LESSONS INDEX

The Power of God

As we reflect upon the cross, we might find ourselves dwelling upon this question, "What was it like on the day of our Lord's crucifixion?" And maybe this is because we find it difficult to grasp what it really was like on that historic day. We've read or heard of this particular day for such a long time, that there's a tendency to think we know it all only too well. For instance, "How would we perceive the day if we were without the ongoing editorials." By editorials, I mean the comments made by Matthew during his written account of this ultimately momentous day in history. However, we do have editorials, and especially the one made by Jesus Himself just before He gave up His Spirit when He said, "My God, My God..." Without these helps, where exactly would we be? So let us have a look.

It is due to Jesus making this following statement that has caused some to think it means something other than what He actually meant;

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matt 27:46

So then, let us look at what the situation reveals to us, and to all who have an open mind. As we go through this section that is telling of our Lord upon the cross, we'll take note of the comments recorded by Matthew of that event. Also notice the parallel passages in the book of Psalms:

When they had crucified him, they divided his clothing among them, casting lots, Matt 27:35

They divide my garments among them. They cast lots for my clothing. Psa 22:18

Those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, Matt 27:39

7 Hear, Yahweh, when I cry with my voice. Have mercy also on me, and answer me. 8 When you said, "Seek my face," My heart said to you, "I will seek your face, Yahweh." Psa 22:7,8

Matthew lets us know that they weren't ignorant of the sayings and comments of Jesus, recording their dreadful attitude towards him:

"You who destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!" Matt 27:40

Likewise the chief priests also mocking, with the scribes, the Pharisees, and the elders, Matt 27:41a

What a dreadful situation we have here, notice what it doesn't say, "Pilate and the Gentile mob," it does say, "the chief priests also mocking, with the scribes, the Pharisees, and the elders." How woeful are those who have moved so far from God that they behave like dogs. Here we have the sorry state of the woeful bullies and thugs. These type have no idea of the pain and suffering they cause to their victims; the sweet spirited. And typically these bullies are continuing to rub it in to their long suffering victim. With people like these in positions of power in the religious world, it's no wonder that some turn away from our Heavenly Father. For instance, notice what Jesus himself said;

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much of a son of Gehenna as yourselves." Matt 23:15

Now let us read the earlier passage again;

"41 Likewise the chief priests also mocking, with the scribes, the Pharisees, and the elders, said, 42 "He saved others, but he can't save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. Matt 27:41,42

We may notice from Matt 27:42, that these people had quite an excellent memory, they were well aware of the kind of man Jesus was and continued to be, they were in no doubt about the type of nature He had. Even though they seemed to disbelieve who He was, they weren't in the least bit ignorant of the blessings that His life of merciful service had been upon the unfortunate who had fallen upon difficult times.

These tormentors knew that Jesus was the kind of man who reached out with help to those less fortunate than Himself, but, still no mercy from "the scribes, the Pharisees, and the elders", including the rent-a-crowd. It's an age old scenario, when the helper needs help, the self serving ones look the other way. And it seems that the way they suppress their conscience is by demonising their hapless victim:

"He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now, if he wants him; for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" Matt 27:43

"He trusts in Yahweh; Let him deliver him;" Psa 22:8

Yes, they knew that He trusted in God (His Father) to enable Him to carry out His Father's Will upon the earth. But, these hypocrites weren't willing to allow the God of Heaven to work through them, after all it just might cost them something, and lets face it, that wouldn't do; would it? It seems to me that some are uncomfortable with those who actually do live for their Lord, those who give of themselves without regret. People who really and actually do love to allow righteousness to be lived out in their own personal lives. Who are a sweet and heartening influence for good in whatever our Lord guides them into. These delightful souls know where their strength and wisdom have their origin, and who it is who strengthens them. It's as the apostle Paul himself said;

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

It is the Lord who deserves full thanks for all that is good, ie, divine blessings as they are cast abroad in a society of suffering people.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. Matt 27:45

Mark said, It was the third hour, and they crucified him. Mark 15:25. Jesus was on the cross for six hours, it beggars belief to think people would do such a thing to another human-being, but, they did, and some of the religious leaders looked upon it as an effective way to be rid of anyone who posed a threat to their 'cosy' little life styles. Just think of it, about half the time that Jesus was on the cross, there was darkness over all the land. And surely this is a reflection of the darkness that is in the hearts of those who are hateful towards righteousness. Sadly, there are those who are of the same mindset in our day and age, people who would (secretly) do their utmost to damage the reputation of delightful servants of the Most High God. The manifestation of evil towards those who live for their Lord is no different in our day and age.

It isn't for nothing that our Lord warned the faithful that they are to, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. Matt 7:15. This is an apt description of the enemies of the cross.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matt 27:46.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? Psa 22:1

47 Some of them who stood there, when they heard it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him a drink. 49 The rest said, "Let him be. Let's see whether Elijah comes to save him." Matt 27:47-49

I know, it's difficult for decent people to comprehend the abject cruelty of this kind of death; crucifixion. Even more so when those who claim to be in a covenant relationship with the God of Heaven are the perpetrators. It makes one wonder as all this was being carried out if any of them had an inkling of Psalm 22, and its message of victory?

For, right at the end, just before He gave up His spirit to His father, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, and upon hearing this they said, "This man is calling Elijah." Elijah? really? Why on earth would they think that? Jesus never mentioned Elijah. It seems that at some level, these people had been wondering about Jesus being the Messiah, for if He really was the Messiah, then where was Elijah? They knew, or at least should have known, what the prophet Micah had said about the day of the Lord:

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." Malachi 4:5,6

As these people were the leaders of Israel, they should at least have had an inkling about Jesus, after all, the disciples of Jesus themselves were puzzled about the need for Elijah to show up according to the scriptures, as we may see below, and Jesus' explanation to them:

12 From the days of John the Baptizer until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matt 11:12-15

11 Jesus answered them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and will restore all things, 12 but I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they didn't recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted to. Even so the Son of Man will also suffer by them." 13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptizer. Matt 17:11-13

11 They asked him, saying, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12 He said to them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and restores all things. How is it written about the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they have also done to him whatever they wanted to, even as it is written about him." Mark 9:11-13

Reflect upon this, "How is it written about the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be despised?" Mark 9:12b. And be despised, really? Who would have thought it? Despised! How many do you know who refrain from drawing closer to God until they are materially set-up and living a very comfortable life style, ie, set-up socially and materially, which some see as physically impressive. These are those who need to be comfortably off before they'll even begin to try to do anything of spiritual worth. And worse still these are the ones who expect decent men and women (even in their poverty), to make great sacrifices, while they spend the bulk of their time feeding their own faces. And worse, they become angry and aggressive towards the lovely people who aren't able to wait upon them whenever they demand service. And this ungodly arrogance will be carried out upon those who may not be able to help because of health or financial limitations, but no matter, they'll get the worst of it if they don't get up, even in their illness and 'jump' to it. But that's not all, these woeful people will even 'tell' the ill and infirm to, "trust in God," really? really trust in God? Well, I for one am eagerly waiting for an example of "trusting in God" from self serving people, but some how I think I'll have a long time to wait.

What a great difference there was between these Religious leaders and the magnificent Job. As much as Job was tormented by his "friends," he was, in spite of his pain, remarkably clear in his manner toward them:

1 Then Job answered, 2 "I have heard many such things. Miserable comforters are you all! 3 Shall vain words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak as you do. If your soul were in my soul's place, I could join words together against you, And shake my head at you. 5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth. The solace of my lips would relieve you. Job 16:1-5

The sadness of these Religious leaders is that they appear to be thoroughly ignorant of the righteous life. They're so insensitive towards the downtrodden, even treating them with contemptible, ridiculing laughter. I wonder if these supposed scholars knew what the book of Proverbs says to such people:

17 Don't rejoice when your enemy falls. Don't let your heart be glad when he is overthrown; 18 Lest Yahweh see it, and it displease him, And he turn away his wrath from him. Proverbs 24:17,18

As it's wrong to rejoice over an enemy who stumbles (and it is), how much more objectionable it is when there is rejoicing over a righteous man who stumbles! These "religious" people had become so hardened towards their fellow man, that the simplest kindnesses had left them. How the "mighty" have fallen. They had fallen so far that they were blinded to the spiritual power being played out before their very eyes. It seems that the message of Psalm 22 was far from their hearts.

However, Psalm 22 wasn't far from the heart of Jesus, for He goes and quotes from it:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matt 27:46

Let us reflect upon the ultimate message of Psalm 22. It's the cry of a man tormented by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It starts off with a cry of desperation about the apparent rejection of the psalmist by God. And as we go through the psalm, there is a perceived 'pause,' a stillness, whereupon there is the blessing of insightful memory of his God coming to his aid in difficult times past. And upon reflection of the mercies of his God, the Psalmist ends his psalm with the message of victory. Such is the emotional roller coaster ride of a soul going through the crucible. Daniel put it this way;

Some of those who are wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed. Dan 11:35

And there is a specific word that Jesus uses that sheds light on this very thought. That word is in the sentence, "It is finished."

This is what one writer had to say on the matter, "The narrative goes on to tell us that, when he shouted with a great shout, he gave up his spirit. That great shout left its mark upon men's minds. It is in every one of the gospels":

Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. Matt 27:50

Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit. Mark 15:37

Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46

But there is one gospel which goes further. John tells us that Jesus died with a shout: "It is finished." John 19:30. 'It is finished' is in English, three words; but in Greek it is one — Tetelestai — it is the cry of the man who has completed his task; it is the cry of the man who has won through the struggle; it is the cry of the man who has come out of the dark into the glory of the light, and it is the cry of the man who has grasped the crown. So, then, Jesus died a victor with a shout of triumph on his lips."

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18

The cross is the power of God to those who believe, therefore, Praise Him.

The cross itself was meant to be the means of striking fear into people. It was a very cruel society that Jesus lived in, and abject fear was the method of controlling people. However, as Jesus was hanging there upon the cross, it became, possibly for the first time, not the symbol of fear, but rather the symbol of Love. The sign of fear, is now the sign or symbol, of unconditional love and good will. The leaders of the day apparently only knew the motivating power of fear, but Jesus changed that dramatically upon the cross by showing love like it had never been shown before, ie, dying for others. The sinless for the sinful.

To reflect upon the cross, is to reflect upon the drawing power of God. Who could have thought of it? The greatest lesson of all, is the one known as 'example.' Lets face it, talk can be cheap, the only talk that can be accepted as authentic, is the talk that is predicated upon an observable life-style. That is what Jesus did, He had a very observable, honourable, life-style, so that whatever He said, was given meaning by how He lived, and was seen to live. He let His light shine, even during the hours of darkness upon the cross;

SUCH IS THE EXAMPLE OF LOVE

From apparent failure to the cry of victory by...

THE POWER OF GOD



LESSONS INDEX