Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Breakfast With Jesus




Last Friday, the Gospel was from John 21 , where Peter and the other apostles were out on the water and had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Then a  voice called to them from shore and told them to try and cast the net out the other side of the boat whereupon the nets were filled to near the breaking point, and then Peter recognized Jesus and went ashore.
Jesus was sitting by a charcoal fire he had made and was cooking up some fish for Breakfast.  Jesus then sat down and started sharing the fish with them .He then asked Peter thre times if he loved Him, and when Peter replied affirmatively Jesus told Peter "Feed my sheep".
This is a remarkable story of redemption and restored  friendship, and it was all done over breakfast.
Jesus chose breakfast as the time to restore Peter, since it is the beginning of a new day, and it is also the least formal meal of the day. It was a quiet, friendly time of renewal, and a time when Peter was given his mission.
Since the day I became a Christian, I have had breakfast with Jesus every day . There is no better way to start a day than to rise at the crack of dawn, spend some time in prayer, and then pour out some coffee and  hear from Jesus Himself in the Bible. So fo us too, the morning is a time when we can renew our friendship with Jesus, frsh every day, spend some quiet, informal time with Him, getting to know him through prayer and the Word.
 And more often than not you find that, if you lsiten carefully, he will restore you, and give you your mission for the day, and beyond.
Tomorrow and every day thereafter, why not have breakfast with Jesus?


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lives are being Changed, By The Imitation of Christ. That's what Matters!


Amid the (manufactured) controversy over Pope Francis decision to wash the feet of inmates at a Youth detention center, while traditionalists are pulling out their hair over his breach of convention, actual lives are being changed by what he did. Perhaps some of the young inmates who wrote to the Pope to thank him may never know life outside of prison again, but it would seem that their hearts were touched, and their lives will be changed.
Isn't that what Jesus Chroist living in the world through us is supposed to accomplished. Pope Francis 1, World system 0.

Here are some samples of what he received from other incarcerated youth.

Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy.
We also are young and made mistakes.
Society has given up on us, thank you
that you have not given up on us.
Dear Pope Francis,
I think you are a humble man.
When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like.
I am writing this letter because you give me hope.
I know one day with people like you us kids
won’t be given sentences that will keep us in prison
for the rest of our lives.
I pray for you. Dont forget us.
Dear Pope Francis,
I don’t know if you have ever been to where I live.
I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence.
I have seen people killed. I have been hurt.
We have been victims of violence.
It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness.
Pray for me that one day I will be free
and be able to help other youth like you do.

Dear Pope Francis,Dear Pope Francis,
Tonight we pray for all victims of violence.
The families of people we have hurt need healing.
Our families need healing.
We are all in pain.
Let us feel Jesus’ healing tonight.
I know the same youth feet that you wash
are like me.
Drugs have been part of me life for so long.
We all struggle to be sober.
But you inspire me and I promise to be sober
and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.
Dear Pope Francis,
My many friends are in two different maximum security
prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons.Calif. I am writing to tell you that I feel bad
that more youth of color are in prison in our state
than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come
here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison.
God bless you.
Dear Pope Francis,
I read that the harshest sentence that a youth
can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here.
I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic
because I have a pope like you.
I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are
in this violent world.
Dear Pope Francis,
I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St.Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods.
Dear Pope Francis,
When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.
Dear Pope Francis,
I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles
because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one
day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you
and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.
Dear Pope Francis,
I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know
that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we not a new law called SB9 this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.
Dear Pope Francis,
From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and
help other people understand we can change and want to change.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Pope's Radical Footwashing Ceremony Is a Call to Service with Far Reaching Implications

Pope Francis did something radically  different this year on Holy Thursday. Instead of washing the feet of 12 Priests, he went instead to a youth detention center and washed the feet of 12 incarcerated young offenders, two of which were girls. Hold that thought about the priests....
According to this article, Traditionalists are beginning to worry about  what  Pope Francis' abandonment of many of the Papal trappings, might entail and fear that he is throwing too much tradition out the window.

I beg to differ. First I believe that the two squeaky wheels of Catholicism, the Traditionalists and the Progressives are bot going to be very disappointed, not only by Pope Francis, but with the future of the Church as a whole. However, I believe we are about to see a miraculous resurgence  of the Church such that we will finally leave the traditionalist/Progressive debates behind.

We are moving into a new phase of the Church's life, which has been in the works since Pope Leo XIII was elevated to the papacy in 1878. It is the transition of the Church from the paradigm of counter-reformation Catholicism, to the new phase known as Evangelical Catholicism.
Under Leo XIII the Church recognized she was going to have to speak to the world in a different way in order to fulfill her mission. No longer could she expect automatic obedience, nor a comfortable ride because of the ambient culture. There had been a shift.  We have now reached the point where the new vision which instead of expecting the faith to be transmitted by osmosis in the ambient culture, and offered to Catholics by propositional rote, the new paradigm will be based on re-proposing the Gospel as an invitation to friendship with Christ. It will be a faith that reaches people -as Billy Graham might say-  right where they are.

To get a glimpse of what is coming-and it is going to be an exciting  and powerful time - I recommend reading George Weigel's new book on the topic, appropriately titled "Evangelical Catholicism"

In brief, this Papacy is not going to obsess over liturgy. Nothing will change. The Novus ordo Mass remains the ordinary for of the Mass, and the Latin Mass will be available as the extraordinary form in parishes that offer it.  I don't think we will see a return to the abuses the progressives were so fond of  either.
What we will see is a Papacy that will call us to service in the world, that will be an inspiration and will send us out to be Christ in the world. Each of the most recent 11 Popes has brought a unique gift to the table, and while JPII and Benedict left us a great deal of writings and reforms, Francis is the one who will put them into action. While less emphasis on the liturgical wars may make Progressives happy, traditionalists might be pleasantly surprised at the call to service we are being given. It will be a complete departure from the "social justice"  we have seen for the last 40 odd years. Francis has already served notice that it must all be done in Jesus Christ, or else we become nothing more than just another NGO.  Game. Set. Match.

Evangelical Catholicism is too deep a subject to encapsulate in one post, but not to worry, there is plenty more to come in the future as we unpack the new paradigm. For now, I want to get back to the concerns expressed by some that the Pope has committed a big faux-pas by washing the feet of people who are not priests.

This is big. Really big. What Pope Francis has done, is brought back to the forefront the Catholic doctrine of the Universal Priesthood (Protestants cal it the Priesthood of all believers. Jimmy Akin explains it here in some detail, but in a nutshell, it means that ALL Believers are a part of the Priesthood, called to a life of service  in many of the same ways as the Ministerial priesthood, except we cannot administer the sacraments.  So two things of significance happened here: Pope Francis did wash the feet of twelve priests!  And here's the second one: Note that two of those young people whose feet were washed were girls... which means.... The Roman Catholic Church has always had female priests!
The ministerial priesthood will always be all male, but when the universal priesthood is considered, every believer wears a figurative Roman collar in the sense that they are called to serve-not lord over- their fellow man. No matter who he is, and without prejudice, no matter what he has done to you in the past. Jesus said we must forgive seventy times seven times, after all.
Pope Francis has given us a tall order to fill. As Christ's Vicar on earth, he has called each and every believer to follow the example of Christ, the same way Jesus Himself called his disciples to take up their cross, and follow Him, wherever they were.

Good Friday: Watch the Lamb

Could Jesus Have Possibly Survived the Crucifixion?


