The Highest Heaven

Image by WILLGARD from Pixabay

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

The reading in Luke takes us to the cross where Jesus suffered through hours of torture. The torture had begun before daybreak when he was given 39 lashes with a whip-like the cat-o-nine-tails, only with more tails and metal weights tied to each end. It is unlikely that he had any skin left on his back. It was the blood loss from that beating that caused him to die so quickly.

Whether your arms are tied or nailed to the crossbar, letting all your weight hang on your arms puts too much pressure on your chest. Your lungs have a hard time sucking in enough air and fluids accumulate around your heart, preventing it from working very well. What you must do is stand on your feet as much as possible to relieve the pressure. We have records of men surviving for weeks that way.

In the instance of Jesus’ crucifixion, he was too weak from blood loss to stand for long, so he died quickly. The two thieves had their legs broken so that they would die before sundown to avoid upsetting the Jewish Shabbat.

But the torture is not really the point of Jesus’ crucifixion. Look at who Jesus claimed to be. In Matthew 26:63-64, the High Priest asked him point blank: “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ESV Jesus always stated that he was the Son of Man (which in the First Century was a common name for the Messiah) and he did not refuse the title of Son of God, as in this instance. What seems clear to me is that Jesus says, “You have said I am the Son of God and I do not disagree.”

What he does not add is what must happen between the meeting with the High Priest and the time when Jesus will be seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. Jesus must not only meet the Angel of Death face to face but defeat him. He must then take on the Father of Lies, Lucifer, the Devil, Satan, the fallen Angel whose real name only God remembers. He must defeat that powerful Angel and open the gates of Hell.

Frankly, we neither know nor understand what is means to be the Son of God. Paul gives us some clues in the letter reading for today.

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the crossPhillips

This Word, this essence of the Living God, this non-human who became human, this Man above all men both created us and redeemed us. We know only of the few hours of suffering at the crucifixion, we cannot know the suffering the Messiah experiences beyond that.

In the passage in Luke, we see the exchange between Jesus and the two thieves. I like this paraphrase by Clarence Jordan. 39. One of the criminals hanging beside him railed at him, “Hey, you, ain’t you the Leader? Save yourself and us.” But the other one rebuked him. He said, “Ain’t you got no fear of God, seeing as how you’re accused of the same thing he is? And we had it comin’ to us, and got just what we deserved for what we done. But him, he ain’t broke no law.” And he said, “Please, Jesus, remember me when you git your Movement goin’.” He said to him, “I tell you straight, today you’ll be with me in highest Heaven.”

The Word of God will take us to the highest Heaven.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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