Seventh of the Seven Last Words

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.  Father, into
 Luke 23:46

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Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46

As I read this verse of scripture three words or couplets stand out to me: (1) Father (2) Your [God’s] hands (3) I [Jesus] commit. Today, I am going to give each of these words some more thought.

Father

The Seventh Word from the Cross is known as “The Word of Reunion.” The first thing I notice is that Jesus is once again referring to God as Father rather than as God as emphasized in the Fourth Word. (see post for March 26) While he is still hanging on the cross, Jesus is experiencing a spiritual reunion with God as Father. Also, Father and Son will soon be physically reunited when Jesus returns to his heavenly home after the resurrection.

Your (God’s) hands

The hands of Jesus are pierced with nails that hold him to the crossbeam of the cross. He places these hands into the hands of his Father rather than into the hands of mankind. It was the hands of men that pounded these nails through his hands in the first place so this is not what he wants. Jesus acknowledges a more secure feeling of comfort and care in the hands of God. Jesus no longer needs to know the whys of his situation; he simply trusts his Father by placing his hands into His hands.

I commit

Feeling the security of the promise of reunion with his Heavenly Father, Jesus verbally commits his spirit into the hands of God. These are the words of a dying man who is breathing his last breaths of earthly life. This is a statement of surrender to the Father’s plans and purposes, which at that moment did not look great from his human vantage point upon the cross of crucifixion. Jesus trusted even though he did not fully understand. It is interesting to me that another reunion is being made possible at this same time. Jesus’ commitment opens the door (or curtain) for the reunion between Father and Son and it opens the way for me as well. Mark 15:38 states, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” when Jesus uttered these words. The fact that the curtain was torn from top to bottom is a powerful statement revealing that the curtain was torn by the hand of God rather than the hand of mankind. Not only are Father and Son being reunited but the torn curtain symbolizes that people now can have access to God at any time. That is why Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Father…your hands…I commit

Since “The Word of Reunion” can apply to me today, I want to consider how this affects my daily life. Just as Jesus never got his why question answered, neither should I expect full understanding in my journey with the Lord. God doesn’t ask me to understand but He does ask me to trust and obey. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24,“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. “ Hmmm. What kind of cross am I to take up? I do not need to really die a physical death upon a cross like Jesus, but there is a dying to self that I must experience. I like the quote from Ann Voskamp  “I know — we need a place of execution in our lives if we’re ever to rightly execute a life of faith.” Just before Jesus began his final journey to the cross, he prayed in the Garden of Olives saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” according to Luke 22:42. So, if for me to take up my cross means to die to myself, what do I need to die to? This may include my will, my dreams, my desires, even my own rights. This gets very personal! I am not so sure I will always like this but I want to heed the words of Matthew 16: 25-26, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Maybe dying to myself will not be so bad after all when I consider the length of time of eternal life!

My Reader, in just a few days we will be celebrating Easter. However, before I can celebrate Resurrection Sunday, I feel the need to embrace the cross of crucifixion and the meaning of the seven sayings by Christ on the cross. Personally, as I try to wrap my mind around all of this today, I find myself singing the first verse of the hymn I Surrender All by Judson W. Van DeVenter. Then I will be ready to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today on Sunday. My Reader, will you join me in song?

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live. 
Refrain:
I surrender all,

I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Sixth of the Seven Last Words

It is finished. It is finished. It is finished. It isfinished. It isfinished. It is finished. It is
John 19:30
 

cross-11-mfWhen he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit
John 19:30

The sixth saying expressed by Jesus from the cross is the third phrase recorded in the gospel of John. I note only three words (It is finished.) in the English language and these words give me the impression that something is completed and is now a “done deal.” However, in Greek only one word is needed for this phrase: “tetelestai.” The tense of this verb in the Greek language implies that an action has been completed in the past with the results continuing into the present and even into the future. This lets me know that these words of Jesus still affect me today!  “It was finished in the past, it is still finished in the present and it will remain finished in the future.” I read an insightful sermon regarding this from Keep Believing Ministries. For me, this explanation exemplifies Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Previously when I read these words, I would ask myself, “What is finished for Jesus? Is it his life on earth? Is it the pain of the crucifixion? Is it the physical separation from his Father?”  “It” includes all of these plus so much more. It means that Jesus did exactly what he was sent to earth to do and he has now fulfilled his obligations. It is a phrase of victory! The words shout of Jesus’ obedience to the plan of God.

