Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lent: The Seven Last Words Of Christ

The Seven Last Words of Christ
Since we are now in the middle of the Lenten season, I wanted to discuss what is called “The Seven Last Words of Christ.”  As Jesus hung dying on the cross he made seven statements.  Each statement is referred to as a “word.”  The first three words were said between 9AM and noon, and the last four were said close to 3PM.  You cannot find a list of these words in the Bible in the same way that you find the Ten Commandments, but they are there.  The purpose of this blog post is to tell you what these words are and where you can find them.

The first statement, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” is recorded in Luke 23:34.  Since the entire reason for Jesus’ death on the cross was to grant forgiveness for their sins to everyone who believes and trusts in him, Jesus has established that purpose with this statement.

The second statement, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise,” is recorded in Luke 23:43.  This promise given to a penitent thief gives us a look into the future and tells us what happens after a believer’s death.

The third statement, “…he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother,’” is recorded in John 19:26-27.  With this statement Jesus provided for the care of his mother by his disciple John.  From that day forward Mary lived in John’s home and he provided for her.

The last four statements were said close together at 3PM.  The fourth statement, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is recorded in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46.  This was a cry expressing the emotional pain that Jesus felt as he alone took on his shoulders the sins of the entire world.

The fifth statement, “I am thirsty,” is recorded in John 19:28.  This was an expression of physical pain and his lips were moistened with some wine vinegar.  This was the drink of the ordinary people at that time.

After being given the drink Jesus uttered the sixth statement, “It is finished,” which is recorded in John 19:30.  This was not a cry of defeat but rather a cry of victory.  Jesus had completed what he had come to do.  Salvation was available for everyone who believed and trusted in him.

With that Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” recorded in Luke 23:46, the seventh and last statement.

These words are extremely important.  They were made while Jesus was completing the final steps for our salvation.  This was something that no one before or since could accomplish.  For this reason I have included these words and their location under our page titled “Things to Know.”                                                        

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lent Reflection - The Cross and The Star Thrower

Once again I found this in my collection of articles, but am not sure how it came into my possession.  During this Lenten season I believe it is a good article to share.

Lent God and the Cross
Loren Eiseley, a naturalist, tells a story about a star thrower.  He was in the seaside town of Costabel, and, plagued by insomnia, spent the early morning hours walking the beach.  Each day at sunrise, he found townspeople combing the sand for starfish which had washed ashore during the night, to kill them for commercial purposes.  Eiseley thought this was a sign, however small, of all the ways the world says NO to life.

One morning, however, Eiseley got up unusually early, and discovered a solitary figure on the beach.  This man, too, was gathering starfish, but each time he found one alive he would pick it up and throw it as far as he could out beyond the breaking surf, back to the nurturing ocean from which it came.  As days went by, Eiseley found this man embarked on his mission of mercy each morning, seven days a week, no matter the weather.

Eiseley called this man “The Star Thrower.”  On the beach in Costabel, everything that Eiseley had been taught about evolution and the survival of the fittest was contradicted by one man.  For this man, strong as he was, reached down to save the weak.  Eiseley wondered if there is a star-thrower at work in the universe, a God who contradicts death, a God whose nature is mercy itself.

During this season of Lent, our focus is on the Cross.  This cross is one of the ways that human beings said NO to life.  And yet, through the cross of Jesus, God says a resounding Yes to life.  Through this cross of Jesus, God reaches down to save us from ourselves.  Through this cross of Jesus, God rescues us from certain death – he hurls us back into the fullness of life.  And he invites us to take up our crosses and follow him – to become star throwers ourselves, cherishing life for all people.  Through the Cross of Jesus, God invites us to join our voices with his in a resounding YES to life.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why We Celebrate Lent?

Why We Celebrate Lent?
As we approach the upcoming celebration of Easter, many churches observe the penitential period known as Lent.  The observance of Lent began during the 2nd century as a period of fasting in preparation for Easter.  Early Christians believed so strongly in the significance of what Jesus had done for them that they felt the need to prepare themselves, so that they could be worthy to celebrate Easter, thus the beginning of Lent.  Over the next couple centuries the period of time was extended to 40 days before Easter not including Sundays.  This transferred into 46 days beginning on a Wednesday, which became known as Ash Wednesday.  Churches today observe Ash Wednesday with special services and by placing an ashen cross on the foreheads of believers.

In today’s society the original significance of Lent has been greatly reduced.  In the words of one contemporary song we tell Jesus, “You are worthy of my praise.”  We should turn that the other way and become concerned about whether or not we are worthy of what Jesus did for us, just as the early Christians did.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Transfiguration of Jesus

On the Sunday before the first day of Lent many churches celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord.  The word transfiguration means to change in form or appearance in a way that elevates or idealizes.  The transfiguration of Jesus is reported in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36.  Following is a portion of the story as told in Matthew 17:1-8.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is good for us to be here.  If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them.  “Get up,” he said.  “Don’t be afraid.”  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

The transfiguration gave Peter, James, and John a look at the glory of Jesus.  This glory which is still hidden from us will be revealed fully when Jesus returns again.  Mark 13:26 says, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”  There was also encouragement for the disciples who were discouraged after having been reminded that Jesus’ suffering and death were fast approaching.  Also, Moses' and Elijah's appearance confirmed Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  At the transfiguration Moses is representative of the Law and the promise of salvation, and Elijah is representative of the Prophets.

As we think about the transfiguration we must remember that this is the second time that God announces that Jesus is His Son and that we should listen to him.  The glory that was revealed that day to Peter, James, and John should also be a comfort to us as we await the second coming, when Jesus returns in all His glory to defeat all the violence and corruption of this world.