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.

The Interrogation, #100

friarmusings.com

“If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 And they all said, “So You are the Son of God?” And He said to them, “You say correctly that I am.” 71 And then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth!”

Luke 22:67-71, NASB

The Sanhedrin thought they had him. Jesus mounts no defense in this particular trial. He is serene, quiet and very much in control. The interrogators tried 5-6 different questions, each purposefully designed to reveal Jesus’ guilt. We should remember, he was regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

This was regarded as a capital crime–a death penalty could be given. But the Law declares that a trial could only be held in the daylight. It was to be public, open to all Jewish men. And in cases like Jesus’, the evidence was to be offered on one day, and a verdict the following. It couldn’t be a “rush” to judgement.

They got there licks in even before the official arraignment before the high priest. Jesus is blindfolded, mocked and beaten, even before the trial began (Luke 22:63-65). All of this took place as soon as he was brought in from the Garden, even before he was charged with a crime!

The deck was definitely stacked against him. The blindfold seems to be a test of sorts, it was believed that the real Messiah would have the supernatural ability to discern his attackers, even while blindfolded. That explains much if it’s true. The spitting was pretty evil though (Mark 14:65).

In this passage Jesus carefully turns the tables on his interrogators. His reply is perfect–they are forced to examine their own hearts. When you put the Son of God on trial, you can expect to see things like this.

“Jesus warned them that though they sat in judgment of Him now, He would one day sit in judgment of them – and with a far more binding judgment.”

David Guzik’s Biblical Commentary

Jesus reply of “I am” carries significant meaning, and we see the impact it has on his captors. In verse 71, they now have the answer they’re looking for, and we sense that they’ve got the evidence in that response. It’s the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for.

The patience and endurance of Jesus amazes me.

He stands alone in the middle of accusations and after being mocked and beaten. In the Garden he states that at his word he can have “twelve legions of angels” ready to protect him (Matthew 26:53). This is profound–I consider not only his restraint, but also his steadfastness, his ability to press on no matter what.

He doesn’t crack or break under the pressure. He goes the distance. He patiently endures it all, and he did this for you and me. Now dear ones, that’s a very good thing.

“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.”

Hebrews 12:3

To Seek and to Save, #87

9 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:9-10 (context, vv. 1-10)

The Jewish people regarded salvation simply as being a child of Abraham. Faith was not necessary, but being saved was simply genealogical. It was the exclusive privilege of every Jewish man and woman. It was the sole position of anyone who was descended from Abraham.

There were exceptions however. If an Israelite lived outside of the Law, they forfeited their salvation. If they cooperated with the Gentiles, or if they committed some heinous crime, they couldn’t be a true Israelite. You were saved, just because you had descended from Abraham.

Zacchaeus couldn’t be saved. He had essentially had renounced his salvation when he cooperated with the Romans as a tax-collector. He had made the choice of a living his life outside of what was acceptable to the religious norms. In short he chose to be damned. He had decided to walk the highway to hell, but that was his decision.

When Jesus called up the tree to Zacchaeus, and invited himself to dinner, Jesus was committing a forbidden act. You must understand that Zacchaeus was unclean, a sinner, and any contact with was regarded as a grossly evil action. In short, Jesus had allied himself with an unclean man. Thus Jesus must be unclean as well.

The “righteous” Jew would never ever have anything to do with Zacchaeus. That is why they had such an issue with Jesus’ decision to eat with him. And that’s why Zacchaeus was thrilled to have such an eminent teacher as his guest.

Jesus was seeking to save the lost.

Zacchaeus invited all of his “evil” friends to come and come to join in the feast. It’s funny, when it came to “evangelism,” he did all the work!

Zacchaeus would prove himself as a “child of Abraham” by his amazing repentance. The presence of Jesus in his home sparked life in his heart. Zachaeus’ repentance was remarkable and truly spontaneous. And probably more astonishing was Jesus declaring that Zacchaeus was now a true child of Abraham.

When we finally decide we can mingle with the lost, just like Jesus did, we can expect to see miraculous things. We won’t contaminate ourselves–it doesn’t work that way. When we reach out, we can count on the “Jesus” who now lives inside of us to touch the outcast. He wants to, and all he needs is for us to find the lost, and be with them.

I must implore you to “seek and save” those who are outside the norm. Ask Jesus to lead you to them–and quit worrying about what other Christians might say and think.

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

   James H. Aughey

Blind and Desperate, #85

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

42 “Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Luke 18:40-43

Tradition tells us that his name is Bartimaeus. This man, led by others, plopped on a mat by a curb, that’s where he will hold out a basket to collect coins. Hopefully, he would do well, and if not–well there will always be tomorrow–another black and meaningless day. Is this is as good as it’ll ever get?

The crowd around him starts to get more and more excited, and this man, who is very much attuned to the noise of the things around him, tries to pick out conversations, he wants to understand. He keeps listening, and the voices get louder and louder, and he finally pieces together what’s happening.

He finally hears one of them shout out, “It’s the Messiah! It’s him–he has come!” At that moment he too stands up, and begins to shout himself. But his shouting gets louder, and it turns into screams. Within seconds he’s out-of-control, and wild and insane. He releases years of pent up anger and frustration.

