recognise that this man is Jesus.

Jesus saith to her,
Woman, why dost thou weep?
whom dost thou seek?
John 20:15 YLT

Jesus repeats the question of the angels, but asks a knowing
who are you looking for?

if thou hast borne him hence,
tell me where thou hast laid him,
and I will take him away.
John 20:15 RV
Mary can only elaborate on her previous comments. She is almost apologetic. She wants to anoint Jesus' body.

Jesus saith unto her,
John 20:15
At this moment, Jesus tells Mary that it is not the gardener she is speaking to, but Himself. Earlier in John, Jesus had stated the following:
My sheep hear my voice,
and I know them,
and they follow me
John 10:27 RV
Mary was one of Jesus' flock, and Jesus shows he knows this by plainly saying her name.

She turneth herself,
and saith unto him in Hebrew,
which is to say,
John 20:11-16 RV
Mary now recognises Him. From Sir to "Rabboni".
Jesus then asks Mary not to touch him. One can see Mary moving toward Jesus, her earlier weeping turned to tears of joy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Now what?

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden;
and in the garden a new tomb wherein was never man yet laid.
John 19:41 RV
Jesus has given up his spirit.
His body is taken down off the cross, and placed in a tomb.

If have often thought about the disciples at this point. They have all departed, other than "the one whom he loved" who stayed at the cross with Mary.
I imagine the Beloved Disciple took Mary home. What must have they talked about? I wonder if there are any accounts of this? The walk from Golgotha to BD's house would have been harsh. But entering the house, and sitting down. That moment, when they were alone. That is acute grimness.

And the women,
which had come with him out of Galilee,
followed after,
and beheld the tomb,
and how his body was laid.
And they returned,
and prepared spices and ointments.
And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Luke 23:55-56 RV
The other women do something. They prepare the annointing cream.
This would have been a very sombre , and I imagine, tear fulled evening.
Maybe they recounted stories and events. Little details that are now lost to us. That these have not come down to us is a real tragedy: women and men notice and react to different things.

The time between Jesus giving up the spirit and rising again, was is one becoming prepared: preparing the Church for the service, preparing yourself spiritually. A strange day of happy bustling, and still contemplation.

But, unlike the disciples, Mary, and the women from Galilee, we know how it is going to be. For them, there was no certainty.
For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
John 20:9 RV

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Love on a Friday afternoon

But there were standing by the cross of Jesus
his mother,
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother,
and the disciple standing by,
whom he loved,
he saith unto his mother,
thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple,
thy mother!
And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.

John 19:25-27 RV

Jesus last act before his death is to make sure his Mother will be looked after.
This a huge reminder to us all. While Jesus was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Mary.

It really is fascinating that the Gospel with the highest Christology, has Christ's last act before his death being something so human.
This is easily answered by the fact that John also has the largest "love" count of all the Gospels: Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 18, John 57.

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
John 3:16 RV

God is love
1 John 4:8 RV


It is finished:
and he bowed his head,
and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30 RV

I suppose I am really avoiding the main point of Good Friday here.
After the gentle, tender sadness of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday is a definite descent into darkness.
The Crucifixion of Christ seems something I am not ready to write about.

and they took Jesus and led him away,
and bearing his cross,
he went forth to the place called Place of a Skull,
which is called in Hebrew Golgotha;
where they crucified him,
and with him two others,
on this side,
and on that side,
and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:16-18 YLT

Friday, March 21, 2008

The cleanest feet in all Jerusalem

Y yyue to you a newe maundement,
that ye loue togidir,
as Y louede you,
and that ye loue togidir.
John 13:34 Wycliffe NT

A new commandment I give unto you,
that ye love one another;
even as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.
John 13:34 RV

A wonderful coincidence occurred on Thursday: I was looking at the e-sword
website, hunting for a different Bible translation; one a bit more modern than the RV, and I came across the modules: here I found both the Wycliffe (1380)and Tyndale (1523) translations. Well pleased by this (I have been after these for some time; and here they were, ready to slot into e-sword: searchable, comparable...oh, the joy!) I commenced looking at Thursday's reading. In the Wycliffe version, the word "commandment" is given as "maundement".

While I had been focusing on the actually footwashing aspect of the day, this find puts the emphasis on the meaning of the act.
and he took a towel,
and girded himself.
Then he poureth water into the bason,
and began to wash the disciples’ feet,
and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
So when he had washed their feet,
and taken his garments,
and sat down again,
he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
Ye call me,
and ye say well;
for so I am.
If I then,
the Lord and the Master,
have washed your feet,
ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example,
that ye also should do as I have done to you.
John 13:4-5, 12-15 RV

The foot washing is an acted lesson. The point is in the last words of Jesus speech:

For I have given you an example,
that ye also should do as I have done to you.
John 13:13 RV

Jesus emphasizes the importance of this act after informing the disciples of his forthcoming betrayal by rephrasing this point:
love one another;
even as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.
John 13:34 RV

By washing their feet, Jesus shows the disciples the meaning of leadership and servitude. By his second related statement, he clarifies the real meaning. It is not about who is in charge or who is a follower:
it is about loving one another. And this will be the defining feature of the disciples, and all Christians hereafter:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another.
John 13:35 RV

Silver Sheckels, Oxen, Servants and the Saviour

Then one of the twelve,
who was called Judas Iscariot,
went unto the chief priests,
and said,
What are ye willing to give me,
and I will deliver him unto you? And they weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver.
And from that time he sought opportunity to deliver him unto them.
Matthew 26:14-16 RV
What was Jesus worth to the chief priests?
How much did they want Jesus out of the way?
How much did they want to make an example of Jesus?

We only find out the amount through Matthew: 30 pieces of silver.
Like the donkey in Jesus' entry, the amount comes from the OT:

If the ox gore a manservant or a maidservant;
he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver,
and the ox shall be stoned.
Exodus 21:32 RV

The amount is not significant in itself, maybe like "40 days."
But the circumstances in which the figure arises are interesting.

The owner is fired if his ox kills someone.
If the ox has killed before, and the owner is aware of that, he will be executed.
If his ox kills someones daughter, his own daughter will be killed. (likewise for any family member)
If the ox kills someones servant, the ox's owner must pay the master 30 silver pieces.
The ox is killed in any of these scenarios.

I feel that comparing the two readings, one where Jesus is sold, the other an outline for reparation, a great reversal is occuring.
In typical Christian fashion, the meaning is difficult to grasp at first.

Instead of punishment, we have ill gained profit.
Instead of an owner we have a disciple.
Instead of a master, we have the leader of the opposition.

The same amount also appears elsewhere:

And I said vnto them,
If yee thinke good,
giue me my price:
and if not,
so they weighed for my price thirtie pieces of siluer.
Zechariah 11:12 KJV-1611
These two references (other the event in question) are the only times 30 silver pieces are used: one a law, the other a prophecy.

One can only think that the chief priests (and/or Matthew) were alluding to something more than a monetary amount.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"there's something I've been meaning to tell you guys..."

When Jesus had thus said,

he was troubled in the spirit,
and testified,
and said,
Verily, verily,
I say unto you,
that one of you shall betray me.
The disciples looked one on another,
doubting of whom he spake.

There was at the table reclining in Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples,
whom Jesus loved.
Simon Peter therefore beckoneth to him,
and saith unto him,
Tell us who it is of whom he speaketh.

He leaning back,
as he was,
on Jesus’ breast saith unto him,
who is it?

John 13:21-25 RV

I was reading the accounts of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas yesterday.

It was 27, with slight wind that bought up the odd waft of exhaust or concrete. I had a glass of pineapple juice. Very sweet, quite thick. It was no longer cold, closer to warm, and only a small mouthful left.

The heavy atmosphere of the above passage combined well with the humidity, heat and juice.
Where the atmosphere I experienced was purely physical, the atmosphere in which this story occurs is heavily spiritual.
The previous words of Jesus regarding his death are becoming tangible.
The day before, the anointing creates a physical atmosphere
...the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
John 12:3 RV
now, the atmosphere has become spiritually charged; with the announcement of his forthcoming betrayal. The Ddsciples, as well as the beloved disciple, are all reclining, eating.
Jesus announces:
that one of you shall betray me.
One can imagine the silence that initially followed those words.
Peter doesn't break the silence.
So Simon Peter motioned to this one to inquire who it might be, concerning whom He speaks.
John 13:24 ALT
The words that break the silence are spoken.
who is it?
John 13:25 RV
Jesus then informs the disciples without naming, who the one who will betray him is.
Then, to Judas he says:
That thing that thou doist,
do thou swithe.
John 13:27 WycliffeNT

Judas leaves.
and it was night.
John 13:30 RV
The spiritual tension and darkness that has been building up since Jesus' first announcement has reached it's darkest point.
There is no turning back now.
It is night, and it feels as if it is going to be a long one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What does one do with one year's wages worth of Spikenard?

