Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letter to Sandy Hook

There is a wonderful site set up for you to write to the families at Sandy Hook. It is a blessing as it serves several purposes. We must understand that the road ahead of the families who have lost loved ones is a long one they must endure. Their journey with grief is just beginning, and as the world around them continues to spin and people begin to forget and go on with their lives, they must deal with the quiet. The pain. The reminders. The birthdays. The holidays. So many memories behind them and the quest to find ways to live one day at a time without that precious smile they loved so much.

Writing to the families is a way for us to express how we feel. We've grieved with those who have been grieving and cried with those who've cried. It also gives us the ability to write a note from our hearts to let the families know they are not alone. And as they begin to deal with their pain, some will want to read those notes of kindness from around the globe. Some will never be able to do so. But for the ones who need to know we are there for them, we have this opportunity to pour our love out in words.

So, go to the link below, if you are so inclined, and share your love with them. A poem you've written, or just a few lines to say you care and you're still praying for them and thinking of them will be a healing balm on open wounds. On their behalf, thank you!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut

From my heart to those who've lost loved ones as well as the first responsers at Sandy Hook Elementary School incident in Newtown, Connecticut~"I'll still be praying when the media goes quiet and the phone stops ringing. I'll still be praying when the night is dark, and it seems the angels ceased their singing. And at the times when you feel like you're all alone, I'll still be lifting your broken heart before the Holy One. I'm in. I'm here for the long haul."

Monday, December 17, 2012

President Obama's Remarks at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil

December 16, 2012
Newtown High School, Newtown, Connecticut
8:37 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests — Scripture tells us: “…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown — you are not alone.
As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy — they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances — with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.
We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.”
And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.
And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it’s okay. I’ll lead the way out.” (Laughter.)
As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.
But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.
And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.
This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America — victims whose — much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
All the world’s religions — so many of them represented here today — start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.
There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace — that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger — we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.
God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 8:55 P.M. EST

Friday, October 26, 2012

Turkeys Abounding

Turkey's Abounding on a Bird-Flipping Morning

On my way to work in the morning, there’s a congested left turn where, if the on-coming traffic is consistently making a right, there’s room to make a sharp left turn into the left lane of the street to the left. (Did you get that?)
This morning, there was one car in front of me as I waited to make that left turn. The woman seemed hesitant to make the turn without the green arrow. So although she could have made it several times, she chose to wait, and I consciously did not push her by either honking my horn, or even seeming annoyed in any way. Instead, I figured some people don’t like taking such a risk, and let her wait for the next green light and arrow. As I patiently waited behind her, she suddenly threw her hands up as though she was flustered and annoyed. I just figured she had someone else in the car with whom she was upset. But no. She looked into her rear view mirror, caught my eyes, and flipped me a morning bird!
With mouth agape, I said aloud, “What in the world was THAT for?” Now I was perturbed, but instead of retaliating, I started to pray for her-realizing she was not having a good morning, and I was her scapegoat…I guess!
The light changed, and I just continued into the turn after the woman. No rushing her from the back; no return birds or anything of the nature. I just prayed for her and figured she was an unhappy camper. WELL…as we approached a store strip mall, she prepared to make a right turn into it, and as she did so, opened her window, thrust her arm out, and flipped me another bird as I passed!!! Now I was laughing out loud! “Who in the world pee’ed in your cornflakes this morning? Maybe you should go back home and start again because this morning is clearly not working for you!” I said aloud laughing as I drove by.
A part of me was indignant. But the better of me kept me laughing out loud. Literally! Then as I came to the end of that very long and somewhat busy street, a large, wild turkey lunged out into the traffic, which immediately came to a halt in both directions. Along came a man riding a Kelly-green bicycle from the opposite direction from mine. The turkey turned and gave chase as the rider pedaled furiously! At this point, I was hysterical and found it hard to drive!
I know I can make all kinds of philosophical and spiritual associations with all of this, but I really don’t want to. I just wanted to share it with you and hope you got a good laugh out of it like I did. I actually thought to myself, “This is so bizarre, maybe I’ll wake up and find out it was a dream.” But it wasn’t. It was just a bird-flipping morning!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

For All the Single Ladies

Single ladies, this one is for you. Do you have a strong desire to meet that person you can spend the rest of your life with? Allow me several tips from my own experiences. First, learn to balance picky-ness with settling. In other words, no one is perfect, don't expect a man to be. Expect him to be perfect for you! Don't settle for less than the best for you. Second, don't settle because someone pays attention to you. That may feel good, but that does not necessarily mean this is the one for you. Next, how does your friend treat his mom (or grandmother or significant woman in the family)? Pay special attention to that one.

Visit his apartment or house and see how he takes care of it. Is it a disaster or is it so perfect you wonder if you should take your shoes off at the door? Is he demanding? Does he get angry or frustrated easily? Is he so easy-going that you wonder if there's a backbone in that handsome body?

I say all this to tell you that desperation for a spouse is not a good reason to accept into your life the first man who comes along. Take your time.
Most importantly, take note how he treats you when you're happy. When you're down and need an emotional boost. When you feel like being alone. When you need him. When you just want to walk quietly and enjoy his company. Please don't rush into a forever commitment. Pray. Fast. Be sure you know that you know. Don't allow attention and infatuation to determine the rest of your life. And it should be the rest of your life! Don't settle for less than the best! You deserve that!

I Wish I Could Fall in Love
Kathy Lebron
(c) 2012

I wish I could fall in love

I wish I could feel those uncomfortable butterflies

And tears stinging my eyes from hope of falling

Helplessly over myself at the thought of someone

On my mind day and night

I wish I could fall in love

I wish I could feel the way young lovers feel

The pain of having to wait for the moment

When their eyes meet and the stars shine brighter

And their hearts are lighter when they are together

I wish I could fall so painfully in love

I wish I could know that someone was truly mine

And I was truly his, that forever-knowing deep inside

That this was meant to be from the beginning of time

To the end of eternity

It’s too late for me, so I pass my wish to you

For all the love you can feel is true

In the depths of your heart and the depths of your soul

To have a love that will never grow cold but

Stays like a warm blanket on a winter night

I wish for you those butterflies when you think of him

And tears of joy that sting your eyes

When your eyes meet the one you’re hopelessly

And helplessly thinking about day after day

And night after night

I wish for you that ache inside

As every lyric of every song brings him to mind

And you’re reminded of him everywhere you look

In every book, every sunset, every store window display

Until you think you’ll lose your head some way

I wish for you to find the one who cares enough

To share your laughter and allay your fears

Who dries your tears but never causes them

He’ll be your prince and you’ll be his treasure

Together there will be nothing you can’t conquer

I wish for you those moments of pain

Thinking, “When will I get to see him again?”

