Seven Words Series

It is Finished

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:28-30

In 1862, French poet, playwright, and novelist Victor Hugo released his magnum opus Les Miserables, considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. In 1998, Hugo’s masterpiece found its cinematic zenith in the Bille August-directed film by the same name. In both works, one scene stands out above the rest.

At the beginning of the narrative, we meet ex-convict Jean Valjean who has just been released from a nineteen year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. Trying to get on his feet, Valjean attempts to find a place to live but no one would take him in except for one—Bishop Myriel.

It doesn’t take long for Valjean’s old temptation to rear its ugly head. When everyone is asleep one night, Valjean goes to the cupboard and pilfers some of the bishop's silver. He makes a run for it but is eventually caught red-handed. The police bring him before the bishop.

Valjean stands before the bishop, being held by the police. Bishop Myriel looks at the police and proclaims something extraordinary. He says that he gave the silver to Valjean as a gift. If that wasn't enough, the bishop goes over to the mantelpiece, takes two silver candlesticks, and says that actually more silver had been forgotten by Valjean. He places the candlesticks in Valjean’s hands. The police have no choice but to let Valjean go free. But the story doesn’t end there.

After the authorities leave, the bishop looks at Valjean and says this to him, “Now, go in peace. By the way, my friend, when you come again, you needn't come through the garden. You can always come and go by the front door. It is only closed with a latch, day or night.”

The bishop not only gives him mercy by forgetting the original crime and letting him keep the silver he stole, he gives him more mercy by giving him more silver. And then, he gives him even more mercy by giving him the best gift of all: his trust. The bishop does something so radically counter-intuitive to us. Something that feels so unnatural to us. He gives him unconditional grace.

Quid Pro Quo

We live in a society based on conditions. When you look at the world around us, everything in our culture demands a trade of some kind. “You do this for me; I’ll do this for you.” “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.” But unconditional grace? We just can’t seem to wrap our feeble minds around that. It doesn’t’ make any sense to us. We are so acclimated to a culture of quid pro quo that we believe everything must have a catch.

We impose this idea upon God as well. We think that in order for God to truly extend his mercy to us, we must give him back something in return. We feel like we owe him something. So we resort to a spiritual checklists because they feel much safer. We like conditions because they keep us in “control.” If we can complete our spiritual “to do” list, it gives us the illusion that things are good between God and us because we have played a part in it. Gerhard Forde, a Lutheran theologian, can help here:

The gospel … is such a shocker … because it is an absolutely unconditional promise. It is not an “if-then” kind of statement, but a “because-therefore” pronouncement: because Jesus died and rose, your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in the sight of god! It bursts in upon our little world all shut up and barricaded behind our accustomed conditional thinking as some strange comet from goodness-knows-where.

God’s grace isn’t conditional. It’s unreserved. It’s not a back-and-forth, two-way love. God’s grace always moves in one direction. And that is why it disturbs us. Forde continues:

How can it be entirely unconditional? Isn’t it terribly dangerous? How can anyone say flat out, “you are righteous for Jesus’ sake?” Is there not some price to be paid, something (however minuscule) to be done? After all, there can’t be such thing as a free lunch, can there?

That’s exactly what we do with God’s grace. We put conditions on it. We take a “yes grace but …” position. We think there is something that must be done on our end. There can’t just be free grace for the taking, can there?

The Beauty of Grace

The last words that Jesus spoke before he gave up his spirit on the cross were three words we need to massage into our hearts. “It is finished.” Grace announces that Jesus met all of God’s conditions on our behalf so that God’s mercy towards us could be unreserved. That’s the beauty of grace. It requires no work on our part. The work of redemption is complete in Jesus. In Christ, we are completely accepted. We are completely loved. In full. The work is done. It is finished.

This rightly rages against our insatiable need to work for our salvation. When we look to the cross and see the Savior of the world proclaim that the work is finished, it disorients us because we are a “conditional” people. Work, not rest, is our modus operandi. But that is exactly why Jesus breathed out those three words. God knew we would need to hear over and over, “Your effort is not needed. It is finished,” because to rest feels like a waste of time.

