The Hope 2021 of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words discount of Jesus from the Cross sale

The Hope 2021 of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words discount of Jesus from the Cross sale

The Hope 2021 of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words discount of Jesus from the Cross sale
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham explores the seven last sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, combining rich historical and theological insights to reflect on the true heart of the Christian story.

For Jon Meacham, as for believers worldwide, the events of Good Friday and Easter reveal essential truths about Christianity. A former vestryman of Trinity Church Wall Street and St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, Meacham delves into that intersection of faith and history in this meditation on the seven phrases Jesus spoke from the cross.

Beginning with “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” and ending with “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Meacham captures for the reader how these words epitomize Jesus’s message of love, not hate; grace, not rage; and, rather than vengeance, extraordinary mercy. For each saying, Meacham composes an essay on the origins of Christianity and how Jesus’s final words created a foundation for oral and written traditions that upended the very order of the world.

Writing in a tone more intimate than any of his previous works, Jon Meacham returns us to the moment that transformed Jesus from a historical figure into the proclaimed Son of God, worshiped by billions.

About the Author

Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer. The Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency and distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, Meacham was educated at The University of the South, is a former member of the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and of Trinity Church Wall Street, and was honored by the Anti-Defamation League with its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. A fellow of the Society of American Historians, Meacham lives in Nashville with his wife and children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

The First Word

There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. —Luke 23:32–38

Jesus’s first remark from the cross is found exclusively in Luke: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s fitting that the first word should be as problematic as this one is, for the drama of the cross is itself mysterious.

Let us briefly recapitulate what we know about the road to Golgotha. Born to Mary, a young woman, Jesus preached the coming of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that would unseat the temporal powers of the world and bring about a universal acknowledgment of Israel’s God. “Repent,” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Mark, likely the earliest gospel, Jesus was reported to have foretold coming chaos, and then order:

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. . . .

In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds. . . .

And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. . . .

Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

In his public ministry, Jesus attracted devout followers. Performing miraculous deeds, he appeared to cure the sick, exorcise demons, and even raise the dead. The reports of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the week before his final Passover suggest that he was embraced enthusiastically by Jewish pilgrims to the holy city—and was thus seen as a destabilizing force by Jerusalem’s ruling authorities. (Jesus was executed in the wake of anti-Roman activity bloody enough to have resulted in the conviction of at least three other men, including Barabbas, whom the gospels tell us was being held for execution for his role in that violent episode.) It was, then, a time of tumult and of uncertainty, and, historically speaking, the crucifixion was probably the result of ecstatic crowds looking to Jesus to bring the kingdom to earth right then.

If Jesus had truly been a revolutionary threat in the traditional sense of leading or inspiring an armed uprising, he would most likely not have been the only figure from his circle to die. His followers were left alone in the aftermath of the crucifixion and were free, in the fullness of time, to settle in Jerusalem as they worked out a new understanding of what Jesus’s death on the cross and his empty tomb meant. Complex matters, and big themes—the biggest, really, one can conceive of. And why not? The Christian undertaking, derived from its roots in Judaism, is about a cosmology that attempts to account for the seeming triumphs of evil and asserts the conviction that justice and goodness will prevail. Of course it’s complicated.

The Seven Last Words are collected from the different gospel accounts as a devotional exercise, and the church has long chosen to begin its Good Friday services with Jesus’s words of absolution. Yet my sense is that we take the wrong lesson from Jesus’s declaration of forgiveness if we read it—as many preachers do—as an affirmation of the wideness of God’s mercy. Look, sermon after sermon has asserted, look at the amazing grace of Jesus; even in the starkest of pain and in the most exquisite of agonies, the Son of man embraces all sinners, extending salvation to the torturers who are in the midst of murdering him.

