2 Kings 4:8-37 (Part 3) – Imagine On That 1st Good Friday: Not Knowing!

Posted: April 19, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 4:8-37 (Part 3 of 3)

Elisha and the Woman from Shunem

As we stand here on Good Friday at 8am on my local time here in the US Central Time Zone (CTZ). Sure, it’s about 4pm on Good Friday right now in Jerusalem, but I just got my day going here in the CTZ so allow me some poetic license and assume that the crucifixion is happening according to my time zone’s time.  

Let us drift back to what many historians and theologians believe to be around the year 30AD, some 1,989 years ago. It is 8am in the morning. Jesus has been up all night.  First, praying so intensely that he dripped blood from his brow. This is not some fantasy for dramatic effect. It is a real and documented and understood medical condition. It’s turned up throughout history. Jesus was said to have been sweating blood before his crucifixion. The artist Leonardo da Vinci wrote about a soldier who had bloody sweat after battle. Doctors don’t know exactly what triggers hematidrosis, in part because it’s so rare. They think it could be related to your body’s “fight or flight” response. Tiny blood vessels in the skin break open. The blood inside them may get squeezed out through sweat glands. It is usually been associated with traumatic levels of stress. Jesus was not only fully divine but He was fully human also so he knew what was coming and got stressed out about it to the extreme. In his humanity, He begs the Father to not let the upcoming events happen, to “pass this cup from me!”.

Next up, was a late night arrest and a clandestine trial. The trial of Jesus was illegal according to the Jewish traditions of the time (based on biblical principles). To begin with, the Sanhedrin should have never held the trial. They had plotted to kill Jesus ahead of time. Consequently they were hardly in a position to render a fair verdict as to his guilt or innocence. This is especially true of the High Priest Caiaphas. He is the one who said that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the entire nation. The High Priest was the supreme judge in Israel. It was his responsibility to see that a person be given a fair trial. At the very least, he should have not participated in trial in any manner. Yet he was the driving force behind the arrest and trial of Jesus. Therefore there was no possibility that Jesus could have been given a fair trial. It was illegal to try capital cases at night. By doing so the Sanhedrin broke the law. When a person’s life was at stake the trial could only be held during the day. In capital cases, judgment was to be delayed until the next day. The fact that they pronounced judgment immediately is another sign of the illegal nature of the trial. here is also the problem of Jesus’ testimony. When Jesus was put under oath he acknowledged that he was the Messiah – the promised Deliverer. This admission of Jesus was what caused the Sanhedrin to cry out that he was guilty of death. However, they never stopped to consider the possibility that Jesus was telling the truth. There was not the slightest interest in attempting to find out whether Jesus may indeed be the promised Messiah. There was no evidence that was allowed to be given on Jesus’ behalf and they weighed no evidence before making their judgment.

Then, we move to the civil authorities of Rome’s puppet king in the area, Herod, and then to Pilate, the Roman governor. And then the severe to almost the point of death beating of Jesus by All these events lead us to 9am (the third hour after sunrise according to Jewish time reckoning at the time) and our bloodied beaten Jesus is on the cross. His skin ripped to shreds from head to toe by his beating. He is wore out physically from (1) being up all night, (2) the cat of nine tails lashing that would in and of itself rip flesh and muscle from his body so his body is suffering from that trauma, (3) after that he extremely weak and beaten body is forced to carry his cross beam the ¾ of a mile to Golgotha, (4) having nail spikes driven through his feet (imagine that pain) and similar spikes driven through what most crucifixion experts believe to be the wrists of a crucifixion victim (imagine that pain and blood loss it would cause). It’s 9am and the next adventure begins, the slow death that is crucifixion.

Well, crucifixion was a gruesome mode of execution that was commonly used by the Romans in Jesus’ day. Roman authorities used execution as a method of control and intimidation to rid their cities of slaves, heinous criminals, and insurgents. The Romans adopted the practice of crucifixion and brought it to a higher level that was unprecedented. In fact, at one point they were crucifying 500 people a day. This was practiced from the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD until the Roman emperor Constantine I banned the practice in 337 AD. The initial scourging would weaken the victim, cause massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. By the time the victim had carried thecross bar to the crucifixion area, he would be exhausted.

Once up on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. In this position, it is difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.

At this point three things happen:

  • The victim’s weight is now fully supported by his feet. The nails through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs.
  • The nails in the wrists would be likely to pierce the main nerve running through the arm. As the victim pushed up to breath, the wrists would rotate against the nail, irritating the nerves and causing intense pain in the arms. Some authorities also believe that the crucifixion position would dislocate the shoulder or elbow. Any movement would aggravate the pain from these injuries.
  • The wounds on the victims back from the scourging would push up against the rough part of the centerpiece. This would tend to re-open the wounds, leading to more pain and blood loss.