Knowing in your heart that he’s the one

That was meant to be yours from the beginning of time

To the end of eternity

I wish for you unimaginable love

That starts like a raging fire and slowly turns

To glowing embers that warm your days

And fill your nights for the rest of your life

This is my wish and my prayer for you, my child

That you would never settle for anything less

Than one true love you know is yours from the depths of your heart

This place of wonder where your journey will start

And where your search will end

With a forever love, and your forever friend

I wish this for you with all that I am

And I’ll rejoice as you seek and discover

Experiencing the joy of falling in love

God’s answer from above to fill your life and longing

Like I’ve never had, but it’s your time, and it's yours for the taking

Monday, May 7, 2012

Worthington, Everett L. (1999). Hope-focused marriage counseling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
(Attention: use of any part of this critique requires proper citation.)
Worthington’s book is a comprehensive work detailing for the counselor most every topic and potential issue relative to the marital relationship. A three-fold marriage strengthening strategy is followed throughout and includes willpower to change which builds hope through motivation, waypower to change or the concrete ways change is possible, and waitpower or teaching couples to wait on God to work on the relationship.
The author’s goal for hope-focused marriage counseling is to strengthen marriages and reduce divorce. The goals of the couple must reflect their desire for improvement. In an era when so many couples face the hopeless end of their relationships, “Christ’s love produces faith and work which provide the basis for hope." The counselor promotes hope and unconditional love, strengthens weaknesses, and imparts healing by faith. Hope, according to Worthington, is mental willpower added to waypower in order to reach goals. Partners must commit to work on target problem areas revealed by assessments. The three-fold strategies are implemented through interventions pointed to specific areas of potential weakness and are utilized both in sessions and assigned as homework.
Issues affecting marriage are clearly defined and interventions are given to teach partners new patterns of behavior which re-inspire hope by restoring love, faith, and work into the relationship. Worthington provides the counselor with clear application and assessment tools as well as interventions. Central values and core vision are assessed and compared as “partners are guided in their actions toward each other by their core vision of their marriage. Willpower is gained through learning to respect one another’s central values and core vision.
Any two people living together will inevitably deal with hurts. Therefore, confession and forgiveness are imperative to reconciliation. Although Worthington initially states “the language of Christianity is soft-peddled” in the book, yet on the issue of forgiveness, he insists partners participate in devotions with Scripture and prayer as homework to provide willpower for partners who must rely on God for true forgiveness. Reflection on God’s forgiveness is a powerful incentive for forgiving others. Getting each partner to take responsibility for their contribution to an issue is one of the many examples of helping couples to gain waypower.
Interventions to strengthen healthy communication and teach loving conflict resolution involve helping couples become aware of faulty patterns, teaching partners to listen to one another, seeing from the partner’s perspective, and stressing how they value one another. Counselors are also given interventions to teach partners to replace negative, maladaptive thinking with positive and corrective cognition so that each one will learn to respond with acceptance rather than blame.
            Increasing closeness and intimacy is taught through Worthington’s CLEAVE strategy which includes Changing negative for positive interactions, Loving or reinventing romance, Employing time for one another, Adjusting to fulfill each partner’s intimacy needs, Valuing one another, and Enjoying one another sexually. Couples learn that their relationship still has hope regardless of the situation, and their closeness can be enhanced by increasing positive and decreasing negative actions, spending quality time together, and learning what intimacy means to each partner.
            Commitment may be considered the foundation and strength to any relationship as it concerns the long-term fidelity couples promise to each other. When commitment is strong, couples are more able to weather the storms that come against their marriage. Worthington’s interventions for cementing commitment include promoting commitment to therapy and work outside of therapy, dealing with drifting commitment, and the understanding that commitment to marriage is lifelong. Couples are made to understand that love is not concerned so much with feelings as with commitment to one another according to the wedding vows which stress going beyond life’s situations to stay together.
            Worthington gives the marriage counselor tools to assess marital weaknesses and implement hope-filled interventions that strengthen the foundation upon which couples begin their lives together. Upon commencement from sessions, the counselor encourages the couple’s independence by memorializing the progress they’ve made, ensuring they have internalized change, and suggesting they continue working with the interventions and homework they’ve been given. Leaving the door open for future sessions gives couples the assurance and hope that if there is a need, they may return for assistance.
            Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Worthington regards the importance of hope and teaches counselors that one of their goals is to reestablish hope into broken and wounded marital relationships. However, he also states that counselors may “point couples toward the source of hope—sometimes without ever mentioning religion—humbly and sometimes directly."
Romans 15:13 calls God the source of hope. It is from Him and from Him alone that true hope can be realized and maintained, first in relationship with Him and subsequently with one another. As the creator of the marriage covenant, it is God that builds into that relationship the hope for strength to carry out commitment and imparts willpower, waypower, and waitpower to endure the good as well as the difficult issues that affect our relationships.
Worthington also states that once couples have hope, they are able to work on love. “Once they have love, they can renew their faith and thus find new motivation to put energy and work into their marriage." Obviously, the most important aspect of rebuilding hurting marriages is reestablishing hope for each partner. Christian counselors cannot and must not bypass the importance of the Giver of true, lasting hope if they are to effectively assist couples in restoring their relationship.
A counselor who has learned her own lessons well will be better enabled to minister restoration to her clients. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 teaches us that as we are comforted in our troubles, we are then able to comfort others who suffer the same things we’ve experienced. My marriage has survived great difficulties, yet I continue to learn and grow. Worthington’s interventions have brought readjustments that I have begun to implement. For example, we have always struggled in our ability to communicate well. Putting into practice Chapman’s five languages of love has not only strengthened lines of communication but softened both our hearts toward one another and given us a waypower for change. The five languages of love help couples understand they are valued in the eyes of their partner. Words, acts of service, gifts, physical touch and closeness, and spending quality time with one another are all ways to communicate love and value that help build hope in a marriage .
Worthington’s “Guidelines for changing communication” is also an intervention I have implemented in my own relationship with my husband. Listening and seeing from my husband’s perspective has changed how I respond to situations that may have become volatile in the past. God has used Hope-filled Marriage Counseling to build and strengthen my marriage, bringing hope that we will continue to endure the tests of time.
As these interventions and others have already proven effective in my relationship with my husband, I am able to share my experiences and encourage partners who are struggling with similar circumstances. Using the tools given in Worthington’s work to teach and impart willpower, waypower, and waitpower to couples who enter counseling with broken relationships, partners will realize that there is hope for their marriage, and that through love, faith, and work, they too can endure the test of time together.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Is Risen ~ The Best Day EVER!

