Below are some musings to help you focus on what it is we remember and rejoice in tonight. I encourage you to download the attached PDF and read it together today or tomorrow.
I also invite you to be part of our service this evening at 6:30pm where we will look at the final few moments of Jesus crucifixion through readings, song, communion and nailing our nail to His cross. He is worth the time.
The cross was not easy for Christ! Make no mistake. But He knew what had to be done. “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me." Then Jesus steps away to be by Himself. Never has He felt so alone. What must be done, only He can do. But He is in anguish. His humanity begged to be delivered from what His divinity could see. Three times He asks His Father if there is another way. Did He know the answer before He asked the question? Did His human heart hope His heavenly Father had found another way? We don’t really know. But we do know He asked to get out. We do know three times He begged for an exit. Of course Jesus would do what was pleasing to His Father. He saw you and I in the midst of the Father’s plans and submitted to His Father’s will. But He wanted us to know He understood what it felt like to be torn between two desires, to be betrayed by those you love, to smell the stench of the enemy. And, perhaps most of all, to beg God to change His mind and hear God say gently but firmly, “No.” For that is what the Father says to the Son and, of course, the Son accepts the answer. God sends an angel of mercy to comfort His Son. Then Jesus stands, the anguish gone from His eyes. His fist will clench no more. His heart will fight no more. The battle is won there in that garden called Gethsemane.
The selflessness, compassion, forgiveness and mercy shown by the Messiah moved heaven and earth. Everyone turned against Jesus. Though the kiss was planted by Judas, the betrayal was committed by all. Every person took a step, but no one was willing to take a stand. Even Peter turns away. As Jesus left the garden He walked alone. The world had turned against Him. He was betrayed. But it is worth noting how Jesus responded to Judas. “Friend, do what you came to do.” Of all the names we might have chosen for Judas, “friend” is probably not one of them. What Judas did to Jesus was completely unfair. Jesus never mistreated Judas. Judas was never left out or neglected. When Jesus points out that His betrayer is eating with them at the Last Supper, none of the disciples knew who He meant because Jesus never said it. They didn’t whisper Judas’s name because Jesus never did, even though He certainly knew it all along. See, Jesus understood that Judas had been called to this moment and was seduced by the enemy. He understood that Judas had a role to play in this divine conspiracy. He understood that justice will not truly come this side of eternity. He understood that demanding that your enemy get his or her share of pain will, in the process, be more painful to you. No, Jesus looked to the future for His eternal hope was fixed there. While going through Hell, Jesus kept His eyes on heaven. While surrounded by enemies, He kept His mind on His Father. While abandoned and alone on earth, He kept His heart on home. He knew that even this betrayal was all part of the Father’s plan. He knew that someday things would be different.
It is almost noon when they nail Jesus to the cross and there is no shade. But on this day the sky begins to grow strangely dark, as if nature reflected the darkness in men’s souls. For today, mankind was busy putting to death the only One who really loved them; the only begotten Son of God. The blackness of man’s heart was clearly felt on the Hill of Calvary. Yet, even as the nails pierced their way through the hands and feet of Jesus’ body, there comes from His lips,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Calvary is a lonely place for the dying. Three crosses are lifted high in the air. The ordeal of dying has begun. The sky has grown dark, ominously black for mid-afternoon, as though God had withdrawn His presence from the earth. “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Christ, forsaken by God. To Jesus, who loved His Father perfectly, there was no greater agony. Darkness pierced His soul and rang in His plea…. Finally, mercifully, the end has come. He speaks three more words as He takes His last breath. But these three little words moved heaven and earth. These three words tore the veil that separated us from the very presence of the Living God. And these three words still turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh even today…
“It is finished!”
ONE SOLITARY LIFE
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another obscure village,
where He worked as a carpenter until He was thirty.
Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house. He never went to college.
He never visited a big city or traveled 200 miles from the place of His birth. He did none of the things usually associated with greatness.
He was known for His meekness, His humility,
His loving speech and His caring touch.
These are not qualities associated with strong, world changing leadership.
In fact, He had no credentials but Himself.
He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against Him.
His friends deserted Him.
He was betrayed, tried, and nailed to cross – one of thousands.
More than 2000 years have come and gone,
and today He remains the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat,
all the kings that ever reigned, put together,
have not affected the life of man on this earth as powerfully as that
ONE SOLITARY LIFE.
MUCH love! That is what Christ cries out to us from His cross! See you soon!