This saying is known as “The Word of Triumph.” When I hear the echo of the words, “It is finished” in John 19:30, it is as if I also hear God the Father responding “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as recorded in Matthew 25:21. There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be made to cover sin. The price of sin has now been paid by the Son of God. Jesus walked the road to Calvary in order to pave the road of redemption for me and everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The phrase “the end is the beginning” seems to be applicable for these words of Jesus. Soon after he spoke “It is finished,” Jesus would leave this earth. However, he still is active on behalf of me and all believers today. Some scriptures come to my mind. Jesus says in John 16:7, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” He continues to say in John 12-13, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Another scripture I think about is John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did not say “I am finished.” Neither must I say that I am finished with whatever plans and purposes God has for me. Just as Jesus’ work on the cross continues to be active today, so must I continue to be obedient to fulfill the work God has for me according to Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” If my life is to be Christ centered, it must be cross centered.

Three simple words, yet three powerful words! Or in the Greek, one simple word, yet still so powerful! For me, it is even more compelling when I consider the magnitude of the meaning in Greek. It is a word or phrase that I want to appropriate by living a life of faith – the kind of life available to me because Christ died on the cross and proclaimed these words.

My Reader, have you accepted the fact that “it” is finished for you since Christ was crucified? What is “it” that you are called to complete today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Fifth of the Seven Last Words

I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst.
John 19:28

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Another week – another word. The fifth word is known as “The Word of Distress.” Most likely, these are the most human words ever spoken by Jesus. This is the only statement from the cross when Jesus expressed a physical need of his body. Hear these two words now spoken by the Son of God who once spoke all the waters into existence. He formed the oceans and the rivers, the lakes and the springs, the wells and the reservoirs. He created water and now he is crying out for water! He caused rain to fall from the sky upon parched dry ground and yet now his mouth is parched and dry as he utters these words. My Reader, join me as I think about these two little words: “I thirst.”

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished,
and so that Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
John 19:28

 When reading the complete scripture verse of John 19:28, I find it interesting that it says Jesus had to express his thirst in order for scripture to be fulfilled. It must be the case because this is the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by David in Psalm 22:15, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” However, I am quite sure Jesus did not need the prompting of any scripture verse for him to know he needed water at this time. He had not had anything to eat or drink since he shared the Last Supper with his disciples the previous evening. I would be crying out that I was hungry as well as letting it be known that I was thirsty! I think about all Jesus has endured since his last meal – questioning, mocking, beating, scourging etc. He now was dying a physical death because of blood loss and possibly an infection caused by the nail wounds in his hands and feet. There probably was a fever in his body causing his mouth to be parched. I only need to think of how thirsty I can be when I have a fever with the flu – and that is miniscule compared to what Jesus was experiencing. Yes, he was physically dehydrated, but was there more being said?

Another time when Jesus was thirsty is recorded in John 4. He asked a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water. But the conversation went to a deeper level. In John 4:10 Jesus told the woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He went on to say in John 4:13, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” I notice that He did not say He was the living water but that he would give living water to her that would cause her not thirst again. Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit as being the Living Water. Another scripture where Jesus referred to thirst being satisfied by the Holy Spirit is John 7: 37-39, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” While on the cross, I would not be surprised if Jesus had called out for the Living Water to satisfy his spiritual thirst as well as liquid water to quench his natural thirst.

My Reader, what are you thirsty for? I pose this question to you as well as to myself. If we are thirsty for liquid water, we pour a glass of water, put it to our open mouths and drink. We drink until we desire no more. If we are thirsty for spiritual water, we need to go to the Word of God, open it to a specific passage and read. Do we read until our spiritual thirst is satisfied? The amazing thing is that the more we drink spiritually, the thirstier we become! We taste and see that the Lord is good and we just want more and more – that is the way God designed us. I think of what David describes in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” One glass of water will not quench my physical thirst forever and neither will drinking of God’s Word one time satisfy my spiritual thirst forever. Let us remember that Jesus’ expression of thirst are some of the last words he spoke on earth. Now let us listen to some of the last words of scripture spoken by a voice from heaven in Revelation 21: 6. “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Jesus paid the cost so we can now freely drink from the water of life. Jesus experienced both physical and spiritual thirst so our spiritual thirst can be fulfilled for all eternity. Call out to Jesus today saying, “I thirst!” He will hear you because he once said these words himself. He will respond to you by telling you to come and drink!

Joyfully,
 Cheryl
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Fourth of the Seven Last Words

My God,my God, why have you forsaken me? My God,my God, why have you forsak
Matthew 27:45 and Mark 15:34

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From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.
 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Matthew 27:45

 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

 Mark 15:34

 I want to begin today by making a list of things I notice about the Fourth Saying, “The Word of Abandonment,” spoken by Jesus.

