God loved Mary so much … He let her see the crucifixion?

Mary holding Jesus

Actress Alissa Jung plays the role of Mary in “Mary of Nazareth,” a 2014 film. If God loved Mary – or you – so much, why would He allow such suffering?

logo 12 daysMary, the mother of Jesus, was at the cross.

It’s an unimaginable picture. Why would any mother, anywhere, intentionally attend the execution of her adult child? Why would her family even allow her attendance?

Fact is, Mary didn’t come to Jerusalem for the crucifixion.

She came for Passover.

Mary and Joseph had kept a long-standing practice of attending the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover,” is the way Luke 2:41 records it.

At some point, Joseph died. But Mary kept going to Jerusalem for Passover.

It was a long, brutal trip. Almost certainly, Mary walked the entire 75 miles, taking the better part of a week to complete the trip. The last leg of the journey included the 18-mile climb from Jericho to Jerusalem, one of the most difficult hikes you’d ever want to tackle.

The year Jesus died, Mary didn’t make the long journey so she could witness history’s most important moment.

The year her son was stripped naked, scourged until he could barely stand, beaten until he was nearly unrecognizable, she didn’t go to Jerusalem so she could be there when his lifeless body was finally removed from the stakes of torture.

Mary went to Jerusalem because she loved God.

Would they have really executed Jesus on a religious holiday?

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Jesus was crucified in front of a hill that looked like a skull. Gordon’s Calvary provides an incredible example of what the landscape could have looked like when Jesus was executed. (William Haun photo)

logo 12 days It’s a question that haunts anyone who’s ever lived through bad news on a holiday.

It’s bad enough, of course, when tragic deaths occur on Christmas Day, Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday or any of the multitude of important holidays. But an intentional execution on such a day?

Never!

Political leaders are sensitive to the needs of their people to enjoy a few holidays throughout the year. Many of those holidays have sacred foundations. Think “Holy-days.” Add to the fact that prison guards and authorities want to enjoy a little time off themselves, and it’s no surprise that we rarely hear of an execution on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Day or Thanksgiving.

And yet Jesus was crucified on Passover.

Could it have really happened? Could Jewish and Roman authorities have been so insensitive to the needs of the people that they would have ordered the execution of a rabbi on what might be called the most important Jewish holiday of the year?

The Gospels paint a picture of Jesus and the disciples – and presumably the rest of the country – having their Passover meal on Thursday night. By Jewish timing, once the sun set, it was actually Friday. By 9 a.m. the next morning – which was also Friday, of course – Jesus is hanging on a cross. He was left there for six hours to die a horrible death.

This simply should not have been allowed on such a sacred day.

When did Jesus die? It’s complicated.

Jesus falls woman helps

No death of any person in history has ever captured the attention of so many. This scene from “The Passion of the Christ” depicts the moment Jesus fell on his way to Golgotha.

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When did Jesus die? That’s a question that’s been hotly debated for centuries in the Christian church. As we like to say, “it’s complicated.”

That’s too bad. If we’d asked our Jewish friends about this a long time ago, we could have not only gotten a good grasp of the timeline … we could have understood much more about the crucifixion itself.

Though Christian tradition holds to a “Good Friday” remembrance of the crucifixion, the Bible does not specifically say that Jesus died on Friday. Or does it? Consider what we do know:

Jesus died during the week of Passover preparation and celebration. The Passover celebration is mentioned more than 20 times in the Gospels’ account of the Week of Passion.

Jesus was raised from the dead on “the first day of the week,” or Sunday (John 20:1).

Jesus spoke of his coming death and resurrection on at least 12 occasions. Of these that are recorded for us, he spoke of his resurrection coming “on the third day” 11 times. He used an analogy of Jonah once, referring to the reluctant prophet being in the belly of a fish “three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40)

Part of a day is considered a full day in matters of birth and death, both in ancient and modern cultures. Even if a person dies one minute before midnight in our culture, living only one minute of a day, the day of death will be recorded as if it is a full day. That being the case, the opportunity exists for a time line of a Friday death and “third-day” Sunday resurrection.

