Thursday, April 13, 2017

In Which I Consider Unsettling Holy Week Questions

When the big box office hit The Passion of the Christ hit the theaters back in 2004, I made a fairly easy decision.  There was just no way I was going to sit in a comfy seat in a darkened theater and watch the Holy One I adored get tortured to death.

I couldn't bear even the thought of it.  It made my skin crawl, my stomach turn.

Who could bear the viewing of such agony?

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It's hit me afresh recently ... the outrageous cruelty, the gruesome barbaric scene, the ultimate sacrifice we consider this Holy Week.  And who are the eyewitnesses to this horrific crucifixion?  His mother, Mary ... and 'many women were there, watching from a distance.'

All the disciples, the multitudes, the followers?  The only one mentioned is John, and Jesus entrusts His mother to his care ... her children, for some reason, weren't present.  Mark 6 tells us that Jesus had at least 3 brothers and 2 sisters.  

Where did they disappear to?  Did they flee for the hills in fear?  Did they not believe He was who He said He was?  How could they not be there to support their Brother, their mother?

*

My questions lead to more considerations.  Unsettling personal ones.  Hard stuff.

If I had been in town that day, how would I have demonstrated my love for the Christ I had committed to follow?  What choices would I have made as He groaned in agony, bloodied and battered, spikes holding his broken body to raw and ragged wood, noontime sky turning dark and the curtain of the temple torn in two from top to bottom?

For me.  For my sins. 

Would I have been fully present to the Son of God in every way possible?  

I'd like to think that by some kind of amazing grace I wouldn't have denied knowing Him.  Or skedaddled off to ride out the sheer terror of it all in the relative comfort and safety of my home.  I'm hoping I wouldn't have made haste for the hills or scurried off somewhere to bury my head in the sand.

God only knows.



Matthew 27
Mark 15
Luke 23
John 19

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sharing questions with
  Holley

42 comments:

  1. I elected not to go to the Passion of Christ as well, and (funny thing) just this morning I was remembering a friend (in heaven now, so she knows the depths of the wisdom)who wept openly over crucifixion every year, but lived in resurrection truth so well that I envied her. I'm hoping along with you, Linda. But you have certainly given me plenty to wonder about.

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    1. God's always inviting us to something deeper, isn't He. Hard questions help us ponder the depths of our souls. And by His grace, at the end of those ponderings, we can be at peace and say with gratitude, 'it is well with my soul.'

      Easter blessings to you, my New England friend ...

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  2. Good hard questions, Linda.

    There may be something else at work; it's very hard to watch someone you care about die a slow and painful death. Seeing it from the other side of the fence, as it were - for it is another "morphine or a bullet" day, which have lately become the norm - I find that I am almost always physically alone, even when those around me have the option to stay.

    I'm a reminder of their mortality; I'm bad luck; I'm a walking call to be more compassionate, an implicit demand to sit at the Foot of the Cross.

    It's OK; I get it. And I think Jesus understands, too.

    Hope you and yours have a wonderful Easter!

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/04/your-dying-spouse-297-easter-rising-and.html

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    1. Your wise perspectives as a man who is dying and quite open about it are always enlightening, Andrew.

      And this you said and it gives us cause for pause -->'I find that I am almost always physically alone, even when those around me have the option to stay.'

      May God give us courage to be fully present to one another, especially in the most difficult and traumatic of hours. And may you, my friend, experience His presence today in an extraordinary way.

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  3. I do not have words to say after reading your blog a little while ago. You expressed everything so deeply and realistically and down-to-earth in a way that folk can believe and understand without having to wonder and question what has been said. Our Lord has given you the gift of writing in a way that makes an everlasting impression on a reader. Thank you

    {via email}

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  4. I did go see the Passion of the Christ, and I was glad I did, because up until then I don't think I really comprehended the torture Christ went through. I knew it, I had read it, but I guess I just couldn't really fathom what happened. Watching it changed me. Now I remember every single Communion service I participate in the terrible price He paid for MY sin.

    I'm also hoping I wouldn't have run off and left Jesus alone during His passion ... but I also see how very much like Peter I can be ...

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    1. For sure, Jerralea. Most of us are more like Impetuous Peter or our friend Doubting Thomas than we'd like to admit.

      But when come face to face with our frailties and sins, when we take off our Sunday-Go-To-Meeting masks and get real with God and each other, new and vibrant life starts to emerge.

      He is so gracious. He is risen.

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  5. This makes my eyes tear up, Linda. I did go to that movie with a friend. It left us with a horror but also a holy awe that Jesus would suffer so much for us. And yet, a movie could never adequately portray the depths to which Jesus went for us. I wonder, too, if I would have been wholly present if I had been there. Often I'm afraid I would have denied Him like Peter did. Yes, it would take amazing grace for sure! And it still does, as I am so prone to deny Him in many ways. Thank you for this reflective post that causes us to search our hearts. We need that, don't we? I pray you have a wonder-filled Easter commemorating our Risen Savior who loves us so deeply! Love and hugs!