Every year, we hear bizarre theories about Jesus having survived the crucifixion. This is known as the "swoon theory" which implies that though severely beaten and bloodied, Jesus had not actually died, but had gone into a state of near death and once he was off the cross and placed in the tomb, recovered and walked out. Journalist Lee Strobel, who was an atheist, set out to prove his wife wrong (she had just become Christian) set out to prove that the Christian faith was false, and interviewed experts in several fields who presented their cases so well that Strobel had no choice but to make a decision for Christ himself. he published his findings and interviews in "the Case for Christ". the interview that follows was taken from his later book "The Case for Easter"


Taken from
THE CASE FOR EASTER
Lee Strobel
H/T hwww.christchurchreformed.com

THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE: WAS JESUS’ DEATH A SHAM AND HIS RESURRECTION A HOAX?
I paused to read the plaque hanging in the waiting room of a doctor’s office: “Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where death delights to help the living.”

Obviously, this was no ordinary physician. I was paying another visit to Dr. Robert J. Stein, one of the world’s foremost forensic pathologists, a flamboyant, husky-voiced medical detective who used to regale me with stories about the unexpected clues he had uncovered while examining corpses. For him, dead men did tell tales—in fact, tales that would often bring justice to the living.

During his lengthy tenure as medical examiner of Cook County, Illinois, Stein performed thousands of autopsies, each time meticulously searching for insights into the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.

Repeatedly his sharp eye for detail, his encyclopedic knowledge of the human anatomy, and his uncanny investigative intuition helped this medical sleuth reconstruct the victim’s violent demise.

Sometimes innocent people were vindicated as a result of his findings. But more often Stein’s work was the final nail in a defendant’s coffin. Such was the case with John Wayne Gacy, who faced the executioner after Stein helped convict him of thirty-three grisly murders.

That’s how crucial medical evidence can be. It can determine whether a child died of abuse or an accidental fall. It can establish whether a person succumbed to natural causes or was murdered by someone who spiked the person’s coffee with arsenic. It can uphold or dismantle a defendant’s alibi by pinpointing the victim’s time of death, using an ingenious procedure that measures the amount of potassium in the eyes of the deceased.

And yes, even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two millennia ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution: it can help determine whether the resurrection of Jesus—the supreme vindication of his claim to deity—was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. With Stein having impressed on me the value of forensic clues, I knew it was time to seek out a medical expert who has thoroughly investigated the historical facts concerning the crucifixion and has managed to separate truth from legend.

RESURRECTION OR RESUSCITATION?

The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross can be found in the Koran, which was written in the seventh century—in fact, Ahmadiya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India. To this day there’s a shrine that supposedly marks his real burial place in Srinagar, Kashmir.

As the nineteenth century dawned, Karl Bahrdt, Karl Venturini, and others tried to explain away the resurrection by suggesting that Jesus only fainted from exhaustion on the cross, or he had been given a drug that made him appear to die, and that he had later been revived by the cool, damp air of the tomb.

Conspiracy theorists bolstered this hypothesis by pointing out that Jesus had been given some liquid on a sponge while on the cross (Mark 15:36) and that Pilate seemed surprised at how quickly Jesus had succumbed (Mark 15:44). Consequently, they said, Jesus’ reappearance wasn’t a miraculous resurrection but merely a fortuitous resuscitation, and his tomb was empty because he continued to live.

While reputable scholars have repudiated this so-called swoon theory, it keeps recurring in popular literature. In 1929 D. H. Lawrence wove this theme into a short story in which he suggested that Jesus had fled to Egypt, where he fell in love with the priestess Isis.

In 1965 Hugh Schonfield’s best-seller The Passover Plot alleged that it was only the unanticipated stabbing of Jesus by the Roman soldier that foiled his complicated scheme to escape the cross alive, even though Schonfield conceded, “We are nowhere claiming . . . that [the book] represents what actually happened.”

The swoon hypothesis popped up again in Donovan Joyce’s 1972 book The Jesus Scroll, which “contains an even more incredible string of improbabilities than Schonfield’s,” according to resurrection expert Gary Habermas.

In 1982, Holy Blood, Holy Grail added the twist that Pontius Pilate had been bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. Even so, the authors confessed, “We could not—and still cannot—prove the accuracy of our conclusion.”

As recently as 1992, a little-known academic from Australia, Barbara Thiering, caused a stir by reviving the swoon theory. Her book, Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was introduced with much fanfare by a well respected US publisher and then derisively dismissed by Emory University scholar Luke Timothy Johnson as being “the purest poppycock, the product of fevered imagination rather than careful analysis.”

Today, the swoon theory continues to flourish. I hear it all the time. But what does the evidence really establish?

What actually happened at the Crucifixion? What was Jesus’ cause of death? Is there any possible way he could have survived this ordeal? Those are the kinds of questions that I hoped medical evidence could help resolve.

So I flew to southern California and knocked on the door of a prominent physician who has extensively stud ied the historical, archaeological, and medical data concerning the death of Jesus of Nazareth—although it seems that, due to the mysteriously missing body, no autopsy has ever been performed.

INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER METHERELL,
M.D., PH.D.

The plush setting was starkly incongruous with the subject we were discussing. There we were, sitting in the living room of Dr. Metherell’s comfortable California home on a balmy spring evening, warm ocean breezes whispering through the windows, while we were talking about a topic of unimaginable brutality: a beating so barbarous that it shocks the conscience, and a form of capital punishment so depraved that it stands as wretched testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

I had sought out Metherell because I heard he possessed the medical and scientific credentials to explain the Crucifixion. But I also had another motivation: I had been told he could discuss the topic dispassionately as well as accurately. That was important to me because I wanted the facts to speak for themselves, without the hyperbole or charged language that might otherwise manipulate emotions.

As you would expect from someone with a medical degree (University of Miami in Florida) and a doctorate in engineering (University of Bristol in England), Metherell speaks with scientific precision. He is board certified in diagnosis by the American Board of Radiology and has been a consultant to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health of Bethesda, Maryland.

A former research scientist who has taught at the University of California, Metherell is editor of five scientific books and has written for publications ranging from Aerospace Medicine to Scientific American. His ingenious analysis of muscular contraction has been published in The Physiologist and Biophysics Journal. He even looks the role of a distinguished medical authority: he’s an imposing figure with silver hair and a courteous yet formal demeanor.

I’ll be honest: at times I wondered what was going on inside Dr. Metherell’s head. With scientific reserve, speaking slowly and methodically, he gave no hint of any inner turmoil as he calmly described the chilling details of Jesus’ demise. Whatever was going on underneath, whatever distress it caused him as a Christian to talk about the cruel fate that befell Jesus, he was able to mask with a professionalism born out of decades of laboratory research.

He just gave me the facts—and after all, that was what I was after.

THE TORTURE BEFORE THE CROSS

Initially, I wanted to elicit from Metherell a basic description of the events leading up to Jesus’ death. So after a time of social chat, I put down my iced tea and shifted in my chair to face him squarely. “Could you paint a picture of what happened to Jesus?” I asked.

He cleared his throat. “It began after the Last Supper,” he said. “Jesus went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives—specifically, to the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, if you remember, he prayed all night. Now, during that process he was anticipating the coming events of the next day. Since he knew the amount of suffering he was going to have to endure, he was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress.”

I raised my hand to stop him. “Whoa—here’s where skeptics have a field day,” I told him. “The gospels tell us he began to sweat blood at this point. Now, c’mon, isn’t that just a product of some overactive imaginations?

Doesn’t that call into question the accuracy of the gospel writers?”

Unfazed, Metherell shook his head. “Not at all,” he replied. “This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress.

“What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there’s a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood.

We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount.”

