Saturday, July 10, 2010

SEVEN LAST WORDS And 29 Tomatoes

Most of us display our sin nature -- the far-from-perfect "old man" -- when we are not at our best (or not getting our own way). When someone on the freeway is driving at 53mph, we impatiently call him "#@%Sunday Driver!" Or when a cyclist splatters road-side mud all over our just-coiffed French poodle, we might point that very expressive finger. Or when we smash the not-so-funny funny-bone of our elbow, we might yelp out some four-letter word. Or when we are reeling with a migraine, and we just can't be bothered with putting on our social manners.

When we are hurting, whether physically, emotionally or mentally, we are challenged to exhibit our better nature... and almost always, we fail. Because we are focused on our own pain -- our mouth will usually express our "old man" nature -- with thoughtless expletives... with unkind, ungentle, unworthy words. (For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45b)

JESUS -- during His excruciating agony on the Cross -- did not sin. Not one word of unkindness or unworthiness came out of His mouth. Because JESUS was sinless, righteous through and through, Who was not tainted with man's "old man" nature, but characterized with His Father's own nature -- perfect holiness -- everything that came out of His mouth during his ultimate suffering was perfect and good.

JESUS -- as He experienced unbelievable pain -- the crown of thorns digging into His head, the gaping lacerations from the cruel scourging screaming intolerable agony as His body dragged on the rugged beam when He raised Himself up to gasp for breath, the bloody pierced hands and feet afire with indescribable pain...

JESUS -- Son of Man -- never uttered blasphemy. He did not curse His killers. He never complained. He did not blame GOD. He never sinned. CHRIST, GOD the Son, died sinless -- leaving us an example in His dying to follow in our living.

CHRIST left us seven sayings before He died on the Cross. With these seven last words of JESUS, we can follow His example of dying so that we may live, pleasing GOD, our Father in Heaven. (Below is a summary of John MacArthur's sermon on JESUS' Death Shows Us How To Live... illustrated with My Backyard tomatoes.)

The first saying of JESUS was, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) JESUS forgave those who rejected Him, who insulted Him, who did not believe Him (despite the countless miracles He did which testified to His authenticity as GOD the Son), who plotted His death, who cast their vote to kill Him, who spat on Him, who pulled the hair off His beard, who beat Him with their fists, who scourged Him to the point where He was unrecognizable, who hammered the nails in His hands and feet...He forgave His killers. He forgave -- and still forgives all who have fallen off the True Vine.

And as followers of CHRIST, we must also forgive all who have personally hurt us, however great or small the pain inflicted upon us -- 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:21-22)... for if the Master, Kurios, forgave even those who murdered Him, so must His doulos -- His slaves -- also forgive all.
The second saying of JESUS was, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) Even in His unbearable agony, JESUS kept true to His mission -- to save the lost. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) The thief on the cross next to JESUS believed in JESUS as the Messiah, the CHRIST.

It was no accident that there were two sinners crucified with JESUS -- one to enter into paradise, the other into hell. The repentant thief recognized JESUS as sinless and undeserving the verdict of death. The unrepentant sinner continued to blaspheme JESUS. The repentant sinner acknowledged that JESUS was King and that He will rule in His Kingdom, for he said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) The penitent believed that JESUS will be resurrected, for a dead king cannot come into his kingdom -- but a resurrected King can.
And CHRIST, ever set on His mission to save the lost, even in His dying, was mindful to include this lost man... the repentant thief. Those who are CHRIST's own must also be zealous about reaching the lost -- no matter if rejected, mocked, or even persecuted. If JESUS is our LORD, we must do as He exemplified -- showing others the Door to eternal paradise.

The third saying of JESUS were the words, "Woman, behold your son!" "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26, 27) During this point in His physical agony, JESUS showed compassion for someone else. Even in His most intense pain, He was able to see beyond His own suffering. JESUS knew His mother Mary needed someone to comfort her when He left the physical world to ascend to Heaven, back to His Father. He didn't want to leave Mary with the yet unbelieving half-brothers and -sisters. So He gave the responsibility of taking care of His widowed mother to John, the apostle whom JESUS loved.

That's our example when we are going through our own trials and life's challenges. To not be so inwardly focused on our own problems, on our own personal needs, that we forget to help those who may be in worse shape. And even if they are not in a place of suffering as much as we believe we are -- helping others, focusing on others' needs is the Way that has been set for us to follow. If we are truly GOD's children, then we will love our brothers and sisters In CHRIST as much as we love ourselves.

The fourth saying of JESUS was, "My GOD, My GOD, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) This was the climax of JESUS' agonizing ordeal: separation from the Father. This was the worst of the worst. This was the moment He didn't want to drink from that bitter cup at the garden in Gethsemane. As Son of Man in the flesh, He dreaded the unleashing of GOD's wrath resulting in the separation from His Father -- more than the physical torture of the Cross. JESUS knew the implication of sin -- separation from GOD.

John MacArthur aptly puts it, "Sin could do what nothing else in the universe could do. Men could not separate the Father from the Son...demons could not separate the Father from the Son...satan could not separate the Father from the Son...but sin separated the Father from the Son. It is the most devastating reality in the universe for it separates from GOD. And He experienced it... He who was in the Father and the Father in Him, He who was one with the Father and the Father one with Him, He who had enjoyed eternally uninterrupted perfect communion within the trinity is now forsaken by GOD. Why? Because He's bearing sin and sin separates. GOD is too holy to look on sin, to pure to behold iniquity, says the prophet Habakkuk. Sin alienates from GOD."

GOD's abandonment of JESUS teaches us that our sin separates us from intimate fellowship with GOD.

The fifth saying of JESUS was, "I am thirsty." (John 19:28) JESUS expressed His humanity... His need for someone to give Him a drink. This saying of CHRIST teaches us that we too must live dependently... humbly showing our human weaknesses -- to live, accepting help from others.

The sixth saying of JESUS was, "It is finished." (John 19:30) This was a triumphant declaration that the mission the Father had sent Him to do, He had accomplished. And so, we live, following this example of CHRIST. We aren't here just to run the race of life willy-nilly -- to start and fall on the wayside, or take a short-cut, or take a wrong turn -- or to just "up and die." It's not enough to say, "i ran part of the way" --or -- "i almost finished." We are here to finish the work GOD has purposed for us to do through the empowerment of the indwelling Holy SPIRIT.

The seventh and last saying of JESUS was, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) JESUS, even at the point of death, continued to trust the Father, depending on His promise of resurrection. And that's how we must also live -- trusting our Father for everything, casting all our cares on Him. We must entrust and commit all parts of our lives -- even our death... and resurrection to Him. "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him." (Luke 12:5)

The life JESUS lived was exemplary -- He was the Master at living, and we are His students. But even in His death, JESUS gave us an example on how to live. At His most excruciating agony, He exemplified the Way to live -- to live forgiving others; to live sharing the Truth that leads to Heaven; to live doing more for others' well-being than one's own; to live knowing the destructive consequence of sin; to live humbly accepting our human frailties; to live with the single-minded focus of finishing the work GOD has purposed for us to do; and to live fully trusting and committing our lives in the hands of our almighty and ever-faithful Father -- GOD in Heaven.

Live as JESUS died...

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