Monday, April 17, 2017

Letter From A Soldier (2012)

Author’s disclaimer – This is a fiction story. I just happen to think about what this soldier might have experienced and wrote a completely fictional story about it. I am not a Bible historian or any other thing like that, just a fiction writer.

Letters From A Soldier
To the followers of the man Jesus,

I am writing this letter in the hopes it will be kept in the upmost confidence. I am certainly under the belief, none of you owe me that respect, and completely understand if you were to turn this letter over to my commanding officer.
With that in mind, I have been under such dire duress since the day the man named Jesus was crucified I am willing to face any consequences to come, if only I may make clear to you what I discovered on that day.

I can still see his eyes.
After his scourging, in which he should have died from. We stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. Then we came up with the idea of making him a crown. It was a crown of thorns and we shoved it into his scalp.

It was my hands that made sure it was on tight.
Through the swollen, cut up skin on his face, our eyes connected and my heart flipped in my chest. I reeled back, away from the mocking and laughing. Never had I seen such eyes. I can only say instead of anger or retaliation there was compassion. I watched unable to enjoy the game any longer. I won’t tire you of the other hideous things done to him.

As we were walking up to Golgotha, for the crucifixions, Jesus could no longer carry his cross. I grabbed someone from the crowd to help him. His back looked like his skin had been shredded by lion’s.
I need to mention, through everything that happened to him, Jesus never cursed at us but remained silent.

When we threw the men down on the crosses, the other two criminals cursed and said vile things. He was silent. As I put the nail to his hand and hammered it in, his body writhed in pain. Before I moved to attach his feet to the cross, through his swollen eyelids I saw something I had never seen before. I fell to my knees by his feet and forced myself to hammer the nail in. My heart pounded in my ears fast and hard, I’d never experienced anything like that before.
I thought and thought about what I saw, and how it bothered me so much, now I know it to be a look of pure innocence.

I won’t further distress you with the details of his horrible death, except to say I normally make a sport out of torturing and jeering, however, as I stood under his cross I couldn’t participate.  
I watched his mother and her friend with one of his followers. Her tears stirred my heart. I’ve never cared or had compassion before.

In saying all of this, I have not reached the most important part of my letter. As I stood guarding his cross, listening to people who passed by blaspheming him, the chief priest and scribes mocking him, Jesus spoke these words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

I am a hard soldier with many responsibilities and no time for feelings or fear. At that moment my entire body went limp with a fear like I had never experienced even in the toughest positions I have found myself in.
I wondered, “Who is this man? No cursing, pure innocent eyes, compassion and now he’s asking someone to forgive us?”

It was a very dark afternoon. Literally. The sky turned dark at noon.
He died. The earth shook, rocks were split, and the veil tore in the temple. I knew now that this man was truly the Son of God.

My body started to shake uncontrollably. What had I done? I had been a part of torturing and crucifying the Son of God.
I expected some disaster to fall upon me.

As of yet, no disaster has happened. I feel though I must confess to you, Jesus is who he professed himself to be, and is the Son of God, King of the Jews.
I have heard that Jesus somehow miraculously came back to life again, like that man Lazarus. Although, rumor has it he was the one to raise Lazarus, however, I have no report of who raised Jesus. I would be in your debt if somehow I could be allowed to talk with him. To apologize for what I have done. I know there isn’t hope for me beyond that but, it would help to ease the continual guilt I have lived with these past few weeks.

Sincerely
Soldier

~~~

To the followers of the man Jesus,
It hasn’t been many days since I sent you my letter. I waited in nervous anticipation for either a response or for someone to come knocking down my door to end my life at my professing Jesus to be the Son of God. I am very appreciative of your quick reply.

The words you have written to me move my heart in yet another way I have never experienced before. I find the hard man I was, slipping away. Since the day He died, a funny tenderness is developing in my heart. No longer do I have the heart of a soldier.
You have said Jesus not only came to save the Jews but, to save the gentiles, of which I am one. You have also said that if I believe in this Jesus, and turn from my sinful ways, I will be saved eternally. Though I die physically, I will not die spiritually but go on to live with him in a place called heaven. Who am I to receive such a gift? I am the one who nailed him to the cross. I am not worthy to receive anything. If only I could apologize.

Soldier

~~~
To the followers of the man Jesus,

I received your reply again a few days ago. Since then I have been wrestling with my very self. Your words are more than any man like me should be allowed to hear.
You speak of prophecies of a messiah to come to save the world. You speak of a babe that was born to a virgin girl many years ago. I remember when a babe was born and the king was threatened. I was young and remember many soldiers were sent to kill any male under the age of two. It amazes me this Jesus survived the massacre.

You speak of Jesus coming to his own and being rejected, yet he does not reject them.
You speak of a gift that Jesus has for me. If I believe.

I wrestle as I do not deserve this, yet you speak that yes, I physically nailed Jesus to the cross, but it wasn’t just me that nailed him to the cross, but the sins of the entire world.
Jesus came to this earth as a child one night and grew into a man and knew no sin. He submitted to the will of the heavenly father and died for the sins of the entire world. If only they would believe in and follow him.

You say, I am not the only guilty one who will not pay the price of my sin. Yet, I must believe.
I confess to you, I believe and wish I could leave my station as a soldier and serve Jesus. The man with no sin who is a gift for me no matter what I have done to him.