True, the theme of forgiveness is a strong element in Luke’s Gospel and beyond. (Dante would refer to Luke as “the scribe of the gentleness of Christ.”) Earlier it is Luke who recounts Jesus’s teaching to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Later, in Acts, Luke writes of Saint Stephen’s similar prayer that the Lord forgive those who persecute him. Another ancient source claims that in the early sixties, James, the brother of the Lord, prayed, “Lord, God, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” as those in a rival party stoned him.

It’s tempting, then, to interpret Jesus’s own words of forgiveness from the cross as an embodiment of his mission of mercy to the world. Here, though, is the problem as I see it: If God’s plan required his Son’s death and resurrection, then why would the agents of that plan require absolution? We are taught that Jesus had to die as a ransom for many. Without his suffering, death, and resurrection, then there would be no salvation, no new heaven and new earth. Nowhere in the New Testament does anyone argue that Jesus could accomplish the work of redemption by living out a natural life and dying gently in his sleep deeper into the first century. No, the story is the opposite: Jesus was to submit obediently to the will of the Father, who had decreed that his Son would die a violent death so that all might one day be forgiven their sins and granted eternal life.

Standing as we do so many centuries removed from the events we commemorate in Holy Week, let us be clear: Jesus’s death was essential to Christian hope. So why does Luke have Jesus seem to be forgiving his tormentors for playing the critical and necessary role in bringing about the salvation of the world and the coming of a kingdom of justice?

The answer may lie in the cares and concerns of the gospel writer himself. We should put ourselves as far back as we can into the decades following Jesus’s Passion. Our gospels were composed forty to seventy years after Jesus’s death. Each was written with certain audiences and particular communities in mind. Some themes are underscored, some downplayed, depending on those whom the evangelist is trying to reach and to convince. Seen in this light, Luke’s inclusion of the “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” line is a mark of rhetorical genius. Any Gentile hearing the story in that Roman-dominated world could feel exculpated, for the imperial authorities were being exculpated, enabling the Gentile audience to put away its anxieties about its complicity in the murder. Any Jew hearing the story could also feel exculpated; the Temple establishment had done what it had done, but here was Jesus himself, in Luke’s rendering, forgiving the sin.

It is illogical to hold either the Romans or the Temple establishment as in any sense “guilty” for the death of a Savior whose suffering was foreordained and whose mission inaugurated a salvation history that shall wipe away every human tear. We, however, are coming to the story—and to the cross—with the benefit of centuries of theological reflection. For those first generations of Jesus’s followers, the saga of the Lord’s ministry and Passion was paradoxical and confusing. It can be even yet, for the work of the cross marks a radical departure from ordinary human experience.

The task of the evangelists—the task of Luke—was to bring as many souls into the fold as possible at a time when the Christian movements were tenuous and fragile. By reporting that Jesus himself had forgiven all those who might be blamed for his brutal death, Luke was making the faith more accessible and appealing than it might have otherwise been. There was world enough and time for talk of nuances like the ones we are discussing now. In the rough-and-tumble of the first century or two, a time of political strife and social upheaval, best to cast the widest net possible.

Luke was particularly skilled at this complicated task: His gospel, as well as his volume the Acts of the Apostles, is a literary epic. It was Luke who gives us, for example, the Magnificat (“My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”) and the Benedictus (“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us”). He writes of epiphanies, of the revelation of Jesus to the greater world.

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Top reviews from the United States

Aran Joseph CanesTop Contributor: Philosophy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Modern Witness to Faith
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2020
Jon Meacham is a historian and it is mostly as a historian and intellectual that he wrote The Hope of Glory. The spiritual lessons are, to be honest, rather limp and obvious, but Meacham does articulate a summary of his outlook on Jesus and the virtue of faith that is... See more
Jon Meacham is a historian and it is mostly as a historian and intellectual that he wrote The Hope of Glory. The spiritual lessons are, to be honest, rather limp and obvious, but Meacham does articulate a summary of his outlook on Jesus and the virtue of faith that is rather inspirational. The book can be read by both believers and unbelievers as a modern account of faith as well as an account of the Crucifixion as the central event in Christianity’s history.

