Monday, March 8, 2010

To be or not to be...

Ok, this is big. This morning I had one of those "Aha!" moments that threatened to rattle the cage of my faith. I'll just cut right to it since it threw me back so much. The gospel writers do not say that Jesus was nailed to the cross. There, I said it.

Now, before you start throwing things or calling the Bishop, let me explain. It's simply not there. It started this morning with Mark 15, which was the gospel text for today in the devotion track that I'm on. I had read this chapter from Mark dozens of times, but this time something caught my attention that I hadn't noticed before. Mark says, "And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh but he did not take it. And they crucified him." That's it. That's all it says.

So, I ran into my office, grabbed my bible (I get my devotions online) and jumped to Matthew. Not there either. Not in Luke, and not in John. This is huge! The only connection I have found this morning with Jesus being nailed to the cross, at least in the gospels, is in John where he tells Thomas to "Put your finger here; see my hands." Thomas had said that he would not believe Jesus had been resurrected until he saw the nail marks in his hands and put his finger where the nails were.

Now, the historian in me knows that the Romans used two methods for securing criminals to a crucifixion device, be it a pole or a cross: they would either tie them or nail them. Since Jesus himself mentions the nail marks in his hands I have no doubt that he was nailed. What threw me this morning was the fact that I had read something into the gospels that is not there. If I have done that with the nails, what else have I added or taken away?

And that is why I have started looking deeper into the stories we have in scriptures, and I admit that it's seminary's fault. Before I was forced to study, I never questioned. I just accepted. But as I was forced (and forced is a good description) deeper into the texts, I started seeing things that I had not seen before and it made me wonder what else I was missing.

This was actually not as big as I made it out to be. Well, ok, yes it was. It could have completely re-written the account of the crucifixion for me had I let it. But, the greater truth is this: sometimes it is very easy for us to read something into, or out of, scripture without stopping to see if it's really there. It's not nearly as messy if we don't think about it too much. I would encourage you, however, to get messy. Dig deep into the words on the page and the meaning behind them. Struggle with them, fight with them if you must, but allow that struggle to bring you closer to the One written about in the stories.

So, don't sweat those moments where you run across something that threatens to blow your faith smooth out of the water. Sit down, look at it again. Back up and look at what was written before, and then look at what was written after. Allow the words to soak in and then look for the truths written in them. Uncomfortable? At times. Worth it? Always.


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