September 29, 2014 14:10 PM
My “following Jesus’ footsteps” series is nearly over and will include only two more posts—this week and next. Then I will begin a new series.
Jesus’ mode of death was predicted (Psalm 22) over a thousand years before crucifixion was invented by the Romans. It was a barbaric means of execution; excruciating and often taking days for the victim to die by suffocation. Its cruelty was meant to frighten the populace into submission and was most commonly used to punish rebels. But even before Jesus was nailed to the cross, He endured thirty-nine lashes by a Roman scourge or flagrum. The flagrum was usually made of three thongs containing pieces of metal or bone, and literally ripped out pieces of flesh with every strike. Often this type and number of lashes were enough to kill a man.
But scripture tells us that even more punishment was inflicted on Jesus as a crown of thorns was jammed into His head and sadistic guards beat Him about the face and pulled out his beard. Before that long walk down the Via Dolorosa Jesus was already horribly disfigured and bloody. How He carried the heavy wooden cross-beam across His shoulders is hard to imagine. With every bump or rut in the pavement, Jesus’ body was jarred, causing the wood to rub against His open wounds; all the while, His strength and energy draining from Him with every drop of blood lost.
Finally, Jesus reaches Golgotha, the “place of a skull”. Here He is totally stripped, His manhood exposed before being thrown to the ground and His arms stretched out. Then spikes—seven to nine inches long—were driven through small plaques of wood into His forearms. The plaques were meant to keep the nails from tearing through the flesh and the body pulling away from the cross. Even so, the weight of Jesus’ body will eventually cause the nails to rip through His forearms all the way to the wrists. Next, Jesus’ legs were bent and pulled to the side then spikes driven through other small wooden plaques and into the heels. This position makes it difficult to breathe and each breath is only obtained by the very painful upward push of the body. As Jesus gasps for breath, flies and salty sweat sting and irritate his wounds. And having lost a great deal of bodily fluids, Jesus is parched, causing His tongue to cleave to the roof of His mouth and making it difficult to swallow.
And then the real agony begins, as God the Father attributes to Jesus every sin you and I have ever or will ever commit. One by one our sins are place on Jesus as He takes on their shame and guilt and punishment. We are the rebels. But instead of paying the penalty for rebelling against God, Jesus, executed as a rebel by Rome, pays it for us. And when finally the last sin is paid, Jesus shouts, “It is finished.” That word “finished” is “teleho” in Greek and means “complete, execute, conclude, pay, discharge a debt.” It means every sin has been fully paid for.
When you realize the great price Jesus paid to save us from ourselves it is impossible to see any other way to God. If there was, if there was any other route man could take to be acceptable to God, why in the world would Jesus have ever gone through all of the above?
But we do have one part to play in all this. Universal Salvation is a myth. Yes, Jesus died for every sin committed by every person, but forgives comes only IF we accept what He did. It’s like a poor man having a large savings account. It’s doesn’t do him any good unless he actually makes a withdrawal.
In the end, can we ignore this great love Jesus showed us?
Until next time,
June 16, 2014 11:11 AM
This is powerful. This is where Jesus makes it so clear what is about to happen and why. This is where Jesus takes bread and wine and says those words that will echo throughout eternity: “Take, eat: this is my body” and, referring to the wine, “Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
I’ve written on the blood covenant several times, saying how it was foreshadowed as far back as Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned and God killed innocent animals in order to cover them. That was the first shedding of blood and it was God Who set up the blood standard. Leviticus 17:11 says “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” and Hebrews 9:22 tells us that “under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.”
This fact cannot be overstated especially because so many people just don’t get it. They still think they can “work” their way into heaven, into God’s good graces; or even buy their way into it. But sin cannot be paid for by gold or silver; or compensated for by good works; or exonerated because of family ties, lineage, or status. And Isaiah brings the point home further by telling us that all our good works are but filthy rags in God’s sight.
Once we truly understand this, it’s easy to let go and admit we are incapable of measuring up to God’s holy standards, that we have missed His mark, which is called “sin.” Then we need to personally accept Jesus’ sacrifice. And there’s joy and peace and rest in this. So why do so many continue to fight it? Because it often means changing deeply held and deeply entrenched opinions and ways of thinking. It means moving out of our comfort zone. It means changing our behavior. And perhaps most difficult of all, it means we are not in charge but God is, for we must surrender our lives to Him.
But when we look at what we’re giving up verses what we are gaining, it seems like such a simple decision for really we are trading our ashes—those mistakes, heartaches, and failures in our lives—for God’s beauty, wholeness, peace and joy. What an exchange!
Yes, what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper and at the cross will echo into eternity, and will directly affect where we spend that eternity. And it’s never too late to harken to His words. He is there waiting patiently for each of us to experience His love and forgiveness.
Until next time,
March 24, 2014 14:10 PM
Jesus knows the end is near. His entire ministry was soon to culminate in one last momentous act of love that would change the world. The Devine purpose was soon to be achieved. In John 13:1-38 we see Jesus in an upper room celebrating the feast of Passover. That was no accident since the original Passover was the shadow of things to come, the foreshadowing of when Messiah would become the true Passover Lamb. What were His thoughts? What emotions filled Him? He was God, and as God this was His hearts desire, to finally reconcile the world back to Him. But he was also a man with flesh that could feel pain and a heart that could be broken.
In verse two John tells us that Satan had already put the idea of betraying Jesus into Judas Iscariot’s heart. Here was a man who had been with Jesus from the beginning, was hand picked by Jesus and loved by Him, shared meals with Him, traveled along the same dusty roads, seen the miracles He performed, received His personal attention and instructions. Yet Judas never “got it.” Got who Jesus was or why He was here. How it must have broken Jesus’ heart to know that the one on whom such love and care had been lavished was now going to hand Him over to the executioners.
Jesus understood betrayal, understood the pain of someone He loved going out of his way to harm Him. And so He understands when this happens to us. I don’t think we can live many years without being betrayed or disappointed by someone we love, someone we trusted. It happens. People disappoint. They don’t always “get” our love, or value the time and effort we have poured into them. And even worse, we sometimes disappoint others.
Scripture paints a very dire picture of Judas’ eternal future, but I believe that if he had asked Jesus for forgiveness, Jesus would have granted it. After all, Peter betrayed Jesus, too, though in a different way, and Jesus not only forgave him but restored him as His apostle. And there in is the secret. Forgiveness. Yes people we love will disappoint us. Some may even do us great harm, and while these things are painful and sometimes even devastating, forgiveness is the only road to wholeness. When we consider all that Jesus went through for us, the undeserved ill-will, the phony trials, the abandonment by all except a few, the beatings, the excruciatingly painful crucifixion, and then hear that his last words before He committed His Spirit to God, were “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” can we do less? And if we are the ones who have betrayed or disappointed, wouldn’t we want to be forgiven, too? I know I would.
Until next time,