But deep gospel rest is exactly what we can find in the finished work of Jesus. Our hearts can truly engage with the words from Hebrews, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10). Entering spiritual rest means that we are resting in Christ’s finished work on our behalf—not our work or our reputation or our accomplishments. It means we are swapping effort for rest. It’s at the heart of what Jesus achieved on Calvary’s cross.

As we hear again the crucified Jesus’ final words this Holy Week, hope is uncovered. We are saved solely by grace through Christ’s work. In Jesus, we can be forgiven. We can be made clean. We don’t earn it. We simply receive grace because that’s the only way grace is received. Grace isn’t grace unless it’s unconditional. It looks as if there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

Brad Andrews is a husband of one, a father of seven, and an advocate for grace. He serves as pastor for preaching, vision, and leadership at Mercyview in Tulsa, OK. He blogs at graceuntamed.com and his articles can also be found on Gospel-Centered Discipleship, For the Church, and Grace For Sinners. He served as a religion columnist for the former Urban Tulsa Weekly and was also one of the ten framers of The Missional Manifesto.

Today you will be 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

On the cross, Jesus reveals a huge truth when he invites the criminal hanging next to him into Paradise.“And [the thief] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (v. 43). This man didn’t know religious jargon, but his confession is raw and authentic. He speaks in defense of Jesus, saying that he is innocent of the punishment he and the other criminal deserve. Yet, Jesus still hangs in the same place they do. This confession is a beautiful presentation of the gospel. Spoken by a man unworthy of the inheritance of Christ. His offense had to be among the worst if his punishment was death on a cross. The severe contrast of the two criminals is nothing but a posture of heart and the grace of God. Their reputation, infliction, and condemnation is the same, but Christ changed one man’s eternity.

Have you ever prayed for terrorists? Do you know drug addicts? Have you watched cyclic homelessness? What about pimps and prostitutes? A subtle lie has infected evangelicalism. It’s that someone can be too far gone to be saved. I realized this when I had a friend pray for a family member of mine. I sat in awe as she passionately pleaded for God’s mercy to be lavished upon my loved one. Her faith invigorated my own, even though at the time my hope for my family member’s salvation was extinguished. Honestly, I had stopped praying for them altogether. The infection of this lie dulls our hearts and minds. We choose to reside in the welfare of apathy rather than the dangerousness of compassion. The root is nothing more than hope deferred and rotted.

I grew up hearing that sin can’t be ranked because God sees it all as rebellion. It seemed simple. But a murderer can not simply be equated with a liar. It doesn’t seem natural, right, or moral to equate all injustice. However, no matter our sin when God considers those who believe in Jesus, the Father see us as the blameless Jesus. That truth that defeats the lie. If everyone who believes is seen in Christ, then we should boldly pray for the worst sinners. Because if they believe, they too will be justified by the blood of Jesus and seen as righteous in him. There is no boundary of too far and no unforgivable sin. We are blameless because of the Son before the Father. This justification is our victory and invites us into the very presence of God. We bear no weight of sin. Victory is ours and it’s for all. We can pray for the biggest sinner hoping to hear, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Nothing Outweighs Grace

Christ resurrects hope when we least expect it, when we least deserve it, and even when we seem to be out of time. Every story of the gospel’s work in the life of a sinner may not be told through a lifetime. It may be told in a short few minutes, or even seconds. The thief on the cross is delivered within moments of his death. He confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart (Rom 10:9). Therefore, he was justified and saved. But Jesus etched his story forever in the Gospels. This man may have wasted away his life. He may have killed and stolen and abused people. At the end of the day, he was rescued from the captivity of his sin. And in the last seconds of their lives, Jesus resurrected hope for this hope and so for all sinners. If God can save this man, then none of us are beyond hope. This man may not have had a lifetime to share the Good News of Christ, but his testimony lives.

