Lent Devotions 2009: Thursday 9th April

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

When we use the word “finished”, it tends to point to either a failure (finished with) or a success (completed). What do these words of Jesus mean? Here, as often in John’s Gospel, these apparently simple words are not as clear as one might think. What has been “finished”, and what does that mean?
One word is clear enough at once. “Is” is definite. When Jesus says something, He makes it so. We can do this in smaller matters – saying the marriage vows, for example – but He does it for even bigger things like forgiveness, commanding the weather, healing the sick. So, whatever is finished, really is finished.

Does Jesus mean His life on earth is finished? No, because we know that His death was not the end of everything: He rose to new life. In the same way, we do not have to remain stuck in Good Friday, but can live in the resurrection life of Easter morning. So what does He mean?

Jesus’ categorical statement that “it is finished” makes it clear that there must be a very firm division between the “it” which is finished, and the new life afterwards (for Him and us). One distinct thing has been completed by His death. Jesus tells us what this is in Mark 10, when He asks James and John: “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?”

What was finished was Jesus’ drinking the cup the Father had given Him to drink. The honest answer to Jesus’ question was “no”. We cannot choose perfectly as He did. The good news – the Gospel – is that Jesus did what we could not, drinking the cup of God’s punishment of our sins on our behalf. Before was Law – God’s demands which we cannot meet. After came … Gospel.

“It” is the Law and its penalty to which Jesus is referring when He says “It is finished”. “It” is also His baptism into death and sin for us, completed in His death on the cross. He is then ready to rise to new life; and in our own Baptism, we too share in the Good Friday of His death and the Easter morning of our rising again with Him.

We thank You, Lord Jesus, for all that You accomplished on the cross, Amen.

Lent Devotions 2009: Wednesday 8th April

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ “ John 19:28

Today I was sitting with someone waiting to go into surgery. They had been forbidden to drink any liquids for 10 hours before the surgery. As you might expect as the minutes and hours went on, the desire to have a drink increased manifold. Eventually the surgery took place, and waiting in the recovery room was a lovely cup of hot tea. It looked like that cup of tea was really enjoyed.

Earlier in this Gospel you might recall that Jesus cries out “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (7:37). We can come to Jesus and drink because He is the one who possesses the Living Water (7:38; 4:14). But now, Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying, and it is He who is thirsty. But for what is He thirsty?

Jesus has just drunk the full dregs of God’s wrath on our behalf as He hung on the cross. The full punishment of hell had almost choked Him with its bitter taste of God’s absence. But now that the debt had been paid in full, Jesus could once again thirst for the Living Waters of complete fellowship with His Father. He longed to drink deeply of this. Remember anew His words, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6). Jesus’ thirst for righteousness took Him to the cross where God’s righteous will was done. And because Jesus thirsted for God’s righteousness, He now gives that same righteousness and fellowship to us freely so that we too may drink and be satisfied.

As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.
You alone are my strength, my shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
And I long to worship You.
Amen.

(758 Supplement 851 verse 1)

Lent Devotions 2009: Monday 6th April

“but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold , your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. “ John 19:25-27

Passages like this one always mean a great deal to me, and I’m sure to others also, who have family overseas. When I turned the sweet age of nineteen my parents returned to their home country and I remained here to study, get a degree and pursue a career where I had been brought up my whole life – England. Others have had to move here because there was nowhere else to go. Over the years they have watched family members and friends die. And I have only really known this culture. What my parents called home was and is a foreign land to me. This becomes what you know. Whatever it was that you were or were supposed to be has become a shadow of your former self. Probably more than most these people, myself included, have learned that the definition of family and home is not where one is but whom and what one loves. This passage also reminds me of another passage in Scripture: “Then He (Jesus) looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)

I do not mean to say that I no longer call my parents father and mother or neglect my siblings and I don’t think Jesus did either. But as we are the Church, our bond is as strong as our own family units; we consider our brothers and sisters in the faith as if we have the same blood. As Romans 12:5 tells us, “In Christ, we who are many form one body”. And in 1 Corinthians 10:17, “We who are many are one body, for we all partake in one bread.”

And in truth, as the body of Christ, we are even closer to each other than any family member by blood could ever be. Indeed how much more sweet it is to have a brother, son or mother by blood also be your brother, son or mother in the faith.

There are many facets to these few words of Jesus, from the simple fact of a son wishing to console his mother, to an institution by the Son of Man and Son of God in defining every relationship that there is ever to be between the children of God, in order that we all be strengthened and reminded by what power all things move and draw breath.

Hearing Christ’s Word in these verses inspires me to love my own family but also my brothers and sisters in the faith because even dying, suffering on that cross He loved me enough to call me His brother; to call me His child. I will love because I am loved now… because God will never stop loving me. Now I want to love everyone; not because I have to but because I want to… not just my brothers in the faith or my family by blood; but those who need the love of God; those who know everything but the love of God; the world in need.

At Christ Lutheran Church I feel at home; my “family” is here. We are loved by God and we are loved by each other.

We thank You, Lord God, that You have grafted us into Your family. May we grow there to Your glory, Amen.

Lent Devotions 2009: Saturday 4th April

“And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.Luke 23:43

This text teaches us so much:

First, Jesus is Lord over death and life. He holds the keys to death and Hades in His hands (Rev. 1:18). The only one stronger than death is Jesus because He conquered it.

Second, if you want eternal life, you get it only through Jesus. Eternal life is to know Jesus (John 3:16, 36); eternal death is to reject Jesus (John 3:18-21). My eternal destiny rests solely on who Jesus Christ is to me.

Third, eternal life comes when we know our unworthiness and Christ’s innocence. The terrorist on the cross knew he was guilty of dreadful crimes and deserved to die for his evil. But he also knew Jesus was innocent, completely innocent of any offence. So it is with us: we are guilty; He is innocent.

Fourth, eternal life begins right away. This man’s spirit was going to be with Christ waiting for the resurrection of all flesh at Jesus’ second coming. Death either ushers us into eternal life or eternal death. And that judgment will be confirmed when Jesus returns again to establish His new physical and eternal kingdom.

Fifth, those who die in Christ are going to a fantastic, mind-boggling place. Paradise was the word used to describe the Garden of Eden. It is where we will have perfect fellowship with God.

God of grace and mercy, we give You thanks for the loving kindness shown to all Your servants who, having finished their course in faith, now rest from their labours. Grant that we also may be faithful unto death and receive the crown of eternal life, Amen.

(LSB prayer in the Funeral Service)

Lent Devotions 2009: Friday 3rd April

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide His garments.” Luke 23:34

Here, humankind is at its utter worst. Not only are they torturing to death a literally innocent man, they have no care for His suffering, no interest in His pain and death throes, but they do want His clothes for their own uses. They throw dice to gamble for them. A bit like when someone dies nowadays – where there is a will, there is a relative.

But, above them, in His pain and torment, Jesus prays for them. Not just them, but all of us. This is a truly loving Son of God – loving us to His last breath, not hating us for the pain, the sins, the rejection. If even a fraction of what happened to Jesus happened to us, would we not feel resentful, hatred or even slightly miffed? Of course we would. It is our nature. Thank God it was not in His!

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your perfect nature and Your willingness to endure everything for us sinners. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2009: Thursday 2nd April

“Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68

In this passage, many of the disciples are having trouble accepting Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus knew from the beginning that some of the disciples did not believe His teaching, and which would betray Him.

In verse 65 He told them that “no-one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled them.”
At this time many of His disciples turned back and did not follow Him. Jesus challenges the Twelve in verse 67: “you do not want to leave too, do you?” In verse 68 Simon Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. He states his belief that “Jesus is the Holy One of God.”

How often do we have trouble accepting Jesus’ teaching? Do we not get tempted to simply walk away? We sometimes forget the wonderful gift that God gave us His Son Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and gives us eternal life.

This assurance helps us to believe and gives us faith to be able not to leave and walk away and to not betray Him and His salvation.

“For Thou, O Lord art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Thee”. Psalm 86:5

Lord, today help us to display compassion and forgiveness, and help us to remember how God forgives and loves us. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2009: Wednesday 1st April

“For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“For us”: Paul uses this expression over and over again in his letters to try and emphasise the fact that God is for us.

Many people today say they believe that God does exist, but they aren’t willing to say much else about Him. While this is a start, it by no means goes far enough. God may exist, but the real question is ‘what does He think of me?’

Many will say that He could care less about you; He is too busy looking after important stuff to care about us as individuals. We are left not knowing whether God is for us or against us. Where do we stand?

But Christians have always proclaimed boldly that our God, in Jesus Christ, is “for us”. He is “for us” so profoundly that He sent His only-begotten Son to take on our flesh and human nature in order to save us from our sin. In fact, on the cross, Jesus assumed our sin, dying in our place, so that the debt we owed God could be paid in full. Jesus’ sacrificial death in our stead proves beyond any doubt that God is really “for us”.

And because Jesus took our place on the cross, we also get His righteousness (perfection) before God. Being “in Christ”, when God now looks at us, He does not see our sin, but He sees the beautiful perfection of Jesus Christ. Baptism has clothed us Christ’s radiant garments of purity (Gal. 3:27).
If you have ever wondered if God is “for you”, then look no further than this verse.

Thank You Lord for being “for us”. Because You are “for us”, who cares who is against us? Amen.