Receiving Life Freely – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the seventh miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from  www.GoodSalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, www.LumoProject.com, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 12

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” John 19:38

We are learning lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life found in John 19. So far we have discovered…

– Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 19:17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

– Jesus’ garments were removed so we could wear the garments of salvation (John 19:23-24).

– Though Jesus died for the world, He also cares deeply for me (John 19:25-27).

– Jesus became thirsty to save us from an eternal thirst (John 19:28-29).

– We cannot work our way to heaven because we cannot pay a debt that is already paid (John 19:30).

– Jesus’ legs were not broken and His side was pierced so we may believe Jesus is our Passover Lamb Who died for us (John 19:31-37).

Today the final lesson is AS DISCIPLES OF JESUS, WE ARE TO OPENLY IDENTIFY WITH HIM NO MATTER WHAT THE COST (John 19:38-42). John now gives an account of Jesus’ burial to substantiate further that Jesus actually died. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” (John 19:38). We do not bury a living person. We bury a dead person. The proof that Jesus died was that He was buried.

“Normally the Romans placed the bodies of crucified offenders, whose bodies they did not leave to rot on their crosses, in a cemetery for criminals outside the city.” Family members could not claim the bodies of people who had undergone crucifixion as punishment for sedition.” 2 But two of Jesus’ friends intervene to give Christ a proper burial.

The other gospel writers inform us that “Joseph of Arimathea” was “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) “waiting for the kingdom of God,” who was also “a good and just man” (Luke 23:50). Although he was a “prominent… member” of the Jewish Supreme Court called the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), “he had not consented to their decision” to crucify Christ (Luke 23:51).

Only John tells us he was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews,” particularly the unbelieving Jewish leaders. Despite his fears, Joseph courageously “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.” So Joseph “came and took the body of Jesus” down from the cross to give Him a proper burial.

But Joseph was not alone in doing this. He was accompanied by another member of the Sanhedrin. “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” (John 19:39). Unlike disciples of Jesus who fled for fear of the Jews, both Joseph and Nicodemus now boldly identified themselves with Jesus. But they were not always willing to do this.

John mentions that Nicodemus “first came to Jesus by night.” John emphasizes this each time he mentions Nicodemus in his gospel (cf. John 3:2; 7:50). Earlier John wrote, 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Prior to asking Pilate for Jesus’ dead body, it appears that both Joseph and Nicodemus had been secret disciples who were reluctant to openly confess Jesus because they feared what the Pharisees would do to them if they did. Openly identifying with Christ could result in both these men “losing their seats in the Sanhedrin and, worse yet, being refused the right to worship in the synagogue (cf. 9:22; 12:42).” 4

Although they had probably believed in Jesus for His gift of salvation earlier (John 12:42), they were not willing to walk in the light of fellowship with Jesus by openly confessing Christ among their religious colleagues. Why? Because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). They cared more about what people thought of them instead of what God thought of them. They were people-pleasers, not God-pleasers. They chose to walk in the darkness by refusing to confess Christ before others. They wanted the approval of men more than the approval of God.

Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (cf. I John 4:15).

But now John presents both Nicodemus and Joseph in a favorable light as they openly identify with Jesus in the daylight by asking permission to give Christ a proper burial. It took a lot of courage for them to do this. What had changed in their lives for them to have such courage? Based on John’s discipleship theme in his gospel, I would suggest that these men had grown in their relationship with Jesus to the point of caring more about what Christ thought of them than what people thought of them. “The death of Jesus so moved Nicodemus and Joseph that they cast aside their fears and boldly claim Jesus’ body, prepare Him for burial, and bury Him.” They had come out of the darkness into the light of fellowship with Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:19-36; I John 1:5-9).

The same is true for us. We may begin our Christian lives afraid of what people may think or do to us if we openly identify with Jesus Christ. But as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, our boldness for Him will also grow (cf. John 7:26; Acts 4:13, 29-31; 9:27; Philippians 1:20-21; I Thessalonians 2:1-10; I John 4:17). The courage that the Holy Spirit gives to us will overcome our fears (Acts 4:23-31). Christ’s radical love for us will squelch our fears (cf. I John 4:18). More and more we will seek to please Jesus rather than people (Colossians 3:23-24; I Thessalonians 2:4).

John tells us that Nicodemus brought “about a hundred pounds” of “myrrh and aloes” to prepare Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:39). ‘Myrrh’ was a fragrant resin that the Jews turned into powder, and then mixed with ‘aloes,’ which was powdered sandalwood.” 6  “The purpose of covering a corpse with this aromatic powder was to dry it out and to lessen the foul odor that putrefaction caused.” 7

The amount of aromatic spices is significant for such a large quantity was commonly used only for kings. 8  This amount of burial spices reflects Nicodemus’ great love and respect for Jesus. Isn’t this amazing!?! Even though Christ was dead, Nicodemus’ love for Him was very much alive.

“Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:40). Because it was almost the Sabbath (which began at sundown) the burial had to take place quickly. Jewish burial customs did not involve mummification or embalming, which took out the blood and body organs. Their normal process was to wash a body and cover it with cloth and aromatic oils or spices.” 9

John mentions the “strips of linen” wrapped around Jesus’ body to emphasize that Christ was truly dead. The use of “strips of linen” argues against the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, which is often associated with Jesus’ burial. 10  As long as there were no graveclothes, no tomb, and no coroner, there was hope. But the arrival of the graveclothes signified the departure of any hope. 11

This is amazing to think about from Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ perspective. Earlier in the week, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem with shouts of joy from the great multitude. The people who praised Jesus as their King days earlier then called for His death on Friday. These linens were a physical reminder that their Friend and His future were wrapped in graveclothes and sealed behind a rock. These two brave men did not know on that Friday what we now know. They didn’t know that Friday’s calamity would become Sunday’s celebration! 12  Yet, they remained loyal to Jesus even in His death.

If that had been you or me, what would we have done? After all, the crowds were pleased with Jesus’ crucifixion. What was to keep the religious leaders from calling for more executions? Let’s be honest. If we were in Joseph’s or Nicodemus’ sandals, we would have left town as quickly as possible!

But Joseph and Nicodemus did not flee. Why? Because Jesus was their Friend and they loved Him. You don’t abandon a dear Friend, even when He is dead.This seems to be what these two men are thinking. The manner in which Jesus lived and died deeply impacted their lives.

Next John tells us, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41). Jesus’ body was placed in a new tomb in a private “garden,” not in a public cemetery. 13

“In Palestine, bodies were buried in natural caves or tombs that were carved out of the limestone. Niches or shelves were prepared where the bodies could be laid. The tomb was customarily sealed with a disc-shaped stone that could be rolled across the entrance. The tomb was usually a family tomb, and the niches would be reused as necessary. The bones of the previous occupant would simply be collected and placed in a bone-box, or ‘ossuary,’ that remained in the tomb.” 14

John is the only gospel writer to mention that Jesus was buried in a “garden.” “Why would he mention this? This may well be an illusion to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden and away from the tree of life. But Jesus, the second Adam, dies on a tree to redeem man and re-open paradise (cf. Rev 2:7).” 15

Matthew tells us that this tomb belonged to Joseph. He laid Jesus’ body “in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” (Matthew 27:60). The placement of Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Who would be “with the rich at His death.” (Isaiah 53:9).

John includes a very significant detail when he writes, “a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41b). When Jesus’s body was gone after His resurrection, “no one was able to point to any bones in the tomb to claim them as Jesus’s remains. His was the first corpse to lie there.” 16

John concludes this section when he writes, “So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” (John 19:42). Christ’s burial was somewhat of a hasty measure because the “Jews’ day of preparation” before the Sabbath (i.e., Friday) was about to end with the fast approaching sunset.

Joseph and Nicodemus were not expecting the resurrection, yet they were willing to risk their riches, their reputations, their religious privileges, and possibly their own lives out of love and respect for Jesus. Their sacrifices will be greatly rewarded in eternity.

For the Bible promises that when we invest our riches in what is eternal while we live here on earth, we will store up permanent treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). When we risk our reputations and even rejection for Christ by publicly confessing Him before our enemies, Jesus will give us a good confession before God the Father and His holy angels in heaven (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Revelation 3:5b). When we sacrifice religious privileges and even our own lives here on earth for Christ, He will give us greater authority and privileges in heaven (Mark 10:29-31; Revelation 2:7, 17, 25-27; 3:11-12, 21).

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. There are certain eternal rewards that require us to live faithfully for Jesus to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21). Like an athlete who visualizes himself winning a race, visualizing ourselves remaining faithful to Christ and receiving this reward from Him will actually create new neurological pathways in our brain. And our brains respond the same way to mental rehearsing of a task and actually performing the task.

