His Hour Had Come

Embedded in the text of John’s gospel is a statement that is repeated to move the narrative forward to the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Sometimes it is spoken by Jesus, and sometimes by the apostle as he writes about Jesus. Several times the phrase “his hour had not yet come” (John 8:30) appears, until the time of his death, when he prayed, “Father, the hour has come” (John 17:1).

When, at a wedding feast, his mother hinted strongly that he do something when the wine ran out, Jesus replied, “Woman, why do you involve me?” His relationship to her had now changed. He had been publicly anointed for the work the Father had commissioned him to do and the hour of this death and glorification had “not yet come” (John 2:4). When he did respond to her request, it was because her appeal was less as a mother than as a believer. His answer showed her that their natural human relationship was subordinate to the will of God for him.

The same thing governed his answer to his brothers who suggested that he “leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret” (John 7:4). He refused to go as they suggested, seeking notoriety, because “My time is not yet here” (John 7:6, 8). When he did go to Jerusalem for the festival, it was for different reasons, and it was according to God’s timetable

When his religious detractors wanted to seize him by force and have him arrested for blasphemy, “no one laid a hand on him because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30, 8:20). They were powerless against him until the time came for him to give up his life.

When he went up to Jerusalem for the Passover at the beginning of the week he died, he predicted his death by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds” (John 12:23-24). This brings us to the final stage of John’s gospel and the mission of Jesus. “The hour” is filled with significance: Jesus’ death will lead to his glorification (Philippians 2:6-11)!

Then we hear the Lord Jesus praying with a troubled heart, reminding us of his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane. John  recalls the Lord asking, “What shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name”  (John 12:27-28). What was it that prompted this prayer? No doubt it had to do with the weight of the world’s sin which would be laid upon him at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When the Lord gathered his disciples in the upper room just before the observance of Passover festival, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1). The repetition of this theme in John’s gospel has been building to this climactic moment. Jesus now will prepare his disciples for life after he is gone from them. In John 13-16 he teaches them to serve one another, to love one another, and to rely on the coming Holy Spirit.

In the gospels there are twenty-one recorded prayers of Jesus. There is none more precious and beautiful  than the prayer he prayed for his disciples in John 17. In all of them but one (Matthew 27:46), he addresses God as his “Father” and he does so here: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1-2). His deepest concern is for the Father’s will to be done and that God may be glorified (“hallowed be thy name”). In saying “the hour has come” he is yielding to the will of the Father by dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

This key phrase, repeated in the gospel of John, is a foretelling of the purpose for which Jesus came: to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation by dying and rising from the dead. Paul’s words prove true: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

Pierced for Our Transgressions

During these weeks before Good Friday and Easter I am asking readers to ponder the fulfillment of biblical prophecies related to the death of Jesus on the cross. John the apostle draws our attention to several Old Testament scriptures as he describes the crucifixion.

In John 19:34 he wrote, “One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” In verse 37, John says this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah which said, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John also referenced this prophecy when he described his vision of the risen and victorious Jesus in Revelation 1:7.)

If you study Zechariah 12:10 closely, you learn that the prophet foresaw Israel’s national deliverance in the last days. The physical restoration of his nation is dependent upon their spiritual renewal. He depicts the nation mourning in repentance over their sins. This is accompanied by a spiritual cleansing from sin (Zechariah 13:1).

In this remarkable prophecy the Messiah says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” Messiah has been speaking throughout Zechariah’s prophecy. The New Testament teaches us that this is none other than the Lord Jesus. He is the one who will accomplish Israel’s final restoration as he ushers in his glorious earthly kingdom.

Charles Ryrie wrote, “At the second coming of Christ, Israel will recognize Jesus as her Messiah, acknowledging with deep contrition that He is the One whom their forefathers pierced.” This is what John had in mind when he recognized the partial fulfillment of Zechariah’s words in the sufferings of Jesus.

Jesus’ body was also pieced by nails. This too was prophesied. Psalm 22:16 says “They pierce my hands and my feet.” This graphic depiction of what happened at a crucifixion was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented as an instrument of execution.

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the Roman practice of crucifixion. In 1968 they discovered a heel bone pierced with an iron spike. It is the bone of a crucified man found in a Jerusalem ossuary, dating from the first century. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the Romans executed thousands of victims. It was an agonizing, torturous way to die.

