Tag Archives: Sacrifice

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 7

7. Just Spectators  

3D Spectators

And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69:20)

What did it do to the Son to have His Father turn away and hide His face, especially at His time of greatest need? It could be said He died alone. His Father had turned His back and could not look upon His Son. But, Christ did not die alone. He had all the sins of the world clinging to Him; or more appropriately, He was hanging on to those sins all the way to the grave. How great His love for us!

When in torment and suffering, you look for those who can bring comfort, and be sympathetic; but there was no one for Jesus.

The word for sympathy has more to do with our actions, rather than the actions of those around us. Sympathy means: to shake, wander, waver, move to and fro, and flutter. It’s translations are: mourn, shake, wander, waver, and to flee. It’s as if our actions are seeking to elicit a sympathetic response. How many would be sympathetic watching Jesus hang on the cross?

I am once again drawn back to the foot of the cross and examine those in the crowd. When I think of those who loved Jesus and beheld His suffering, two things come to mind:

Christ’s condition was so brutalized, His body so deformed, that it may well have been beyond the their ability to take it all in. What was done to Him, what He was going through, must have overwhelmed their senses.

Also, they were probably consumed by their own sorrow, or guilt, or powerlessness.

Either of these responses could have led to complete emotional shutdown or paralysis. And we would be the same. After all, what could we do? We couldn’t rescue Him or retrieve Him by force, for then there would be no sacrifice. Nor could we take His place, for there would be no perfect sacrifice. That’s why there were no responses. For those who did care, were immobilized, frozen. And those who didn’t care, they rejoiced in believing He got what He deserved—death.

So there you have it—we’re all left to be spectators. No one then and no one now could change the outcome. But remember these verses:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. ( Luke 9:22) Christ alone could pay the price, but what we can do is described in the following verses:

 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-27)

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:7-10)

But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14)

So… there’s the key. We are all spectators at the cross. We all need to see what Christ did for us, as He suffered and died. But then comes our part: take up your cross daily and follow Him; count all things as garbage when compared to Him; go through ordeals and tests, share in His sufferings, and do so with rejoicing. Our actions must constantly be aligned with and kept in the context of His suffering, death and resurrection. Then will our attitudes and actions be true to Him.

Singing with the King (103) – Praying for Peace

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. (Psalm 122:6)

I’ve never posted an article based on current events (at least not one I can remember) but this needs to be said, and if I may be so bold, you need to answer this call.

I’ve always thought it was both good and necessary to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, something all Christians should do. Why? Because Jesus Himself grieved over Jerusalem, just hours before He was crucified:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew 23:37)

There was a brilliant but perhaps misunderstood prophecy made by the Caiaphas, the High Priest, regarding Jesus:

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. (John 11:49-51)

Jesus didn’t die to prevent the Romans from destroying Israel. He died for their sins. And He died for you and me: “For God so loved the world…” And I think that’s why it’s necessary to expand beyond Jerusalem. We need to pray for all of Israel. We need to pray for the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. We need to pray for the peace of God’s Chosen People everywhere, not just in Jerusalem.

Paul in his book to the Romans reminds us Gentiles:

I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.”  Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. (Romans 11:25-29)

So let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and all Israel everywhere, because one day they will find peace, in the Prince of Peace.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Singing with the King (101) – Accept No Substitutes

My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sun-baked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones.  My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing. (Psalm 22:14-18)

When you read those lines from Psalm 22, what do you see? If nothing comes to mind, let me give you another passage from the same Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Yes, those are the words of Jesus hanging on the cross. Now you can see how the above five verses describe the events surrounding the crucifixion. King David wrote these words about a 1000 years before Christ hung on the cross. You and I see it, but why didn’t the Old Testament scholars of the day (i.e. – Sadducees and Pharisees) see it? Well their authority was challenged, their way of life threatened, and they kinda got distracted.

I did a study a few years back on distractions. I talked about how life is filled with interruptions, and there’s nothing really we can do about that. The question was, do we let interruptions become distractions? Then do distractions become detours? Then do detours become dead ends? And by the time we get to a dead-end, it’s pretty tough to get out. And all along that downward-spiraling path, we miss what God is doing.

I don’t know who we can blame for these holiday distractions, but it’s really not so much about the blame as it is the effect. For instance, holiday used to really be holy day, as it was tied only to religious holy days, like Christmas and Easter. But then these distractions came along: Santa Claus, snowmen, reindeer, trees, lights, and presents. But Christmas—that holy day— is about the birth of Jesus, God becoming man. And more distractions came along: bunnies and eggs… and chocolate! What’s not to like about chocolate? But Easter— that holy day— is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

With all the marketing and media blitz focusing on these distractions, it’s tough to remember the truth behind these holy days.

But then there’s Good Friday. As far as I know, nobody has been able to come up with a substitute or a distraction for that. But it’s kinda tough to come up with a distraction for something that deals with death and dying, torture and blood and sacrifice. And then you got that whole sin thing. What kind of cute things can cover up stuff like that? You can’t. So the next best thing? You ignore it. But you can’t do that either, because even though most Christians would prefer to fast forward to the resurrection of Christ, you can’t have the resurrection without the crucifixion.

After Jesus had risen, he spent some time walking along the road to Emmaus with some disciples. And he asked the question: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26) It was necessary.

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb 9:22)

Did Jesus Christ die for you? Are you forgiven? That’s what the crucifixion is all about. That’s what Good Friday is all about. There ARE no substitutes. Only…

He died for your sins.