Resurrection Morning! It is the most glorious celebration and hope we have as Christians! Celebrate the day with this devotion. And have a blessed day with your family and friends around the good news--the grave is empty: He is Risen!!!


In the end of the Sabbath, it is beginning to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher, and, behold, there was a great earthquake: For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Matthew 28:1,2

“Jesus is alive! His resurrection was not merely a philosophical renaissance of His ideas and teachings – He was literally raised from the dead! The power of God exploded inside the tomb, reconnected Jesus’ spirit with His dead body, flooded his corpse with life and He arose! So much power was released behind the sealed entrance of His tomb that the earth itself reverberated and shuddered from the explosion. Then an angel rolled the stone from the entrance to the tomb, and Jesus physically walked through the door of the tomb alive!

“This is no legend nor fairy tale. This is the foundation of our faith! So today let’s examine the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was resurrected from the dead sometime between the close of Sabbath sunset on Saturday evening and before the women came to the tomb early on Sunday morning. The only actual eyewitnesses to the resurrection itself were the angels who were present and the four Roman soldiers who had been stationed there at Pilate’s command. (Matt 27:66) However, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the events that followed on the morning of His resurrection.

“When first reading all four accounts of what happened that morning, it may appear that a contradiction exists between the details told in the various Gospels. But when they are chronologically aligned, the picture becomes very clear and the impression of contradiction is wiped away.

“Let me give you an example of what appears to be a contradiction. The Gospel of Matthew says there was one angel outside the tomb. The Gospel of Mark says there was one angel inside the tomb. The Gospel of Luke says there were two angels inside the tomb. John says nothing about angels, but does say that when Mary returned later in the day, she saw two angels inside the tomb who were positioned at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been laid.

“So who is telling the right story? How many angles were there? As I said, to see the entire scenario that transpired that day, the events in all four Gospels must be properly sequenced chronologically. So, let’s get started.

“Matthew 28:1 says, ‘In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.’ In addition to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of James, Luke 24:10 tells us that Joanna and the other women came to the tomb. Luke 8:3 tells us that this Joanna was the wife of Herod’s steward—evidently a wealthy woman who was a financial supporter of Jesus’ ministry. According to Luke 23:55-56, many of these women were present when Jesus was placed inside the tomb, but returned home to prepare spices and ointments so they could anoint His body for burial when they returned after the Sabbath day.

“These women had no way of knowing that the chief priests and elders had gone to Pilate the day after Jesus was buried to request a watch of four Roman soldiers to guard the tomb and an official at home, preparing spices and ointments.

“Yet while these women were preparing to return to anoint Jesus’ dead body, the tomb was being officially sealed shut and Roman soldiers had been ordered to guard the tomb twenty-four hours a day. Had the women known that the tomb was legally sealed and couldn’t be opened, they wouldn’t have returned to the tomb, for it was legally impossible for them to request the stone to be removed.

“Mark 16:2-4 says, ‘And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was very great.

“Ignorant of the fact that the tomb couldn’t legally be opened, the women proceeded to the tomb for the purpose of anointing Jesus’ body. As they drew near to the garden where the tomb was located, they wondered among themselves who would remove the stone for them. However, Matthew 28:2 says, ‘And behold, there was a great earthquake…’

“This earthquake didn’t occur at the time when the women approached the tomb; rather, it occurred simultaneously with the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, sometime after the Saturday sunset and before the women arrived at the garden. When describing the magnitude of the earthquake, Matthew used the word ‘behold.’ In Greek, this is the word idou. The King James Version translates it behold, but in our day, it might be better translated, ‘Wow!’ When Matthew says, ‘And behold, there was a great earthquake,” he literally means, ‘Wow! Can you believe it!’ Although Matthew writes his Gospel many years after the fact, he still experienced amazement when he thinks of this event!

“Matthew tells us that there was a ‘great earthquake.’ The word great is the Greek word mega, leaving no room for doubt as to the magnitude of this event. The word mega always suggests something huge, massive, or enormous. The word earthquake is the Greek word seimos, the word for a literal earthquake. Just as creation shook when its Creator died on the Cross, now the earth exploded with exultation at the resurrection of Jesus!

“Mark 16:4 says that when the women arrived at the tomb, they found ‘…the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.’ In other words, this was no normal stone; the authorities placed an extremely, exceedingly massive stone in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. Yet when the women arrived, it had been removed!

“Matthew 28:2 tells us how the stone was removed. It says that ‘the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.’ Some have suggested that the ability of the angel to sit on top of such a huge stone may also denote his immense size—in other words, he was so huge that he could sit on top of the enormous stone as if it were a chair. If this were the case, the removal of the stone would have been a simple feat. Matthew informs us that not only was the angel strong, but ‘his countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow.’ (vs 3)

“The immense size, power, and brilliance of this angel explains why the Roman guards fled the scene. Matthew 28:4 tells us, ‘And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.’ It was such a panic-stricken fear that it caused the guards to ‘shake.’
“This word, shake is derived from the identical root word for an earthquake. The mighty Roman soldiers trembled and quaked at the sight of the angel. In fact, they ‘became as dead men.’ They were so terrified at the appearance of the angel that they fell to the ground, violently trembling and so paralyzed with fear that they were unable to move. When they were finally able to move again, these guards fled the scene—and when the women arrived at the garden, they were nowhere to be found!

“Luke 24:3 tells us that with the stone removed, these women passed right by the angel who sat on top of the huge stone and crossed the threshold into the tomb. It says, ‘And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.’ But what did they find inside the tomb besides the vacant spot where Jesus had laid? Mark 16:5 tells us: “And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrightened.’

“First, these women saw an angel sitting on top of the stone at the entrance of the tomb. Now inside the tomb, they see another angel whose appearance is like a young man. The words, ‘young man,’ are from the Greek word neanikos, referring to a young man who is filled with vigor and energy and who is in the prime of his life. This illustrates the vitality, strength, and ever-youthful appearance of angels. The Bible also tells us that this angel was ‘clothed in a long white garment…’ The word ‘clothed pictures a garment draped about his shoulders, as a mighty warrior or ruler would be dressed. The word, ‘garment’ is from the Greek word, stole, which represents the long flowing robe that adorned royalty, commanders, kings, priests, and other people of high distinction.

“As these women stood in an empty tomb, Luke 24:4 tells us that ‘they were much perplexed thereabout.’ This Greek word for ‘perplexed is aporeo, which means to lose one’s way. It is the picture of someone who is so confused that he can’t figure out where he is, what he’s doing, or what is happening around him. This person is completely bewildered by surrounding events.