I believe Isaac Watts captured the impact that God meant for the cross to have on our lives when he wrote the song, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The first stanza reads:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Joseph and Nicodemus who sacrificed so much to ensure that Jesus received a proper burial. Even though their sacrifices were costly, dangerous, and without personal gain, they did this out of love and respect for their dear Friend, Jesus Christ, Who deeply touched their lives. They started out hesitant to associate with Jesus, but the more they grew in their relationship with Him, the more their boldness grew. The same can be true for us. Help us to focus on the cross so that no sacrifice will seem too great for us in light of the wondrous love of Jesus my Savior. In His matchless name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 363 cites Josephus, Antiquities, 5:1:14.

2. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 562. 

4. Ibid., pg. 561.

5. Ibid., pg. 562.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363 cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 121.

9. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 694.

10. Ibid., pg. 695; cf. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pg. 730.

11. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pg. 121.

12. Ibid.

13. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 695.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 354; cf. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pp. 72-74).

15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 562.

16. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1826.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 11

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” John 19:34

Since Jesus died on the cross, there have been many attempts to deny this historical fact. Why? Because it would explain the empty tomb of Jesus. For example, near the end of the first century, the false teachings of Docetism and Gnosticism were on the rise. Both of these groups denied that Jesus was a real man. “Docetists claimed that Jesus only seemed (Gr. dokeo, ‘to seem,’ therefore the name ‘Docetist’) to be fully human.” 2  Since Jesus only seemed to be a man, it only seemed that He died.

The word ‘Gnostic’ refers to secret knowledge, as the Gnostics believed that people needed secret knowledge to be freed from the material world, which is inherently evil.” 3  One second-century Gnostic writer, Basilides, wrote the Gospel according to Basilides. Since gnosticism teaches that the material world is evil, Basilides concluded that “Jesus must not have had a material body, and therefore he could not have been crucified.” 4

An early church leader named “Irenaeus records what Basilides taught about the death of Jesus on the cross: ‘He [Christ] did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them.’ ” 5

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was influenced by such false teachings when he traveled on trade routes with his uncle.  6  His primary knowledge of Christianity came from docetic sources. Muhammad later testified in the Qur’an, That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.” (Sura 4:156-157) 8

A former Muslim convincingly argues that this Quranic teaching that says Jesus did not die by crucifixion originated from the second-century Gnostic teaching. 9  Three of the main views concerning Jesus’ death among Muslims today include that Allah supernaturally preserved Jesus’ life so He did not die on the cross. 10  Jesus simply “swooned” or fainted on the cross and later recovered in the tomb. 11 And Allah miraculously made someone else to look like Jesus and this person (perhaps Judas, Pilate or Simon of Cyrene) was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’ place. 12

How sad that over a billion Muslims have been misled to believe such a destructive lie. For you see, if Jesus did not die, He did not rise from the dead and there is no payment for sin. And if there is no payment for sin, there is no hope of forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (I Corinthians 15:17).

With this in mind, let’s pay close attention to the next picture that the apostle John presents as he makes it very clear that Jesus Christ really did die on the cross. From this picture we will learn that JESUS’ LEGS WERE NOT BROKEN AND HIS SIDE WAS PIERCED SO WE MAY BELIEVE JESUS IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB WHO DIED FOR US (John 19:31-37).

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31). It sometimes took crucifixion victims days to die. Normally, then, the Romans would have left the men on the crosses.” 13  But because this was was “the Preparation Day” on a Friday when the Jews had to prepare for the Sabbath, work was forbidden after sunset when the Sabbath would begin according to the Jewish reckoning of time. Also, this was going to be a special Sabbath (“high day”) because in addition to it being the seventh day, it would also be the day when the Jews celebrated the Passover. 14

“The Jews” did not want the bodies of these criminals to “remain on the cross on the Sabbath” because according to the Mosaic Law if you leave a man hanging on a tree overnight it would defile the land (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).So “the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken” so that they would die and could be buried. Victims hanging on a cross had to put weight on their legs in order to lift themselves to breathe. Without the use of their legs, they would die of asphyxiation.” 15

32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:32-33). The soldiers “broke the legs” of the criminals hanging beside Jesus because they were still alive.But why didn’t the Roman soldiers break Jesus’ legs? Pilate had given the order to break His legs. They would not have disobeyed Pilate’s command if they were not certain Jesus was already dead. Keep in mind these professional executioners were accustomed to this form of execution and were very familiar with the signs of death. It was their professional opinion based upon years of experience that Jesus Christ was dead. He had not fainted or swooned as some mistakenly teach.

These soldiers also recognized this man was “Jesus,” not some other man posing as Jesus. The apostle John, an eyewitness to this event, also concluded that this Man Who died was “Jesus “ (John 19:33-37), not some impostor. So both the Swoon Theory or Substitution Theory are not plausible.

In case you are still not convinced that Jesus died, John then tells us, “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34). This piercing of Jesus’ side confirmed that He was dead. In order for “blood and water” to come out of such a wound, the heart would have had to stop beating. 16  The sac around the heart, the pericardium, had filled with water and burst. Contrary to the heresies which arose in the second century that taught Jesus was solely divine and not human, this eyewitness testimony from John confirms that Jesus really did die and that He is fully human and fully God (cf. John 1:1, 14).

Someone may ask, “How can God die? Isn’t He eternal so He cannot die?” Think about this for a moment. When humans die, do our souls stop existing? No, our souls do not die. So even when we die as humans, it is our body that dies. We do not stop existing altogether. So it was with Jesus: He was killed with respect to His earthly body, but as God He did not stop existing. Sometimes, though, when people ask, “How can God die?” they are really asking “Who was ruling the universe when Jesus died?” For the Christian, the answer is simple. God the Father was ruling the universe when Jesus died. God the Father is not the Son, and the Father did not die on the cross. God the Son died on the cross. 17

Those who deny that Jesus died are telling a complete lie. Think of how much faith it takes to believe that Jesus did not die. Consider Christ, Who received thirty-nine lashes, hung on a cross for six hours, fainted on the cross according to skeptics, had a spear thrust into His side with water and blood coming out, and then later He woke up in a tomb and somehow crawled to that large stone that weighed over a ton and rolled it out of the way while all the Roman soldiers were out there guarding the tomb? Then He snuck by all the Roman guards? So when Jesus appeared to be resurrected, He was really lying? It takes a lot more faith to believe such a tale than to believe that Jesus really did die.

Even if you believe Jesus did not die, John says, And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35). John is saying, “I was there. I saw with my own eyes what happened at the cross. I’m telling you the truth so you may believe Jesus did die as the promised Messiah!”

This is not just historical details. John testified “so that you may believe.” John recorded these details to enable us to believe that Jesus did die for our sins; that He did shed His blood for us; that He did pay our sin debt in full. When John testified of what happened at the cross, the result that is intended to take place in our lives is not pity for Jesus. It is not a deeper interest in history. It is belief or trust. Belief in the One Who demonstrated His infinite love toward us by shedding His own blood so we could be completely forgiven the moment we believe in Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7).

John tells us that all that happened at the cross fulfilled Old Testament Scripture. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’ ” (John 19:36-37). “He quotes from Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10, proving it was no accident that Jesus was pierced rather than having his legs broken. Our sovereign God was fulfilling his Word.” 18

The fact that Jesus’ legs were not broken not only fulfilled Psalm 34:20, it also points to Jesus as our Passover Lamb of God (John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7) since the Israelites were not to break the bones of their Passover lambs (cf. Exodus 12:5, 46; Numbers 9:12). Passover lambs had to be killed to apply their blood to the door posts and lintel of Israelite homes so God’s judgment would pass over each family (Exodus 12:3-13). Likewise, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, had to die so His blood would cause God’s eternal judgment to pass over every person who believes in Jesus.

Think about this for a moment. Who has more credibility? A follower of Jesus named, John, who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and lived in the same vicinity as Jesus’ community or a man named, Muhammad, who lived six hundred years after Jesus and over six hundred miles removed from where Jesus lived and ministered? 19  Would an objective observer consider John or Muhammad to have presented reliable historical evidence? The answer is obvious. John was there. John was an eyewitness. To say that Muhammad’s message is true and John’s is false simply because the Quran is inspired is not plausible to an objective observer.

“The basis of any historical case must be the primary sources, and in this case, the sources are unanimous, diverse, early, and plentiful: Jesus died by crucifixion. Starting almost immediately after Jesus’ death, over a dozen authors and traditions recorded the death of Jesus by crucifixion, including Christian, Jewish, and Roman sources, and their testimony was unanimous. For more than one hundred years, no record even suggests that Jesus survived death on the cross or otherwise circumvented his execution. This coheres well with what we know of crucifixion practices, in that there is no person in recorded history who ever survived a full Roman crucifixion. Positing that Jesus did not die on the cross would have served the agenda of the early Christians and those opposed to their message, but such a suggestion appears inconceivable. For those who study Jesus’ life in academia, the idea that Jesus did not die by crucifixion remains, to this day, outside the realm of possibility” 20

What gets you really excited in life? What are you extremely passionate about? For me, I am extremely passionate about the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that we see the amazing love of Jesus Christ for all of us, regardless of our skin color, social class, or sin (Romans 5:8; I John 4:9-10). The cross is our source of faith (Galatians 2:20). It is our source of complete forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). It is our source of hope (Colossians 1:5). It is our source of life (John 3:14-15; I John 4:10). It is our source of power (I Corinthians 1:18). It is our source of victory over sin, death, and the devil (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15).

