Sunday Devotion

| Apr 10, 2022

Sunday Devotion

40 Days of Prayer content is intended for Monday through Saturday each week. Devotions are available on Sundays to prepare for the week ahead.

Have you ever noticed when you and a friend recount a shared experience, you remember different details in the retelling? That’s due to several reasons. Your personality, your history, and what heightened your senses in the moment all determine how you remember the events. Getting both sides of the story helps complete the picture of what really happened. That is why it is important to read all the gospel accounts when it comes to the events in the life, and death, of Jesus.

Each gospel writer captures unique details in the crucifixion death of Jesus and the events that immediately follow. If we take the details of all accounts, this gives a fuller, more complete story of the day Jesus was crucified.

Sharing the burden of carrying his cross with Simon of Cyrene, they set off to Golgotha (Aramaic for “the place of the skull”). This is where Jesus was nailed to the cross, and at 9:00 in the morning, the cross was hoisted up into its proper position. Jesus was placed between two rebels who were hanged for their crimes. He spoke few words while he was on the cross, but he did ask God to forgive those who were carrying out the crucifixion orders, saying, “They know not what they are doing.” He was offered wine to drink, which had been mixed with something bitter, and Jesus tasted it but refused to drink it.

Above Jesus hung a sign prepared by the chief priests and pharisees declaring the charge against him—his claim to be the “king of the Jews.” This was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Jesus was stripped of his clothes leaving only his undergarments. His outer garment was divided, and lots were cast to see who would win them. This act of gambling for his clothes fulfilled earlier prophecy.

Soldiers and passersby mocked and spit on Jesus, saying things like, “If you are the Son of God, if you are the Messiah, come down from the cross and save yourself!” and “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” One of the criminals next to him mocked him as well, but the other recognized Jesus as God, and Jesus promised him he would be in paradise that very day.

From the cross, Jesus saw his mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. These women loved Jesus, knew the truth of who he was, and came to tend to his needs. Jesus knew their suffering, especially that of his mother, and lovingly told John to take her as his own mother and told her to take John as her son. John did as Jesus wished and took Mary into his own home from that time forward.

At noon, the sun stopped shining and darkness fell over the land. Jesus had been on the cross for three hours. The pain one experienced during crucifixion was so intense a word was coined to describe it: excruciating. During this darkness, Jesus fulfilled prophecy again and said he was thirsty. A stalk of the hyssop plant that had been dipped in wine vinegar was lifted to Jesus’ lips. With that, knowing everything was complete and the end was near, he said, “It is finished.“

At 3:00, in excruciating pain, Jesus cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Some there thought he was calling Elijah, but in fact he was talking to his Father. It was at this point, bearing the sin of the world, he was momentarily separated from the Father. Reconciliation required death—his death. Jesus cried out one final time, committing his Spirit to God the Father, and took his final breath as a human. At that very moment, the thick, dense curtain that separated people from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This was a literal and figurative reference to the new access we have to God, without human intermediaries or ritual. The veil that separated us is torn, and we are welcomed, unhindered, to God’s holy presence.

At the same time, there was such a strong earthquake that rocks split and tombs broke open. When the centurion and those guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and everything else that happened, they were terrified and announced Jesus to be the Son of God. They beat their breasts and walked away from Jesus. But those who knew him, including the women, stayed with Jesus in body and spirit.

As it was the day of Preparation (the next day was a special Sabbath), Jewish leaders wanted to hasten the death of those being crucified. They asked Pilate if they could break the legs of the criminals, which would prevent them from pushing themselves up to take breaths and prolong their asphyxiation (what finally caused death during crucifixion). But when they got to Jesus, he was already dead, so they did not break his legs. Instead one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of water and blood. This fulfilled the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken” and “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

At the end of the day, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body to give him a proper burial. Joseph, along with Nicodemus, a converted Pharisee, took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and a mixture of myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus had brought with him. They placed Jesus in Joseph’s own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. They protected the tomb by rolling a large stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and the mother of Jesus witnessed the burial and then sat cross from the entrance. Then, in observance of the Sabbath, all but the guards left Jesus and began mourning his devastating death.

Most likely Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and other disciples would have more details to share about this day. We can place ourselves in the text and imagine our reaction to the event—the sights, the smell, the noise, the confusion, the chaos—each of us would have our own story to tell. In the end, what matters is what we do with Jesus. The good news comes next week; until then we leave him in the tomb and contemplate our deepest need: for him to keep his promise. Until then, we marvel at the torn veil, revel in the availability and invitation to the presence of the Father, and mourn the horrific death of the king of the Jews.

-Cindy Western

Pastor of Discipleship Materials & Small Groups

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