I will somehow follow him, all the days of my life.
Soldier

~~~

My dear family,
Many years ago, a child was born in Bethlehem, to a virgin girl named Mary. When she went to deliver her child there was no room for them anywhere. This child was born in a stable. A star shone bright in the sky and shepherds watching their flock that night came and bore witness of this child. Wise men came bearing gifts.

His life was threatened and his parents were directed by God to leave that place. He survived the massacre of many children.
He was raised in the town of Nazareth. When he was older he left his family and walked among his people, speaking messages of love and bringing healing to many.

He told of the only way to the heavenly Father. It was to believe in Him.
He was arrested and tortured and then crucified, though he was a sinless man. I was a part of the torture and mockery and crucifixion. I was a witness to his love and compassion. I never heard him curse, but I did hear him ask his Father to forgive us for we didn’t know what we were doing.

And I didn’t.
He died and then came back to life three days later. He then ascended to heaven. He is going to return some day for those who believe in Him and bring them to his home. 

I didn’t deserve the forgiveness or gift he has given me. Still, as I believe in Him, He is changing me into a new man, a gentle, kind, forgiving, and loving man.
No matter what cost this letter may bring to my life, I needed to let you know the truth. Jesus said the truth will set you free. And I am free indeed. My prayer is for you to believe also.

Lovingly,
Soldier

Happy Easter!



Friday, April 14, 2017

Surely...


Matthew 27: 45 -55

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[d]

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[f] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Mark 15:33-47

The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome.41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

The Burial of Jesus
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

Luke 23:44-56

The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.

54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

John 19:28-42

The Death of Jesus

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[c] 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”[d]

The Burial of Jesus

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby,they laid Jesus there.

                                                                           Photo by Wayne Swanson



Photo of sunset used by permission
Photo of bridge used by permission

www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=Matthew&qs_version=NIV
www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=Mark&qs_version=NIV
www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+23&version=NIV
www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=John&qs_version=NIV

Monday, April 10, 2017

Finding the light through the darkness



       
    Photo by Wayne Swanson

The other day I went for a walk without wearing a coat! Absolutely loved it. Spring weather is on its way.

Despite the fun over the Winter, the season seemed LONG! I am craving Spring more than I have in years.

This winter was colder than it normally is. We probably seem like sissy's in the Pacific Northwest to those who live in areas where it is minus degree weather. We complain about our cold weather when it is 20-30 degrees out and close schools when a snowflake falls. It's damp here, and the cold seems to settle in to a persons bones and stay forever.

Also, it was dark. Mornings were gray. The afternoon light hours seemed very short. The darkness set in very early each day.

Dark chapters in our life can blow out the light in a persons soul. It can lead to depression, loneliness and other negative things.

Life gets scary when the dark settles in for too long.

When there are those long nights of wondering if a loved one is coming home safely. Or watching someone suffer, or dealing with suffering of your own. The time can seem to last forever and sometimes does.

Every one has issues that they have been praying about for years and don't seem to be getting any conclusions. Like hoping for a loved one to be freed from their addiction. Or years of waiting for the call that tells you your missing loved one has been found. It can be a loss of a dream or something you have worked for. Discouragement can be found all over in our lives.

I'm reading the book of John that talks about the crucifixion.

Pilate kept trying to release Jesus, but the High Priests and other followers pushed for Jesus cruxificion.


Jesus arrest and cruxificion happened at night and into the next day. In the Bible it says Jesus knew the ulitmate end and purpose of that night, still I wonder...how long, cold, and dark that night was for the Lord? He is God, but in the flesh, He felt things like we do, although He submitted to everything.

He was alone in the midst of people who wanted to kill Him. They hit him in the face. Pilate called for him to be flogged (What I don't get is Pilate was against Jesus being crucifed then he called for Jesus to be flogged... that makes no sense!!). He would be flogged up to 40 lashes.

To top it off, the soldiers tortured him further by putting a crown of thorns on his head, hitting and spitting in his face and mocking Him.

Dark, lonely, and cold circumstances to the MAX.

I was struck by an awesome truth though...the Bible tells us...Jesus is the LIGHT,  even in that dark time before the cross, on the cross, and afterward when the world went dark.

Jesus is still the LIGHT, although He stood in the midst of darkness, He was beat, He got nailed to the cross, He died, and the worlds darkness broke out. But still His light shined.

The light was not blown out.

When we visited the Oregon coast this last week, we saw a few lighthouses. Those lighthouse stand no matter what kind of storm hits it. The lighthouse shines its light through the dark night to help warn ships of dangerous areas and also to help navigate the ships. 

The ships trust and rely on the lighthouse. 

Darkness has a way of creeping in and seeming as though it is overcoming us. But trusting and looking to Jesus's light no matter how dim WE may think it is will lead us through dangerous waters and navigate our way.
Jesus light is bright. And His light will never stop shining. The story AFTER the cross proves that to be true.

    Photo by Wayne Swanson                                               





 http://gira.cadouarn.pagesperso-orange.fr/english/back_matter/flogging.htm

Photos used by permission by Wayne Swanson (The clock picture is also Wayne Swanson)

Assistant Editor Sarrah Reinhardt