When my friend prayed for the salvation and sanctification of my family member, it felt as though she showed me an empty well within my heart, but as she prayed, she began pouring water into the well until it was overflowing. Her prayer filled me with a hope that I had lost, but even more, she led me to the throne so that I could pray myself. God rescues us when we admit our insufficiency, just like the criminal hanging next to Jesus. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom. 15:13). The simple part of salvation is that we don’t do it. God alone through Christ alone uses the Holy Spirit alone to change the hearts of people. No sin outweighs the grace of God. My advice is this, don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. Even more, ask someone to pray over you and let the hope in their voice and the power of the Spirit remind you of the truth. Also, if you know someone who is lost or hurting, approach them and offer a prayer. The timing of God is not accidental, but absolutely providential. Trust and believe that Christ’s gift of salvation can be offered to anyone.

Chelsea Vaughn (@chelsea725has served a ministry she helped start in the DFW Metroplex since she graduated from college. She received her undergraduate degree at Dallas Baptist University in Communication Theory. She does freelance writing, editing, and speaking for various organizations and non-profits. She hopes to spend her life using her gift for communication to reach culture and communities with the love of Jesus.

Father, Forgive Them

Under the scorching heat of the desert, Jesus uttered the first words past his dry, cracked, and bleeding lips, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). That must have puzzled those standing at the foot of the cross. His body had writhed in agony after being beaten throughout the night, only to be nailed to a rugged, splintered, and wooden cross the next morning. What Father could have stood idly by while his perfect and innocent Son was being crucified alongside criminals? Who is this Son, who cries out to such a Father? Who is this Man who in the midst of being crucified pleads for the forgiveness of his torturers? His cry from the cross is as much a conviction as it is a comfort.

The Conviction

There is no indemnity for us from the crimes committed against Jesus at the cross. We are all complicit. Scripture says that we have all sinned and that our sins must be punished. It is our hands driving in the nails and our fingers pressing down the thorns into his brow. We have unjustly tried, convicted and sentenced him to death. We are spitting upon, mocking and reviling him. When he’d made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem days ago, we cheered, “Hail! Hail!” (Lk.19:37-38) Today we shout, “Nail! Nail!” Humanity proved its total depravity at that cross. Filled with self-righteous bloodlust, we were thrilled to kill the man who had healed our sick, raised our dead, fed our multitudes, and forgave our sins. Yet he pled for our forgiveness. “Father, forgive them” (Lk. 23:34).

But Jesus does not only die by our hands, he also died for us. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed,” (Is. 53:5). Jesus was not the only victim on that cross. Those who put faith in him become victims because his death was vicarious. He died instead of us. He wasn’t just taking our punches at the cross; he was also taking our sins and bearing the punishment due us. As we murdered him, we witnessed our desperate need of his sacrifice. We didn’t know that we were crying out for blood at that cross because we needed it for our salvation—“for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).

The Comfort

Death, hell, and the devil all surrounded the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. The powers of darkness reveled as, “He breathed his last,” (Lk. 23:46b). They had won. Humanity and all of creation would forever remain under their dominion.

But Jesus was not only victim, but willing sacrifice—working out the eternal plan of the Trinity (Eph 1:1-10). The first word he’d cried out was, “Father” (v. 34) and he had said earlier, “My Father is working until now, and I [too] am working” (Jn. 5:17). Jesus was triumphing through the cross the whole time! It looked like the devil was winning, but God was working. “He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets,” (Col. 2:15, MSG). What a fool's parade God made of death, hell, and the grave at Calvary. If they had only known, they wouldn’t have showed up for work that day!

The wickedness of man had peaked at the cross—“but where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). We bristle against this sharp rebuke, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). The wickedness of lawless men paved a path of redemption for those who would repent and believe this scandalous gospel. Paul describes this truth as “a secret and hidden wisdom of God” that if the rulers of his age had understood it “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” (1 Cor. 2:7-8). We didn’t know that we were killing God and that through our wickedness God had planned to secure our redemption! But God offers comfort at the cross! Jesus proclaimed a cure as surely as he pronounced conviction.

