Category Archives: #CCLent17

#CCLent17 / Day 40 / April 15 / ‘The Harrowing of Hell’

 This Eastern Orthodox icon of the Resurrection is one I highlight every Easter. It’s technically called ‘The Harrowing of Hell,’ and it shows Adam and Eve being pulled out of the tomb by the wrists as Christ “tramples down death by death.”

Many commentators relate it to the mysterious verse in 1 Peter 3:18f. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison…” Scott Cairns writes a poem about the icon that helps elaborate. You might say that Christ is not idle on Holy Saturday! (NOTE: The Orthodox here are referring to what the Apostles’ Creed refers to as “He descended into Hades” or the place of the dead.)

Into Hell and Out Again

In this Byzantine-inflected icon
of the Resurrection, the murdered Christ
is still in Hell, the chief issue being

that this Resurrection is of our agéd parents
and all their poor relations. We find Him
as we might expect, radiant

in spotless white, standing straight, but leaning back
against the weight of lifting them.
Long tradition has Him standing upon two

crossed boards—the very gates of Hell—and He,
by standing thus, has undone Death by Death,
we say, and saying nearly apprehend.

This all — the lifting of the dead, the death
of Death, His stretching here between two realms —
looks like real work, necessary, not pleasant

but almost matter-of-factly undertaken.
We witness here a little sheepishness
which death has taught both Mom and Dad; they reach

Christ’s proffered hands and everything
about their affect speaks centuries of drowning
in that abysmal crypt. Are they quite awake?

Odd — motionless as they must be
in our tableau outside of Time, we almost see
their hurry. And isn’t that their shame

which falls away? They have yet to enter bliss,
but they rise up, eager and a little shocked
to find their bodies capable of this.

Scott Cairns is an Orthodox Christian poet and teacher, author of Slow Pilgrim, The Collected Poems.

#CCLent17 / Day 39 / April 14 / Jesus’ Prayer at Gethsemane

Geth 0407005The More Earnest Prayer of Christ ~ Scott Cairns

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly…
—Luke 22:44

His last prayer in the garden began, as most

as his prayers began—in earnest, certainly,

but not without distraction, an habitual…what?

Distance? Well, yes, a sort of distance, or a mute

remove from the genuine distress he witnessed

in the endlessly grasping hands of multitudes

and, often enough, in his own embarrassing

circle of intimates. Even now, he could see

these where they slept, sprawled upon their robes or wrapped

among the arching olive trees. Still, something new,

unlikely, uncanny was commencing as he spoke.

As the divine in him contracted to an ache,

a throbbing in the throat, his vision blurred, his voice

grew thick and unfamiliar; his prayer — just before

it fell to silence — became uniquely earnest.

And in that moment — perhaps because it was so

new — he saw something, had his first taste of what

he would become, first pure taste of the body, and the blood.

Scott Cairns is an Orthodox Christian poet and teacher, author of Slow Pilgrim, The Collected Poems.

#CCLent17 / Day 38 / April 13 / John Donne’s Hymn to God in sickness

Raising of Lazarus
Raising of Lazarus

John Donne’s famous “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness” ends with a beautiful perspective of the death of Jesus that defeats death. The last two stanzas are given here. You can see the whole poem at this link.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
         Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
         As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
         May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.
So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
         By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
         Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
“Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.”

#CCLent17 / Day 36 / April 11 / Into Your hands

Into your hands - FullSizeRender
Tracy Taylor Davis

The last words of Christ from the Cross is the surrender of his bodily life to the hands of the Father.

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Again there are echoes of the Psalms (31:5)

Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

These are words that remind us that this world is not the only one there is!

These words are wonderfully peaceful words to utter at the time of death. They are also words we can say each night before sleep.

Into Your hands I commit my spirit, Lord. In life and in death, I belong to You!