Though a bit chastened, I pressed on. “Did this have any other effect on the body?”

“What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive.”

Well, I thought, here we go. I braced myself for the grim images I knew were about to flood my mind. I had seen plenty of dead bodies as a journalist—casualties of car accidents, fires, and crime syndicate retribution—but there was something especially unnerving in hearing about someone being intentionally brutalized by executioners determined to extract maximum suffering.

“Tell me,” I said, “what was the flogging like?”

Metherell’s eyes never left me. “Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.

“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.

“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.”

Metherell paused. “Go on,” I said.

“One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, ‘As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’ A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, ‘The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.’

“We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock.”

Metherell had thrown in a medical term I didn’t know. “What does hypovolemic shock mean?” I asked. “Hypo means ‘low,’ vol refers to volume, and emic means ‘blood,’ so hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood,” the doctor explained. “This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.”

“Do you see evidence of this in the gospel accounts?”

“Yes, most definitely,” he replied. “Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for him. Later we read that Jesus said, ‘I thirst,’ at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to him.

“Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”

THE AGONY OF THE CROSS

As distasteful as the description of the flogging was, I knew that even more repugnant testimony was yet to come. That’s because historians are unanimous that Jesus survived the beating that day and went on to the cross— which is where the real issue lies.

These days, when condemned criminals are strapped down and injected with poisons or secured to a wooden chair and subjected to a surge of electricity, the circumstances are highly controlled. Death comes quickly and predictably. Medical examiners carefully certify the victim’s passing. From close proximity witnesses scrutinize everything from beginning to end.

But how certain was death by this crude, slow, and rather inexact form of execution called crucifixion? In fact, most people aren’t sure how the cross kills its victims. And without a trained medical examiner to officially attest that Jesus had died, might he have escaped the experience brutalized and bleeding but nevertheless alive?

I began to unpack these issues. “What happened when he arrived at the site of the crucifixion?” I asked.

“He would have been laid down, and his hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. This crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground.”

I was having difficulty visualizing this; I needed more details. “Nailed with what?” I asked. “Nailed where?”

“The Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were driven through the wrists,” Metherell said, pointing about an inch or so below his left palm.

“Hold it,” I interrupted. “I thought the nails pierced his palms. That’s what all the paintings show. In fact, it’s become a standard symbol representing the crucifixion.”

“Through the wrists,” Metherell repeated. “This was a solid position that would lock the hand; if the nails had been driven through the palms, his weight would have caused the skin to tear and he would have fallen off the cross. So the nails went through the wrists, although this was considered part of the hand in the language of the day.

“And it’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.”

Since I have only a rudimentary knowledge of the human anatomy, I wasn’t sure what this meant. “What sort of pain would that have produced?” I asked.

“Let me put it this way,” he replied. “Do you know the kind of pain you feel when you bang your elbow and hit your funny bone? That’s actually another nerve, called the ulna nerve. It’s extremely painful when you accidentally hit it.

“Well, picture taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve,” he said, emphasizing the word squeezing as he twisted an imaginary pair of pliers. “That effect would be similar to what Jesus experienced.”

I winced at the image and squirmed in my chair.

“The pain was absolutely unbearable,” he continued.

“In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’ Think of that: they needed to create a new word because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion.

“At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.”

Crushed and severed nerves were certainly bad enough, but I needed to know about the effect that hanging from the cross would have had on Jesus. “What stresses would this have put on his body?”

Metherell answered, “First of all, his arms would have immediately been stretched, probably about six inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated—you can determine this with simple mathematical equations. “This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22, which foretold the crucifixion hundreds of years before it took place and says, ‘My bones are out of joint.’”

THE CAUSE OF DEATH

Metherell had made his point—graphically—about the pain endured as the crucifixion process began. But I needed to get to what finally claims the life of a crucifixion victim, because that’s the pivotal issue in determining whether death can be faked or eluded. So I put the cause-of-death question directly to Metherell.

“Once a person is hanging in the vertical position,” he replied, “crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation.

“The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones.

“After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.

“As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis—the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”

It was the clearest explanation I had ever heard of death by crucifixion—but Metherell wasn’t done.

“Even before he died—and this is important too—the hypovolemic shock would have caused a sustained rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure, resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called a pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion.”

“Why is that significant?”

“Because of what happened when the Roman soldier came around and, being fairly certain that Jesus was dead, confirmed it by thrusting a spear into his right side. It was probably his right side; that’s not certain, but from the description it was probably the right side, between the ribs.

“The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid—the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion—came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel.”

John probably had no idea why he saw both blood and a clear fluid come out—certainly that’s not what an untrained person like him would have anticipated. Yet John’s description is consistent with what modern medicine would expect to have happened. At first this would seem to give credibility to John being an eyewitness; however, there seemed to be one big flaw in all this.

I pulled out my Bible and flipped to John 19:34. “Wait a minute, Doc,” I protested. “When you carefully read what John said, he saw ‘blood and water’ come out; he intentionally put the words in that order. But according to you, the clear fluid would have come out first. So there’s a significant discrepancy here.”

Metherell smiled slightly. “I’m not a Greek scholar,” he replied, “but according to people who are, the order of words in ancient Greek was determined not necessarily by sequence but by prominence. This means that since there was a lot more blood than water, it would have made sense for John to mention the blood first.”

I conceded the point but made a mental note to confirm it myself later. “At this juncture,” I said, “what would Jesus’ condition have been?”

Metherell’s gaze locked with mine. He replied with authority, “There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.”

ANSWERING THE SKEPTICS

Dr. Metherell’s assertion seemed well supported by the evidence. But there were still some details I wanted to address—as well as at least one soft spot in his account that could very well undermine the credibility of the biblical account.

“The gospels say the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals being crucified with Jesus,” I said. “Why would they have done that?”

“If they wanted to speed up death—and with the Sabbath and Passover coming, the Jewish leaders certainly wanted to get this over before sundown—the Romans would use the steel shaft of a short Roman spear to shatter the victim’s lower leg bones. This would prevent him from pushing up with his legs so he could breathe, and death by asphyxiation would result in a matter of minutes.

“Of course, we’re told in the New Testament that Jesus’ legs were not broken, because the soldiers had already determined that he was dead, and they just used the spear to confirm it. This fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah, which is that his bones would remain unbroken.”

Again I jumped in. “Some people have tried to cast doubt on the gospel accounts by attacking the crucifixion story,” I said. “For instance, an article in the Harvard Theological Review concluded many years ago that there was ‘astonishing little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails.’ Instead, the article said, the victim’s hands and feet were tied to the cross by ropes.

Won’t you concede that this raises credibility problems with the New Testament account?”

Dr. Metherell moved forward until he was sitting on the edge of his chair. “No,” he said, “because archaeology has now established that the use of nails was historical—although I’ll certainly concede that ropes were indeed sometimes used.”

“What’s the evidence?”

“In 1968 archaeologists in Jerusalem found the remains of about three dozen Jews who had died during the uprising against Rome around AD 70. One victim, whose name was apparently Yohanan, had been crucified. And sure enough, they found a seven-inch nail still driven into his feet, with small pieces of olive wood from the cross still attached. This was excellent archaeological confirmation of a key detail in the gospels’ description of the Crucifixion.”

Touché, I thought. “But one other point of dispute concerns the expertise of the Romans to determine whether Jesus was dead,” I pointed out. “These people were very primitive in terms of their understanding of medicine and anatomy and so forth—how do we know they weren’t just mistaken when they declared that Jesus was no longer living?”

