April 14, 2011

A Man Forsaken - Apr 13, 2011

Throughout this Lenten season we’ve been trying to burn images on your mind. Images of Christ’s love for you illustrated by the things He went through to take your sins away.

We’ve seen Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood as He thought of all that He would have to endure. A real struggle.

We’ve seen Jesus step boldly forward and meet the mob who would arrest Him and set Him on the road to the cross. A willing Savior.

We’ve seen Jesus stand before the Sanhedrin, accepting all their false accusations and coached witnesses without a word. An innocent man.

We’ve seen Jesus exchange places with a known murderer named Barabbas. An unbelievable exchange.

Tonight we see Jesus nailed to a wooden cross. A man forsaken.

Mark 15:25-32 (NIV)

25It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30come down from the cross and save yourself!”
31In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Over 650 years before Jesus was born, a prophet by the name of Isaiah penned these words about Him.
“ 1Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:1-3 ).
Jesus was a man forsaken. A man abandoned by those around Him.

Judas gave up on Jesus. Decided He wasn’t going to do the great things Judas had hoped. Decided to sell Jesus out for the relatively small price of thirty silver coins. A mere four month’s wages.

In the garden of Gethsemane, all of Jesus’ friends abandoned Him. They ran away, fearing for their own lives.

Peter turned back to follow Jesus to the palace of the High Priest. He even gained entrance into the courtyard of the High Priest. But there Peter ended up abandoning Jesus too. In what some would call a worse way than running. With heated, oath stained lies Peter denied even knowing Jesus.

The Jewish people abandoned the Savior when they gave Him over to the Romans. They HATED the Romans, and here they were – giving one of their OWN over to the Roman governor and requesting He be EXECUTED. The Roman Governor himself was puzzled over this. Pilate asked Jesus,
“…It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” (John 18:35 NIV).
For a while, Pilate sort of sheltered Jesus. He recognized Him as being an innocent man. Even pronounced Him innocent. But in the end, Pilate gave Jesus up too as too much of a danger to protect. The crowd was getting restless, and He couldn’t afford another bad report set to Caesar.

Even the death that Jesus was condemned to die was a proclamation of abandonment. Everybody knew that crucifixion was reserved for only the worst criminals. For the murderers and enemies of the state. Crucifixion said, “You’re a lost cause. You can’t be rehabilitated. You’re no longer worthy of anything except to be a grotesque warning to others”.

Yes, Jesus was a “man forsaken”. But not only by his enemies in life, and his friends in death. He was forsaken by us also, for it was our sins that made His suffering and death necessary.

But look again at those ancient words of Isaiah. For Isaiah tells us of another who forsook this man of sorrows. Another who abandoned Jesus.
“ 6We 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 NIV).
“…it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Isaiah 53:10 NIV).
The Father abandoned the Son too. Left Him to suffer the pain and punishment of Hell, in the place of sinners like you and me. He let Him endure our sentence. If the full penalty for our sins was to be lifted from us, someone had to feel it. God’s justice demanded it be so.

What Isaiah foretold, Jesus experienced and announced when He cried out from the cross,
“…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 NIV).

Isaiah answered Jesus’ question nearly 700 years before it was asked. Isaiah answered WHY Jesus was forsaken by the LORD. The answer is found in Isaiah 53
“ (v5) But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…

(v11)...my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities…

(v12 …he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:5, 11, 12 NIV).
Jesus was a man forsaken. Forsaken by enemies. Forsaken by friends. Forsaken by His own God the Father.

In a sense, Jesus had been abandoning HIMSELF His whole life long. He covered His eternal glory as the Son of God. He didn’t use His unlimited knowledge for His own advancement. He got up early in the morning to pray to the Father, and stayed up late to heal the sick and the sinful. He restricted Himself to the human frame so that HIS SINLESS LIFE would be valid as a substitute payment for the rest of us SINFUL HUMAN BEINGS.

Like Paul wrote in Philippians 2, verse 5
“5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).
Jesus never married, because His one Love was the sinners He came to die for.

He was forsaken, so WE are accepted.

He was abandoned, so WE are adopted into the family of God. Sinners made saint. The filthy, cleansed. The sinful, forgiven.

He was given up to hell and death, so that WE could experience forgiveness and renewal, every day of our lives and into eternity.

In 2 Corinthians 5, verse 21 Paul says it like this…
“21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
I’ll say it again, He was forsaken, so WE are accepted. THAT’S why the cross of Christ is GOOD NEWS.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you the unspeakable horror you faced in our place. How can we ever speak enough thanks or express in words what this means to us? I don’t think we can. Accept our pitiful thanks, and all our other acts of service which fall SO short of Your love. Jesus, help us NEVER to live like we are forsaken by God. Every time we feel the pressures of life, or the guilt of sin weighing on our minds, come back to our hearts by Word and Spirit and show us again why you were forsaken – so we are accepted. Reign in our hearts Jesus. Amen.

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