Triumph

When Joe Namath famously guaranteed that the New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, no one could believe it. After all, the Jets were eighteen point underdogs. Yet, as he predicted, the Jets did win leading to one of the most iconic moments in football history. As Namath ran off the field, he raised his right arm and waved one finger celebrating the fact that he had won. That single picture proclaimed victory and triumph.

On the cross, Jesus had come to the end. His death was seconds away. But before He breathed His last, he managed to proclaim a word of triumph – tetelestai. This one word announced His victory. In English, we translate it as “It is finished” and it announced the work of redemption was done and Jesus had triumphed.

God’s plan of redemption didn’t begin at the cross. It didn’t begin in Pilate’s court or in Bethlehem. It didn’t begin in Babylon or Egypt or in the Garden of Eden. The Scriptures tell us that God’s plan of redemption began in eternity past (Ephesians 1).

Now, with that said, God’s plan did unfold throughout history. God moved through the events of history, calling Abraham, delivering the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt, providing a king, preserving a remnant, becoming flesh and dwelling among us, living, dying, and rising again. But, let’s focus on the provision of the sacrifice and the role it played throughout that history.

We see the first sacrifice in the Garden (Genesis 3:21). But, just a few verses before that, there is a promise of One who will come and put an end to Satan, sin, and death (Genesis 3:15). As we move forward, the children of Israel have been relocated to Egypt, eventually enslaved, and then delivered under the leadership of Moses. During the Exodus, God comes to them and gives them the instructions for how they are to live. And, in doing so, He gives them instructions on a variety of sacrifices (Leviticus). These sacrifices were largely to be offered as a way to deal with the sins of God’s people. These sins had to be covered. God’s perfect righteousness…His holiness abhors sin. He cannot tolerate it. So, it must be atoned for…paid for through sacrifice. For hundreds of years, the blood of bulls, sheep, and goats brought temporary covering.

But in the fullness of time…at just the right moment, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law (Galatians 4:4). And that brings us to the cross. Jesus is minutes from dying and He proclaims “It is finished.” Upon the cross, Jesus completes the work of redemption. The Scripture had been fulfilled (John 19:28). The sacrifices were now complete. Jesus had fulfilled the law and born the curse. The work of redemption was done. There is nothing left for us to give. No other sacrifice can be offered. As a result, the power of Satan, sin, and death are defeated. Thus, Jesus cries out “It is finished.”

It is said that Buddha’s dying words were “strive without ceasing.” What a striking contrast with “It is finished.” These phrases clearly define for us the difference between religion and its endeavors to make oneself right with God and with Christianity. Simply stated, the difference between the two is two simple letters. The difference between religion and Christianity is the difference between do and done.

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Anguish

I like those old Clint Eastwood movies. The ones they call Spaghetti Westerns. You know the ones made in the 1960’s by Sergio Leone. Eastwood played the “Man with No Name” in a trilogy of movies directed by Leone – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. In one of those movies (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly I think), maybe in all of them (I don’t know), Eastwood is forced to walk across the desert without any water. The dry, barren land and the harsh climate gets to him. His face burns and his lips blister. His throat is parched, and his eyes are barely opened. He collapses under the strain of it all. It is a portrayal of exposure and thirst brought to us in living color.

We’ve seen scenes like this dozens of time. It’s in almost every western we’ve ever seen…and any movie made in the desert for that matter. Heat, suffering, and a cry for water.

The Apostle John gives us another vivid picture of thirst and suffering. In John 19:28-29, we see the humanity of Jesus on full display. Matthew tells us that as Jesus nears the end of His life, He cries out in despair and asks why God had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:45-46). Here, John records that He cries out in thirst. As the first is a reminder of the spiritual agony of the cross, this one is a reminder of the physical suffering.

When we look into the New Testament, we see Jesus’ humanity. The opening chapter of John describes Him becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:1, 14). Paul tells of of Christ humbling Himself, forsaking the glory of heaven, and coming to earth as man (Philippians 2:1-10). Near the end of our bibles, John stresses how he watched and touched a human Jesus (1 John 1:1-4). In between, we see Jesus exhibit all kinds of human traits and emotions. He grew (Luke 2:52). He was tired (Mark 4:38; John 4:6). He hungered (Matthew 4:12). He felt joy (Luke 10:21), grief (John 11:35), love (John 13:1), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and anger (John 2:13-16). This very human Jesus lived his life in obedience to His Father and in accordance with the Scripture. As He nears the end of His life here, He cries out know the Scriptures had been fulfilled in His life, suffering, and death. In doing so, He displays the anguish of His humanity.