“I’ll grant you that these soldiers didn’t go to medical school. But remember that they were experts in killing people—that was their job, and they did it very well. They knew without a doubt when a person was dead, and really it’s not so terribly difficult to figure out.

“Besides, if a prisoner somehow escaped, the responsible soldiers would be put to death themselves, so they had a huge incentive to make absolutely sure that each and every victim was dead when he was removed from the cross.”

THE FINAL ARGUMENT

Appealing to history and medicine, to archaeology and even Roman military rules, Metherell had closed every loophole: Jesus could not have come down from the cross alive. But still, I pushed him further. “Is there any possible way—any possible way—that Jesus could have survived this?”

Metherell shook his head and pointed his finger at me for emphasis. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Remember that he was already in hypovolemic shock from the massive blood loss even before the crucifixion started. He couldn’t possibly have faked his death, because you can’t fake the inability to breathe for long. Besides, the spear thrust into his heart would have settled the issue once and for all. And the Romans weren’t about to risk their own death by allowing him to walk away alive.”

“So,” I said, “when someone suggests to you that Jesus merely swooned on the cross—”

“I tell them it’s impossible. It’s a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact.”

Yet I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the issue. At the risk of frustrating the doctor, I said, “Let’s speculate that the impossible happened and that Jesus somehow managed to survive the crucifixion. Let’s say he was able to escape from his linen wrappings, roll the huge rock away from the mouth of his tomb, and get past the Roman soldiers who were standing guard. Medically speaking, what condition would he have been in after he tracked down his disciples?”

Metherell was reluctant to play that game. “Again,” he stressed, becoming a bit more animated, “there’s just no way he could have survived the cross.

“But if he had, how could he walk around after nails had been driven through his feet? How could he have appeared on the road to Emmaus just a short time later, strolling for long distances? How could he have used his arms after they were stretched and pulled from their joints?

Remember, he also had massive wounds on his back and a spear wound to his chest.”

Then he paused. Something clicked in his mind, and now he was ready to make a closing point that would drive a final stake through the heart of the swoon theory once and for all. It was an argument that nobody has been able to refute ever since it was first advanced by German theologian David Strauss in 1835.

“Listen,” Metherell said, “a person in that kind of pathetic condition would never have inspired his disciples to go out and proclaim that he’s the Lord of life who had triumphed over the grave.

“Do you see what I’m saying? After suffering that horrible abuse, with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health.

“So it’s preposterous to think that if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his. There’s just no way.”

A QUESTION FOR THE HEART

Convincingly, masterfully, Metherell had established his case beyond a reasonable doubt. He had done it by focusing exclusively on the “how” question: How was Jesus executed in a way that absolutely ensured his death? But as we ended, I sensed that something was missing. I had tapped into his knowledge, but I hadn’t touched his heart.

So as we stood to shake hands, I felt compelled to ask the “why” question that begged to be posed.

“Alex, before I go, let me ask your opinion about something—not your medical opinion, not your scientific evaluation, just something from your heart.”

I felt him let down his guard a bit. “Yes,” he said, “I’ll try.”

“Jesus intentionally walked into the arms of his betrayer, he didn’t resist arrest, he didn’t defend himself at his trial—it was clear that he was willingly subjecting himself to what you’ve described as a humiliating and agonizing form of torture. And I’d like to know why. What could possibly have motivated a person to agree to endure this sort of punishment?”

Alexander Metherell—the man this time, not the doctor—searched for the right words.

“Frankly, I don’t think a typical person could have done it,” he finally replied. “But Jesus knew what was coming, and he was willing to go through it, because this was the only way he could redeem us—by serving as our substitute and paying the death penalty that we deserve because of our rebellion against God. That was his whole mission in coming to earth.”

Having said that, I could still sense that Metherell’s relentlessly rational, logical, and organized mind was continuing to crunch down my question to its most basic,
nonreducible answer.

“So when you ask what motivated him,” he concluded, “well . . . I suppose the answer can be summed up in one word—and that would be love.”

As I drove away that night, it was this answer that played over and over in my mind. All in all, my interview with Metherell had been thoroughly helpful. He had persuasively established that Jesus could not have survived the ordeal of the cross, a form of cruelty so vile that the Romans exempted their own citizens from it, except for cases of high treason.

Metherell’s conclusions were consistent with the findings of other physicians who have carefully studied the issue. Among them is Dr. William D. Edwards, whose 1986 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, “Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.... Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

Those who seek to explain away the resurrection of Jesus by claiming that he somehow escaped the clutches of death at Golgotha need to offer a more plausible theory that fits the facts.

And then they too must end up pondering the haunting question that all of us need to consider: What could possibly have motivated Jesus to willingly allow himself to be degraded and brutalized the way that he did?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mary at the Cross: A Mother's Pain

Candida Eittreim, a Facebook Friend ,wrote the following piece which sums up a mother's perspective on the pain and suffering Mary had to endure that Good Friday 2000 odd years ago.

I think it takes a mother to really understand the pain Mary suffered. I can't imagine watching my sons being hurt so viciously, witnessing their pain. It would literally kill me. She had only her Son. Joseph, according to many biblical scholars, believe Joseph must have died. There is no mention of him at all, by the time Jesus began His ministry. Support for this is Christ handing his mother over to John. A common practice among the Children of Israel, when dealing with a widowed female relative. If, as some claim, Mary had other children, this would not have been necessary. So Mary lost all, when her Son died on that cross.

We tend to forget that Mary was human. So that the sights and sounds of her Son's torment and death, along with the jeers and the mocking would have incurred real trauma. As with most mothers, this would have been imprinted in her brain. Even witnessing to His resurrection would not have taken that appalling vision away from her. That's real suffering. She had more courage in her little finger than i have in my entire being. I honour her for that. And this mother's heart grieves for what she went through

Medical Aspects of the Crucifiction: What He Endured For Us.


Medical Aspects of the Crucifiction: What He Endured For Us.

Compiled by David Terasaka, M.D. ©1996. All Rights Reserved, David Terasaka, M.D. However, permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute free of charge for non-commercial purposes only.

Heb 12:2 - "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

In the last few hours of Jesus' life what did He endure, and what shame did He suffer?

EXCRUCIATE: to cause great agony, torment

Latin : ex : out of, from cruciate : cross

"from the cross"

The tone of this presentation can best be summarized in the word "excruciate", (the root of the word "excruciating") which refers to something which causes great agony or torment. The Latin roots of the word are :"ex", meaning from or out of, and "cruciate", meaning cross. The word "excruciate" comes from the Latin for "from, or out of, the cross".(Websters)

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Jesus spent the last hours before the crucifixion at several places in Jerusalem. He started the evening in the Upper Room, in southwest Jerusalem. At the Last Supper, He told the disciples that His body and His blood were to be given for them.(Matt 26: 26-29) He went outside of the city to the Garden of Gethesemane. He was then arrested and brought back to the to the palace of the High Priest. where He was questioned by Annas, a former High Priest, and Caiaphas, Annas' son in law . Afterwards, He was tried by the Sanhedrin, and found to be guilty of blasphemy by proclaiming Himself the Son of God. He was sentenced to the death penalty. Since only the Romans were able to execute criminals, He was sent to Pontius Pilate at the Antonia Fortress. Pilate, not finding anything wrong, sent Him to King Herod , who returned Him back to Pilate. Pilate, submitting to the pressure of the crowd, then ordered that Jesus be flogged and crucified. He was finally led out of the city walls to be crucified at Calvary.

