Is it Advent or Lent?

Advent started yesterday, and the color for Advent is not the white of rejoicing but rather the purple of penance. Christian tradition used to ask us to "fast," not just during Lent, but during Advent as well. Hunger would make us remember the season and pray. Prayer would remind us how much the world needs the coming of Jesus--not just the first coming, but His continuing presence until the second coming also. And the struggle would remind us to take Christmas seriously--it's hard work, preparing to meet our Savior. So, after all, it's not so weird if our Bible study series feels like Lent in Advent. 

And today, having "walked" the Via Dolorosa last week. we enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the final "Stations of the Cross."

(108) At the Foot of the Cross

Th traditional route of the Via Dolorosa goes west from the Lions’ Gate in the Muslim Quarter, to the Old City, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter. The first station is at the monastery complex, traditionally Gabbatha, the Pavement, so Gabbatha to Golgotha. And the 10th through 14th “stations” are inside the church.

1.       Jesus’ garments are divided up: Read Matthew 27:33-36, Mark 15:22-24, Luke 23:34b, John 19:23-24

a.       The body of the victim is stripped before he’s nailed to the cross. Read Psalm 22:18. What does Psalm 22 mean to you?

b.       Did you remember the sour wine at this stage? It has a dehydrating effect, so was meant to make you die faster as well as easing the pain. What does Jesus refusing the wine mean to you?

2.       Jesus nailed to the cross: Read Matthew 27:37-38, Mark 15:25-28, Luke 23:32-33,38, John 19:17-22

a.       Read John 1:1, Genesis 1:3 How important are words?

b.       How important are Pilate’s words?

c.       Read , Isaiah 53:12. How important are Isaiah’s words?

3.       A single “station” covers all the final events of Jesus’ death: Jesus dies on the cross. So, imagine the scene…

a.       The crowds enjoying the spectacle mock Jesus as he dies – do crowds still gather for spectacles?

                                                                                       i.      Read Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32, Luke 23:35-37, Matthew 4:5-7, Psalm 91:11-12, Deuteronomy 6:16 Could Jesus “save himself”? Why doesn’t he?

                                                                                     ii.      Could God save us from whatever problems we face today? Why doesn’t he?

                                                                                   iii.      Do you know anyone who has lost faith due to unanswered prayer? How do you answer them?

b.       Forgiveness for the repentant thief (and for the rest of us): (Did you remember this is only in Luke?)

                                                                                       i.      Read Luke 23:34a,39-43. Could Jesus have “saved” the criminal from the cross?

                                                                                     ii.      What matters more, our prayer requests or God’s answers?

c.       Jesus’ mother: Read John 19:25-27. Remembering Luke 23:28 what might this tell us about the human qualities of Jesus? Or about the human qualities we should emulate?

d.       Jesus’ last words:

                                                                                       i.       Whose “last words” get recorded for posterity? What famous “last words” do you remember?

                                                                                     ii.      Read Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46, John 19:28-30. Which “last words of Jesus” mean the most to you?

                                                                                   iii.      Tradition lists 7 last words (or phrases). Why is 7 a good number? And, before reading on, can you remember seven of them?

1.       Father forgive them (Luke 23:34) Who needs to be forgiven now, and why?

2.       Today you will be with me (Luke 23:43) Who needs to know this now, and why?

3.       Woman behold your son (John 19:26) Do we behold him only as God, or God made man?

4.       My God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1) Do we ever feel forsaken? Does God help? Does Psalm 22 help?

5.       I’m thirsty (John 19:28, Matthew 5:6) What do we thirst for?

6.       It is finished (John 19:30) What is finished?

7.       Father into your hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46) Where is your spirit?

We’ll look at the final two “stations” next week, and the events that followed the crucifixion. For now, perhaps we should end by commending our spirits into the only safe pair of hands.

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