Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 77 & 78: So You Think You Know Goth?

John 19:17-19

New Living Translation (NLT)
By D Sharon Pruitt [CC-BY-2.0] 
17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”


Confession time. I don't know Goth. At least, I'm no expert on the contemporary Goth subculture that exists in America (and many other countries) today. I'm not even going to try to explain what a "true Goth" person is. From what I've read, there are about as many definitions for true Goth as there are Goths to define it. So forgive me while I delve just a tiny bit into the stereotypical Goth. And then indulge me while I teach you some things about the real origin of Goth that you'll probably never even read in history books.

When the average person hears the term "Goth", we think of young people with pale skin, black hair with maybe a shock of pink running through it, black clothes that are often a curious mix of victorian and industrial styles, lots of body piercings, and jewelry adorned with pointy spikes or skulls. Maybe that's not fair, but it is the fashion code that we've come to associate with people who call themselves Goth. 
“Goths don't identify with evil, we mourn the evil in society. The fascination with death is basically a reminder to us of our own mortality. For these reasons, we wear black.”  ~Chris Shaffer
I may not understand the phenomenon, but I do know that the subculture as we know it today arose from the punk rock era, sometime around the mid 1980's. According to, Goths are "free thinkers" who do not accept the moral rules of society or Christianity, but are open minded and willing to listen before rejecting. (I ad-libbed that a little, in case anyone clicks over to the website to see what was actually said.) They may seem scary to those who are more conservative, but typically they aren't dangerous. They may seem fascinated with death, but the average Goth is not interested in their own or anyone else's.

Despite the notion that Goth (as we know it) has only been around for a quarter century or less, one can draw a lot of comparisons to the early Goth era. Historically, "Goth" is a term used to describe cultures and subcultures throughout history. Since the direction I'm going with this is Biblical, I have to admit I didn't research the history a great deal, but I did find a timeline that gives a fairly good, albeit incomplete, overview. According to the timeline, "Goth" entered the scene about 500 years A.D. (or C.E. if you're younger than 25.) Wikipedia, on the other hand, dates Goths back to the first century. It's not the date of origin I'm interested in, though. It's the characteristics.

Goth's were stereotyped by the Roman Empire as dark and dangerous. To be fair, they were warriors, and any warrior that is your opposition is going to be considered lawless and violent. Gothic architecture of Medieval churches during the Renascence were considered  stark and unattractive by Italian standards, with all its pointed arches and gargoyles. Literature with a gothic flare was nearly always written with a background location of Medieval churches or cemeteries, and was characterized as dark and moody. And as literature made its way into the film era, all things horror were attributed to the Gothic style. Any classic movie nut will recognize the names Vincent Price and Bella Lugosi, famous for their work in that genre.

But who would guess that Goth dates back to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? What I'm about to tell you is going to be rather long, but I just can't abbreviate something this important. Besides, the whole story, although one of beauty and redemption, resonates as much with the Goth mindset as with the conservative view of Christianity. Trust me, no matter how well you think you know the story of this event, you probably are going to see it through different eyes after you read this.

This is the story of the last 14 hours of Christ's ministry on earth. It begins in a garden of Gethsemane. When we reveal the definition of the garden's name, it suddenly takes on an ominous tone. Gethsemane means the place of the olive press; It was more commonly referred to as the crushing place.

Jesus had just finished sharing the passover meal with his 12 apostles. These men had followed him from the beginning of His ministry, and He loved them all dearly. Still, He was keenly aware that one of them had left the meal to betray Him, and that His death was imminent. He also know that the rest of His friends were going to be save their own skin in the coming hours by pretending not to know Him. But more than that, He knew exactly what brutality lay ahead for Him, and He wasn't looking forward to it. He was, quite literally, carrying the weight and the sins of the entire world on His shoulders.

As He entered the crushing place, He took three of His disciples with Him to keep watch for those who would be coming to arrest Him. Not far inside, He stopped and told them that His soul was so crushed with grief that He felt like He was already dying. I'm sure we've all felt crushed by sadness to the point of wanting to die before, but His sadness was so deep that it really was nearly killing Him. Scripture says He fell to the ground, crying in anguish and sweating blood!

Mark 14:35-36

New Living Translation (NLT)
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

After a while, He got up and returned to find His friends had drifted off to sleep. Distraught, He woke them up.

“Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?

Jesus went back to where He had been, and again fell to the ground, praying that His Father would find some other way for Him to save the world. He began praying even harder, so hard that the Bible says sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. 

Luke 22:44
He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
That's not just a figure of speech. It was Luke who described it in this manner, and besides being a disciple, Luke was a very well educated physician. He wrote of the blood because it was such a rare medical condition, and how significant it was.

Although this medical condition is relatively rare, according to Dr. Frederick Zugibe (Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York) it is well-known, and there have been many cases of it. The clinical term is “hematohidrosis.” “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form.” Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes “the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands.” As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat. (author Paul S. Taylor of Eden Communications)

So yes, Jesus really did sweat blood. Then He got up, returned to His (again) sleeping friends, and woke them up to be witness to His arrest. He watched as His former friend approached Him. He knew it was coming, but it was still a disappointment. As if turning Him over to a death squad wasn't bad enough, Judas identified Him with a customary kiss to the cheek. What kind of jerk does that?