  • This is the only phrase found in two gospels, and it is the only one noted by Matthew and Mark. (3 others are in Luke and 3 in John)
  • Part of the saying is recorded in Aramaic, Jesus’ native language.
  • There is now a shift in Jesus’ words to focus upon himself rather than the people around him.
  • The specific time of day when Jesus spoke these words is documented in the scriptures. (from noon until 3 o’clock in the afternoon the sky was dark!)
  • Here is the only Word of Jesus that asks a question. (and the question is never answered)
  • This is the only place in scripture where Jesus refers to his Heavenly Father as God. (all other times it is Father)

Since Jesus’ words take the form of a question, it puts me in a questioning mood. I think my blog is going to take the form of a question and answer debate because I have some questions of my own.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 Although Jesus had lived as God incarnate for the last 33 years, here is where I see the genuineness of his humanity. When Jesus asked this question he was experiencing sorrow, grief and pain to the fullest extent physically and as well as being forsaken by his Father spiritually. He was feeling the full impact of God’s wrath toward sin. This created a separation he had never experienced before and it caused him to ask a question he had never needed to ask previously.

Why did Jesus feel the need to ask this question?

 This is not a question I have found answered in any commentaries I have read. I am totally thinking on my own right now! I know Jesus knew he came to this earth to die in order to save me and all mankind, but I wonder if he thought about his need to be separated from his Heavenly Father. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” As Jesus talked with his disciples shortly before his arrest, he emphasized this fact in John 14 and 15. Also, in John 16:22 Jesus said, “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” Jesus had never known what it was like to be separated from his Father even though he was living on the earth and his Father was in heaven. I suspect Jesus was counting on his Father to help him spiritually encounter the physical pain he would endure. It is interesting to note that this is the only reference in scripture where Jesus calls out to God rather than Father.

Why didn’t God answer Jesus’ question?

 I find it interesting that God did not answer Jesus’ question of “Why?” It had to be an extremely difficult time for God to look down from heaven and see His Son suffering so greatly and not be able to do anything for him. However, because He is a holy God, He could not answer Jesus’ question even if He had wanted to explain. In Habakkuk 1:13, it is said of God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” However, once the penalty for sin had been paid, God turned back to His Son and he was no longer forsaken. Jesus may not have had his question answered at the moment of suffering but his time of abandonment was limited and he and the Father were again one.

Do I know why Jesus was forsaken?

 Today I find the answer to the question Jesus asked on the cross over 2000 years ago. Paul states in II Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” and II Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” How valuable the Bible is to help me gain a deeper understanding!

What happens when I ask the “Why” question?

 Like many believers, I often ask “why” when something happens. Sometimes the reason is revealed and other times it is not. If God did not give Jesus an answer to the why question, why do I think He should give me a direct answer? Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” To know God is more important than to know why. Knowing God alleviates the need of knowing why.

Have I ever experienced the need to ask,
 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yes! I must begin by identifying with Paul in Romans 7: 14-25. I quote verse 15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I have no ability to comprehend the utterly horrific experience of having all the sins of the world put upon me as did Jesus! My own sinful nature is more than enough for me. However, I do want to try to personalize these words of abandonment felt by Jesus. There have been times when I have wondered where God was at in the midst of situations I have encountered. I have wondered how and why God allowed me to struggle with particular things. However, I can always cling to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Yes, the fact that God had to turn His back upon His son on the cross makes me very aware that God will turn His back on those who are covered with sin. However, because Jesus endured this for me I know I can be assured of His presence and help in my life. That is why He is called Savior. Jesus cooperated with God the Father to save me from my sinful nature by taking my nature upon himself so He could in turn give me his sinless nature. I never need to experience what Jesus experienced on the cross!

Do you ever feel forsaken?

My Reader, have you ever felt like you could identify with these words of Jesus? Do you ever cry out to God asking why He has forsaken you? Do you ever ask Him why you are enduring a specific trial? Embrace the cross and embrace the reality that God is always with you. You are not forsaken!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Third of the Seven Last Words

Behold your son: behold your mother. Behold your son: behold your mother. Behold
John 19:26-27

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As I begin to focus my thoughts upon the third saying spoken by Jesus on the cross, I try to picture in my mind what is witnessed by those at this scene. Even though Jesus is hanging on the cross, his eyes are still roving around and seeing the people within his view. It appears strange to me that a crowd of people would come to a crucifixion to watch three men die, but  that seems to be the scenario. I wouldn’t want to be there! I am also amazed that Jesus is able to focus so intently upon the presence of his mother, the disciple John, and other women and disciples who are near the cross. Not only does he see them, but he still speaks coherently to them. Today I read in the gospel of John.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:26-27

Two thoughts come to my mind as I read this scripture. First, I admire how considerate Jesus is to make provision for his mother. Secondly, I find it interesting that Jesus asks the disciple John rather than one of his biological brothers to care for Mary. My Reader, let me share with you what I have contemplated.

