Christina singing a Christian Chorus
Christina singing a Christian Chorus
Jesus on the cross was more than a very good man having a very bad day. At Calvary, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). This reconciliation resonates through all of Jesus’ sacred statements on the cross. Considering them anew enriches our appreciation for what we celebrate every Easter.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.—Luke 23:34.
Facing death, Jesus prays for those who were killing him. His amazing grace contrasts with our own tendency to vilify those we disdain. From politicians we excoriate to acquaintances we snub, our actions demonstrate cluelessness about the depth of our own depravity. (John 13:8). Even our best works require forgiveness, since everything we do falls short of perfection. Thus grace is never earned—just humbly received and shared.
You will be with me in Paradise.—(Luke 23:43).
Crucified between two thieves, Christ endured mocking and cursing from both his crude companions (Matt. 27:44). Even naked felons exploit their social superiority over the defamed “king of the Jews.”
Suddenly God’s Spirit jolts one of them with the truth about Jesus. “Lord, remember me,” he pleads. Christ’s forgiveness is swift and certain. The justified thief dies in peace.
Somehow, many Christians today are reluctant to embrace that assurance of salvation. And yet we too may “rejoice because our names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?—(Matt. 27:46).
On the cross Jesus opened the gates of heaven to us, even as he suffered hell on earth. He experienced the universal and final death we all deserve (Heb. 2:9) The horror of the cross was not mere physical torment, it was Christ’s temporary loss of fellowship with the Father. He who had known no sin became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), and in that moment his fellowship with a holy God was broken, leaving him suffocating in our guilt.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home”—(John 19:26-27).
Jesus was forsaken so we can be accepted, not just by God but by one other. Thus reconciliation with God puts us in new relationship with each other. At the foot of the cross, John is commissioned with family responsibilities that also accrue to us.
All believers comprise a new human race as the body of Christ, the family of God. Having been reconciled together in the death of Jesus and vivified in his resurrection, we become brothers and sisters with those who had been strangers and enemies. We are united forever in a Christ’s new humanity, gifted in the Spirit to serve one another and become laborers together with God in the service of the Gospel (1 Cor. 3:9).
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Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit”—(Luke 23:46).
His life draining away, Jesus offers Himself in victorious surrender. He lifts his head and shouts, “It is finished!”—(John 19:30). This is not a wail of despair but a declaration of triumph. Mission accomplished: Christus victor!
Like many Christians, every year at this time I read anew the Gospel accounts associated with Easter, looking for fresh insights into divine reconciliation. Recently I was fascinated with the taunt of Christ’s enemies: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35).
“He saved others?” Indeed He did—He saved me! The devil’s own disciples unwittingly announced my salvation! Overwhelmed by this glorious irony, I found myself laughing and crying at the same time.
The world disdains such enthusiasm about the cross as emotional folly. Well, fine! Paul boasted, “We are fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 4:10). But “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Glory to the crucified and risen Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ!
By Martin Weber who is the author of numerous books, including My Tortured Conscience and God Was There: True Stories of a Police Chaplain. He currently manages SDA content for Faithlife.
Bumblebees and badgers, lions and skunks, black bears and beagles all have one thing in common: If threatened, they will sting, bite, spray, or maul you. But there’s this predictable trait about lambs: They never attack; instead, throughout history wolves and other predators have attacked them. When lambs are mentioned in the Bible, it’s usually in the context of a sacrificial offering. For example, in the Passover—the central event of the Old Testament—God rescues His people through the blood of a lamb.
So you can imagine the disciples’ shock when John the Baptist introduced Jesus, their Lord and Messiah, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The God of all creation, the one “through [whom] all things were made” (John 1:3 NIV), comes to the earth as … a lamb?
It’s a strange story. Christianity is the only view of life that presents a vulnerable God—a God who, in love and for love, subjected Himself to be mauled by His own creatures. Of course, it’s important to note that Jesus the vulnerable Lamb is also the mighty Lamb who rules on the throne, judges the earth, and triumphs in war (Rev. 5:6; Rev. 14:9-11; Rev. 17:14)—but even then He is the lamb “who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8 NIV).
