June 2nd, 2003. I was 10 days away from my due date with my first child, and it was my last official day at work. It was also 90-plus degrees outside, and I have a very nasty habit of not drinking enough water, even on the mildest of days. My mom was due to arrive in town that evening, and she was only staying about 10 days. Late in the day I started to feel uncomfortable, and soon the contractions seemed to be starting to become more regular. We went to the hospital, sending a friend to fetch my mom from the airport and meet us there. They hooked me up to all the machines, checked me out, and said the contractions weren’t strong enough, and I was not dilating, so I was probably just dehydrated. They gave me fluids and something to help me sleep, and I stayed there for 8 hours. In the morning, they sent me home with another dose of the medication to help me sleep, and said to hang in there. Not yet.
So, home I went, and for the next THREE days, I was having contractions, and being dragged out shopping by my mother who wanted to “get this show on the road”! On June 6th, at about 1 in the afternoon, my contractions were getting worse, needing some extra breathing, and much closer together. So, off to the hospital we went again, but this time they let me stay. They hooked me up, thankfully gave me my epidural, and waited. And waited. And waited. They gave me pitocin, and waited. I had dilated to 5 cm, and stalled. I stayed at 5 for almost 2 hours. My lovely doctor came in and said, “Well, not yet. But, I am going to go home and get some dinner, and we will see what’s up when I come back.” Unbeknownst to me, my husband followed her out into the hall and asked her what to expect. She said that if I hadn’t progressed by the time she got back, we would be heading for a C-section, but not yet.
About 10 minutes later, the wonderful nurse noticed that they had not put a catheter in, and for the last 5-6 hours they had been pumping me with fluids, but because of the epidural I was not getting up to empty the tank. She put one in, and boy was I full! Amazingly, within 30 minutes of that draining, I progressed from 5 to 10 cm, and was ready to push. We interrupted the doctor’s dinner, “Now! It’s time!” Three big pushes and my son was here!
This week during our morning devotions, the kids and I have been reading Exodus 5 and 6. Moses heads to Egypt after talking to God through a burning bush (pretty miraculous and faith-building don’t you think!). He and Aaron demonstrate their signs and say the words God has given them to the people of Israel. They are overjoyed, and praise and worship because deliverance is at hand. Imagine being Moses and Aaron. You’d be pretty jazzed, right? Moses swore they would not listen to him, and hey! – They did! It worked. Nothing is going to stop us now. Let’s go get our exit papers!
Only, Pharaoh doesn’t really get on board. In fact, he accuses the Israelites of being lazy, and having too much time on their hands, so he is going to make them work even harder by no longer delivering straw to them for making bricks. They will now have to go gather their own straw every day, AND they will still be required to make the same number of bricks! The people become discouraged. They were excited the time had come, only to find out not yet. They did not handle it well. They complained about Moses, saying he made it worse. Moses went to God and asked why he even sent him in the first place. God’s answer? Watch what happens now.
I was also reminded of our study last year. Samuel anointed David as king. But, David did not take the throne for many more years. With each battle, with each confrontation with Saul, David himself would say not yet, not yet.
I keep getting glimpses of this kind of waiting throughout the gospel of John, all the times when Jesus tells his disciples “My hour has not come”. Well, last week he said it. Now. Get ready. Here we go. And this week, he went. Boldly. Without hesitation.
Watch what happens now.
I have recognized this year that I am very hard on Peter. I think it’s because in many ways I am like him. We are both dramatic, passionate, and wanting to think the best of ourselves and our dedication to Jesus. We want to go as soon as we are called, we want to be with him wherever he goes, and we want to serve him with all that we have. The problem is we miss the point sometimes. The unfortunate thing for Peter is his failures are immortalized in God’s very scripture. This week, I wanted to judge him. I wanted to compare him to the disciple that we assume is john, seeing how their reactions to Jesus’ arrest were different. But I can’t. I can’t judge him; because how do I know I wouldn’t have done the same? He did not have the benefit of 2000 years’ hindsight to see what was actually happening. He did not have the understanding yet of WHY Jesus needed to be handed over.
This morning I want to shed some extra light on the reasons Christ’s death needed to happen this way. There are three reasons it was necessary for Jesus to be judged and crucified by the Romans, at the request of the Jews.
First, it was necessary to fulfill prophecies. John himself said in verse 32 that this was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. At this time, the Jews did not seem to have the right to legally kill anyone unless it was for religious reasons, and under Roman rule that was rarely authorized because the Romans didn’t care about internal issues like this. If they had been able to kill him, the usual way the Jews would carry out the death sentence would be with stoning. But, look in Exodus 12:46:
These are the instructions for the treatment of the lamb for the first Passover.
It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you SHALL NOT BREAK ANY OF ITS BONES.
Later in Numbers, chapter 9, verse 12, again they are commanded to not break any of the lamb’s bones that they would sacrifice for the Passover.
And again, in Psalm 34:20 it says:
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
The promised Messiah would die without having one of his bones broken. If the Jews had been able to kill him in their regular manner, this would not have been fulfilled.
Second, some commentaries claim the need for both the Jews and the Gentiles to share the guilt of His judgment and death. In Psalm 2:1-2 it says that the gentiles rage, the peoples (understood to be the peoples of Israel) plot in vain, the kings of the earth set themselves (Herod), and the rules were gathered together (Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate) against the Lord and his Anointed.
Third, Jesus had to die via crucifixion, which would never be done by the Jews. Crucifixion was considered horrific by the Jews. It was considered the same as hanging, which in Deuteronomy chapter 21 is said to show the hanged person is cursed by God. This death was pointed to in Numbers chapter 21. This is the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert, and they started complaining again. And not just complaining about Moses, but they spoke against God. So the Lord sent fiery serpents among them, and they bit them so that many of them died. When Moses prayed for them, the Lord told him to make a serpent and set it on a pole. Everyone who is bitten and looks up at the serpent on the pole would live.
We were meant to see Christ here. The sacrifice, lifted up for all to see, would save those who looked to him.
These are just a few of the things behind what we read this week. There is so much irony here this week! From John reminding us that Caiaphas had said it is better for one man to die for the good of all, to the very meaning of Barabbas’ name!
Before I go, I want to leave you with one thing. Turn with me to Mark chapter 16. I know we are going to get to this part of the story in the next few weeks, but there is something a little different in Mark’s gospel that I love. Remember, Peter has failed. He has denied his Lord three times, just as Jesus said he would. How heavy that must be weighing on him! As exhilarating as the high moments are for Peter, imaging how low the lowest moments can be! He is a full-spectrum kind of guy! But look here:
Starting in verse 3:
And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.
Tell his disciples, and PETER! How great is our God that when we fail, he seeks to encourage us that we are forgiven. He knows just what we need, when we need it, and how we need it! All the disciples were probably wondering what the heck was going on, but Peter, the dramatic one, probably took Jesus’ death even harder on the back of his failure. And God wanted him to specifically be told, come. You are mine, and I still want you. You are forgiven. Come back into the fold. How comforting is that? When I fail as a mom, as a wife, as a teacher, as a friend, as a daughter of the king, He says” you are forgiven. Come closer. Trust me.” I don’t have to rest in my failure, because I can rest in his arms instead.