The Dying Trust The Dying

“Remember, he [the thief on the cross] was crucified. It was a crucified man trusting in a crucified Christ. Oh, when our frame is racked with torture, when the tenderest nerves are pained, when our body is hung up to die by we know not what great length of torment, then to forget the present and live in the future is a grand achievement of faith! While dying, to turn your eye to another dying at your side and trust your soul with Him is very marvelous faith.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ

What a stunning example of faith we find in this beaten and battered thief. When the thief looked upon Jesus, he saw a man who looked much like himself. He saw a man covered in blood, beaten beyond recognition, and groaning with the pangs of death. He saw a man who had been abused by Roman soldiers, mocked by the Pharisees, and deserted by His disciples. From external appearances, the thief had no reason to trust in Jesus.

Yet the thief recognized that Jesus was his only hope. The thief saw Jesus hanging from the cross, blood dripping from His brow, completely drained of all strength, and realized, “I need this man.”

What an example of faith for us! We know the end of the story. Christ is risen. He has beaten death, triumphed over sin and the grave, and now reigns from His throne. Christ is on our side, eager to save those who come to Him, and eager to dispense grace to us in our time of need. In Christ is all power, all grace, all mercy, all kindness, and all strength. Why would we ever doubt our Savior? How can we not trust Him?

Let us be provoked by the dying thief who trust in the dying Savior. The thief trusted when all he could see was a dying Jesus. We know the living Jesus.

Originally published July, 2007.

It Is Finished

“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

Oh how sweet these words are, like honey to the Christian’s soul. No sweeter words have been uttered since our Savior said, “It is finished,” while hanging from the cross. May God open our eyes to see all that He has accomplished for us through the cross. Let’s ponder these words for a moment.

It is finished. The glorious work of salvation is totally and completely finished. There is absolutely nothing left to do, Jesus did it all. Wrath is satisfied. Jesus fully absorbed the soul-crushing fury of God’s wrath towards sin, drinking the cup of God’s wrath to the very last drop. For those who trust in Christ, wrath is gone and only mercy remains.

It is finished. God’s law is fully satisfied. Jesus obeyed the law to its fullest extent. Every command of God, Jesus obeyed. His thoughts were perfect, His words were perfect, His worship was perfect, His life was perfect. The law can make no claims or accusations against Jesus, for He fulfilled the law. And praise God, the law cannot condemn the Christian either, for Christ is our righteousness.

It is finished. God’s righteousness is vindicated. At the cross we see that God is righteous. He doesn’t play around with sin or turn a blind eye towards sin. He hates it, despises it, cannot tolerate it in His presence. And because He blazes with righteousness, He must punish sin. At the cross we see the blazing righteousness of God on full display. As the wrath of God overwhelms Jesus it is proof that our God is righteous. The Christian who trusts in Christ is counted righteous as well.

At the cross Jesus completely finished the work of salvation. There is nothing left to be done, no works to be added. We are called to fling ourselves wholeheartedly upon the finished work of Christ, rejecting any self-righteousness as filthy garbage. Have you done that today? Have you freshly placed all your trust in the Savior, or are you trying to smuggle works into your relationship with God? Honor God by rejoicing in the words, “It is finished.”

Spurgeon On Jesus’ Thirst

“How great the love that led Him to such a condescension as this! Do not let us forget the infinite distance between the Lord of glory on His throne and the Crucified dried up with thirst. A river of the water of life, pure as crystal, proceeds today out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, and yet once He condescended to say, “I thirst.” He is the Lord of fountains and all deeps, but not a cup of cold water was placed to His lips.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ

I can’t say it any better than Spurgeon. The Lord of Glory bled and died that I might live forever. He was thirsty so that I might drink from the Fountain of Living Water. He was crushed by His Father that I might be embraced as a son.

Jesus, such wondrous love enthralls us. When we see all that You’ve done for us, our hearts cry out for joy. When we look upon You hanging from the cross, bleeding and thirsty, struggling for breath, our hearts are melted with love for You. How can we not love You? Your blood spilled upon the ground is overwhelming proof of Your great love for us.

Teach us to love You. Keep us near the cross that our hearts might blaze with love for You.

Thirsty

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

Thirst. Such a human condition. After a hard day of working outside or a long jog, nothing is so sweet as an ice cold glass of water. A few days without water and we perish in a burning thirst. Corporations devote thousands of dollars every year to satisfy our thirst and mega-stars get paid absurd amounts of money to tell us what beverage we should drink. Humans are thirsty.

In the two words, “I thirst,” we see the utter humanity of Jesus. We see the depths to which our Savior stooped to redeem us and the heights of His magnificent love. Within these words is the great mystery of the incarnation, the wonder of God become man. Within these words is our salvation.