I read an article online entitled Adapted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (John 19) that was interesting.  “Jesus established a new relationship between his beloved mother and his beloved disciple.” Being confident in the love John had for himself, Jesus felt secure in entrusting His mother to the guardianship of this disciple. From that moment on, John took Mary to his own home and cared for her as if she were his mother. Matthew Henry’s article went on to say that it was a great responsibility for John to take care of Mary but he cheerfully accepted it and took her to his home. He did not object to the trouble or expense, nor his obligations to his own family, nor the ill-will he might experience by it. According to Nicephoras’s Ecclesiastical History (book 2, chapter 3), Mary lived with John at Jerusalem eleven years and then died. Others say she went with John to Ephesus.

When I look more closely at the crucifixion crowd, I ask myself, “Where were Jesus’ brothers while he was hanging on the cross?” I do not find an answer to this question, but it does remind me of the following scripture.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
Mark 3:31-34. (emphasis is mine)

I once heard an explanation for this scripture saying that Jesus was not disowning his biological family by these words but was emphasizing that anyone who did the will of God was just as important to him as his family relatives. The family of God was more inclusive than the biological family for Jesus and the same is true for me today. However, biological family can also be a part of God’s family. I like this because I believe Jesus loved his family. Even though his brothers may not have completely understood Jesus at this time (I guess I cannot blame them for that!), according to Galatians 1:19 and I Corinthians 9:5, there was one brother who became an apostle and other brothers who became missionaries at later dates. Biological family vs spiritual family comments help me to understand why Jesus asked John to take care of his mother. Jesus loves all people and sees all of us for who we are and who we can be in Christ whether we be part of his biological family or the larger family of God. When Jesus looks down from the heavenly realm where He now resides and sees my cares and concerns, he will personally sustain me or lay it upon someone’s heart to reach out to me with the provision I need just as he saw the needs of His mother and made arrangements for her needs.

This third word of the seven last words of Jesus is known as “The Word of Redemption.” To redeem means to pay the price for or to buy back. Jesus redeemed us, paid the price for our sins enabling us to be part of the family of God as God originally planned at the time of creation. When I think about this fact, it seems very appropriate that Jesus would ask John to care for his mother because by doing so he was giving John the responsibility and role of a son in tending for his mother. He was elevating John to the personal relationship of a brother when he thought highly enough of him to entrust him with this responsibility. Jesus was setting the stage to put into action the plan that when anyone accepts Jesus as his or her personal savior, he or she becomes a part of the family of God. This is why we can be known as brothers and sisters in Christ today. According to Ephesians 1:7-8, “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”  Thank you Jesus for this fact! If I am a sister in the family of God, what is Jesus asking me to do today – who is He asking me to care for? My Reader, my sister or brother in Christ, what is Jesus asking of you?

Joyfully,
 Cheryl

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Second of the Seven Last Words

Today you will be with me in paradise. Today you will be with me in paradise. Today
Luke 23:43

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The second week of Lent begins today and I am ready to meditate upon the second of the seven last words or phrases spoken by Jesus as he hung on the cross. The second word is known as “The Word of Salvation” and is found in the same chapter of Luke as the first word I focused upon last week. Jesus was not the only man to be hung upon a cross that day. There were two thieves or criminals who were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus. The one man just hurled insults at Jesus and said in Luke 23:39, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Jesus did not respond to him. The other man said to the first man, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” in verses 40 and 41. This second criminal then talked to Jesus in verse 42 saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus not only responded to this remark but granted his request. Jesus’ response to this man is the second word that I am wanting to learn more about this week.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

The first thing I notice about this statement made by Jesus is that he begins by saying “Truly I tell you.” Jesus’ response is true because he is the Truth according to John 14:6 when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Another reason Jesus may have chosen the word truly is to point out that he was the only one who could provide the way to his Father in paradise or heaven. Jesus fulfilled the criminal’s request in Luke 23:43 when the criminal confessed that he had sinned and asked for salvation. I am sure this man never forgot these personal words from Jesus – and neither will I!  My Reader, you and I can still accept the fact that Jesus says these same words to you and me when we confess our sins because I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I am glad I can relate more to the second criminal on the cross beside Jesus than the first one!