THE HEALTH OF JESUS AND DEMANDS OF THE ORDEAL

It is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good health prior to the ordeal that He faced in the hours before His death. Having been a carpenter and traveling throughout the land during His ministry would have required that He would be in good physical condition. Before the crucifixion, however, He was forced to walk 2.5 miles over a sleepless night, during which He suffered great anguish through His six trials, was mocked, ridiculed and severely beaten, and was abandoned by His friends and Father. (Edwards)

THE UPPER ROOM OR CENACULUM



The ordeal began in an upper room of a house at what we now call the Last Supper, where Jesus, in giving the first communion, predicted that His body and blood would be given.(Matt 26:17-29) Today in Jerusalem, one can visit the Cenacle or Cenaculum (Latin for dining hall), a room which is built over what is believed to be the site of the Upper Room, (Kollek) which was located on the southwestern aspect of the old city.

GETHESEMANE : oil press



Luke 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

"the Spirit of God ....crushed"

From the upper room, Jesus went outside of the city walls where he spent time in prayer at the Garden of Gethesemane. The garden has many ancient olive trees today, some of which may have grown from the roots of the trees that were present in Jesus' time. (All trees in and around Jerusalem were cut down when the Romans conquered the city in 70 A.D. Olive trees can regenerate from their roots and live for thousands of years.) The name "Gethesemane", comes from the Hebrew Gat Shmanim, meaning "oil press" (Kollek). Since "oil" is used in the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, it may be said that the garden is where "the Spirit of God was crushed".(Missler). It was here that Jesus agonized in prayer over what was to occur. It is significant that this is the only place in the KJV where the word "agony" is mentioned.(Strong's concordance) The Greek word for agony means to be "engaged in combat" (Pink) Jesus agonizes over what He is to go through, feeling that He is at the point of death.(Mark14:34) Yet He prays, "Not my will, but thine be done."

Of medical significance is that Luke mentions Him as having sweat like blood. The medical term for this, "hemohidrosis" or "hematidrosis" has been seen in patients who have experienced, extreme stress or shock to their systems. (Edwards) The capillaries around the sweat pores become fragile and leak blood into the sweat. A case history is recorded in which a young girl who had a fear of air raids in WW1 developed the condition after a gas explosion occurred in the house next door.(Scott)) Another report mentions a nun who, as she was threatened with death by the swords of the enemy soldiers," was so terrified that she bled from every part of her body and died of hemorrhage in the sight of her assailants."(Grafenberg) As a memorial to Jesus' ordeal, a church which now stands in Gethesemane is known as the Church of the Agony. (also called the Church of the Nations because many nations donated money to its construction.(Kollek)

ABANDONED BY MAN



Matthew 26:56: "Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."

Psa 22:11: "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help."

While in Gethesemane, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jews. His disciples all desert Him, even at the expense of running away naked (Mark 14:51-52). He is bound (John 18:12) then brought back to the city to the court of the High Priest, which is located near the Upper room.

ILLEGAL ASPECTS OF THE TRIAL OF JESUS




Following are some of the illegal aspects of the trial of Jesus:
Trials could occur only in the regular meeting places of the Sanhedrin (not in the palace of the High Priest)
Trials could not occur on the eve of the Sabbath or Feast Days or at night
A sentence of 'guilty' might only be pronounced on the day following the trial
THE ISSUE OF WITNESSES

Deut 19:15: "One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."

Deut 17:6: "On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness."

Mark 14:56: "Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree."

While in the court of the High Priest, He was questioned by Annas (John 18:13) and struck by a soldier (John 18: 22). He was then brought to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. who sought to put Jesus to death by the false testimony of many witnesses. The witnesses brought against Him did not agree. By the law, no one could be put to death without the agreement of two or three witnesses. Although the witnesses did not agree, He was found guilty of blasphemy when He told them of His identity as the Son of God. He was sentenced to death. Jesus suffered ridicule from the palace guards, who spat on Him, beat Him and slapped Him on the face.(Mark 14:65.) During the trial, Peter denies Him three times. The proceedings of Jesus' trial violated many of the laws of His society. Among some of the other broken laws were:(Bucklin)

Any arrest could not be made at night.
The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night and on the eve of the Sabbath. This time precluded any chance for the required adjournment to the next day in the event of a conviction.
The Sanhedrin was without authority to instigate charges. It was only supposed to investigate charges brought before it. In Jesus' trial, the court itself formulated the charges.
The charges against Jesus were changed during the trial. He was initially charged with blasphemy based upon His statement that He would be able to destroy and rebuild the Temple of God within three days, as well as His claim to be the Son of God. When He was brought before Pilate, the charge was that Jesus was a King and did not advocate paying taxes to the Romans.
As stated above, the requirement of two witnesses in agreement to merit the death penalty was not met.
The court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, as required by Jewish law.
Christ was not permitted a defense. Under Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred.
The Sanhedrin pronounced the death sentence. Under law, the Sanhedrin were not allowed to convict and put the death sentence into effect. (John 18:31)
Today, one can visit the palace of the High Priest. where one can stand in the midst of the ruins of the courtyard. A model of the structure in Jesus' time is available for viewing.

PILATE'S VERDICT

Mark 15:15 - "Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."



The Sanhedrin met early the next morning and sentenced Him to death. (Matthew 27:1) Because the Jews were not, and the Romans were, able to carry out an execution, Jesus was brought before Pilate. The charge was now changed to an allegation that Jesus claimed to be King and forbade the nation to pay taxes to Caesar. (Luke 23:5) In spite of all the charges, Pilate finds nothing wrong. He sends Jesus to Herod. Jesus is speechless before Herod, except to affirm that He is King of the Jews. Herod sends Him back to Pilate. Pilate is unable to convince the crowds of Jesus' innocence and orders Jesus to be put to death. Some sources state that it was Roman law that a criminal that was to be crucified had to be flogged first.(McDowell) Others believe that Jesus was flogged first by Pilate in the hope of getting Him off with a lighter punishment .(Davis) In spite of his efforts, the Jews allow Barabbas to be released and demand that Jesus be crucified, even crying that ,"His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25) Pilate hands Jesus over to be flogged and crucified.

It is at this point that Jesus suffers a severe physical beating. (Edwards) During a flogging, a victim was tied to a post, leaving his back entirely exposed. The Romans used a whip, called a flagrum or flagellum which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. The number of strikes is not recorded in the gospels. The number of blows in Jewish law was set in Deuteronomy 25:3 at forty, but later reduced to 39 to prevent excessive blows by a counting error. (Holmans). The victim often died from the beating. (39 hits were believed to bring the criminal to "one from death".) Roman law did not put any limits on the number of blows given. (McDowell) During the flogging, the skin was stripped from the back, exposing a bloody mass of muscle and bone ("hamburger " : Metherall). Extreme blood loss occurred from this beating, weakening the victim. perhaps to the point of being unconscious.

ROMAN SOLDIERS MOCK AND BEAT JESUS

Matthew 27:28-30 (The soldiers) stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Jesus was then beaten by the Roman soldiers. In mockery, they dressed Him in what was probably the cloak of a Roman officer, which was colored dark purple or scarlet .(Amplified Bible) He also wore the crown of thorns. Unlike the traditional crown which is depicted by an open ring, the actual crown of thorns may have covered the entire scalp.(Lumpkin) The thorns may have been 1 to 2 inches long. The gospels state that the Roman soldiers continued to beat Jesus on the head. The blows would drive the thorns into the scalp (one of the most vascular areas of the body) and forehead, causing severe bleeding.

