Death

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Death

Acts 7:55-8:1

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him.

Stephen would have made a great preacher.

He was willing to serve with his hands and feet, but he was not afraid to stand up and speak his mind when he was given the opportunity. In fact, I think his single greatest characteristic was his courage. He was also a foreigner. I think that gave him a huge advantage over the twelve apostles, who all hailed from Galilee and had much more distinguished Jewish roots. They were battling over 500 years of captivity and the political theology (yes, it is a thing) that plagued their worlds. For them, you could not talk about how God could be good and powerful without questioning why Rome still ruled Jerusalem. For Stephen, who grew up in the Roman culture, perhaps in a Roman family though, he did not see the problem.

So when he confronted the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, trying to speak truth into their lives on their home turf, they would not stand for it. He, a tainted foreigner could never understand what they had been tackling for generations. He, an undereducated, Greek-speaking servant could never teach them. He was as bad as the carpenter that they had crucified just a few weeks earlier. This time, they did not have to deal with the politics of Passover and winning the crowds over. This time, they had the upper hand… and they lifted up and heaved stones at him until he was dead.

Instead of keeping Stephen safe to teach a new generation of disciples (and possibly due to Stephen’s own rash nature) God took him home after that first sermon. Perhaps It was so good, there was no act to follow it. But something happened that day that was more important than a sermon and more important than Stephen himself. Luke tells us that there, in the midst of those angry Jewish scholars and leaders, a certain man named Saul was watching over the proceedings. Saul was also a passionate man who had been taught and groomed from a young age to become the next president of the Jewish Sanhedrin. (That is like the Jewish Pope, so to speak). Paul would have been excellent at it as well. He was well versed in the Jewish scriptures, but he also had a bit of Greek background himself. He probably stood the best chance of anyone at bringing peace to the Middle East in the constant battle between the Jews and Rome because he could stand in both worlds and speak both languages. Luke tries so much to tell us this in the Book. of Acts and sometimes we westerners miss the crucial fact of Saul /Paul’s identity.

This Saul, would have an encounter with Jesus just a few days later that would change the history of the world as we know it, and Luke shows us that this occurred in part because of Stephen. It was not his words, or presentation. In fact, there was nothing about Stephen’s last act that inspired Paul enough to even try to save his life. It was his death, in fact, the way he died, that I think left the biggest impression on Saul. He was a man who understood conflict, and one who would not have been surprised to face execution by the Romans himself if things got out of hand. He saw his job in part was to prevent things from escalating that far. But looking into the eyes of this dying man Stephen, Saul saw none of the fear he faced himself. Instead he heard these words:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

No anger, no bitterness, not even a cry for relief. Instead, he saw compassion for Stephen’s enemies… for Saul himself.

We all face enemies. We all will face death. Every single one of us. How we do so may be the greatest act of leadership of our entire lives. Long after our words are gone. Long after our friends and family have moved on to new relationships and routines, those who were with us at the end will remember how we faced the moment we lost everything and showed our true colors.

Years later, Saul would follow Stephen, leaving his potential for bringing peace to the Middle East for a crazy mission of bringing Jesus to the rest of the world. He left the one place he fit in the most, to go where he never fit in, where politicians would pass him around like a hot potato, until he would speak before the emperor of the Roman Empire itself about the saving and life transforming grace of Jesus Christ. There, as Paul stood before one whom the early church would deem an anti-Christ figure, I can’t help but believe that he saw those compassionate eyes of Stephen again as the executioner walked toward him.

How do you face adversity in your life?

What, if anything, do you think would take away your fear of death?

What can we do today to prepare ourselves for facing our enemies and facing our own death?

It is Finished!

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It is Finished!

John 18:1-111

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

John 18:12-14

Jesus before the High Priest

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

John 18:15-182

Peter Denies Jesus

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

John 18:19-24

The High Priest Questions Jesus

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:25-27

Peter Denies Jesus Again

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

John 18:28-383

Jesus before Pilate

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” “

John 18:39-19:424

Jesus Sentenced to Death

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

John 19:16-305

The Crucifixion of Jesus

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves,

and for my clothing they cast lots.”

