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Weekly Word

Entries in Injustice (1)

Tuesday
Apr222014

The True Jesus:  Forsaken

This Sunday is Easter or better, Resurrection Sunday.  We are going to return to our study of the Gospel of Luke next week.  But today I want to look at a question that Jesus asks while He is on the cross in Matthew 27.

Have you ever been forsaken by someone?  Or have you ever found yourself alone with no one who seemed to care?  Whether you were forsaken by parents, friends, loved ones, or someone else, it is a grievous thing to go through.  Take heart in this, you are in good company.  The Bible tells us that Jesus knows exactly how you feel because He went through the very same thing.  Let’s go to verses 45-46 and pick up the story.

Jesus Experiences A Dark Time

It is not by coincidence that darkness comes over the land for the last 3 hours of the death of Jesus.  It cannot be a solar eclipse because Passover occurs during the Full Moon and the sun is on the other side of the earth (besides the fact that they last less than 10 minutes).  Several ancient historians from the first century refer to earthquakes that were followed by a strange darkness lasting for 3 hours in what we would call AD 33.  I don’t believe we have enough information to understand what was physically happening to cause the darkness.  However, it is a powerful sign that this is a dark time.  The Savior of the world is dying on a cross and the heavens go black.  In fact the Creator of all things is suffering a symbolic dark night.

It is made dark by the unjust trial He had been given and the unjust punishment He was receiving.  Jesus had done nothing wrong, especially that would be worthy of death.  Still, He is run through a midnight trial with witnesses brought against Him that were so bad that the religious leaders balked at giving a sentence.  It was only when He was asked point blank, “Are you the Messiah,” and answered in the affirmative that they agreed to execute Him under a charge of blasphemy.  Was it really blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah?  Think about it.  If it is blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah then the Messiah could never come and save Israel.  Nowhere in the Law does it state it is blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah.  However, if you did claim to be the Messiah you had better save the people.  Instead of waiting to see if He does anything to save Israel, they quickly decide to kill Him.

Next, it is a dark night for Jesus because of the way in which they execute Him.  They go out of their way to publically shame Jesus before the whole nation.  He had been beaten to a bloody pulp and then paraded in front of the people.  He was chosen for execution over the top of a notorious criminal who deserved death.  On top of this is the Old Testament statement that He who hangs on a tree is cursed of God.  Lastly, as He hung on the cross people were taunting Him to prove He is the Messiah by coming off of the tree.  This public shame is a dark and heavy thing to put up with in light of the fact that you are doing it for them.

Yet, what made the time darkest for Christ had nothing to do with the religious leaders or the people.  It had to do with His Father in heaven.  Jesus had an eternal relationship of love between Himself and the Father.  Yet in this moment it is halted.  Instead of miracles of divine help, the supernatural becomes strangely silent during the crucifixion.  When God refuses to overturn this crucifixion it is taken for God’s agreement by the people.  Surely God wouldn’t let the true Messiah be killed, would He?

The Cry Of Jesus

It is at this darkest moment in the existence of Jesus that He cries out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”  This is an amazing statement; that the Father would forsake His Perfect Son.  Clearly anyone in this situation would feel forsaken by God.  In fact, it is quite universal to feel that the God of the heavens does not care about you and will not help you in times of great injustice and in times of being forsaken.

Yet, Jesus is not just asking God a question.  He is actually quoting a verse of Scripture from Psalm 22:1.  Thus He is doing more than telling us how He feels.  He is calling the attention of those who saw this or hear the story to that Old Testament passage.

When you analyze this Psalm it is amazing.  It actually reads as if it was written by Jesus while He is on the cross.  It starts with the question of Why.  It then moves to point out that God has helped people in the past, but this One is a worm and will receive no help.  It talks about how persecuted and physically broken He is.  However, at the end of the Psalm a strange transition occurs.  The simple line, “You have answered me,” ends the grim side of this Psalm with the tortured author praising God and declaring that this is all God’s doing.

Thus the question of Jesus is not just a question.  It is telling us that He believes He is living out Psalm 22 and that no matter how much of a worm He has become and no matter how forsaken of God He will be, in the end God will hear Him.  It is a statement of explanation and of faith in a dark moment.  These dying words are clearly not words of doubt, but simply a way to let us know that in the midst of despising this forsaken situation, Christ knew He would be heard.  It may not look like it, but I will declare it among the Great Assembly.

Was Jesus Forsaken?

Well He was in the sense that God did not help Him and abandoned Him to the will of wicked men.  God did not protect Jesus.  Of course, if we look at the resurrection and the ascension, and the prophesied Second Coming, it is clear that He was not completely forsaken.  Yet this abandoning to an unjust death and public humility is only part of the His being forsaken.  Some have pointed out that God is more than abandoning Jesus.  He is actively pouring out His wrath upon Jesus.  This unthinkable break in the eternal love that has existed between Father and Son is the greatest agony.  God is not just neutral, but even worse; He is the very one pouring out His wrath and our punishment upon Jesus.  Why such a strange thing?  Is God truly a cosmic child abuser, who abandons those who serve Him, in the end?  This really is not fair.  Jesus is not a child being forced to endure something.  He is a grown, adult Son who is actually working in harmony with His Father in a Rescue operation.  God is not a cosmic child abuser.  He is the epitome of self sacrifice in grim circumstances; taking upon Himself the punishment of us all.  This is the plan that He and the Son had agreed to in eternity past as they counted the cost to creating.  Before God says, “Let there be light,” He and the Son have already agreed to the plan that required the Son to allow Himself to be nailed to a cross and the Father to pour out the punishment due all of mankind upon the Son.  Jesus Himself said, “No one takes my life from me.  I lay it down.”  This leads us to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and following.