THE CROWN OF THORNS AND THE ROBE



Genesis 3:17-18: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field."Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." The significance of the scarlet robe and crown of thorns is to emphasize Jesus' taking the sins of the world upon His body. The Bible describes sin by the color of scarlet (Is 1:18) and that thorns first appeared after the fall, as a sign of the curse. Thus, the articles that He wore are symbols to show that Jesus took on the sins (and the curse) of the world upon Himself. It is not clear that He wore the crown of thorns on the cross. Matthew describes that the Romans removed His clothes after the beating, and that they put His own clothes back on Him. (Matt 27:31)

THE SEVERITY OF THE BEATING

Isaiah 50:6: "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting."
Isaiah 52:14: "..... Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--"

The severity of the beating is not detailed in the gospels. However, in the book of Isaiah, it suggests that the Romans pulled out His beard.(Isaiah 50:8) . It is also mentions that Jesus was beaten so severely that His form did not look like that of "a son of a man" i.e. that of a human being. The literal translation of the verse reads, "So marred from the form of man was His aspect, that His appearance was not as that of a son of a man." People were appalled to look at Him (Isaiah 52:13). His disfigurement may explain why He was not easily recognized in His post resurrection appearances.(Missler) Today, one can visit a site known as the Lithostrotos, traditionally believed to be the floor of the Antonio Fortress.(although recent excavations may cast doubt on this theory (Gonen)) The floor is marked for games once played by the Roman soldiers

From the beating, Jesus walked on a path, now known as the Via Dolorosa or the "way of suffering", to be crucified at Golgotha. The total distance has been estimated at 650 yards. (Edwards). A narrow street of stone, it was probably surrounded by markets in Jesus' time. He was led through the crowded streets carrying the crossbar of the cross(called a patibulum) across His shoulders. The crossbar probably weighed between 80 to 110 pounds. He was surrounded by a guard of Roman soldiers, one of which carried a titulus, a sign which announced His crime of being "the King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. On the way, He was unable to carry the cross. Some theorize that he may have fallen while going down the steps of the Antonio Fortress. A fall with the heavy patibulum on His back may have led to a contusion of the heart, predisposing His heart to rupture on the cross. (Ball) Simon of Cyrene (currently North Africa (Tripoli)), who apparently was affected by these events, was summoned to help.

The present Via Dolorosa was marked in the 16th century as the route over which Christ was led to His crucifixion.(Magi) As is the location of Calvary, the true location of the Via Dolorosa is disputed. Much tradition as to what happened to Jesus is encountered on the Via Dolorosa today. There are 14 stations of 'events' that occurred and 9 churches on the way today. The stations of the cross were established in the 1800's. (Magi) Today, there is one section of the path where one can walk on the stones which were used during Jesus time.

SUFFERING ON THE CROSS



Psalm 22:16-17: Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me."
The crucifixion event is prophesied in several places throughout the Old Testament. One of the most striking is recorded in Isaiah 52:13 ,where it says that , "My servant will act wisely (or prosper) .He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted." In John 3, Jesus talks about His fulfillment of that prophecy when He says, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life." He refers to the events recorded in Numbers 21:6-9. The Lord had sent a plague of fiery serpents on the people of Israel and they bit the people so that many of the people died. After the people confessed their sin to Moses, the Lord for gave them by having a bronze serpent made. Bronze is a symbol for judgment and the serpent is a symbol of the curse. Whoever was bitten by a serpent and then looked at the bronze serpent, was saved from death.. These verses are prophecies that point to the crucifixion, in the Jesus would be (lifted up ) on the cross for the judgment of sin, so that whoever believed in Him should not die (an eternal death), but live an eternal life. II Cor 5 :21 amplifies this point, in that "He (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (the Son) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."(Pink) It is interesting that the sign of Aesculapius which is the symbol of the medical profession today, had its roots from the making of the bronze serpent.(Metherall) Indeed, Jesus is the healer of all! Jesus is led to the place of the skull (Latin Calvary, Aramaic :Golgotha) to be crucified. The actual location of Calvary is also in dispute. At the end of the Via Dolorosa, there is a "T intersection". If one turns left, we go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If one turns to the right, one goes to Gordon's Calvary. The Church of the Holy sepulcher has long been believed to be the traditional site of the crucifixion.

Gordon's Calvary has a possible prophetic reason for being the actual site of the crucifixion .In Genesis 22, Abraham is tested by God to sacrifice Isaac on the top of a mountain. Realizing that he is acting out a prophecy, that "God Himself will provide a Lamb" , Abraham calls the place of the event "Jehovah Jireh", meaning "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." If we take this as a prophetic event of Jesus' death, then Jesus' died on the high ground of Jerusalem. Gordon's Calvary is the highest point of Jerusalem, 777 meters above sea level.(Missler: Map from Israel tour book) Today, at Gordon's Calvary, caves in the rock are situated which give the site the appearance of a skull.

Jesus was then crucified. Crucifixion was a practice that originated with the Persians and was later passed on to the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians. The Romans perfected it as a method of execution which caused maximal pain and suffering over a period of time. Those crucified included slaves, provincials and the lowest types of criminals. Roman citizens, except perhaps for soldiers who deserted, were not subjected to this treatment. (McDowell)

The crucifixion site "was purposely chosen to be outside the city walls because the Law forbade such within the city walls...for sanitary reasons ... the crucified body was sometimes left to rot on the cross and serve as a disgrace, a convincing warning and deterrent to passers by." (Johnson) Sometimes, the subject was eaten while alive and still on the cross by wild beasts. (Lipsius)


The procedure of crucifixion may be summarized as follows. The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm ( roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists .

The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. (Davis) Standing at the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high.(Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. The titulus was hung above the victim's head.

There were several different types of crosses used during crucifixion. In Jesus' time, it was most likely that the cross used was a T shaped (or tau cross,), not the popular Latin, or t shaped cross which is accepted today.(Lumpkin)

PHYSICAL SUFFERING ON THE CROSS

Psalm 22:14-15: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."
Having suffered from the beatings and flogging, Jesus suffered from severe hypovolemia from the loss of blood. The verses above describe His dehydrated state and loss of His strength.


When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints.(Metherall) The arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed end inspiratory position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The victim would only be able to take very shallow breaths.(This may explain why Jesus made very short statements while on the cross). As time passed, the muscles, from the loss of blood, last of oxygen and the fixed position of the body, would undergo severe cramps and spasmodic contractions

ABANDONED BY GOD -- SPIRITUAL DEATH

Matthew 27:46: "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'--which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

With the sin of the world upon Him, Jesus suffered spiritual death (separation from the Father ). Isaiah 59:2 says that sins cause a separation from God, and that He hides His face from you so that He does not hear. The Father must turn away from His Beloved Son on the cross. For the first time, Jesus does not address God as His Father.(Courson)

DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION : SLOW SUFFOCATION

Shallowness of breathing causes small areas of lung collapse.
Decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide causes acidic conditions in the tissues.
Fluid builds up in the lungs. Makes situation in step 2 worse.
Heart is stressed and eventually fails.
The slow process of suffering and resulting death during a crucifixion may be summarized as follows:

"...it appears likely that the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. The chain of events which ultimately led to suffocation are as follows: With the weight of the body being supported by the sedulum, the arms were pulled upward. This caused the intercostal and pectoral muscles to be stretched. Furthermore, movement of these muscles was opposed by the weight of the body. With the muscles of respiration thus stretched, the respiratory bellows became relatively fixed. As dyspnea developed and pain in the wrists and arms increased, the victim was forced to raise the body off the sedulum, thereby transferring the weight of the body to the feet. Respirations became easier, but with the weight of the body being exerted on the feet, pain in the feet and legs mounted. When the pain became unbearable, the victim again slumped down on the sedulum with the weight of the body pulling on the wrists and again stretching the intercostal muscles. Thus, the victim alternated between lifting his body off the sedulum in order to breathe and slumping down on the sedulum to relieve pain in the feet. Eventually , he became exhausted or lapsed into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the sedulum. In this position, with the respiratory muscles essentially paralyzed, the victim suffocated and died. (DePasquale and Burch)