One of the Lord’s disciples, Thomas, did not at first believe in Jesus’ resurrection. He said to the other disciples, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). A week later the Lord came among the disciples and gave Thomas an opportunity to do that very thing. When the skeptical Thomas saw the risen Lord he bowed in worship exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). This is how it will be at the second coming when Israel recognizes and worships King Jesus.

It is doubtful that Zechariah the prophet grasped the full significance of his words, or the use that a disciple of Messiah would make of them 500 years later (1 Peter 1:10-11). But he knew that he was being motivated and guided by a burden from God as he wrote.  He was prophesying the death of Jesus as Isaiah had done years before.

Isaiah’s words provoke reverence and gratitude. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). It was for our sins that Jesus died. He took our place and suffered the penalty we deserved to have to pay. We can only worship and love him for that.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Not a Bone Was Broken

“These things happened so that scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:36).

Recently I was reading the story of a young astronomer, David Block, who was drawn to the idea of a personal Creator by the elegance, beauty and immensity of the universe. He became a Christian through the influence of friends who encouraged him to read the New Testament. He was intrigued by the fact that “Jesus had fulfilled all the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (where the Messiah would be born, how he was to die, and much else besides). . . . I knew that I had found him and that all I had to do was respond to his free offer of grace.”

Fulfilled prophecy is one of the convincing evidences that the Bible is God’s word. The predictions about Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, are remarkably precise. The New Testament frequently refers to prophecies written five hundred to a thousand years before the time of Jesus. He fulfilled them in detail.

Paul Little wrote, “One cannot deny the force of fulfilled prophecy as evidence of divine guidance. Furthermore, there are prophecies which could not possibly have been schemed and written after the events predicted.”

The apostle John was an eyewitness to fulfilled prophecy. He knew his Bible and he knew what was taking place before his eyes (John 19:35). He brought the two together when he wrote his gospel. In his account of our Lord’s crucifixion, he called attention to four details which he says were predicted in the Hebrew Bible: the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes, the wine vinegar they gave him, the fact that his bones were not broken, and the fact that his body was pierced by nails and a spear.

In John 19:31-34 we may read how the executioners wanted to hasten the deaths of those who were being crucified with Jesus. They broke their legs so that they could not put their weight on them as they hung dying. In Jesus’ case, however, they found him already dead. To make sure, one of the soldiers thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, from which flowed blood and water. They did not break the bones in his legs! This fulfilled a prophecy found in Psalm 34:20, “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” John quotes this in John 19:36.

This is significant because the lamb in the Hebrew Passover ritual was to be roasted, eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and the people were commanded not to break any of its bones (Numbers 9:12, Exodus 12:46). John the Baptist had declared that Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Paul wrote that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). In his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the deeper meaning of the Jewish Passover sacrifice in exquisite detail.

John said he was writing these details of prophecy and fulfillment to help us believe in Jesus (John 19:35). These facts of history and scripture support and validate the claims of the Christian gospel. Read the gospel of John as if for the first time. John wrote, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

Another Prophecy Fulfilled

“Fulfilled” is a key word in John chapter 19. John the apostle repeats it several times to show his belief that the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) pointed forward to the sacrificial death of Jesus. In John 19 we have John’s eyewitness report of our Lord’s crucifixion. He takes pains to show that it fulfilled prophesies written hundreds of years before.

The Christian message is that the death of the Son of God removed the barrier of sin that separates us from a holy God. This makes possible our reconciliation with our Creator. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Peter wrote, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

John had in mind the writings of the ancient prophets as he reported the death and resurrection of Jesus. For example, Psalm 69:21 says, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” John recalled this text when he wrote, “A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips” (John 19:29). He said this happened “so that scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:28).

This was in response to Jesus’ plaintive cry, “I am thirsty.” The soldiers who had crucified the Lord gave him some of the cheap sour wine they had been drinking. Some historians believe this may have had an astringent effect that could contract the throat of the victim. Luke 23:36-37 indicates this drink was offered in mockery.

His intense thirst was predicted in the prophecies of the Bible. His anguished suffering is described in Psalm 22:15, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.”