First they took Jesus to the High Priest, where all the leading priests, elders, and teachers of religious law had gathered. According to the account in Mark 14, the accusations began to fly against Him, but His accusers kept contradicting each other.  Finally, someone shouted the accusation that Jesus had said He would destroy the Temple, and then rebuild another within three days. Jesus had previously said something to that effect, but had been referring to His own death and Resurrection three days later. It didn't matter. The High Priest stood up and asked Him point blank if he was the Messiah, to which Jesus answered "I Am." The Priest then tore his clothing in horror, and declared that they needed no further testimony. At that, He was blindfolded, and the guards started spitting on Him and hitting Him with their fists, daring Him to divinely ascertain which guard threw each punch.

Then His accusers put together a bogus trial before the Roman governor, who was named Pilate. Pilate knew that Jesus had done nothing illegal, and that He should be set free. Even King Herod came to the same conclusion. Jesus was innocent. But the Sanhedrin and their followers were a bloodthirsty bunch, and demanded He be put to death. Pilate, in an effort to appease them, ordered that Christ be flogged. It wasn't enough though, so He was condemned to death, as well.

By law, a person was only allowed to be flogged 39 times. The whip was what some call a cat-of-9-tails. It had multiple straps of leather, each embedded with shards of iron and bone. Jesus was stripped of His clothing, and two guards, one on each side, took turns beating Him, pulvarizing both sides of His back, buttocks and legs. At first the lashings tore at His skin, making a bloody mess. But as the scourging continued, the bits of metal went deeper and deeper, tearing the underlying skeletal muscles until His flesh hung like ribbons. When they'd reached the limit on how many lashes he could receive, they formed a crown from a thorny branch and shoved it tightly onto His head. Then they put a wooden staff in His hand and a purple robe around His shoulders, making fun of Him for being called the King of Jews. When they tired of their antics, they ripped the robe from His bloody back. dressed Him in  His own clothes again, and led Him away to be crucified.

If you're wondering what all this dark ugliness has to do with Goth, keep reading. In the English language, we call where Jesus was crucified "Calvary". That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It's like putting rose colored glasses on the stark naked truth. The Aramaic word, the one used in the Bible, is Golgotha. It was not a cheerful place, it was a place of darkness and doom. A hill where huge crosses of wood were erected after the hands and feet of criminals had been nailed in place. The word Golgotha meant the place of the skulls. The place had earned its name long before Jesus was hung there, but if you can't connect the dots and recognize that everything we associate with Goth was first documented at this event, in a location that even has "goth" in its name, then you must be blind.

The story doesn't end there, though. That morning the soldiers laid Jesus across the cross beams and drove iron nails through His hands and feet to hold Him in place. Truth be known, they were most likely driven between the bones of the wrist, between the carpal and the radius, narrowly missing the artery. Archaeological findings have taught us that the nails were tapered spikes that measured 5-7" in length, and had a square shaft that was 3/8 of an inch. The feet were placed one on top of the other, and nailed into position before the beams were erected into the air.

By law, the soldiers were required to offer a rag soaked in wine and myrr for the condemned to suck on, which brought about some relief from the pain. Jesus, however, refused the drink. He hung there, bugs burrowing into and feeding upon His torn flesh. With every breath, His torn and battered body scraped against the rough wood of the beam. Excruciating pain was like lightening bolts through His outstretched arms as they bore the weight of what was left of Him. Because of the position He was nailed in, breathing was shallow and very labored.  Depending on the severity of the flogging, a man could live as little as a few hours, or as long as a few days. 

It was about noon when the sky went dark. Many skeptics say that it couldn't have possibly been an eclipse, because it had followed a full moon. But it was, and it's backed up by the records of Phlegon, the Roman historian who recorded the events surrounding the 202nd Olympic Games in the year 32 AD. According to this document, there was a total eclipse of the sun that occurred in the 6th hour (of daylight), or noon. It remained dark for three full hours. As Jesus took His last breath, He called out to God.

Matthew 27:46

New Living Translation (NLT)
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Suddenly the the earth shook, rocks split apart, and the entrances to tombs were uncovered. The heavily woven curtain in the Temple sanctuary  was ripped from top to bottom, as though by the very hand of God. The curtain had always separated the holy area from the Holiest of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter. The significance of this is that Jesus now spanned the divide between God and people, and we were no longer on the outside. The priests were probably in the Temple right about that time, offering prayers and incense to a God they gave lip service to; Among them would have been the very priests who were responsible for having Jesus arrested and crucified.

That ends the darkness and gloom and the "Gothic" overtones. At that very moment, Jesus' spirit was released, the sun came back out, and Jesus was carried to a tomb that had been provided Him by a wealthy follower. 

Though His body had died, Jesus was very much alive. He spent the next three days in Sheol, also known as Hades, the place of the dead. This is not to be confused with hell, though. This is a realm between heaven and hell where the dead are held awaiting judgment. Sheol is divided into two distinctly separate areas by a deep chasm. On the one side, referred to as Abraham's bosom, are those who knew God. It is also called paradise, and is what Jesus meant when He told the thief on the cross "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."  On the other side, the lost await their final judgment before spending eternity in hell.

Three days later, Jesus arose from the place of the dead.

Today, thousands of years later, He still lives.

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