Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Willing Sacrifice

This is the devotional I shared as part of the Good Friday service at Highland Community Church:

In John 10:17-18 we read these words of Jesus: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

Jesus was not a victim. He was not a helpless sacrifice. He was not a martyr to a worthy cause. From the beginning of the world, even before the first sin, Jesus was chosen as the way of salvation. He came to earth willingly, graciously, and humbly - so that we might be brought into relationship with God through Him. This was the great plan of God from the very beginning. The price was high, and we who have surrendered our lives to Christ are recipients of unfathomable grace.

Jesus was a willing participant in the work of redemption. The Old Testament gave many prophecies about this great plan. The angel announced that Jesus was the One. John the Baptist testified to Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus knew why He had come, and He willingly participated in the plan.

Jesus laid down his life for you and me. Think about that. Jesus laid down His life for you and me. He wasn't forced, but He did it willingly.

In Romans 5:6&8 we read more about this sacrifice: "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ...God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Before we even knew we needed Jesus, He died for us. Before we had one thought of love for Him, He poured out all of His love for us. Wow!

On the cross, Jesus was taunted by the crowd. Among the insults, the onlookers laughingly invited Jesus to come down from the cross, as we read in Matthew 27:40&42: "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross," and "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him."

Those mockers did not realize that Jesus could have done that very thing. And if Jesus had rescued Himself from the cross, I suspect many doubters that day might have believed in His power. But that wasn't the goal of the day. His physical death was necessary to pay the penalty of your sin and my sin, so He persevered in the plan even though He could have turned aside. In His love, He willingly laid down His life for you and for me.

I'm so thankful He did!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

On the cross, Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (See Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.) To be sure, Jesus was feeling the weight of our sin thrust upon Him, and the resulting break in relationship with God the Father. But there is another dimension to this cry: this is a quote of the first line of Psalm 22.  

Before I explore this further, I want to ask you a question: have you ever had times when someone quoted a lyric from a song and your mind suddenly filled with the whole song? That happens to me frequently - for songs I love as well as songs I'd rather forget.

To the Jews who heard Jesus' cry from the cross, they would have thought of the lyrics to a well-known Davidic Psalm, Psalm 22. If we read the words of the Psalm, we will soon realize it is filled with Messianic prophecy. Consider these other verses:
* Verses 7-9 - All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
* Verses 16-18 - For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet - I can count all my bones - they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Many of those who heard Jesus' cry of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" would have immediately begun singing this Psalm in their heads, and would have realized that even from the cross, Jesus was proving to them that He was and is the Messiah, and that His crucifixion was the fulfillment of prophecy from centuries earlier.  

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Who You are and for all You have done!