As His humanity was on full display throughout His life, it was also on display in His death. Jesus suffered immensely on the cross. He went through a series of empty trials, only to be handed a death sentence He did not deserve. He was beaten and mocked. He would have been flogged to within an inch of His life. He has been hanging on the cross, struggling to breath, enduring the agony of crucifixion. While on the cross, He again was mocked and ridiculed. He bore the weight of sin and the wrath of God. All of this suffering. All of this anguish.

What are the Implications of all this for you and me? The book of Hebrews gives us some insight to this (Hebrews 2:9-18; 4:15).

For one, we see that Jesus identifies with us. We are not foreign or unknown to Him. He has walked where we walk and endured what we endure. He identifies with our suffering (Hebrews 4:15). This is a big deal. We cannot look at Jesus and say, “You just don’t understand.” He knows the reality of temptation and the agony of suffering. And, He gives us grace and strength to deal with both.

We also see that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. There is nothing else that can be offered for our sin. The last sacrifice has been made. There is nothing you can offer…nothing you can give to make yourself right with God. The blood of goats and bulls is no longer adequate. Your religious activity will not overcome your sin. Only Jesus can do that. He did it on the cross. He is God’s perfect Passover lamb who conquered sin and death on our behalf (Hebrews 2:14).

In His thirst, Jesus died so that we may never be thirsty. As you walk across the spiritually barren wastelands of this life, spiritually parched and crying out for water, look to Jesus – the living water who died in our place and rose from the grave.

Don’t dismiss Jesus. Don’t ignore His humanity and what He accomplished in it. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose again for you…so that you might be able to come into right relationship with God. He has taught us and demonstrated for us how we can live for God and He empowers us to do so. Through His anguish, we can rise above ours.

Forsaken

Baseball season is upon us. Today is Opening Day. All throughout the fall and winter months, teams have prepared for this summer. Players have trained. Coaches have strategized. Management has secured new players. Each team has worked to fill voids in their rosters. Very often, these roster bolstering moves are done through trades where one team gives another team a package of players in exchange for a different package of players. The hope is that these exchanges will fill the needs so the team can accomplish its goals.

As we make our way through the sayings of Jesus from the cross, we come to Matthew 27:45-46. There, Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46, CSB)

In this scene, we are reminded that Jesus became sin and bore its consequences.

On the cross, Jesus fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah foretold when He said the “Lord punished him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6, CSB). The Apostle Paul tells us that God “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us,so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, CSB). In other words, Jesus became sin for us. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness (1 Peter 3:18).

Part of this exchange is that His righteousness has been credited to our account. He took our sin debt and credited our account with His righteousness. Imagine you are in the hole for millions and millions of dollars. Your debt is so great, you will never be able to repay it. Not even Dave Ramsey can help you. You are hopelessly in the red. But, a billionaire comes along and offers to pay off all of your debt. That would be tremendous. But, imagine he goes one step further. He is willing to take on your debt and transfer to you his account. Not only is your debt paid, but now you are flush with cash. That’s what happens at the cross. Jesus becomes our sin, pays our debt, and transfers His righteousness to our account. In Christ, when we stand before almighty God, our sin debt is not what He sees. Rather, He sees the balance transfer Jesus provided. He sees Jesus’ righteousness in our account. This is the great exchange.

Not only did Jesus become sin, but Jesus bore the penalty for sin. The text tells us that darkness covered the land for three hours. Scholars debate the cosmological causes and the scope of the darkness, but the theological meaning of the darkness is clear. Throughout Scripture, darkness is often associated with the judgment of God. As Jesus becomes sin, He bears God’s wrath.

It is significant for us to know that through His death, Jesus completely satisfied the wrath of God. His propitiatory sacrifice…His atoning sacrifice had satisfied a holy God’s demand for the payment of sin.

As He experiences this soul-crushing moment, Jesus cries out to God. Throughout His agony, Jesus gives us a model of how we can deal with our own suffering. He cries out and is honest with God. He expresses His raw emotion. But, through it all, He still clings to the fact that God is still His. He holds onto “my God.”

A.W. Pink sums this up this exchange at the cross this way: “At the Cross man did a work: he displayed his depravity by taking the perfect One and with “wicked hands” nailing Him to the tree. At the Cross Satan did a work: he manifested his insatiable enmity against the woman’s seed by bruising His heel. At the Cross the Lord Jesus did a work: He died—the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. At the Cross God did a work: He exhibited His holiness and satisfied His justice by pouring out His wrath on the One who was made sin for us.”

Know that in Jesus, we are forgiven. He became sin for us. He bore the weight of our sin and completely satisfied the wrath of God. In this great exchange, He offers us forgiveness and restoration. He brings us into right relationship with God. Because He was willing to be forsaken, we can be forgiven. Get in on this. Look to Jesus and trust in Him today.