Jesus was reconciling us back to God.  He is not just suffering, but He is removing a barrier between us and God so that we can have fellowship with Him.  We are sinners and He must judge us.  This is the white elephant in the room that can’t be avoided.  God does not avoid it.  Rather, He takes the pain upon Himself, that we might have a broken relationship restored.

Furthermore,  2 Corinthians 5 says that our sins are put on His account.  Yes, apparently God keeps records of all our deeds, words, thoughts, and actions.  Those who reject Jesus will have to give account for all the things that are written on their account.  But, those who turn to Jesus in faith, will have all of their sins placed on Christ’s account, which by the way is already covered.

It says that “God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us.”  This is a reference to an Old Testament ritual that happened on the Day of Atonement.  Israel was required to make sacrifices on a specific day every year to make atonement or covering for their sin.  On this day two goats would be chosen.  One would be sacrificed as a sin offering and the other would be sent into the wilderness to die.  However, before sending this goat into the wilderness, the High Priest would lay his hands on the goat and symbolically transfer the sins of the nation onto the goat.  This goat would then symbolically carry their sins into the wilderness and the sins would die with the goat and never return.  This is the concept of the scapegoat.  Now in the world a scapegoat is often a part of the sin in the first place.  They are made to take the rap while everyone else gets off.  But in this case the scapegoat had nothing to do with the sins.  It is not just unfair.  It is unthinkable.  Now picture in your mind as sin upon sin is laid upon this goat.  Yet, Jesus is dying for the sins of the whole world, for all time.  There is seemingly no end to the sin as it is heaped up until no goat is visible only sin.  When the Father pours out His wrath, it is not really upon His son, but upon the sin that He carries.  Never forget that this is exactly how God feels about our sin.  It is something He hates and yet because He loves us He is willing to take our punishment upon Himself.  The Sinless One takes our sin upon Himself and carries it away; never to be heard from again.

How Can I Experience this?

The question remains.  How can I know that I am at peace with God and that Jesus has carried my sins away?  In 2nd Corinthians 5 it simply says that those who are “in Christ” become a new creation.  Yet, this process of becoming “in Christ” is described elsewhere in several actions.

First, I must ADMIT that I am a sinner and in need of a savior.  As a healer, Jesus did not come to heal people who were already well.  Similarly He did not come to save people who don’t want a savior.  No one will be forced to accept this reconciliation to God.  All of us are spiritually sick and in need of God’s healing.  Until we admit this we cannot belong to Him.  This humbling of ourselves is the only thing that God will accept because it is the very nature of Jesus.  He humbled Himself and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  It is only right that we should humble ourselves and admit that we can’t pay for our own sins.  We need a savior and God has given us Jesus.  Take it or leave it, but this is the only choice.

Second, I must BELIEVE that Jesus is God’s answer to cover my sin.  Some persist in thinking that they are good enough.  “Surely, I haven’t done anything worthy of great punishment!”  Yet, they have never stood before a Judge who knows everything they have ever thought and done in secret as well as that done in the open.  Now, when you ask most people if they are good, they will answer yes.  But if you ask them are they perfect, they will balk and then say, “nobody’s perfect.”  Yet, somebody is.  God is the perfect Judge and His Son is the Perfect One who was sacrificed for our sins.  You can accept God’s plan or you can fight against it.  But you won’t win by rejecting His offer of peace because you are not perfect.  Put your faith in Jesus by recognizing that He is God’s answer for your sins.  He is the only One worthy of our praise.

Third, I must CONFESS with my mouth that Jesus is my Lord.  Jesus is not just our sin-bearer.  By right of Deliverer, He becomes our Lord.  We owe Him our life and thus all we do should be for His purposes.  Although it might sound horrible to be obligated to another, remember that He is pure, righteous, trustworthy, gentle, humble, and loving.  To confess before others that Jesus is your Lord and Savior is to publically identify with Him.  Don’t think that you can accept Him in your heart while publically rejecting Him.  Jesus said, that if you deny me in front of men, then I will deny you before my Father.  It is not easy to confess Jesus before a world that crucified Him.  The world is no different today.  Whether it does so by redefining Jesus or cursing Jesus, this world rejects the True Jesus, what He stands for, and what He did.  Will you follow the world or hear the Holy Spirit calling you to be reconciled to God?

Lastly, we must Follow Jesus.  He said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  We can’t do what Jesus did in that we can die for the sins of others.  Neither do we need to because Jesus did it once and for all.  However, we do need to die to the purposes that our flesh wants to live for.  We have to come alive to the leadership of Jesus.  Die to this world and live to God.  Die to yourself and live to God.  This is the way of Jesus.  If we will do this, then God will work through us to be the Deliverer of others.  Not because we can pay for their sins, but because we can bring the truth of who Jesus is to them and the Truth can set them free.  Be free today!  Choose Life!

 

Forsaken audio