Monday, 27 March 2017

The Man of the Shroud

The Shroud of Turin is widely believed to be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth, centuries old, that bears the image of a crucified man. 

The Shroud of Turin is approximately 425cm long and made of linen cloth, with a distinctive herringbone weave.  It has been proven with recent carbon dating that the cloth was from the first century.  The cloth bears the mysterious image of a man who has been scourged and crucified. 

St. John’s Gospel describes the cloth as having been left behind in the tomb at the Resurrection. The impressions and bloodstains, though somewhat shadowy and unclear, reveal incredible detail and clarity when photographed. 

Hundreds of scientific researchers of all faiths and backgrounds have studied the cloth, using a variety of analytic tools and methods. Now more than ever, the scientific evidence gained from the cloth itself, confirm the statements recorded in the Gospels - that Jesus was crucified on the cross, died and rose again.

Evidence gathered from the study of the Shroud of Turin provides more information about Jesus' crucifixion than ever before.  Above is an example of how the crown of thorns may have looked.  A crown of thorns made in this style would certainly have caused Jesus extensive pain and humiliation. 

Above, based on the information gathered from the Shroud, is what a lash would have looked like. Jesus was most likely to have been lashed 100 times or more.  The metal ends to the lashes most likely curved around His arms and legs in addition to His back, increasing His pain and suffering.

It was not common for people who were crucified to have their feet and their hands nailed to the crucifix.  The nails pictured above are similar in size and shape to those that were used for Jesus' crucifixion.  In Jesus' case, the nails were driven into the wrists and feet where nerves were located, which would have only added to His suffering.

An artist created a sculpture, converting the images seen in the Shroud into a 3D model. It is fascinating to look upon Jesus in life size form.  I am sure that you will agree, from His expression, He looks peaceful, satisfied even.

Science has proven that the images appeared on the cloth at the moment of resurrection and were created by a momentary, extremely powerful burst of light.  No light source, UV or otherwise, in today's technology and certainly not with the technology available in the first century, could create such an image.  It was created by the power of God as final proof that Jesus rose from the dead.

Confronting us with the evidence of Jesus’ sufferings and death – as well as His Resurrection – the Shroud causes us to consider our answer to the question, “Do I believe that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again?”  And if your answer is yes, is Jesus welcome and living in your heart?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Mountain of Temptation

After being baptised by John the Baptist Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the wilderness, to meditate and fast. The mountain on which Jesus is believed to have spent the 40 days and 40 nights of spiritual contemplation is called the Mount of Temptation.

Jesus ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, He was understandably famished.  The devil tried to tempt Him saying, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live by bread alone."

The devil tried to tempt Him a second time by showing him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  The devil said to Him, “To you, I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me and I give it to anyone I please.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, “It is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve only him."

Then the devil tried to tempt Him a third time and took Jesus to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you, and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him, “It is said, Do not put the Lord your God to the test."  When the devil had finished every test, he departed from Him.

Do you stand firm and pray for strength from God when put to the test?

Church of St. Lazarus

When a person died in Jesus' time, their body was placed in a tomb.  Tombs had two rooms, an outer room often with a bench like space on which the body would be laid and an inner room where niches were located.  

To ensure that a person was actually dead, their body was placed in the outer room for three days.  If the person was actually dead, by the third day the body would smell, confirming the person's death and it was at that point that the body would be moved to the inner room and placed in a niche.

Bethany was the home of the Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  Jesus spent quite a lot of time with their family.  Jesus often stopped at their home and offered His blessings to the family who went to great lengths to help the poor.

Lazarus had been unwell and Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus as they were certain that He would heal Him.  Jesus did travel to their home, but by the time Jesus and His disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  

When Jesus arrived, He said, “Your brother will rise again. I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  

Jesus said, "Take away the stone.  Lazarus, come out!” And he did.  Jesus said,  “Unbind him, and let him go.”  If Jesus was to come on the first, second or third day, people may have scoffed and said that Lazarus' return from the dead was coincidence or luck.  By raising Lazarus on the fourth day, Jesus proves that He can raise people from the dead.

