April 29, 2012

Flock and Shepherd - Apr 29, 2012

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In the Bible, God describes His followers as a flock being led by a shepherd. Our Bible readings for today will deal with this image of God's people - either describing the flock, or the Good Shepherd who leads them.


First Reading Acts 4:23-33 (NKJV)

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.’
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

For this reading I'm going to focus in on the last two verses. I'll read them again.
"32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:32-33 NKJV).
There were some very different people in this group. Matthew, also known as Levi, was among them. He was a tax collector for the Roman government. Before he met Jesus, Matthew made extra money for himself by charging his countrymen more than the tax code required. Tax collectors were known for this, and so, Matthew's fellow Jews considered him a traitor. After joining up with Jesus, Matthew stopped robbing the people like this, but his reputation couldn't be rebuilt in a day.

Also among the followers of Jesus was Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were revolutionaries who worked against the Roman government every chance they got. If it was sabotage, great. If violence was needed, fine. They were the extreme patriots of the Jewish nation. The Bible doesn't tell us what kind of things this Simon did back when he was a Zealot, but the fact that he was known as "Simon the Zealot" tells us enough.

Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot were about as different as it gets. And yet, when they became followers of Jesus, they were changed. United.

Our reading tells us that the early Christian church was so unified that they had "one heart and one soul". Their old lives were past, their new life in Christ had begun.

In the Bible, God describes His people as a flock. A flock is a group of individuals united under the leadership of a shepherd. The flock of God's early followers was united by their faith in Jesus Christ, the promised Savior from sin.

Because they knew that in Christ their sins had been forgiven, they could forgive each other's sins. And they could work through differences in their own character and opinions.

Now, I don't want you to misunderstand me. There are a lot of churches today that throw out teachings of Jesus for the sake of unity. That's not the kind of "working through differences of opinion" that I'm talking about. Unity under Christ doesn't come from changing what HE says, it comes from the Holy Spirit changing what we believe. Conforming our hearts and minds to Christ's Word.

The Christians of the early church compromised all the time. But not when it came to what Jesus taught. That wasn't on the table of compromise, because that was the source of their unity.

Acts 2:42 speaks of this dedication to Christ's Word when it says of the early church...
" 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42 NIV).

Because the unity of the early church was based on adherence to Christ's teachings, the early Christians were sure of what they were doing. They were enabled to be bold in the face of violent opposition from the ruthless religious leaders of Jerusalem because they knew they were teaching Christ's Message.

The Holy Spirit was working through the message of sins forgiven to such a degree that these young Christians were even overcoming their own selfish interests. They were putting each other first. They didn't look at the world from a ME first point of view anymore. They were in this together. They were a team under the coaching of Christ. They were a flock seeking to follow their Great Shepherd's leading, and His leading alone.

Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, all the apostles had sworn that they would die rather than desert Him. But they hadn't lived up to this promise. But now, they really would have died rather than desert their Savior. And why? They seen the risen Christ. Our reading says,
"With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:32-33 NKJV).
With their testimony the apostles, and all the other followers of Jesus, invited other sinners to join the unity. To be one in heart and soul with Christ. With this testimony, they offered peace with God to the sinners around them.

This is what we want to do as God's flock in Lynnwood, WA. Since we have received grace and forgiveness from our Savior, we pour it out on each other. We practice compromise when it comes to the things that aren't written in stone by God's Word, and we invite others to experience this unity with us.

Psalm of the Day Psalm 23 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David.

P: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
C: He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
P: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
C: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
P: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
C: And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

King David knew all about tending sheep. He had been a shepherd since he was a boy. He had led the flocks to pasture. He had coaxed them down to drink from streams. He had fended off predators with rod and staff.

Before David faced the giant Philistine warrior named Goliath, King Saul tried to tell the boy that he really had no business meeting Goliath in battle. David replied,
“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36 ESV).
David knew what shepherding was all about. And he saw a parallel between shepherding and the watchful care of the LORD.

When the LORD is leading you, you know that He has good things in store for you. In the green pastures and still waters of Psalm 23 we see a picture of the spiritual health and healing that God's people receive from His hand.

Of course, it isn't always green pastures and still waters. Sometimes there's dark valleys to walk through. Canyon lands with dark shadows and threatening caves. But when the Shepherd is leading, we can bear these times.

And that brings up an important point in this poetic description. A shepherd LEADS his sheep. He doesn't drive them forward into the scary canyons. He goes first. He meets the predators who want to take us away from God, and into hell.

