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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 27:45-46
Matthew 27 contains the account of the crucifixion of Jesus and it is laced with stunning references to the Old Testament scriptures that prophesied what would happen when the Messiah would suffer and die. One of these references alludes to an amazing irony of world history. When Jesus cried out, "Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?" he was misunderstood by his hearers. They thought he was calling upon Elijah to rescue him. However, he has already made it clear in the garden of Gethsemane that the Father Himself would have sent 1000's of angels to rescue him, if he had chosen to avoid the cross. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? Matthew 26:53 But Jesus was actually quoting the first verse of Psalm 22...one of those truly stunning OT prophecies that contain details of the suffering and death of the Messiah. I believe that Jesus was indicating in scriptural code language to people down through all the ages, that when they would hear about these 23 words he spoke from the cross, they should go back and re-read the entire Psalm to provide them with insider information about his view of what he was enduring. In his weakness on the cross, he was boldly proclaiming to every being in heaven and on earth that he knew he was living out the dramatic journey of Psalm 22! And though this prayer begins with the agony of embracing a terrible and unjust death that perfectly describes crucifixion...500 years before it was invented as a form of execution...it concludes with a triumphant declaration that the whole world would be blessed and made new by the outcomes of his suffering and death. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. Psalm 22:27-28 In that moment, Jesus was revealing to us the nature of "the joy that was set before him" that empowered him to "endure the cross and lightly regard it's shame". (Hebrews 12:1-3) Talk about a hero...come on!
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In Matthew chapter 20 there are four segments of the words and works of Jesus that reflect the truth of the passage from Isaiah above. First, is the kingdom parable of the laborers and the land owner. It exposes the human tendency to transfer on to God what we think He ought to consider as "fair" or "unfair" in His "affairs" with us and our fellow human beings. The next has to do with the necessity of "death and resurrection" for His new kingdom order to be established..."fainting and resuscitation" won't cut it! Then there is the power play of James and John...and their doting mother...to forever secure the most honorable seats in the kingdom of the Christ. But Jesus cuts deeply across the carnal ambitions of any who would jockey for position and power in human structures and holds out a new and radically different leadership ethic and culture for us to live out. Finally, there are the two "politically incorrect" blind beggars who, despite those trying to protect the Master from the lowly and needy who have no sense of protocol and propriety, are healed by Jesus' touch.
It's interesting to note that Jesus asked both the mother and the blind men to freely share what they wanted him to do for them. In the first case, privileged ones are basically told that their intercession was not properly informed. In the second case, Jesus was eager to lift up the broken. Christ welcomes us to freely take a seat at his table of fellowship. As we are made-over by his love and friendship...may our our flawed agendas for Divine activity gracefully give way to even better confessions and declarations in powerful prayer that embody the secrets of the Father's heart and will that the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts as we adore and commune with the Trinity.
I so appreciate a towering intellect who understood the vital role of experiential knowledge in the pursuit of a well-rounded wisdom for human life and genuine spirituality. Truth can be discerned, but only by a proper blend of cognition and intuition informed by God's common grace and His Holy Spirit's influence. His quote below inspires me to embrace the abundant life offered freely to us by Jesus...not only in the age to come, but here and now. Let's open up our hearts and minds to live our lives without fear!
You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter.
C. S. Lewis
As I awake this morning, I am struck with the radical idea of taking a firm stand to live a life of constant thankfulness to God and to encourage everyone I possibly can to do the same. This is not a means of denying or ignoring the pain and perplexities of our world and its people. Rather, it is a prophetic posture and act that courageously testifies to the goodness of God square in the face of the hatred, resentment, vengeance, folly, fear, greed, lust, pride, bigotry, self-righteousness and man-made religion swirling within human hearts and breaking out in so many ways to disrupt our relationships and whole cultures. Despite the sometimes overwhelming bad news of our days, God is yet absolutely good and great and He is always doing good things...great things...in our world.
He is transforming the lives of multiplied thousands of men, women and children by the power and presence of Jesus each and every day all over the planet. I have personally experienced and witnessed this power of the Holy Spirit at work again and again through many years. This good news is the hope of our world. Yes...God is good and miracles of forgiveness of sins, heart transformation, reconciliation, love for neighbor, love for enemies, humility, deliverance from evil, practical provision, physical healing, answers to prayer and the like are occurring all about us. One of the greatest things we can personally do to rectify the problems of human existence is to live in a radical counter-intuitive way by not accusing God regarding the realities of evil in our world, but to trust in and celebrate His goodness through a child-like thanksgiving. May our eyes be made wide by the wonder, awe and delight of the greater reality of the Divine.
Everyone longs to be known by and to know a few others deeply and well without the fear of rejection getting in the way. This value is a vital building block of family and community and it actually implies our need for Christ's love to make it really happen. Listen to someone's story today and you'll get your chance to tell yours too!
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior's sword. (Zech. 9:12-13)
As followers of Jesus we have experienced a miraculous second birth from above that has changed the very core of our nature. Embedded in this new operating system is a energy tank that is designed to run on the fuel of hope that is provided by the Holy Spirit Himself. If our tank of hope runs dry, we get stuck and are unable to truly advance in our highest purpose for being on the earth. In our immaturity and panic, we often try to refill our tank with the inferior fuel of our self-strength. As a result, we become moved and motivated by lesser things, sometimes without even being aware that we have constructed another kind of prison for ourselves. We are unable to be true to ourselves and we feel obligated to put on a false persona...a characturization of who we really are meant to be. Divine hope is not irrational, but it is trans-rational. Our Hebrew heart is built for and able to contain this hope. The Greek mind stumbles over it and the vulnerability that is required to embrace and consistently walk in it. Bob Hartley has taught me that God graciously "turns our prisons into classrooms", but ultimately, the only way we can fulfill our God-given destiny and calling is to return to the only prison in which we can thrive...the prison of hope...trusting God to make the inaudible, audible; the incredible, credible; the invisible, visible; the intangible, tangible and the impossible, possible.
As a pastor for about 40 years now, I have noticed that most believers...when they really get gut-level honest...tend to believe, think and feel that our Heavenly Father is basically disappointed in them for their various past and present failures, shortcomings, foibles, quirks, imperfections and the like. However, the terrible irony that I have come to see is that if the Father is disappointed in us at all, it it primarily that we wrongly accuse Him of viewing us this way! Now I am committed more than ever to helping this viewpoint to shift radically. I venture to say that we generally struggle longer and harder with putting off the sinful and immature expressions of our self when we hold this unhelpful and distorted view of our Papa's attitude of us.
What if He is basically pleased with us that we have opened our hearts to receive the gift of His Son and Spirit into our lives that He has sacrificed so much to freely lavish upon us? What if He is daring us to believe that we have a new basic nature and a new and purified heart through Jesus? What if He is longing for us to simply accept that He is smiling and dancing over us as we grow progressively into this new life? I have found that overcoming my old self has become a much easier yoke and lighter burden as I have gotten more in touch with His joy over me as His dear child, friend and junior partner.