Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seven Last Words--Commit

Seven Last Words
“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Finally, it really is over. After about three years of “setting His face toward Jerusalem,” of cycles of enthusiasm and abandonment, of insult, isolation, and abuse, and after hanging on this cross for six hours, it is mercifully time to let go.

Jesus has lived the will of God His entire life and in fact this is what has brought Him to this point. He’s going to die today because of His absolute commitment to the leading of God.

It isn’t just that He follows the will of God, but because He is God, His death in a few moments comes from His love for people; His love for you. This is the end of the road on which He set out on from the beginning. Having missed the family caravan back home, He brushed aside His parents’ remonstrances by reminding them that He had to be about His Father’s business. His practice of confounding and frustrating the Jewish religious leaders will last the rest of His life. It has on this day resulted in His death, demanded by those very rulers who claimed to have no king but Caesar.
Here on top of this hill’s killing field Jesus is ready to realize the reconciliation of the world to God. The words “into Your hands I commit My spirit” are clearly reference to His imminent death—perhaps even His last breath. This is probably their primary import, but there are other secondary but just as important implications.

These words from Psalm 31, much like those from the 22nd Psalm, are words that reach out to a God who is not obviously present in His suffering, but who is trusted to be here by both the psalmist and Jesus.  It is this trust perhaps that allows these words to form one bookend for His earthly life. At twelve He had been taken to the temple and instead of heading home, launched His attending to the Father’s business amidst the leaders of His people. On this day, He will complete His work by committing Himself to the Father one last time.

Jesus’ entire life was spent doing the Father’s will. As a result, Paul will call Him the Second Adam for His faithful life, and credit Him for reconciling the world to God.

Jesus’ life on earth was an example for us. His life demonstrated for us the way we are supposed to live—the way we are made to live. In these words, we are given the secret for such a life, and that is to commit ourselves to God, and seek to do His will in every moment.

Are you willing to live every moment for God? Are you willing to live every moment doing the things that Jesus would do if He were living your life today?

Most of us lose focus from time to time. It’s easy to let the troubles of life confound and confuse us so that we become defensive and do things designed to satisfy our egos and satisfy perceived wrongs. Do you ever find that you’ve lost focus?

What do you do to get yourself back on track after realizing you’re off target?

Much of the time the result of our being out of focus is hurt to someone else. What have you done, or might you do to fix those hurts?

What do you need to do?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seven Last Words--Finished

Seven Last Words
“It is finished.”
We have come to the end—well right up to it anyway. After crying out that He thirsts, Jesus is given some sour wine and John says that he died. But John does not record our last two Words, one of which is this declaration. 

What does Jesus mean by it is finished? Specifically, what is the “it?” Certainly it includes His life—His time on earth has come to an end. After thirty some odd years, with the most recent 18 or so hours of insult, abuse, desecration, and dehydration, His body is ready to die. 

But we remember that this death is not just that of an itinerant rabbi who came afoul of the law. No, this is Messiah—one appointed as God’s messenger and representative—God Himself in this case. This then is the end to the planned-before-time-mission. Everything in His life; in fact everything in the history of the cosmos has been leading to this moment. He has been faithful even unto death. That death is now here to mark the completion of this mission. Man now has a way to return to God.

It is also though, the end of God’s self-expression incarnate among us. Incarnated to show us God, and in showing us God to reveal to us our true selves. We are made to live as Jesus lived while on earth, but we forget our making and our calling. We give in to fear, to defensiveness, to taking care of Number One. Jesus’ life showed us that such living is antithetical to our true crafting by God.

And too; and perhaps most importantly, we have reached the end of God’s demonstration of His lavish love for us—for you. Too many times we hear that God had to send  Jesus because we are sinful creatures who are totally depraved and have no good in us. That our sin put Jesus on the cross, and for that we are certainly miserable people.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God came incarnated out of His love for you—that was the whole point. John 3.16 tells us that “God SO LOVED the world….” When Jesus looks at the people He says they are like sheep without a shepherd; this is a statement of compassion, not disdain. Jesus tells us that He has come to do the will of the Father, and in Luke chapter 4, He tells us what that will is—to give sight to the blind, to set prisoners free, and to relieve the oppressed, declaring the Lord’s favor.  This has not been a mission of judgment, but one of love.

Because He really loves you. So much so, that He was willing to die for you, and in doing so, to demonstrate the love God has for you. It is finished; did you see it? Do you comprehend His love for you?
Read John 3.16-17, and taste the love of God for you. Roll it around in your mouth and sit with it for a while. What thoughts come to mind after a few minutes of contemplating these two verses? What emotions rise up for you?

What does the death of God for you tell you about how God considers people—even those who might kill Him if He showed up again?

What does it tell you about how you should see those same people?

What do you need to do?

Seven Last Words--Thirst

Seven Last Words
“I thirst.”
The end is coming quickly now. His body has been beaten, desecrated, and now is quickly becoming dehydrated. His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth they are so dry. If there was anything to swallow, it would be almost impossible to do so. Jesus’ humanity is coming to the end of life, a life that seemingly has been pulled from it; beaten from it.

These words have meant many things to many people through history. Surely, Jesus suffers from physical thirst. How could he not? And so these words are our second verbal indicator of his human suffering and approaching death.  It is a bit ironic that he who suggested that the Spirit would be a living fountain of water in him who believed would now feel bereft of water. Ironic perhaps, but a clear indicator of what Jesus has given up so that we might live.

Jesus has been on a mission directed by God. He probably also thirsts—longs for the completion of this mission. Following on the heels of his cry of being forsaken, this simple statement has less energy, less demand of God.  He is ready to die for the Father. He is ready to die for you.

He thirsts also for you. As the representative of humankind, Jesus embodies the state of us all—thirsting after God.  In these words, Jesus tells us that God thirsts for hearts to be formed in us which thirst for him. He thirsts that the world might be set right and humans might take their rightful place with God.

Through his thirst, he offers the Spirit to slake our thirst—our longing for a world and a life with more certainty, less hurt, and clearer ends.
Water—without it we would die in just a handful of days. It is critical for life. Scripture pictures water as just that—life giving grace. Jesus told the woman at the well that he could give her living water so that she would never thirst. Or again, that those who have the Spirit have within them a living, vibrant, life giving stream or fountain that is unquenchable. God wants us to have that Spirit and to live thirsting for him.
Have you ever been so thirsty that your tongue literally stuck to the roof of your mouth? Have you ever hungered after God to such a degree that your soul seemed to be parched? Describe that here:

If you have felt that way, what have you done to quench that thirst? How do you keep it from returning?

Do you have friends who seem to be living lives of thirst? How are some ways you might give them some spiritual water?

What do you need to do?

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