James Ray Johnson – 713 words

He was sitting at the table working on his history homework.  The 10-year-old began to recite the facts to his mom about the renown muttonmen.  She wasn’t a history buff, but even she knew there was something about the muttonmen that just didn’t smell right.   

Muttonmen?  Was this a collective term for shepherds?  Was King David a muttonman?   Or was it an order of monks from the middle ages who swore off beef for Lent.   Maybe they lived on Drury Lane?  (Oh do you know the muttonman, the muttonman, the muttonman?)

She checked his book and found that he had misread the word “minutemen.”  He felt quite sheepish but it could have been worse.  He might have read it as mulletmen – which is an assembly of Billy Ray Cyrus imitators. 

It’s not unusual to misread something.   It happens with the crucifixion of Christ.  Many consider it an accident – not what was intended.  The betrayal, the mock trial, the spineless Pontius Pilate – all sad happenstance that unfortunately resulted in a great man dying in a gruesome way. 

I was rereading the story recently and was fascinated with the details.  “Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)  – Matthew 27:50-53 NET Bible®   

There were three spectacular things that happened the moment Christ died. 

There was a curtain in the temple that kept the people from the presence of God.  It was 30’ by 60’ and as thick as the palm of a hand.  It took 300 priests to hang it.  Yet, the Father reached down from heaven and ripped that massive thing from the top to the bottom.  Because of Christ, there was no more separation.

There was a colossal quake as well.  The Father had used earthquakes in the past and will use them again in the last days to focus the wandering eyes of humanity on what He is doing.  The experts tell us not to run during an earthquake – because – well – the ground is moving.  An earthquake was God’s way of getting people to stop and to think. 

And then there was the mass resurrection.  Tombs were opened and the dead who had believed were raised and then visited Jerusalem before they departed for heaven.  

Think of it!   The family sits down to eat, when grandpa, (who had been dead for 6 months) walks in and takes his place at the table.  He says grace and then says, “pass the hummus.”

There were miracles that also accompanied the resurrection of Christ, but not as many, and certainly not as physically grand and public. 

So why, then, why did the Father bother?  Why the dramatic signs at Christ’s death?  

Maybe because it seemed to most everyone – disciple and disparager alike, that the Father had simply abandoned His Son.  After three years of breathtaking, heaven-empowered miracles – Jesus appeared to have died a helpless pathetic death.

I suspect that the Father agonized in heaven as it happened to His boy. 

But the second Jesus gave up His spirit, the Father sent His spectacular signs as if to say, “Not true what you think.  Jesus has not been abandoned.  He was never helpless and this was certainly not an unfortunate accident, but rather our essential plan all along.  (Acts 2:23)

The old hymn asks, “What can take away my sin?”  The answer “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”   Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.  Christ was compelled by His love for us to go to the cross. 

Easter is coming.  Your spot in the pew is still warm from last year.  But on the way to Sunday, don’t let Good Friday pass without breathing a prayer of thanks for the way in which Christ has loved us. 

Hey, you might even want to attend a Good Friday service at the church of your choice.  And if the preacher asks who sent you.  Tell him “the muttonman!”

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A hymn to brighten your day: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus. Guitar: Jim Johnson