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). “Finished” was a word used in biblical times to refer to the paying of a debt. The phrase “It is finished” means “paid in full.” The debt we owe to God for our sins has been fully paid by his beloved Son on behalf of those who believe in him.

The fact that Jesus “gave up his spirit” is consistent with his earlier word that he, as the Good Shepherd, would lay down his life for his sheep. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again,” Jesus said (John 10:18).

This should elicit a response of reverent awe. Even if the prophets did not fully grasp the implications of all that they wrote (1 Peter 1:10-12), their prophesies came true in minute detail, as we see here. God planned the sacrifice of his Son who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). Fulfilled prophecy means God keeps his word.

This should elicit a response of faith in Jesus as Savior, and obedience to him as Lord and Master. He suffered and died that we might live with him eternally. Shall we not live for him now? The One who said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37) suffered thirst on the cross as he died for our sins.

This should elicit a response of thankfulness. How long has it been since you thanked the Lord Jesus for what he endured in death so that you might receive the gracious gift of life eternal?

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Gambling for a Seamless Tunic

During these weeks leading up to Good Friday, I am writing about the apostle John’s references to fulfilled prophecy. John points to several details about our Lord’s crucifixion which were prophesied in the Old Testament.

Of course anti-Christian antagonists deny this. I remember the publication of a controversial book by Hugh Schonfield in the mid-1960s. In The Passover Plot the author claimed that Jesus was a fanatical genius who thought himself to be the Jews’ Messiah. He brilliantly and subtly organized his ministry to make it appear that everything he did was a fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

According to Schonfield, this involved a plot to fake his own death. He included his disciples in this audacious strategy. They conspired with him to try to make it appear that he had died on the cross and to contrive an artificial “resurrection.” According to Schonfield, Jesus did not claim to be the divine Son of God, and he did not rise from the dead. He was merely a mortal man who believed himself to be the Messiah. His supposed death and resurrection were to bring about the launch of his reign as king of the Jews.

There are too many problems with this far-fetched theory to answer them all. One of the most obvious is how a group of uneducated Galileans could have persuaded Jesus’ enemies to go along with such an elaborate scheme. The powerful religious leaders of Israel were the very ones who wanted him dead and who turned him over to the Roman authorities!

John, in fact, was writing as an eyewitness to the events he described in his gospel. He was present at the crucifixion of Jesus, along with the Lord’s mother and a few other faithful women. What he wrote has the ring of truth. He recognized that these events fulfilled what the ancient Hebrew scriptures had prophesied.

He personally witnessed what he described in John 19:23-24: “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.'”

Then John adds this telling word: “This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’ So this is what the soldiers did.”

Are we to believe that the dying Jesus would have contrived in advance for his Roman torturers to gamble for his clothing? These were people who had no knowledge of the prediction of this event in Psalm 22:18. They had no idea they were fulfilling a prophecy written hundreds of years before. Their actions showed contempt for the dying prisoner, not cooperation with his followers.

Psalm 22 is one of several Messianic psalms. It is the psalm which is quoted the most in the New Testament. It’s author is probably King David who was a prophet as well as a poet. The psalm begins with words Jesus spoke from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 1, Matthew 27:46). Surely one cannot read the opening words of Psalm 22 without thinking of Jesus.

This psalm, in verses 14-16, prophetically describes crucifixion. This was unknown as a method of execution at the time it was written. It graphically pictures a dying man who is being shamed by mocking, tortured by thirst and asphyxiation, an object of horror to all who look on his emaciated frame and nail-pierced hands and feet. Yet unlike other psalms, this one contains no prayer for retribution or confession of sins by its speaker, facts which align with the Lord’s righteous character and forgiving spirit.

Three spiritual lessons have been advanced based upon John’s citation of Psalm 22:18. First, fulfilled prophecy is evidence for the truth-claims of Christianity. No false pretender could have devised a plot which involved controlling other people’s reactions. The betrayal, false accusations, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus were all prophesied in scripture and were carried out by hostile actors, not co-conspirators. This includes the precise detail about his clothing being taken by the executioners. This happened as prophesied in Psalm 22:18, according to the apostle John.

Second, in dying on the cross for the salvation of sinners, Jesus endured public humiliation. E.A. Blum has written, “That Jesus died naked was part of the shame which he bore for our sins. At the same time He is the last Adam who provides clothes of righteousness for sinners.”

