Posted by: beattieblog | March 21, 2008

“Good” Friday and Iraq War

The Mocking of Christ by Titian.       us-soldier-hugs-iraq-child.jpg

Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians like me remember Jesus giving his life over to be beaten, scourged and killed. I’ve been complaining to my wife that I haven’t felt very connected to this Lenten season which comes to a close this resurrection Sunday. The irony is, one main reason I’ve not felt in touch is having to finish up my class at Fuller – a class on Christ and the atonement. Yes, I am that thick sometimes. But one thing I’ve not been able to get away from is a sense of some connection between my studies on Christ suffering for our sins and the suffering around our five year old war in Iraq – in particular, the suffering of the Iraqi people. I’ve been frustrated that when our major media and presidential candidates talk about the cost of the war (4000 US Troops killed and close to one trillion dollars), they almost never mention the death toll of Iraqis – like somehow if we don’t give that number, we don’t actually have to feel badly about it. Opinion Research Business in London puts the death toll at over 1 million (Iraq Body Count says just under 90,000 civilians killed from violence vs. ORB puts the number at 1.2 million). Clearly, either number is horrific. Shane Claiborne went to Iraq in the midst of the invasion and “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad as a part the Iraq Peace Team (this website is worth checking out). I realize not everybody agrees with Shane’s views and politics, but he wrote a very compelling description of a dream he had during this time in Baghdad I wanted to share:

Sometimes it is hard to sleep — so many thoughts. A bomber flew over. I looked up and could see, “U.S. Air Force” on it. I tried to think only of Jesus – the beautiful Lover of Nazareth. The other night I dreamed of Jesus. At first I could only see his back, somehow I knew it was him. His large, strong back was shirtless (and not as fair-skinned as I had once thought!). He was stooped over on all fours as if he were cradling something on the ground. I wondered what it was, so I tried to get a better glance.A little head popped out from beneath his arm, giggling hysterically. Then another squirmed out from the other side. And another. How many were there?! Still kneeling on all fours with his arms spread wide, Jesus frantically tried to keep them gathered beneath him, as if he knew danger was looming. There were hundreds of little faces [Author’s note: Jesus was gigantic, not to scale. I know it’s weird; it’s a dream.] So there was this huge Jesus, sprawled out above all the children. He looked like a kid frantically trying to keep a litter of young puppies from scattering.And then there was a loud crack. Out of nowhere a whip struck Jesus on his back. He yelled in pain. Then again – the skin ripped open. And again. The children began to cry. A few young stragglers ducked safely under Jesus’ chest with the others. As the whip continued to strike him, rocks began to fall from the sky like hailstones – pounding on his back and bouncing off. The children huddled beneath him, sobbing. His body convulsed in agony, but he never loosened his grip on the little ones below. As the rocks kept falling, something else started to drop from the sky. These objects looked similar to the rocks, but when they hit his back they did not bounce off like the rocks had. They sunk into his skin … and then they exploded, tearing huge holes into his back, one after another. His bones became exposed, and soon his body stopped moving. Blood poured off his sides and rained down on the children.STOP! STOP! In the name of God, stop. I could not wake up. The holes continued to tear into his flesh until the body barely resembled anything human. Then, at last, there was silence. Stillness. Slowly, the children began to stir. They crept timidly from beneath the rubble, covered with blood … but alive. And I awoke … sweating, panting, but alive.

From Luke 22:

 The men in charge of Jesus began poking fun at him, slapping him around. They put a blindfold on him and taunted, “Who hit you that time?” They were having a grand time with him.

When it was morning, the religious leaders of the people and the high priests and scholars all got together and brought him before their High Council. They said, “Are you the Messiah?”
He answered, “If I said yes, you wouldn’t believe me. If I asked what you meant by your question, you wouldn’t answer me. So here’s what I have to say: From here on the Son of Man takes his place at God’s right hand, the place of power.”
They all said, “So you admit your claim to be the Son of God?”
“You’re the ones who keep saying it,” he said.
But they had made up their minds, “Why do we need any more evidence? We’ve all heard him as good as say it himself.”
…..
 
As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!’ Then they’ll start calling to the mountains, ‘Fall down on us!’ calling to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?”

Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.
When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”
The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”
Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews.
One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours—a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!” Then he breathed his last.

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2003, S. Lk 23:26-46, 63-71

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