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Scripture: Fact or Truth, Contradiction or Paradox?

Matthew 27:32 says: As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene, Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.
Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 say pretty much the same thing.
On the other hand, John 19:16b-17 says: So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
Although John’s gospel was written later than the others and written for the Christian community, John was the only Apostle that scripture actually places at the scene of the crucifixion.
My experience has been that the Spirit was not only involved in the writing of the Scriptures, but is also now involved in the reading of them.
For example:
In the last two weeks of my first year of teaching a combined class of first and second graders, I got completely overwhelmed. I was administering end of year aptitude tests. As each group finished a test, they saw a great light; summer vacation. And they began to bounce off the walls.
Also, as a first time teacher, I was having to face that some of the children were still operating below grade level. I was struggling to deal with the painful reality that there was nothing more I could do at this point.
All in all, I came home one night in a state of high anxiety. I took my bible to my equivalent of a prayer closet, my bath tub. Feeling so inadequate that I desperately wanted to bail out by calling in sick the next morning, I prayed fervently,
“Lord, I need help. I feel like such a failure, I don’t think I can face another day of teaching. I know I’m a horribly weak person to be like this. Please, please help me.”
I tearfully flipped open my bible and began to read. It was Matthew 27:32.
“ As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene, named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.”
My Catholic upbringing’s Stations of the Cross had left me with a vivid image of Jesus falling under the weight of the cross and needing the help of a stranger to complete his mission. The realization that the human Jesus had human limitations and needed human help brought tears of relief with the healing of my self contempt.
At that moment, the phone beside the tub rang. It was Alan, one of the teenagers from my church youth group. He said, “Mrs. Norman, I’m already out of school at the junior high. Could you use any help in the classroom tomorrow?”
“Yes, Simon,” I replied to his confusion. And I drafted my own daughter and son from junior high to help oversee playground games for those already in vacation mode as they finished their tests. And I finished the year with gratitude for God’s understanding of my human limits and the sense of His presence in my small life.
Some years later in a different situation, but asking God’s help for the same feelings of inadequacy, I opened to John 19:16b-17. “So, they took Jesus and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called Golgotha.”
Through this, I heard God calling me to persevere by trusting in His presence and grace in the challenge I was facing. He was bringing me to a new place of less dependency on other people through a closer relationship with him and a deeper faith in His grace.
The Scriptures are not treatises of fact and logic or even just doctrines or rules written in stone. They are also personal letters from God given by the Spirit long ago and continually being brought to life by that same Spirit within us. The combined truth of these two scriptures is that sometimes as humans we need the help of other people, but other times we are called to depend just on the Spirit of God within us.
Not only are humans very different from one another, but we are different people at different times in our life. What we need to hear today, may be the opposite of what we needed to hear yesterday. Truth for unfinished, limited human beings is paradoxical. In the larger picture opposites can be true.
Listen with an open heart and mind for the Spirit speaking to you today and be slow to judge anyone else’s truth.