Seventh Word

“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)

Lent 32

 

Death did not claim Jesus – it was His own voluntary act when all else had been accomplished.

  • Mark says “he breathed His last”,
  • Matthew “He gave up His spirit”,
  • Luke “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit”
  • John “He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.”

Jesus who had said that He did only what the Father told Him to do remained faithful to that commission to the very end. No one could take His life from Him – He laid it down at the time, the place and in the manner decided by the Father, whose will He accepted and carried out perfectly.

Even now God was in complete control!

His enemies could rejoice. His disciples could stare at each other in numbed despair and desolation. But in heaven it is likely that the Father said quietly to His Son, ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’

All was done. All was achieved. Salvation was open to those who would believe. But we must never underestimate the agonised suffering in body, mind and spirit of Jesus. Nor must we overlook the anguished love of God as He watched and participated in the rejection, humiliation, abuse and crucifixion of Himself in His beloved Son. The cost was truly terrible.

Jesus – the Son of God – died for us

We are spectators in our own salvation. God give us the humility and grace to believe, accept and respond in faith. May we never take this unimaginable love, this awesome sacrifice, and the eternal consequences for us, lightly.

Contemplate Jesus on the cross for you – listen for His words.

Prayer:

Thank You Father for Your love. Thank You Jesus for Your sacrifice. Thank You Holy Spirit for showing me the Truth. Thank You God. Amen.

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Sixth Word

“When he had received the drink,
Jesus said,
“It is finished”
(John 19:30)

Lent 31

Reflection:
Jesus had seen His mission and ministry through to the end. The Father’s commission and purpose were now fulfilled. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world and would take them with Him to the grave. The penalty had been paid on our behalf by the only one who could – the spotless and sinless Lamb of God, the Son Himself.

Significantly, now, something had happened. As the end approached it was not an agonising and tragic failure. It was instead a glorious and triumphant victory. The man on the cross was not sinking into oblivion but rising to cross the finishing line. It was in so many ways His finest moment.

‘It is finished’ was not the exhausted mumble of a defeated man but the cry of conquest. Matthew and Mark have it ‘in a loud voice.’ Jesus was not the victim but the conqueror. He had come for a purpose. He had seen that purpose through to the end. He had taken and absorbed both the sin of the world and its consequences. He had suffered for them and had overcome the very powers of evil on the cross. He, the Living Word, had seen the Father’s will through to its final completion which, at last, was now upon Him.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

It was finished. In confirmation God Himself tore the heavy curtain of separation in the Temple from top to bottom. It was no longer needed. The way home to God had been opened by Jesus the Son of God, God the Son.

Prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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Fifth Word

“Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28)

Lent 30

Reflection:
There are deepening levels at which this word from the Cross can be heard and understood.

The first is the affirmation of the very real humanity of Jesus. He was not just God in human flesh – He was in fact fully man and knew what it was to be thirsty. After what He had been through, the beatings and loss of blood, and the way in which He had hung naked and for so long under the heat of the sun, it was a natural condition. The person who responded to the need certainly did not find it strange.

Then, there was still something that Jesus wanted to say – something that was important for those around Him, and His Father, to hear. His parched throat was probably closing and needed to be moistened again. Some will know what it is like to be so dry that it is even impossible to swallow.

There is also the sense in which Jesus now wanted to completely drain the cup that His Father had given Him to drink – the one about which He had prayed in Gethsemane,

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
yet not my will, but yours be done.”

(Luke 22:42)

Coupled with this would have been the desire that influenced all of Jesus thinking and actions – that His Father be glorified as the one true God, whose righteousness was reflected in the lives of His people. How He longed for that righteousness to be revealed. And He had taught,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”

(Matthew 5:6)

And, finally, going to the depths of His being, Jesus would have ‘thirsted’ for the living waters of the Holy Spirit. He had told the woman at the well that,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)

That blessing, intimacy and glorious life had been His from before the beginning until His previous agonised cry, as the weight of our sin had taken Him into the desert darkness of separation from God,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

At every level of His being Jesus was thirsty – very, very thirsty – and it was all for our salvation!

Prayer:

O God, create in me an undivided heart for You. Fill me with Your Spirit and pour Your love into me that I may truly love You – for Jesus sake. Amen.