This combination of pain would quickly force the victim to lower himself back down. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to raise himself up and would suffocate. The shock from blood loss due to the scourging would hasten this process.

It is 9am and this process begins. It will take six hours for Jesus’ human body to give up its fight for life. This is your Savior. We sanitize what He went through in most movies about Jesus. We even rationalize in our mind that He, being God in the flesh, did not really suffer as we might as human beings. But remember, Jesus was fully human as well as being fully divine, fully God. In his human fullness, our Savior suffered immeasurable pain for six long hours (from the 3rd hour of the day past sunrise – approximately 9am, to the 9th hour past sunrise, approximately 3pm). Think of your Savior enduring the details of this day that where He got no sleep since probably Wednesday night/Thursday morning and then went through all of this stuff that happened on Good Friday. As we go through our next 6 hours of our day on Good Friday, let us bear all of this in mind – unsanitized and in the reality of what happened to Jesus on the cross, not as a way to induce guilt in us but to realize just what Jesus went through to pay the once and final penalty for our sins. It was not easy and was not sanitized. It was real. It was ugly. It was excruciating. He felt unimaginable pain for you and for me.

And then we must this afternoon after 3pm and after Jesus’ lifeless human body is taken away to a borrowed tomb, we must think of the disciples and Jesus’ mom and the other followers of “The Way”. What loss they must have felt. Remember, they were living these actual events as they occurred. They don’t have the advantage of knowing how the story ends. What pain they must have felt. What loss they must have felt. What feelings of “what are we going to do now, they’ve killed the most amazing man I have ever met” they must have had. What loneliness. What despair. What incomparable fear that they would be next to be sought out and killed. What they thought was to be the beginning of a huge spiritual revival in the nation of Israel was now, to them, in tatters. The sought after renewal of the people Israel was now snuffed out with the death of Jesus. They had walked away from everything for this. They had given up careers for this. They had played their full deck of cards for this. Now, it was all in ruins. Talk about fear, loneliness, depression, not knowing what to do next, desperate grief over their friend and leader, anger over it all, you name it. They were scared, alone, defeated, and grieving.

With the post-crucifixion mass of huddled and disillusioned, grieving believers somewhere in Jerusalem, let us drift back in time and identify with them on this first God Friday almost 2,000 years ago. Feel that grief and loss and despair. Now think of the woman from Shunem and identify with her grief over her own miraculous son. Death seems so final to the disciples of Jesus on this day. Death seems so final to this grieving mother in 2 Kings 4:8:37 some 850 years before Christ’s birth and some 880 years before Mary sees her own son die and be entombed. Let’s read the passage once again now:

8 One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.

9 She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

11 One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared, 13 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”

14 Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”

Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”

15 “Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, 16 “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”

17 But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.

18 One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. 19 Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”

His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”

20 So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. 21 She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 22 She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”

23 “Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”

But she said, “It will be all right.”

24 So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”

25 As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. 26 Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

27 But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”

28 Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”

29 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel[a]; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”

30 But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.

31 Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”

32 When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. 33 He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! 35 Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!

36 Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!” 37 She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.

In this passage, we see that that son of the woman from Shunem dies. If you have any heart to you at all, you must understand this woman’s pain. We see that because her husband was old, it is assumed that she was not young herself. Therefore, her having a child is a miracle in and of itself. Imagine the joy that having a child would have brought this ancient Middle Eastern woman. Imagine the joy of a miracle child would bring to any mother in any age. Then, to have that miracle child struck down by death suddenly. Imagine the depth of that grief. To have the mountaintop experience of joy at having a child to a mother that thought she would never have a child and then to lose that child to death suddenly. The grief must have been astounding. Remember, she was living this actual event as it actually happened and not knowing how it was going to turn out. Imagine the grief. Imagine the feeling of loss. Imagine the feeling of despair.

That’s the thing here on Good Friday that we should get ourselves in the mindset of. For the moment, let us identify with the grief and sense of loss of both the disciples of Jesus and this woman of Shunem. They don’t know how the story is going to turn out. They don’t know. They do know that, based on human experience throughout history since the Garden of Eden, death is final. It is the end. It is irreversible. Let us identify with that. Let us live that today along with those first century disciples and with this women from Shunem some nine centuries earlier than that. They don’t know what is about to happen. The disciples had to live from 3pm today on Friday until sunrise on Sunday, parts of three days – not knowing, grieving. Though they had been told by Jesus that He would rise again. They had seen Him killed and knowing from human experience and not truly getting who Jesus was yet, they thought this three year ride with the man of God, Jesus, was over and they were scared worried and grieving.