Our Jesus is a Shepherd, not a cheerleader. He doesn't just stand by our side to cheer us on. He went out alone to the cross and the grave. He was beaten and tortured for our sins. He died in our place. And then He rose to life. He led the way and cleared the path of our sins so that we can walk the easy road of forgiveness.

That brings up another important point in this description. Without the Shepherd, the sheep don't wouldn't have a chance. But with the Shepherd, we can't lose.

David expresses this certainty when he writes...

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6 NKJV).

NT Letter 1 John 3:1-2 (NIV)

3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

There is a certain intimacy in the picture of the LORD as our Shepherd. He leads us to food and water. He tends our wounds. He watches over our souls. But here, John offers an even more intimate picture. God calls us His own children.

It's one thing to belong to the King. It's another thing to be His sons and daughters. Through faith in Christ, we are children of God.

Like it says in Galatians...

"27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:27-29 ESV).

Jesus explained what being a child of God ultimately means. If you're a child of the King, then you get to live in the palace. On the evening before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples...
"1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going" (1 John 14:1-4 NIV).
Our reading from First John informs us through Christ we will not only have an amazing new place to live. When we live beside God, we will be remade to be like Christ was after His resurrection. Our bodies will be perfected. Ready to live forever.

Better than that, our very souls will be free from the sinful nature that hinders us in this life. We will no longer jump to stupid and false conclusions. We will no longer have sinful thoughts and emotions flare up on our minds. We will be LIKE HIM, for we shall see him as he is.

Being a child of God means that we will one day get to see God clearly. Just what will that be like? I don't have a clue. But I can't wait to find out.

Gospel History John 10:11-18 (ESV)

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 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.”

In this last reading Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd and then describes how He would voluntarily die for the sins of His people.

The way that Jesus speaks here was prophetic. He returns again and again to the fact that He would soon lay down His life for the sheep. He would die on the cross to atone for their sins. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher. Here He claims to be the Savior, and the only Savior for sinners.

When you read this section over and over, you begin to see many different characteristics of Jesus. These characteristics come out in that singular event that defines Him as the Savior; the fact that He died for others.

Let me explain what I mean. Jesus says that He isn't like the hired hand who watches the sheep for a paycheck. That guy sees the wolf approaching and makes a "business decision" and gets out of harm's way. The hired hand isn't paid enough to die for the sheep - so he abandons the sheep for his own safety.

This is what the false prophet does. He's only there for personal gain, so when the going gets tough, the false prophet abandons ship.

Not so with Jesus. He is no cowardly hired hand present only for personal gain. He is the owner of the sheep. He stands bravely against the wolf because these are HIS sheep to defend.

And that brings out another trait of Christ. He is loyal to His own. He's not going to abandon them. He loves them. He will fight to the death for them.

Jesus says this is one of the reasons the Father loves Him. He is obedient to the Father. The Father sent Him to save the sheep, and so that's what He would do on the cross. Our Good Shepherd was obedient to the Father's gracious will to save sinners.

Though Jesus was obedient to the Father's will in going to the cross, there is yet another trait revealed in that obedience. Choice. Jesus chose to go to the cross for sinners. He laid down His life voluntarily, not grudgingly. It was hard to choose this path, but because it was the Father's will, and the only way to save sinners, Jesus chose it willingly. Our sins deserved Hell. So, Jesus suffered Hell.

Jesus says that He received the authority to lay down His life and to take it up again from the Father. It was His mission.

This is the Good Shepherd who still watches over us today. A Good Shepherd who lived and died to save us from our own stupid and disgusting sins. And this is why we can have utter confidence in His care today, and forever. You have a protector who GAVE Himself for you. That protector can no longer die.

It's one thing to be confident because you have a bodyguard who you know will throw Himself in front of a bullet to save you. When you have a bodyguard who will do that, and yet cannot die - well, that leads to a whole other level of confidence.

Jesus suffered for your sins. He died to pay your debt of sin off. And then He rose from the dead victorious. If you die in Him, trusting in Him for forgiveness and life, He guarantees that you will rise again, just like Him. This is the promise that we have from the Father, in the Son.

So, when the valleys get dark in your life, remember who is leading you down those valleys. He knows the way and will face the dangers ahead. When your sins seem heavy on your soul, remember who already took them on His shoulders. They may SEEM heavy, but they are already gone. Forgiven. And when you face the darkest valley, the valley of death, remember His feet have already been there. And at the end of that path eternal life and glory will dawn on you too, little sheep.

