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Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Have We Fasted and God Has Not Noticed?


Why Have We Fasted and God Has Not Noticed?
Isaiah 58
 
 
Day after day the Jewish people came to the temple asking God to bless them. And day after day they fasted and prayed and waited. And fasted again They lay on beds of sackcloth and ashes and day after day they bowed low before God begging for Him to come near – but still their prayers were not answered and God seemed very far away.
 
 
What was the matter?  Why was God not answering their prayers when they tried so hard?  God had called them to fast and they had obeyed. They asked God: “Why God have we fasted and You have not noticed?  Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not seen it?”  (Isaiah 58:3a).
 
 
God hears their grumblings and answers them: “On the day of your fasting you do as you please and exploit all of your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and fist fights.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? ……(Isaiah 58:3b,4,5)
 
 
Then God tells them the kind of fast He really wants from them.  “Is this not the kind of fast that I have chosen?  To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  To set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry?  And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.  And when you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? “(Isaiah 58:6-7)
 
 
God had brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt!  And because God brought the Jewish people out from the bondage of slavery, He wants them never to hold others under the bondage of slavery. As God was bringing the Jewish people from their bondage in Egypt He commanded the Jewish leaders never to have permanent workers but to have each seventh year the year to set workers free.
 
 
If a poor person asked the owner of an estate for a job, and the owner agreed, then the owner would take the poor person in. In exchange for the poor persons’ work, the master would agree to protect, clothe, feed and house his new worker. The owner would be in charge or the worker and have power over him/her. The worker would not be free to leave.  But according to God’s command, the owner should allow the worker his freedom and allow her to leave after six years of work, if he/she wished.
 
 In ancient days when there were no banks or credit cards, different arrangements were made between worker and employer. In ancient days there were no welfare checks for people who had emergencies or fell on hard times. And no Goodwill or Salvation Army to pass out clothing and food to the needy. Naked, homeless and hungry people were left out in the cold. And God wanted His people to be merciful as He is merciful.
 
 
God was asking the Jewish people here in this Scripture passage to free their slaves and to be fair to their workers.  To “loose the chains of injustice” and “untie the cords of the yoke.”  And to “set the oppressed free.”  Several other times we read in Scripture where God commands the Jewish people to free their slaves.  (Jeremiah 34:8-21) 
 
 
It would seem that God has not accepted the fast of His people because the same ones that were fasting were also oppressing their workers!  Not feeding the hungry or even caring for their own families.  These religious Jewish people were going through all of the proper religious motions.  They were saying all of the right words.  Talking the talk but not walking the walk.  We humans see the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. And God is telling them to shape up and then He will hear them when they call.
 
 
Let’s hear what God promises these Jewish people if they will change their ways and be fair and merciful to their workers and to the poor.  “When you do these things then your light will break forth like the dawn.  And your healing will quickly appear.  Then your righteousness will go before you.  And the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer: You will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”  (Isaiah 58:8-9) 
 
 
The Lord promises His people even more if they will be fair to their workers and help the poor.  Here is what He promises: “And if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The glory of the Lord will guide you always: He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.  And He will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  (Isaiah 58:10-11) 
 
 
Good people who want to do God’s will are safe on all sides.  Their defense is their righteousness (Christ is our righteousness) and the “glory of the Lord” (Christ) is our reward on whom alone we can depend for safety when our sins are overwhelming us.  While we are here in the wilderness of this world we need continual direction as to where to go.  And God constantly gives wisdom and knowledge and joy.  When we call upon our God, He answers, “Here I am”. (Isaiah 58:11) And He is near to us in all things. (Deuteronomy 4:7) 
 
 
We modern Christians are facing the same battles today that those Jewish people were facing so long ago. We beg God to answer our prayers and sing praises to Him in church but we turn our backs on desperate people because we rationalize that they brought their troubles on themselves. We pay our workers the lowest wage we can get away with, believing that that is good business.  And we say we love God, but we hate our brother. We are impressed with how much money a person has instead of how kind and generous he/she is. But God keeps calling us to leave all of that behind and follow Him To forgive and love. To be fair and merciful and generous. It looks like it will be hard to do, but there is great joy along the way.     
 