“Of course these women were perplexed! They came expecting to see the stone in front of the tomb, but it was removed! Sitting on top of the massive stone was a dazzling angel. To get into the tomb, they had to pass by that angel—but once in the tomb, they discovered there was no dead body. Then suddenly they looked over to the right side of the tomb and saw a second angel, dressed in a long, white robe like a warrior, ruler, priest, or king. The women didn’t expect to encounter any of these unusual events that morning. It would have been normal for their heads to be whirling with questions.

“Then Luke 24:4 tells us that all of a sudden, ‘two men stood by them in shining garments.’ The words ‘stood by’ are from the Greek word, epistemi, which means to come upon suddenly; to take one by surprise; to burst upon the scene; to suddenly step up; or to unexpectedly appear. In other words, while the women tried to figure out what they were seeing, the angel sitting on top of the stone decided to join the group inside the tomb. Suddenly to the women’s amazement, two angels were standing inside the tomb in ‘shining garments.’

“The word shining is astrapto, depicting something that shines or flashes like lightening. It may refer to the angel’s shining appearance.

“Luke 24:5-8 says, ‘And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day, rise again. And they remembered his words.

“After the two angels proclaimed the joyful news of Jesus’ resurrection, they instructed the women, ‘But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.’ (Mark 16:7) Matthew 28:8 says they ‘did run to bring his disciples word.’ Mark 16:8 says, “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre.’ Luke 24:9-10 says that the women returned and ‘told these things unto the apostles.

“Can you imagine how flustered these women must have been as they tried to tell the apostles what they had seen and heard that morning? Luke 24:11 says, ‘And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.’ The words idle tales are from the Greek word leros, which means nonsense, idle talk, babble, or delirium. In other words, the women’s presentation of the Gospel probably wasn’t extremely clear, but it stirred enough interest in Peter and John to make them get up and go find out for themselves about Jesus!

“When we’ve had a supernatural encounter with the Lord, it isn’t always easy to put that experience into words. This is a frustration all of us who know the Lord have felt at one time or another. However, we can’t let that keep us from spreading the good news of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.

“As you share Jesus Christ with your family and friends, it is your job to give it your best shot. Tell the Good News that best way you know how! But don’t overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit is also speaking to their hearts at the same time you are speaking to their ears. The Spirit of God will use you and your witness so stir hunger deep in their hearts. But long after you are finished talking, God will still be dealing with them. And when they come to Jesus, they won’t remember if you sounded confusing the day you presented the Gospel to them. They will be thankful that you loved them enough to care for their souls.

“So get up and get going! Open your mouth, and start telling the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive and well!

“Lord, I am concerned for my family, friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers who still don’t know You as their personal Savior. I’ve been concerned that if I tried to talk to them, I wouldn’t make sense, so I’ve shied away from witnessing to them. But I know You can make sense out of anything I say. Today I am leaning on you to help; me witness to people in my life. I need You to speak to their hearts at the same time I’m speaking to their ears! Please help me tell them about Your saving grace! I pray this in Jesus’ name!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Veil was Torn ~ Day 5

Day 5  The Day the Veil Was Rent and the Earth Shook
From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”

How precious is it that we have the ability to go to God as our Father! It is in Christ and His sacrifice that this privilege was won for us!

Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. Matt 27:50-51

“Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that on the day Jesus was crucified, the sky turned eerily dark at the sixth hour of the day. Matthew 27:45 says, ‘Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.’

“This sudden and unexplainable darkness covered all the ‘land.’ The word land is the Greek word for earth, ges, and it refers to the entire earth, not just a small geographical region. The Greek word ges emphatically tells us that the whole world literally became simultaneously darkened.

“The historians Phlegon, Thaddus, and Julius Africanus all referred to the darkness that covered the earth at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Critics of the Bible have attempted to explain away this supernatural darkness by alleging that it was due to an eclipse of the sun. This is impossible, however, for the Passover occurred at the time of a full moon.

“The Bible informs us that the darkening of the sky started at the sixth hour. This is significant, for the sixth hour (noontime) was the very moment that the high priest Caiaphas, arrayed in his full priestly garments, began the procession in which he would enter the temple to slaughter a pure, spotless Passover lamb. This darkness that covered the land lasted until the ninth hour—the exact moment the high priest would be making his entrance into the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of the Passover lamb to cover the sins of the nation.

“It was at this moment that Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished!” (John 19:30). As He heaved upward to breathe for the last time, Jesus gathered enough air to speak forth a victory shout! His assignment was complete! After proclaiming those words with His last ounce of strength, Matthew 27:50 tells us that He ‘yielded up the ghost.’

“What Matthew tells us next is simply amazing! He writes, ‘And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom.’ The word ‘behold’ is the Greek word idou. Idou carries the idea of shock, amazement and wonder. It’s almost as if Matthew says, ‘Wow, can you believe it? The veil of the temple itself rent in two from top to bottom!’ Matthew wrote about this event many years after the fact, yet he was still so dumbfounded by what happened that day he exclaimed in effect, ‘Wow! Look what happened next!’

“There were two veils inside the temple—one at the entrance to the Holy Place and a second at the entrance of the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was allowed to pass through the second veil once a year. That second veil was sixty feet high, thirty feet wide, and an entire handbreadth in thickness! One early Jewish writing states that the veil was so heavy, it took three hundred priests to move or manipulate it. It would have been impossible humanly speaking to tear such a veil.

“At the exact moment Jesus was breathing His last breath on the Cross at Golgotha, Caiaphas the high priest was standing at his station in the inner court of the temple, preparing to offer the blood of a spotless Passover lamb. At the very instant Caiaphas stepped up to kill the Passover sacrifice, Jesus exclaimed, ‘It is finished.’ At that same instant, miles away from Golgotha inside the temple at Jerusalem, an inexplicable, mystifying supernatural even occurred. The massive, fortified veil that stood before the Holy of Holies was suddenly split in half from the top all the way to the bottom!

“The sound of that veil splitting must have been deafening as it ripped and tore, starting from the top and going all the way down to the floor. It was as if invisible, divine hands had reached out to grab it, rip it to shreds, and discard it.

“Imagine how shocked Caiaphas must have been when he heard the ripping sounds above his head and then watched as the veil was torn in half, leaving two sides of the once-massive curtain lying collapsed to his right and his left. Just think what must have gone through this evil high priest’s mind when he saw that the way to the Holy of Holies was opened—and that God’s Presence was no longer there.

“You see, when Jesus was lifted up on that Cross, that Cross became the eternal mercy seat on which the blood of the final sacrifice was sprinkled. Once that sacrifice was made, it was no longer necessary for a high priest to continually make sacrifices year after year, for Jesus’ blood had now settled the issue forever!

“For this cause, God Himself ripped the veil of the temple in half, declaring that the way to the Holy of Holies was now available to everyone who came to Him through the blood of Jesus! This is why the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus ‘hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us’ (Eph 2:14).’

“Jesus’ death was such a dramatic event that even the earth reacted to it. Matthew 27:51 says, ‘the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.’ The word quake is the Greek word seiso, which means to shake, to agitate, or to create a commotion. It is where we get the word for seismograph, the apparatus that registers the intensity of an earthquake. It is interesting to note that Origen, the early Christian leader, recorded that there were ‘great earthquakes’ at the time of Jesus crucifixion.

“I find it so amazing that although Israel rejected Jesus and the Roman authorities crucified Him, creation always recognized Him! During His life on this earth, the waves obeyed Him; water turned to wine at His command; fishes and bread multiplied at His touch; the atoms in water solidified so He could walk across it; and the wind ceased when He spoke to it. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ death was a traumatic event for creation. The earth shook, trembled, and shuddered at the death of its Creator, for it instantly felt its loss.

“The earth shuddered so violently when Jesus died that even ‘the rocks rent’ Matthew tells us that huge, large rocks or petra, were rent by the shaking of the earth. The word rent is schidzo, meaning to rent, to tear, to violently tear asunder, to terribly fracture. This was a serious earthquake! It makes me realize all over again the incredible significance of the death of Jesus Christ!

“When Jesus’ blood was accepted at the Cross as final payment for man’s sin, the need to habitually offer sacrifices year after year was eliminated. The Holy of Holies, a place limited only to the high priest once a year, has now become open and accessible to all of us! As ‘believer-priests,” each of us can now enjoy the Presence of God every day. This is why Hebrews 10:19,22 says, ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.’

“Since the way to the Holy of Holies has been thrown wide open to us, we need to take a few minutes each day to enter into the Presence of God to worship Him and to make our requests known. Because of what Jesus did, we can now ‘come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need’ (Heb. 4:16). Since this is God’s promise to us, let’s drop everything we’re doing and come boldly before that throne of grace for a few minutes today!

“Lord, I thank You for destroying the veil that separated me from Your Presence. By taking away the veil, You made it possible for me to come boldly before Your throne of grace to obtain mercy and receive help in my time of need. Because of what You did for me, today I am coming boldly to tell You what I need in my life. I present my case to You, and I thank You in advance for helping me just as You promised in Your Word. I pray this in Jesus’ name.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012


From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”

This is my favorite daily devotional of this week. It paints such a profound picture of what Jesus did and His heart as He did it. It is even more profound to know that what He did is the perfect picture of love for me and you!


They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified Him. Matthew 27:34-35.

“When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, the Bible says, ‘They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall…’ According to Jewish law, if a man was about to be executed, he could request a narcotic, mingled together with wine, which would help alleviate the pain of his execution. The word ‘gall’ in this verse refers to this special painkiller that was mingled together with wine for this purpose.

“There was a group of kind women in Jerusalem who made it their good deed to help anesthetize the pain of people who were dying horrific deaths. These women wanted to eliminate as much pain and misery as possible for the scores of people being crucified by the Romans. Therefore, they produced the homemade painkiller that Matthew tells us about in this verse.

“Jesus was offered this anesthetic twice—once before His crucifixion and once while He was dying on the Cross (Matt 27:34, 48). In both instances, Jesus turned down the offer and refused to drink it, for He knew that He was to fully consume this cup the Father had given Him to drink.

“Verse 35 begins, ‘And they crucified Him…’ The word ‘crucified’ is the Greek word staurao from the word stauros, which describes an upright, pointed stake that was used for the punishment of criminals. This word was used to describe those who were hung up, impaled, or beheaded and then publically displayed. It was always used in connection with public execution. The point of hanging a criminal publically was to bring further humiliation and additional punishment to the accused.

“Crucifixion was indisputably one of the cruelest and most barbaric forms of punishment in the ancient world. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, described crucifixion as ‘the most wretched of deaths.’ It was viewed with such horror that in one of Seneca’s letters to Lucilius, Seneca wrote that suicide was preferable to crucifixion.

“Different parts of the world had different kinds of crucifixion. For example, in the East the victim was beheaded and then hung in public display. Among the Jews, the victim was first stoned to death and then hung on a tree. Deut 21:22-23 commanded, ‘And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God)…'

“But at the time Jesus was crucified, the grueling act of crucifixion was entirely in the hands of the Roman authorities. This punishment was reserved for the most serious offenders, usually for those who had committed some kind of treason or who had participated in or sponsored state terrorism.
“Because Israel hated the occupying Roman troops, insurrections frequently arose among the populace. As a deterrent to stop people from participating in revolts, crucifixion was regularly practiced in Jerusalem. By publicly crucifying those who attempted to overthrow the government, the Romans sent a strong signal of fear to those who might be tempted to follow in their steps.

“Once the offender reached the place where the crucifixion was to occur, he was laid on the crossbeam he carried with his arms outstretched. Then a soldier would drive a five-inch iron nail through each of his wrists into the crossbeam. After being nailed to the crossbeam, the victim was hoisted up by rope, and the crossbeam was dropped into a notch on top of the upright post.

“When the crossbeam dropped into the groove, the victim suffered excruciating pain as his hands and wrists were wrenched by the sudden jerking motion. Then the weight of the victim’s body caused his arms to be pulled out of their arm sockets. Josephus writes that the Roman soldiers ‘out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures.’ Crucifixion was truly a vicious ordeal.

“When the victim was nailed to the cross, the nails were not driven through the palms of his hands, but through the wrists. Once the wrists were secured in place, the feet came next. First, the victim’s legs would be positioned so that the feet were pointed downward with the soles pressed against the post on which the victim was suspended. A long nail would then be driven between the bones of the feet, lodged firmly enough between those bones to prevent it from tearing through the feet as the victim arched upward, gasping for breath.

“In order for the victim to breathe, he had to push himself up by his feet, which were nailed to the vertical beam. However, because the pressure on his feet became unbearable, it wasn’t possible for him to remain long in this position, so eventually he would collapse back into the hanging position.

“As the victim pushed up and collapsed back down again and again over a long period of time, his shoulders eventually dislocated and popped out of joint. Soon the out-of-joint shoulders were followed by the elbows and wrists. These various dislocations caused the arms to be extended up to nine inches longer than usual, resulting in terrible cramps in the victim’s arm muscles and making it impossible for him to push himself upward any longer to breathe. When he was finally too exhausted and could no longer push himself upward on the nail lodged in his feet, the process of asphyxiation began.

