cross, crowds, death, Father God, Jesus Christ

His Last Breath, #103


“Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I commit my spirit to you,” and with those words he died.”

Luke 23:46, LB

The cross had done its vicious work–it brutalized Jesus, and we see him broken and nailed to it. So much is happening, it’s quite hard to assimilate it all. It’s difficult to focus on just one thing. Several events seem to be happening all at once.

  1. An eclipse of the sun, darkness at 3 pm. It lasted three hours.
  2. An earthquake that shook the entire scene, it was strong enough to split rocks.
  3. The veil in the temple that separated the holy from the holiest, torn from top to bottom.
  4. Resurrections, with dead people wandering through the streets of Jerusalem, preaching.
  5. The mocking thief, and the salvation of the one who believed in Jesus.
  6. A centurion, most likely overseeing the soldiers, declaring that Jesus was “the son of God.”
  7. The women disciples who had followed Jesus, standing and witnessing all of this some distance away. Eleven of the twelve “disciples” were absent.
  8. John given the charge to watch over Jesus’ mother.

Each are significant in their own right.

These are all noteworthy, and this post could take up one of them and go in any direction. Besides these eight main observations, there many other details that could be mentioned. Needless to say, the crucifixion of Jesus profoundly effects every person who has ever lived.

They say the last words of a dying man are significant, and many books have been written about what people have said at the moment of death. We expect to hear some final wisdom (and often we’re disappointed.) We now hear the last words of Jesus, and they’re packed with meaning.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  This is the last thing Jesus spoke. We know that he had been separated from the Father because of our sin. Yet now we hear the faith of one who could hold on to his spirit while he died.

He had been beaten to an inch of his life.

He has been mocked and spit upon and made to wear a crown made of thorns. He stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying his cross–down what we now call the Via Dolorosa (lit. “the way of suffering.”)

“When he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

1 Peter 2:23

We see his faith in the Father’s mercy. At the very last moment he lays his spirit into the hands of God. We must remember, he is not the victim of a terrible tragedy, but he’s the second person of the Trinity, who has decided he must die, so we wouldn’t have to. He carried away the sin that wasn’t his, yours, and mine.

Jesus “put” his spirit into God’s hands. He believed that the Father would take it up, and hold it for him. As a man who was seconds away from dying, he trusts the Lord absolutely. There’s no fear, and there’s no doubt. In spite of everything, he places his soul into the One who promises to save him.

Never doubt that the crucifixion was brutal.

His suffering was intense, and it was very real. He did what he did to free us from our sin. Jesus transformed his death on the place of the skull to the place where sinners find salvation that’s eternal. As we consider this, let’s not forget–it’s our sin that put him there.

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

 John Stott

The breath that caused Adam to live (Genesis 2:7,) is now exhaled into the lives of anyone who believes.

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The Father, #76

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 10:37-38

The Father is in me.” This is one of the clearest passages Jesus uses to explain his ministry. His listeners are doubters. They have decided that he must be executed for blasphemy. In verse 31 we read of their deep, deep anger–“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.”

It’s crazy how “bad religion” affects people. The Pharisees thought for certain that they were defending God’s honor. They really believed that they were doing exactly what they needed to do. Their religion demanded it.

“I and the Father are one” (v. 30), really disturbed them. Leviticus 24:16 delineated their duty. They must defend God from blasphemers, it was their duty as religious leaders. And Jesus was one of the most egregious offenders that they had ever seen.

This confrontation between them and Jesus was quite intense, and yet Jesus, (instead of backing off) presses the issue. The Father has sent him–Jesus must speak the truth, and there is absolutely no sugarcoating his message. He very clearly states what is real. It has to be believed.

“Believe” is mentioned three times. “Know and understand” are thrown out there for good measure. All explain the necessary components that must be present in a saving faith. And yet, all it did was make them angrier.

I believe that Jesus speaks softly, and with wisdom and compassion–but what is real and true, must be spoken. I really don’t think he “returned” their anger. That would’ve been wrong. And John doesn’t mention it.

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife.”

(Prov. 15:8)

“The Father is in me and I am in the Father” explains his ministry, and Jesus can’t, or won’t, compromise his message, or the truth. It is a fact. It’s something you can hang your hat on.

“He is not ‘making himself God’; he is not ‘making himself’ anything, but in word and work he is showing himself to be what he truly is – the Son sent by the Father to bring life and light to mankind.”

Bruce’s Commentary

When they looked at Jesus–they saw the face of God. The Father was living in him–and he resided in the Father. This is the truth, and it blew out their religious circuits. It was something they simply couldn’t accept.

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The Voice, #51

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

Matthew 17:5, (context, vv. 1-8)

Sometimes God uses a megaphone. At least whenever I read this account I always have that impression. Perhaps, like these three disciples, we are being led into these situations were the voice of God becomes extremely audible. When we do hear Him it occasionally freaks us out.