Third, The seamless tunic which the soldiers valued may have been the type of garment worn by the high priests of Israel. If this is true it suggests the priestly ministry of our Lord on behalf of his people as he now prays for us continually as our defender, advocate and friend at the Father’s right hand (1 John 2:1-2; John 17:20).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Jesus Predicted his Death

We have entered the season of the year when Christians worldwide call special attention to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We make preparations to observe Good Friday and Easter. In keeping with this tradition, for the next several weeks I intend to write on the apostle John’s use of the word “fulfilled,” in chapters 18 and 19. John wants his readers to remember that Jesus’ death was planned and purposeful.

For example, John 18:32 says, “This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.” What had Jesus said about his death? John records several statements of our Lord in which he explicitly predicted the purpose and manner of his impending death.

In his famous dialogue with the Jewish scholar Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). “Son of Man” was Jesus favorite term for himself. It denotes both his humanity (Numbers 23:19) and his messiahship (Daniel 7:13-14). “Lifted up,” in this context, signifies hoisting up on a stake, or a pole, or, as John intends for us to conclude, on a cross. The snake incident was an Old Testament event which Jesus used to illustrate  and foretell the death by which he would die (Numbers 21).

Jesus went further in John 8:28. “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” Jesus was not merely hinting about his death, he was explaining the manner of his death. He would be “lifted up,” a term that could also mean “exalted.” Not only was his death an agonizing public execution, but it was the first stage of his ultimate exaltation and return to the Father’s glory (Philippians 2:9).

In addition, Jesus foretold his crucifixion in John 12:32-34. “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” The lifting up of Jesus was his crucifixion. He is saying that his death will be for all kinds of people, without regard to nationality, race, social or economic status. It is significant that when Jesus said this he was in the presence of Gentiles (v. 20).

It was with these words, and others, that our Lord indicated the kind of death that he was going to die. These words were fulfilled in exacting detail. What does this mean?

For one thing, this is a demonstration of his divine nature. He foretold and fulfilled, the future, his own future, as only the Son of God would be able to do. In the same passage (John 10) where he claimed “I and the Father are one,” (v. 30), he also foretold his own death (v. 15) and resurrection (v. 17). “This command I received from my Father” (v. 18). For this, his opponents resolved to try to do away with him, because he was claiming to be God (vv. 31-33).

Also, his “lifting up” was necessary in order for him to fulfill his purpose in coming to earth. This term fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 22, an Old Testament description of crucifixion. But, going deeper, it means that he would die the death of an accursed one. Jesus did not die by the normal Jewish method of execution, stoning. He died as he had said he would, by being “lifted up.” In this way, “Christ delivered us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole'” (Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Jesus died on the cross as an innocent sacrifice to bear the curse of the law in the place of sinful people. This was the plan of God  to provide salvation for those who will believe.

A final thing, people cannot understand the message of the cross without the convincing ministry of the Spirit of God. The very idea of one who claimed to be the Jews’ Messiah, being lifted up to be crucified as a criminal, was utter foolishness to Gentiles. It was a massive stumbling block to Jews. People whose reliance is on the mere wisdom of the world, will not be able, Paul said, to perceive the higher wisdom of the cross.

He wrote, “For since in the wisdom  of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” ( 1 Corinthians 1:21). What seems like foolishness to unaided human wisdom is really the powerful logic of God’s salvation! “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Saved! It is possible to be saved from eternal judgment! This is the message of the cross. This is why Jesus was lifted up on the cross and why he talked so much about it. He wants us to be saved. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Yes, you. My appeal is to you. Believe in him.

It is for this reason that the cross is to be the main theme of Christian preaching and worship. “For I resolved to know nothing among you . . . except Jesus Christ and him crucified” ( 1 Corinthians 2:2). This is why we rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to make this message plain to people. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

This is the reason Jesus repeatedly called attention to the kind of death he was going to die. And he kept his word. He was lifted up on the cross. It was for sinners like us.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

Last Words from the Cross

When Jesus called out from the cross, “It is finished,” he was saying farewell to earth. When he said to God, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46), it was an entrance greeting to heaven. His spirit was to be separated from his body. He had assurance of his spirit’s continuance apart from the body. Those who are in Christ may have that same assurance now.

