by Terry Magness
Years ago, in preparation for our church's annual Resurrection Week drama depictions, I was asked to paint a four-foot-tall solid iron crucifix found in an abandoned cemetery on church grounds. I spent the week meditating upon the graphically portrayed "body" of our Savior nailed to the cross, which was lying on our kitchen floor, while reading familiar passages of scripture and pondering what the Bible says happened the week leading up to and including our Lord's crucifixion.
As I began carefully applying paint to each perceived bruise, each laceration, each puncture, my soul was carried to a place and time in human history unlike any other.
Jesus, prostrate before his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, travailed so intensely in prayer that blood oozed from his pores and dripped to the ground. Knowing what he was to face, yet He was willing because only He could provide the sinless sacrifice.
Upon rejoining his disciples on Mount Olivet, an incited mob crests the hill to arrest Jesus. The blood-thirsty crowd grabs Him, binds his hands, and marches him first to Annas, and then to Caiaphas⏤his son-in-law and current high priest. Still tied, the ropes rub his wrists raw. Only one disciple, John, remains with him. In the courtyard, one of the two disciples who have not run in fear crouches before the fire; and at this moment, even he denies that he ever knew Him.
An officer, furious with the answer Jesus gives Caiaphas, rears back and slaps His face.
Taking Jesus from Caiaphas' house to Pilate in the Praetorium, they hope for a judgment against Him. Pilate instead determines Jesus has done nothing wrong but has Him whipped to placate the Jews.
The soldiers⏤mocking him⏤plait a crown of acacia that they cram upon his head. The toxic thorns pierce his scalp to the skull; blood runs down his forehead into his eyes. A purple robe is thrown across His beaten bloody shoulders. They hit His head with reeds, spit in His face, beat Him, and rip out His beard with bloody hands, while bowing in mock reverence and jeering, "Hail, King of the Jews."
Afterward, He is presented to Pilate, who in turn presents Him⏤still with crown, robe, and blood⏤to His accusers⏤the chief priests and officers.
"I find no fault in him," Pilate insists.
But they shout, "He has blasphemed God and broken our Mosaic law. He claims he is the Son of God!"
Pilate returns inside and asks Jesus, "Who are you?"
Jesus remains silent.
Pilate snarls, "Don't you know I have the power to crucify you, and I have the power to release you?"
Jesus answers, "You have no power at all over me unless God gives it to you."
Pilate negotiates with the Jews to no avail. They choose instead to release a murderer and to crucify Jesus. Pilate absolves himself of the guilt and allows the crucifixion.
Along the Via Dolorosa⏤the way of the cross⏤the sleepless Lord Jesus⏤beaten, shamed, and bloody⏤carries the weight of our cross upon his shredded back to Golgotha⏤the place of the skull. The people scorn him, wagging their heads with his every tenuous step.
There they impale His hands and feet to the cross. His crimson blood runs down the center beam as they raise Him high upon that cross, then drop it with a thud into the hole between two thieves also being crucified. Pilot orders a sign that reads, "King of the Jews" to be nailed over His head. It is the third hour of the day.
Jesus hangs on that tree of cursing for three long, excruciating hours as endless mocking voices crow below. An eerily thick darkness descends upon and covers the earth.
At the ninth hour, Jesus cries loudly, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"
Below, they think He calls for Elijah. Someone raises a sponged reed with sour wine to drink, but He refuses it.
Jesus cries out once more and dies.
The earth trembles with a mighty earthquake. The tapestry between the people's sanctuary and the Most Holy Place in the temple where the ark of God and His Presence abide rips in two from the top to the bottom.
The centurion at the foot of His cross exclaims, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
With Passover soon approaching at sunset, the centurions work quickly breaking the legs of the thieves and thrusting a sword upward through their sides into their hearts, to insure instant death.
When they come to Him, Jesus is already dead. The centurion thrusts the sword into His side anyway. Out gush blood and water. He has died of a broken heart.
Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried.
On the third day He rises from the dead! He walks, eats, and talks with people, showing them the scars in His hands and His feet. In fact, over five hundred people witness that He is indeed alive before His disciples watch Him ascend to take His place on the heavenly throne at His Father's right hand.
Wow! What powerful words, what an impactful life! As each detail of those scriptures came alive in my heart and in my mind, I experienced such intimacy with Jesus, and gained a keen awareness of what He has done out of His great love for me, and for each of us.
Since then, meditating upon God’s Word has become my daily exercise. May He capture your imagination and enrich your life too, as the days of our Savior’s passion, death, and glorious resurrection approach, and as you ponder and savor every word of His miraculous story for yourself.
*Created originally for Calvary Christian Assembly of God Facebook page video 4-2020
Terry Magness is author, speaker, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Biblically based teaching and discipleship ministry to the nations. Terry is passionate in helping people to know God and the hope, healing, and power He offers for overcoming the challenges to victorious Spirit-filled living through Jesus Christ. As an ordained Assembly of God minister, Terry is called to undergird, encourage, and empower the church and its leaders. Her years in Biblical study, pastoral counseling, and more recently, coaching, have equipped her for this unique role.
Terry enjoys writing, photography, art, and fishing with her husband, Don. They share with joy two adult children, Greg and Valarie, and three beautiful granddaughters.
by Jill St. John
“We’re closed!” is what I wanted to say. At 5:05PM–one hour and five minutes after closing–the church office doorbell rang just as I slung my computer bag over my shoulder to go home. In my head, I was already on the road. In my head, I was already at home, hoping the chicken was sufficiently thawed for the Savory Spiced Chicken recipe I had in store for our family dinner. Both of my kids and my husband would be home to join me around the table; I could hardly wait to hear about an oral Spanish test and progress on an important project. Snapping me back to the present, the doorbell rang again.
Relinquishing my computer bag with a heavy sigh and not a very Jesus-hearted attitude, I went to the door and saw a young woman new to our church family. This precious single mom had recently made a commitment to Jesus, and we had been helping her with all kinds of messy life situations. (I hail from messy life situations and have been eternally blessed by many Godly women alongside me in my journey, so it is truly an honor to come alongside others.) All of that flashed through my mind, along with the realization that this was going to take time and I was weary. My family and the spiced chicken were calling my name. I also sensed God’s prompting and knew that the Spirit would give me strength. As Jesus’ heart warmed mine, I opened the door and said, “Come on in!”
Instead of the agenda I had in mind for the next hour, I knew from the first word and embrace that this was a much-needed time of sharing, showing, and telling of God’s love to my struggling sister in Christ. It was God’s Word coming to life in that moment: So, we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us. (Ephesians 1:6-8a NLT)
In reminding my sister of God’s love and grace for her and of her belonging to Jesus and His family, God showered me with His kindness and grace for me. We need God’s grace straight from His throne. We also need His grace straight from one another through a patient listening ear, gentle words of encouragement, and time sitting together sharing our struggles. This is grace. God’s grace. His grace flowing to us, in us, and through us.
It could go without saying, but I want to go ahead and say it: I need and am so grateful for God’s grace to me. I am so thankful for the grace of others to me. How I need all that grace! How God’s grace is needed in our world, our country, our communities, and our churches. I am humbled when God shows His grace through me. Through the simple interaction that day, God profoundly imparted His kindness and grace. Words of love and grace may not have been on the tip of my tongue and what I wanted to say when the doorbell rang but thank the Lord they are what He wanted to say!
In the words of the late Paul Harvey: And now for the rest of the story…
I am a firm believer in healthy boundaries, and I do not always open the door whatever time of day or night. But I knew that day the Holy Spirit had an appointment for me that was not on my calendar. So instead of Savory Spiced Chicken, which waited another day, our family gathered around the table for a later dinner of “Take 2” (that’s what we call leftovers at our house). The oral Spanish test went better than expected, and the important project was on schedule.
I wish I could report that the young single mom I sat alongside that evening is now more healed and whole-heartedly serving Jesus. That is not the case; however, it is what I pray in faith believing for her. In light of that, I do not wish I had said what I wanted to say: “We’re closed!” I am so grateful for God’s continual invitation to abide in and experience His presence. It is what He says every time: “Come on in!”
Bonus: Savory Spiced Chicken recipe from Jill
3 tsp. ground dried thyme
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. garlic salt
1 ½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional depending upon your spice preference)
2/3 cup (11 Tbsp.) butter, melted
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4-6 chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless/skinless)
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the first 6 (or 7) dry spice ingredients.
Place the chicken breasts onto a sheet pan.
(Line with parchment for easier clean-up.)
Sprinkle the spice combination onto both sides of the chicken.
Whisk lemon juice and mustard into the melted butter.
Pour or brush the butter mixture over the chicken.
Roast the chicken until cooked through.
(bone-in: 60-75 minutes; boneless: 45-60 minutes)
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
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