 
There are still two fasts today like there were back in those ancient days described in Isaiah 58.. We still have the man made fast of outward appearances and the fast that God desires, which is the fast of losing the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke and setting the oppressed free. And the fast of feeding the hungry and being merciful to others.  Still two choices for us to make   We can choose to lose it all for Christ or we can choose to keep it all for ourselves. Which fast will you choose?        
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask


God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 



 
God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Dead


Jesus Rises from the Dead
Matthew 27:57-28:20


The moment Jesus died, a violent earthquake shook the whole area.  The sky had been dark for three hours while Jesus was on the cross and it grew even darker when He died. It seemed that even nature was mourning and reacting to His death.  The soldiers guarding Jesus’ body were terrified as rocks split in half and tumbled down around them.  “Surely, this was the Son of God,” one of the Roman soldiers cried out.  (Matthew 27:54b) The crowds who had been around taunting Jesus all day were leaving and some were running in fear of the earthquake.  Only a few women stayed near the body crying.


As the soldiers were taking Jesus’ body down from the cross a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea showed up and gave the soldiers a letter from Pilate stating that he could have Jesus’ body.  Joseph was a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to give Jesus a proper burial.  He had cut a tomb out of the rock near Golgotha and he wanted to bury Jesus in his new tomb.


Nicodemus was also a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to help out too.  He came along and helped Joseph wrap Jesus’ body in clean linen cloths and carry it to the tomb.  It was common in those days to bury the dead in caves or to dig small spaces in the side of a hill or rock and use these carved out spaces as tombs.  A large stone was then rolled into the mouth of the tomb to close it up.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary walked over to the tomb and watched and cried as Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus. 


The next day the religious leaders met with Pilate again.  They remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise again after being in the grave for three days and this worried them.  They asked Pilate for soldiers to guard the tomb to make sure that Jesus didn’t rise!  Pilate agreed and told them to make the tomb as secure as possible.


So the priests and elders sealed the stone in front of the tomb (like locking a door) and put soldiers with spears and swords all around the tomb to guard it night and day.  They weren’t taking any chances!  (Matthew 27:62-66)


While Jesus’ enemies remembered that He said He would rise from death, His own disciples forgot.  Jesus had told his disciples several times that He would meet them in Galilee. He told them that He would rise after three days in the grave. But His disciples must not have taken Him seriously! Do we take His promises seriously?


Very early on a Sunday morning, three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to Jesus’ tomb. And just as they arrived there was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord appeared and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb.  Scripture describes the angel this way:  “His face was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow.”  (Matthew 28:3) The guards around the tomb shook in fear and “became like dead men.”  (Matthew 28:4)


The angel sat on the stone and spoke to the women and said: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here: for He has risen as He said He would.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  (Matthew 28:5-6)


The women walked into the empty tomb and saw that Jesus’ grave clothes were folded there but He was gone.  Scripture does not say that Jesus left the tomb when the angel rolled the stone away from the door.  A large stone would not keep the Son of God from getting out!  It was rolled away so that Jesus’ followers might see the evidence of an empty tomb. 


The angel continued: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and that He is going before you to Galilee.  You will see Him there.  Behold, I have told you.”  (Matthew 28:7) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran out of the empty tomb with fear and great joy.  And as they were running to tell the disciples, Jesus met them.  The women fell down and worshipped Him and held Him by His feet and Jesus said: “Rejoice!  Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and I will be there to meet them.”  (Matthew 28:9-10) Then the women ran on to tell the disciples.


When the guards recovered from the shock of the angel’s appearance at the tomb and of Jesus not being there, they ran to the religious leaders and told them all that had happened.  A guard could lose his life for allowing the person he was guarding to get away, so these guards were worried that they would be killed because they did not stop Jesus from rising and leaving the tomb.  They nervously told the religious leaders about the angel and how Jesus was no longer in the tomb!


Scripture says that the religious leaders paid the guards a large sum of money to keep them quiet.  They were ordered not to tell anyone that Jesus had risen but to tell people that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body even though the tomb had been heavily guarded.  The soldiers agreed to keep quiet about Jesus’ resurrection and they took the money.


When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary told the disciples that they had seen Jesus the disciples were over joyed and they traveled to Galilee to meet Jesus there.  And when they finally met up with Jesus they fell down and worshipped Him. 


Before Jesus went back to heaven forty days later, He appeared not only to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and the disciples, but He appeared to several other women.  (Matthew 28:8-10) and to his followers on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:19,20, Luke 24:13-15) And He appeared to many in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-24) He met with James and the apostles, (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to five hundred people. (1 Corinthians 16:6) And after Jesus went back to heaven He appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) He spent many days with His disciples, including Thomas. (Mark 16:14) And Jesus was with them just before He went back to heaven.  (Mark 16:19,20)  Hundreds of people saw Jesus before He went back to heaven.


Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the disciples the Great Commission.  This is what He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-29) After Jesus gave these marching orders to his disciples – to all of his disciples in every age – Jesus went back to heaven.


The crucified Servant is now the exalted Lord and has received all authority.  While His ministry had been to Israel during His lifetime, now His ministry has a global perspective.  He now calls his disciples (that’s us) to world evangelism – to make disciples of all nations.  We have a big job to do, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  We serve a risen Savior!  Hallelujah!


 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My God, My God! Why Have You Forsaken Me?


My God, My God!  Why Have You Forsaken Me?


Scripture has recorded three more statements that Jesus made from the cross that we have not already covered! These statements are (1) “My God, My God!  Why Have You Forsaken Me?”, And (2) “Behold your mother.  Behold your son.” (spoken to Mary His mother and to John His disciple.) And the third statement (3) as He gasped His last breath: “It is finished! Into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.” We will cover these three statements of Jesus from the cross here in this blog. 



We can only imagine the dreadful torture Jesus was experiencing when He cried out to God asking why He had been forsaken! The people who led the charge to crucify Jesus were the religious leaders of the day; the Scribes and the Pharisees. They were the ones who were always praying loudly to God in front of everyone so that all could see how very pious they were. And they were also the ones who were insisting that Jesus had committed crimes worthy of this terrible death. And the crimes they accused Jesus of were the so-called crimes of healing the sick on the Sabbath and of claiming to be God’s Messiah. 

These religious leaders who thought they knew all the correct answers were standing around the cross, spewing hate at Jesus and mocking Him as He hung on the cross, carrying the sin of the world and dying in horrific pain. Scripture says that around noon darkness fell over the whole land and small earthquakes shook the ground. Many people ran off afraid that this might be a sign from God.  It seemed that even nature was convulsing and mourning the murder of the Creator and Savior.   

Twisting in pain and gasping for breath, Jesus must have felt the evil deeds of all the generations weighing down upon His shoulders. The spiritual pain combined with the physical pain must have been unimaginable. It was then in the darkness that He cried out:” My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:29-36a) These were not Jesus’ final words.  The feelings of abandonment and God-forsakenness and even death would not be the end of Jesus’ story.  And neither will our sufferings and death be God’s final word for us!

Jesus came to deliver His people. He chose to identify with our sufferings and He understands and has compassion on us when we go through dark and painful places Jesus models for us the ways of love.  We are meant to follow Him and be willing to love even when it costs us a great deal. .

Jesus’ mother Mary was standing there at the cross weeping.  She wanted to be with her Son.. All of the disciples had run away in fear except John.  Jesus looked down from the cross and saw His mother and John, His disciple. The Scriptures read: ”Jesus said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple (John), “Behold your mother!’”  And from that hour the disciple(John) took her (Mary) to his own home. (John 19: 25-27) Jesus was concerned for His mother.  He wanted to ensure that His mother would be taken care of after He was gone so He asked John to be a “son” to His mother.   

One of the Ten Commandments is: “Honor your father and your mother,…” (Exodus 20:12) Even as Jesus was dying on the cross He was thinking about His mother instead of Himself..  And He commands us to follow His example and honor and care about our mothers and fathers. Jesus was asking John to take care of His mother. And He was asking His mother to go with John and consider him as a son.  The idea that Christians are family and that we are to care for one another is commanded in Scripture.  Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark3:35) Jesus calls us to see those in need as our mother or father or son or daughter and reach out to them if we are able.

Just before Jesus died He said these last words: “It is finished” and “Into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.”  (Luke 19:30a and Luke 23:43-47)  These words of Jesus can be our words too.  We can make these words our own and pray, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  With this prayer, we never need to be afraid.  We can commit our spirit into our Heavenly Fathers’ Hands.

 When Jesus cried out “It is finished” it was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory!  Jesus’ redemptive work for us was completed.  Finished!  Something amazing and wonderful and unbelievable was finished when Jesus died on the cross.

At the moment that Jesus gasped His last breath and died, the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem tore in half.  This thick curtain or veil separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.  And the tearing of the Temple curtain is one more picture of what Jesus was accomplishing on the cross.  From this time on there no longer would be a need for a curtain or a veil to separate humans from God.

  This veil or curtain was to keep everyone out.  If sinful persons entered the Holy Place where God’s holy presence was abiding the humans would immediately die.  We sinful humans cannot come before a pure and holy God in our sins. But now through Jesus, humans can come directly to God’s Mercy Seat to ask for mercy and to receive God’s grace and salvation. Jesus’ blood has washed away our sins and His righteousness is our covering.     