And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:31-37

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

John 19:38-426

The Burial of Jesus

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

If you were there during the crufixion of Jesus, where do you think you would be and what role would you have played?

What feelings does this stir up in you?

Where do you most strongly sense God’s love in this event?


  1. (Mt 26:47–56; Mk 14:43–52; Lk 22:47–53)
  2. (Mt 26:69–75; Mk 14:66–72; Lk 22:54–62)
  3. (Mt 27:1–2, 11–14; Mk 15:1–5; Lk 23:1–5)
  4. (Mt 27:15–31; Mk 15:6–20; Lk 23:13–25)
  5. (Mt 27:32–56; Mk 15:21–41; Lk 23:26–49)
  6. (Mt 27:57–61; Mk 15:42–47; Lk 23:50–56)

A Clouded Brilliance

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A Clouded Brilliance

John 12:20-36

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”1

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The greatest wisdom of God looks like foolishness to those of us with worldly eyes.

Life coming from death is a paradox – not logical, and more importantly not convenient. There must be an easier way.

The greatest glory of God came from His love. It was not His wrath and judgment that show His true power. It is not even His power of creation. God’s ultimate glory is displayed when He became human and allowed Himself to be killed on a cross, all to show us how much He loved us. It is a kind of brilliance that can only be seen in the darkness. It is a love that can get lost in the light, but nothing shines brighter in the clouds of suffering.

There is a cross and a glory prepared for us as well. It is not something to be feared. We are made to embrace it.

Where do you most clearly see the love of God in the stories around the death of Jesus?

What part of those stories do you most identify with yourself?

How can you shine for Jesus today in your own cloudy world?


  1. (Cp Isa 29:14)

The Threat of Life

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The Threat of Life

John 12:1-111

Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The Plot to Kill Lazarus

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

I’m not big on perfume or cologne. I went through that middle school phase where we all wore too much cologne all the time, but ever since then, I’ve not cared for it much. It makes me wonder, why Jesus just sat there and let Mary put a whole pound of perfume on him. Apparently, so did everyone else. Judas went so far as to complain about it. I find it unusual that he complained about the money that could have been saved, but no one complained about the smell.

I believe I recall Dr. Ben Witherington teaching that this perfume may have had the special purpose of anointing the bodies of the dead during the funeral preparations. This might be the kind of thing the women were taking to Jesus’ body on Easter morning. Why then, did Mary have it at the point? Was she one of the few who honestly believed that Jesus was heading to His death, and if so, why was she putting it on Him so early? Dr. Witherington suggested that this may have originally been bought for her brother Lazarus who did indeed die, and whose body had begun to stink 4 days into his burial. Judas was right in that it probably cost Mary and Martha quite a bit of money to purchase, which makes me think it was something they had saved up while Lazarus was sick, or that they had saved and sold as a final act of love for him. The gospel accounts do not tell us for sure, but if we take it to mean that this perfume was meant for Lazarus, who was then raised from the dead, Lazarus did not need it anymore and by bringing him back from death, Jesus had, in a strange way, earned that burial perfume for Himself.

The second passage here speaks to the growing concern about Jesus gaining popularity with the people – particularly because of the resurrection of Lazarus. Many had seen him dead and witnessed that resurrection, so it could not be easily denied. Both of these two accounts deal with the threat that new life brought to the people around Jesus.

What do I mean by threat of new life? We all have a script for life that says something like: you are born, stuff happens, then you die.

The most important thing you can do is stretch out the “stuff happens” part as long as you can… preferably with good things. But what if that script is wrong? What if Jesus showed that for some people, their script read: you are born, stuff happens, then you die, then you come back… and life goes on forever after that?

