His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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The End, of Sin

It was nearly dawn when they dragged him out and took him to the Roman fortress. A growing crowd was now following, so I no longer needed to hide. I just became one of the many curious. The priests were talking to the Roman governor—very strange. I thought they hated that man. And then some Roman soldiers grabbed Jeshua and took him away.

Again I followed. They took him to the barracks, where I cringed when I saw the flogging post in the center of the courtyard. They chained his hands to the metal ring hanging from the top of the stone post. As they did this, other soldiers gathered around.

My eyes saw only broken glimpses of Jeshua, in between the shuffling frames of the leather-clad soldiers. But then I saw the whip, the whip of many tails, with the shards of bone and metal tied into the leather thongs.

And it began. And I watched. The whip struck, the bone dug into the flesh of his back, and then was ripped away, bringing flesh with it. The blood began to stream down his back. The whip struck again, and again. Every strike made my bowels quiver and seize. I felt sickness rising up in my throat. Yet I still watched. When his knees buckled, he hung from his arms, the blood now pooling at his splayed feet.

Finally they stopped. Professionals at torture, they whipped him near death, but not to death. The soldiers unchained him from the post and dragged him into the barracks. When they bought him back out, Jeshua had regained enough strength to walk, barely. The mob took him back to the waiting Roman Governor and the religious leaders. And then the final verdict was declared. Crucifixion.

By now it was approaching mid-morning. The entire city was awake and word had spread of Jeshua’s arrest. The crowd of curious was growing. I can’t tell you of the crowds’ mood—my concern was for Jeshua, and Anna, and all of us followers who were losing our source of hope and a man we dearly love. Those of us brave enough or gruesomely curious enough watched as he was agonizingly dragged to his death. The rest hid, I suppose. I’d hoped Anna was safe, and his mother.

Again, I was shocked out of my thoughts. The crowd began stirring as the soldiers pulled Jeshua to his feet and forced him to carry a heavy cross. The march to his death is not clear to me. My mind kept drifting in and out of my thoughts. Maybe I was trying to look at something other than Jeshua’s torment. I prayed almost the entire way through the city, out the northwest gate, and up the hill. I was guided along by the flow of the crowd, not really paying attention to where we were going.

Along the way someone else started carrying the cross, for when I approached the top of the hill, I noticed Jeshua lying on the ground, collapsed from weakness. Another man was still dragging the cross up the hill.

My mind cleared from the scattered thoughts and I stared at him, face to the ground, his blood-crusted back bare to the sky, and that crown of thorns jammed onto this skull. I found myself hoping he was already dead—he looked dead. I hoped he would be spared the ultimate torture of the cross. But he was still alive. I saw slight movement as he struggled to breathe.

When the man carrying the cross reached the top of the hill, two of the soldiers took the cross from him and dropped it on the ground next to Jeshua. As it crashed down, I saw him open his eyes, and look at his fate lying next to him. One of the soldiers kicked him in his side, but not very hard… curious.

That’s when my dry eyes started flowing. For looking like an obedient child, Jeshua crawled over to the cross, turned onto his back and lay on it, as if he were crawling into bed—his death bed, with his arms lying out on the cross beam. He was a picture of absolute surrender to his fate. I wept.

I didn’t watch them drive in the spikes; I couldn’t. But the strike of the mallet sent shudders through my guts. And the sound changed from soft to hard as the spike moved through his flesh and into wood. That sound I will never forget. And mixed in with the strikes of the mallet were Jeshua’s pain-racked groans. Finally it stopped.

I cleared the tears from my eyes and looked up as the guards strained to lift the cross and swing the base to the waiting hole in the ground. Then they rose the cross up vertically and its base slid into the hole. With a shudder and a groan from Jeshua, the cross slammed into place.

And then I heard him speak, for the first time since the torture began. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Oh my God! Even drowning in pain, nailed to a cross and on the edge of death, he forgives. Truly he is the Son of God!

I looked away and there, beside me, stood his mother.

———————————————————

Searing, constant pain. I feel like I’m on an ocean, with waves of pain crashing over me. I lift up on my legs to breathe, but the waves crash into my feet and up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back and my dislocated shoulders and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood. There is no escape.

My friends, my family and my children all call me Jeshua—you know me as Jesus, the Christ.

Oh my poor children, so afraid as they still look to me for hope. My heart breaks to see them in such pain, such agony. Their pain is my pain. I feel the agony of all my Father’s children. I feel their suffering. I feel their sins. Their pain has been nailed with me to this cross. Yet the only way I can bare this mounting agony is knowing it’s for them, for all my Father’s children. Oh how I hope they believe.

I see them out there, scattered around my cross—my children, my friends. Some are trying not to be noticed, trying to act indifferent to my death. They are so afraid. I see below the surface to their weeping hearts. There’s Mary, with her heart so full of love, and misery. There’s Lazarus, alive again yet wondering about my fate. There’s John, the young one. Oh, there’s my mother, so strong yet so sad.

I see my accusers also, with those evil smirks on their faces. They seem delighted as they ridicule me and mock me. Yet in them too I see fear. Their souls know their error. But its God’s will.

I’m glad they are all here, for it reminds me why I’m here. If it were not for my love for all of them, I would not be on this cross. It’s not these spikes that hold me here; it’s my love for all my Father’s children, my love for all my friends.

But this pain is devouring me. Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing me. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But it’s being overpowered by the agony of aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me.