Jesus’ death on the cross was a sign of God’s ultimate triumph over death.  His death reversed the events that occurred at the fall when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden!  Jesus is the Second-Adam.  According to Scripture the first Adam (Adam and Eve) put us under the curse of sin.  And now after the death of Christ, the Second-Adam (Jesus) takes us out from under the curse of sin. What Jesus did on the cross is life giving and life changing. The whole world changed when Christ died! It is a mystery we cannot fully comprehend. 

Scripture says that the death and resurrection of Jesus “Is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) We are changed when we believe in Christ as our Savior.


These are the final words of Jesus from the cross.  These are words to live by.  But even though these words are His final words before His death, there would be words after that.  The season of Lent ends at an empty tomb!  The horrific death of Jesus Christ would not be the end of Jesus’ story.  And neither will suffering and death be the end of your story! 


This blog has taken many of its thoughts and ideas and lines from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Final Words from the Cross”.  

    


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Thirst Final Words from the Cross


“I Thirst”

John 19:28-29

We are now in the Lenten season, the forty-day period before Easter, where the Church has traditionally remembered Christ in His sufferings and death on the cross for our sins.  During this season of Lent we are spending time remembering the seven last statements of Jesus as He hung on the cross.  Jesus cried out, “I thirst” shortly before He died. This was one of His seven statements from the cross. 

Was this just a cry for a drink from our dying Savior, or was there a deeper meaning in these simple words from the cross?  Let’s read the passage: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst”.  Now a vessel full of sour wine vinegar was sitting there: and they filled a sponge with sour wine vinegar, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.” (John 19:28-29) 

It says in this passage that Jesus spoke the words “I thirst” in order “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”  What does that mean? What Scripture that Jesus was fulfilling by crying out that He was thirsty?  Most scholars think it is Psalm 69:21b which reads: “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

 When Jesus cried out that He was thirsty and was offered wine vinegar, He was fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 69.  The other gospels, Matthew and Mark says that “they” took a sponge, placed it on a stick and dipped it in wine vinegar and gave it to Him to drink. Jesus’ thirst on the cross had been written about centuries ago.  It was part of God’s plan that was set in place long before

Jesus is fully God and He is also fully human.  Before His death, He thirsted as we thirst, and then He died as we die.  Jesus’ words “I thirst” are one more example of Jesus’ humanity. 

On many occasions, Jesus used the idea of drinking a cup filled with a drink as a picture for the suffering He would endure.  On one occasion when Peter drew his sword to keep the soldiers away from Jesus as He was being arrested, Jesus told Peter: “Put your sword away.  Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) Jesus was willing to drink the cup of suffering and death and sin down to the dregs.


One other time in Jesus’ ministry, the Scriptures say that He said that He was thirsty.  You may remember the story when Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and they came to the town of Sychar.  Jesus sat down at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into town.  While the disciples were gone a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw out water and Jesus asked her for a drink.  When she gave Him a drink He said to her, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask of Me and I would give you living water and you would never thirst again.”  (John 4:10)


The Samaritan woman talked with Jesus and He told her everything that had happened in her life.  She was amazed and realized that Jesus must be a prophet or perhaps the Messiah since He knew everything. She believed in Him and He gladly gave her the spiritual living water that He had promised. This Samaritan woman was so excited about who Jesus was and what He had done for her that she ran back to her town of Sychar and brought everyone in the town out to see Jesus, the one who could give them this living water.  Jesus’ message to the people back then and to us now is: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me, and let the one who believes in Me drink.”  (John7:37) 

Since Jesus is our Living Water, what did it mean when the One who offers living water, was himself thirsty, when He was on the cross?  Water is essential for life.  But the Living Water, Jesus Christ, the Source of Life, is dying on the cross.  God in the flesh has come to earth to offer living water to humans, and humans have chosen to try to destroy the Spring.   

A passage of Scripture in Jeremiah 2:13 reads: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Water, and have dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” This passage describes people who have rejected Jesus, the Fountain of Living Water and they are looking for water in all the wrong places.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6) What are you thirsting for most in your life?  What do you hope will satisfy you?  Jesus calls us to thirst after Him. When He gives us His living water He gives us spiritual life.  We receive the Holy Spirit to guide us and help and comfort us. When we open our lives to Him, it is all we will ever need.  We will never thirst again!


This blog has taken many of the ideas here from Adam Hamilton’s book: “Final Words from the Cross”