The Collide

Conviction and comfort both collide in joy as I marvel at Christ’s words. Psalm 85:10 says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

We didn’t know that God had set the scene for the most cosmic kiss of the ages: justice and mercy! The force of this kiss shook the gates of hell and rang all of heaven’s bells. Angels longed to look into these things. How could God the Father be completely just to his own character while completely merciful towards rebellious sinners? He did it by the same means the devil used Judas to betray Jesus, the Son—with a kiss (Mk. 14:44).

The righteous requirement of death for our sins by God was met by the merciful provision of God’s own Son as a sacrifice in our place. Justice and mercy kissed at Calvary. Our ignorance of our sinfulness was no excuse. But our ignorance of God’s plan was our rescue! Who would have ever have imagined such a harmonious union? They converged to adorn God’s divine wisdom for rebels who “know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Lk. 23:34). But you knew, O God. You knew.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” – Romans 11:33

Kileeo Rashad is based in Philadelphia, PA, where he serves his local church in many capacities; speaker, preacher, deacon, and hospitality director. He is currently working on a debut writing project which will address breaking silence on sexual brokenness within the church. Kileeo is also the founder of Restoring the Breaches, a ministry that aims to help churches and individuals facilitate gospel-centered conversations around sexuality.

Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit

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 “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” – Luke 23:46

“Do you trust me?” As my children were first being introduced to the pleasure of swimming it took some effort to get them to jump from the ledge into my arms. Standing there ready to receive them as they shook in fear at jumping into the unknown watery world I would ask, “Do you trust me?” In the same way I had to confront my own fears as I waded through the darkness of my own life in 2014. In the midst of a soul-crushing employer, the devastation of my wife’s health, and the overwhelming anguish of my mother’s battle with Ebola, I had to look passages like Romans 8:28 straight in the eye and listen to the voice of God asking me, “do you trust me?”

In the storyline of the Bible, this question pierces to the heart. Will you trust God? In some ways, this question is the very essence of true discipleship. Jesus calls each of us to turn from our former lives of death and sin and turn to a life of following him. That is predicated on this very question: do you trust God? And while the question may be something we want to answer quickly, we should consider Jesus’ life so that we answer it wisely.

Adam and Eve didn’t trust God, so they took and ate the fruit. Abraham failed to trust God and trusted his own cleverness to produce the offspring God was promising. Rebecca and Jacob didn’t trust God’s plan and stole the birthright and blessing of his older brother Esau. Moses didn’t trust God and struck the rock failing to enter the promised land. The Israelites after the Exodus didn’t trust God as they listened to the spies’ report and determined God couldn’t handle a few tall men. Israel continued a pattern of mistrust through the entire time of Judges and instead did everything that was right in their own eyes. David, in stubborn weakness, failed to trust God’s provision for him and seized what was not his then murdered to cover his tracks. His son Solomon failed to trust God’s gift of wisdom and instead lusted after the gods of the nations. The kingdom fell and the track record continues on to this day in all of us: We all fail to trust God.

Yet for Jesus the question of trust was raised before the foundation of the world. Did he trust the Father in his “definite plan and foreknowledge” to send the Son as a human (Acts 2:23)? Did he trust the Father as he submitted himself to baptism? As he was sent to the wilderness in temptation? As he endured hostility from his family and neighbors? As he was criticized by the religious leaders? As he was attacked by demon-possessed accusers? As he was denied by a close friend? As he was betrayed for thirty silver peices by someone in his inner circle? As he was handed over to an unjust court? As he was passed over for a crooked murderer? As he was beaten by a foreign army? As he laughed at by his own people? As he was abandoned by his followers? As he was humiliated to carry the instrument of his death? As he was mocked and jeered at by the entire world? And as his Father turned his back on him and Jesus took the sins of his people? The contrast with the other characters in Scripture couldn’t be clearer.