Despite the surprise, the resurrection was no secret

 

Rolling stone tomb B&W

Ancient tombs dot the landscape of Israel. This one is located right beside the highway that leads to Mt. Carmel. What’s different about this tomb is the rolling stone that has survived all these centuries. What’s common about this tomb is that every person laid to rest here … stayed dead. (Julia Chin photo)

logo 12 daysIf you trust the record of the Gospels, it’s certainly no secret that Jesus was going to be resurrected from the dead. After all, he spoke of that miracle several times before it happened.

But what if you don’t believe the Gospels? What if you’ve heard the argument that much of what followers of Jesus put in the written record was myth? For the skeptics in the crowd, the resurrection itself is the biggest myth of all. Having the hero of the story predict the resurrection is even more unbelievable.

First, the record in the Gospels themselves.

Jesus first told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die when they were more than 100 miles away, at Caesarea Philippi. They didn’t like what Jesus said there. Simon Peter even took Jesus aside to “rebuke” him for predicting his own crucifixion.

Did they actually hear what Jesus said that day?

She knew the awful truth: Jesus died in her place

Gordons calvary two

This photo was taken around 1900, give or take a few years on either side of the century mark. Not far from the Damascus Gate, this is the skull-shaped hill that drew Charles Gordon’s attention while he was serving the British Army in Jerusalem, in 1882-83. The hill has been known as “Gordon’s Calvary” ever since.

 

logo 12 daysOne of the most famous stories in the Gospels is of the day when Jesus rescued a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Those who had arrested her were determined to kill her by stoning. Had they had their way, the woman would have been taken to Jerusalem’s only place of execution, pushed off a high hill and then stoned by those who stood above her. Jesus rescued the woman, challenging her accusers to throw the first stone only if they themselves were without sin. The accusers slipped away, and the woman escaped with her life.

Because of steep valleys, Jerusalem didn’t have an option for an execution hill on its southern or eastern borders. On the northwestern side of the city, however, stone masons had left rocky hills that provided gruesome backdrops for either stoning or crucifixion. One of those places would have become known as the place of execution. No city would cherish more than one such place. This photo – which dates before 1900 – shows what is known as “Gordon’s Calvary.” The resemblance of the rocky cliff to a skull reminded British Major General Charles Gordon of the Bible’s description of “Golgotha,” or “the place of the skull.” The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built over another skull-shaped hill only a short walk from this location.

Back to the woman Jesus rescued. “Go,” Jesus had told her, “and sin no more.” Only a short time later, Jesus was taken to Jerusalem’s place of the skull and executed. The Bible’s message was simple. He was dying there in the place of all sinners. No one would have appreciated that more than a woman once condemned to die in the same location.

Previously: How many people saw the crucifixion? More than you ever imagined.

How many people saw the crucifixion? More than you ever imagined.

Jerusalem Day

Tens of thousands gathered at the Western Wall for the 2016 Jerusalem Day celebration. When Jesus was alive, every Jewish family desired to be in Jerusalem for Passover … and hundreds of thousands made the trip each year.

logo 12 daysHow many people were in Jerusalem, and therefore theoretically able to see the crucifixion?

Here’s what we know for sure: We’ve never envisioned a large enough crowd. No movie has successfully recreated the massive crowd that was on hand for Passover. No church drama, certainly, has come close to the wall-to-wall collection of humanity.

When Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem on Passover, tens of thousands of people were in the city. Hundreds of thousands more were all around the city, camped out in every possible location.

In the same way we’ve grossly underestimated the number of people in Jerusalem for the holiday, we’ve rarely understood the dangerous, politically charged atmosphere that would have been surging through Jerusalem the spring Jesus was executed.

Josephus, the Roman historian, has often been charged with exaggerating numbers in his writings. However, in recent years, a lot of the rather surprising information Josephus has provided has been confirmed by archeological findings. With that in mind, consider that Josephus said well over 1 million people – even twice that many – could show up in Jerusalem for a Passover holiday.

More than a million? Seriously?

It’s no myth: CNN wants you to forget Jesus

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CNN has long fought against conservative, biblical values. Now it has begun an all-out attack on the heart of the Christian message.

One thing is for certain. CNN is not going to find Jesus.

We’ve seen it before, these network-news/national magazine/Easter season attacks on traditional Christianity. If you’ll recall a few examples, start with ABC’s much publicized “The Search for Jesus.” Peter Jennings took the search to Israel in 2000, convinced before he ever left home that Jesus couldn’t be found. Not surprisingly, ABC couldn’t find the “historical” Jesus. Bill Maher has made a living “exposing” Jesus. Newsweek magazine was so convinced Jesus never existed, it put him on the cover of the magazine at least a dozen times. Ironically, Newsweek folded. Jesus is still in circulation.