His death was an act of his will. Yes, he was killed by wicked people (Acts 2:23). But in a deeper sense his death was purely voluntary. Neither Judas, nor Caiaphas, nor Pilate, nor the soldiers took his life from him. “He gave his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). No human power could have touched him unless he permitted it. Only when he declared that the appointed time had come, did he allow his enemies to arrest him (John 12:23).

He had said to his disciples, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to 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 command I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).

This tells us of the Son of God’s complete agreement with and submission to the Father’s eternal plan of redemption. For this the Father loves him. Jesus will give resurrection life to those who believe in him. But in order to do that he must experience it himself. To be raised from death, he must first die. His resurrection must be preceded by his death. This was the Father’s loving purpose for his obedient Son.

This was not a form of suicide, nor a martyr complex, nor fatalistic resignation. This was his authority to terminate his physical life, and then to resume that physical life in the resurrection. Only the Son of God has that authority. In this he exercised his power over death, to make possible our deliverance from the power of death.

So he “cried out again with a loud voice” (Matthew 27:50), “bowed his head” (John 19:30), and committed his spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46). In one moment he lost consciousness of the terrible scene in front of him and was immediately conscious of being in Paradise, in the presence of the Father. His body was taken down from the cross to be buried by the hands of humans. His spirit was taken into the loving hands of the Father in heaven.

This helps explain the Lord’s earlier words to his disciples, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:28). If you and I believe in this Jesus, his word proves as true for us as for them, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

“It Is Finished!”

Victims of crucifixion usually died exhausted and unconscious. The New Testament tells us that before he died, Jesus summoned the strength for a loud cry (Mark 15:37). This was unusual for a man dying on a cross after many hours of torture.

His final shout was a cry of victory over the powers of darkness: “It is finished!” He was saying that he had accomplished what he had been sent to earth to do. In this sixth statement from the cross (John 19:30), Jesus again alluded to the twenty-second psalm, a prophecy of his sacrificial death: “He has done it!” (Psalm 22:31).

What did he accomplish in his dying? He accomplished “everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man” (Luke 18:31; 1 Peter 1:11). He accomplished the requirements of God’s law. He was born and lived under the law, he fulfilled the law in his perfect life, and he bore the curse of the law in his death (Galatians 2:21, 3:13, 4:4). With perfect obedience he accomplished the purpose of the Father (John 17:4).

The Hebrew prophets, writing hundreds of years earlier, tell us that his death on the cross would be to “atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness” and that “the Anointed One (Messiah) will be put to death and will have nothing” (Daniel 9:24, 26). “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He (God in Christ) has done it!” (Psalm 22:31). That is what he meant when he said, “It is finished!”

He was speaking to the Father in heaven: ” I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). He was speaking to those who  would make up that growing worldwide congregation of believers throughout history: “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you” (Psalm 22:22). He was speaking to himself: “After he (God’s Lamb) has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53 :11).

The word “finished,” in the Greek language implies completed action with a continuous result. It has finality. The work of salvation is accomplished; the price of redemption is paid in full. This word was used in first century marketplaces where goods were bought and sold. A seller would write a receipt for a completed transaction with this word which means “paid in full.”

Rudolf Stier wrote, There is nothing lying beyond the reach of this word. … Here is the center of the history of the world.” Nothing can be added to what Jesus accomplished to secure salvation for all who believe in him. “He has done it! It is finished!”

In his book, The Cross of Christ, John R.W. Stott wrote: “The loud shout of victory, is in the gospel text the single word tetelestai. Being in the perfect tense, it means ‘it has been and will forever remain finished.’ We note the achievement Jesus claimed just before he died. It is not men who have finished their brutal deed; it is he who accomplished what he came into the world to do. He has borne the sins of the world. Deliberately, freely and in perfect love he has endured the judgment in our place. He has procured salvation for us, established a new covenant between God and humankind, and made available the chief covenant blessing, the forgiveness of sins.”

Amen.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

“I Am Thirsty”

You understand thirst. You have felt thirsty. Have you ever experienced a burning thirst, a fearful life-or-death thirst, a dangerous thirst? Long distance hikers know the dangers of dehydration and the importance of locating water sources. They carry filtration systems for purifying water from streams, ponds or springs along the trail.

