The wondrous cross

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Today and tomorrow we stand at the cross, on holy ground. All the fevered activity surrounding the trial is stilled and now we watch, overwhelmed by sadness, gratitude and a quiet joy.

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Bible passage John 19:16b–27

The Crucifixion
16     So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

 19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|sc JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews."

 22Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

 23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

 24"Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it."
      This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
   "They divided my garments among them
      and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

 25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Grace amid evil
Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha and John says ‘There they crucified him...’ Four sparse words that mark the pivotal moment in human history. At the cross the world is reconciled back to God (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Here there is grace enough to absorb the sin of the whole world, for all who will receive it. And gathered at the foot of the cross we see the worst and the best of human reaction. The religious authorities continue to demand more, Pilate’s patience snaps and the soldiers simply grab what they can.

Unity amid sorrow
Then at last we meet some people behaving well! Four women, including Jesus’ mother, and the beloved John, have come to watch the awful scene and to them Jesus speaks the first of the three words from the cross that John records (vs 25–27).

He commits John and Mary to the care of each other. Already the power of the cross to reconcile and unite, to build community and a sense of belonging is taking effect, as John draws the vulnerable Mary into the fellowship of his own home.

How will you watch today? Surely, here our pride, greed and self-pity must be laid down as we open ourselves afresh to love poured out.


‘He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good’ (CF Alexander).

David Bracewell

Deeper Bible study

‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18)

I can hardly bear to read these words. I know that there will be resurrection on Sunday, but the cruelty, the ugliness of these people’s behaviour is almost too much to stomach. Many churches want to pass over these days quickly so that they can get the pain of the crucifixion behind them and get on with joyful celebration. These chapters are here, however, and in fact all of the Gospels devote considerable space to the description of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

However, as I have struggled to live in these events, a new thought has struck me. The irony is thicker than ever. On the face of it we read about a barbarous public execution: physical agony, intensified by cruel mockery; but perhaps I have missed the great irony in these words. I remember that the word ‘glory’ hardly ever appears in the New Testament apart from suffering.

‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him’, Jesus had said to Nicodemus (John 3:14,15), in reference to the snake that Moses made in the wilderness for the people to look at and be cured of their poisonous snake bites. Don’t miss the double entendre here. The words ‘lifted up’ indeed refer to the crucifixion, but they can also mean ‘exalted’. Isaiah had written ‘See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted’ (Isaiah 52:13). Believers read today’s passage and see in the crucified Jesus not only ‘The King of the Jews’ (v 21) but also the one whose suffering was his glory. Let’s stand with John and the three Mary’s and worship the One who said, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice’ (Luke 8:21).

Annabel Robinson

Bible background: Women at the cross

The women’s identity
Commentators are fairly well agreed that the three women mentioned in verse 40 are:

● Mary the Magdalene, so called because she originated from Magdala. Jesus had also released her from demonic activity (Luke 8:2).

● Mary the mother of James the younger (or smallest) and Joses. These two sons seemingly were well known to the readership of this Gospel.

● Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother to the two disciples, James and John (Matthew 27:56). John tells us that she was also the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (John 19:25), thus making the two boys cousins to the Lord.

The women’s ministry
They, among others, were followers of Christ. This broke with all religious and social etiquette.1 Their love for the Master took them beyond man-made regulations.

Luke tells us that they supported the ministry of Jesus from their own means (Luke 8:2,3). Jesus directed a lot of his ministry to the poor, and many of these wealthy women welcomed and supported it.

The women’s courage
The eleven disciples are noticeably absent from the scene of the crucifixion. But the women are in the vicinity.

It seems to have been common practice for family and friends to be surrounding the cross of one who is being executed in this way.2 In the face of the absent men, these women displayed a rare courage.3

The women’s testimony
Much of the details of the crucifixion narrative must have been supplied by these women. They at first hand witnessed his death, his burial and his resurrection. Mary Magdalene, in fact, was the first to see the resurrected Christ (Mark 16:9; John 20:11–18).