#CCLent17 / Day 35 / April 10 / “It is Finished!”

ethiopia FullSizeRender
Ethiopian icon

The 6th word of Christ from the Cross is one word in Greek: “Tetelestai” from the root telos or end point. In John 19:28 it is translated, “After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, ‘I thirst.’” In v. 30 the word appears again, this time on his lips: “When he received the sour wine Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The word tetelestai was also written on business documents in New Testament times to indicate that a bill had been paid in full!

What is finished?
“I have finished the work you sent me to do.” (Jesus’ prayer to the Father, John 17)

It’s the once for all sacrifice for the sins of the world, to which nothing can be added!   “…He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

As Bill Hybels has put it succenctly:

Religion is spelled D.O.
Christianity is spelled D.O.N.E.

The work of redemption is Finished! This the Good News we announce.

#CCLent17 / Day 34 / April 8 / “I am thirsty”

thirst 70-390-no-text-Last week, we explored Psalm 22 on the lips of Jesus (the fourth saying). The Psalm begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” and ends in triumph and hope. The fifth saying is simply, “I thirst!

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  (John 19:28-29)

This excruciating thirst was also prophesied in the Psalms, both 22 and here in 69:19-21.

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food

    and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

As Jesus comes nearer to the end, he allows his honest thirst to be touched. And even in this, he fulfills the Scripture. He is ready to commit his spirit to the Father.

#CCLent17 / Day 33 / April 7 / Jesus care for his mother

CrucificationIconThe third saying of Jesus from the cross is beautifully human:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.  (John 19:25-27)

The servant heart of Jesus shines through this act of responsibility and love towards Mary. She was in some ways, the first disciple; the first to say, “Let it be to me as you have said.” But Mary was still Jesus earthly mother and Jesus in the midst of suffering and agony, makes space to plan for her care in the midst of his own need and suffering! Mary certainly must have remembered the words in Jesus’ infancy that foretold his death (“A sword will pierce your heart.”)

Lord, thank you that you know everything I’m facing today!

#CCLent17 / Day 32 / April 6 / Welcome to Paradise!

thief 3948528
‘Penitent Thief,’  unknown artist

The second word of Jesus from the Cross is to the ‘penitent thief’ at his side:

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Think about what Jesus didn’t say to this thirsty man! “You don’t know enough yet.” “How can I be sure you believe and are repentant enough?”  “Don’t you know it’s too late for you?”

No, this is a beautiful reminder that this life is not all there is! This is the King reigning over the real Kingdom. This is the inside truth of who is really in charge here. The penitent thief somehow recognized this. Jesus will soon die, clean out Hades, and rise victorious over death! Even on the cross, the Lord is inviting his nearest neighbor to come home. (I can’t help but wonder if the second criminal ended up joining them!)

Listen to the people on either side of you today.

#CCLent17 / Day 31 / April 5th / “Forgive Them!”

icon - forgive 0b21f0727f8675f2eb33fc48593fb489As we head toward the beginning of Holy Week, that leads to Easter Sunday, we will explore the last words of Jesus from the Cross. They provide another beautiful way of understanding Jesus’ death for us. The first ‘word’ recorded is in Luke 23:32-34

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Consider the upside-down way in which crosses were Roman ‘billboards’ announcing that Caesar is the only King. And yet God takes the apparent defeat of crucifixion and turns it into the world’s greatest victory! Only the King could issue a royal pardon. Only the worlds rightful King could issue the pardon, “Forgive them!”

Meditate on these words as we continue to ponder the Cross!

#CCLent17 / Day 30 / April 4 / Psalm 22’s Victorious Ending

Death-of-Christ-Background-Psalm-22-011Jesus’ words from the cross include Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…” We’ve looked at 2 other crucifixion references further into the Psalm. I’m convinced Jesus could only utter the first sentence but would have known the whole Psalm, the LAST words of which were filled with victory and fulfillment that would be explicitly voiced in the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of ALL nations!” Look at Psalm 22:25-31

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

The cross was not a defeat. It was the world’s greatest victory! It was the promise of the ancient covenant with Abraham, “ThRough you, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed!”

Memorize and meditate on the promises of God! They will sustain you as you take up your cross!