In every way, we are living failures. We don’t trust God or his word. He had laid out the promises, the covenant, the goal, and the glory for us. And we continually, like our fathers and mothers before us, fail to trust God. Perhaps it the hardships that we must endure that keep us away from embracing the promises. Perhaps its the seduction of this world that beckons us away from the goodness of God. It’s quite possible we’re too ambitious or too lazy to trust God and prefer our own way.

Yet as Jesus hung on the cross he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” At his death, he demonstrates the heart of true discipleship. He with his last breath could have said, “NO! Enough!” and vindicated his name in his own power and for his own glory. He could have cursed all humanity with his last words and obliterated the entire race. But as he hung without strength and without hope of rescue coming, with no better tomorrow in view, and feeling his communion with the Father break, he portrayed perfect trust in the Father for all of us to see and hear. He trusted God in the midst of his suffering and with his last breath.

When we consider what it means to be a disciple, we must ask: Do we trust God? In the midst of the loss of family for the sake of his name, do we trust God? In the heartbreak of a cancer diagnosis, do we trust God? When we’re unjustly accused and mistreated, do we trust God? When we lose it all because the economy tanks and jobs are gone, do we trust God? When the seduction of the world calls and offers us an easier path, do we trust God? When the pleasures of this world are put before us and beckons us to give into temptation, do we trust God? When the dark night of our soul brings us to depression and anxiety, do we trust God? In every high place, in every difficult choice, and in every valley of despair, do I trust God? Our maturation into the image of Jesus Christ rests on the answer to this question.

Jesus trusted God through his entire life. Through every action and thought, Jesus looked to his Father and trusted him. And at the end, as death’s curtain fell over his eyes, he gazed up to his Father and answered fully and finally “I TRUST YOU!

So the question stands for us. Do we trust him enough to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and go and follow him? He trusted his Father and was rewarded (Heb 12:1-2). If so, then everything about us will change. We will turn and look to his good, perfect, and pleasing ways and follow him to every pleasant pasture and through every valley of the shadow of death. We will say with the Psalmist “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack anything.”

As Jesus hung on the cross and cried out with his last breath “Father, I entrust myself to you,” he purchased for us the power to cry out with our every breath, “Jesus, I entrust myself to you.”

As disciples we must answer this question and follow Jesus in answering that we entrust ourselves to the Father.

Jeremy Writebol (@jwritebol) has been training leaders in the church for over fourteen years. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present (GCD Books, 2014) and writes at jwritebol.net. He is the pastor of Woodside Bible Church’s Plymouth, MI campus.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

For centuries Psalm 22:1-2 has shaped the grief and bewilderment God’s people have felt in their darkest hour. The Psalmist expresses anguish only known to the innocent sufferer who feels abandoned by everyone including God:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

I’ve choked out these words during seasons of suffering. Having battled chronic health difficulties and episodes of clinical depression, I know what it’s like to feel God-forsaken, what it’s like to cry out by day but not hear an answer or by night and find no rest for my anxious soul. The sense of desolation that accompanies depression is terrifying. It feels like you’ve been plunged into a black abyss. You can’t help but wonder if God is displeased with you, if your suffering is a sign of his judgment.

That kind of suffering crushes, confuses, and leads to overwhelming feelings of abandonment, even by God. These feelings are genuine and should not be minimized. But the question that I’ve had to resolve in the face of such suffering is: Does God ever truly abandon those who are in Christ? Will God ever abandon me?

The Cry of Dereliction

We’re not the only ones who have cried out the words of Psalm 22 in our agony. We find these very words on the lips of Jesus as he, the innocent sufferer par excellence, prepares to die for the sins of the world. Understanding Jesus’ cry of abandonment is the key to dealing with our feelings of abandonment.

Matthew 27:45-47 (also Mark 15:33-34) says:

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 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 describes a thick, unnatural darkness covering the land for three hours. In Scripture, darkness is a visible sign of God’s judgment and displeasure. It’s symbolic of separation from the very One who is light. This same “felt” darkness covered Egypt in Exodus 10:21-22 as a means of God judging the Egyptians separating them from Israel. So the darkness that fell upon Jesus should be understood as something more than a purely natural phenomenon; it’s a sign of God’s judgment and displeasure.