1 Craig Keener, The IVP Bible background CommentaryNew Testament, IVP, 1993, p182
2 William Lane, The Gospel of Mark, New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1974, p576
3 William Hendrikson, Mark, New Testament Commentary, Banner of Truth, 1975, p668

Bible in a year

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Judges 7,8

Mark 2

Guardians of Ancora

Have you played the new Bible story App game, Guardians of Ancora? The crucifixion is part of the featured story of 'The Way to the Cross' – why don't you check it out for yourself!

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How deep the father’s love for us
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  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    Like Annabelle in Deeper, I find it hard to watch the events of this week unfold, and to comment. But today it is the women who are on my heart. Surely no one felt His suffering more agonisingly than His mother. As predicted at His birth, a sword passed through her soul that day. Yet they were there. Those brave, loving, resourceful, defiant women put their own pain in second place to be with Him. Surely Mary must have longed to have that cloak. To cover herself in its warmth at night, smell and feel His presence in it, and think of her son. But even this was denied her. My prayer today is for all who must watch treasured loved ones suffer, or have watched and are haunted by the memories of that time. Yes, all of us, but especially for those mothers living with war and terror, bomb blasts and starvation. The love displayed on the cross is enough to cover even this agony, and we pray for strength, comfort, healing and peace. In the Name of the One Who loved even to His last breath. Amen.

  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

    I woke with this song on my heart today. The Winter sevens reflect the desolation of this week. Such love, pure as the whitest snow.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Perhaps the women would not have been perceived as much as a threat than the male disciples by Roman authorities and therefore them being present was less of a risk for them then it would have been for the disciples. Maybe John referring to himself as "the disciple whom he loved"(v 25) was putting himself above other disciples. Maybe / maybe not. Whatever the reality, the power games continue to be played out. The chief priests wanting to scapegoat Jesus even on the cross as a false messiah consistent with them lying about calling him a criminal. Instead with they get from Pilate is a sign calling him the king of the Jews - enforcing Roman domination. Lies, domination and "I'm the king of the castle and you're the dirty rascal" whereas the true king appears to the world to be the scapegoat - the victim of other's arrogance. Yet we know in hindsight and his followers were told that he would raise again, as victor over death. The death that entered into the world by man's sin has been conquered by the saviour's sacrifice. A once for all sacrifice for all sins past present and future. The curtain is torn in the temple where the chief priest could symbolically go into the presence of God in the holy of holy room once a year and God's presence is available to all. Jew/Gentile, slave/free, man/woman. Costly grace, and Jesus doing what he preached that in order to follow him you must give up your own life. In order to have life you must lose it for his sake and if you hold onto your life you will lose it. Remembering his teaching of putting the kingdom first and all being given to you, of delighting in the Lord and he giving you the desires of your heart. Have a blessed Good Friday my Word Live family!

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    The world needed to see how much God loved His creation; He gave us His only Son. The world mistreated Jesus and many people are still cruel and self- seeking; they need to look at the cross on which their Saviour gave up His precious life for each and everyone of us. Thanks be to God for showing us the way to You. May people be saved from destroying themselves and others; may they see the cross and know of Jesus's love for them. Amen.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Angela "cruel and self seeking" - something that is natural and either how we are or are tempted to be all the time. Let's not for get there is no us and them in Christ and we have a shared humanity, something that Christ didn't deny for himself.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    John was the only Gospel writer to give us this account of Jesus’ last ministry to His mother. Even in the face of His own extreme suffering, Jesus thought of His mother and honoured her by making sure that she would be taken care of after His departure.

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    ADAM - please do not persecute me for how I express myself; I am on your side.I rarely understand what you are saying and trust God in His love for us guides our written expression of our thoughts.

  • Ruth Chisholm | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    RACHAEL lovely reflection on the women today and indeed for those grieving today for lost loved ones. I'd never considered Mary wanting Jesus cloak. HELEN thank you for sharing your experiences round the holy land.