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The March 5, 2017, Sunday-morning display of stories on CNN.com included a full-out assault on the historicity of Jesus.

So now CNN returns to the secular search for Jesus. Right off the bat, in the first installment of “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery,” is a serious effort to announce that Jesus never actually existed.

To its credit, CNN at least interviewed a scholar who scoffs at the idea of a mythological Jesus. But as common sense goes, the network gives its headlines and majority of time to a disgruntled non-scholar who claims Jesus never really lived.

Can you imagine what would happen if CNN treated other people from history the same way?

What if the network suggested that Martin Luther King, Jr. never lived? If it sounds absurd, it should. But if the same journalistic principles apply, the network could find someone, somewhere who will claim that it was only the idea of such a man that brought profound change to America in the 20th Century. The concepts developed by MLK’s followers – though they never actually followed a real person, mind you – are what changed the world.

Throw a headline on the interview and you’ve got something millions of people would watch.

Such an idea, of course, would be nonsense. We have too many eyewitnesses who would immediately demand a retraction. There is simply too much overwhelming evidence that Martin Luther King, Jr. lived. So no, don’t expect CNN to cover the “mythology” of MLK. At least not for 2,000 years or so.

Hmm. There were eyewitnesses around when Jesus lived, too. And those eyewitnesses decided they’d rather die than retract their “story” about Jesus being raised from the dead. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

And now, an important word about cremation

junked car 2

When we finish with an old car, we junk it. No offense, but you’ve put on a few miles, too!

There’s an article circulating on Facebook dealing with cremation. The author – a self-described prophet named John Hamel – declares that a curse is upon any person whose body is burned.

If you’d like to read Hamel’s article, click here.

If you’d like to be cremated, relax. There’s no biblical curse against it.

There is a curse related to death, of course, but Jesus removed that curse. When in doubt about that wonderful reality, read Romans 8. Or Romans 5. Or John 3. Or a host of other passages that provide what can only be described as the most wonderful news any human being has ever heard.

Therefore, feel free to be:

  • Eaten by sharks.
  • Blown up by a suicide bomber.
  • Swept away in a tornado.
  • Dropped into the crevice of a glacier.
  • Trampled by a herd of elephants.
  • Gored to death by a bull.
  • Bored to death by a preacher.
  • Embalmed by a funeral home director.
  • Or cremated by the same.

No matter what is done with your body after you die, your body will quickly become incapable of supporting life. Embalming? Are you aware of what those chemicals will do to your vital organs? That liver is never going to work again, not on this earth or in heaven!

Sorry for the gruesome topic, but this is important.

Pray without testing illustration

Somewhere later today, a school teacher is going to tell a friend, “Those kids really tested my patience today.”

In that one phrase, all of us understand the kind of day the teacher had. Her students were noisy and disruptive. No doubt, she repeated herself several times, grew more and more frustrated, and finally settled on a simple policy of getting to the end of the final class period.

If I remember this scene correctly from my own childhood, there was also extra homework handed out, a pop quiz that didn’t go well, and at least one trip to the Principal’s office.

When Moses gave one of the last sermons of his life, he reminded his people that they had tested the patience of God.

Bill Cummings? Bless his heart …

Capernaum synagogue ruins

When it comes to debating the reliability of the Bible’s historical record the geographical and archeological evidence is impossible to ignore. These are the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum, where Jesus first met many of his disciples.

People in the South have a saying that sounds innocent enough on the surface, but those of us who’ve used it know it’s just a nice way of writing off someone who hasn’t a clue about reality.

“Bless her heart,” we might say of the woman who sings off key, but still insists on singing solos in church. Shake your head and offer a “Bless his heart” to the high school senior who simply can’t pass his required English exam. He’s trying, but it’s obvious. It’ll take a miracle before he can earn a high school degree.

The (Macon) Telegraph insists on publishing the weekly musings of Bill Cummings, a self-proclaimed expert on all things biblical. After reading yet another groundless claim that the writers of the New Testament made stuff up in this morning’s Sunday newspaper, I had to shake my head and utter, “Well .. bless his heart.”