Jesus certainly understands the darkness this way. He suffers beneath the weight of it for three hours and around the ninth hour (3 PM) he emerges out of the darkness and breaks the silence, crying out in anguished desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1 pours forth from the sinless Son of God as he faces abandonment from everyone, including his Father.

Did God Really Abandon Jesus?

Jesus’ cry of dereliction is difficult to understand. Was Jesus truly God-forsaken or did he merely feel God-forsaken? Some understand his cry of dereliction to be a cry of loneliness. Others see it as a cry of triumph (e.g., the end of this psalm ends on triumphant note). But we must take Jesus’ cry at face value—as a genuine cry of abandonment. R.T. France notes, “The words Jesus chose to utter are those of unqualified desolation, and Matthew and Mark give no hint that he did not mean exactly what he said.”[1]

This Scripture expresses the depth and horror of what Jesus was suffering. In that moment, Jesus was plunged into outer darkness away from the Father’s presence to bear the sins of the world. France again says, “In giving his life as a ransom for many for the forgiveness of sins he must, for the moment, be separated from his Father.”[2] Having experienced unbroken communion with the Father from eternity past, Jesus now enveloped in darkness felt the full weight of separation from God that our sin demanded and for the first time he was truly alone, utterly God-forsaken.

As we digest this difficult truth, remember two things. First, this was not divine child abuse/divine child neglect. The Father and the Son willingly chose to carry out this plan of redemption and both the Father and the Son were in agony during Jesus’ crucifixion. To obtain our salvation the Father painstakingly separated himself from the Son but only temporarily. Second, the unity of the Trinity was not broken. The Father, Son, and Spirit exist eternally in perfect, unbroken fellowship. We aren’t privy to the details of the “psychology of the Son of God” in this moment.[3] We affirm that Jesus experienced a real abandonment by the Father while simultaneously affirming the unity of the Triune God.

Will God Ever Abandon Us?

So will God ever truly abandon those who are in Christ? If Jesus’ cry of dereliction was the result of temporary abandonment by the Father, does that mean we could be abandoned by the Father also? When we crumble to the floor and cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” does this express our feelings or represent our reality

The good news we celebrate during Easter (and always!) is that God will never abandon those who are in Christ.Jesus’ cry of dereliction helps us understand this—he was abandoned momentarily so that we can live with assurance eternally. The innocent sufferer was God-forsaken so that we would never be. That’s startling.

Even when we suffer innocently, we are still sinful. And it is this sin that separates us from God. On our best day, we don’t love God with everything we are, treasure him as our greatest good, or love our brothers as ourselves. Thus, we deserve to be plunged into outer darkness and separated from the presence of God. God could justly desert us and leave us to die in our sins.

Yet, Jesus on his worst day loved God with everything he was and treasured him as the greatest good and loved his brothers as himself. Jesus then chose to be separated from the Father that we might be reunited to God through him. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven. Nothing can change that! Not your circumstances. Not your suffering. And not your sin.

This is the good news I preach to myself again and again in my pain and depression. Were it not for the light of the gospel, the darkness would crush me. But Jesus was crushed on my behalf, so I have hope. I constantly remind myself, “There is always hope in Jesus!”

Suffering saint, I want you to know that there is always hope in Jesus. Whatever you are walking through this Easter season, remember that God will not abandon you because you are in Christ. It may feel like you have been abandoned. The darkness may feel as though it’s going to crush you. But the unshakeable truth that you stand on in the midst of your suffering is that Jesus was temporarily abandoned on your behalf, so you will never be truly abandoned.

[1] France, R.T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007. Print. [2] ibid. [3] ibid.

Whitney Woollard is passionate about equipping others to read and study God’s Word well resulting maturing affection for Christ and his glorious gospel message. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. Whitney and her husband Neal currently live in Portland, OR where they call Hinson Baptist Church home. Visit her writing homepage whitneywoollard.com.