The crowd, who was once preoccupied by Jesus’ interesting entourage, now tries hard to quiet this wild dervish down. But he quite mad by now, completely out-of-control. His deranged screams are those of man pushed totally beyond reason.

The original Greek text describes two different words in the New Testament.

The first word used by the crowd is used as a cry for assistance, and deliverance. It’s basically a “respectable” kind of a shout for help. Loud, but still within reason. Earsplitting maybe, but still aware of itself and yet somewhat respectable.

But the second kind of scream, isn’t the regular ‘run-of-the-mill’ kind, rather it’s the scream of someone extremely disturbed. It is wild, primal–something animalistic, shrieking, unearthly, something that’s very disturbing. It’s the cry when an animal goes berserk and in pain, chews off its leg that’s caught in a steel trap. It’s much more than loud, it’s a scream from someone that’s completely out of control.

Dear friend, this is not a human scream. He’s far, far past that point.

Jesus is completely in control. He’s not disturbed, shocked or offended–he’s not fazed by this awful darkness of this desperate man. He orders that he be brought to him. At that moment, all eyes are glued to Jesus and this blind man. I have to believe a hush fell over everyone, quiet enough for them to hear the conversation.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks that question, and it seems an unreal thing to ask. And yet Jesus speaks it into this man’s wild, raving, out-of-control pain. It was Jesus who calmed the turbulent seas; he is now reaching into this man’s incredible darkness. “What do you want?” It’s a question that must be asked.

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

Jesus calmly announces to the man that his faith has saved him. At that instant Bartimaeus sees. That’s all that was needed.

I really need to ask you this–How far will you go, how loud will you get? How many people will you ignore to reach your Savior and your Healer? How insistent will you become? How outrageous will you get to see Jesus reach in and touch your need?

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”

Joni Eareckson Tada

What About the Children? #82

 “People were bringing infants to him so that he might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: 

“Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17

There is conflict here–and we can’t ignore it. The disciples seem to see themselves as the unofficial “protecters” of Jesus. I suppose that the sheer immensity of the crowds, and Jesus’ popularity, forced them to act as go-betweens. They believed that they needed to protect Jesus by only letting certain people, with certain needs, get close to him. I believe that their motives were good and proper.

Jesus’ disciples were getting headaches. His ministry was wildly successful by this time–wherever he went massive crowds followed, if not for the teaching and healings, but at least for the spectacle. In a dull and dreary life, the Lord Jesus was their entertainment (this was before MTV and video games).

Celebs often need protection. The president of the United States has the Secret Service–they surround him, and form a barrier. Perhaps this is what the 12 saw as their duty and calling. Only certain people, those who were properly vetted, could get close enough to really meet him.

The disciples had a plan–but it meant restricting access to him. They would set up their perimeter, and only let certain people access Jesus. In theory it was wisdom, but in practice it was really difficult. But disciples would find a way–and, of course, parents would find ways to get around them.

But I’m digressing here.

The real issue here is how we enter his kingdom. Jesus was crystal clear. Only “children” get in. The simple and the unsophisticated are the only ones who are given kingdom passports. They’re the ONLY ones who can enter in–that means the proud theologian, the all together socialite, and the mature elder will only get “citizenship” if they become children again.

“The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.”

Charles Hodge

But what does this really mean? It seems to me that it most definitely ties into Nicodemus’ late night talk with Jesus, John 3, and being “born again.” In chapter 3, Jesus sits down with a sophistically religious man, and rocks his sophisticated world–

“Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (context, vv. 1-13)

We must stay simple, (K.I.S.S.) It’s the enemy who tries to pull us away from that, and into a knotty complexity, and a fairly elaborate theological correctness. But this dear reader, isn’t the way of Jesus, nor is it the way of true maturity. We can understand Nicodemus’ confusion all too well, when we try to enter God’s kingdom without the humbleness of a child.

“Not only did Jesus welcome these little human beings as members of the kingdom of God; He also extolled them as model citizens of the same, because of their capacity to trust and love.”

-Some unknown guy

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.

A Crooked Back, #74

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

Luke 13:12-13, (context, vv. 10-17)

Doctors call it spondylitis ankylopoetica, which produces the fusion of the spinal bones. Sometimes physical issues have spiritual reasons, and many times crippling diseases leave their marks on our hearts. They damage us inside.

Eighteen years is an awful long time.

The response to this astounding miracle was less then ideal. Quite often “religion” responds out of foolishness, and anger at what God wants to do:

“But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

(verse 14)

Jesus is angry. He rebukes the hypocrisy of the synagogues leaders. Their livestock get better treatment.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

    C.S. Lewis

“As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

(verse 17)

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

    James H. Aughey

Sin Always Means Death, #68

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 8:24, (context, vv. 21-30)

Death is defined in a very basic sense, as the cessation of life. You’ll simply stop breathing, and your heart will no longer beat. You’ll be brain dead in a matter of minutes. And perhaps it’s then you’ll suddenly realize that you really do have an expiration date. (Will it be a burial, or a cremation?)

