Thoughts on Holy Week

“It is finished,” said the broken, bruised and battered man; struggling to lift his bloodied body holyweekfor quick gasps of air. Then He died. The horrible result of Roman crucifixion had claimed another victim. But this was no ordinary victim; this was “Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). This, of course, was (and still is) Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

He had entered Jerusalem with celebration, the laying down of palm branches and the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). Not even a week later, the same people were crying out, “Away with Him! Crucify Him” (John 19:15).  

Fickle lot, we humans.

Hopefully you know the story, but even if you don’t, after three days and nights in the tomb, Jesus, much to the astonishment of not just humanity but the satanic realm as well, rose from the dead. Yes, I believe whole-heartedly in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not some sick, psychological fantasy to appease grieving souls; the body was not stolen; nor is it some figure of speech. Jesus was tortured, crucified, buried three days and three nights, and, yes, rose from the dead. This same Jesus, God in the flesh, that entered humanity as an unborn baby in the womb of a young virgin allowed Himself to be mercilessly treated, even to point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

But why?

Simply stated, because of the sin of humanity and the abject rebellion of humanity against God. Only a perfect atoning sacrifice would suffice. Nothing is more perfect than God. Therefore, God entered humanity in an astonishing way and exited His earthly life in an equally astonishing way: by being executed by the humanity He came to save.

Easter Sunday, perhaps more accurately referred to as Resurrection Sunday, is the acknowledgement of this miraculous resurrection event. The world of darkness celebrated the death of Jesus because it felt that this salvation business expressed by Jesus in the famous John 3:16 (and other places as well, of course) was now laid to rest. As the old adage goes, “Dead men tell no tales.” Salvation and hope was now a tale silenced in the dank and dark coldness of a sealed tomb; a sealed tomb under guard by Roman soldiers no less.

But brutal beatings resulting in death, sealed tombs, dank darkness and several feet of solid bedrock could not keep Jesus in the grave. At the right time, He broke loose from the shackles of death. At this very moment, Jesus showed His power over even death. Weather, physical laws and demonic strongholds could not withstand Jesus (Mark chapters 4-6), and now even death was firmly trampled under His feet. He had conquered the grave, proving that even all of hell couldn’t stop Him. He is, was, and will forever be King of kings and Lord of lords, the Captain of our salvation (Revelation 17:14 & Hebrews 2:10.

Eternity Awaits!

And we can partake of His eternal victory by simply expressing faith in Jesus by confessing with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we will be saved (Romans 10:9)! This isn’t just good news, it is great news with eternal results. If you haven’t confessed Jesus yet, I invite you to do so and become a part of His kingdom both now and forever more. If you have confessed Jesus, how will you approach this time known as Holy Week? I ask, because I’m asking myself the same thing: what will I do to draw even closer to Jesus? What will I do to better understand the significance of His sacrifice on my behalf, a broken and sinful man?

I’m not sure yet, but I have some ideas. But what I do know now, is that when I think deeply about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me, I tear up and become speechless. Maybe you do to.

The Atonement in Epic Haiku

Recently I had an assignment in my last theology class that was to be a creative project depicting the atonement. Well, I’m not a painter or sculptor, but I do like to write. So I chose to do what I am referring to as an Epic Haiku.

A Little Haiku History

Originally, what we know as haiku today were once known as hokku. These hokku were 17 syllables long in three lines with the following syllable-per line structure: 5-7-5. The hokku was part of a longer work known as a renga, with the hokku serving “as the most significant part of the renga[1] because it established the setting and season for the remaining work. Then the remaining work progressed through a series of what was in the Heian period (794-1185) known as haiku. The haiku of this era was 31-syllables with the per-line syllable structure of 5-7-5-7-7.

Through the centuries, luminaries such as Matsuo Busho (1644-94), Taniguchi Buson (1715-83) and Kobayashi Issa (1762-1826) morphed the literary art form of renga into what is now commonly referred to as haiku but their poems had the hokku structure. In other words, they were producing short poems in what we know in Western culture as the modern day haiku format. However, it was Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) that actually first described haiku as an “independent three-line poem”[2]; the form that was originally referred to as hokku.

All of this to say that I have been writing our current understanding of haiku for years. I appreciate the art form because a properly constructed haiku can pack quit a punch in only seventeen syllables. One of the aspects I enjoy so much about haiku is the third line is usually a bit of a twist from the two preceding lines. For example, Shuoshi Mizuhara’s Solitude:

Closing gate

alone with the stones

on this beautiful night[3]

While the Japanese syllables do not align with our syllables, the point is the reader is thinking this is going to be sad because a gate is closing and the person is alone with stones. Instead, it ends with a person enjoying the solitude of the moment. In my treatment that follows, I tried to capture that third-line sense with an image that sets up the next stanza or leaves the reader concerned for what is coming next. I have also toyed with formatting in an attempt to direct the eye to either sweeping across the page or to plummeting down into the next stanza.

 

“Epic Haiku”

Another reason I like haiku is that, even though they look short and quick to compose, they can actually take a lot of time in working to capture just the right words in the correct syllable structure that properly captures the artist’s intent. But once complete, a well-constructed haiku can be easily memorized for later recall; not unlike memorizing Scripture.

All of this to say that I have taken a typically short Japanese art form and expanded it into a much longer one. My work is several haiku put together; hence, it is an epic haiku. Also, most haiku are about seasons, human emotions or something from an Eastern religion mind-set. I have taken the haiku, expanded it into an epic format, and turned its application to Jesus and His atonement. My prayer and hope is it brings joy and thankfulness to the reader, but I also hope and pray it brings a smile my Father’s face and honor to Jesus Christ.

[1] Tom Lowenstein, Haiku inspirations: Poems and meditations on nature and beauty. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2006, p. 8.

[2] Ibid., p. 9.

[3] Quoted from Patricia Donegan, Haiku mind: 108 poems to cultivate awareness & open your heart. Boston: Shambhala, 2010, p. 151.

Atonement

The Journey of the Atonement in Epic Haiku

 

In the beginning

all was well in the Garden.

Walking, talking and tilling.

 

The trees were nice there,

especially Knowledge tree!

We could look – not eat.

 

Temptation and lies

enticing to disobey.

“Come quick, let us…….hide!”

 

Our hearts darkening,

serpent slithers silently.

Emptiness inside.

 

Coolness of evening,

Footsteps on the Garden path,

“Come now, where are you?”

 

 Talking, blame, banished;

  It all ended suddenly.

   Flaming swords, closed gate.

 

Heel to head doom,

humanity wandering.

Redeemer coming.

 

Years and years and years.

Temporary sacrifice;

still distant from God.

 

Justice demanded,

necessary sacrifice.

The once and for all.

 

The Word became flesh;

Son of Man sent from Heaven—

dwelling among us.

 

Sinless, righteous power.

Fully God and Fully man

the deliverer.

 

Healing, releasing,

even nature obeys Him.

But…then scorned and scourged.

 

Crucified for sin,

replacing mankind on the cross;

paying debt in full.

 

Breathing His last breath—

then darkness upon the earth.

Had sin, Satan—won?

 

Third day, morning light.

Stone rolled away, men in white,

“Not here, He’s risen!”

 

Then appearing, “Peace.”

The redeeming Messiah.

Savior of the world!

 

Standing in our place,

completely paying the price—

bridging the chasm.

 

Born from above,

God and man reunited—

And…it is finished!