If you knew that you would be raised into a body that would not get sick and hurt ever again, but you would have to have your heart stopped for a few days to get it, would you do it? I think many people would. I think there would be a long line of people who would trade away self-preservation for the chance at a life without pain. New life.

If this were offered, the medical industry would go out of business. Economies would crash. People would quit caring about things like they do now. Some of us might just become self-absorbed slobs who quit caring about work, food, anything… why rush? We only have forever. But I think there might be others who would make it there purpose to make sure every person would have the chance to experience this as well. World peace and an end to suffering all over. The very existence of these kind of people could topple governments and would be a threat to anyone in power. It would be a messy blessing.

Death is really less of a threat than life eternal because we know we all face death anyway. Death is not a punishment, it is a normal part of our script. Life, however, is much more uncertain… and uncertain can be scary.

How do you hope to experience the new life found in Jesus?

What part of that new life do you hope to experience today?


  1. (Mt 26:6–13; Mk 14:3–9)

All Hallows Eve

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I found my last bed

in the place of the first

lesser my heartbeat

greater my thirst

only my pain can realize

        the silent fear

        that lingers here

among a dozen wetted eyes

and hearts doubled over

to see yellow skin

my last fleshly covering

a sad soul within

whose mate in tears resides beside

        my rock and love

        my precious dove

in whom I hope my fate abides

yet she refers me

toward other things

with halos of light

and feathery wings

but I cannot see the light from here

        with eyes gone grey

        fading away

and filled with cold and bitter tears

for fear and regret

all these chains that I’ve earned

in those toiling days

whose dreams I burned

with tunnel vision and selfish pride

        my fate I chose

        the thorny rose

whose beauty at last has bled me dry

leaving naught but a shell

that cannot receive

a blessing that’s blocked

by anger and grief

but I may have one final gift

        my heart to give

        to one who lives

long after this soul passes through the rift

may he love her with care

for better, for worse

and learn from my death

lest he fall to the curse

that still lingers here within the air

        with brutal eyes

        on new love lies

and fixes them with unmerciful stare

so my final act

will not be a cry

for mercy or peace

I simply will die

an example to a foolish world

        to which I belong

        a son of its song

        its promises lies

        when everyone dies

but lives like their lives cannot be unfurled

so breathe like it matters

live without regret

and love while you live

and never forget.

Blank Verse for Autumn’s End

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The window pales murky in the fog

covered morning as summer falls away

and chases dreams of life and light and dance

and warm embrace

when chance is spent for good

and feeling leaves withdraw, detach, and fall

to their subsequent slumber in the earth –

I know not where

the morning glories bow

their sightless eyes to depths unfathomed

the clock cooing in the distance again

disturbs my rest

upon an angel’s lap

my body purrs, awaiting patient’s pull

on tail ticked left bereft of rhyme or right

this autumn night

fading into the blue

gray haze of winter’s ice-cold grip of sleep

less pain and shaking fever flowered dreams

beneath me lies

receding warmth and life

outpoured in shudders gently held within

and trickling down through softly shaking hands

upon my neck

a gentle gaze is fixed

and founded in the face of saving love

that spared me from a mother smothering

my infant breaths

in faint and feeble steam

my gaze away peers through the glassy shield

which shelters me from feeling harsher change

as winter falls.

The Herald

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She sought solace, wrapped in soft,

thick clouds, from a dark, cold world.

Le Nuage d’Aurore gazes back

to the land where love and fear intersect

and mix in awesome dissonance

and beauty enough to stop the train

of Titan’s gait. He gives pause to wait

for another sight of her peaking billows

creeping over the cup of darkness below

like too much milk in a pitcher too small,

threatening to overflow and spill upon

a famished land. They cry with hand

held high toward heaven’s dove

who refuses to turn her back

on a world in which she cannot stand

to stay. Yet soon will come the day

persistence paid in scarlet streaks

she yet again will light the skies

and herald the Sun in fevered gleam

and mark the heavens

and feed His fish –

His dying wish.