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    1. I think you're absolutely right, Trudy. We will never know the depths of physical, spiritual, emotional pain and abandonment that our Savior suffered. Fully God, fully man.

      We fall on our knees and cry, 'holy holy holy.'

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  6. Thank you for challenging me to dig deeper. What would I do? I'm with you that watching the movie The Passion does not seem necessary but I know I am deeply affected every year knowing how much Jesus suffered. It hits a nerve with me and then it deeply humbles me to know He did it for me. I pray today and this weekend we all are affected deeply and carry the burden of sharing the love of Christ with all.

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    1. 'Digging deeper.' Yes, yes. What a fitting tribute to His love for us.

      Thanks for phrasing it that way, friend.

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  7. I can't bear it either, Linda. Although I've wondered sometimes if, in the privacy of my own home, alone, I should force myself to watch. Time will tell. I've been contemplating the betrayer this week. Like you, I hope I would have been with the other women, at the cross. Many blessings to you on this holy weekend, friend.

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    1. I'd be interested in how the viewing impacts you if you choose to go there, June. Shoot me an email and let me know if you'd like.

      I am encouraged that there were 'many women' at the cross ... and that it was women that found the empty tomb. Christ has important work for us to do that our gender does not limit.

      Praise His name.

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  8. Like you, Linda, I could never bring myself to watch that movie. I have an extremely vivid imagination, and I was so fearful that seeing these images would leave a permanent scar in my memory.
    You give us a difficult question today - Would we stay or leave when Jesus is so savagely beaten and crucified? I want to say I would stay, but then again . . . May God create in me a heart that will NEVER leave Him, no matter what.
    Have a blessed Easter!

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    1. I am absolutely resonating with your first paragraph, Martha. That's how God's shaped us to be.

      And it's ok.

      He is risen ...

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  9. I would like to think that you would have run away if you were there that day when Christ was crucified. And if asked, I would hope you would have denied Him too. This is important. I would have done the same.

    Remember, when Christ was arrested the crowd was really angry, wild, almost feral. Partly because they were stirred up by the hatred of the moment, and partly because they feared the Sadducees, Pharisees, High Priests and the like. So they had to "follow the crowd" of the moment.

    Had you and I stayed there and proclaim Jesus as the Son of God, the chances are that we would have been picked up and killed too.

    Jesus knew that. This is why He said that Peter would deny Him. This is why it was important that Peter and the other disciples and followers had to run away. So they can build the Church when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

    You may like my article on this: http://timeforreflections.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/no-stranger-at-door.html

    Happy Easter. God bless you and yours.

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    1. I'm off to read your post, Victor. Thanks for jumping in to the conversation this weekend. These are important considerations, for sure.

      He is risen!

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  10. Funny how we all react differently. The Passion, in my view, was not only a magnificent piece of art but a deep reminder to me of the cost of my salvation. I try to watch it every Easter because my tendencies is to understand what God did dimly. Watching it at home has it's advantages. The beating is really hard to watch so I admit, I fast forward that part. The most glorious visual is when Jesus STAMPS on the serpent's head as he slithers by him. I love the frolicking Jesus as he teases his mother and the closeness Jesus has with his disciples.

    Happy Resurrection Day, good friend!

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    1. Dear Carol, I appreciate the way you've highlighted the joyous scenes from the movie. Jesus' life here on earth was more than just that last torturous week.

      Fully God, fully man.

      He is risen!

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  11. These are important questions, Linda. Ultimately you're right: God alone knows how we would have reacted. I am so glad that God's plan was not dependent on my faithfulness, but on Jesus's.

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    1. Oh, praise God for your last sentence, Jeannie!

      Amen. It is all about Him, His extravagant love and everlasting faithfulness.

      Easter blessings to you and your family ...

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  12. Oh, Linda, I wonder if I, selfishly, wouldn't have been able to witness Jesus' death. Not for lack of caring, but for caring so much it'd hurt to witness. I've often wondered how Mary was able to watch, but reading your post, makes me think that - as a mother - of course you want to be there for your child. Thanks for sharing, Linda. Happy Easter! ((hug))

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    1. Oh, you've penned it well, Brenda -->'caring so much it'd hurt to witness.'

      And yes, as a mother I'd move heaven and earth to be there for my child. Thank you for putting this into a perspective we can all grab hold of.

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  13. Hi Linda! I'm sure I would have been in the shadows. I'm not much for confrontation, and I think I would have been confused by the wonder of Christ vs. the PR machine of the leadership. So hard. I'd like to think I'd be 'front and center' but I just don't know...
    I praise God that I'll never have to know!
    Happy Easter to you and yours my friend. May God bless you with his joy and presence,
    Ceil

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    1. Yes, yes, yes.