Is your faith alive and well or does it need to be revived?

The Church of the Grandmothers

The Church of St Anne in Jerusalem marks the traditional site of the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and the birthplace of the Virgin Mary.

The New Testament says nothing about the birthplace of Mary. However, an ancient tradition, recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of James which dates from around AD 150, places the house of her parents, Anne and Joachim, close to the Temple area.

The Church of St Anne’s was dedicated to “Mary her birth place” and is also known as the "Church of the Grandmothers."  

The hands of time dim memories, but that matters little if your faith is strong.  Is your faith in the Lord strong?

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Pools of Bethesda

The Pools of Bethesda are a series of reservoirs and medicinal pools in Jerusalem’s Old City, north of the Temple Mount, inside St Stephen’s Gate. In Jesus' time, the gate was called the Sheep Gate because this was where sheep were brought to the Temple for sacrifice.

The pools were a place of healing.  It was believed that angels stirred the water and that the first person in the water after the waters had been stirred would be healed.

A man waited for 38 years for someone to help him to get into the pool.  When Jesus came across the man, He said, "stand up, take up your mat and follow me."  

The healing occurred on the Sabbath and Jesus was on His way to the temple.  The man so pleased to be healed, told of the healing that had occurred.  Instead of celebrating his healing, the men at the temple were more concerned about him working by moving his mat on the Sabbath.

It was this miracle that attracted the attention of the Sanhedrin and they wanted to get rid of this trouble maker who did not follow the law.  Do you ever get bogged down in the details and forget to look at the big picture?

The Stations of the Cross

Today we walked the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem.  With each station is an image of the location as we saw it today.  We will never participate in the Stations of the Cross in our parishes in the same way ever again.

1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death. Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.

2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross. 
Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.

3. Jesus Falls the First Time. Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, 
Jesus falls beneath his cross.

4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother. 
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.

5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross. 
Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus. 
Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.

7. Jesus Falls a Second Time. 
Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.

8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem. Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time. 
Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.

10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments. The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.

11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross. 
Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross. After suffering greatly on the cross, 
Jesus bows his head and dies.

13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross. The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.

14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb. Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.

Will you be participating in the Stations of the Cross this Lent?

The Upper Room

The Last Supper Room is a second-story room in Jerusalem that commemorates the "upper room" in which Jesus shared the Last Supper with His tdisciples. It is located directly above the Tomb of David on Mount Zion.

Jesus asked His disciples to prepare the Passover meal for them.  The disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare the meal.  Jesus asked them to go to Jerusalem and look for a man carrying a water jug - a very unusual site indeed as collecting water was a woman's task.

Jesus knew that He was to be The Last Supper.  It was at this time that Jesus showed the disciples how to serve others by washing their feet.  Jesus told the disciples that one of them gathered there would betray Him.

The Last Supper was also the institution of the First Eucharist and where the disciples were gifted with the ability to speak and understand other languages to provide them with ability to communicate with people from other nations in order to spread the Good News.

During The Lord's Supper, Jesus got His affairs in order.  He was ensuring that the task of evangelisation could continue following His death and ensured that the disciples and us also, are nourished through the Eucharist.  Unlike Jesus, we do not know when we will be called by God to join Him in his heavenly kingdom.  Are your spiritual affairs in order?

The Tomb of Mary

The New Testament says nothing about the death and burial of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but Rami, our guide, explained that there is a strong Christian tradition that places her tomb in a dimly-lit church at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

The church on this sacred site is also known as The Church of the Sleeping place.  It is thought that Jesus appeared to Mary following His resurrection.  Tradition says that she laid down as if to sleep. It is thought that Mary's assumption into heaven was similar to that of Jesus.

It is said that her soul passed immediately and her body was laid on a stone.  Three days later, her body was no longer there. The image above shows Jesus welcoming Mary into heaven as a babe in arms - not an image many of us were familiar with.

As inhabitants of this modern world, we are often looking for proof before we believe.  Are you open to new possibilities from our God of surprises?