When you read about the impact of the cross, you may say to yourself, “But you don’t know what I have done. How can Jesus love me in view of all the terrible things I have thought, said, and done? How can He possibly forgive me?” The power of the cross is not dependent on your behavior. The power of the cross is based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, our Passover Lamb of God, Who was innocent and without sin. God has nailed the entire list of all your sins – past, present, and future – to the cross, and they have all been canceled as if they never happened or will happen (Colossians 2:13-14). That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

For you to experience the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, you must believe. Jesus invites you right now to believe in Him for His forgiveness and eternal life if you have never done so. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). The power of the cross is not based on your behavior, but upon belief. Do you believe in Jesus Who died in your place on that cross to pay your sin debt in full? If you now do, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the cross. Before today, I believed a lie that said You never died on that cross. Thank You for revealing the truth to me today that shows it was really You Who died on that cross. It was You Who paid for all my sins when Your blood poured out of Your side. Your legs were not broken so my brokenness could be healed. As best I know how, I am now believing in You Jesus to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Please teach me more about the power of the cross to change my life for the better. In Your name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 360.

2. Ibid.

3. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 .

4. Ibid. pg. 180.

5. Ibid., pg. 179 cites Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenaeus against heresies,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Vol. 1, (Buffalo: Christians Literature Company, 1885), pg. 349.

6. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 15.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017, pg. 360 cites F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 382, footnote 38.

8. The Qur’an: English translationby Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Goodworks Books, Kindle Edition), pg. 90.

9. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 179–181.

10. Ibid., pp. 170-173.

11. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM, pg. 282.

12. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 67.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1825.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 350-351.

15. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

16. Ibid.

17. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 89-90.

18. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

19. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 176-177.

20. Ibid., pg. 169.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 10

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

From the beginning of human history, people have tried to remedy their sin problem through their own efforts. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they tried to remedy their sense of fear and shame by covering themselves with “fig leaves” (Genesis 3:7). But this covering did not remove the effects of their sin. Since that first attempt to remove the consequences of sin through human effort, people have been trying to remove their own guilt and shame through their own accomplishments. Various religions have been created by people trying to remedy their sin problem. But all man-made religions fall short of God’s solution to our sin problem. 

In Genesis 3:21, God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve. He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal. Blood must be shed. Imagine how Adam must have felt to see one of the animals he had named and cared for being killed on his account! Never had Adam and Eve known death. This was serious business and this was to be God’s way of dealing with sin throughout the ages. By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). God later provided forgiveness through the Old Testament sacrificial system. 

Those animals were shadows of the Babe who was born on that first Christmas morning. He would be called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 18:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die for the sins of others (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9), that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Like Adam and Eve, our human efforts or works cannot remove our sin and shame (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion cannot take away our sins. Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Why? We will discover the answer in the next verse of our study about lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life.

In this picture that John presents we learn that WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY TO HEAVEN BECAUSE WE CANNOT PAY A DEBT THAT IS ALREADY PAID (John 19:30). The apostle John writes, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ ” (John 19:30a). As we saw in our last lesson, Jesus’ throat and lips had become parched from the extreme loss of bodily fluids. He shouted out in agony, “I am thirsty!” (John 19:28) to fulfillthe prophecy in Psalm 69:21 (cf. John 19:28-29) and to save us from an eternal thirst (Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17). John then tells us Jesus “received the sour wine” which would moisten His throat and lips to proclaim the most triumphant declaration ever made: “It is finished!” He did not say, “I am finished!” as some might think. “That would mean He died defeated. No, this was not the end for Him but the beginning of a new chapter in His eternal existence.” 1

When John writes, “And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), he is connecting us back to something Jesus said earlier. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18). The Jews or Romans did not take Jesus’ life from Him. Christ voluntarily laid down His life for the sins of the world. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished”? The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus was saying that our sin debt was paid in full! Past, present, and future sins have all been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Revelation 1:5; 12:11).

The Bible tells us that all people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:9-23). All sin incurs a debt which the sinner owes to God (Romans 6:23a). If you and I were to pay our own sin debt to God, we would have to suffer forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much that He sent His only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross. “Jesus did in six hours what no human being can do in all of eternity.” 3  When Christ died on that cross, He gathered to Himself the accumulated debt of a sinful human race and offered to God the full payment for our sins – past, present, and future. Having made the payment, Jesus could say, “It is finished!” – the debt is paid in full. Jesus “paid the very last cent of the wages of our sin.” 4

Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping His commandments, our water baptism, our daily prayers, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin (I John 2:2). 

Soon after Jesus said, “It is finished!” and died, we read, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). “The way to God was now open. Instead of entry being restricted to the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on only one day in the year, entrance into God’s presence was now available to all who came through Christ. With the barrier of our sin taken away, we can now “draw near … through the blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:22 with Ephesians 2:13).” 5

The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present. There is nothing a Christian can do, say, or think that can change the fact that their sin debt is paid in full today.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven all your sins – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). The sin debt you owed to God has been “canceled.” If you struggle to believe this let me suggest an exercise for you to do. Grab a pen and paper and write down a list of your worst sins on the left side of the paper and then write “Paid in Full” next to each one. Your list may include:

Abandoning Responsibilities: Paid in Full.

Abortion: Paid in Full.

Adultery: Paid in Full.

Angry outbursts: Paid in Full.

Blasphemy: Paid in Full.

Cheating: Paid in Full.

Failure to love God above all else: Paid in Full.

Gossip: Paid in Full.

Greed: Paid in Full.

Money Laundering: Paid in Full.

Murder: Paid in Full.

Pride: Paid in Full.

Selfishness: Paid in Full.

Sex Trafficking: Paid in Full.

Theft: Paid in Full.

Unforgiveness: Paid in Full. 6

Some of you reading this may be tempted to add your own goodness to the finished work of Christ. You think that if the good in your life outweighs the bad, then you will go to heaven in the future. “After all, God only helps those who help themselves,” you say to yourself. But that saying is not found in the Bible.

Jesus anticipated you might think this way when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult [confined] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). The way to heaven is “narrow” because it is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, not Jesus plus your good works (cf. John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus says, “there are few who find it.” The majority of people have a propensity to trust in themselves to gain acceptance before God. That is why Jesus said “there are many who go in by” the wide gate that leads to destruction. The “wide gate” is any teaching that denies faith alone in Christ alone as the only hope of heaven. Those teachings reject the full payment of all sin through Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are Christians, this has major implications in evangelism. When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

We can reflect this truth in evangelism by inviting non-Christians to believe or trust in Christ alone, not Christ plus their good works, to give them a right standing before God (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16) and everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

This is called grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We do not deserve forgiveness or everlasting life. But because of God’s grace, He offers us His forgiveness and everlasting life freely through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice. Will you trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as You are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26). And then you can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Your sin debt is paid in full.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for sending Your only perfect Son to pay my sin debt in full when He died on the cross. Your acceptance of His sacrifice was clearly seen when You tore the temple veil from top to bottom, signifying entrance into Your presence for those who believe in Jesus. What an amazing Savior I have. What an amazing Father I have in heaven. Thank You for the blessed assurance that my sin debt is paid in full by my great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please use me now to proclaim this incredible message to those for whom Jesus died and wants to save. To You be all the glory and praise, Father. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pp. 122-123.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 350 cites J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), pg. 630.

3. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 127.

4. Ibid., pg. 136.

5. Ibid., pg. 134.

6. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 132.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 9

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ ” John 19:28

During one of my missions trips to the northern Philippines in 2015, I had to walk with my translator all day to share the gospel at three remote schools in the mountains of Kalinga province. The day began with swimming across a raging river and then traversing over a mudslide on a steep mountainside. Before we arrived at our first school four hours later, my clothes were already drenched with sweat from the extreme exertion in the high humidity and altitude in this tropical climate.

When we finished preaching the gospel at the first school, we then had to cross several streams and go up and down several slippery and muddy slopes to arrive at our second school where we shared the gospel with forty-nine students and two teachers. We then ate our own snacks and I drank some of my water in a shelter on the school grounds. I was getting low on water at this point because of the strenuous hikes so I tried to conserve what little I had left. I had underestimated the amount of water I would need during the day because I assumed there would be purified water at the schools. But I was wrong.