  • Jane Hill | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Thank you Rachael for your ever thought provoking comments. My sister is to be baptized in believer's baptism on Easter Sunday. She has come to faith in her sixties and it is a joy to see her enthusiasm. Unfortunately I can' be there due to a blood clot in my leg. My thanks to all who contribute regularly and often pinpoint things I have never noticed. May you all have a blessed Easter. Angela, I agree. Perhaps re-reading what we write before sending would help comprehension. Predictive text is a real bane at times.

  • Derek Forster | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary? By God’s Word at last my sin I learned; Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned, Till my guilty soul imploring turned To Calvary? Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary! Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty At Calvary.

  • Jane Hill | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Does anyone know what sort of garments were worn at the time? I had always thought that there wouldn't have been many to share out.

  • Lynda Spencer | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    "All our pride, all our greed, all our fallenness and shame, and the Lord has laid the punishment on Him." Thank You, Lord Jesus, the Lamb Who was slain.

  • Jane Hill | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    I should take my own advice!! For can' read can't.

  • Dorothy Thompson | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Amen Rachael. Thank you again for beautifully expressing your insights.

  • Lynda Spencer | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    PHILIPPA, some days ago you recommended a book, 'A Little Kosher Seasoning' by Michele Guinness. I just wanted to say thank you! I bought and read the book - found it hard to put down at times! - and have now also bought 'Chosen' which is Michele Guinness' more updated testimony / autobiography. Her experiences and insights have helped me understand so much more about the Jewish people and their faith. I have been thoroughly humbled as I have identified myself with some of the ignorance, and subsequent inappropriate attitudes and responses, of some Gentile Christians to God's precious and chosen people. Wow! Again, thank you so much for pointing me in that direction.

  • Philippa Linton | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Lynda, I am so very happy to know that! Thank you for letting me know. Yes, indeed: many Christians don’t realise that it was the Church which perpetuated so much anti-Semitism. Michele is a warm and winsome writer, and an excellent guide in these matters. Jane Hill – what a great question. I Googled ‘Jewish men’s first century clothing’ and came up with this fantastic post on Ian Paul’s blog, he answers your question very fully: Have any of you read any Lent books? I’ve been reading David Runcorn’s ‘Dust and Glory’, and Amy Boucher Pye’s ‘The Living Cross’, both of them excellent and very challenging. Tonight, on Maundy Thursday, a sobering and powerful night as we remember the final Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples, my church family will be having a simple supper and sharing bread and wine together. This wonderful passage is on my mind: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2: 5-11

  • Valerie Gore | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Racheal, Hearts and minds together. The Easter story. Morning -part 1 was the first of 10 audios on here. (22nd March 2013 ) This is a wonderful series telling the Easter story from Marys view point. It is well worth another listen.

  • Helen Humby | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Thank you Gilvin and Ruth for your encouragement to my comments on Holy land tour. Today we went to the tomb garden, a most beautiful site just a few 100 yards outside the old city walls and would have been on the main Damascus highway. At this site or very near is the place of the skull or golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. The tomb Joseph laid him is there nearby. Here , the very power that raised from the dead is sensed in quiet peaceful reflection. Even the gardener looked spiritual watering the beautiful flowers. Jesus gives us the offer of life giving water today.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    HELEN, I have very much enjoyed your posts from the Holy Land. As we have read the Holy Week accounts, it has added a special something to know one of the WL family is actually there. I, too, am on my travels tomorrow. I'm off to Spain to visit my eldest son, so may be quite for a week. I've downloaded the WL devotions and my prayer book to my phone, where my Bible already lives, just in case the hotel WiFi is patchy.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Let's all remember it was at this time of year Passover that CHRIST died for our sins.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 13 April 2017

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    This has been a wonderful Study today and the comments really have Blessed me as well. RACHAEL, thank you so much for the Beautiful hymn you shared with us. It is absolutely a Blessing, especially for this season. DEREK, "At Calvary" is one of my favorite hymns and I play it frequently on my piano. The words are perfect for this season!!! Your Ministry to WL is a tremendous Blessing!!! HELEN, I know you are having a Blessed experience in the Holy Land. I would really love to make a return visit before the Lord calls me home. I told my husband that on our free day, I want to go to the garden and just sit there for a few hours reflecting on Jesus!!! VALERIE, Thank you for posting the information on the 10 Audios of the Easter story. I am going to try to go back to listen to them. OAKLEY, Praying you have a safe trip to Spain and back to your home and an enjoyable visit with your son!!!. I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments from our WL family. In case I don't make it back here before Sunday, I want to wish everyone a very Blessed Resurrection Day, 2017.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    My dear Angela - persecute you? I clearly wrote that WE can either be or tempted to be self seeking and cruel. That was a generic truth. Perhaps you could consider why you have taken it personally. if you feel convicted by the Holy Spirit than that's a matter between you and God with it being nobody else's business unless you decide to share. I am responsible for what I write and what I shared with that truth was perfectly fine with no sense of not being on "your side" or personal attack. Nobody needs to understand everything but there is always a calling to engage with love. I don't have any hard feelings towards you personally but I do think you have misunderstood and read something into my comment that isn't there and making it appear to be inappropriate when it was not. I am surprised with your reaction. Please have a think about it.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Enjoy your time with your family OAKLEY Happy Easter. RUTH like you I would love to go back to the Holy Land the Gordon's Tomb which will be where HELEN has been is indeed very spiritual, to step inside the tomb and look at the place where it is possible Jesus was laid, near the main highway, today near the bus station reminded me of the Hymn All you that pass by, to Jesus draw nigh:To you is it nothing that Jesus should die? Our ransom and peace, our surety He is: Come, see if there ever was sorrow like His.. ANGELA yes and amen to your comment about cruel people, I have read today of Missiles pointed at USA that could destroy it, we have to pray against power crazed people, nothing is impossible to our God I pray that they will come to know Jesus.

  • Adam Julians | Thursday, 13 April 2017

    Barabara, it is natural when feeling threatened to call others cruel or crazy, mad or bad. But again my point as I made earlier is that this inclination is within all of us. Does God love any of the folks pointing missiles in either direction more than another? I think I made an valid point earlier and an making one now. When I experience responses such as that from Angela and see support for her comment, I feel equal welcoming not being given to a contribution I make. When that happens frequently in church and other Christian envronments it has a cumulative effect of me not feeeling welcome. An implied accusation of persecution is something I take seriously and there is the biblical imperative of not letting something you know you do that is good to be spoken of as evil. When such is spoken it kills creativity and joy. And the joy of the Lord is your strength. I fear that the enemy is active here and I would request that we all be on out guard with the full armour of God.

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 14 April 2017

    I don't feel threatened ADAM I feel sad and distressed for the people who make the threat and those threatened. I realise God loves us all equally and we have to do the same love the sinner and hate the sin. Let's forgive and forget ADAM you make many valid comments .There are occasions when we are rebuked and we have to look at ourselves. If I have said anything to offend you please accept my sorrow for it. We have a loving fellowship on this site and need to take captive every thought. God bless you .

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 14 April 2017

    OAKLEY I pray smooth travelling and a blessed time with your son.

  • Adam Julians | Friday, 14 April 2017

    Barabara - than you for your response I am in principle willing to go along with your encouragement to forgive and forget. I want equally for you and Angela to in principle support any valid truth appropriately expressed in future and not act to suppress that or make inappropriate accusation as what happened in this case with Angela's implication that I had persecuted her and your support for her comment. If you can do this then as far as I am concerned there will be no difficulty. Given the experience today I will be prepared to be more guarded and more ready to put in the full armour of God. Your brother is not your enemy and everyone gets to play with the joy of the Lord!

  • Shirley Eaton | Friday, 14 April 2017

    Sad at the end comments. Initial comments added to my sense of awe and wonder at God,s great love for us and much humbled by Christ,s sacrifice for us. What a Saviour! Easter blessings to you all.

  • Adam Julians | Friday, 14 April 2017

    Shirley, the comments are not sad. What is sad is false accusation, opression of truth and the reality is that all of us are either cruel and self seeking or are tempted to be so. What is cause for happiness is that when God created humanity, he saw it was good. In our true nature therefore we are good and the joy of the Lord is your strength.

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