Until last night, my humanness has been so sweet. Yet it’s always contained a touch of pain—the pain of fear, the pain of temptation, and the pain of love. But now I feel more human than ever before. I feel fully human, and full of the sins of humanity. Oh, my humanness is being shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is now collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

I know; it’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me. I feel its weight pulling me down.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

As the light fades, the colors are turning grey. No more color. I still see those who are near. Beyond them, all is growing dark and fading into nothingness. Now those nearest are fading… oh, they are gone. All is black. I wish I could see my friends again, one more time. But the children are gone. My Father is gone. I’m all alone.

No, not alone, yet. I see him down there. I hear his evil laugh. I feel his dark breath drawing me closer. Lucifer, Satan, Devil. He knows what I see. He knows what I fear. His only hope is in my fear. He hopes my fear will call forth the waiting army of angels to save me and lift me free of this cross. That’s the only way he can keep the children in his prison.

But his laugh is filled with fear, for he also knows the truth, and he knows of my love. My love that holds me fast to this cross. He fears my love the most. For my love is more than the love of God. My love is also the love of a man, born of a woman.

It was a man, the man Adam, who took that first step on the path to hell, leading all humanity into the prison of sin. Generation after generation has followed. Enslavement became part of the human inheritance. Yet that slave master Satan knows well that only another man can break the pattern and shatter the chains that have held humanity in bondage. Only I, son of man and Son of God, can set the captives free. Not by war, but by death—my death, paying the penalty of the sentences for all humanity held in this worldly prison.

He laughs still. But his laugh is more fear than ever. He knows the end is near. Not my end, but the end of his reign. As I die, so does his power. Oh, he’s so close. His hot breath burns. Yet now… he too is gone.

There, opening up before me is the dark, lightless, pit. Empty. Alone. Devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. His creation is nowhere. But this pit before me—there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone. Oh Father, you have done it. You have fulfilled your promise. Thank you. I love you.

“It is finished.”
The End


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The Power of “And”

AND

I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to those in Rome. This morning I was in chapter 3, where I read this: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, AND are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)

I sin AND I’m justified, that is, I’m declared righteous by God, by my faith in Jesus. I’ve read Romans many times over the years, and at first I didn’t see the “and”; I didn’t recognize it’s power. I sin and I’m righteous, in God’s eyes. My sin does not affect God’s opinion of me. Where sin will not harm me, it’s faith that saves me. Instead of worrying about sin, I should focus on faith.

By the way, it’s my faith in God and Jesus that feeds my love for them. And it’s my ever-growing love for them that feeds my desire to not sin. Avoiding sin is therefore motivated by love, rather than fear.

AND, God loves you no matter your sins.


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Prisoner of Fallacy

prisoner of fallacy

I was twelve years old when my mom married my second stepfather. I still remember his mother telling him he was going to hell because he divorced his first wife. That was over 40 years ago and my stepfather, now in his 80’s, still carries around the guilt piled onto him by his devout Catholic mother. He is a prisoner of that guilt. He is a prisoner by holding onto falseness that he believes just might be true. Whether you call yourself Christian or not, you may be a prisoner of lies – for lies are like shackles on our hearts and minds, hindering us from truly experiencing life.

We are all prisoners of the lies we believe to be truth. The most dreadful prison is the one where you don’t realize you are a prisoner. Did you ever see the movie The Matrix? People were prisoners without knowing it. So it can be with us. We can only be free, free to make choices based on truth, when we know the truth.

As Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)


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The fall of the Lutheran church

The Lutherans have joined the ranks of the Episcopals, by voting in favor of actively gay clergy. This news hit the media over the weekend, and there’s a good chance you’ve seen it by now. I offer no additions to the news, just some thoughts on the implications.

First of all, homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, the Lutheran church has given approval for openly active sinners to be clergy. If you would like to see the reasoning behind this statement, please check out the following post: “Episcopal church wants a divorce.”

I have friends who will reluctantly agree that homosexuality is a sin, but they are quick to point out that it is a minor sin, with no real victims. Yes, it’s easy to come to that conclusion, but how does God look at it? What is God’s perspective on different sins?

A friend of mine once gave me the following illustration: draw a straight line one mile long, adding hash marks every 10 feet. The beginning of the scale, at zero feet, represents absolute evil; the far end of the scale, at the mile marker, represents absolute good. God is standing at the mile marker – absolutely good.

Take a mass murderer and place him somewhere on the scale, say at about the 10 foot mark. He’s not absolutely evil, since he did something good at one point in his life. Next, have an adulterer take their place on the scale, maybe say at 50 feet. Now how about someone who is very arrogant, selfish and uncompassionate; put them at about 75 feet. And finally, have someone who is actively homosexual stand at about the 100 foot hash mark; they are not nearly as bad as the other sinners on this scale.

The relative location and spacing of these different sinners is not actually important. What is important is how they look from God’s perspective. As God looks back at these sinners, almost a mile away, can He really see much of a different in how far away they are from Him? Now the length of my scale is most likely way off. Instead of one mile distance, God’s goodness probably places Him over a hundred miles from us sinners. To Him, we are all at the same level.

This is what He meant when Jesus said; being angry with your brother is as subject to judgment as murder.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

And if that message is not clear enough, thinking of sinning is the same as the sin…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

From God’s perspective, all sinners are the same. Now do me a favor and visualize an actively arrogant and selfish Lutheran minister. Not very appealing, is he? You know where this is going… Now, visualize an openly active adulterer as a Lutheran minister. Some clergy have been kicked out of the church for less. Next, visualize the openly active mass murderer as a Lutheran minister. Time to run to another church. But finally, visualize the openly active gay person as a Lutheran minister. There is no difference. From God’s perspective, all sinners are the same.

What the Lutheran church has forgotten, and what the Episcopal church has forgotten, is that it’s God’s perspective that counts. But these churches have chosen to ignore God, in favor of the world.