As Jesus hung upon the cross hour after brutal hour, His body began to break down. He was fully God, yes, but He was also fully and completely human. His hands had been driven through with nails, His back ripped open by the lash, and His head crowned by needle sharp thorns. The pain would have been nauseating, overwhelming, unimaginable. Seeing Him would have been enough to make us vomit. And accompanying all this was the raging thirst that precedes death.

Ponder for a moment the words uttered by the Savior. “I thirst.” The One who created the oceans, lakes, and rivers was thirsty. The One who brings the rain upon the fields was thirsty. The One who called Himself the fountain of living water was thirsty. God was thirsty.

Let us be freshly affected by the great humility of our Lord. Though He was God, the maker of the universe and giver of life, He became a man. The Creator stooped to save the created. Our Lord became lowly. How can we not love Him? How can we not love the One who became thirsty?

Truly Alone

This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned – for us. – R.C. Sproul

In this strange, unnatural darkness, by the flickering light of the soldiers torches, we step closer to the cross to watch and listen.

Suddenly His face contorts in a display of anguish more terrible than anything we’ve yet seen. He can restrain Himself no longer. He screams out, “My God, my God!” Why have you forsaken me?

“Nowhere in all the Bible,” writes one author, “do we encounter any mystery that so staggers the mind and shocks the Christian consciousness as this tortured cry from the lips of our dying Savior.”

The cry is a question – but Jesus is not accusing His Father; nor is He perplexed as to why He’s dying. It’s a question from David’s words in Psalm 22, and on the cross our Lord is fulfilling that messianic Psalm. But Jesus is also doing more than that. He’s experiencing on the cross what no one in human history ever has or ever will experience. He’s receiving what you and I should be receiving – His Father’s full and furious wrath. He’s experiencing what every other human being in history deserves and which He alone does not deserve. And He’s experiencing it alone.

C.J. Mahaney – Christ Our Mediator

The Scream of the Damned

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

This my friends, is the scream of the damned. It is the cry of a man utterly condemned by God, a man bearing the full and horrible wrath of God. It is a cry of desperation uttered in the midst of a spiritual blackness that you and I will never know.

Do you hear the pain in Jesus’ voice? He was forsaken by the One He loved most, rejected by His closest friend. Jesus was crushed and cursed by His father, condemned and judged upon the cross. Even those who spend an eternity in hell will never know what Jesus endured, for they are only punished for their sins. Jesus was punished for the sins of millions.

Consider for a moment the blackness that enveloped our Lord. He was perfect, holy, and righteous, never sinning once in His entire life. As the righteous God, He hated and despised sin. Yet on the cross, it was as if He became sin itself. He became what He hated so passionately. Our lusts became His lusts, our anger His anger. Every vile word we ever spoke was placed upon our Lord, every perverse thought laid upon His soul. This is why He was forsaken by the Father.

What would move our Lord to do such a thing? Why would He take the great weight of our sin upon Himself? Only infinite love and mercy could move Jesus to save us. Only a heart that beats with compassion for sinners could move the Son of God to become sin.

Don’t let another moment pass without thanking the Lord for His great love. Let your heart be filled with gratitude to Jesus. Remember the many sins you have committed, and thank the Lord for taking them all upon Himself.

My God, my God

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

We tread on sacred ground as we read these verses. In these verses are housed deep theological mysteries and glorious truths that only God can make plain to us. May God open our eyes to the glory of Jesus Christ shining through the precious words of scripture. Let’s look at this verse in detail.

My God, my God. These are the anguished words of broken intimacy. From eternity past, the Son of God had perfect, intimate fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Never has there been a closer, more delightful, more joyful relationship, than that of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living and acting in perfect, loving harmony. Our relationships, wonderful as they may be, are marred and broken by sin. The most intimate relationships on Earth are but a faint glimpse of the fellowship that exists in the Trinity. Throughout His entire ministry on Earth, Jesus enjoyed perfect fellowship with the Father. Even when He was deserted by His closest friends, He could still say that God had not left Him.

But at the cross, Jesus was deserted. Without actually breaking the Trinity, God the Father hid His face from Jesus. The Father, who loved Jesus with the deepest passion, actually forsook His own son. Why did the Father do this? To save you and me. He forsook Jesus so that we might never be forsaken. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, so that we might say, “My God, my God, You’ll never forsake me.”

Does anyone love you more than God? Do you need any more proof that God loves you wholeheartedly? At the cross we see the depths to which God went to save wicked sinners like us. How can we not praise Him? How can we not give Him our deepest devotion?

