Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Friday, April 14, 2017
The Seven Words from the Cross - April 14, 2017 - Good Friday - Text: Luke 23:34, 39-43; John 19:25-27; Matt. 27:46 (Mark 15:34); John 19:28-30; Luke 23:46 (John 19:30)
This evening as we approach in the shame of our sin, knowing that it was because of us and our sin that Jesus came to suffer and die, we look at the words He spoke from the cross.
The first words of Jesus from the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). These words give us some insight to this man who was the one promised by God to come and save the world. Jesus was a gentle man. He was a loving and caring man. He was indeed God in flesh, as it is God who indeed forgives sins. From His words we can tell that He holds no grudge, especially not against those who are carrying out the sentence of crucifixion on Him. The very purpose for which He was born was so that He might earn forgiveness for the people who put Him on the cross and for all people, including us.
The second words of Jesus from the cross were spoken in conversation with the criminals who were crucified with Him. “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43). The one criminal, even to the point of death, is looking out for himself. He has no guilt nor remorse for his sins. Perhaps he wants to believe in Jesus, but he just needs a sign. He wants tangible evidence. Did you notice how he said it? “Save yourself and us/” I am sure he was hoping that this Jesus was the Savior, so that his own skin might have been saved. The other criminal, by his own words and admission shows the remorse he felt. He expressed the fact that he was getting what his evil misdeeds deserved, but he believed that Jesus was innocent of all the charges against Him. And then he appeals to Jesus, showing his faith in Him. With the words He speaks, we again see the compassion Jesus has for other people. Even while being put to death, He speaks no unkind word, but encourages this man in his own death assuring him that today they would be together in paradise.
In the third words of Jesus from the cross, we again get a sense of how loving and caring Jesus is. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:25-27). Again, just as He was concerned for those who crucified Him and for the criminal on the cross, so He was concerned, even more about His own mother. It would be logical to conclude that Jesus’ father, Joseph, had died earlier in His life and He was left to take care of His mother. Now, even while suffering the pangs of death on the cross, He is still concerned and takes care of His mother. Certainly, He loved and cared deeply for people.
The fourth time Jesus spoke from the cross is the only time we hear, what we might call, discouraging words. Now remember, when Jesus speaks these words, He has been suffering on the cross for a while. “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). First, these words go back to the claim of Jesus being a Savior. While those who put Jesus on the cross believed Him to be merely a human prophet or teacher and one who was a blasphemer claiming to be God, yet there were many in the religious community who believed that Jesus was not simply an ordinary human being, but that He was both truly human and truly God. As we confess in our creeds, Joseph, who raised Jesus as His father, was only His adopted earthly father. Jesus’ real Father was God. So, now we know that when Jesus is crying out, He is crying out to His Father, God. And why the words of frustration, “why have you forsaken me?” When we understand that God is a God of perfection and He cannot look at sin, thus, when Jesus went to the cross, He went with the sins of the whole world and so, God turned His back on Jesus, His Son in the midst of His suffering eternal death on the cross. However, when we talk about God being a God of love and we have seen how gentle and loving and caring Jesus was, some might ask, how could this be? How could a God of love allow any of this to happen? The answer is that it was God’s love for us, His creatures, which moved Him to send His Son to give His life so that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
The fifth and sixth times Jesus spoke from the cross came in short succession to each other, so we will listen to them together. “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30). What crucifixion actually does is it kills a person by suffocation. The persons whole body is hanging in such a way that the diaphragm muscles get so weak that the person cannot exhale, meaning that they are unable to have clean, oxygenated breath coming in and so they suffocate. One side affect, if you will, is that your mouth and throat become very dry and you become thirsty. And so, Jesus spoke and said He was thirsty.
Then Jesus says, “It is finished.” There is a lot of meaning behind these words as we understand that whenever anyone was imprisoned, their crime was posted beside their prison cell. As their crimes were paid for by time in prison, or if it was a debt which needed to be paid, as the debts were paid, the sign was marked, “It is finished.” This debt, this bill was paid. And so, Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” are in reference to the fact that He had completely suffered to pay the price for the sins of all people of all places of all times.
The seventh and last words of Jesus from the cross we read that “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). Now that Jesus has accomplished what He came to earth to accomplish, live perfectly, obey all God’s commands perfectly, fulfill all of Holy Scripture completely and perfectly, take all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself. Now that He has suffered the complete punishment for all sins, He is ready to die and so He entrusts Himself back into the hands of His Father, God the Father.
Well, it has been an interesting chain of events we have been seeing over the past few weeks. We have been following along with the life of Jesus. We have heard accounts of the many people that were in His life while He was here on earth. This evening we have sat at the cross and watched and listened. We have heard and witnessed Jesus’ great love for all people and for us in particular. This evening we watch, we confess our part in putting Jesus to death, we do not necessarily celebrate but we do give thanks for Jesus’ paying for our sins. And we seek comfort and consolation in His death for us.
However, we do know how these events turn out. We will wait tomorrow and then we will return on Sunday to celebrate that death and the grave have no power over Him. We will celebrate His resurrection with great joy and gladness. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.