“Jesus experienced all of this torture. When He dropped down with the full weight of His body on the nails that were driven through His wrists, it sent excruciating pain up His arms, registering horrific pain in His brain. Added to this torture was the agony caused by the constant grating of Jesus’ recently scourged back against the upright post every time He pushed up to breathe and then collapsed back to a hanging position.

“Due to extreme loss of blood and hyperventilation, the victim would begin to experience severe dehydration. We can see this process in Jesus’ own crucifixion when He cried out, ‘I thirst' (John 19:28). After several hours of this torment, the victim’s heart would begin to fail. Next his lungs would collapse, and excess fluids would begin filling the lining of his heart and lungs, adding to the slow process of asphyxiation.

“When the Roman soldier came to determine whether or not Jesus was alive or dead, he thrust his spear into Jesus’ side. One expert pointed out that if Jesus had been alive when the soldier did this, the soldier would have heard a loud sucking sound caused by air being inhaled past the freshly made wound in the chest. But the Bible tells us that water and blood mixed together came pouring forth from the wound the spear had made—evidence that Jesus’ heart and lungs had shut down and were filled with fluid. This was enough to assure the soldier that Jesus was already dead.

“It was customary for Roman soldiers to break the lower leg bones of a person being crucified, making it impossible for the victim to push himself upward to breathe and thus causing him to asphyxiate at a much quicker rate. However, because of the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’ side, He was already considered dead. Since there was no reason for the soldiers to hasten Jesus’ death, His legs were never broken.

“This, my friend, is a brief taste of a Roman crucifixion.

“The above description of crucifixion was exactly what Jesus experienced on the Cross where He died for you and me. This is why Paul wrote, ‘And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Phil 2:8). In Greek the emphasis is on the word ‘even,’ from the Greek word de, which dramatizes the point that Jesus lowered Himself to such an extent that He died even the death of a cross—the lowest, most humiliating, debasing, shameful, painful method of death in the ancient world!

“Now you understand why the kind women of Jerusalem prepared homemade painkillers for those being crucified. The agony associated with crucifixion is the reason they offered Jesus this ‘gall’ once before the crucifixion began and again as He hung on the Cross.

“Meanwhile, the soldiers near the foot of the Cross ‘parted His garments, casting lots…’ (Matt 27:35). They didn’t understand the great price of redemption that was being paid at that moment as Jesus hung asphyxiating to death, His lungs filling with fluids so He couldn’t breathe.

“According to Roman custom, the soldiers who carried out the crucifixion had a right to the victim’s clothes. Jewish law required that the person being crucified would be stripped naked. So there Jesus hung, completely open and naked before the world, while His crucifiers literally distributed His clothes among themselves!

“Making this distribution of clothes even cheaper was the fact that the soldiers ‘cast lots’ for His garments. The Gospel of John records that ‘when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat; now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it.’ (John 19:23-24).

“This account informs us that four soldiers were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. The four parts of His clothing that were distributed among them were His head gear, sandals, girdle, and the tallith—the outer garment that had fringes on the bottom. His ‘coat,’ which was ‘without seam,’ was a handmade garment that was sewn together from top to bottom. Because it was specially handmade, this coat was a very expensive piece of clothing. This was the reason the soldiers chose to cast lots for it rather than tear it into four parts and spoil it.

“When the Bible refers to ‘casting lots,’ it indicates a game during which the soldiers wrote their names on pieces of parchment or wood or on stones and then dropped all four pieces with their names written on them into some kind of container. Because the Roman soldiers who helped crucify Jesus were remotely located, it is probable that one of them pulled off his helmet and held it out to the other soldiers. After the others dropped their names in the helmet, the soldier shook it up to mix up the four written names and then randomly withdrew the name of the winner.

“It is simply remarkable that all of this was taking place as Jesus was pushing down on that huge nail lodged in His feet so He could gasp for breath before sagging back down into a hanging position. As Jesus’ strength continued to drain away and the full consequence of man’s sin was being realized in Him, the soldiers at the foot of the Cross played a game to see who would get His finest piece of clothing!

“Matthew 27:36 says, ‘And sitting down they watched him there.’ The Greek word for watch is the word tereo, which means to guard. The Greek tense means to consistently guard or to consistently be on the watch. It was the responsibility of these soldiers to keep things in order, to keep watch over the crucifixion site, and to make sure no one came to rescue Jesus from the Cross. So as they cast lots and played games, the soldiers were also keeping watch out of the corners of their eyes to make certain no one touched Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

“When I read about the crucifixion of Jesus, it makes me want to repent for the callousness with which the world looks upon the Cross today. In our society, the cross has become a fashion item, decorated with gems, rhinestones, gold and silver. Beautiful crosses of jewelry adorn women’s ears and dangle at the bottom of gold chains and necklaces. The symbol of the cross is even tattooed on people’s flesh!

“The reason this is so disturbing to me is that in beautifying the Cross to make it pleasing to look upon, people have forgotten that it wasn’t beautiful or lavishly decorated at all. In fact, the Cross of Jesus Christ was shocking and appalling.

“Jesus’ totally naked body was flaunted in humiliation before a watching world. His flesh was ripped to shreds; His body was bruised from head to toe; He had to heave His body upward for every breath He breathed; and His nervous system sent constant signals of excruciating pain to His brain. Blood drenched Jesus’ face and streamed from His hands, His feet, and from the countless cuts and gaping wounds the scourging had left upon His body. In reality, the Cross of Jesus Christ was a disgusting, repulsive, nauseating, stomach-turning sight—so entirely different from the attractive crosses people wear today as a part of their jewelry or attire.

“At this time of the year, it would be a good idea for all of us as believers to take a little time to remember what the Cross of Jesus Christ was really like. If we don’t deliberately choose to meditate on what He went through, we will never fully appreciate the price He paid for us. How tragic it would be if we lost sight of the pain and the price of redemption!

“When we fail to remember what it cost Jesus to save us, we tend to treat our salvation cheaply and with disregard. That’s why the apostle Peter wrote, ‘Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.’ (1 Pet 1:18-19).

“The kind women of Jerusalem wanted to anesthetize Jesus to remove His pain. He refused their painkiller and entered into the experience of the Cross with all His faculties. Let’s not allow the world to anesthetize us, causing us to overlook or forget the real price that was paid on the Cross.
“Why not take time today to let the reality of the Cross sink deep into your heart and soul? As you do, you’ll find that it will cause you to love Jesus so much more than you love Him right now!

“Lord, help me never to forget the price You paid on the Cross for my salvation. Please forgive me for the times my life starts moving so fast that I fail to remember what You did for me. No one else could have taken my place. No one else could have paid the price for my sin. So You went to the Cross, bearing my sin, my sickness, my pain, and my lack of peace. That Cross was the place where the price was paid for my deliverance. Today I want to thank you from the very depths of my heart for doing this for me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Golgotha~The Place of the Skull
From Rick Renner’s Sparkling Gems from the Greek.