And while he was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,

as he sat at meat,
there came a woman having an
alabaster cruse of ointment of spikenard very costly;
and she brake the cruse,
and poured it over his head.
Mark 14:3 RV

The first time I read the above, It struck me as a completely surreal image. Jesus sitting at a table, his whole head and face covered with ointment. It reminded me of the story about Syd Barrett:

Barrett avenging a particularly severe Bad Hair Day by crushing a load of pills into a jar of Brylcreem and then pasting the mixture on to his head. When he stood under the stage lights, the mixture liquefied, giving the audience - who were doubtless as "zonked" as poor old Syd - the impression that his face was melting.

I am not suggesting that Jesus was "zonked", nor the disciples, nor the woman (Mary in
John). Neither was I when I read the story.

My reaction to reading it was one of confused amazement; the disciples who witness the anointing have no such issues: their concern is material.

But there were some that had indignation among themselves,
To what purpose hath this waste of the ointment been made?
For this ointment might have been sold for above three hundred pence,
and given to the poor.
And they murmured against her.
Mark 14:4-5 RV

We are told by Matthew, Mark and John that spikenard is valuable.
Both Mark and John tell us 300 Denarii worth.
Matthew elsewhere informs us:
And having agreed with the laborers for a denarius [for] the day [i.e., a normal day's wage],
he sent them into his vineyard.

Matthew 20:2 ALT
The spikenard was worth a years wages.

Why was it so valuable, and why did this woman pour it on Jesus' head?
In this time, spikenard was used to annoint to dead.
It was extremely aromatic:
and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
John 12:3 RV
Due to it's strength, it was used to keep a corpse from smelling.
As Jesus informs us,
For in that she poured this ointment upon my body,
she did it to prepare me for burial.
Matthew 26:12 RV

But in John, Jesus tells the disciples:
Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.
John 12:7 RV

In Matthew and Mark, the woman pours the ointment over Jesus head.
However, In John, Mary anoints his feet, then wipes them with her hair.
In Luke:
she began to wet his feet with her tears,
and wiped them with the hair of her head,
and kissed his feet,
and anointed them with the ointment.
Luke 7:38 RV
This is a highly charged, intimate scene.
Interestingly, the only other incident within the Bible that spikenard occurs is overtly erotic:
While the king sat at his table,
my spikenard sent forth its fragrance.
My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh,
that lieth betwixt my breasts.
Song of Solomon 1:12-13 RV
While I no longer see this event as surreal, I am aware that the full meaning of it may not be as simple as I thought.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Palm Leaves and Donkeys

On the morrow a great multitude that had come to the feast,
when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
took the branches of the palm trees,
and went forth to meet him,
and cried out,
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,
even the King of Israel.
And Jesus,
having found a young ass,
sat thereon;

John 12:12-14 RV

I have spent the last few days thinking about palm leaves and donkeys.

An early school memory of mine is about Palm Sunday. I can't exactly remember the teacher, but I do remember her telling us about the palm leaves and the donkey. There were crowds of people cheering Jesus as he was their King.

At the age of 8 or whatever, I accepted that. I didn't strike me as
wrong but it wasn't amazing. If there was a robot involved, I probably would have responded more.

Last year, I experienced my first Palm Sunday. As it was leading up to my Baptism, I guess I was thinking about other things. Palm Sunday "happened", and things moved on into Holy Week.

However, this year Palm Sunday has been full of meaning and feeling for me. The Palm Sunday service was rich and alive. The service bought the feeling of the event to life. It was something to

Getting home, I started to think about the
meaning of it all. What difference does it really make if Jesus did ride upon a donkey, and a crowd waved palm leaves at him? If this didn't happen, would he still have been crucified?

Looking through all four accounts of the event, and with a bit of background, the meaning of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem becomes clear.

In Jesus' time, palm leaves were used as a sign of welcome for victorious soldiers returning from battle. These first believers were welcoming Jesus as one who was to be victorious; maybe he would release them from Roman control.

Yet, he was riding a donkey. (Matthew has an ass and a colt; Mark and
Luke, a colt; John, an ass's colt). If Jesus intended to be seen as a victor, he would have ridden a horse, as would be befitting a conquering hero. A donkey (or colt, or ass) is a far humbler animal, and one that would be recognised as such by many.

But as both Matthew and John tell us, the meaning is far more precise:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy king cometh unto thee:
he is just, and having salvation;
lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass.
Zechariah 9:9 RV

The Messiah would be just, have salvation. He would be humble.
Jesus most certainly was these things.
And he was riding a donkey.