Friday, April 3, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 39

Daily Devotion for Lent

Good Friday, April 3, 2015, Day 39

Mark 15:1-41 (NRSV)

As we consider the crucifixion, paintings and cinema lead us to imagine the cross towering over the people below.  In all likelihood, the cross lifted the victim barely above the ground.  Jesus would have been stripped naked as first century Jews found public nudity humiliating (verse 24).  The portrayals allow a loin cloth for modesty's sake but there was no modesty provided for Jesus.

The crucifixion as portrayed in Mark is rich with characters: an almost sympathetic Pilate, Barabbas the insurrectionist, the mocking soldiers, the two bandits crucified on the right and left of Jesus, the Roman Centurion declaring belief and the female disciples who witnessed it all.

The elevation or glorification of the cross is
a way that Christians have retold the story,
transforming it from a symbol of torture to a symbol of hope.
For all of these encounters, the compelling figure for me on this day is Simon of Cyrene.  There is something about carrying the cross of our Lord.  This was a North African visitor, pressed into service.  He would have carried the crossbeam as the posts were mounted prior to their arrival and permanently fixed in the ground at the Place of a Skull.  There's no sense of recognition at the initial encounter but we have clues that this particular Simon became a follower after the resurrection.

Mark mentions his sons Rufus and Alexander as if his readers would know exactly who he was talking about.  The name Rufus occurs in Paul's greeting to the church in Rome. Some think that this might be the son of Simon of Cyrene.  We do know that the early Church got a foothold in Cyrene.  It would seem odd to include his name if he would be unknown to the readers of the Gospel which implies a continued relationship with the early followers of Jesus Christ.  Like the Roman Centurion, could being such a close witness to the crucifixion have affected Simon in a profound way?

This is Good Friday.  We remember the death of our Lord and those he met along the way.  We also see that suffering continues today and we may, like Simon, be somewhat complicit (even if unwittingly) in it.

Simon of Cyrene may not have felt he had a choice in the matter of carrying the cross for Jesus.  He may not have liked supporting the execution in this way.  But like Peter who denied Jesus, Simon's participation may have changed him forever.

We can only ask God that we would also let the crucifixion change us in some profound way.

Prayer from Michael J. O'Donnell:

We are reluctant, O Author of Love,
   to set aside our hurt, our anger, our disappointment.
Heal us with your tender touch,
   that we might be cleansed of all unclean thoughts,
   all schemes of revenge, all hope of vindictive retribution.
Open our eyes to the power of love,
   shown to us in the unselfish sacrifice
      of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Prayer by Michael J. O'Donnell, The United Methodist Book of Worship

Picture by By Graeme Darbyshire from Blyth, UK (Alvor Church Cross) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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