I'd like to close our mediation on the Good Shepherd with a blessing found at the end of the book of Hebrews. There it says...
" 20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV).

April 22, 2012

A Real Relationship - Apr 22, 2012

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April 15, 2012

Doubting Thomas - Apr 15, 2012

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April 8, 2012

Lost and Found - Apr 8, 2012

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Many historical events have come down to us from a single source. One person who recorded what they witnessed. But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not founded on the testimony of any one person.

Crowds of people witnessed Jesus' crucifixion and death. Some were His friends. Some His enemies. Some merely Roman soldiers doing their job.

But, while there were many witnesses of Christ's death, there were even MORE witnesses of His resurrection. The apostle Paul wrote...
" 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV).
When Paul wrote these words, you could actually go and interview these witnesses for yourself. They were still alive and could tell you what they had seen. And these witnesses WERE interviewed. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain information drawn from these witnesses.

This has led some historians to say that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the most testified to event in all of human history.

For our meditation today we're going to hear from just one of the many witnesses of Christ's resurrection. One of the very first to see the risen Christ. Mary Magdalene.

Just who was this Mary? What was her relationship to Jesus? And what do we learn from her testimony? Today we find out. May the Holy Spirit bless our hearts and minds as we turn to the sure testimony of God's Word.

John 20:11-18 (NKJV)

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

When a witness testifies in a court of law, the court is mainly concerned with testimony connected to the case, not with knowing that person's whole life story.

In the same way, the Bible doesn't record the whole life story of Mary Magdalene. But it does give us some information concerning her life and character.

Mary came from the city of Magdala in Galilee. She had once been possessed by seven demons. But during His ministry in Galilee, Jesus had met Mary, and had cast these demons out of her. For this, Mary was ever grateful.

She showed her thankfulness to Jesus by following along with His disciples. She, and other women whom Jesus had helped, supported Him throughout His ministry. They even followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem in the last week of His earthly life.

While Jesus' other friends abandoned Him when He was arrested, Mary and a handful of other women followed Him all the way to the cross. Mary Magdalene was there when Jesus was crucified. And after His death, she followed on, witnessing from a distance when His body was laid in the garden tomb.

On that Friday afternoon when Jesus died, there wasn't much time to prepare His body for burial. At nightfall the Sabbath would begin, and working on the Sabbath was forbidden for a Jew. Mary knew the men who buried Jesus had worked quickly to finish their task before the Sabbath began. And so, she made up her mind up to go to His tomb the day after the Sabbath. She and the other women would make sure that the job had been done right. They would perform this one last act of kindness for the Teacher who had been so kind to them. For the friend they had come to love.

But when Mary and the others approached the tomb early on the first Easter the morning, they found that it had already been opened, and the body of Jesus was missing.

This confused and distressed Mary. She had not expected this at all. Her preparations had been made with the assumption that she would find the Lord's body laying there, cold on the slab. But now, He was nowhere to be found.

She lingered there outside the tomb, not knowing what to do. Crying and struggling to make sense of it all. Or perhaps just struggling to stay afloat amid the flood of her emotions.

She was so distraught that when she stooped to look through the low doorway that led down into the tomb, she didn't even question the presence of two angels that sat there, looking like men dressed in white.

When they asked her why she was weeping, she didn't even bother to ask them why THEY were even there. She just numbly answered their question. Someone had taken her Lord away, and she didn't know where they had put Him.

And it was then, that the risen Jesus stepped into the dark whirlwind of Mary's distress. She turned and saw Him, but didn't recognize this new visitor.

"Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Jesus said.

Here I can't help but imagine John's interview with Mary as he was gathering information for His Gospel. Mary says, "And you know what? When I saw Him, I thought He was the gardener! Of all people! And I told Him that if He was the one who had taken Jesus away that He should just tell me where He had put Him and I would take Him back!"

And then the moment of recognition came. The same powerful Savior who had cast out her demons so long before spoke another powerful word to her. Her own name. "Mary!" He said. And her eyes were opened. It was HIM. It was REALLY Him!

"Teacher!", she had cried as she rushed to hug Him. She had hoped to wrap His lifeless form with burial spices. She had even contemplated hefting His body away from whatever place He had been stolen away to. But NEVER had she held out the hope that she would hug His living, breathing form again.

Moments before she had been overwhelmed with sadness and confusion. Now, she was overwhelmed with wonder and with joy.

And then He spoke again. This time His words connected the physical reality of His resurrection to the spiritual significance of it. Jesus said, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God."

