“It is Finished”

Scholars have proposed that it was on Friday, April 3, A.D. 33, that Jesus was taken to Golgotha, which means “The Place of the Skull.” It was on this day that Jesus was nailed to a cross and hung on that cross for approximately 6 hours.

As I was reading this story last week, I was struck by one of the final statements made by Jesus before he died. He said, “tetelestai” which means “it is finished.”

As I contemplated the significance of that statement, a few things impressed me. The first is that Jesus did not say “I am finished.” He said “it” is finished. He was referring to the fact that he had thoroughly accomplished all of the Father’s will for his life which included dying on the cross as a voluntary, innocent sacrifice in place of you and me. Our sin has given us a death sentence, but he paid for that penalty on our behalf.

The word “tetelestai” is also written grammatically to emphasize past action with abiding results. Results that everyone can benefit from after his death. Grammatically, this word is also written in the mood of certainty. Jesus did not say, “it may be finished,” or “I hope it is finished.” No, he said with confidence, “It is finished.”

The word “tetelestai” has also been found written on certificates of debt once the debt had been completely repaid. It had the meaning of “paid in full.” The debt has been completely satisfied. What debt was Jesus referring to? Colossians 2:14 says, “He canceled the record of charges against us, and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Jesus has ultimately paid for each of our sin certificates of debt when he died on the cross! As a result, a pardon is available to everyone.

The problem with a pardon is that it is not a pardon if it is not accepted. In 1830, a man named George Wilson was convicted of murder and robbery. As a result, he was sentenced to be executed. President Andrew Jackson gave him a pardon, but Wilson refused it! The issue went before the U.S. Supreme Court. They ruled, “a pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person implicated…but if refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang.”

Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for all of us, he can offer each of us a pardon. The important thing to remember is that the pardon must be accepted. We accept this pardon simply by choosing to believe in Jesus as our Savior and God and reliantly trust in him to do for us what he said he could. He and he alone can give me forgiveness and life.

These rich truths have been excellent reminders for me of Christ’s love for me and the wisdom of completely trusting him with my salvation, my life and the need for me to follow his leadership.

Following Jesus with you,

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Bloom Where You Are Planted

I am sure you have heard the statement “bloom where you are planted” before. The thought is that we need to make the most of the situation in which we find ourselves. As I was reading 1 Corinthians this morning, I found a similar concept mentioned in 1 Cor. 7:17 which says,

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”

Two things stand out in this verse. The first is that the Lord has “assigned” each of us our life circumstances. The word “assigned” means, “to distribute, to give to each in turn” (Louw and Nida). In a sense, it is describing the “hand you were dealt.” Each of us has been given a unique set of circumstances in life. Paul is encouraging the readers and us today to accept our situation in life as though it were assigned to us by God.

The second thing that impressed me is the usage of the word “called.” The hand that we have been dealt is a calling from God. It is from this verse that the idea of a life vocation as a “calling” from God is found. Those who serve in the secular world are not second class Christians but are fulfilling the role to which God has called them as they live our their faith in that setting.

This encouragement from Paul does not mean that we cannot seek to improve our life circumstances because Paul does encourage slaves to get their freedom if that is an option. Therefore, it would seem that bettering our life setting is commendable and should be pursued. Paul is encouraging us though to accept what cannot be changed as an assignment and calling from God. We can learn contentment as we trust God with the things in our lives that cannot change and as we seek to live out life faithfully in that setting.

Father, thank you again for your wisdom. Knowing that my life setting is not some random act, but assigned by you is very encouraging. You loved me enough to give me an appointment in life. I need to do my best to fulfill your assigned task for me in a way that brings you pleasure. Even so, I would be wise to seek to improve my life setting when possible, but I should also trust you with what is out of my control rather than fight against it.

Following Jesus with you,

The King of the Jews

As we approach Easter, I have been impressed with my reading in John 19:18-22 which says,

“There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’”

A couple of things stand out to me in this summary:

1) Pilate wrote “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” What an incredible statement! In the Roman times, the person being crucified had an inscription fixed on the cross indicating the crimes for which he was being executed. The official inscription for Jesus is that he IS THE King of the Jews. This inscription was an offense to the religious leaders because they understood the significance of that inscription. That is why they wanted it to read, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”

What a great irony of history. God made sure the inscription on the cross of Jesus reflected his identity, not his crimes. He was guilty of nothing other than being God the Son, the King of the Jews. He was the promised anointed one of the Old Testament!

2) The inscription was also written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The significance of this is that the whole world could read his inscription. The importance of this is well stated by Hendriksen and Kristemaker when they said,

“The king of the Jews crucified at the request of the Jews; let the whole world know this. By rejecting him they have rejected themselves. And that latter rejection means ‘the reconciliation of the world’ … Hence, the whole world must be able to read this title! Here is a Savior who has international significance.”

