Everlasting Arms

“The curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice,
 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last”
(Luke 23:45-46)

Reflection:
The curtain of the Temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. This was the curtain that hid from view and entrance the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of God dwelt. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, finally, the barrier had been removed through the birth, life and death of the Lord Jesus. The way to God was opened for anyone who would enter through faith in Christ.

Jesus then died with the loveliest of prayers on His lips.  Barclay tells us that this prayer from Psalm 31 was taught by Jewish mothers to their children for them to say as they prepared for sleep. Jesus added just one word to it, the word ‘Father.’ And as He sang it out so He sank gratefully into ‘the everlasting arms.’

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus had died.

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He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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I Thirst!

“Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it,
put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant,
and lifted it to Jesus’ lips”
(John 19:28-29)

Reflection:
There are three things that stand out in this great passage.

The first is the very real humanity of Jesus. The pain and suffering that He went through was very real. After the hours of hanging on the cross and the terrible exertions of trying to ease the pain and the sense of suffocation His throat would have been parched – and there was still one more thing to do and say.

The next is His aching spiritual thirst. His sense of abandonment by God would have struck Him to the very depths of His spirit – as the waters of Life flowed away from Him and the waters of death rose up inside of Him. He would have longed for the thirst-quenching return of the Holy Spirit whose presence He had enjoyed through His years of ministry.

Finally He still had to drink the cup of suffering down to the very dregs. This was the cup about which He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now He thirsted for the last few sips so that everything might finally be completed.

“My Father,
if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away
unless I drink it, may your will be done”
(Matthew 26:42)

In body, spirit and will Jesus cried out for relief – not for the suffering to be taken away but that it might be completed. For right to the end He never lost sight of His purpose which was to glorify God by being obedient to and completing His will.

And when you and I twist and turn in an agony of spirit, yearning for the living waters of the Lord to come and wash us, cleanse us, revive us, liberate us and bring new and fulfilling life, remember that there is One who fully knows and understands our pain. At such moments, as we long to shed the old and embrace the new, He is very close to us.

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O God – where are You?

“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

Reflection:
It had happened. For the first time ever Jesus knew what it was to be separated from God. He had taken onto Himself and into Himself the sins of the whole world – past, present and future.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us”
 (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God was not just on the other side of a barrier – He had disappeared. Jesus great cry of abandonment –prefigured in Psalm 22 – would have echoed throughout the whole of creation. And unsaid but inferred the next verse would hang in the air,

“O my God, I cry out …
but You do not answer”

We have to let our imaginations discern the truth that the heart of God Himself was in agony at this time – sustained only by His great love for His Son and for you and for me and for us.

As we look in horror and awe at the figure on the cross – straining against the nails, the pain and the suffocation – we begin to see more of the truth. The darkness upon Him and within Him is our darkness. The fingers of death reaching out and grasping Him is our death. The sin that has invaded Him and which burdens Him is our sin. In the flickering light His body seems almost to disappear and to be replaced by a list of our sin and sins. There they are – the sins of yesterday, the sins of today and – O no! – the sins of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

He is forsaken and I am set free.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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It was Night

“It was now about the sixth hour,
and darkness came over the whole land
until the ninth hour,
for the sun stopped shining”
( Luke 23:44-45)

Reflection:
And now as events built towards a climax – and the death of the Son of God was near – creation was affected.

Darkness covered the land. This was highly unusual for midday. To be mentioned like this it must have been a deep and obscuring darkness, as if the blackness of a moonless night was imminent. Not only was the sun obscured but it seemed as if it was no longer giving off light. A chill would have been felt in the air as the temperature fell suddenly. People probably begun to hurry home in fear and in case a violent storm was approaching.

Jesus would have been almost alone now – except for the soldiers, His mother and close followers, His companions on their crosses, and perhaps a few others. As the Light of the world Himself began to flicker towards extinction so the light in the world seemed to do the same.

A terrible silence must have been heard and felt in heaven as the angels watched in horror. And no one would have wanted or dared to look into the face of the Father, watching the darkness of sin separate Him from His beloved Son. This suffocating blanket of sin was falling onto Jesus, being absorbed into Jesus – a darkness where there was no light, no hope and, very soon, no life.

Voluntarily and obediently, in terrible and agonising isolation, Jesus was dying under the weight and horror of it all.

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Look after my Mom

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother,
his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother there,
and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother,
“Dear woman, here is your son,”
and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home”
(John 19:25-27)

Reflection:
Here was Mary the mother of Jesus. She had cared for Him and followed Him. And now, whether she understood all that was taking place or not, she was there for her son. Rudyard Kipling expressed something of such love like this.

“If I were hanged on the highest hill.
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Jesus looking down from the cross saw her there. As His heart went out to her in love He was reminded of the days that lay ahead for her. He did not commit her into the hands of His brothers for they did not yet believe in Him (John 7:5). But seeing the disciple whom He loved also standing there He placed her into the care of John, who immediately took her into his house.

Right to the very end Jesus cared for others above Himself.  And He fulfilled also the commandment in honouring His mother, by giving her the very best that was available to Him.

Such love – a mother for her rejected, despised and humiliated son; and a Son for His lonely and heart-broken mother. For Simeon had said to her,

“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
(Luke 2:35)

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)