Sunday, March 29, 2015

Part 4- What are the Seven cries of the cross?

1. Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
2. 6th hour- Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
3. Woman, behold thy son! , Behold thy mother!
4. 9th hour- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
5. I thirst
6. It is finished
7. Into thy hands I commit my Spirit

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Picture Jesus at this point. Beforehand, he remonstrated Peter, probably confusing Peter, who in his flesh I think had determined to protect to the death Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, Peter takes a bold swipe with his sword and Jesus bids him to stop—explaining to Peter that if Jesus wanted protection he had but to ask of the Father who would send more than twelve legions of angels. He has been whipped, beaten by professional soldiers, had his hands and feet nailed to a cross, but only after being forced to carry his own cross. He was mocked, ridiculed, and tried twice illegally, in the dead of night. At any point, the Bible tells us that he could have but prayed to his Father and had legions of angels by his side to deliver him. Yet, he allows himself to be strapped to the cross, and bears it willingly, praying for those around him, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He notices women weeping for him while carrying the cross, and blood streaming into his face, he looks at the women, probably including his own mother, and he tells them not to weep for him, but rather for themselves and the coming judgment. He has looked upon John, his best friend, and has given him custodial care of his mother, and now the hour is come for which he is sent into the world. But just before that hour, the thief on the cross recognizes that he is being crucified with the Son of God, and declares his faith. Jesus takes the time from his deep agony to declare to the thief that he would soon be in Paradise with him.

The point is that up until now, the time of this awful cry to his Father, Jesus has been everything we would expect a Savior to be. He has never been concerned for himself, but is looking out for the thief, the soldiers, his mother, and even those who were weeping for him. He is not centered in himself; he is squarely centered in others, and this is not a normal reaction of someone to the brutal punishments he has had to endure, but it is everything we would expect from a Savior. So how do we explain this cry?

First, we should note that in his last cry he commits his spirit to his Father, indicating that he was still communing with God. So he was not broken in fellowship with the Father, at least not for more than a time. Scholars have long interpreted this passage as the time when the sins of the world were put into Jesus, thus crushing the presence of the Spirit of God. At that point, at that precise moment, Jesus felt himself emptied of the fellowship he had known with his Father.

Yes, he had been sent into the world for this very reason, but the cost was higher than Jesus had ever known. All of the energy that God put into the creation of the world, breathing life, wonderful and diverse life, into our world was as nothing to the price Jesus paid on the cross, for on the cross he gave his all, and giving his all, he had no more to give. People who do not think about it sometimes will wonder aloud why God does not do more to save the lost; there is no more to be done, for the highest price of all was paid that we who believe might be forever children of God.

The cry is an echo of Psalm 22, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that Psalm 22 was a prophecy echo of what was to come. Jesus took on the burdens of all of our sins, and indeed the Bible declares that he took on the sins of the whole world. Whosoever will may come, but only because the sacrifice is totally efficacious toward all those who will believe. God prepared a “free” way to heaven, but the cost, free to us, was not free to him. When we hear the echoes of this cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” we ought to be utterly compelled to lay ourselves humbly at the foot of that cross. He who gave his all for us has commanded us that we might take up our cross and follow him.

John the apostle, the beloved one, the one to whom Jesus was perhaps closer than anyone else, tells us that Jesus himself foretold his death. I wonder at the complete sovereignty of God, for here were evil men, willing to kill the Son of God that their nation might continue, and they freely chose their course, and it was the will of the Father that the Son lay down his life. Yet within all of that Jesus declares, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18). We cannot explain how the choices of evil men in an evil world should paint the very portrait of the world which God has ordained, but neither are we expected to. Instead, God has ordained the death of his Son before the foundation of the world, and Jesus gave his life willingly, completing the will of his Father perfectly, and those men who opposed God with every fiber of their being, found themselves completing the perfect plan of God. It is a wonder beyond all wonders, for God makes it plain that he will hold responsible those who acted so evilly, yet still it completes the plan of God perfectly.

I am reminded of Psalm Two, where God declares that he laughs in derision at the plans of all the kings and leaders of our world, and I am also reminded of Psalm 109, where the fate of Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, is so plainly discussed. God is sovereign, and yet he will judge us for our actions. He judges us in complete justice, holding us responsible for that which we do, for he sees our hearts better than we do ourselves. But the judgment only makes sense as we have choices, and choices that we are held to account for.

Is this not the course of our present world? Over and over again, we see men making choices, and yet the sovereign plan of God is not affected. It is no accident that men in history saw the need for the Balfour Declaration, that Israel should be regathered after all these centuries. It is no accident that we see the sentiments of the entire world beginning to focus on abandoning this nation to its fate. We should always keep in mind this dual focus of God, that his will is always done, even in the evil plans of men, but he will always righteously and justly hold us responsible for our actions. It is no accident that the Bible commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and those nations that fail to support Israel will be judged for that lack of support. The will of God will be done, but woe to those who lift a hand against Israel. Historically, it might be well to remember that those who have stood against this little nation have been used of God to bring judgment, and yet, they themselves are judged for daring to take on this least of nations.

I also think of a spiritual application. The saint, having believed in God is told to, and is empowered by the Spirit to turn from his sins. Yet, he still has a choice. He can choose to participate in sin. I have done that. Those times I have done what Paul has commanded us not to. I have quenched the Spirit of God. My cry becomes, at those times, like that of Jesus, and I ask God why he has forsaken me. The way of restoration every time for the saint is to confess, to agree with God, that the sin is sin, and then the Father will freely forgive me and renew me in his Spirit.

But the feeling of abandonment when I sin consciously and of my own volition is total. I can get very used to walking in the Spirit and having his fellowship. If the Bible is to be believed, God has given us his Spirit for all of eternity, but at those bleak times of sin, the sense of being alone, the feeling of being lost and without his leadership is complete. We become like the ship without a rudder in a stormy sea, bereft of the guidance that we need to continue our course. For the Christian, God is faithful, and will restore his Spirit to us every time when we confess. For Jesus, of course there was no need of confession. His was the perfect life, before the Father, the angels, and all of mankind, that we might realize God himself cared so much for us that he was willing to take on this separation.

For I think, multiplied many times, this is exactly what happened in that moment to Jesus. He, who had been in complete fellowship with the Triune God for all of eternity, found sin to be the sword which cut off that fellowship. I will never be able to estimate or talk of that complete loss, for I simply cannot fathom what that was like. Philippians reminds us that Jesus emptied himself when he came in the flesh, making himself of no account. When the sins of the world at last were imputed on Jesus, he was really of no account, for the Father was judging him for our very misdeeds. And this was done that we might be forever free of judgment, that man and God might be restored to the fellowship of God’s design.

John 3:14 gives a wonderful picture of what God has done with the cross. To the Jewish people of his day, this must have provided a most powerful image, and if we will but reflect on it a bit today, it should be that same powerful image. Jesus said to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and one who seemed to want to follow him, that, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him should have eternal life.” We have but to look and believe what was done to Jesus on that cross, and we will enjoy fellowship with the Father forever. He was forsaken simply for the reason that you and I might be found.

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