      I'm absolutely resonating with what you said about 'front and center,' Ceil.

      I hope your Easter was a sweet, sweet celebration.

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  14. I don't think I've ever asked myself that question, Linda--would I have stayed or run for the hills if I had been around when they crucified Christ. I really do not have a clue as to whether I would or wouldn't. I don't ever underestimate my fears and cowardice! So I lean toward thinking I'd be like so many who abandoned Him on that day. Thank you for challenging us to consider this important reality for it has bearing into the way we live our lives today. Hugs to you, my friend! And Happy Resurrection Day!

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    1. 'I don't ever underestimate my fears and cowardice!'

      Amen. It kind of clears the air when we see ourselves clearly and can put what we find right on the table.

      I know He hears our hearts. And loves us all the same.

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  15. I know I would have a very hard time seeing my child suffer as Mary did. She was brave at the time of her finding out she was carrying the Father's son, and again brave to be at the cross to see Him suffer like He did, for all of us. I actually have never seen that movie and know many that watch it every year at this time. I think whatever draws in to remember His sacrifice and His love (the reason for it all) is important to remember every day which I could certainly do a better at intentionally doing that! At one time nightly I would eat a rice cracker and drink a splash of cranberry juice, and read the gospel of the last supper in remembrance to remind me of what He did for me, for us, for you, for the world. So remarkable...

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    1. Dear Lynn ... how beautiful, your story of nightly communion with your Heavenly Father. Makes me wonder how to weave the Gospel story into every day ... every hour.

      Thanks for adding this richness to our conversation.

      Bless you, girl.

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  16. I am kind of with Beth, no clue how I would have responded had I been there. I know how I would have liked to respond. Trying to even watch a movie about it is hard enough but actually seeing the blood drops all around the cross, mixed with his sweat and tears. The three men bloody torn bodies and the watching the soldiers make fun of Jesus. Just watching the horrible things going on all over the world makes me hold my grandchildren tighter, tell my kids I love them more, enjoy a really carefree life. Life is not carefree in so many countries and it sure wasn't back then. Good reminders as we think about our own lives and how we use them.

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    1. Betty ~ you bring up an important nudge when you said 'life is not carefree in so many countries and it sure wasn't back then.'

      We hear of martyrs for the faith in countries far off ... your insight is a bit of a wake up call.

      I need to be on my knees more ... in prayer and worship.

      I hope you are healing well and are finding your strength returning, friend.

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  17. Perhaps those are questions we should ask ourselves more frequently than Easter. At least for me it's so. Thanks for looking beyond the Easter script.

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    1. Absolutely, Debby. Questions like these aren't easy, but they're worth pondering as we take our spiritual temperatures.

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  18. I don't know where I would be or what I would say. I can't watch that movie, because even hearing the details make me faint. How can humans be so cruel?

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    1. As I read your words, Sarah, all I could think of was Jeremiah 17:9 - 'The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?'

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  19. Linda,
    These questions should pierce our hearts more often than just on Easter because I think they challenge us to consider the true state of our hearts. I'm afraid I would have been a skeptic, wondering if he was who he said he was because the concept of God among us just transcends human reasoning, yet there was something about him -- his words, his actions -- that must have spoken volumes to those who left all they had to follow him. And somehow when we experience God in our lives today, we ARE convinced that he is who he says he is! It's a mystery, for sure! xo

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    1. Piercing our hearts. Yes, yes they do, Valerie. It's an uncomfortable place for us to dwell for a bit, but terribly necessary if we want the Spirit to stretch and grow us to be more like Christ.

      This, that blessed mystery you speak of.

      He is risen INDEED!

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  20. Linda, these are great questions. I did go to see the movie and it was horrible. I closed my eyes at several bits and actually had to stop myself from crying out to them to stop. Having said that though, I think it was good for me to see. It helped me understand so much more how much Jesus suffered and what he went through for us and made me appreciate it more. I'm not sure how I'd have responded in real life if I was there at the time.

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    1. I'm with you, Lesley ... I'd have spent more time with my eyes closed than open. I'm touched that there was a positive spiritual gift for you in the viewing. I've heard others say the same.

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  21. Linda,
    I wonder this sometimes too....what would I have done. Perhaps it's pride that makes me say I would have stood up for Christ in His hour of need...that I wouldn't have run for the hills. I liken myself to Thomas (the doubter) so I probably would have been cowering in a corner somewhere. The good news is that even if I'd run like many of the others....Jesus would have still died for me and pled to His Father - forgive her for she knows not what she is doing. Thought provoking question....
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. I've always thought of myself as a long lost cousin of Doubting Thomas. I wrestle, I have questions, but in the essentials, I am solid as a rock and firm in my faith.

      He understands, He smiles at our humanness, and loves us anyway.

      And yes, praise God, that Jesus has pleaded to the Father on our behalf. What a wonderful Savior!

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda