Nothing, and Everything
The soldiers at the scene of the cross were dividing up the spoils, as was their way. But this time, the pickings were slim. Some small wrappings. A pretty good seamless robe. No money.
Jesus had lost even the clothes on His back, exchanging them for some wood and some nails. He had no home of His own. His only visible means of support had been His network of friends - but now they were mostly scattered or hid. Alone. No power. No last will, nothing to probate. His short burst of fame had now run out. He'd given over the care of His mother to someone else. He had no children -- no legacy, as this culture saw it. And now, He was being stripped even of life itself.
Nothing left but a corpse,
Nothing. The perfect place to start for someone whose task it is to renew everything. The end. Of the beginning.
And what of us, who live our lives in a world stuffed with stuff, putting our treasures in the retirement account of earthly life, some of us with families, some with friends, some with at least 15 minutes of fame? What of our life of blessings and curses, and dreams fulfilled and broken? Why would we want a new beginning?
Because it all comes to the same stony end. And all that's left then is what had been there all along, hidden beneath all the stuff of life. A loving God who is with us and for us. A God who was left with nothing, who went into the tomb, but didn't stay there. Nothing became everything. And we can share in that everything now, while we still live, whatever we might have.
Lord, You are at the end of everything. You are at each new beginning. You are in between, where we are now. You make something worthwhile out of nothing. Help us be part of the Kingdom for which You have set us apart. Amen.
Varus's Crucifixions in Galilee
One of the contexts for envisioning Roman crucifixion (and Jesus' cross) was what was done by the Roman general Varus in 4 BC. According to the historian Josephus (a Jew who supported Rome), Varus put down a Galilean revolt against Rome and Herod, and then crucified between 800 and 2000 rebels, on crosses lining the main road to Herod's city of Sepphoris. Jesus was not yet born or was a baby at the time, but he grew up in Nazareth, only 4 miles or so away from Sepphoris. Most Galileans heard of or personally knew someone who Varus crucified; it would be surprising if Joseph and Mary did not. They all had to have seen the crucified bodies; the crosses were on a major road, and were put there entirely for the purpose of being seen by one and all, so Galilee would fear the Romans too much to revolt again. There can be little doubt that this horror was the image of crucifixion that Jesus and His Galilean disciples grew up with. Keep this in mind when you envision Christ on the cross on Good Friday.