For those who do not know, the seven last words of the title are not literally Jesus’s seven last words, but a collection of the seven sayings the various gospels report came from Jesus’s mouth while hanging from the cross. Meacham uses these sayings to articulate his vision. Yes, he admits, the Bible contains contradictions and there are many spiritual questions it cannot answer but, Meacham argues, science too has many questions that it cannot explain.

Meacham then makes a case for living in a world of mystery. He has faith that evil and suffering were defeated in a mysterious way on the cross. Thus, the cross becomes the eponymous Hope of Glory. But, he allows that many good people will choose not to accept this answer to life’s mystery. The ultimate fate of those who reject the path of Jesus is, for him, again a mystery.

Well aware that we live in time of religious ignorance, Meacham does a thorough job of explaining the history of the death of Jesus even for those who have barely heard of him. The book is meant and written for as wide an audience as possible.

And, though I was disappointed by the lack of meaty spiritual content, I enjoyed this as one man’s account of faith. Readable in one sitting, it’s a good buy for all those interested in Christianity. It’s particularly appropriate as Lent, the Christian season when the mystery of Christ’s suffering is most emphasized, approaches.
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Pseudo D
4.0 out of 5 stars
you were there
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2020
Historian Jon Meacham offers meditations, first given in 2013 I believe, in New York City at his Episcopalian church. The Seven Last Words are actually the seven last sayings of Jesus on the cross. From his own Episcopalian tradition, there are thoughts from... See more
Historian Jon Meacham offers meditations, first given in 2013 I believe, in New York City at his Episcopalian
church. The Seven Last Words are actually the seven last sayings of Jesus on the cross. From his own
Episcopalian tradition, there are thoughts from Fleming Rutledge. Catholics also have a tradition of Good
Friday meditations in Manhattan, with recent preachers like Abp. Fulton Sheen, Richard John Neuhaus (Death
on a Friday Afternoon), George Rutler and Romanus Cessario OP. The popular Jesuit James Martin also has a recent
reflection in this area.

Meacham is well known as a historian and is interested here, for instance, in the spirituality of Ben Franklin
toward the end of his life. He didn''t embrace traditional doctrine, but looked forward to finding out
the truth soon, where it''s less work than in this life! Meacham says "I hope that worked out" for good
old Ben. Mr. Meacham is well-known for his books on Jefferson and Jackson. The figure of my lifetime that
he has most engaged is George H.W. Bush. At his funeral, his son George W. was poignant and Sen. Al Simpson
gave a tremendous example of fraternity and humorous wisdom. But it was Meacham, the first eulogist,
that gave me a sense of passing from my childhood into the ages. Bush is the only one-term President
of my lifetime, other than Jimmy Carter, who left office when I was six months old, a year after the
Miracle On Ice in Lake Placid. Unlike the Gipper, Ronald Reagan, he didn''t have "the vision thing". But
Jim Mattis, Zbig Brzezinski and others have subtly said that Bush was the last President who knew
what he was doing in geopolitics. Clinton and Obama are brilliant men, George W. is shrewd and
Donald is not without talent, but all of those are different from the practical wisdom of Bush. Why
do I go on this rant? Well, these are tough days for the establishment, and nobody was more establishment
than Bush Sr. The GOP is attacking its establishment from the Trump side, and the Democrats are
attacking theirs (think Hillary Clinton, James Carville and Chris Matthews, who are not going down
quietly) from the Sanders side. But I continue to watch the establishment Morning Joe because
of people like Meacham. This morning he said that we''re in 1948 (the year of my Dad''s birth) without
Dewey and Truman, with Henry Wallace on the left and Strom Thurmond on the right. He said that
Truman feared a day when all liberals are Democrats and all Republicans are conservative, because
parties are supposed to be a mediating institutional force. As Matthews said to Steve Kornacki after
the death of John McLaughlin, cable news, while entertaining, has to teach you something and feed
your brain if it is to justify its existence.

Of the seven last words, the most spiritually nourishing for me were Meacham''s meditations on "Father
Forgive Them, They Know Not What They Do", and "It Is Finished" (consummatum est, etc.). For "Father
Forgive Them" he goes into a reflection on biblical hermeneutics. Meacham has a bit of a hangup with
fundamentalism and literalism, although I appreciate his equal criticism of dogmatic atheism. He is
in an area of basically solid centrist criticism, where the Gospels are basically reliable. We know much
more reliably about Jesus than, for instance, Socrates. Many years ago on the McLaughlin group (or
something) a younger Larry O''Donnell said there''s little evidence that Jesus even existed. Now Larry
learned from Pat Moynihan, one of the smartest politicians of the last century. On this point I think
that Meacham should challenge his colleague, not to believe, but simply to make some sense. On the
word "It Is Finished" Meacham explores the toughest theological questions of heaven and hell, salvation
and damnation. But perhaps the best parts of the book aren''t the reflections on the seven words of
Jesus but the introduction and conclusion. Meacham tells the story of Jesus, assuming nothing for
the reader, because even though our culture is shaped by centuries of Christianity, the actual life of faith
is eroded. The book is accessible to any believer or non-believer. But the problem, whether you are
fundamentalist or atheist, is denying mystery and limits to our human knowledge, i.e. making yourself
a god. He says "the greatest scientists can''t fully explain the mystery of creation, and the most profound
theologians cannot exhaust the meaning of the mystery of redemption" (not a direct quote). There''s
also good stuff throughout on Jesus'' prediction of his passion and death. He forgave his executioners,
but his death was theologically necessary. As Abp Sheen put it at the beginning of Life of Christ, he
came into the world to die. That is different from even the death of Socrates, whose death was the
end of what he offered the world. Jesus died so that he could rise.

Meacham says this is a work of devotion, not scholarship. But I found his end notes solid. There are
the great Protestants Paul Tillich, Albert Schweitzer, Harry Emerson Fosdick, the famous Anglican
apologist and novelist (or something) C.S. Lewis. More recent scholars include E.P. Sanders, N.T.
Wright, Paula Frederiksen, and Craig Evans, and from my Catholic community, Pascal, Flannery O''Connor, Raymond Brown,
Francis Moloney and Richard John Neuhaus (who was also Lutheran).
88 people found this helpful
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Katherine Cameron
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
MEACHAM STRUGGLES TO DELIVER MORE THAN THE RECIPE CONTAINS
Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2020
As a non-believer, I have spent my life ready and willing to be convinced of any religious or sacred theory. I admire Meacham, so I bought his book to see what he had to say about the cross and the death of Jesus. As with Marilyn Robinson, I respect his heartfelt... See more
As a non-believer, I have spent my life ready and willing to be convinced of any religious or sacred theory. I admire Meacham, so I bought his book to see what he had to say about the cross and the death of Jesus. As with Marilyn Robinson, I respect his heartfelt explorations of Christian theology and his effort to incorporate the long trail of great minds who have studied the meaning and importance of Jesus and his crucifixion. But as with Robinson, I am left puzzled: In the case of Marilyn Robinson, over her assurance that God is Love, and in the case of Meacham, that Jesus brought about salvation from a suffering world.

I appreciate the way both authors see metaphor and wisdom in the stories of Jesus. I accept that the teachings are often uplifting, revolutionary for their time, and timely in the age of Trump. But when it comes to salvation, and the meaning of the crucifixion, all I am left with is sorrow that yet another decent life, Jesus, was subject to the cruel and intolerant behavior of his fellow man. As far as I can see, nothing much has changed, and if anything, Satan (in the form of Trump ) is back on the warpath. Meacham stretches and struggles to assure us that somehow, some way, God transformed life on earth with the crucifixion, and that with faith, one can feel the "glory".