My Father and your Father. My God and your God.

Through His suffering and death in Mary's place, Jesus had once and for all wiped out the record of her sins. Through His sacrifice Mary Magdalene was made a daughter of the Heavenly Father. A sinner made saint through faith in God's Son.

Mary had come seeking the dead Jesus. But in the end it was the living Lord who had done the finding.

And Jesus is still reenacting this scene today.

When Mary had first met Jesus she was in a hopeless condition. Possessed against her will by seven demons. But Jesus had cast out those demons with His mighty power.

Today, Jesus comes to sinners like us, through the Gospel message. And he declares us free from what we could never have escaped on our own. He declares our sins forgiven through His cross.

When Mary stood outside the tomb on that first Easter Sunday, she felt confused and utterly alone. Jesus was nowhere to be found and she didn't know what to do.

Today, Jesus comes to His people in distress. When we feel weighed down by sin and guilt. When we feel confused and utterly alone. When we feel like God is nowhere to be found, then He comes to us in Word and sacrament and reminds us that He has not abandoned us. He died to save us from Hell, and He lives to guide us home to Heaven.

When Mary first saw Her resurrected friend and Savior, she was overwhelmed and sought to hold onto Him. But with His words, Jesus directed her to the greater gift He had risen to give her. He wasn't just there to comfort a friend who was grieving a lost loved one. He was there to tell her that He was going to her future home. To the Father's side. Her Father by faith. To God's side. The God she trusted in, and was now connected to.

There are many passages in the Bible that tell us that Jesus died to take away the sins of the world. But this little account of Mary's experience outside the empty tomb reminds us that Jesus died - for me, the individual. For you, the individual.

The message of sins forgiven through the sacrifice of God's son has brought masses of people to trust the God of the Bible. But Mary's account reminds us that God comes to each sinner personally. Because, foul sinners though we are, God somehow values us. Loves us. Wants to rescue us from our broken selves and from this broken world. HE seeks US. We stumble through life, seeking and grasping, sinning and searching. Looking for meaning and purpose, peace and happiness. Through this messy storm of our sinful lives - He comes to us. And the lost become found - in Christ Jesus.

When we approach the tomb on Easter morning, we see what Mary saw. That we have been found.

Our sins erased. Born into God's family. Lost, but through the crucified and then risen Christ, FOUND.


April 6, 2012

Seven Words from the Cross - Apr 6, 2012

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Throughout the season of Lent, we've been painting a portrait of our Suffering Savior. The colors and details of this portrait have been painted by number. One soul distressing in the garden of Gethsemane. Two unscrupulous priests planning Jesus' murder. Three shameful denials by Peter. Four ruthless soldiers gambling for Christ's clothing. Five flesh wounds. Six hours of grief and pain.

Tonight consider the last of our Lenten devotions. We meditate on the final things that Jesus said. Seven times He spoke from the cross. Tonight we consider those seven last words.


"33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'" (Luke 23:34 NKJV).

In the last twenty-four hours Jesus had been through a lot. In the garden of Gethsemane He had felt deep anguish as he anticipated the suffering to come. As He prayed, Jesus' sweat had rained down like great drops of blood.

Then Judas had come leading a mob to arrest Him. But instead of open denunciation, Judas had betrayed Jesus with a common show of affection. He had kissed Jesus, thus identifying which man the mob should arrest.

Jesus' captors had then taken Him into custody and interrogated Him. With interrogation came beatings, spittings and mockings.

In the early morning hours, Jesus was brought to the Roman governor for trial. There, Jesus was scourged, and again beaten and mocked. This time by Roman soldiers.

Here in the governor's palace Jesus felt the thorns of a makeshift crown pressed into His brow. Finally, even though pronounced innocent by the Roman governor, Jesus had been sentenced to death by crucifixion.

Preparations were made, and the procession began to wind its way through the city to the place of execution. Along the way, Jesus had fallen under the weight of His cross. A bystander was forced to carry it for Him.

Finally, they reached the hill called Calvary. The place of the Skull. Settling down to work, the Roman soldiers secured Jesus to His cross using large iron spikes and a hammer. First through His right hand, then His left. Lastly they pounded iron through His feet and lifted Him up.

It was then that Jesus spoke the first of His seven words from the cross.

So far, Jesus had remained relatively quiet throughout this whole ordeal. But now He chose to pray for the soldiers who crucified Him.

Jesus saw the world through the eyes of these godless men, and pitied He them. They knew that they were crucifying a man. They had done it before. But they did not know that this Man was the very Son of God.

What terrible vengeance would come from the Father for such a crime? Jesus didn't want them to find out. So, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do".

Jesus did all sorts of kind and gracious things during His earthly life. But, I think this one prayer pegs His character pretty good. In the face of horrible pain, Jesus didn't let bad words slip out of His mouth. Instead, a prayer slipped out, that God might forgive even this evil.

This is grace. Undeserved and unexpected love.

And this is what you and I receive from Jesus too. He did not suffer and die for these soldiers only. He also suffered and died for our sins. The whole crucifixion was one long prayer that said, "Father, forgive them, they don't understand how evil their sins really are".


"39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43 NIV).

During His ministry, Jesus once called Himself "the Good Shepherd". In John 10, verse 27 He says...
"27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28 ESV).
We don't know much about the robbers who hung to the left and right of Jesus. But by their own admission we know that they had committed crimes justly punished by crucifixion.

But in these final hours of their lives, one of them heard the voice of the Good shepherd. One of them saw the way that Jesus carried Himself. Heard the astoundingly selfless prayer that He prayed for His killers.

The robber to the side of Jesus was a violent criminal, yes. But he was no fool. He knew an innocent man when He saw one. And more than that, He could see that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed Savior King so long foretold.

This robber turned and humbly asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus ascended His throne of power and glory. And Jesus turned to this newest lamb of His flock and reassured Him that there was nothing to worry about anymore. Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise".

There would be pain for this man before the day was over. Every hour, and minute and second would be pain. But now there was light at the end of the tunnel. He had heard the Good Shepherd's voice. And that voice had promised - TODAY! Today you will step through the gates and into the house of God. Today all pain will end. Today I will lead you to eternally green pastures and still waters.

Why would this filthy criminal be allowed into heaven? Jesus would open the gates by His suffering and death. And connected to Jesus by faith, this former robber would follow.

As Jesus said in John 10...
"14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep " (John 10:14-15 ESV).
What sins do you feel God cannot forgive you? Some harsh and unfeeling words? Sexual sins? Hatred in your inner heart? Blasphemous thoughts expressed toward God?

Remember the robber to the side of Christ. Because of Jesus, he was forgiven in full. Because of Christ, you are also.

That is not my promise. That promise comes from God, and from your Good Shepherd.


"26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:26-27 ESV).

With His first utterance from the cross, Jesus had said a prayer for the ignorant soldiers. With His second word, Jesus had comforted an infant Christian on his deathbed. With His third word from the cross Jesus turned to family matters.

Jesus' own mother had been brought to the foot of the cross. Apparently, the apostle John had rushed to tell others that Jesus was being crucified. Now they had come, not to stare and mock with the crowd, but simply to be there. What else could they do?

It appears that by this time, Jesus' stepfather Joseph had died. The last reference to him in any of the Gospels is found back when Jesus was only twelve. And although Jesus had brothers who could have taken care of Mary, He instead entrusted her to John. Perhaps Jesus did this because He knew that John would care for her physical AND spiritual needs. His brothers did not yet believe in Him.

We sometimes forget that although Jesus was the mighty God, He was also a human son. And a good son He was. Just as He had selflessly prayed for the soldiers, when He saw His mother, all He could think of was making sure she would be taken care of.

"Honor you father and mother", the commandment said. And Jesus did.

In tending to the needs of His mother, Jesus was also honoring His Heavenly Father. Just as Jesus had kept all the other commandments, Jesus perfectly kept the fourth expression of His Father's will.

He had to do this if His sacrifice was going to cover all our failures to keep God's laws. Only a SINLESS sacrifice would be enough.

How many different ways have you and I failed to honor our parents? Could we even count those failures? Yet, Jesus never failed. And because He kept this commandment perfectly and offered Himself in our place, our sins against the fourth commandment stand forgiven.


"34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34 NKJV).

Perhaps you've seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ". It does a good job of depicting the physical suffering that Jesus experienced as He was scourged, beaten and crucified. But one place it falls short is showing what Jesus experienced here. In fact, I've never seen a movie that even got close to visually portraying the hell that Jesus felt.

On the cross, Jesus suffered much more than physical pain. He had to. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment for sin is not just physical suffering and death. The full punishment for sinning against God is eternal separation from Him. At it's core, that's what hell is. Separation from God and all his goodness.

If you had a debt that I wanted to pay off for you, I couldn't just make a down payment. If I really want to let you off the hook I would have to pay every single penny. Only then will your debt be truly removed.

The agony of an eternity of separation from God was somehow condensed into these last hours of Jesus' life. Jesus expressed the agony of feeling this separation when He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

This is the true penalty for sin. This the penalty He paid . This is what He rescued us from.

Most of our services here at Redemption end with the worship leader pronouncing a blessing on the people. It's a blessing from the Old Testament that goes like this...
"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26 ESV).
It is because Jesus was not blessed on the cross that we can be blessed. It was because the Father hid His face from the Son, that He can be gracious to us. It is because the LORD visited His wrath on Jesus that He can give peace to sinners like us.

As the song says, "I'm forgiven, because You were forsaken". Thank you Lord Jesus.


"28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth..." (John 19:28-29 NKJV).

In Psalm 69 it says...
"21They also gave me gall for my food,
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21 NKJV).
When the soldiers lifted up that sponge of soured wine to Jesus' lips, they unknowingly fulfilled prophecy. One more prophecy that cemented Jesus as the Messiah foretold.

This seemingly unimportant even of giving Jesus a drink of their soured wine reminds us that nothing is unimportant when it comes to the life of Christ. EVERY prophecy was be fulfilled. HAD to be fulfilled. If He really was the Savior that God had promised, all the prophecies associated with that Savior simply must be fulfilled.

And they were.

We don't have the time right now to go through all the prophesies He fulfilled. There were prophecies about where He would be born. How He would be born. There were prophecies describing His ministry. Prophesies describing His betrayal. Prophesies detailing His crucifixion and His death.

It's one thing when the vague prophesy from your Panda Express fortune cookie comes true. It's another thing altogether when dozens of specific prophesies from hundreds and even thousands of years ago come true.

Because those prophesies were fulfilled, we can be sure that the promise connected with them is true - our sins stand forgiven in Christ.

To emphasize this truth, Jesus Himself spoke from the cross a sixth time. He said...


"'It is finished!" (John 19:30 NKJV).

Jesus made this statement after receiving the sour wine offered by the soldiers below. But Jesus wasn't talking about the wine.

Jesus was talking about the cup His heavenly Father had given Him to drink. The cup of punishment which the sins of mankind had filled up.

Just hours before, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had prayed...
"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42 ESV).
Jesus was truly a Man. And the anticipation suffering Hell was horrible. Jesus had prayed that He might not have to drink this cup down to the bitter bottom. But it was not possible if sinners were to be saved from Hell. Someone had to suffer the consequences for sin.

Now, as Jesus hung on the cross just moments from His death, He knew that He had drained that cup to the very bottom. It was finished.

Think on those words when you feel unforgiven. The cup of your punishment is empty. Jesus drank it empty. Think on those words when some false teacher tries to tell you that you have to do something to save yourself from hell.

It - is - finished.

In Christ you stand forgiven.


"44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last" (Luke 23:44-46 ESV).

I've said this before when talking about crucifixion. Crucifixion was designed as a form of torturing execution that would last as long as human endurance made possible. Crucifixion was designed to make sure your last breath was one of weak, humiliated defeat. That a crucified man would die with a final triumphant cry was unexplainable.

It was so shocking to the Roman centurion who stood at the foot of the cross that He exclaimed...
"Certainly, this man was innocent" (Luke 23:47 NASB)"Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NASB).
This centurion had seen men die. He had seen men die on crosses. But He had never seen a spectacle like this. This man didn't surrender to fatigue. This man wasn't taken by death at all. This man took death as if to throttle it into submission.

And for us today, it's not only the way in which Jesus said these final words that is significant. The very words He chose comfort us like none others can. Father into your hands I commit my spirit.

He could boldly choose death, because His work was finished. And it had all been done perfectly. His mission of paying the price to rescue sinners was complete. Having done what was asked of Him, He could return to the Father.

When you and I die, we can rest our own hearts and minds on these words. We can even say them like Christ if we have the bodily strength left to do so when our death comes. We can say, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit".

Why? Because HIS work in our place stands finished. Our sins erased in ledgers of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for preserving your seven words from the cross for us to meditate on tonight. Thank you for revealing the Father's love for us through your perfect life and voluntary death. Thank you for giving us what we could never obtain for ourselves. We ask one more thing from you this evening. Imprint on our hearts YOUR IMAGE, so that we always rest our hope for forgiveness in YOU and in nothing else.

Amen, Lord Jesus! Amen.