Good Friday 2017, “The Cross”

Posted: April 15, 2017 in Psalms, Uncategorized
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Good Friday 2017, “The Cross”

There are many things we have to imagine when it comes to various stories in the Bible.  Not “imagine,” as in “make-up / make-believe,” but as in, “What was it like to be in their shoes?”.  Many Biblical events have only the bare facts – not the emotion.  That’s not the case regarding Jesus and the cross.  Not only does the Bible tell us the facts of what took place, but it also tells us of the suffering that Jesus endured there.  We don’t have to imagine how He felt…the Bible tells us.

Of course, we might ask why we need to know.  Isn’t it enough to know that Jesus died upon the cross for us & rose again from the grave?  After all, that is the core of the gospel.  Why go into the details of His suffering?  Because: how else will we understand the cost?  We only value those things we understand.  A toddler has no concept of your grandmother’s fine china passed down through the generations to you, and will treat those dishes accordingly.  He/she doesn’t value them.  That’s not their fault – they simply don’t have the ability to understand.  But we can, and we try to pass that knowledge along to them (as best we can).  Likewise, without any concept of the suffering of Christ upon the cross, we will not value the cross.  We’ll treat it casually & carelessly as a baby with a china dish.  We’ll take our sin for granted because we’ll take our salvation for granted.  That’s when the cross becomes just another symbol or item of jewelry.  That’s when prayer becomes a meal-time ritual.  That’s when our Christianity becomes common.

This is why we remember the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross.  We need to understand the cost of our salvation.  We need to understand that our relationship with God is anything but common.  It is infinitely precious – it is absolutely priceless.

This is where Psalm 22 comes in.  These words, written 1000 years before Jesus came to earth, are the true experiences of the Son of God.  These are the things He thought and felt as He took upon Himself the wrath of God.  Yes, these are the words of David – and yes, David had real experiences to which these words related.  But ultimately these words were not about him, but rather his Divine descendant.  Of all of the Messianic psalms, there are few as directly Messianic as this (despite the fact that the word “Messiah” is never found!).  In Psalm 22, we read the very thoughts of our Lord Jesus in the hour of His greatest pain.

We don’t have time to look at the entire psalm, and a full exegesis is not our intention.  On this Good Friday, we need to be reminded of how bad it was for Jesus, knowing the wonderfully good outcome that would result.  So we’ll look at three main sections of the psalm, each one being a different aspect of His suffering.  He suffered for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Jesus suffered spiritually:
1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

  1. The first thing we need to notice is a difference in address.  There’s a formality here not normally seen in the ministry of Jesus.  Usually He spoke to/of His Father, consistently referring to Him in that way.  Here Jesus cries out to His God.  Already in the opening words, there is a separation – a seeming change in relationship.
  2. How bad was this separation?  God was far from His very person.  He wasn’t just a bit remote from Jesus, but it’s as if God the Father was somehow cut off from the very soul of God the Son.  NKJV “Why are You so far from helping Me?” – Literal Hebrew could be “Why [are You]…so far from my Yeshua / So far from my Salvation.”  Jesus felt utterly and personally abandoned.  He could roar out in pain, groaning in anguish, and His God seemed nowhere to be found.
  3. Have you ever felt alone?  Abandoned by God?  I guarantee you haven’t felt it to the extent of Jesus.  Remember that Jesus is eternally the Son of God – He has always existed with God the Father.  Father, Son, and Spirit have always been in eternal communion with one another, having perfect fellowship with one another.  Sometimes people think that the reason God created us was so that He could have someone to love.  No – that is fundamentally untrue.  God has always had someone to love: the other members of the Trinity.  God the Father has always loved God the Son & God the Spirit, and vice-versa, all the way around.  If God created us because of love, it was because His love for the Son was so great that it had to have somewhere to spill out.  We are perhaps the overflow of the Father’s love for the Son, but we are definitely not the sole object of the Father’s love!  — Knowing all of this, consider the spiritual pain of Jesus when it felt as if He was abandoned by His Father.  He had never in all of eternity had one inch of separation between He & the Father, and now He felt “forsaken” by the Father, not even able to call Him “Father,” and even then, still forsaken by God.  It’s no wonder Jesus cried out this verse in anguished Aramaic, despite the excruciating pain it would have taken Him to utter this many words.  “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mk 15:34)  This was no coded Bible study spoken by Jesus, where He was subtly trying to point people back to Psalm 22.  This certainly was no cry to Elijah, as some who stood at the foot of the cross assumed. (Mk 15:35)  This was the spiritual anguish of Jesus crying out to His God, wondering how it was possible for His eternal fellowship with the Father to seemingly be non-existent.
  4. Did it have to be this way?  Yes.  There was no other way for the wrath of God to be fulfilled.  The sins we committed (and still commit today) deserve nothing less than the fullness of God’s righteous anger, and if we were to experience it for ourselves, we would be in hell forever separated from the love of God.  Thus Jesus had to experience it in our place, and He did.  For all of the suffering that He endured upon the cross, this was surely the worst.  No greater punishment could possibly be inflicted upon Him.

3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. 5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

  1. Throughout the psalm, there’s a bit of back & forth, which we could see more clearly if we had time to look at it in-depth.  There is the suffering felt by Jesus, and the trust expressed by Him.  It’s not that Jesus couldn’t make up His mind (or that these were only the words of David at this point) – it’s that all kinds of thoughts rushed through Jesus’ mind in His anguish, just as we experience in ours.  Just as surely as He felt His present suffering, He also remembered His history.  He knew that God had never abandoned His people – that those who belong to God can trust in God, knowing that He will always be faithful.
    1. Great example for what we do when we feel abandoned.  We remember the fact that we aren’t.  It feels like it, but we know that God has never abandoned us in the past, and He won’t do so in the present.  God has been nothing but faithful when it comes to His acts of deliverance.  That’s just who He is.  So we “trust.

Jesus suffered emotionally:
6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” 9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.

  1. If it wasn’t bad enough that Jesus felt abandoned by God, He was also abandoned by the people.  They mocked Him & “despised” Him.  Keep in mind that Jesus is the eternal Word of God, through whom God created the world.  None of us would exist without Him.  Every single human being is knit together in the womb by Almighty God.  Thus Jesus created each and every person who hated Him.  These were the men and women Jesus had come for.  He knew how lost they were in their sin, and He came to save them.  He loved them and wanted them to be reconciled back to God.  He was accomplishing that very thing for them at the present moment.  And yet they hated Him.  They taunted Him.  They ganged up around Him, like a pack of lions waiting to pounce upon their Holy prey.
  2. Keep in mind that this was just the latest betrayal.  First there had been Judas, turning Him over to the Jews with a traitorous kiss.  Judas Iscariot had lived and followed Jesus for years, and it meant nothing to him.  He had given himself over to Satan, and treated his former Master with less worth than a slave.  Then there was the rest of the disciples, all of whom ran and scattered at the moment of Jesus’ arrest.  His best friends in the world left Him when He needed them most.  And finally, there was Peter’s terrible (repeated) denial of Him.  Peter – one of the first to follow Jesus, having been called to be a fisher of men.  Peter – the one who confessed the truth about Jesus being the Son of God, and upon whom Jesus pronounced blessing.  Peter denied Jesus, saying he didn’t even know Him.  There were few friends who had as close a relationship with Jesus as Peter did, and Peter denied Him.  Jesus was truly abandoned by everyone.
  3. We’re no better.  We obviously did not mock Jesus from the foot of the cross, nor did we abandon Him in the Garden of Gethsemane – but we abandon our Lord Jesus every time we willingly engage in sin.  We abandon Him when we knowingly turn aside from an opportunity He’s given us to witness for Him.  We abandon Jesus in all kinds of ways through our failings.  But herein is the gospel: Jesus died for those who abandoned Him.  Jesus died for us.  All of our sins, all of our betrayals – each one of them find an answer in the cross of Jesus.  This was the reason He suffered the way He did.

Jesus suffered physically:
14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

  1. Contained within these words are some of the most exact descriptions of what it felt like to endure Roman crucifixion – and especially Jesus’ own crucifixion.  Many verses of Psalm 22 find fulfillment in the New Testament, but just from this single section there are fulfillments in Matthew 27:34-35, Mark 15:23-24, Luke 23:32-35, John 19:19,24,28-29.  Barely a single word of this can be accounted in the life of David, but all of it is fulfilled in the cross of Jesus.
  2. What took place?  Physically, it was awful.  Jesus had already endured the Roman scourging which included a multi-thonged whip that had bits of rock and glass embedded in the straps – and all of that was on top of the beatings and physical exhaustion from the night before.  With the loss of blood, Jesus’ body was already in a state of shock.  It was then that nails the size of railroad spikes were driven through His wrists & feet into raw, splintering timber, and the cross was dropped into the ground.  His shoulders and hip were likely dislocated in the fall, and Jesus had to press Himself up upon the nail just to breathe.  He was already dehydrated, but this position caused His tongue to swell in His mouth, and the thirst would have been unbearable.  And it lasted for hours.  Hours to hang there with the agony of His shoulders, the wood scraping against raw muscle, feeling like every breath was through a pinhole in a damp rag.
  3. On top of everything else, neither His spiritual nor emotional suffering lessened.  People still mocked Him from below, acting like dogs nipping at His feet, gambling for His clothes as if He were already dead.  And the whole time, Jesus still felt abandoned by His Father as He felt the weight of the sin of the world.
  4. We cannot imagine such pain…but this is what Jesus did.  This is what He endured for us.  He knew what it would take to reconcile you back to God, to forgive your sins, and to give you eternal life…and He decided it was worth it.  Jesus did this for you, and for me.  He did it so that all the world could be saved, if they only believe.

19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.

  1. The remainder of the psalm is not one of tragedy, but victory.  If the 1st half of Psalm 22 looks back (from our perspective) to the suffering of Jesus upon the cross, the 2nd half looks forward to His glorious 2nd Coming and His Millennial Kingdom.  We don’t have time to look at them tonight, but they, like everything else in our salvation, are made possible by what Jesus endured in vss. 1-21.  A 2nd Coming does not occur without a 1st, and a resurrection cannot take place without a death.  Tonight, it is Jesus’ death we remember.  (Sunday, it will be His victory!)

Our Lord suffered in every way imaginable, and thus our salvation comes at the highest of costs.  1 Peter 1:18–19, "(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."  That was the price.  If you want to know what it cost for you to be reconciled to God & made His child, it meant that His only eternally begotten Son had to die.  His blood needed to be shed for you.

So tonight, we remember, and we worship.  Thank Jesus for what He’s done for you – thank Him for what He’s done for all the world.

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