I don’t want to sound morbid. That really isn’t my intention. I know I can be blunt–but please, don’t dismiss this ghoulishness as the prattlings of a really weird person. I sometimes think we really need a jolt; it teaches us to take life a wee bit carefully. Our days are numbered–whether we like it or not.

“Teach us how short our lives are
    so that we can become wise.”

Psalm 90:12

The words of Jesus can be somewhat stark and terribly pointed— It’s silly I know, but there’s something here that feels like you’ve got a pebble in your shoe. It annoys you, but you’ll try pretend its not a real problem, you’ll survive, you’ll do just about anything but sit down and shake it out, or else you’ll learn to walk funny. But he’s now speaking truth to us, and his words are crystal clear, they cut us like a scalpel.

There’s a militancy in verse 24, something that’s granite hard, and it doesn’t flex like we want it to. Spiritual honesty has never come easy to humans, and to be honest, we’ll choose varying intoxicants over what is real. “Truth. You can’t handle the truth”, is a line from a movie that somehow got stuck in my brain.

Experience has taught me that truth is almost always negative when it’s first encountered.

“Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” can be chilling, and if we’re really, really honest it might feel like a steel-toed boot in our solar plexus. It somehow takes the breath right out of us. When Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, they begin to suffocate. They can’t handle what he’s saying, so of course they fall back, they resort to their carnal specialties–accusation and slander.

Believing–that seems like it’s the critical component. I think that Jesus spoke this truth with real compassion. He’s not like us. He’s not fighting back. He simply declares what’s true–and believe it or not, he desperately wants them to believe him. He loves each one of these religious rascals, and because of that–truth has to be plainly spoken–he wants to save their souls.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

C.S. Lewis

   

 

The Plow, #56

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62 (context, vv. 57-62)

Every disciple has his plow. Sometimes it’ll be obvious, everyone sees it; other times it’ll be buried deep inside, and no one knows. A plow is a perfect word to describe exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing–and its descriptive of the determination of a disciple who is slowly learning how to follow.

When you’re trying to grow-up you’ll grasp this foundational lesson. You have to be single-minded and really focused to stay moving ahead. You cannot look behind at what has been done. You can’t turn around to admire your work, rather we look at the tree that is keeping us lined up with Jesus.

You will sweat and get tired. Your full effort is needed to keep the plow in the hard earth. You aren’t pushing, the oxen is pulling, but you’re the one who weighs it down while keeping your furrow relatively straight. It’s harder than it looks. (Thank God for the modern tractor.)

In case the plowman starts to look back, his plow line would become crooked. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest. A good plowman has learned he must hold on. In following Jesus, we are to keep our eyes on Him, and never let our minds and hearts wander away. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)

“To keep our hand on the plow while wiping away the tears–THAT is Christianity.”

-Watchman Nee

To follow means looking and moving forward. We must understand this–it’s the very essence of walking a path. We’re walking out the journey. Sometimes we feel Jesus’ joy as His follower, but occasionally we won’t. We’re learning to understand it more and more. But no matter what, we keep putting heel-to-toe. We are followers after all.

Jesus lived this; He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

-George Mueller

Mustard Seed, #52

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20-21, (context, vv. 14-21)

Ever wonder how cool it would be to read minds? On this certain day Peter’s brain has been a real doozy. He’s been chosen to follow Jesus with both James and John (they don’t know where or why, they just follow.)

And what a day it turned out to be! They see Jesus turn into light, and meet Moses and Elijah. But then they heard the Voice. It was the voice that scrambled them. We know for certain of how hearing that altered him, (2 Peter 1:17-18.)

Coming off the mountain they’re sworn to secrecy. They can tell no one what just happened! How curious is Peter now?

They round an outcrop of rocks and slide right into a crowd—and then a man, on his knees pleading for help, mercy or both. Things are pretty desperate for the man, for sure, but Jesus is apparently frustrated by the whole scene, (v. 17.) A slender rebuke is truly necessary here.

But what a crazy spiritual day for Peter. From those wonderful mountain peaks of spiritual beauty to a crowd of very stressed people. But that’s the walk of a disciple who is becoming like his Master. It’s always a bit interesting when the Spirit teaches us. Following Jesus was never meant to bore a person.

Obviously this passage deals with both the nature and uses of faith. Issues of “quality” are considered, and the subject of proportions comes up. “A little goes a long way” might be homespun spirituality to some, but it’s a truism of simple spirituality. I suppose there is an economy and coherency to what needs to be understood.

I tend to see Jesus grieved by the satanic system that destroys fallen humans. Perhaps this was another painful reminder for Him. In the past He used the metaphor of sheep without a Shepherd faced by wolves. This seems to be His take.

Just a wee bit of consideration–turning to Him in my humble rendition of belief somehow moves His heart. Mountains are stumbling for the exits, and faith does really impossible things! I have walked with God 35+ years–I really have seen the Holy Spirit do the astonishing over and over.

“No faith is required to do the possible; actually only a morsel of this atom-powered stuff is needed to do the impossible, for a piece as large as a mustard seed will do more than we have ever dreamed of.”

–Leonard Ravenhill