In the meantime. Marilyn Robinson assures us that we have a loving God. Out of all the wonderful books she has written , I can follow her to that doorstep, but can''t step over that faith-filled threshold. Her arguments are suddenly so convoluted, so agonized, so elaborate, so opaque (when she comes to this particular subject), I find myself wondering why someone has to tie oneself in knots to try and make the argument. Why in god''s name does Christianity have to be so complicated?

Buddhism makes a lot more sense to me. Life is suffering. Sink into it. Don''t fight it. Be in each moment as best one can, and this includes the joyful moments too. Sorrow and joy can tend to balance out over time if one pays attention. There is absolutely no salvation from suffering, but by paying attention to the universe around us, we can feel connected with all things - something pretty darn close to love.

So Meacham and Robinson: I admire you both so much, but you both seem to ask of Christianity and Jesus more than the texts can really give you. So you turn to faith, but why not START with faith? Why do you need a complex story you have to sort out like a tangled knot of thread? Maybe it is like worry beads - fussing over these old texts is kind of calming and meditative. But any old line of beads would do. And there is way better literature on the subject of faith, love and suffering. Indeed, the two of you have written some of that wonderful literature.
52 people found this helpful
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Boomer Boy
5.0 out of 5 stars
History And Faith
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2020
I just finished this book as we approach the Great Lent, and I thought that it was the perfect way to begin that annual journey. I ordered the book because I''ve read, and enjoyed all of Meacham''s books. I was pleasantly surprised that this book was so much more of a... See more
I just finished this book as we approach the Great Lent, and I thought that it was the perfect way to begin that annual journey. I ordered the book because I''ve read, and enjoyed all of Meacham''s books. I was pleasantly surprised that this book was so much more of a personal work. In it, the author reveals his spiritual beliefs, and the reader is able to see a new side to an old friend. I recommend this book very highly. It would also make an excellent Easter, Mother or Father''s Day gift.
74 people found this helpful
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Brandon Godboldt
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not what I expected
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2020
While the writer claims to be a Christian, he is unapologetic in his belief that Jesus isn''t the only only way to the Father, the Bible is fallible and therefore just a bunch of stories collected over time, and pieces of it have been added merely for the convenience of the... See more
While the writer claims to be a Christian, he is unapologetic in his belief that Jesus isn''t the only only way to the Father, the Bible is fallible and therefore just a bunch of stories collected over time, and pieces of it have been added merely for the convenience of the writer.

I found this to be disappointing, disheartening and an important reminder that good theology does matter.
28 people found this helpful
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J.R. Yannelli
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Perfect for the season of renewal!
Reviewed in the United States on March 3, 2020
Great writer of history. Love to see him on MSNBC! Didn’t realize his background in the Episcopal church, the thinking mans church. An incredible topic, never saw it in one book. Bits and pieces found in books by other mainstream theologians and historians like NT Wright.... See more
Great writer of history. Love to see him on MSNBC! Didn’t realize his background in the Episcopal church, the thinking mans church. An incredible topic, never saw it in one book. Bits and pieces found in books by other mainstream theologians and historians like NT Wright. It is clear, to the point and well grounded in both Old and New Testament studies. U can read in one sitting, great to read, contemplate and read again. Included illustrations are beautiful. Thank u Dr. Meachum!
18 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Darkness Unto Clarity
Reviewed in the United States on February 20, 2020
Historian Jon Meacham reflects on the inspirational,but often contradictory, message of the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus. The book traces the soul searching which Christians have to deal with as they journey on their faith quest.
21 people found this helpful
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Candace T.
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not what you think you are purchasing.
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2020
Not at all what I was expecting and I don’t mean that in a good way. If you are thinking of purchasing this book as a devotional to draw you nearer to Jesus or to a deeper understanding of the cross, look for a different purchase. This book strikes me as disjointed and... See more
Not at all what I was expecting and I don’t mean that in a good way. If you are thinking of purchasing this book as a devotional to draw you nearer to Jesus or to a deeper understanding of the cross, look for a different purchase. This book strikes me as disjointed and rambling.
19 people found this helpful
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