The Second Word From the Cross
“Truly I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Jesus had already endured a scourging and had already carried His cross up Calvary’s hill. Jesus had already had nails driven through His hands and feet and a crown of thorns pushed onto His already-bloodied face. Then came the mocking. The crowd — that had just days earlier cried hosanna – jeered. The centurions – that had just hours earlier flogged and stripped – ridiculed. And now, a criminal who hung beside him began to heckle.
“Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
It was meant to insult the dying Jesus, but surely, there was a true thread of desperation in the sinner’s voice. This man had been rumored to raise the dead and to heal the blind. Surely, He could remove a man from a Roman cross.
The other criminal rebuked him. “’And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’”
Jesus responded with grace, though even as He spoke the words, He was suffering and dying for the sin of that man.
Jesus responded with this: “Truly I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.”
And so He speaks the same words to us. Though it was the weight of our sin that held Him to the cross and though it was our price He paid, He still extends grace to us. He offers it every moment of every day because His suffering enabled him to do so. His suffering, death, and resurrection bought us entrance into “paradise.” All we must do is turn to Him from the mire of our sin and ask for it with true faith and repentant hearts.
Originally posted on 3/20/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page
The History Behind Holy Monday
“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.” (Matthew 28:18-19)
For those of us (and this includes me) who aren’t very familiar with the growing seasons of fig trees, it is important for us to note that when a fig tree becomes covered in leaves, it is also time for it to bear figs.
And so it was with the people He had come to save. The time of their salvation was at hand. These people had spent centuries praying for a Messiah, and here He was. He healed their sick; He touched their untouchable; He raised their dead.
This still was not enough for them, for the ruling classes were clamoring for His death and a fickle people would soon follow.
In the world today, the time for us to bear fruit is at hand, for “we have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and full of truth.” (John 1)
We must bear the fruit of our life-giving God — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Holy Week is the perfect time to ask yourself a hard question —
if Christ stopped on the road to examine the fruits of my life, what would He find?
Originally posted 3/21/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page
The Fourth Word
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Millions of innocent sacrifices had died on Jewish altars to atone for the sins of a people who continually fell short.
Every year – on that very day – the Jews celebrated that the Lord “passed over” them in judgement.
This would be the last time innocent blood would have to be shed to cover sins. This would be the ultimate “passover” of God’s people.
Jesus was the final Passover lamb, and all of our sin rested on His shoulders.
A holy and perfect God could not bear to look upon a man who represented — in its rawest, most ugly form — the broken relationship between man and Himself.
Jesus had never known life without His Father, and He felt abandoned.
He experienced abandonment so that we would never have to.
From this terrible Word, we can learn a beautiful truth: we are never alone. No matter how far we stray, no matter how low the valley… everything is covered in the shadow of the Cross.
Originally posted 3/22/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page
The History Behind “Spy Wednesday”
The clock was ticking toward Good Friday. Jesus had pronounced judgement on the Temple, had cursed a fruitless fig tree, and had given his famous sermon from the Mount of Olives.
The Sanhedrin wanted him dead, and they lay in wait for their opportunity to strike down the Man who represented everything that could send their establishment toppling.
What they had been waiting for came to them.
“Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the Chief Priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray Him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that moment, he began to look for an opportunity to betray Him.” (Matthew 26:15-16)
The reason for the number of silver pieces was two-fold:
1) to fulfill scripture — “So they weighed out my wages as thirty pieces of silver.” (Zechariah 11:12)
2) to humiliate Jesus — 30 pieces of silver was the price that would have been paid to purchase a slave.
How terrible it is that humanity paid the price of a slave for the life of its Savior. Jesus, however, poured out “grace upon grace” and paid the ultimate price for a people who had betrayed Him — He paid the wages of our sin with His own life.
Originally posted on 3/23/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page
The Sixth Word from the Cross
“A jar of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, He bowed His head and said, ‘It is finished.'”
It had been a long journey – one that had spanned thousands of years – for the time to come for Jesus to speak those words.
The journey had begun in a garden, a place where humanity walked step-for-step with God. It was there that the desire for knowledge trumped the desire for communion with the Creator.
Humans then began climbing the slippery slope back to God, but we discovered the horrifying truth: we could never make it back on our own. The chasm our sin had created was so wide that mere mortals could not bridge it.
We tried to cross it by fulfilling the Law, but it only served to prove that we “fell short of the glory of God.”
We tried to cross it by sacrificing animals on an altar, but its yearly repetition reminded us that our efforts were never permanent.
The only thing that could bridge that gap was the crossbeam of the cross. Jesus knew it. Jesus knew that millenniums of human struggling and shortcomings were over, because He Himself would now eternally be enough. Jesus chose all of His final words carefully, and don’t you know this one echoed throughout the ages?
“It is finished.”
Originally posted on 3/24/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page
The History Behind Good Friday
The story of humanity began with one man’s fall from grace in a garden, and it climaxed with another man’s ascent to grace in a garden.
When Jesus retreated in prayer, the Bible is always careful to tell us that it was “his custom” to do so. The Messiah had prayed through every moment of His life, and He still did so, but with more desperation than ever before.
Jesus had asked His disciples to pray alongside of Him, but even that task — praying for the greatest Friend they’d ever have in His hour of deepest need — would prove to be too much for them.
This brings us to our first question of reflection this Good Friday: How many times have you “fallen asleep” in the midst of God’s assigned work for your life? How many times have you neglected to pray for a friend, even during the times when your prayers were what they needed most?
Jesus was then betrayed into the hands of His murderers — marking the second time God had been sold out in a garden.
Jesus endured a mockery of a trial, appearing first before the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate, and finally before Herod himself. Pilate claimed that he could “find no basis for accusation with this man,” but he still allowed the Jewish people to choose. Barabbas or Jesus? An insurrectionist or the Messiah? The Jews chose the cross for Christ.
This brings us to another question we must answer: How many times have we, too, chosen Barrabas? How many times have we chosen rebellion over Christ?
As He always had, God honored His people’s free will, even at the cost of His own Son. Jesus was crucified by the people He came to save, and though Pilate “washed his hands” of Jesus’s death, it is imperative that we do not do so.
We must remember that terrible, terrible Friday, for in its commemoration, we come to know the tender, bleeding heart of God — the heart that now dwells in us if we accept His work on the cross.
But take heart — though we honor Good Friday, we are an “Easter people,” and Sunday is just around the bend!
Originally posted on 3/25/16 on the Waynesboro FUMC Facebook page