I Thirst

At the cross-roads of history, Jesus hung nailed to a cross. The loss of blood from the beating alone would have killed most men, but this was no ordinary man. This was the Son of God and his death was ordained in covenant with his Father. The crowds gathered around the Place of the Skull to see their King lifted high. Above our Lord was a sign that read, “King of the Jews.” Pilate unknowingly proclaimed the greatest truth to a watching world. The Messiah was raised up like the bronze serpent in the wilderness and though it did not look like it Jesus was being prepared to sit on the Father’s heavenly throne. The Gospel of John records the scene,

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved [John] 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. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:25-30 (italics mine)

SUBVERSIVE PARALLELS

“I thirst” subverts. For instance, the man who said, “I thirst,” is the same man who said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirst again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:13-14). How can the same man who offered living water to the Samaritan now be dehydrated? Jesus offered the “gift of God” (v. 10, “living water”), which quenches all thirst to sinners, but he hung on the cross thirsty.

Jesus quenched the thirst of weary souls by thirsting himself. When Hebrews points out that we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with sinners, part of the sympathy is tasting our spiritual drought. In order to provide spiritual relief, Jesus Christ thirsted. The Bread of Life took on our affliction of spiritual dehydration so that in him, we might hunger and thirst for righteousness—and find it.

After Jesus says that he thirsts, a soldier dips a sponge on a hyssop branch and into a jar of sour wine and gives it to Jesus. Sour wine is the cheap stuff, the dollar-store watered down wine that doesn’t taste great. Jesus drank the sour wine while serving the best wine to sinners (Jn. 2:1-12). He thirsts for the thirsty and drinks sour wine for us providing the best wine in return. What a Savior he is!

INEXAUSTIBLE GRACE

Jesus didn’t fancy himself a man of luxury. We don’t have a Savior who was too preoccupied with himself to care much for the people around him. Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. To be acquainted means to taste and see. Jesus wasn’t flashy or a show off. He understood what it was like to be an ordinary man because he was man. God-in-flesh dwelt among thirsty sinners, so he understood human plight. All of the Kingdom talk had pointed to the cross—the moment of Christ’s substitutionary suffering.

As I hear Jesus say that he thirst, I wonder: Has the fountain of living water run dry? Has the good wine run out forever? Has the Messiah’s message of triumph that resonated with Israel for three short years been squelched? Have the powers and principalities won the war? The cross subverts the disciples’ expectations, which caused their confusion. This is why they couldn’t piece it together. Their Teacher had run out of words, had no more commands, and could not console them any longer. Their Savior could not be saved from the wrath of God.

In order for the unending supply of God’s grace to burst forth from heaven, Jesus had to come to the place of desperation, death, sorrow, and thirst—a place common to man. John notes that there is still one more piece of ancient Scripture left for Jesus to fulfill. In Psalm 69:21, Scripture says, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”

If the true and better wine was to be given and the abundant living water was to flow, Jesus needed to thirst. The Messiah needed to get to the place where all men find themselves. For God’s inexhaustible grace to flow like the Niagara falls, Jesus had to endure the most bitter of trials. Every moment on the cross mattered.

As you prepare your hearts for Resurrection Sunday, remember the infinite depth Christ was plunged to rescue you. Never forget the exhaustion he endured so that you could never thirst. As we approach Easter, remind yourself that Jesus’ thirsting then dying wasn’t his final scene, he was buried, rose again, and now sits on the throne of heaven. Although no words in the English could describe the immensity of what Christ accomplished on the cross, the two words “I thirst” remind us in tangible, earthy ways what he endured for us.

Rev. Jason M. Garwood (M.Div., Th.D.) serves as Lead Pastor of Colwood Church in Caro, MI and author of Be Holy and The Fight for Joy. Jason and his wife Mary have three children, Elijah, Avery and Nathan. He blogs at www.jasongarwood.com. Connect with him on Twitter: @jasongarwood.