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull. Matthew 27:32, 33

“When the soldiers brought Jesus out from the residence of Pilate, Jesus was already carrying the crossbeam that would serve as the upper portion of His Cross.

“Most Roman crosses were shaped like a “T.” The upright post had a notched groove at the top into which the crossbeam was placed after a victim had been tied or nailed to it. The crossbeam, normally weighing about 100 pounds, was carried on the back of the victim to the place of execution.

“According to Roman law, once a criminal was convicted, he was to carry his own cross to the place of execution if his crucifixion was to occur somewhere other than the place of the trial. The purpose for exposing criminals heading for crucifixion to passersby was to remind those who watched of Roman military power. At the place of execution, vultures flew overhead, just waiting to swoop down and start devouring the dying carcasses left hanging on the crosses. In the nearby wilderness, wild dogs anxiously waited for the newest dead bodies dumped by executioners, to become their next meal.

“After the person was declared guilty, a crossbeam would be laid across his back and a herald would walk ahead of him, proclaiming his crime. A sign with the person’s crime written on it would also be made, later to be hung on the cross above his head. Sometimes the sign bearing the person’s crime would be hung from his neck, so all the spectators who lined the streets to watch him walk by would know what crime he committed. This was the very type of sign that was publicly displayed on the Cross above Jesus’ head with the crime He was charged with—“King of the Jews”—written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

“Carrying such a heavy weight for a long distance would be difficult for any man, but especially for one who had been as severely beaten as Jesus. The heavy crossbeam on which He was destined to be nailed pressed into His torn back as He carried it to the place of execution. Although the Bible does not state the reason why, we may assume that the Roman soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help because Jesus was so drained and exhausted from the abuse He had suffered.

“Little is known of Simon of Cyrene, except that he was from Cyrene, the capital of the province of Libya that was situated approximately eleven miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. Matthew 27:32 informs us that the Roman soldiers “compelled him to bear His Cross.” The word ‘compelled’ is the Greek word aggareuo. It means to compel, to coerce, to constrain, to make or to force someone into some kind of compulsory service.

“Matthew 27:33 says, ‘And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of the skull.’ This scripture has been the center of controversy for several hundred years, for many have attempted to use this verse to geographically identify the exact location of Jesus’ crucifixion. Some denominations allege that the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was inside modern-day Jerusalem, while others assert that the name Golgotha refers to a site outside the city that from a distance looks like a skull. However, the earliest writings of the Church fathers say this phrase ‘a place of the skull’ refers to something very different!

“An early Christian writer named Origen, (185-253AD) recorded that Jesus was crucified on the spot where Adam was buried and where his skull had been found. Whether or not this is true, there was an early Christian belief that Jesus had been crucified near Adam’s burial place. As the early story goes, when the earthquake occurred as Jesus hung on the cross (Matt 27:51) His blood ran down the cross into the crack in the rock below and fell on the skull of Adam. This history is so entrenched in early Christian tradition that Jerome referred to it in a letter in 386 AD.

“Interestingly, Jewish tradition states that Adam’s skull was buried near the city of Jerusalem by Noah’s son, Shem. Tradition says this burial place was guarded by Melchizedek, who was the priest-king of Salem (Jerusalem) during the time of Abraham (Gen 14:18) Unknown to most Western believers, this history is so accepted that it is considered a major theme of Orthodox doctrine, and the skull of Adam appears consistently at the base of the Cross in both paintings and icons. If you ever see a skull at the base of a crucifix, you can know that it symbolizes Adam’s skull that was allegedly found buried at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“These extremely interesting facts, although unprovable, have retained strong support throughout 2,000 years of Christian history. If it were true, it would be quite amazing that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, died for the sins of the world exactly on the spot where the first Adam, the original sinner, was buried. If Jesus’ blood ran down the crack in the stone and fell upon Adam’s skull, as tradition says, it would be very symbolic of Jesus’ blood covering the sins of the human race that originated with Adam.

“But what can we definitely know about the place of Jesus’ crucifixion?

“We definitely know that Jesus was crucified like a criminal by the Roman government just outside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Whether or not He was crucified at the place of Adam’s skull is interesting but not important. What is vital for us to know and understand is that Jesus died for the sins of the entire human race—and that includes you and me!

“Today we may not be able to say with certainty exactly where Jesus was crucified, but in our hearts and minds we should meditate on the scriptures that speak of His crucifixion. Sometimes life moves so fast that we tend to forget the enormous price that was paid for our redemption. Salvation may have been given to us as a free gift, but it was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. THANK GOD FOR THE CROSS!

“This question of where Jesus was crucified is a good example of the way people tend to get distracted by unimportant issues and, as a result, miss the main point God wants to get across to them. People have argued and debated for centuries about the accurate location of the crucifixion when the truth they should have been focusing on is that Jesus was crucified for their salvation! The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1Cor 15:3-4). Of this, we can be sure!

“Aren’t you thankful that Jesus’ blood purchased the forgiveness for all of mankind’s sin? It is true that through Adam’s disobedience, sin entered the world and death was passed on to all men. But just as sin entered the world through Adam, the gift of God came into the world through the obedience of Jesus Christ. Now the grace of God and the free gift of righteousness abounds to all who have called upon Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives (Romans 5:12-21). Now every believer has the glorious privilege of reigning in life as a joint heir with Jesus Himself!

“Lord, how can I ever adequately say thank You for all that You did for me at the Cross? I was so undeserving, but You came and gave Your life for me, taking away my sin and removing the punishment that should have passed to me. I thank You from the depths of my heart for doing what no one else could do for me. Had it not been for You, I would be eternally lost, so I just want to say thank You for laying down Your life that I might be free! I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
Christ's Passion for You -- Part Two
From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' Matt 27:27-29
“After Jesus was scourged, Pilate delivered Him to the Roman soldiers so they could initiate the crucifixion process. However, first these soldiers dragged Jesus through the worst mockery and humiliation of all.

“Matthew 27:27 says the soldiers, ‘…took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers.’ The common hall was the open courtyard in Pilate’s palace. Since Pilate rotated between several official royal residences in Jerusalem, this could have been his palace at the Tower of Antonia. It also could have been his residence at the magnificent palace of Herod, located on the highest part of Mount Zion. All we know for sure is that the courtyard was so large, it was able to hold ‘the whole band of soldiers.’ This phrase comes from the Greek word, spira, referring to a cohort or a group of 300-600 Roman soldiers.
“Hundreds of soldiers filled the courtyard of Pilate’s residence to participate in the events that followed. Matthew 27:28 says, ‘and they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe.’ First, the soldiers ‘stripped Him.’ The word stripped is the Greek word, ekduo, which means to totally unclothe or to fully undress. Nakedness was viewed as a disgrace, a shame, and an embarrassment in the Jewish world. Public nakedness was associated with pagans—with their worship, their idols, and their statues.