To get to our last school, we had to walk down the mountainside to a swinging bridge and then follow the river for a while before climbing a steep trail. At this point my legs were starting to cramp severely due to the loss of fluids and electrolytes. I had to stop occasionally to try to stretch my cramping muscles. As we started climbing up the rice terrace walls I became concerned about having muscle cramps and falling off the terrace wall on the steep mountain slopes. A few months earlier on a similar hike in Kalinga, I had fallen off a slippery rice terrace wall in the rain and cracked two ribs and sprained my knee. But during this trip, the biggest challenge was dealing with my ravaging thirst. With each step up the mountain, I kept thinking about how refreshing it would be to drink a cold glass of water.

About forty-five minutes later we arrived at our last school and shared the gospel with forty-five students, all of whom said they were now believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. The teachers were very thankful we would work so hard to come all the way to their school. The male teacher invited us to his home to have coffee and snacks. While resting there, he had his wife pour the remainder of their coffee in a water bottle for me to drink because I drank the last of my water and there was no purified water between our current location and the next village. I was so parched that drinking coffee for my thirst sounded better than going without any liquid at this point, even though caffeine is a diuretic. I learned later that even caffeinated beverages such as coffee have a net hydrating effect.

On our return to civilization, we had to hike up a steep mountainside covered with rice terrace walls to a dirt road with many switch backs going up the mountainside to the main road. As we continued to hike up the mountainside, I longed for several liters of gatorade. My mouth and throat were parched. An hour and a half later, we finally arrived at a village where we thoroughly enjoyed purified water, juice, and a delicious meal. Never before or since had I experienced such a ravaging thirst.

But the thirst I experienced in Kalinga is pale compared to the thirst of crucifixion because “crucifixion is a long slow process of dehydration.” Think about how much bodily fluid Jesus has lost since His last drink of wine at the Lord’s Supper. In Gethsemane Jesus sweat as it were great drops of blood; He sweat as He endured His arrest and His trials before Annas and Caiaphas; He sweat as He spent the night in a dungeon, with a new series of trials in the morning; His flogging and being forced to carry His crossbeam would have drained the fluids from His body. And now for six hours He had hung on the cross without consuming any liquids. 2

We then read, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ ” (John 19:28). We learn several things from this verse. First, we see that the word teleioō is used twice in this verse. “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished [tetelestai], that the Scripture might be fulfilled [teleiōthe], said, ‘I thirst!’ ” This is the same word translated “It is finished” [tetelestai]in John 19:30. We might paraphrase in this way: Since Jesus knew that all things were finished, in order that the OT Scripture might be finished… He said, ‘It is finished!’ Clearly John is emphasizing that Jesus successfully completed all that He had been sent to do.” 3

Secondly, we see that when Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” He was consciously fulfilling the Old Testament Scripture in Psalm 69:21, “And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Jesus had not been given any vinegar yet, so He called out that He was thirsty so He could fulfill this prophecy. John informs us that this verse was fulfilled when, “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 19:29). 

Hyssop was the very plant used to brush lamb’s blood on the doorposts during the Passover (see Exod 12:21-23). As the apostle Paul says, ‘Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7).” 4  Jesus, the innocent Passover Lamb of God, had become thirsty to save us from an eternal thirst.

I find this to be amazing. Here is Jesus just minutes away from death, and He remembers that a Messianic prophecy needs to be fulfilled. Why is Jesus so determined to fulfill prophecy? One reason is because He knows we are prone to doubt. When we see Him suffering to this extent, we may question if He is truly the Messiah-God. We may conclude that God is not in control.

Do we realize that Jesus fulfilled over three hundred distinct prophecies in the Old Testament at His First Coming to earth? The mathematical probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1/840,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (That’s ninety-seven zeroes!) A partial list of those prophecies include:

– The betrayal by a familiar friend (Psalm 41:9; cf. John 13:18, 26).

– The forsaking of the disciples through being offended at Him (Psalm 31:11; cf. Matthew 26:56b).

– The false accusations (Psalm 35:11; cf. Mark 14:56-58).

– The silence before His judges (Isaiah 53:7; cf. Mark 14:51; 15:3, 5 ).

– Being proven innocent (Isaiah 53:9 cf. John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

– Being included with sinners (Isaiah 53:12; cf. Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27-28).

– The piercing of His hands and feet when crucified (Psalm 22:16; John 19:37; 20:25-27).

– The mockery of onlookers (Psalm 109:25; Luke 23:35).

– The taunt of being unable to deliver Himself (Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-44).

– The casting of lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; cf. Matthew 27:35; John 19:23-24).

– The prayer for His enemies (Isaiah 53:12; cf. Luke 23:34).

– The yielding of His spirit into the hands of His Father (Psalm 31:5; cf. Luke 23:46).

– His bones are not broken (Psalm 34:20; cf. John 19:32-36).

– The burial in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; cf. Matthew 27:57-60). 7

Jesus did not say, “I am thirsty,” just so He could quench His physical thirst. He did this because He knew this prophecy had to be fulfilled. And it was.

A third thing we learn when Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” is that Jesus was fully human. As God He could say, ‘I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:58). As man He could say, ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:28). God the Father does not thirst; angels do not thirst. This was the thirst of a dying man.” 8

Christ’s humanity was also seen when He was weary in Samaria (John 4:6), disturbed in Nazareth (Mark 6:6), angry in the temple (John 2:15), sleepy in the boat on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:38), sad at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35), and hungry in the wilderness (Matthew 4:20).

Why did Jesus endure all these experiences? Because He knew we would be thirsty, weary, disturbed, angry, sleepy, sad, and hungry. What this teaches us is that Christ understands how we feel. 9

The Bible tells us, 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). We can be confident that whatever we are experiencing, Jesus has also experienced it and more.

Are you in physical pain? Remember Christ’s burning thirst. Have you been rejected? Jesus was rejected by the world and His own Jewish people (John 1:10-11). Have you been put to shame? Christ was crucified while almost naked. Have you been abandoned? Christ was forsaken by His own disciples and worse – by His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:56b; 27:46). 10  Why? So He could understand us when we face similar things. And because He understands us, we can come to Him with confidence.

The most important lesson we learn from these verses is that JESUS BECAME THIRSTY TO SAVE US FROM AN ETERNAL THIRST (JOHN 19:28-29). This is the most amazing thing of all – that the Water of Life would become thirsty. And we are not talking about physical thirst. We areE talking about spiritual thirst.

All people are born with a spiritual thirst for God. The Bible tells us, “He has put eternity in their hearts.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He has placed a thirst in our hearts for something eternal. And only God can quench this thirst. But people often try to quench this spiritual thirst through some other means such as achievements, alcohol, money, possessions, power, and sex. Others may exist on medication because they cannot bear the pain of their own emptiness. Some people pursue pleasure, trying to medicate the brokenness in their lives.

The Bible refers to these practices in Jeremiah 2:13: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Instead of turning to GodWho is like a “fountain of living waters” that provides for our deepest needs and longings (Jeremiah 2:13a; cf. Psalm 36:9; John 4:10-14; Revelation 21:6), we turn away from Him and dig broken cisterns that can hold no water – much less provide it (Jeremiah 2:13b).

The issue is not whether we thirst – for we all do – the real issue is how long will we thirst? Jesus answers that question in a story He told about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. When both men died, Lazarus was escorted by angels to a place of blessing called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and the rich man went to a place of torment in Hades (Luke 16:23). The rich man “cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’” (Luke 16:24).

What do people in hades (which will eventually be thrown into hell) say? Tormented in the fire they cry out, ‘I am thirsty!’” 11  As Matthew Henry put it, “The torments of hell are represented by a violent thirst, in the complaint of the rich man who begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue. To that everlasting thirst we had all been condemned, if Christ had not suffered on the cross.” 12

Lutzer says, Hell is remembering the Living Water we could have enjoyed on earth that would have taken us to heaven. Hell is a lake of fire, a place of endless, unquenchable thirst.” 13

Thank God that Jesus endured the agonizing thirst of His soul when the sins of the world were placed upon Him as He hung on that cross so we could drink His living water that quenches our thirst for eternal life forever. This Jesus, Who is now thirsty on the cross, said to a Samaritan woman at a well earlier in His ministry, 10 If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… 14 whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14).

Christ became thirsty on the cross so you could quench your eternal thirst. The word “drink” means to “believe.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). “To drink” means “to believe” – because both drinking and believing permanently quench our spiritual thirst. One drink of Jesus’ living water, one act of faith in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life will quench your spiritual thirst forever. Why? Because when we believe in Jesus alone for His free gift of eternal life, He digs a well in our soul that gushes “up into everlasting life” and never runs dry (John 4:14). Have you taken that drink? Have you believed in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life? If so, you will “never thirst” for eternal life again.  

The Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus will be taken to heaven one day where they shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17).

It is no surprise that in the last chapter of the Bible we read, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). 

“Those who come to the One who was once thirsty need never thirst again.” 14  If you have never come to Christ in faith for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so now. Simply take Jesus at His Word when He says, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). If you now believe in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Loving Lord Jesus, thank You for crying out on the cross, “I am thirsty,” so You could fulfill the remaining Bible prophecy concerning Your death and prove You were the promised Messiah-God. I now realize that You became thirsty on the cross so I could be saved forever from an eternal thirst in hell. As best I know how, I now believe in You, Jesus, to give me everlasting life which can never be lost. Thank You that I will never thirst for eternal life again. Thank You for digging a well in the depths of my soul that bubbles up into a fountain of everlasting life which never runs dry. Please show me how to know You more and enjoy Your living waters. In Your precious name, I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pg. 105 cites Philip Graham Ryken, “Human After All,” in The Heart of the Cross, James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1999), pg. 37.

2. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 105-106.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 559.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1825; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 692.

5. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 95.

6. Ibid., pg. 96, 154 cites William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, of New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), pg. 431.

7. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 95-96.

8. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 107.

9. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 92-93.

10. Adapted from Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 112-113.

11. Ibid., pg. 115.

12. Ibid cites Matthew Henry quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, “Human After All,” in The Heart of the Cross, pg. 42.

13. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 115.

14. Ibid., pg. 118.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 8

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ ” John 19:26

During the global pandemic, we have experienced the pain of separation from family and friends due to COVID restrictions. Many people are feeling alone, forgotten, and uncared for. But in today’s verses from John 19, we discover a very powerful lesson that speaks to this challenge in our lives.

For the past several days, we have been looking at lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. These lessons include the following:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

Jesus’ garments were removed so we could wear the garments of salvation (John 19:23-24).

Today we learn that THOUGH JESUS DIED FOR THE WORLD, HE ALSO CARES DEEPLY FOR ME (John 19:25-27). The apostle John is the only gospel writer who records this next scene at the cross. Even while dying on a cross Jesus thought of others. William Barclay writes, “There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days when he was taken away.” 1

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25). These four women who “stood by the cross of Jesus” contrast with the four Roman soldiers who divided Jesus’ garments (John 19:23-24). “While the soldiers behaved callously and profited immediately from Jesus’ death, the women waited faithfully and patiently for what God would do.” 2  

Might I also add that Jesus’ disciples were not present at the cross (Matthew 26:56, 75), except for the apostle John, “the disciple whom He loved” (John 19:26). Their promise to remain faithful to Christ even in death was soon abandoned when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:35) – which leads me to admire the faithfulness of these women all the more.

Exactly who were these women? John mentions Jesus’ “mother” first. None of the other gospel writers refer to Mary in their accounts of the cross. Imagine the ache in her heart as she watched her Son writhe in pain on the cross. No mother wants to see her child suffer such agony. “The anguish of Jesus’ mother fulfilled a prophecy of Simeon: ‘A sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2:35).” 3

Erwin Lutzer has captured what Mary might have felt as she stood before the cross:

She who had planted kisses on the brow of that little Child now saw that brow crowned with thorns. She who had held those little hands as He learned to walk now saw those hands pierced with nails. She who had cradled Him in her arms now saw Him writhing alone on the garbage dump of Jerusalem. She who loved Him at birth came to love Him even more in death.” 4

John also tells us that the “sister” of Jesus’ mother is present as well. We learn from Mark that her name is “Salome,” the wife of Zebedee and the apostle John’s mother (Mark 15:40). So she would be Jesus’ maternal aunt.

Next is “Mary the wife of Clopas,” the “mother of James the Less and of Joses [Joseph] (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40), the husband of Jesus’ mother. 6  And finally there was “Mary Magdalene,” the woman from whom Jesus “had cast seven demons” (Mark 16:9). So we have biological and spiritual family grieving as they watch Jesus suffer. They had been with Jesus in the joys of life and now they desired to be with Him in the pain of death. These faithful friends remained with Jesus when He needed them the most. “We all need – and need to be – friends like this.” 7

What happens next is amazing considering how agonizing suffering usually causes the sufferer to draw within to preserve his own life. But Jesus is no ordinary Person. Even when He is in severe pain, He is still thinking of others. “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ ” (John 19:26). Why does Jesus wait until now to speak to His mother?

We saw in the previous picture that the Roman soldiers took Jesus’ seamless tunic undergarment and cast lots for it (John 19:23-24). Normally this tunic was given to the son by his mother. Some think that Mary gave Jesus this tunic when He left home. 8

Charles Swindoll observes that there seems to be a correlation between what the soldiers were doing (John 19:23-24) and the words of Jesus in the presence of Mary (John 19:25-27).  Swindoll writes, “Why now? She’s been there all along, watching and weeping. Why hasn’t He acknowledged or spoken to her? Could it be because of the seamless tunic? I think so. His outer garments were insignificant…. But when they touched the tunic, they touched something very near to His heart—the garment made for Him by His mother.” 9

When Jesus “saw His mother” He says to her, “Woman, behold your son!” This may be understood in the sense, “Consider him as your son to take care of you.” 10  It is interesting that Jesus never addresses Mary as His mother. He refers to her as “Woman” here and at the wedding feast in Cana (cf. John 2:4). Could it be that Jesus is reminding her that He is her Savior and not merely her Son?

Wonderful mother that she was, she nevertheless took her place with the other sinners at the foot of the cross. She was not there to aid in purchasing redemption, but she herself was being redeemed by her Son. In the lovely poem we call the Magnificat, composed after she discovered she was pregnant, she said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’ (Luke 1:46–47, emphasis added). She too needed the forgiveness her Son was now purchasing.” 11

Christ knew that “the disciple whom He loved” would faithfully provide for His mother. Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:27). So John took Mary to his home “that hour,” implying that he cared for her as his own mother. He brought the one – whose soul the sword would pierce – away from the terrible scene of her Son’s suffering to the shelter of his home. John’s temporary absence may explain the lack of all the details that are recorded in the other gospels prior to the closing scene. 12

Because Jesus assigned John to care for His mother, it is assumed that Joseph, Mary’s husband had already died. Even as Jesus hung dying on a cross, then, He fulfilled His obligation to care for His widowed mother (cf. Exodus 20:12; I Timothy 5:3-8). “Jesus entrusted the well-being of His mother to John rather than to one of her biological sons because they had not yet believed in Him (see 7:5). Spiritual relationships are to take precedence over biological and physical relationships (see Matt 12:46-50).” 13  

God wants the church to support widows who are in genuine need, who have no family support, and who serve God and His people with prayers and a life that is above reproach (I Timothy 5:3-8).

This scene at the cross teaches us that while Jesus dies for the world, He still remembers the individual. As He is dying on the cross, Jesus looks at the individuals killing Him and prays, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). While Jesus is dying for billions of people, He looks at the thief beside Him who was suffering and says, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). As Christ hung dying an excruciatingly painful death, He looks at His mother and His beloved disciple and says, “John, you are the one to take care of My mother.”  

Christ is still the same today. He loves the world, but He also cares about me. He cares about my individual needs. He cares about my life. And He gives me the encouragement that I need.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we live in such an impersonal world where it is easy to feel all alone and forgotten. Thank You for reminding me today that You not only died for the world, but You also care about the individual. You are such an amazing Savior to show such great compassion to Your mother as You agonized on the cross. You knew You would be leaving her to return to heaven, so You provided another son to take care of her. Thank You for caring about every aspect of my life and those who are close to me. Use me, I pray, to be Your voice of compassion and love especially to those who are broken and all alone. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Erwin Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pg. 72 cites William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: St. Andrew, 1965), pg. 299.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pp. 354-356.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 691-692.

4. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 76.

5. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 485, cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pp. 601-603.

6. Ibid.

7. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 347.

8. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 72-73.

9. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 73 cites Charles Swindoll, The Darkness and the Dawn: Empowered by the Tragedy and Triumph of the Cross (Nashville: Word, 2001), pp. 153-154.

10. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg.  348.  

11. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 78.

12. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 485 cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pp. 601-603.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1824.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 6

“Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” John 19:19

The apostle John is presenting different pictures from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. We have learned from the first five pictures the following lessons:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

The next picture John presents to us teaches us that THERE IS NO PERSON OR LANGUAGE GOD WILL NOT USE TO PROCLAIM WHO JESUS IS (John 19:19-22). Jesus has been lifted up on a cross and Pilate continues his power struggles with the Jews by placing a sign above Jesus indicating that He is “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (John 19:19). It was normal for the Romansto write the name of the condemned person and the crime for which they were being punished on the sign placed above them. Pilate maintains that Jesus is King of the Jews perhaps as a way of getting back at the Jews for hounding him to crucify Jesus.

What Pilate did not realize was his sign was also used by God to help people come to faith in Jesus. For example, in our last article, we saw that one of the thieves hanging on a cross next to Jesus said to Christ, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”(Luke 23:42). Why would this thief make reference to Jesus’ kingdom? Had he heard Jesus preach about the kingdom? Had someone else told him about Jesus’ kingdom? Or did this thief simply read the sign above Jesus’ head identifying Him as the King of the Jews?

