Monday, March 24, 2008

The Place of the Skull

"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." — John 19:16b-17

Golgotha is one of the few locations I remember clearly from my visit to the Holy Land as an 8-year-old. For one thing, to see the hill, you stand in a beautiful garden, which itself leaves an impression. For another, in the midst of the flowers, the rock of Golgotha really does look an awful lot like a skull (see the picture below). I recall being simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the strangeness of the place.

Perhaps this post is a bit late, since we're into Easter now, but my dad's Good Friday sermon taught me something about Golgotha that I didn't know, something that I found fascinating and meaningful. He began by talking about the story of David and Goliath. We all know how the narrative goes, but there's a small detail that we often miss at the end: "David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem" (1 Samuel 17:54a). This is odd in and of itself because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city at the time. I won't get into that, since I'm not an Old Testament scholar, but there's something else at work here.

What my dad pointed out that I had never thought of is that it is no accident that the beginning of the Hebrew name for "place of the skull" is an abbreviated version of Goliath's name. Golgotha. Goliath's head had been brought to Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull. Goliath's skull.

Now that revelation is enough fun as an interesting play on words, but there are a million directions you could take that. I've already got a sermon formulating in my head for whenever I may be called upon to preach on 1 Samuel 17 or John 19. When my dad drew the connection between Christ's crucifixion and young David's victory over Goliath, I immediately thought of 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." God turns the world's paradigms of strength and weakness on end. "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27b). This theme can be seen throughout Scripture. An inarticulate Hebrew leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Barren women conceive and bear the rulers of the people (just take Sarah and Hannah as two examples, though there are plenty more). A shepherd boy fells a giant with a slingshot. A young girl is visited by an angel and told that she is to bear the Son of God. A carpenter's son from Nazareth is not simply used by God—he is God.

How wonderful, then, that at the moment of Christ's crucifixion, as he is led to Calvary, when all seems to be hopelessness and darkness, there is a subtle reminder of God's promise that what the world sees as weakness may in fact be strength beyond all imagining. Golgotha, which invoked fear in me as a child, carries in it a reminder of David's victory over Goliath—perhaps a hint of what is to come, a gentle rebuke for those of us who may see the cross and despair. It was precisely Christ's seeming weakness that allowed him to save us. God meets us in our weakness in Christ and transforms us by the power of his Holy Spirit so that we might be strengthened in him and him alone.

Golgotha, "The Place of the Skull"

3 comments:

Mephisto said...

http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com

Why?

Pastor Mike said...

Are you saying that you believe Golgatha is so called because you believe that Goliath's head is buried there? Is there any other reference to this belief?
Thank you.

marcus said...

Goliath was from the town of Gath scripture records

Gol(goliath) Gatha(Gath)..Gioliath of Gath he was called

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Place of the Skull

"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." — John 19:16b-17

Golgotha is one of the few locations I remember clearly from my visit to the Holy Land as an 8-year-old. For one thing, to see the hill, you stand in a beautiful garden, which itself leaves an impression. For another, in the midst of the flowers, the rock of Golgotha really does look an awful lot like a skull (see the picture below). I recall being simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the strangeness of the place.

Perhaps this post is a bit late, since we're into Easter now, but my dad's Good Friday sermon taught me something about Golgotha that I didn't know, something that I found fascinating and meaningful. He began by talking about the story of David and Goliath. We all know how the narrative goes, but there's a small detail that we often miss at the end: "David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem" (1 Samuel 17:54a). This is odd in and of itself because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city at the time. I won't get into that, since I'm not an Old Testament scholar, but there's something else at work here.

What my dad pointed out that I had never thought of is that it is no accident that the beginning of the Hebrew name for "place of the skull" is an abbreviated version of Goliath's name. Golgotha. Goliath's head had been brought to Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull. Goliath's skull.

Now that revelation is enough fun as an interesting play on words, but there are a million directions you could take that. I've already got a sermon formulating in my head for whenever I may be called upon to preach on 1 Samuel 17 or John 19. When my dad drew the connection between Christ's crucifixion and young David's victory over Goliath, I immediately thought of 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." God turns the world's paradigms of strength and weakness on end. "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27b). This theme can be seen throughout Scripture. An inarticulate Hebrew leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Barren women conceive and bear the rulers of the people (just take Sarah and Hannah as two examples, though there are plenty more). A shepherd boy fells a giant with a slingshot. A young girl is visited by an angel and told that she is to bear the Son of God. A carpenter's son from Nazareth is not simply used by God—he is God.

How wonderful, then, that at the moment of Christ's crucifixion, as he is led to Calvary, when all seems to be hopelessness and darkness, there is a subtle reminder of God's promise that what the world sees as weakness may in fact be strength beyond all imagining. Golgotha, which invoked fear in me as a child, carries in it a reminder of David's victory over Goliath—perhaps a hint of what is to come, a gentle rebuke for those of us who may see the cross and despair. It was precisely Christ's seeming weakness that allowed him to save us. God meets us in our weakness in Christ and transforms us by the power of his Holy Spirit so that we might be strengthened in him and him alone.

Golgotha, "The Place of the Skull"

3 comments:

Mephisto said...

http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com

Why?

Pastor Mike said...

Are you saying that you believe Golgatha is so called because you believe that Goliath's head is buried there? Is there any other reference to this belief?
Thank you.

marcus said...

Goliath was from the town of Gath scripture records

Gol(goliath) Gatha(Gath)..Gioliath of Gath he was called

 

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