“As children of God, the Israelites honored the human body, made in the image of God; thus to publicly parade someone’s naked body was a great offense. We can know, that when Jesus was stripped naked in front of 300-600 soldiers, it went against the grain of His entire moral view of what was right and wrong.

“Once Jesus stood naked before them, the soldiers then ‘put on him a scarlet robe.’ The Greek phrase is chlamuda kokkinen, from the words chlamus and kokkinos. The word chlamus is the Greek word for a robe or a cloak. It could refer to a soldier’s cloak, but the next word makes it more probable that this was an old cloak of Pilate. You see, the word ‘scarlet’ is the Greek word Kokkinos, a word that describes a robe that has been dyed a deep crimson or scarlet color, which is suggestive of the deeply colored crimson and scarlet robes worn by royalty or nobility. Did this cohort of Roman soldiers who worked at Pilate’s residence pull an old royal robe from Pilate’s closet and bring it to the courtyard for the party? It seems that this is the case.

“As Matthew continues the account, we find out what happened next: After the soldiers ‘had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head…’ The word ‘platted’ is the Greek word empleko which is often used to describe a person entangled in his lower garments or a person who is caught in some type of vine. The soldiers took vines loaded with sharp, dangerous thorns; then they carefully wove together those razor-sharp, prickly jagged vines until they formed a tightly woven, dangerous circle resembling the shape of a crown. It was this kind of crown that the soldiers violently shoved down upon Jesus’ head.

“Matthew uses the Greek word, epitithimi, a word that implies they forcefully shoved this crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head. These thorns would have been extremely painful and caused blood to flow profusely from His brow. Because the thorns were so jagged, they would have created terrible wounds as they scraped across Jesus’ skull bone and literally tore the flesh from His skull.
“Matthew called it a ‘crown’ of thorns. The word ‘crown’ is from the Greek word, stephanos; the word that described a coveted ‘victor’s crown. These soldiers intended to use this mock crown to make fun of Jesus. Little did they know that Jesus was preparing to win the greatest victory in history!

“After forcing the crown of thorns down onto Jesus’ brow, the soldiers put ‘a reed in His right hand…’ There were many beautiful ponds and fountains in Pilate’s inner courtyard where long, tall hard ‘reeds’ grew. While Jesus sat there before them clothed in a royal robe and crown of thorns, one of the soldiers must have realized that the picture was not quite complete and pulled a ‘reed’ from one of the ponds or fountains to put in Jesus’ hand. This reed represented the ruler’s staff, as seen in the famous statue called ‘Ave Caesar,’ which depicted Caesar holding a staff or scepter in his hand. The same image, also showing a scepter in the right hand of the emperor, appeared on coins that were minted in the emperor’s honor and in wide circulation.

“With a discarded robe about Jesus’ shoulders, a crown of thorns set so deeply into His head that blood drenched His face, and a reed from Pilate’s ponds or fountains stuck in His right hand, ‘they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him saying, 'Hail King of the Jews!’ The word ‘bowed’ is the Greek word, gonupeteo, meaning to fall down upon one’s knees. One by one, the cohort of soldiers passed before Jesus, dramatically and comically dropping to their knees in front of Him as they laughed at and mocked Him.

“Matthew 27:30 goes on to tell us, ‘And they spat upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head.’ They word ‘they’ refers to the entire cohort of soldiers who were present in Pilate’s courtyard that night. So as each soldier passed by Jesus, he would first mockingly bow before Him; then he’d lean forward to spit right in Jesus’ blood drenched face. Next the soldier would grab the reed from Jesus’ hand and strike Him hard on His already wounded head. Finally, he would stick the reed back in Jesus’ hand to make Him ready for the next soldier to repeat the whole process.

“The Greek clearly means that the soldiers repeatedly struck Jesus again and again on the head. Here was another beating that Jesus endured, but this time, it was with the slapping action of a hard reed. This must have been excruciatingly painful for Jesus, since His body was already lacerated from the scourging and His head was deeply gashed by the cruel crown of thorns.

“When all 300-600 soldiers were finished spitting and striking Jesus with the reed, Matthew 27:31 tells us that ‘they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.' The robe wrapped around Jesus had no doubt had time to mesh into His wounds, for it took a great amount of time for so many soldiers to parade before Him. Therefore, it must have been terrifically painful for Jesus when they jerked this robe off His back and the material ripped free from the dried blood that had coagulated on His open wounds.

“But this would be the last act of torture Jesus would endure in this stage of His ordeal. After putting His own clothes back on Him, the soldiers led Him from the palace to the place of execution.
“As the soldiers mocked Jesus that day, hailing Him as king in derision and ridicule, they were unaware that they were actually bowing their knees to the One before whom they would one day stand and give an account for their actions. When that day comes, bowing before Jesus will be no laughing matter, for everyone—including those very soldiers who mocked Jesus—will confess that Jesus is Lord!

“Yes, a day is soon coming when the human race will bow their knees to acknowledge and declare that Jesus is the King of kings. Philippians 2:10,11 talks about that day: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“If you have a friend who doesn’t know Jesus yet, don’t you think it’s time for you to introduce that friend to Jesus Christ? Your friend will one day bow before Him anyway; the question is, from which place will he bow before Jesus—from Heaven, from earth, or from hell? Everyone in Heaven will bow low before Jesus on that day, as will everyone who is alive on earth at His coming and everyone who has gone to hell because they didn’t bow before Him while they lived on this earth. So the big question is not if a person will bow before Him, but from which place will he choose to bow before Him?

“Isn’t it your responsibility to help lead your friends and acquaintances to Jesus? God’s Spirit will empower you to speak the Gospel to them. If you pray before you speak to them, the Holy Spirit will prepare their hearts to hear the message. Why not stop today and ask the Lord to help you speak the truth to those friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers whom you interact with every day?

“Lord, open my eyes to those around me who are unsaved and in need of salvation. You died for them because You want them to be saved. I know that You are trusting me to tell them the Good News that they can be saved. Please empower me strongly with your Spirit, giving me the boldness I need to step out from behind intimidation and to tell them the truth that will save them from an eternity in hell. Help me to start telling them the Good News immediately, before it is too late. I pray this in Jesus’ name.”