Lucado writes, “The thief knows he is in a royal mess. He turns his head and reads a royal proclamation and asks for royal help. It might have been this simple. If so, the sign was the first tool used to proclaim the message of the cross. Countless others have followed, from the printing press to the radio to the stadium crusade to the book you are holding. But a crude wooden sign preceded them all. And because of the sign, a soul was saved. All because someone posted a sign on a cross.” 2

God used Pilate to proclaim the message of the cross through a sign to a thief hanging next to Jesus. That was not Pilate’s plan, but it was God’s plan. Pilate intended this sign to threaten and mock the Jews, but God intended to use Pilate’s sign as a tool for spreading the gospel message.

This tells us that there is no one God cannot use. If He can use an unbelieving political leader to lead a thief to Christ, He can use anyone. During my first year of seminary, one of my classmates told me one night in our dormitory that before he became a Christian, he had led many people to Christ as an evangelistic worker in a church. You do not have to be a Christian for God to use you. There is no person God will not use. That is meant to encourage us especially if we think God cannot use us because of some failure in our past or some weakness in our present. God is eager to use those who make themselves available to Him.

“Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” (John 19:20). Pilate’s sign infuriated the Jews as “it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin” which were the commonly spoken languages in the first century. “Hebrew” was the language of the Jews. “Greek” was the language of the culture. And “Latin” was the language of the Roman empire.So Pilate wanted to make sure that everyone knew of Jesus’ kingship. No one could claim they did not know Who Jesus really is because the sign was written in their language.

This leads to the second part of our lasting lesson: There is no language God will not use to proclaim the gospel. The message on the sign was the same, but the languages were different. Since Jesus was a King for all people, the message must be in the languages of all people. If all people were going to have an opportunity to enter His kingdom through faith alone in Him alone, they must hear or read His message in a language they understand. God wants the world to know that He loves them.

This is why I greatly appreciate those who translate the Bible into different languages. According to October 2020 statistics, “The full Bible is now available in 704 different languages, giving 5.7 billion people access to Scripture in the language they understand best. The New Testament is available in another 1,551 languages, reaching another 815 million people. Selections and stories are available in a further 1,160 other languages, spoken by 458 million people…There are currently 3,945 languages with no Scripture. 167 million people, speaking 2,014 languages, still need translation work to begin.” 3

If you are reading this, then God has provided His gospel message in a language you can use to tell others Who Jesus is and what He can do for them. He is the King of the universe Who died in their place and rose from the dead so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b).

When the Jews read Pilate’s sign over Jesus, they protested because they did not want Jesus’ Kingship to be proclaimed as a fact. “Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “He said,” ‘I am the King of the Jews.’ ” (John 19:21). They wanted Him to die for claiming to be the King of the Jews.

Pilate refused to comply. “Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’ ” (John 19:22). While Pilate meant for the sign to sting the Jews, God, in His sovereignty, meant it to declare to the world the truth about His Son. 4  John wants us to be aware that Jesus is the King of the Jews and no objection, protest, or even crucifixion can deprive Him of this rightful position. No circumstance can diminish the power of Who Jesus is. The soldiers take Jesus to the cross to be crucified and drive nails through His hands and feet, and still the sign reads King. There is no circumstance that can diminish the power of Who Jesus really is in my life or in yours. That is what this sign also tells us.

We also learn from this scene that people will try to change the truth about Who Jesus is, but they will always fail. We talk about spin doctors today – people who come in after the event and try to reframe what happened especially when it comes to politics. There were spin doctors in Jesus’ day. The Jewish religious leaders were spin doctors. They come in after the event had happened, after the sign was put in place and said, “Change the sign. Let’s make it read something different.” In one courageous act we see Pilate standing up to those thugs and saying, “No, I won’t change it.” 5

That says to me you cannot change the truth of Who Jesus is. People will try to change the truth about Who Jesus is in my life or in your life, but they will not be successful, because the truth is greater than any human being. God is greater than any human being. And what He says is final.  

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we are so impressed with how You used a sign written by one who rejected Jesus to lead a thief to Christ. Throughout history, You have demonstrated there is no person You will not use to spread Your message to others. You use the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to tell the world about Your one of a kind Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, for using others to tell us about the identity of Jesus and what He can do in our lives. Please help us to pay it forward so others can discover this life-changing message. Since Jesus is a King for all people, You are providing this message in the languages of all people so everyone can know how much You love them and want to save them. Thank You, Lord God, for providing this message in our own language so we could understand and believe. Please enable those who have not yet heard this message in their own language to hear it soon so they don’t miss any signs You are sending their way. In the name of Almighty God, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 41-47.

2. Ibid., pg. 42.

3. Retrieved from www.wycliffe.org.uk/about/our-impact/ on April 19, 2021.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1824.

5. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 5

“…Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.” John 19:18

Currently, I am reading a great book by Max Lucado entitled “He Chose the Nails: What God did to win your heart.” In one of the chapters, Lucado asks, “Ever wonder why there were two crosses next to Christ? Why not six or ten? Ever wonder why Jesus was in the center? Why not on the far right or far left? Could it be that the two crosses on the hill symbolize one of God’s greatest gifts? The gift of choice.

“The two criminals have so much in common. Convicted by the same system. Condemned to the same death. Surrounded by the same crowd. Equally close to the same Jesus. In fact, they begin with the same sarcasm: ‘The two criminals also said cruel things to Jesus’ (Matt. 27:44 CEV).

“But one changed.” 1

This leads us to the fifth lasting lesson that we learn from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. So far in our study, we have discovered the following lessons:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

Today we discover that THE TWO CROSSES TEACH THAT GOD GIVES EACH OF US THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE (JOHN 19:18b). This has been the case throughout human history. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them the freedom to obey or disobey (Genesis 2:8-25), and they chose to disobey (Genesis 3:1-24). And God permitted them.

Abel and Cain were both sons of Adam, but Abel chose to worship God His way with an animal sacrifice and Cain chose his own way (Genesis 4:1-5; cf. Hebrews 11:4). God allowed them to do this.

Abraham and Lot were both travelers in Canaan (Genesis 13). Abraham chose God and Lot chose Sodom. God let them make their own choices.

David and Saul were both kings of Israel (I Samuel 9:1-I Kings 2:11). David chose to follow God and Saul chose to go his own way. And God lets them.

Peter and Judas both deny Jesus. But Peter seeks restoration (John 20:15-17) and Judas seeks death (Matthew 27:5). God permits them to make these choices. 2

Jesus also gave people choices. He gives us the choice of belief or unbelief when He says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).

Christ gives us the choice of eternal life or eternal punishment when He says, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46). The choice is ours.

One of the two thieves hanging on a cross next to Jesus chose eternal life, but the other thief did not. Luke tells us about this in his account: 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ 43 And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’ ” Luke 23:39-43

Both these thieves next to Jesus heard and saw the same things, but they reached different conclusions about the Man in the middle of them. The unbelieving criminal hurled insults at Jesus, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (23:39b). But the believing criminal recognizes that he and the other thief are guilty of wrongdoing (“Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds”), but he acknowledges that Jesus “has done nothing wrong” and is about to enter His “kingdom” (23:40-42).

Both these men also differ on what they think they need to be saved from. The unbelieving criminal wants to be saved from his present earthly circumstances (“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (23:39b). But the other criminal understood there was something far more significant to be delivered from than their present circumstances. Perhaps when he heard Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34), he had a change of heart and placed his saving faith in Christ alone.  So he says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (23:42). Jesus responds to this man’s faith by saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (23:43).

“And later that day, though his physical body died, his spirit and soul went to paradise with King Jesus, awaiting his future bodily resurrection from the dead. This affirms that believers go immediately into God’s presence at death.” 3

Does Jesus try to persuade the unbelieving thief to change his mind? Wouldn’t a personal invitation be timely for this other criminal? We might think so, but Jesus remains silent. He honors those who have the freedom to choose where they spend eternity.

Granted there are some choices we do not have the freedom to make: where we were born, who our parents are, our own DNA, etc. But where we spend eternity is a choice God has given us to make. Aren’t you glad for that?

Although we know little about the thief who came to faith in Christ on the cross, what we do know is he was deserving of condemnation. He chose the wrong crowd, the wrong morals, and the wrong behavior. But is he spending eternity reaping the fruit of his rebellious life? No, the exact opposite. He is reaping the fruit of one good choice he made hanging on a cross next to Jesus Christ.

You and I have made some terrible choices in life, haven’t we? Perhaps we have chosen the wrong crowd, the wrong morals, and the wrong behavior. We may look back over our lives and conclude, “If only I could take back those awful decisions.” You can’t take them back, but you can offset them. 4

Notice that this believing criminal did not have the opportunity to get baptized, or live a life of obedience to Christ as His disciple when he got saved on that cross. But he did do what is required of any person to be saved from eternal punishment: he believed in Jesus to save him (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). And one believing choice for eternity offsets a million bad ones on earth. The choice is yours.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the two crosses next to You on Golgotha that remind us that You have given us the freedom to choose. Why people choose differently about eternity, I do not know. But what I do know, is that You love those who believe in You enough to give them everlasting life. And when others do not believe in You, You love them enough to permit them. Please enable us by Your Spirit and Your truth to make God-honoring decisions that bring You more glory. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 53-54.

2. Ibid., pp. 52-53.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1737.

4. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 55-56.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 4

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him…” John 19:17-18a

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

The fourth lasting lesson we learn from Jesus’ last day is that THE CROSS IS THE TOTAL EXPRESSION OF GOD’S GRACE TO US IN CHRIST (JOHN 17-18a). Before we look at today’s verses, let’s review what has happened to Jesus so far on His last day before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had already suffered a great deal. In Gethsemane, He was under such emotional distress that tiny capillaries in His sweat glands broke and mixed blood with His sweat (Luke 22:44). After He was arrested and bound, He was unjustly tried before civil and religious authorities (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2; Luke 23:6-12; John 18:12-14, 19-23, 28-40). During these trials Christ was falsely accused, insulted, rejected, and physically abused. Pilate then had Jesus scourged or beaten with a short whip made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone (John 19:1). This scourging left Jesus’ body tattered and torn. Christ was then beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on His head and a purple robe on His severely wounded back (John 19:2-3; cf. Matthew 27:27-30).

This brings us to the next image the apostle John presents to us. “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”  (John 19:17). Before the soldiers had Jesus carry His cross, they removed the purple robe from Christ (Matthew 27:31) which had become adhered to the clots of blood and serum in His wounds. This would have been very painful, much like carelessly removing a surgical bandage.

When John tells us that Jesus was “bearing His cross,” we see the fulfillment of “two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).” 1  So the sin of the world was placed on the innocent Lamb of God (John 1:29).

The reference to Jesus “bearing His cross” refers to the crossbeam that prisoners had to carry to their place of execution. The upright part of the cross would have been out at the place of crucifixion. This crossbeam strapped to Jesus’ back would have weighed 100-150 pounds. This weight would have been similar to a couple of sacks of cement.

It was a very heavy load especially for Jesus who had lost so much blood from the beating and flogging. Since Christ was very weak and faint, He could not carry this load all the way out to the place of execution. John does not tell us this because He is wanting to stress Jesus’ deity, but Luke informs us that “Simon a Cyrenian,” carried Jesus’ crossbeam for Him (Luke 23:26). 

The place where Jesus would be crucified was “called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.” It was most likely called this because the hill’s rock formations looked like a skull. 5

John continues to describe his eyewitness picture of this when he writes, “where they crucified Him…” (John 19:18a). To help us understand the significance of John’s words, it would be beneficial for us to look at the history of crucifixion. 6

The Romans did not invent crucifixion. It was probably invented by the Phoenicians.  The Phoenicians invented the cross for a very particular reason. They had a god that they served who was a god of the earth. They felt that for someone to die on the earth it would defile their god. So they ingeniously came up with a way to execute their prisoners lifted up off the earth so that they would not defile the earth. That is where it is believed crucifixion began. 

Jesus made reference to His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The interesting thing is when you look at the real cross of Christ, the God of the universe was lifted up on a cross (John 1:1-3), not the god of the earth. Jesus did not defile or condemn the earth. He came to save the world (John 3:17). That is what actually took place.

The Romans looked at the cross in a different way. Through the Egyptians and then the Romans, this idea of a cross came. The Romans saw the cross as a tool. They expertly used it as a tool of torture and punishment. They also used it as a tool to tell people if you rebel against Rome, you are going to face the cross and be put out in front for the world to see. Their suffering and their pain would endure for a long time so that when they punished their prisoners, many people would be brought under their control. That is what the Romans saw it as. 

The Jewish people saw the cross as the most disgusting form of death because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” When God put these verses in the Bible, He knew that Jesus would be cursed for our sins on the cross.

So to the Phoenician, the cross was a means of death that satisfied their belief in a god of the earth. To the Romans, the cross became an expertly used instrument of torture and control. To the Jewish people, crucifixion represented the most disgusting form of death. But to the God of the Bible, the cross reveals the glory of Christ. To the Christian, the cross reveals Jesus’ glory, especially His amazing grace and love.

When the Bible talks about Jesus dying, it simply says, “they crucified Him.” (John 18:18a). John doesn’t go into great detail. The reason for that is he did not need to because everyone in his day understood what crucifixion was all about. If I told you that somebody died by lethal injection, you would probably understand what that means. You can visualize the table and the room and the witnesses because you may have seen it on television or in an online video. We have also heard news reports about it. In John’s day, everyone would know the truth of what the cross was all about.

The Romans had refined crucifixion to such an art, we can know what happened. 7 They had executioners whose sole job it was to carry out crucifixion time after time. So as Jesus was brought up to that hill, to the place where that standing post was, the executioner would lay the cross beam behind the victim and would jerk them to the ground across the beam. The executioners wore leather aprons. And in these leather aprons there were pouches with five-inch nails and a hammer off to the side. These were the tools of their trade.

The executioner would kneel first on the right arm of the victim of the one who would be crucified. His knee would rest on the inside of the elbow. His hand would be placed on the arm of the victim so it was flat against the cross. He would feel for the hollow spot in the wrist between the bones so that no bones would be broken or arteries broken so the prisoner would be tortured as long as possible. Then he would take one of those five-inch nails and place it against that hollow place and in one sharp blow drive it into the wood through the flesh.

They would do the left hand in the same way. Then two soldiers on each side would grab the two ends of the cross beam and on the signal, raise it up and place it into the notch of the upright post. When that crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner would reach up and set the sign that described the crime this person had committed. This was very important to the Romans because they wanted to discourage others from rebelling against Rome. 

Then the executioner would kneel before the cross and take the right foot of the criminal and place it over the left foot, bending it slightly upwards and nail the feet to the cross.  Remember, Romans were experts at this. They had devised a means to know the exact angle at which to put the feet so the prisoner could live the longest possible time so they could endure the greatest possible agony as an example to the watching world of why not to commit this crime. 

As Jesus’ feet were nailed on the cross, we become aware of two sources of pain. First, the pain in His shoulders, His arms, and His forearms of being in a “V” position. If you tried to do this for any length of time your arms would begin to cramp. This pain would begin to be greater than the pain of the nails that were in His hands and in His feet. Then the pain of the pectoral muscles – the muscles in His chest – beginning to constrict so He could breathe in but not breathe out.

John was there. He was an eyewitness. He saw what they did to Jesus Christ. But there is something that John (and other eyewitnesses) did not see. Something, however, that Jesus did see. Max Lucado shares this insight as the soldiers were nailing Jesus’ arms to the crossbeam. “Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it….

“Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of the biceps, with a clench of the fist, he could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the Temple? Summoned the dead?

“But the fist doesn’t clench… and the moment isn’t aborted. The mallet rings and skin rips and the blood begins to drip, then rush. Then the questions follow. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist?

“’Because he loved us,’ we reply. That is true, wonderfully true, but – forgive me – only partially true. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw … between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.8

The Bible tells us, 13 God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV).

Lucado continues, “The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV)…

“This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.” 9

Out of love for you and me, Jesus chose the nails that not only attached Him to that wooden crossbeam, but also the list of all our sins. The word “canceled” (eksaleíphō) in Colossians 2:14, was a technical term in the apostle Paul’s day when he penned this. It refers to washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 10  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our past, present, or future sins and charges against us. This is called positional forgiveness which we receive the moment we believe in Jesus for it (Acts 10:43). That is why the cross of Christ is the total expression of God’s grace. It is through the cross that “Jesus destroyed the foundation of Satan’s strategies… 11  Satan’s methodology is one of accusation, always to increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us.” 12

The truth is, no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because Jesus Christ finished paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on that cross (John 19:30; Romans 8:31-34). When we believe in Jesus, God justifies us or declared us totally righteous in His courtroom (Romans 8:33). If God pronounced that we are not guilty, then no one – not the devil, an ex-spouse, or an unforgiving boss – can reverse His verdict. No one can successfully accuse any Christian of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because God does not even accuse us. He justifies us the moment we believe in Jesus alone (Romans 3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1). This is what sets us free from the shame Satan wants to control us with.

As you read this, you may be thinking, “But you don’t know how badly I have sinned or how often I have sinned.” You are correct, but Jesus Christ does. Before Jesus hung on that cross, all of your sins were yet future. At the cross, God took every sin that you would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of your sins so you could be totally forgiven the moment you believed in Christ. Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all your sins so you can now enjoy closeness with God.

What this means is that you can never lose your relationship with your heavenly Father. Just as you are born into your earthly family and can never cease to be your parents’ child no matter what you do, so too, when you are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus alone (John 1:12), you can never cease to be His child no matter how you live. You can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But your sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying your parents breaks your closeness with them. When you sin (and we all do), you must daily confess your sins in order to maintain fellowship or closeness with Christ (I John 1:9).

Knowing that all of your sins are positionally forgiven “in Christ” is essential for experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14). A good soldier cannot do his best with the fear that a mistake or two would take him off the front lines. Satan tries to get believers to focus on their past sins or worry about their future sins to weaken them when facing the world’s temptations. By focusing on Christ’s complete positional forgiveness, a believer is able to focus on knowing Christ more intimately by abiding in His Word and experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, there is no greater expression of Your grace than the cross. When you spread your arms out on that crossbeam, You were showing the world how wide Your love truly is (John 3:16). It is wide enough for the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to be totally forgiven forever. Your love is wide enough for the whole world which includes every one of us. Sadly, others may exclude us but You never will if we come to You on Your terms (John 6:37). Thank You for demonstrating how much You loved us when You stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and permitted the soldiers to nail them in that position so we would know that You died loving us. Thank You for canceling the list of all our sins which was between Your hands and the wooden crossbeam through the shedding of Your blood. Please use us now to proclaim Your forgiving love and grace to a lost and dying world. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 690.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 345; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 351, cited Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; and Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002), pg. 535.

3. Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 351.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 559; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 690.

6. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

7. Ibid.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 33-34.

9. Ibid., pg. 34.

10. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.  

11. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International, 2014), pg. 72.

12. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), pg. 83.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 3

“But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” John 19:15

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

Today we see that THE CLOSER WE GET TO THE CROSS, THE MORE CLEARLY WE SEE WHO PEOPLE REALLY ARE, INCLUDING OURSELVES (John 19:13-16). When Pilate heard the religious leaders threaten to accuse him of treason if he did not bow to their wishes to put Jesus to death (John 19:12), Pilate “brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:13). The threat of losing his favored position with the Roman government was a key motivation for Pilate to crucify Jesus. Pilate took his seat on a raised platform known as the bēma (“judge’s seat”) at a place called “the Stone Pavement,” where a Roman official or governor would sit in judgment. 1  The meaning of the Aramaic term “Gabbatha” is uncertain. One suggested meaning is a “raised place,” referring to the platform from which Pilate spoke to the crowd (cf. Josephus Jewish Wars 2.175-176, 301, 308). 2

Ironically Pilate then brings Jesus out to the judgment seat (bēma). One day Jesus will judge all unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and all believers at His Judgment Seat (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10). Yet this day He submits to judgment by a weak, arrogant unbeliever!” 3

“Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ ” (John 19:14). Jesus, the innocent Passover Lamb of God “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5; John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21), was being presented by a pagan ruler to the nation of Israel on Friday the day before the Sabbath at “about the sixth hour” which was 6:00 A.M. according to the Roman method of reckoning time. 4

“When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God had commanded them to slaughter a lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes. Then, when he struck down the firstborn of Egypt, he ‘passed over’ the homes with a blood covering. By means of this, God rescued his people from slavery (see Exod 12:1-28). Jesus, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29) was about to shed his blood so that all those who believe in him would be saved from slavery to sin. His death at this particular moment wasn’t due to chance, then, but due to the sovereign timing of God.” 5  

Once again, we see that God is the One Who is in control. Pilate was an instrument of God’s sovereign plan and purpose (cf. Acts 2:22-24). Even though Pilate seems to be taunting the Jews when he presents their beaten and bloodied Messiah (“Behold, your King!”), it is ironic that this corrupt political leader recognizes the truth that Jesus is their King.

But the Jews wanted nothing to do with King Jesus despite all the evidence that He was their promised Messiah-God. “But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ ” (John 19:15a). Again Pilate refers to Jesus as their King. “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’” (John 19:15b). And the Jewish leaders persisted in their rejection of Christ.  “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” (John 19:15c). Really? They have no king but Caesar!?! 

Notice that they didn’t say, ‘We have no king but God.’ Their hatred of Jesus was so great that they were willing to disregard their divine ruler and align themselves with a pagan king. Placing human government above God never ends well.” 6

Just ask the Israelites when they rejected God as their ruler and demanded a human king similar to the surrounding pagan nations during the time of the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 8:4-8). Although their demand arose out of frustration over the corruption of Samuel’s sons (I Samuel 8:1-3), the better choice would have been to remove Samuel’s sons from leadership and choose qualified men to take their place. But they refused to do this even though God warned the nation of Israel of the destructive things a human king would do to them (I Samuel 8:9-20).

What happened in Samuel’s day and in Jesus’ day, is also happening today. When God is dismissed from the family, people often turn to the government to fix their problems instead of turning to God. People are wanting the government to manage their affairs instead of submitting to God’s rule in their families and individual lives. When “civil government reaches into the other spheres that God has instituted—things like the family or the church—government grows far beyond its divinely authorized scope. This allows government to both confiscate and redistribute what should not be moved. That is exactly what God warned Israel against in 8:10-18 as they insisted on having a human king.” 7

Although the nation of Israel’s rightful King, a Descendant of king David, stood before them, they chose a pagan king when they said, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15c). Pilate then gave in to their demand and “delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.” (John 19:16). If you were Pilate, how would you explain to your wife that night why you finally let Jesus be killed? Remember she had told Pilate earlier, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19).

“The time had now come for the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world and make people savable (John 1:29). He would be crucified and after six hours would breathe His last in His non-glorified body.” 8

Jesus had known what was going to happen for days, weeks, months – eternity past. And now on this Stone Pavement, Pilate says, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” (Matthew 27:24). It is at this time,Jesus hears the words, “You are going to be crucified.”

It is amazing what happens when Jesus is on trial before the religious leaders and Pilate. Pilate stands before the crowd and tries with all of his might to appear fair and just as a political leader. But when we look at him in this scene that John presents to us, does he look fair? Does he look like a man of justice? No, he looks like a self-serving political coward who yields to the demands of the majority!

But are we any different than Pilate? Have we ever made a decision based on fear or ambition? Have we ever refused to do the right thing because of the cost involved? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “Yes!” The cross exposes this in our lives.

If you look at the chief priests and temple officers there at the same place, they try to appear holy and righteous. They would not even go into the Gentile palace area so they could avoid ceremonial defilement (John 18:28). They wanted to be holy for the day of Passover. But do they look holy and righteous, rejecting their rightful King? Not at all!

And yet we can also be like these religious leaders. We compare ourselves to others and conclude that we look pretty devoted to our religion compared to the way others look. We go to a place of worship every week while others spend more time in jail. We pray and read our sacred literature every day while others curse and read filth online.  

But compared to the innocent Lamb of God, we are very dark and wicked on the inside. We think more of ourselves than others. But Jesus continued to think of others even while hanging on the cross (John 19:25-27). We hold grudges against those who have hurt us, but Jesus forgave His enemies while He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34). We are quick to condemn criminals, but Jesus lovingly offers them hope (Luke 23:42-43).

From this scene presented to us by the apostle John, we learn that the closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16). It is at the cross of Christ, that we see who people really are. The innocence of the Lamb of God exposes the guilt of everyone who draws near to the cross. There is a blinding light of truth that comes from the cross that shows us who we really are.  

If you want to make this more personal, the closer I get to the cross, the more I see who I really am. The more I see how I need God to change me. The more I see how His power can make a difference in my life, and needs to make a difference in my life.

When we compare ourselves to the people around us, we might think we are pretty good. But when we start to look at our lives in light of the cross of Jesus Christ, we recognize our great need for Him. And we also recognize His great love for us (Romans 5:8). This is why we need the cross in our lives. So we can see who we really are and Who Jesus really is. Jesus said it best: “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26b). So why not make it known between you and the Lord right now? He is patiently waiting.

Prayer: Oh heavenly Father, thank You for the light of the cross of Your Son, Jesus Christ, which exposes the darkness in our own hearts.Like Pilate, we can easily make hurtful decisions based upon fear or ambition, and yet our stubborn pride wants to deny this. Thank You for lovingly showing us this today. As difficult as it is to admit, we can also be like the religious leaders who thought they looked pretty good compared to the way they thought others looked. But compared to their King, they were self-righteous and unholy, rejecting Jesus as their rightful Ruler. Likewise, we often want to control our own lives instead of yielding to Your rightful rule over us. Oh Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us how much we need the cross and how much we need You and Your love for us. None of us are close to perfect. All of us have sinned against You and fall short of Your glory. None of us deserve the love You have for us. But all of us need Your love. All of us need the cross whether we admit it or not. We need the forgiveness, the cleansing, and the power and strength that the cross provides so we can change and become more like Your Son. Thank You, our Lord and our God, for Your amazing grace. In the redeeming name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 342.

2. John Wilkinson, The Jerusalem Jesus Knew (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978), pg. 141, cited by Laney in Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 342.

3.Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 558.

4. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pp. 342-343; Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 558; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 348.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1823.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 526.

8. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 559.

9. The last several paragraphs are adapted from Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”