Lord, thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me! Thank you for looking away from Jesus that I might always be under Your gaze. Teach me of the cross. Keep me near the cross. Stir my heart with deep affection for You.

Mother and Son

“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 19:27-28

I don’t do well with pain. When I’m in pain I want to be cared for and looked after. I want my wife to bring me a cup of tea while I lie on the couch and groan, complaining of the slight scratchy feeling in my throat. When I’m in pain I think about one thing: me. I don’t care about others, I care about me. After all, I’m the one in pain, right? I’m the one with the headache, and when I have a headache the world needs to stop what it is doing and get me some Tylenol.

But Jesus isn’t like me. As He hung upon the cross, with pain exploding through every one of His ripped nerves, He thought about others. In this passage we see the great caring heart of our Lord, who in the midst of agony took the time to care for both John and His mother.

Jesus looked down from the cross, and through blood that streamed into His eyes, saw His mother standing at the foot of the cross. Mary’s eyes were probably stained with tears and her face was probably twisted in anguish as she saw her son having the life crushed out of him. As Jesus looked upon His mother He must have felt compassion for her. In the midst of death itself, Jesus felt deep compassion for His mother. When most people would only be aware of overpowering pain, Jesus’ heart was moved with compassion. From the cross Jesus instructed John to care for Mary as if she was his mother, and He instructed Mary to care for John as a son.

What a compassionate Savior we serve! His heart beats today with the same compassion for you and me. When we are pain, He feels compassion. When we are caught in the darkness, He feels compassion. When it seems that all is lost, Jesus feel compassion. There is no one more compassionate than Jesus.

Today, let your heart be drawn upwards in thankfulness to your compassionate Savior. Take time to worship Him for His deep heart of compassion.

A Simple Plea

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

Have you ever prayed a desperation prayer? You know the kind I’m talking about. You’re at your wits end, and in desperation cry out to God, “God please help me!” In this passage we see that Jesus loves to answer desperation prayers, especially concerning salvation.

The penitent thief didn’t appeal to Jesus for salvation using a well thought out prayer or fancy rhetoric. He didn’t say, “Jesus, if it wouldst pleaseth thou, remember mine soul when entering into thy glorious kingdom.” No, this was a ragged prayer, coming between gasps and gritted teeth. This was a prayer of anguish, uttered through screaming pain and the fog of mind that comes shortly before death. It was a prayer of desperation uttered by a desperate man.

Yet the Savior heard and responded to this desperate plea for help. The thief had absolutely nothing to offer Jesus. His life had been lived in the criminal underworld, and he had spent his days engaged in wickedness. But we have a Savior with a great heart of love. Jesus didn’t reject the thief, nor did He rebuke the thief for his life of crime. Instead, Jesus promised the thief salvation. With His breath coming in painful gasps and blood pouring into His eyes, Jesus promises the thief a place in the kingdom of God.

We serve a God who loves to save desperate sinners. Who can measure such grace? Do you remember when He saved you? Do you remember when you uttered a prayer of desperation to Jesus?

As you go about your day, let your heart be drawn upward in thanksgiving to the God who answers desperate prayers.

With Me In Paradise

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

The movie Transformers is coming out in a few days. As you probably know, the movie is about robots that can quickly change shape, changing from an innocent looking compact car one minute, to a laser-shooting robot the next. It’s a quick change act of gigantic proportions.

But in this passage we see a change even more astonishing. We see a hardened criminal transformed into a trembling, penitent sinner in a matter of hours. We see a God-hater become a God-lover before our very eyes. The overwhelming regenerative power of the Holy Spirit is on full display in these few short verses, and we should be immensely encouraged by these words.

Christ was crucified between two thieves, and from the beginning both men were spitting curses at Him. They mocked Jesus, they cursed His name, and they dared Him to save Himself. These men were dead spiritually, and would soon be dead physically as well.

But something began to happen in one of the men. Perhaps it began with just the slightest inkling of remorse, just a twinge of guilt. Then he began to see things in a different light, as if with new eyes. God scraped the blindness from his eyes and allowed the thief to see Jesus for who He truly was: the Son of God dying for wicked men. Then, in an act of astonishing mercy, God granted the thief repentance. The thief had lived his entire life in full rebellion against God, and yet God saved Him. Isn’t our God kind?

Do you remember when God scraped the blindness from your eyes? Do you remember when he gave you the gift of repentance? How can we not respond in gratefulness to such a kind God? We are no different than the thief upon the cross. We deserve hell, wrath, and infinite misery. Yet God spared us.

Jesus, why would You spare those who mocked and hated You? Let us see how high and how wide and how deep is your love.