It’s also a daring and original story, the story of us all—broken people who have wandered so far in the wrong direction, sunk so deep in the morass of sin, that we cannot find our way home or lift ourselves out of the pit. Someone had to enter those dark woods of our own making; someone had to descend into our self-chosen chasm; someone had to find us and rescue us—even if that meant dying in our place. And that is the story of Jesus, the lion who came as a lamb. Unlike the millions of sacrificed Passover lambs slaughtered throughout history, Jesus willingly gave His life “to take away the sin of the world.”
God comes to us as a lamb, as the Lamb of God, to prove that He is for us, not against us. Why would you not place your whole life in His hands?
by Matt Woodley
Editor’s Note: The devotions for March 21st, 22nd, and 23rd focus on elements of Passover, which Jesus celebrated with His disciples the night before His crucifixion.
“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)
The sisters Mary and Martha both loved the Lord Jesus and wanted to please Him. Jesus also loved them (John 11:5) and apparently was an occasional guest at their home in Bethany. Martha evidently felt that activity and service were pleasing to the Lord (and these, indeed, are good and important), whereas Mary simply “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word” (Luke 10:39). To Martha’s surprise and chagrin, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the “good part”—a part more important even than service and food.
Long, long before, the patriarch Job, whom God had said was “a perfect and an upright man” with “none like him in the earth” (Job 1:8), had also chosen that good part. “I have esteemed the words of his mouth,” Job said, “more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
We today can sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word only by reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Important as our daily responsibilities may be to meet our material needs and those of our families, we should make priority time available for this “good part.” The same surely applies especially to Christian leaders. They may have many important tasks to perform in the service of God, but it is still more important for them to take time to “hear His word” in the Scriptures.
The unknown psalmist who wrote the grand 119th Psalm had learned this truth: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. . . . How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding” (Psalm 119:97, 103-104).
We today have a higher privilege than Job, or the psalmist, or even Mary, for we have all the Scriptures! If we truly desire “that good part,” the Lord will surely provide the time, as He did for Mary. HMM
O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain. —Psalm 104:1-2
God of our fathers, enthroned in light, how rich, how musical is the tongue of England! Yet when we attempt to speak forth Thy wonders, our words how poor they seem and our speech how unmelodious. When we consider the fearful mystery of Thy Triune Godhead we lay our hand upon our mouth. Before that burning bush we ask not to understand, but only that we may fitly adore Thee, One God in Persons Three. Amen.
To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption….
“We think more loftily of God,” says Michael de Molinos, “by knowing that He is incomprehensible, and above our understanding, than by conceiving Him under any image, and creature beauty, according to our rude understanding.”
My words, how poor they seem, yet I worship Your great mystery. Lord, accept the meditation of my heart as my expression of worship. Amen.
How be it when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)
Science declares that nature abhors a vacuum. It should be happy knowledge to us, then, that the same principle is true in the kingdom of God—when you empty yourself, God Almighty rushes in!
The Creator God who fills the universe and overflows into immensity can never be surrounded by that little thing we call our brain, our mind, our intellect. Never can we rise to face God by what we are and by what we know! Only by love and faith are we lifted thus to know Him and adore Him!
What a happy hour it becomes when we are drawn out of ourselves, and into that vacuum rushes the blessed Presence.
How wonderful in our humanity to sense the reality of the Holy Spirit’s invitation: “Pour yourself out! Give yourself to Me! Empty yourself! Bring your empty earthen vessels! Come in meekness like a child!”
Drawn out of ourselves by the Holy Spirit of God—for who knows the things of God but the Holy Spirit?
We are delivered from ourselves when we finally seek God for Himself alone!
But two opinions in the matter of soul-religion you cannot hold. If God be God, serve him, and do it thoroughly; but if this world be God, serve it, and make no profession of religion. If you think the things of the world the best, serve them. But remember, if the Lord be your God, you cannot have Baal too; you must have one thing or else the other. “No man can serve two masters.” If God be served, he will be a master; and if the devil be served, he will not be long before he will be a master; and “ye cannot serve two masters.” Oh! be wise, and think not that the two can be mingled together.