The fifth word of Christ from the cross came near the end when he said, “I am thirsty.” He knew that everything was about to be accomplished (John 19:28). He had been suffering the judgment of God for sin. This was to make possible our deliverance from the penalty for our sins. He identified with humanity in another way we all understand: “I am thirsty.”

Jesus had been hanging on the cross since 9:00 in the morning. It was nearing 3 pm. His physical sufferings were unspeakable. They were compounded by a burning thirst. He gave voice to a physical need. He had this is common with all humanity as before when he experienced temptation, fatigue, sorrow, hunger and righteous anger. In thirst, common to all people, Jesus understood how it felt to be human.

The “I” in this statement opens another window on the person of the Savior. It is a reminder that this dying, thirsting man on the cross was also God in his very nature. Repeatedly in John’s gospel, our Lord Jesus identified himself as the “I AM,” who had boldly declared, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10). John purposefully selected seven statements from the discourses of Jesus to affirm his divine authority: I am the Bread of Life, I am the Light of the World, I am the Gate, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, I am the True Vine.

Then in John 8:58 he said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” Not “I was,” but “I am” the eternal One, the self-existent One (Exodus 3:14; John 1:1). Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” ( Philippians 2:6-8).

Think of it! The one who “was with God in the beginning” and through whom “all things were made” (John 1:2-3) inhabited and was dependent upon the creation he himself had brought into existence. The one who created the springs, rivers and aquifers to slake the thirst of living creatures; the one who sent the seasonal rains to water thirsty crops, to provide abundant harvests; the one who covered three-fourths of the surface of this planet with water to dissipate the heat of the sun and to make the earth habitable — this mighty creator humbled himself to die on a cross and before he died he said, “I am thirsty.”

The historic teaching of the Christian gospel is that Jesus is both human and divine, God and man in one person. Because he was man, he was able to bear our sins. Because he was God, his sacrifice was perfect. Because of his perfect sacrifice he is able to bring believers to Paradise. Let us say to Jesus, as Thomas did, with reverence and gratitude, “My Lord and my God!”( John 20:28).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

 

 

 

The God-forsaken Savior

It has been called the “cry of dereliction” or of “desolation.” Amid the unnatural darkness that fell over his crucifixion, Jesus cried out in the language of his people, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He was quoting scripture, Psalm 22:1. It was a prophecy being fulfilled.

Angels had supported Jesus when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. They helped him as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells us a voice from heaven spoke approvingly of him on several occasions.

But on the cross no angels attended him. There was no voice saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Instead there was the pall of darkness at noon and the consciousness of being abandoned.

Jesus’ cry was not one of unbelief, despair or cowardice. At the last Supper and in Gethsemane Jesus had expressed his intention to  fulfill the Father’s will through his death. He had repeatedly predicted to his disciples the death he would die in Jerusalem. This cry of dereliction was a fulfillment of another prophetic word: “We considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

J.C. Ryle of England explained it this way, “There is a deep mystery in these words which no one can fathom. They express the real pressure on his soul of the enormous burden of the world’s sin.” His suffering was not merely physical, but spiritual. He was forsaken by God because he was bearing our sin.

The famous hymn of Isaac Watts describes it: “Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut his glories in/ when Christ the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.” This is Jesus becoming a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Until then, he could always say, “My Father is with me” (John 16:32). But now he is absolutely alone, abandoned, forsaken.

Why? Because “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). In suffering the abandonment of the Father, Jesus endured the very sufferings of hell. “God made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yet despite the desolation, we recognize his belief that the essential unity of the Trinity was not broken. Jesus never lost the knowledge that God was his God. Fellowship was broken by our sin, but not his relationship. Not long after these dreadful words were spoken, Jesus would call God his Father again, praying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

This season of the year is an annual reminder of what our Lord endured for us in dying for our sins. As we meditate on his words from the cross, let us humble ourselves in grateful worship, deep faith and confident witness. He was forsaken so that we might be accepted. This is good news.

Years ago I wrote these lines: “How the glory once was muted/ when upon a tree, accursed/ in the terror of earth’s darkness/ Jesus took God’s wrath for us.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner