John 18 : 1-19:42 -
"Good Friday: The Three Crosses"
John 20:1-9 - "Why
I Believe in The Resurrection"
Mark 16:1-8 - "Be
Hatched or Go Bad" by Leonard Sweet
The Three Crosses
The Cross. It
struck fear in the hearts of the world. It was Rome's means of controlling the
people. According to Roman custom, the penalty of crucifixion was always
preceded by scourging; after this preliminary punishment, the condemned person
had to carry the cross, or at least the transverse beam of it, to the place of
execution, exposed to the jibes and insults of the people. On arrival at the
place of execution the cross was uplifted. Soon the sufferer, entirely naked,
was bound to it with cords. He was then, fastened with four nails to the wood of
the cross. Finally, a placard called the titulus bearing the name of the
condemned man and his sentence, was placed at the top of the cross. Slaves were
crucified outside of Rome in a place called Sessorium, beyond the Esquiline
Gate; their execution was entrusted to the carnifex servorum (the place of the
hangman). Eventually this wretched locality became a forest of crosses, while
the bodies of the victims were the pray of vultures and other rapacious birds.
It often happened that the condemned man did not die of hunger or thirst, but
lingered on the cross for several days. To shorten his punishment therefore, and
lessen his terrible sufferings, his legs were sometimes broken. This custom,
exceptional among the Romans, was common with the Jews. In this way it was
possible to take down the corpse on the very evening of the execution. Among the
Romans, though, the corpse could not be taken down, unless such removal had been
specially authorized in the sentence of death. The corpse might also be buried
if the sentence permitted. It is remarkable that all of this the Bible records
with the simple words, "And they crucified Him." (Mark 15:24).
interesting that Jesus is responsible for the abolishment of the cross as a
means of capital punishment. In the early part of the fourth century Constantine
continued to inflict the penalty of the cross on slaves guilty of, in the old
Latin, delatio domini, i.e. of denouncing their masters. But later on he
abolished this infamous punishment, in memory and in honor of the Passion of the
Christ. From then on, this punishment was very rarely inflicted and finally the
practice faded into history. But, oh, how history has remembered.
week of Jesus' Passion now closes, it is well for us to reflect upon the cross.
Martin Luther said, "Man must always have a cross." Jesus said: Whoever does not
bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." Every one of us
does have a cross to bear, but which one? Is ours the cross on the right, the
left, or the center? Let us review for a moment this scene on
1. The Cross of
2. The Cross of
3. The Cross of
You probably do
not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as
powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in
the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which
by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on
economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told
about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly
on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at
Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.
later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes
of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence
filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the
lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the
left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in
the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one
man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN
I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational
response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that
Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as
true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.
This is Easter.
And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I
cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.
But, you will
say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that
it is really valid?
someone told me about the Resurrection
2. Because the
Resurrection as stood the test of time
3. Because I
have experienced the Resurrection
respond:] He is risen indeed!
I live," Jesus said in John 14:19, "you also will live."
I wonder: how
many of you are sitting out there, festooned in your Easter Sunday best, but
your fingers are slightly stained? How many of you colored Easter eggs this
weekend? I do think I can see some pinks, blues, greens, and purples shining on
your fingers from all the Easter eggs you colored, hid, found, cracked, or
Take comfort in
this: you are not alone. Just over one billion real eggs are dipped and dyed
every Easter in America. The Dudley egg dye company sells over 10 million egg
dying kits every year. No wonder we are such a colorful bunch!
sometimes get a bad rap at Easter. Eggs are such a widely used symbolic food.
Everyone from dancing druids and pagan fertility gods to - worst of all - bored
kids on Halloween, have all claimed eggs as some sort of special specimen for
use of eggs at Easter probably has roots in a host of different cultures and
traditions. But there are two connections that make the "Easter egg" a powerful
symbol for this miraculous morning. Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem brought
him there to celebrate Pesach, Passover, in that holy city. The Last Supper was
a Passover Seder. One of the ritual foods arranged on everyone's Passover plate
was a hard-boiled egg, the "beitzah."
symbolized the "chagigah," a ritual sacrifice made in the Temple. After the
Temple was destroyed this egg also became a "mourner's" reminder. The Temple
sacrifice could no longer be made, because the Temple no longer existed. In
Orthodox Judaism hard boiled eggs are still offered to mourners as their first
food after a funeral.
on Easter Sunday - as Mark and all the gospels tell us - funeral rites were
transformed. The women who came to the tomb early Sunday morning were focused on