The disciples collided with God’s glory and it altered them permanently. Peter recalled these many years later in 2 Peter 1:17-18–

“…when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter remembers the voice. At the end of his life that is what amazed him–Peter couldn’t forget, it was something he couldn’t shake. He had seen astonishing things that afternoon, profound things; but at the end he recalls that voice. When we read this, we realize that it wasn’t the visuals so much as it that voice that terrified the three of them.

*****

“Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew 17:7

Peter is not penalized for his distressing behavior on the mountain. I’ve read this passage over the years, and every time (without fail) I’m totally embarrassed by Peter. He is completely out of mesh here–he acts like clown. He hasn’t a clue.

When the three hear the voice they fold–they are terrified to the point of collapse. The Greek word is “phobos,” the root of our word phobia. This is intense, knee-shaking, face-falling fear. (“Loose bowels” is just slightly more intense.)

Jesus steps right into this situation. He understands completely. He may have even smiled? He reaches to His own and lifts them up. “Don’t be afraid anymore” can be very comforting to hear, especially coming Jesus.

“The Bible is God’s voice, in print.”

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Mothers and Brothers, Entry #37

Jesus Papyrus, jerusalemperspective.com

49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 

“Here are my mother and my brothers! “

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12:49-50, (context, vv. 46-50)

His family is spiritual. Earthly connections aren’t what really matters, Jesus expresses an important understanding of the Kingdom of God. Things are not evaluated by physical relationships anymore. Life is different now.

I don’t think Jesus has gone out of His way to alienate His earthly or physical connections to His family. I don’t think He is being rude or uncaring. That isn’t part of His thinking. And yet He does seem to point to something that’s more permanent and everlasting.

It isn’t enough to be His brother, or cousin or uncle. These things really don’t matter. What does matter is being part of His spiritual family. To be painfully honest, it seems to me anyway, that the spiritual relationship is what truly counts. Being Jesus’ disciple, and doing the Father’s will for us transforms us and lifts us up to family ‘status.’

But it doesn’t strictly matter “how” you relate to Jesus so much, but how you do the will of God. That is what impresses Jesus. That’s what He communicates to those who are standing around Him. Do you really understand what is family? Can you grasp the idea that doing the will of God now makes you authentic?

They say “blood is thicker than water.’ Jesus’ blood unites us to Him and each other! Doing the Father’s will turns us into His family.

We must reach out and grab this concept–we are family if we do the will of God, believe in His sacrificial work and immerse ourselves into His purposes. We become His family, spiritually anyway, when we start to do what He wants for us. Am I doing what He wants for me at this moment, or the next, or the next?

Are we really part of His family, or is someone else our father?

“The purpose of the Bible is simply to proclaim God’s plan to save His children. It asserts that man is lost and needs to be saved. And it communicates the message that Jesus is the God in the flesh sent to save His children.”

– Max Lucado

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Cold Water, Entry #32

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:42, (context vv. 40-42)

People are empty, desperate and spiritually dead. I once served Jesus as a “street preacher” in the inner-city of San Francisco. Over and over, I saw the heavy darkness of the city. I was the ‘point-man’ who led a team of believers who were training to do church on the street. Once a dedicated pastor-friend told me he believed that a cult a day was born there. What pain that must bring to God!

People have a tremendous need. They’re waiting, and they are desperately thirsty, and I witnessed it first hand. I saw every weird aberration of truth that floated through the hearts of lost people. At times I began to understand the broken heart of God, and it hurt me inside. I never asked for it. But sometimes He gives it to those who are trying to follow Him.

So, we hand out cold water. We give it to His followers without considering if they’re worthy of it. We freely serve it to Jesus’ “littlest” disciples. Stature in our eyes means zero to God, and yet it somehow means everything to us. Often His grace comes through the small hands of another child of God. That’s the way it’s suppose to work anyway.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38, ESV

Rewards will be given. They come to anyone who dares to reach into the life of another. The giver will always be seen by our Lord– everything we do, or don’t do, is lovingly observed by Him. This simple cup of water now has eternal consequences. We can hardly believe it, but it’s true.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

-D.L. Moody

   

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Soul Food, Entry #14

“But he said to them, 

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

John 4:32, (context vv. 28-35)

Jesus states that He draws His strength from the Father’s will. His “food” is exclusively His own (not the ‘disciples’). He gains power from doing all that God is asking Him to do. Jesus’ personal strength comes from accomplishing or fulfilling that which the Father reveals as His will.

Why can’t we be more like Jesus in this? We have the daily option (and it’s indeed ‘optional’) to do the things that the Holy Spirit has laid out for us. Will we fulfill His will or do we decide to go our own way? What is our “food?” Where does our strength lie?

The Spirit reveals what God’s will is to our particular path. The decision to do the things He has laid out for us is necessary for us to grow up, to advance His kingdom, and to reveal God’s glory to a watching world. This is what we have been created to be. This is our truest calling.

His purposes are to be our food.

Doing God’s will can be optional, and a decision has to be made ‘moment-by-moment’ and every single day. Our precious time with Him, through prayer and the Word, quite often will lay out the direction we’re to take. We definitely need to hear His voice, that is critical. Becoming attentive and aware to His purposes reveal a true intimacy with the Lord.

Doing God’s will is the exquisite adventure of a faith that is really alive. Our witness blossoms when we decide that we will obey Him. I don’t think it needs to be dull or tedious. It’s the grand call of the authentic believer. Doing the things He wants for us is to be our “food” for each day. His will is our ‘nourishment.’

I believe this is what Jesus was teaching His disciples.

“If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

John 15:10, CSB

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Simple Jars of Wine, Entry #10

Jesus said to the servants,

“Fill the jars with water.” 

And they filled them up to the brim.”

John 2:7, (context, John 2:1-11) 

Turning water into wine? Easy, right? But let’s think for a moment. Molecules have to be drastically moved and profoundly altered, changed completely. They are totally transformed into something they were not. Chemistry says “impossible,” Jesus says “watch Me!”

We are the jars, clay and water. We stand in the hallway, and wait to be filled. But when Jesus comes to our lives, we are transformed. Our watery life becomes full of precious wine. It is our own personal miracle, we are totally transmuted, radically changed.

We are no longer water, but we have become wine. And not just any old wine, but the very best (v. 10). But why does Jesus do this? He is love, this is how He has chosen to operate.

It’s His primary motive (John 3:16,) “God so loved the world…”

But secondly, it is all for His “glory.” He declares His magnificence in us, puny little “clay” pots.

We sit in the hallway, just waiting for His touch. We bring nothing and become ‘everything.’ We are mere water only, until He speaks. Nothing, but now everything. And not just second-rate–but the very best.


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Romans 12:2

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Completing Scripture, Entry #6

“And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:21

Jesus initiates the conversation, as He usually does. He is talkative without being irritating or tedious. “He began to say” is just the start, and He intends to penetrate our defenses with His words. As ‘hard-headed’ as we are, we desperately need a spiritual jack-hammer. And Jesus promises to keep His word.

The Bible is ‘God-breathed. It isn’t like any other book, it discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). There is nothing–absolutely nothing that remotely compares to God’s Word. It is the ultimate authority in the entire universe. By the Lord’s eternal Word all of creation came into existence. By His speech He changes our calloused hearts to be like His.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” 

John 1:1-3 

When Jesus stands up and reads, He ‘bonds’ His ministry to these scrolls. Both He and God’s words are fully connected with each other. He ‘fulfills’ everything that is written down in ink. The authority of Christ and the power of the precepts are fully cemented together. God’s wondrous work is truly seamless.

“I will answer for it, the longer you read the Bible, the more you will like it; it will grow sweeter and sweeter; and the more you get into the spirit of it, the more you will get into the spirit of Christ.”

-William Romaine


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The Spirit is on Me, Entry #5

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

The Trinity is seen at work redeeming man in these two verses–the Spirit anoints, Jesus proclaims, God pours out His favor. The ‘three-in-one’ is active and moving, and He is incredibly involved in each one’s salvation. This quotation is taken directly from Isaiah 61:1 and it completely defines the ministry of the messiah.

The focal point here is on the needy and desperate. The poor, captives, blind and all of the oppressed become the chosen ones of Jesus’ ministry. His specialty is the neglected and the needy, that is His work and I believe that those are still the specific ones He has His eye on all along. He mind hasn’t changed in 2000 years.

The Holy Spirit is critically needed to do this work.

If Jesus needed to be consecrated for this task, how very much more do we. The message is always one of healing, the needy and the beaten down. That really must be our M.O. We must do the work in God’s way, with God’s power. We must be energized to reach the very lost with the presence of God. This is His heart cry.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

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Tempted by the Devil, Entry #3

“Christ in the Wilderness,” Briton Riviere

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God are’”

(Matthew 4:4)

God Words are equated to bread, which is emblematic of every kind of food. Bread signifies life. Jesus addressing the tempter, places the Word of God as the final Sustianer of life itself. By His declaration He establishes what is real and necessary to every disciple.

The Word of God is the food that the believer needs. Without the promises of God we “starve” spiritually. We all must have what God is speaking, all that “the mouth of God” wants to share with us.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 parallels Matthew 4:1–4. When Jesus is tempted three times, He quotes exclusively from the book of Deuteronomy each time. We see Him strengthening His calling by using the truth found in the OT, He establishes His ministry using the Law of Moses.

“I will abundantly bless her provisions;
    I will satisfy her poor with bread.”

(Psalm 132:15)

(See also: Matthew 3:15, 4:7, 4:10)

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