Father, your sovereignty in the execution of Jesus is clearly seen. Jesus, our innocent and voluntary sacrifice died for the sins of all the world. This is a message that must be proclaimed for all to respond. Thank you for allowing me to hear the Good News of salvation available in Christ because he died for me!

Following Jesus with you,

Preexistence

When I think of verses that talk about the preexistence of Christ, I normally think of John 1:1 where it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word, was God.” This is a strong statement of the truth that Jesus existed before creation, was in fact relationally connected to the Father and is Himself God.

Reading today, I was also impressed with an equally strong statement of the preexistence of Christ in John 17:5 which says,

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

John could not have stated the prior existence of Jesus much clearer. Jesus was with the Father before anything was created! The ESV Study Bible has a great summary of this verse. It says,

“Jesus again claims that he existed before the world existed…This implies that the material universe is not eternal but was brought into being by God. Before that, nothing material existed. But God existed eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and here Jesus speaks of a sharing of glory between the Father and the Son prior to creation, implying that there was mutual giving of honor in the interpersonal relationships of the Trinity from all eternity.

It is hard to comprehend the triune God existing in fellowship and fully content with their relationship prior to creation. Then the world is created and man is made in His image so that we could have a relationship with this eternal God! Amazing!

Father, thank you for creating all things and for making us in a way that we reflect your image and in a way that allows us to know you. Help me to keep you the number one priority in my life.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

True Greatness

In John 13 we see the familiar story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. It was common for a slave to wash the feet of the guests of their master because the roads we dusty and people wore sandals. Their feet were dirty and this practice normally took place prior to the meal. In this case, the washing was done by Jesus during the meal.

Why would Jesus, wash the feet of his disciples? A couple of things hit me as I read this and the first is found in verse three which says,

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

Jesus knew that his betrayal was at hand and that he would return to the Father and be restored to him with all glory. Instead of losing interest in the present and even be exalted in pride at his destiny, he humbled himself to wash the feet of his men.

What was he trying to show them? The answer is found in verses 14-16 which say,

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

Jesus says that he was leaving them an example. He expects them to live with the same humility he showed by this act of washing. He was the Messiah, the Son of God and he served them. Greatness is found in service and not self-centered promotion.

Why would that be something Jesus wanted them to understand at this critical time? The time right before he is betrayed? I think the answer may be found in Luke 22:24 where Luke tells us of something that came up during this meal. Notice what it says,

“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

Jesus, the great teacher, had not stopped teaching his disciples. It was critical for them to learn about greatness and humility. The greatest among them will be the one who serves and does not seek a position.

Father, thank you for the practical and timely teaching of Jesus. He is always ready to show the way for his disciples. Thank you that you are a God who is humble. May you help me tp be humble so that I can better reflect your character to others. May I also not loose sight of true greatness in your eyes.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Lessons Learned

The familiar story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume is found in John 12:1-8. Although there is much to be learned here, the section that stood out to me today are the last four verses which read,

“But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.’”

Often when I think of Judas, I only remember him betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Here though we see that Judas was placed in charge of the money for Jesus and his group of followers. It explicitly says that Judas had the habit of taking money from that bag for his selfish wants way before his betrayal of Jesus. How could Jesus put him in charge of the money?

I think there are a few things we can learn from this story:

First, Jesus put him in charge of the money probably because he was good at managing money.

Second, Jesus shows trust in Judas even though he knew of his temptation in this area. He may have tried to appeal to Judas’ sense of honor in his attempt to reach him with the Gospel.  He took the risk of believing the best in him with the hope he would step-up!

Third, we learn something about temptation here. As Westcott said, “Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted.” I need to be aware that I am vulnerable in my strengths, not just my weaknesses.

Fourth, we see that Judas’ whole perspective on the world is warped. He has missed the beauty of the act of Mary because he was consumed with personal greed.

Fifth, Barclay makes another profound observation when he notes,

“Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with the desire to do something fine and generous and big-hearted. But we put it off—we will do it tomorrow; and the fine impulse goes, and the thing is never done. Life is an uncertain thing. We think to utter some word of thanks or praise or love but we put it off; and often the word is never spoken.”

Mary understood the importance of honoring Jesus when she had the opportunity. Judas missed his chance.

Father, since this story is so familiar, I often overlook the lessons to be learned. Help me to learn from this and seize the moments you provide and do what I know you want me too and not put it off. Some opportunities only present themselves briefly and may never have the chance again.  Help me to seize those moments with family, friends and in the ministry so that I do not live with regrets!

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff