This place has become very precious to me this year. Though walking has become more and more of a struggle I have walked it (very slowly!) through its seasons – and through mine. I have walked it in anger, in frustration, in pain, in despair and in longing. I have walked it when walking was the only thing I could do – and when it was a struggle to do at all. It has been my safe place, my church when I couldn’t do church, my place of peace, of refuge, of hope, of healing. I have watched new life blossom here and life leave and die back.
Now though everything is stark and pared back it still stands in beauty. The life within lives on, whatever the outward appearance. There will be new life in its time.
And so, I have walked and prayed for those very much in my heart and myself for hope, for peace, for new life, for strength, and God’s healing – whatever that will look like in each place. In our vulnerability and pain may we each allow God to reach us, hold us close, carry us when we need it, give us a gentle shove at the right moment and bless us in his abundance.
As we come towards Advent, we begin to think of God’s final coming to earth. We balance remembering his coming as a child, but along side that look forward when he comes back again. This would tie in with last weekends All Soul’s Day and All Saints Day, as we remember the faithful departed.
13 My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won’t grieve over them and be like people who don’t have any hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life. We also believe that when God brings Jesus back again, he will bring with him all who had faith in Jesus before they died. 15 Our Lord Jesus told us that when he comes, we won’t go up to meet him ahead of his followers who have already died.
16 With a loud command and with the shout of the chief angel and a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord will return from heaven. Then those who had faith in Christ before they died will be raised to life. 17 Next, all of us who are still alive will be taken up into the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the sky. From that time on we will all be with the Lord forever. 18 Encourage each other with these words.
It is difficult to know what this passage has to say to our daily lives. I thought several times about just ignoring it, but didn’t want to do that. It is important not to ignore what we find difficult, but sit with it and see what it says.
Ultimately this is the foundation of our hope and a promise of God.
Yes, we will die. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, death and taxes are the only two certainties of life. But the promise is that when Jesus returns, he will bring with him all who have died in the faith. His return is not some triumphant ego trip, but a return of joy with all his saints. Then there will be life for all.
Much is made of what kind of life it will be when this happens? Will we recognise people, will there be pets, flowers? What will we look like? I don’t know the answers to those questions. I don’t necessarily feel I need to. The important bit is that God is there and we are – together forever. No matter when someone died, they, and we will be with God.
That is our hope and our promise. The rest is detail.
18 When Jesus had finished praying, he and his disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and went into a garden. 2 Jesus had often met there with his disciples, and Judas knew where the place was.
3-5 Judas had promised to betray Jesus. So he went to the garden with some Roman soldiers and temple police, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees. They carried torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus already knew everything that was going to happen, but he asked, “Who are you looking for?”
They answered, “We are looking for Jesus from Nazareth!”
Jesus told them, “I am Jesus!” 6 At once they all backed away and fell to the ground.
7 Jesus again asked, “Who are you looking for?”
“We are looking for Jesus from Nazareth,” they answered.
8 This time Jesus replied, “I have already told you that I am Jesus. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.9 Then everything will happen, just as I said, ‘I did not lose anyone you gave me.’”
10 Simon Peter had brought along a sword. He now pulled it out and struck at the servant of the high priest. The servant’s name was Malchus, and Peter cut off his right ear. 11 Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword away. I must drink from the cup that the Father has given me.”
Jesus Is Brought to Annas
12 The Roman officer and his men, together with the temple police, arrested Jesus and tied him up. 13 They took him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 This was the same Caiaphas who had told the Jewish leaders, “It is better if one person dies for the people.”
Peter Says He Doesn’t Know Jesus
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That disciple knew the high priest, and he followed Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest’s house. 16 Peter stayed outside near the gate. But the other disciple came back out and spoke to the girl at the gate. She let Peter go in, 17 but asked him, “Aren’t you one of that man’s followers?”
“No, I am not!” Peter answered.
18 It was cold, and the servants and temple police had made a charcoal fire. They were warming themselves around it, when Peter went over and stood near the fire to warm himself.
Jesus Is Questioned by the High Priest
19 The high priest questioned Jesus about his followers and his teaching. 20 But Jesus told him, “I have spoken freely in front of everyone. And I have always taught in our meeting places and in the temple, where all of our people come together. I have not said anything in secret. 21 Why are you questioning me? Why don’t you ask the people who heard me? They know what I have said.”
22 As soon as Jesus said this, one of the temple police hit him and said, “That’s no way to talk to the high priest!”
23 Jesus answered, “If I have done something wrong, say so. But if not, why did you hit me?” 24 Jesus was still tied up, and Annas sent him to Caiaphas the high priest.
Peter Again Denies that He Knows Jesus
25 While Simon Peter was standing there warming himself, someone asked him, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ followers?”
Again Peter denied it and said, “No, I am not!”
26 One of the high priest’s servants was there. He was a relative of the servant whose ear Peter had cut off, and he asked, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with that man?”
27 Once more Peter denied it, and right then a rooster crowed.
Jesus Is Tried by Pilate
28 It was early in the morning when Jesus was taken from Caiaphas to the building where the Roman governor stayed. But the crowd waited outside. Any of them who had gone inside would have become unclean and would not be allowed to eat the Passover meal.
29 Pilate came out and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 They answered, “He is a criminal! That’s why we brought him to you.”
31 Pilate told them, “Take him and judge him by your own laws.”
The crowd replied, “We are not allowed to put anyone to death.” 32 And so what Jesus said about his deathwould soon come true.
33 Pilate then went back inside. He called Jesus over and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own or did someone tell you about me?”