Now, stop reading here for a little while and think about the disciples hiding out and grieving and think about this woman who was grieving. Let it marinate in your soul for a little while and …. Then come back here and read…

First let us consider the Shunem woman and the joy she must have felt – even greater than the joy of having the child. Think of the utter joy of having a child that was dead come alive again! Elisha says,  “Here, take your son!” 37 She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs. Imagine the joy at what God had done for her. Imagine the gratitude. Imagine the mind being blown by this event. Everything you’ve known about the finality of death set on its head. You have your child alive again! Imagine! Imagine! If you can’t believe in God after such an event as this, when will you believe? For the Shunem woman, God is to be praised for this ultimate, death destroying miracle! Imagine what she must have felt and would feel from this day forward every time she looks at her son!

Now imagine again the disciples where we left them…

They are in the Upper Room, most likely. They are scared, afraid, grieving. In bursts, Mary Magdalene and announces the shocking news. She has seen the empty tomb. They don’t want to believe her. After all in the ancient Middle East the testimony of a woman was not considered reliable. She persists that He is alive. She even talked to Him. Finally, Peter realizes what Jesus had told them and rushes off like a madman to see for Himself that the tomb is empty along with John:

“Therefore, Peter went out along with the other disciple and came to the tomb. Now, both ran together but the other disciple was quicker than Peter and entered the tomb first. Looking in he saw the grave clothes lying there, but did not enter. Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb. He saw the grave clothes lying there and the face-cloth, which had been on his head, was not with the grave clothes that were lying there, but was by itself, rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple entered in, who had reached the tomb first, and he saw and believed — for they had not understood the Scripture that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples departed on their own.” — John 20:3-10.

he women have been to the grave already, now it is time for Peter and John to witness the empty tomb for themselves. They race to the tomb, John is quicker, so he beats Peter to the entrance, but stops to peer in. Peter thus, enters first. And, in addition to the grave clothes, they find the face-cloth set to the side and even folded (or at least, not casually discarded like the grave clothes).

The question of the face cloth, either folded or rolled up (depending on how you translate the terms, though “rolled up” may be more literal) has caused no end of speculation. In the early church (which was closest to the Jewish culture of Jesus’ Day), the argument was made that a folded (or rolled) cloth would not be something that robbers would leave behind — it would be discarded in haste, not carefully rolled. Thus, it is meant as a testimony once again that Jesus’ tomb had not been burgled during the night. Others go to great lengths to try and see it as a message to the disciples from beyond the grave…yet, if it was a “message,” that message fell on deaf ears because the accounts that follow still betray much confusion on the part of the Apostles.

What is more important is what John actually records about the disciples not really understanding the Scriptural bit about Jesus rising from the dead…and then John believing. In other words, when confronted with the empty tomb, John’s response was a response of faith. A point that we have already discussed in these reflections is the importance of evidence to support the faith we profess. Yet, it cannot be emphasized enough that true Biblical faith is not a matter of acting blindly, but it is the spiritual sight needed to see and understand the testimony that God presents in nature and the events of history to see his hand at work and then believe.

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all of history, for this is the event that proclaims that death has been destroyed. And thus, we are given evidence — not just the eyewitness of several women, but now two men have seen the empty tomb as well (not to mention some Roman Guards). And things are only going to get more interesting from here as Jesus appears to the Eleven and then to others. The faith we have as Christians is not just grounded on stories or legends, but it is grounded on historical facts…the most important of which is that this man, Jesus, has risen from the dead.

Imagine the joy that follows in the days where the resurrected Jesus spends time with the disciples and appears to hundreds of people over a period of about six weeks. Imagine the joy that the disciples must have felt at knowing that Jesus was the real deal, the son of God, the Messiah, the Promised One, God in the flesh. Death was not the end of Jesus. It was just the beginning. The disciples were so empowered by Jesus’ resurrection and by the day of Pentecost that they literally changed the world as we know it. They, who were clueless much of Jesus’ earthly ministry, were now amazing ministers of the gospel of the resurrected Christ – that changed the world!

The uniqueness of Christ is that He was fully human and fully divine. So, no matter what human experience of pain, loss, and despair that you may feel. Jesus has been there. Done that. He can identify directly with what you are going through right now. He was human. He knows the human experience from birth to death and all (even injustice) of it in between. He knows it. He lived it. He felt it. Jesus knows exactly what you are going through in this fallen world in which we live. He even knows death. He can walk with you through every aspect of living a human life. He’s done it. No matter how dark the valley you are in, He can identify with you in it. He is there with you right now. Reach out to Him. He will comfort you from first hand knowledge of the human experience.

Yet, at the same time, He is fully God. He conquered death. Through His resurrection, we know that whatever we are going through, we can conquer it. Through His resurrection, we know that there is hope. Through his resurrection, we know He’s got us in the palm of His hands. Death where is your sting. Death where is your finality. In Jesus Christ, we can rise again. In Jesus Christ, we have a future. In Jesus Christ, we know that there is a heaven and there is a reward for being His follower. Death is not the end. It is only the beginning. We have joy! We have peace! We have a resurrected King!

Amen and Amen.

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