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Fourth Word

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 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 27:45-46)

Lent 29

  • It didn’t get worse than this.
    • For the very first time in His existence – both as Divine and human – Jesus was separated from God.
    • The darkness that came over the land would have been as nothing compared to that which had appeared within Him.
    • Such was the effect upon Jesus that it tore this cry from the very depths of His spirit.
    • Jesus had taken our sin upon Himself.
      • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • It was our sin that came between God and Jesus
    • It brought about this terrible separation.
    • As ‘the wages of sin is death’ so sin brought death to their intimacy and consequently death to the Jesus who was fully man as well.
    • In terms of His own illustration the branch had been cut off from the Vine – to be thrown into the fire and burned.
    • Jesus experienced the deepest and blackest spiritual hell so that we would not have to.
  • Steadily, and seemingly without end, the sin and sin guilt would have poured upon Him.
    • The sin of Adam and Eve, of Cain, of the people of the flood, of the bondage in Egypt and the unfaithful years in the desert,
    • the sin of David and Bathsheba, the repeated idolatries and adulteries of God’s chosen people,
    • the sin of the Great Wars of the 20th century, the Holocaust, the genocides, the apartheids,
    • the slaughters and merciless killings in Africa and the Middle East
    • the abortions, the abused, trafficked and neglected children and women
    • and all the other sin and sins of the countless individuals from the beginning to the end, and of all the nations and even the churches as well.
    • My sins, your sins of yesterday, today and tomorrow
    • See them as they are poured into Him in an endless stream
    • He would have sunk beneath the weight of sin without number or end, and been spiritually suffocated by the rising tide of thick and impenetrable darkness.
  • Alone, lonely and desolate, Jesus hung there.
    • Lacerated within and without,
    • flooded with darkness,
    • pinned to the Cross not by nails but by agonising love,
  • He would no longer be aware of the people around Him
    • He had moved into another world
    • An unseen world
    • Where He fought the greatest of all battles –
      • between darkness and light,
      • between love and sin,
      • between law and grace,
      • between holiness and evil,
    • Jesus hung determinedly on – to set us free.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.
(C.F.Alexander)

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Third Word

“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 19:26-27)

Lent 28

Reflection:
How easy it is, when we are absorbed in matters of consequence, to forget the needs of those nearest to us. Very often too the calls and demands of others take precedence over those of our own families.

Jesus was not just hanging on the cross, like the two other dying men, waiting to die. He was involved in a battle of immense proportions – on the final outcome of which depended the future of all humankind, past, present and future – and the worst was still to come. In the face of such enormous pain and pressure, with the most terrible consequences if He failed, He still found the time and the love from which to care.

Years before, when His mother and Joseph had taken Him into the Temple to ‘present Him to the Lord’, they were met by a faithful man named Simeon who, after blessing them all, concluded by saying to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” How deep and how excruciating must have been the sword that pierced her now as she stood and watched her son’s continued rejection, humiliation and suffering.

This was one pain of His that she could not make go away. But He, out of the midst of that pain and the particular struggle in which He was involved, reached out to her and provided for her as best He could. His beloved John would look after her for Him.

Wherever we are, and whatever our involvement, there will probably be someone who looks to us for love and attention. No matter how much they might understand the demands made upon us it might still sadden them when they feel ignored or taken for granted. It might delight and cheer them if we turn to acknowledge them and love them in some way. If Jesus could do it from the cross there is no excuse whatsoever for us. He just cared so much for this ‘dear woman!’ She had been honoured in His birth, He had honoured her in His first miracle and now He honoured her as He died.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to show my love to the special people whom You have placed near me. Amen.

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My Strength

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
(Psalm 18:1)

Lent 16

Reflection:
Around 1000 BC God had rejected Saul as king, and through Samuel anointed David – some years before Saul’s death. They were difficult years for David as after his defeat of the Philistine giant Goliath Saul became very jealous of him, tried to kill him and even went out hunting for him with his troops. Twice David had the opportunity of killing Saul but refused to raise his hand against ‘the Lord’s anointed.’ Having been filled with the Spirit he comes across as an attractive and promising young man with a glorious vision of God.  It is revealed in his attitude towards the challenges issued by Goliath against the terrified Israelite army led by Saul,

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  (1 Samuel 17:26)

David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. He became the second and greatest of the kings of Israel, a great warrior, a musician, an eloquent poet and prophet – as revealed in the Psalms – one of the most prominent figures in history and the king from whose descendants the Messiah would be said to come.

For all his great attributes and blessings he still fell into sin. His uncontrolled lust for Bathsheba caused him to break at least five of the Ten Commandments – he coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery, ordered her husband’s death, stole and bore false witness. For this he was confronted by God through the prophet Nathan and the son borne of his liaison with Bathsheba –  now his wife –  died. However, his acknowledgement and repentance of his sins was very real as revealed in Psalm 51,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalm 51:1-4)

For all David’s very real shortcomings the one thing that he never did was to turn away to other gods. Scripture says of him that ‘his heart was fully devoted to the Lord his God’ (1 Kings 11:4), and David himself would sing,

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2)

His story is a story of someone who did seek to love, honour and obey His God. And when He fell he discovered not only that God was still there with Him but that the reality of God’s forgiveness was more than anyone could have imagined.

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  (Psalm 103:10-12)

David was a real person who met and responded to the reality of God in the reality of his life. He knew that his sins were forgiven, that his merits were God’s mercies and that his life was God’s gift. We can too if we will put our trust in God.

Prayer:

Father God, wherever I am and whatever I am doing please help me to be aware of You and to trust completely in Your love and forgiveness. Amen.

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