Good Friday and Easter are right around the corner. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus was hanging out in a small town 10-20 miles north of Jerusalem for the month or so prior to Passover. He had raised Lazarus from the dead and that had stirred up a hornet’s nest. And the hornets wanted Jesus to be dead. But His time had not yet come.
But the Friday before Passover, He made His way back to Bethany knowing it was time: time for His death. Recently I have been pondering what it must have been like to know that as He walked through a pretty eventful week. From the Triumphal Procession on Palm Sunday to the cleansing of the Temple to multiple debates with the religious leaders to the Last Supper and washing the disciples’ feet to His desperate prayers at Gethsemane, Jesus knew it was coming!
How do you manage when you are facing something really, really hard? I had a small, unthreatening medical procedure recently. In the days before I was self-consumed, turned inward, wrestling with more anxiety than I even knew. (I figured that out because I was so relieved afterwards when I didn’t think I was worried!) Yet Jesus spent that week before his death focused outwardly on His mission and His people. He truly did love them to the end.
When the time came, and He carried the sins of the world on His shoulders and in His body and soul, when He faced both spiritual death and physical death in the most painful of ways, how did Jesus face that?
As I have pondered the Cross these last couple of months, I have been taken by His last words, three statements in particular.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You and I have felt that at some time. When our worlds are somehow falling apart and we feel abandoned, we can’t help but wonder. We can’t help but express what we feel. And Jesus did, too.
If those were His last words, it would make me ponder. I would be confused and disappointed. But they weren’t!
“It is finished!” The word means “accomplished.” It actually was a commercial idiom that meant “paid in full.” He had done it and He knew it. The Lamb of God had paid for the sins of the world. Your debt and my debt were paid for. Mission accomplished. Love wins, in the truest sense.
But practically, I learned another lesson. Those two sayings (the first is in Matthew and Mark and the second in John’s gospel) are the first and the last verse in Psalm 22. On the cross, carrying the weight of the sins of the world, facing His own human and spiritual death, Jesus quotes Scripture.
Would I—will I—be quoting Scripture, even thinking Scripture at those moments in my life? Or will I be more focused on my own state? Will my God-awareness be so large that it/He is right there before me? I am challenged and invited to know God’s Word better. I am challenged by Jesus’ honesty as well.
And I am comforted by what were possibly His final words: “Father, into your hands, I commit my Spirit.” A statement of trust and faith. A knowing of the One He had known from before time began. And interestingly enough, this was from Psalm 31:5 – another Scripture reference. And it was also, one author suggested, the prayer that every Jewish mother taught her child to say last thing at night. Before the darkness intruded and overwhelmed, remember the hands to which we entrust our lives, our hearts, our uncertainties, our hopes. In His last moments, Jesus knew the One He trusted. I want to rest in that way, too.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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