“Today” is the next word I notice as I study these words of Jesus. As long as I, or anyone, is still living on this earth, there is hope for salvation. This criminal was dying on the cross and his request for forgiveness may have been the last words he ever spoke. I am quite sure they were the most important words he ever spoke. Jesus heard him and answered positively. My Reader, I encourage you not to wait until your dying breath to accept Jesus as your personal savior, but he will hear you if that happens to be the situation. I like the promise found in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Another thing I notice is that the moment this criminal asked Jesus to forgive him, he was assured of the gift of salvation. My Reader, when Jesus hears this request from a sincere heart, he grants the request to anyone at that very moment just as he did for the criminal on the cross. Jesus says “yes” – not “no” or “maybe” or “let me think about that!” Thank you, Jesus, for these special words! Hmmm, I wonder if the criminal on the cross had enough breath to say “thank you.”

The final word that stands out for me is “paradise.” This has always been an interesting word to me. It comes from a Persian word meaning “garden.” Some commentaries refer to the Garden of Eden as being the paradise on earth that God created in the beginning. Revelation 2 and 22 both refer to paradise as being a garden. Revelation 2:7 states, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (For your own information you might like to compare Genesis 2: 4-18 where the Garden of Eden may be called the Garden of God and Revelation 22:1-5 where the New Jerusalem may be called the Garden City of God.) However I choose to define paradise, it is where I desire to dwell with Jesus for eternity as promised by Him on the cross.

I am glad that Jesus spoke these words to the criminal on the cross and I am glad that I can hear these words spoken to me today. As Jesus hung on the cross that day long ago, there also were two other men upon their own crosses. One man hung on either side of Jesus. My Reader, with which man and which words do you most identify? Has Jesus responded to the cry of your words?

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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First of the Seven Last Words

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. Father, forgive them, they know
Luke 23:34

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According to the Christian calendar, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The season of Lent is comprised of the forty days before Easter, not counting Sundays. I find it interesting that Sundays are not counted because they are considered “mini-Easters.” Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.”  The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring temptation by Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is often defined as time of repentance, fasting and preparation for Easter. Today, Christians may focus upon their relationship with God and may choose to volunteer and give of themselves for others rather than giving up something for Lent. I seem to identify more with adding rather than subtracting from my life to prepare for Easter. This year I have decided to meditate each week of Lent upon one of the seven last statements made by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. I think these words are important because often the last words a person speaks are what a person most wants those around him or her to hear and remember.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

This statement recorded by Luke is often referred to as “The Word of Forgiveness.” As Jesus was being nailed to the cross, these are the words that were uttered from His lips. I have to ask myself the following questions. Who is “them” that he asks his Father to forgive? Are they the Pharisees and Sadducees who demanded his death? Are they the Roman soldiers who have beat him and pulled out his bread and placed the crown of thorns upon his head? Are they the jeering crowd he walked through on his way to Golgotha? Are they the soldiers nailing him to the cross? Most likely, “them” included all of them! However, I am probably too shortsighted when I think that “them” refers only to the people surrounding Jesus at the time of His death. I must remember that the purpose of Jesus coming to earth in human form was to die so I could live. My sins are included in the reason Jesus was on the cross. I now hear Jesus speaking personally on behalf of me when he speaks, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Wow, this gives me a deeper appreciation of what Jesus said that day! I cannot conclude this paragraph without quoting John 3:16-18. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  Jesus died to forgive my sins which includes my sinful nature and the sins I still commit because I do not know what I am doing. Jesus forgave me that day on the cross but I still need to go to the cross to ask forgiveness for my mistakes and shortcomings. I am definitely one of “them” and I am grateful that I am forgiven and continue to be forgiven!

As I continue to ponder upon these words of Jesus, I realize that I need to follow his example and ask the Father to help me forgive specific people who have sinned against me. I need to grasp the fact that those who have hurt me most likely did not know what they were doing. When I can comprehend that someone did not intentionally offend me, it is much easier for me to forgive them. I am reminded of the words spoken by Jesus when he taught his disciples how to pray.  Matthew 6: 12, 14-15 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Debts can be translated trespasses or sins in different translations of these verses. Forgiveness is a big deal!

My Reader, do you see yourself as one of “them”? Do you need to follow the example of Jesus and ask someone to forgive you? The answers to these questions may not be easy to verbalize, but your truthfulness will lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus. This is the reason for the season of Lent – a time to repent and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection six weeks from this Sunday.

Joyfully,
 Cheryl
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