The third saying of Jesus from the cross is beautifully human:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
The servant heart of Jesus shines through this act of responsibility and love towards Mary. She was in some ways, the first disciple; the first to say, “Let it be to me as you have said.” But Mary was still Jesus earthly mother and Jesus in the midst of suffering and agony, makes space to plan for her care in the midst of his own need and suffering! Mary certainly must have remembered the words in Jesus’ infancy that foretold his death (“A sword will pierce your heart.”)
Lord, thank you that you know everything I’m facing today!
The second word of Jesus from the Cross is to the ‘penitent thief’ at his side:
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Think about what Jesus didn’t say to this thirsty man! “You don’t know enough yet.” “How can I be sure you believe and are repentant enough?” “Don’t you know it’s too late for you?”
No, this is a beautiful reminder that this life is not all there is! This is the King reigning over the real Kingdom. This is the inside truth of who is really in charge here. The penitent thief somehow recognized this. Jesus will soon die, clean out Hades, and rise victorious over death! Even on the cross, the Lord is inviting his nearest neighbor to come home. (I can’t help but wonder if the second criminal ended up joining them!)
As we head toward the beginning of Holy Week, that leads to Easter Sunday, we will explore the last words of Jesus from the Cross. They provide another beautiful way of understanding Jesus’ death for us. The first ‘word’ recorded is in Luke 23:32-34
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Consider the upside-down way in which crosses were Roman ‘billboards’ announcing that Caesar is the only King. And yet God takes the apparent defeat of crucifixion and turns it into the world’s greatest victory! Only the King could issue a royal pardon. Only the worlds rightful King could issue the pardon, “Forgive them!”
Meditate on these words as we continue to ponder the Cross!
Jesus’ words from the cross include Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…” We’ve looked at 2 other crucifixion references further into the Psalm. I’m convinced Jesus could only utter the first sentence but would have known the whole Psalm, the LAST words of which were filled with victory and fulfillment that would be explicitly voiced in the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of ALL nations!” Look at Psalm 22:25-31
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
The cross was not a defeat. It was the world’s greatest victory! It was the promise of the ancient covenant with Abraham, “ThRough you, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed!”
Memorize and meditate on the promises of God! They will sustain you as you take up your cross!
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
Psalm 22 continues with a hard-to-deny description of Jesus’ Crucifixion centuries before Golgotha. The thirst, the mangled bones and joints, even dividing his garments. It must have added to his agony to reflect on this Psalm that begins, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Tomorrow we’ll see “the rest of the story.” This Psalm is not through. The ending will encapsulate the mysterious, upside-down victory of “trampling down death by death!”
“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Psalm 22:6-8 is another unmistakable cry-forward to the lips of Jesus on the cross. Only v. 1 (“My God, My God…”) is recorded in the Gospels, but it was not uncommon for a Jew to recite the first verse while also knowing the rest of the Psalm by heart! Did Jesus silently suffer the humiliation of mockery prophesied hundreds of years before?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
This week we are looking at the voice of Christ in the Psalms (see Day 24).
What would the disciples make of Jesus’ lament from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Would they be grateful that the book of Psalms allows us to express such an emotion before God, or would they find their trust in God shaken to the core? (Kathleen Norris, in God For Us, p.171)
This is perhaps the most famous Psalm quote of Jesus, which is from the cross. (see Matthew 27:45-47) It is “the canticle of the Lord’s suffering and death.” Of course God the Father did not forsake His Son. But Jesus, in the Psalm gives voice to the feeling of abandonment as he takes on himself the sins of the world. In coming days we’ll look at how this Psalm is filled with other direct references to Jesus’ passion and resurrection!
Read and pray through the whole of Psalm 22 this week (as I believe Jesus would have recited and prayed this whole Psalm which he had memorized!)
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me
The Psalms are the most “human” of the Bible’s sacred texts, reflecting like a mirror every emotion and condition. Yet, as Patrick Reardon explains, there is another voice we need to hear:
The humanism of the Psalter is a humanism rooted in the Incarnation. The Psalter is not human merely because it speaks for man in general, but because it speaks for Christ. The underlying voice of the Psalms is not simply “man,” but the Man. To enter into the prayer of this book is not merely to share the sentiments of King David, or Asaph, or one of the other inspired poets. Indeed, in a theological sense the voices of these men are secondary, hardly more important than our own. The foundational voice of the Psalms, the underlying bass line of its harmony is, rather, the voice of Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man….To pray this psalm properly is to enter into the mind of the Lord in the context of His redemptive Passion. (Christ in the Psalms, Psalm 7)
Read and pray Psalm 7. This week we will look at other Psalms in which we clearly hear Jesus’ underlying voice .
The Psalms make us uncomfortable because they don’t let us deny – either the depth of our pain or the possibility of its transformation into praise. We commit ourselves to being changed by the Psalms, allowing the words to work on us, and sometimes to work us over. The Psalms are unrelenting in their realism. They ask us to consider our true situation and to pray over it. They ask us to be honest about ourselves.
(Kathleen Norris from Cloister Walk, p. 104)
This week we will look at some of the Psalms that point to the redemptive work of God in Christ. I love this quote from Kathleen Norris. it points to the transforming power of the Psalms. Read Psalm 77today and notice the contrast of the first 10 verses and the last 10.
v. 3-4 I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.
v. 11-12 I will rememberthe deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
The result is remembering the Exodus and God carrying His people though His footprints were not seen. (v. 19) That’s being transformed in the midst of pain and doubt!
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3)
Apologetics is the work of ‘defending the faith.’ There has not been a greater apologist than Lewis. But this prayer/poem clearly shows us that our dependence is on God, not our clever words or arguments about God!
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more From all the victories that I seemed to score; From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh; From all my proofs of Thy divinity, Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head. From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee, O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free. Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye, Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
C.S. Lewis, “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer,” in Poems, ed. Walter Hooper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1964)
ruminations on biblical thought and human flourishing