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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

Tuesday
Feb122013

The Problem of Suffering IV

Today we will finish up chapter 4 of 1 Peter by looking at verses 12-19.  Peter will finish up the topic of the suffering of Christians before concluding his letter in chapter 5.

In This World Suffering Is Normal

In verse 12 Peter reminds them that their suffering is not a strange thing.  As the Creator, God himself is the definition of what is normal.  It is He who made the earth and the universe.  Thus we could say that it is not normal.  However, since the rebellion of mankind and many of the angelic order, it has become normal for those who do righteousness to suffer for it.  Satan has strong control over the minds and powers of this world.  So we should not be surprised at opposition.  In America we have had it so good for so long that we have forgotten that all institutions and nations eventually fall to the infiltration of this spiritual enemy.  It is only by God’s Spirit that we can win.

Peter refers to suffering as a fiery trial.  This is reminiscent of the 3 Hebrew boys who were protected from the fire of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel.  Even though we are not all physically protected, the fiery trials of this world cannot destroy our faith in God.  In fact if our faith is mere wood, hay, or stubble it will not survive.  But if our faith is true metal, the fire will only serve to purify us.  Thus what the enemy intends for evil, God works for our good.  Notice that God doesn’t often overturn the event itself.  Rather, He overturns the end to which it was sent.  Thus God uses fiery trials to prove that our faith is genuine and also to purify it and make it stronger.

In the next verse, Peter points out that they have a unique point of fellowship with Christ, namely in his sufferings.  Not many would volunteer to share in someone’s sufferings.  But much like fellow combatants who have a connection with each other because they went through the same “fire,” so too, we can come to understand the sufferings of our Lord Jesus.  His strength of faith and purity of heart cause us to go deeper in our love for who He is.  His endurance under intense suffering is a foreign thing to us when we have never suffered.  But when we suffer we understand and love Jesus on a far deeper level.  This is a cause for rejoicing.  We have joy now, but when Jesus is revealed from heaven in great glory we will do more than rejoice.  The word translated exceeding could also be translated as “causing to spring up.”  Today we can rejoice, but then we will be filled with “Leaping joy.”  The joy of Christ’s coming will be a far sweeter event when we have endured sufferings on behalf of our Lord.

Make Sure You Suffer For The Right Reasons

Let’s look at the next three verses (14-16).  Earlier Peter had warned slaves not to be punished for evil.  But if they are punished for doing good to bear it as unto the Lord.  Similarly, here he calls all believers to make sure that if they are suffering it is for the right reason.  If we suffer because of our trust in Jesus Christ we bring glory to God and ourselves.  First we bring glory to Christ because we honor him as worthy of our suffering.  In a world that rejects and dishonors Christ, we stand up and honor him.  We declare that we will go through anything in order to be with Jesus.  Peter reminds them that those who make such statements and live in that way will find the Glory of God’s Spirit resting on them.  This is a clear reference back to the temple.  When the Spirit of God came upon the tabernacle and the temple, it came like a cloud that rested upon the place.  That which was reserved for the most holy place now resides upon all believers who put their faith in Jesus.  The cloud may not be visible.  But we have a Spirit of Glory and also a destiny of Glory.

There is no shame in suffering because of Christ.  It is shameful to suffer because you are a murderer, a thief, an evil-doer, or a gossip.  But to suffer because of Christ is to put our hopes in a glory that is future.  When Jesus returns in great glory to judge the world, those who have put their trust in him will be raised to a glorious place with him.  Thus we ought to do all we can to glorify God in the way that we suffer, in speech, deed, and attitude.

Prepare For God’s Judgment

Peter reminds them that it is time for God’s judgment to come down.  But that judgment must first start with His people.  It would be easy to jump on Israel, but the first one judgment came upon was Jesus himself.  On the cross, the sins of the world were placed upon Jesus and the Father poured out his wrath upon Christ.  However, we can also recognize that God did not go on to judge Rome, but rather his judgments came upon Israel, its leaders, and its priesthood.  However, this judgment continues.  The church spiritually is free from judgment.  But in the flesh the believers looked like a people under the judgment of God.  In fact we are counseled to judge ourselves and turn to God in repentance.  We are a judged people.  God always judges His people first. But don’t fool yourself for one second.  His judgment will move to the world and those who are lost.  This world flatters itself as it pompously watches this judgment.  But their time is coming.  In fact the Roman kingdom eventually was judged, split asunder and then ruined.  The nations of this world may think that the Church’s days are numbered and that they will progress beyond religion, but a day of judgment is coming in which they will see the folly of their thoughts.  If the righteous one is barely saved what will become of the sinner?  He will have no hope.  What is meant by barely saved?  It means that our salvations hinges on a single moment in which we wavered on the edge of belief, precariously perched.  Few boldly march into heaven and lay down their crowns.  Most fearfully fret over the moment of faith and yet once they believe they find that the Lord’s hand is there.  This is not meant to minimize the work of God and maximize the works of man, but rather to point out the frailty of man.  If it were not for God none could be saved.

Thus we ought to entrust our souls unto God.  In verse 19 Peter challenges us to put our faith in God by doing what is good, or right.  That is the challenge.  We might shrink back from the right thing because it will bring us suffering.  But Peter says to do what is right and put your soul in God’s hands.  What a safe place.

Notice he refers to God as a faithful Creator.  I believe he does this to remind us of all the things God did at creation.  We are entrusting ourselves into the hands of the One who is powerful enough to create all things.  We are entrusting ourselves into the hands of the One who was wise enough to create all things. We are entrusting ourselves into the hands of the One who has a purpose in Creation,  just as he has a purpose in allowing this momentary suffering into our life.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise His holy name!

Problem of suffering IV audio