Due to the shallow breathing, the victim's lungs begin to collapse in small areas. causing hypoxia and hypercarbia. A respiratory acidosis, with lack of compensation by the kidneys due to the loss of blood from the numerous beatings, resulted in an increased strain on the heart, which beats faster to compensate. Fluid builds up in the lungs. . Under the stress of hypoxia and acidosis the heart eventually fails. There are several different theories on the actual cause of death. One theory states that there was a filling of the pericardium with fluid, which put a fatal strain on the ability of the heart to pump blood (Lumpkin). Another theory states that Jesus died of cardiac rupture." (Bergsma) The actual cause of Jesus' death, however, "may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia and perhaps acute heart failure."(Edwards) A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have caused the final terminal event. (Johnson, Edwards)

A LAST DRINK OF WINE VINEGAR

John 19:29-30 "A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." When he had received the drink, Jesus said, `It is finished'. "With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

Having suffered severe blood losses from His numerous beatings and thus in a dehydrated state, Jesus, in one of His final statements, said "I thirst." He was offered 2 drinks on the cross. The first, which He refused, was a drugged wine (mixed with myrrh). He chose to face death without a clouded mind. Edersheim writes:

"It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden consciousness" (Mass Sem 2.9; Bemid. R. 10). This charitable office was performed at the cost of, if not by, an association of women in Jerusalem (Sanh. 43a). The draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgotha. But having tasted it....He would not drink it. ....He would meet Death, even in his sternest and fiercest mood, and conquer by submitting to the full....(p.880).

The second drink, which He accepts moments before His death, is described as a wine vinegar. Two points are important to note. The drink was given on the "stalk of a hyssop plant". Remember that these events occurred at the Feast of the Passover. During this feast, (Exod 12:22) hyssop was used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the wooden doorposts of the Jews. It is interesting the end of this hyssop stalk pointed to the blood of the Perfect Lamb which was applied to the wooden cross for the salvation of all mankind. (Barclay) In addition, the wine vinegar is a product of fermentation, which is made from grape juice and yeast. The word literally means "that which is soured" and is related to the Hebrew term for "that which is leavened". (Holmans) Yeast or leaven, is a Biblical symbol of sin. When Jesus took this drink, (i.e. a drink which was "leavened") it is thus symbolic of His taking the sins of the world into His body.

CELEBRATION OF THE OPPOSITION
SPIRITUAL WARFARE


Psalm 22:12-13: "Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me."

While He was on the cross, darkness covered the land (noon to three p.m.). Jesus, in Luke 22:53, associates those who arrested Him with the power of darkness. Where were the evil forces while Jesus was on the cross? The verses above from Psalm 22 seem out of place when first read. There seems to be no mention of "bulls" and "lions" around the cross. The verses, however, have a deeper meaning.(Courson) Bashan was an area to the east of the Jordan River which was famous for its fertility. Cattle were raised there which grew to enormous sizes. The people there worshipped demon spirits (associated with Baal) within the cattle. In 1 Pet 5:8, Satan is described as "a roaring lion...seeking those who he may devour" These verses are thus suggestive of the spiritual activity of Satan and his demons, celebrating as Jesus was suffering on the cross.

JESUS LAID DOWN HIS LIFE

John 10:17-18 "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

>Luke 23:46 "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is stated to be about 2-4 days(Tenney), although there are reported cases where the victims lived for 9 days.(Lipsius) The actual causes of death by crucifixion were multifactorial, one of the most significant would have been the severity of the scourging. (Edwards) Jesus died a quick physical death (Pilate was surprised that He had died so soon.(Mark 15:44)). While many of the physical signs preceding death were present, one possibility is that Jesus did not die by physical factors which ended His ability to live, but that He gave up His life of His own accord. His last statement, "Into your hands I commit my Spirit" seems to show that Jesus' death occurred by giving Himself up. In John 10, He states that only He has the power to lay down His life. He proved His power over death by His resurrection. Truly, God is the one who has power over life and death

DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION:

HASTENED by the breaking of the legs, so that the victim could not push up to take a good breath.

>John 19:32-33: The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

CONFIRMED by a spear thrust into the right side of the heart.



John 19:34: Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. Death in crucifixion was hastened by the breaking of the legs of the victim. This procedure, called crurifracture, prevented the ability of the victim to take in a good breath. Death would quickly occur from suffocation. In Jesus' case, He died quickly and did not have His legs broken. Jesus fulfills one of the prophetic requirements of the Passover Lamb, that not a bone shall be broken.(Exodus 12:46, John 19:36)

To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart. When pierced, a sudden flow of blood and water came Jesus' body . The medical significance of the blood and water has been a matter of debate. One theory states that Jesus died of a massive myocardial infarction, in which the heart ruptured (Bergsma) which may have resulted from His falling while carrying the cross. (Ball) Another theory states that Jesus' heart was surrounded by fluid in the pericardium, which constricted the heart and caused death.(Davis) The physical stresses of crucifixion may have produced a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. (Johnson)

The stated order of "blood and water" may not necessarily indicate the order of appearance, but rather the relative prominence of each fluid. In this case, a spear through the right side of the heart would allow the pleural fluid (fluid built up in the lungs) to escape first, followed by a flow of blood from the wall of the right ventricle.(Edwards) The important fact is that the medical evidence supports that Jesus did die a physical death.

The story, of course, does not end here. The greatest event that separates Jesus from all others is the fact that He rose again and lives today. He intercedes for those who follow Him at the right hand of the Father.(Heb 7:25)

APPEARANCE IN HEAVEN

Revelation 5:6: Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.

In eternity, Jesus will bear the marks of His crucifixion. Rev 5:6 suggests that He appears in heaven with the marks as a Lamb "looking as if it had been slain". We know that when He appeared to Thomas that He bore the scars of the nails and the spear in His side.(John 20:26-28) It is also worth considering reasons as to why He was not immediately recognized after His resurrection. In John 21:12, it is stated that the disciples did "not dare to ask Him His identity, because they knew that it was the Lord." It is possible that His resurrection body still has the marks of His beatings. "The body of His glorification will be the body of His humiliation." (Missler)

Are we ready to meet Him? What have we done with what He has given to us?. Today, He encourages us to consider the cost of the cross and to apply it to our own lives.

FOLLOWING JESUS CHRIST

Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

When He was on earth, Jesus stated that , "If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) As we have seen, in Jesus' time it meant going to your death, giving up and separating yourself from all that you had.......your rights, your friends, your body and blood and even your "god", to follow Him.

We are challenged by the example of Simon of Cyrene. Scripture mentions Him as being the father of Alexander and Rufus.(Mark 15:21) Rufus ("a choice man in the Lord") and Simon's wife were both addressed by Paul in his letter to the Roman church. (Romans 16:13) Here was a man, who indeed carried the cross...and made an impact for Christ in eternity. What commitment are you willing to make to Him now?

The Bible, God's Word (II Timothy 3:16-17), relates how God once had a personal relationship with man. God would talk and relate to man, just as you might relate to your best friend. God created man to give him a meaningful and purposeful life.

Man chose to go his own way by disobeying God. (This applies to all men as in Romans 3:23). This disobedience, called sin, caused a break in the relationship between man and God. If a man casually seeks a relationship with God by his own efforts (religion), he will find nothing, because sin has broken the communication. (Isaiah 59:2)

Christianity is the story of God sacrificing His Son to restore a relationship that was broken. As stated in the above text, Jesus gave up His life to pay for the sins of mankind and taking the punishment for the sin upon Himself. Because He gave His life on the cross, any one who believes in Him will have a restoration of a personal relationship with God. Jesus Himself claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6) and only by the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ can man have a meaningful and purposeful life.(John 10:10)

God desires that all men come to know Him in a personal way. If you have never received Jesus' gift of Himself for your sins , or have any doubts to how you can have a meaningful and purposeful life by the kinowledge of God through Jesus Christ, you can start by praying a simple prayer, such as:

Dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. I confess that I am a sinner before God. I acknowledge that by your death and sacrifice that you have paid the penalty of my sins for me. Please come into my heart and become the Lord of my life.As you gave your life, I give my life to you. I will take up my cross and follow you, not as I will, but to follow Your perfect will for my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

References:

Ball, D. A. "The Crucifixion and Death of a Man Called Jesus". J Miss St Med Assoc 30(3): 77-83, 1989.

Barclay, William. "The Gospel of John Volume 2" Westminister Press, Philadelphia, Pa.,. 1975.

Bergsma, Stuart. "Did Jesus Die of a Broken Heart?". The Calvin Forum, 14:165, 1948.

Bible, Amplified version. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1964.

Bucklin, R.. "The Legal and Medical Aspects of the Trial and Death of Christ". Med Sci Law. 10:14-26, 1970.

Courson, Jon. "Why Psalms 22?" (tape) Firefighters for Christ, Westminister California.

Davis, C.T. "The Crucifixion of Jesus :The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View". Ariz Med 22:183-187, 1965.

DePasquale, N. P. and Burch, G.E. "Death by Crucifixion", Am Heart J 66(3):. 434-435, 1963.

Edersheim, A. "TheLife and Times of Jesus the Messiah". Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Peabody, Massachusetts, 1993.

Edwards, W.D., Gabel, W.J and Hosmer, F.E. "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ." JAMA. 255 (11), pp. 1455-1463, 1986.

Gonen, R. "Biblical Holy Places : an illustrated guide",Palphot Ltd. Israel 1994

Grafenberg, J. S.."Observ.Medic.," Lib.III. p.458.

Holman's Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Publishers, 1991.

Johnson, C.."Medicaland Cardiological Aspects of the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ", Bol Asoc Med P Rico 70 (3) :97-102, 1978.

Kollek, T. and Dowley, T. , "Next Year in Jerusalem", Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1995.

Lipsius, Justus. "De Cruce. Libri tres, ad sacram profanamque historiam utiles. (3rd part Tom III. Opera Omnia. Antwerp, 1614)

Lumpkin,R.."The Physical Suffering of Christ", J Med Assoc Ala 47: 8-10, 1978.

Magi, G. "Israel". Casa Editrice Bonechi, Florence, Italy, 1992.

McDowell, J. "The Resurrection Factor". Campus Crusade for Christ, Nashville, Tenn., 1981.

Metherall, A.. "Christ's Physical Suffering" (Tape) Firefighters for Christ , Westminister, Ca.

Missler, C. "Isaiah 53" (Tape) Firefighters for Christ, Westminister, Ca.

Missler, C. "Israel Tour Book" 1995 Edition.

Pink, A. "The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross", Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1958.

Scott, C.T. "A Case of Haematidrosis", Br Med J .1: 532-533, 1918.

Strong, J. "Strong's Concordance", MacDonald Pub Co., McLean, Va.

Tenney, S.M. "On Death By Crucifixion", Am Heart J .68(2) :286-287, 1964.

Websters Dictionary, Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1974.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Makes a Marriage a Marriage?

Professor Robert George who teaches Jurisprudence at Princeton has laid down one of the better arguments I've heard for traditional marriage.  Agree or disagree, It's worth the read: 
Conjugal View: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.
Revisionist View: Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.
It follows that for two individuals to unite organically, and thus bodily, their bodies must be coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole. That sort of union is impossible in relation to functions such as digestion and circulation, for which the human individual is by nature sufficient. But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction. In coitus, but not in other forms of sexual contact, a man and a woman’s bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. They perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Thus, their bodies become, in a strong sense, one—they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together—in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs, and other organs form a unity: by coordinating for the biological good of the whole. In this case, the whole is made up of the man and woman as a couple, and the biological good of that whole is their reproduction.
Two people of the same sex cannot achieve organic bodily union because they do not share any bodily functions that require a coordination of their bodies.  If they cannot achieve organic bodily union, and yet organic bodily union is required of a comprehensive union which, in turn, is an essential element of a marital relationship, then it follows that the same-sex relationships are not, and can never be a marital relationship.
Read more 



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Their Blood cries Out from the Soil. Pope speaks Forcefully on Human Trafficking

Thank God we now have a leader on the world stage who will speak truth to power about this. Their blood , like Abel's cries out from the soil.

Human Trafficking is a global problem. It is a major assault on the dignity and personhood of many of the poorest and most defenseless people in the world.

Human Trafficking is a meat grinder as Pope Francis put it. A very accurate description.

IT is the forcing of young people of both genders into prostitution. It is using poor people of all ages for pornography. It is the sex tourist trade... It is the drug trade, whereby children are used as mules...forced to swallow condoms full of drugs and sent to destination with a one way ticket, to be cut open and disposed of.
I am referring to street children who are abducted and sold for body parts to wealthy persons who want to jump the queue. I am referring to prisoners in certain country, many locked up for issues of conscience being executed, and their body parts sold to the wealthy.

I am referring to slave labour. Yes slavery is alive an well in the world. People living in apalling conditions, and made to work  for the profit of others.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Counting the Cost: How the Apostles of the Early Church Suffered and Died


Next time you feel hard done by when you are mocked or maligned for your faith, or more to the point, decide not to proclaim Christ out of fear of mockery, remember what happened to the early apostles. Thanks to Fr. Richard Whalen of St Michael the Archangel in Belleville for sending this out to remind us of who we are, and whose we are.

1. Matthew
Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, Killed by a sword wound
2.   Mark
Died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by Horses through the streets until he was dead
3. Luke
Was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous Preaching to the lost
4 John
Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge Basin of boiling oil during a wave
of persecution In Rome . However, he was miraculously delivered from death.
John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Island of Patmos.
He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed
and returned to serve As Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey . He died as an old man, the
only apostle to die peacefully.
5.  Peter
He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross.
According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy
to die In the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
6 James
The leader of the church in Jerusalem , was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast
pinnacle of the Temple  when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.  When they discovered that he
survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club.
* This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.
7.  James the Great
Son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus Called him to a lifetime of ministry.
As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem.
The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial.
Later, the officer Walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he
declared his new faith to the judge and Knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
8.  Bartholomew
Also known as Nathaniel Was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. 
Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.
9.  Andrew
He was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece.  After being whipped severely by seven soldiers
they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was
led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: 'I have long desired and expected this happy hour. 
The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.' He continued to preach to his
tormentors For two days until he expired.
10.  Thomas
Was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent
11.  Jude
Was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
12.  Matthias
The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.
13.  Paul
Was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured
a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had
formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational
Doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
Perhaps this is a reminder to us
That our sufferings here Are indeed minor compared To the intense persecution And cold cruelty
faced by the apostles And disciples during their times For the sake of the Faith. And ye shall be
hated Of all men for my name's sake: But he that endureth to the end shall be   saved. Matthew