Jesus hung on the cross, fulfilling the will of the father and paying the price we were all supposed to pay for our sins. His suffering to this point had been horrific. What else could He possible endure, only the most painful experience of His eternal existence.
John explained rather clearly that Jesus had always existed. (John 1). Jesus was the eternal word and everything that was ever made was made through Him. He then became flesh, also known as Jesus. What should be realized is that Jesus had always been with the father from the eternal past until the moment He was nailed on the cross. His relationship with the father was one of perfect unity and love. Jesus said on many occasions that the Father and Him were one. (John 10:30, John 17:21). Such a relationship was truly incomprehensible by human standards, a level of oneness and unity that can only be attained by the trinity.
Then all the love, strength and comfort that such a relationship created, for one moment in time, would feel completely lost. Jesus said “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46) Jesus felt alone. He felt abandoned. He was carrying all the sins of Humanity past, present and future. In that moment covered in sin he felt forsaken by the Holy Father. It may have been the worst that He had to endure. We must never forget, He did it for us. He became forsaken so that we would not be forsaken! He did it so that we could be saved, forgiven and be with Him for all eternity.
If we were arrested unjustly, stripped, beaten, made fun of, whipped until our skin was ripped from our bodies, and had the strength to speak, what would we say? What if after losing a great deal of blood, we were made to climb up a hill, and nailed to a cross, what would we say? Perhaps we would cry for mercy. Another logical response is to exclaim our innocence. We might have enough energy or voice to condemn those who tortured. Now imagine if for some magical reason we all of a sudden had the power to escape. All the pain could end suddenly. All the wounds healed and we could reappear in paradise. What would we do? What if we had the power to get immediate revenge? We could zap to death all those responsible for our capture and pain.
Jesus went through everything mentioned above. He had the power to stop the pain anytime he wanted to. He had the power to destroy his enemies with just a simple word. The Mountains would have certainly obeyed and swallowed them all, the seas could have been commanded to come upon them or a legion of Angels would have defended him. But Jesus did none of these. He certainly could have condemned the soldiers responsible for his torture. But Jesus spoke no such words. Instead these were the first words he uttered on the cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
This is truly the loving God that did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. (John 3:17) While going through all that pain and injustice all he thought of was mercy. Mercy was his mission and purpose. It is the reason why he gave his life. It was the price paid for our sins; that we might be saved from eternal condemnation. He is still saying “Father forgive them”. All can be forgiven, all we need to do is believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord, and repent of our sins.
Two thousand years ago a prophet came out of Galilee and into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. A multitude praised Him shouting
“Hosannato the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosannain the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
They were looking and hoping for a Savior. Hosanna meant save us and praise. They wanted someone who would break the Roman hold on their nation and establish a new and greater kingdom of Israel. He was supposed to be the fulfillment of all prophesies. His name was Jesus!
Soon after his entrance he was rejected by the masses, arrested and accused unjustly and sentenced to be crucified. He was whipped, beaten, spat upon and nailed to a cross. Many assumed this could not be the true Messiah. The liberation from Rome did not happen.
What many failed to see was the sacrificial lamb. For Isaiah had Prophesied the coming messiah, but the picture was in stark contrast to the expected conquering hero Messiah. The messiah Isaiah wrote about in chapter 53 is a suffering one, who volunteered to give his life for all humanity.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Later Isaiah the prophet said,
“For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death,” (Isaiah 53:8-9)
Isaiah wrote these words 800 years before Jesus ever set foot in Jerusalem. Jesus came and fulfilled every prophecy. He was indeed stricken, beaten for our sins. He was killed along with criminals and yet was buried in a rich man’s tomb just as it is written in Isaiah. Jesus did conquer the greatest enemies, sin and death. He made a way for all to be saved. All that is required is that we believe. (John 3:16)
The Pharisee was a fine gentleman, who spoke well and had the respect of the entire community. He was the sort of fellow we would all like to invite over for dinner. A man with a good testimony; he followed the law without fail and made sure to give a tenth of his income to the temple. There was one problem with the Pharisee, he was proud. He thought he was better than everyone else. (Luke 18:9-12)
There was also a tax collector and as expected he was not very popular. No one wanted to have him over for dinner. All tax collectors were suspected of cheating and cheating the poor of Israel. They were seen as traitors since they collected taxes for Rome. Some considered tax collectors to be simply the worst. Well it’s not like tax collectors are any more popular today. (Luke 18:13-14)
They both came before God to pray. The Pharisee came before almighty and holy God and thanked Him for making him so wonderful. He was proud of how good he was. Perhaps he simply wanted to remind God. God was not impressed.
The tax collector understood his condition. He was completely aware of God’s holiness and how far sin had taken him from God’s presence. He approached God with all the reverence God deserved and all the humbleness his state required. Jesus explains that he could not even lift his head and beat upon his chest on account of his guilt, shame and pain. God was pleased.
Jesus explained that the tax collector was forgiven or justified and the pharisee would not be. (Luke 18:14) We must be careful to come before God in reverence, and humility, understanding that we are sinners and He is holy. We are in need of forgiveness. This is the very reason why Jesus gave His life, that we may be forgiven, if we simply believe.
Jesus taught his disciple many lessons. He knew that he was going to leave them with a great mission; to go into the entire world spreading the gospel, changing lives, seeking the lost and making more disciples. (Mark 16:15-16) One important lesson was the Our Father. This was intended to be a model for them to follow. One of the lines is “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:5-14) He knew the disciples and all of us were destined for failure and in need of constant forgiveness. Jesus knew he was about to leave them and that soon after they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4) The Holy Spirit would give them great power and yet Jesus knew that they and all of us as well would find it difficult to remain perfect at all times. (Acts 1:8)
Paul also explained this problem. He said that sin was in us. (Romans 7:13-20) No matter how strong we are, no matter how much we try, we are still in this world and must contend with our flesh. Therefore we are still capable of falling into sin. This is a constant danger. The devil like a lion is looking for who he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) That would be us, he is looking for.
What can we do? Our desire is to live a life that is pleasing to God. Should we wait around waiting to fail? Should we live however we please and just repeat the “Our Father” every night?
Since we are sincere Christians it is imperative that we be on the offensive. We must live our life aware of the devil’s attacks. How can we do this? First and foremost we must diligently work every day to increase our understanding of what pleases God. This happens as we study scripture. When we study scripture our faith increases as well. (Romans 10:17) We therefore become stronger Christians.
Jesus also gave us another solution. He once spoke of the power to rebuke demons and he told the disciples “This one only comes out through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) If prayer and fasting can give a servant more power to contend with the devil then certainly it will help us in all matters. It too will draw us closer to Christ. How do relationships grow stronger? They grow stronger with communication. This is what prayer means to us. Prayer is our vehicle to communicate with God, strengthening our relationship with Him.
We also know that idle time is a dangerous time. It is when we allow the devil to tempt us and fill us with thoughts that are not pleasing to God. Idle time allows us ample opportunity to focus on what we don’t have. Consider David who casually walked about his temple with nothing to do only to be tempted by seeing the naked Bathsheba bathing. (2 Samuel 11:1-5) We should look to close the door on the devil by occupying ourselves in productive tasks, primarily serving God and the needy.
Remaining sinless is impossible. We have all fallen and will fail again. But sin certainly does not have to consume our lives. We can greatly reduce its hold on us and the likelihood of failing God, through much prayer, study of scripture and occupying ourselves in worthy endeavors.
How can we image the state of this man, the wonder and awe of being before God? He must have been filled with hope as God himself had given him the law for a new people, a new nation and a promised new country. Then the sad report from God himself, the slaves he had rescued from Egyptian masters, those He had set free with great miracles, the people that he had hoped to build into a great nation had betrayed Him for a god of gold that could not speak or hear. (Exodus 32:7-14)
He told Moses I will wipe Israel from the face of the earth and begin a new nation with you. What an honor, for God to choose you for such purpose, then the surprise. Moses said no!
Who could have blamed Moses if he had lost all patience and begged for their destruction? Who would have faulted him for taking such an honor? Instead he pleads their case. God had surely chosen the right man.
Moses had been a shepherd accustomed to protecting the flock and placing his life on the line for them. He argued, “What would Egypt think to see God free these people only to destroy them in the wilderness”. God’s mercy reined and the Israelites were given many more opportunities to be faithful.
Often we see a world, a society or perhaps a given group that we think worthy of condemnation. Are we prepared to be good shepherds like Moses and plead for mercy? Is our goal to see the lost saved or are we filled with disdain for a world that has forgotten God? We should not be hoping and waiting for destruction as Jonah did. Let us remember what John says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) He also said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Let us with much prayer and supplications continue to intercede for the lost, that they may someday come to know their Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us continue to proclaim the message of Hope to a fallen world.
“Oooo! You’re in trouble Betsy, when dad and mom find out what you’ve done.” Michael was scaring his younger sister who had broken his mother’s vase. “They’re here Betsy. Daddy is carrying a Duncan Donuts bag. Aren’t Duncan donuts your favorite? I don’t think you’re getting any today. Besides you’re so fat.” Betsy started crying. Michael started laughing. Michael could hear the door opening. “Oh I can’t wait to see this,” Michael said with a huge grin on his face. Then he took off running towards the door.
“Mom, Dad you’re not going to believe this but Betsy broke your vase.” Mrs. Deed’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her face. Mrs. Deeds ran into the living and gasped for air. Then she dropped to her knees and carefully began to pick up each piece one by one. Mr. Deeds came in with his hands on his hips and asked, “Bets you did this?” Betsy still crying shook her head yes and before her father could say another word dropped to her knees besides her mother and said “Mom I’m sorry I know how important this vase was. It was great grandma’s and she gave it to you. I can’t believe I did this. I can’t make up for this. I don’t know what to do mom.” Betsy was crying with her head bowed low. Mrs. Deeds looked up and it was as if she was seeing her daughter for the first time. She freed one of her hands and reached out and wrapped her arm around her daughter. She leaned her head towards her daughter’s and whispered “you’re forgiven.”
When Michael realized what was happening he erupted “What is going on here! What, no yelling, no punishment; she should get what she deserves!” Then Dad spoke, “Michael did you see Betsy break the vase?” Michael amazed at the question, “Dad I didn’t, but she admitted to it.” Calmly dad asked “Where were you when your little sister broke the vase?” There was dead silence. Dad did not have to say another word. Michael realized he had disobeyed. He was not supposed to leave his little sister alone. Now he was wondering, “What do I deserve?”
Paul explained in his letter to the Romans, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:22-23). It is easy to be tempted and at times looked down on the faults and failures of others. But we must all remember that we all have sinned and it is actually a good thing that most of us will probably never get what we truly deserve. God in His mercy has forgiven all those who have sincerely repented and accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior. We are forgiven and will not suffer the condemnation we deserve. Instead we have received a priceless treasure, eternal life with God.