35 “You know I’m not a Jew!” Pilate said. “Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom doesn’t belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. No, my kingdom doesn’t belong to this world.”
37 “So you are a king,” Pilate replied.
“You are saying that I am a king,” Jesus told him. “I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.”
38 Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
Jesus Is Sentenced to Death
Pilate went back out and said, “I don’t find this man guilty of anything! 39 And since I usually set a prisoner free for you at Passover, would you like for me to set free the king of the Jews?”
40 They shouted, “No, not him! We want Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a terrorist.
19 Pilate gave orders for Jesus to be beaten with a whip.2 The soldiers made a crown out of thorn branches and put it on Jesus. Then they put a purple robe on him. 3 They came up to him and said, “Hey, you king of the Jews!” They also hit him with their fists.
4 Once again Pilate went out. This time he said, “I will have Jesus brought out to you again. Then you can see for yourselves that I have not found him guilty.”
5 Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, “Here is the man!”
6 When the chief priests and the temple police saw him, they yelled, “Nail him to a cross! Nail him to a cross!”
Pilate told them, “You take him and nail him to a cross! I don’t find him guilty of anything.”
7 The crowd replied, “He claimed to be the Son of God! Our Jewish Law says that he must be put to death.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was terrified. 9 He went back inside and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus did not answer.
10 “Why won’t you answer my question?” Pilate asked. “Don’t you know that I have the power to let you go free or to nail you to a cross?”
11 Jesus replied, “If God had not given you the power, you couldn’t do anything at all to me. But the one who handed me over to you did something even worse.”
12 Then Pilate wanted to set Jesus free. But the crowd again yelled, “If you set this man free, you are no friend of the Emperor! Anyone who claims to be a king is an enemy of the Emperor.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out. Then he sat down on the judge’s bench at the place known as “The Stone Pavement.” In Aramaic this pavement is called “Gabbatha.”14 It was about noon on the day before Passover, and Pilate said to the crowd, “Look at your king!”
15 “Kill him! Kill him!” they yelled. “Nail him to a cross!”
“So you want me to nail your king to a cross?” Pilate asked.
The chief priests replied, “The Emperor is our king!” 16 Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be nailed to a cross.
Jesus Is Nailed to a Cross
Jesus was taken away, 17 and he carried his cross to a place known as “The Skull.” In Aramaic this place is called “Golgotha.” 18 There Jesus was nailed to the cross, and on each side of him a man was also nailed to a cross.
19 Pilate ordered the charge against Jesus to be written on a board and put above the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” 20 The words were written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
The place where Jesus was taken wasn’t far from the city, and many of the Jewish people read the charge against him. 21 So the chief priests went to Pilate and said, “Why did you write that he is King of the Jews? You should have written, ‘He claimed to be King of the Jews.’”
22 But Pilate told them, “What is written will not be changed!”
23 After the soldiers had nailed Jesus to the cross, they divided up his clothes into four parts, one for each of them. But his outer garment was made from a single piece of cloth, and it did not have any seams. 24 The soldiers said to each other, “Let’s not rip it apart. We will gamble to see who gets it.” This happened so that the Scriptures would come true, which say,
“They divided up my clothes and gambled for my garments.”
The soldiers then did what they had decided.
25 Jesus’ mother stood beside his cross with her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene was standing there too.26 When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, “This man is now your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “She is now your mother.” From then on, that disciple took her into his own home.
The Death of Jesus
28 Jesus knew that he had now finished his work. And in order to make the Scriptures come true, he said, “I am thirsty!” 29 A jar of cheap wine was there. Someone then soaked a sponge with the wine and held it up to Jesus’ mouth on the stem of a hyssop plant. 30 After Jesus drank the wine, he said, “Everything is done!” He bowed his head and died.
A Spear Is Stuck in Jesus’ Side
31 The next day would be both a Sabbath and the Passover. It was a special day for the Jewish people, and they did not want the bodies to stay on the crosses during that day. So they asked Pilate to break the men’s legs and take their bodies down. 32 The soldiers first broke the legs of the other two men who were nailed there. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, and they did not break his legs.
34 One of the soldiers stuck his spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water came out. 35 We know this is true, because it was told by someone who saw it happen. Now you can have faith too. 36 All this happened so that the Scriptures would come true, which say, “No bone of his body will be broken”37 and, “They will see the one in whose side they stuck a spear.”
Jesus Is Buried
38 Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus’ disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.
39 Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night. 40 The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead. 41 In the place where Jesus had been nailed to a cross, there was a garden with a tomb that had never been used. 42 The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus’ body there.
Where was I Lord?
What part did I play?
Where am I in all this?
persuaded to give you up
for an easy reward.
One sitting in judgement?
by the demands of others.
I never knew him,
he is nothing to me.
One lashing out?
Passing the buck?
Not willing to make a decision,
not wanting the responsibility.
Taking the easy way out.
Not wanting to upset anyone.
Going against my better judgement?
oh so easily,
by the crowd.
Doing what pleases others,
unable to stick
with my own integrity,
not strong enough
for the truth.
One of the crowd?
Dragging others along
to get my own way.
Not caring for the hurt
and the consequences.
The one hammering the nails?
Blow by blow,
fixing you to that cross.
The one who saw the truth
in who you are,
and wasn’t afraid to proclaim it?
One standing at the foot of the cross?
watching you fade.
Not knowing what to do,
as life flowed from you,
love flowed too.
I am all of these.
I come in confession.
I come in thanks.
I come in praise.
That you could do
what you did,
or because of,
what I have done.
And in your life,