How does it feel to pay off a bill that’s been looming over you? A mortgage, a car, student loans, credit card debt… It’s a liberating feeling to officially pay off a debt. If you lived in New Testament times, the Greek word tetelestai would have been written on business documents or receipts to indicate that very thing–your bill had been paid in full. And that’s the last word Jesus utters from the cross: Tetelestai!” The price for sin has been “paid in full.”
My father, a pastor, has been with a number of people who are on their deathbeds. He’s even been with people at the moment of death. One particular instance was a fourth-grade boy who had a debilitating disease. As he lay gasping his last few breaths, his parents asked him, “Who loves you?” This dear boy replied, “Jesus.” Then his eyes opened wide as he pointed to the corner of the room. No one else saw anything in that corner, but my dad is certain that the child saw Jesus or an angel coming to take him home. What a lovely way to face death, in faith and peace, with Jesus in sight and Jesus’ name on his lips, following the example of Jesus’ own final words.
On the surface it seems like such a mundane thing to say, hardly worth recording in Scripture. “I thirst,” Jesus says from the cross. Well, yeah. He’d been beaten severely, savagely. His back was ripped to shreds; blood was streaming from His head, hands, and feet. He had lost a lot of bodily fluid, and was therefore dehydrated. So of course He was physically thirsty. That sort of goes without saying. But Jesus wasn’t talking only about His physical thirst. He was thirsting spiritually for our salvation.
There’s a fun little website called Despair that sells demotivational products, a spoof on those motivational posters you see in office buildings. There’s one titled “Loneliness” that has a picture of a solitary tree in a bleak white winter landscape. The caption reads, “If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, you’re not alone. And yet you are alone. So very alone.”
The sword was piercing her own soul. As Simeon had predicted thirty-three years ago in the temple, Mary now understood what he’d meant as she watched her innocent Son bleeding and dying on the cross. What greater pain for a mother than to see her child hurt when she can do nothing to change it? Yet even as Jesus was dying, He was still caring for others. She’d heard Him ask for forgiveness for those who crucified Him. She’d seen Him promise paradise to the criminal next to Him on the cross. And now He uses precious energy to speak again, this time to see to her own welfare.
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This C.S. Lewis quote is beautiful and true, but so very difficult to put into practice, isn’t it? Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity, and Jesus Himself provides the best example for us. As we enter into Holy Week, it’s appropriate to take some time to look at the words of Jesus from the cross, so I’ve updated some blog posts I wrote a number of years ago when we did the seven words from the cross for our Lenten series. Fittingly, Jesus’ first words from the cross are ones of forgiveness.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.Continue reading “Forgiving the Unforgivable”
Whether you put yours up the day after Thanksgiving or wait until Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of Christmas. Nearly every household in America has at least one tree. We see them in yards, stores, schools, businesses, and town squares. There are tree lighting ceremonies in many towns. One might say that Christmas woudn’t be Christmas without the tree. And in a very real sense, that’s entirely true.
Continue reading “Christmas Wouldn’t be Christmas Without the Tree”
I love Lenten hymns. Of all the church seasons, something strikes me about the penitential season of Lent. The hymns are poignant and the melodies are often beautiful. But sometimes it’s easy to sing through the words without really thinking about the meaning. So with Holy Week upon us, let’s take a look at one such example.
I’m glad I wasn’t there when Jesus was crucified. Whether I would have believed in Him or not, His cry to God is absolutely heart-wrenching. I can’t even make it through the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the dying soldier is blubbering for his mother. It breaks my heart. How much more so does Jesus’ cry pierce your soul, when He cries, “’Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus is crying out to His heavenly Father, asking why He has abandoned Him. Jesus quoted this directly from Psalm 22, which is the plainest prophecy of Jesus’ suffering and death in the entire Bible. Even in this poignant appeal, Jesus is quoting and fulfilling Scripture.