Jesus was fully aware of what would happen this night and every night until He ascended into heaven. But, because He loved us so much, He was willing to face the persecution, the ridicule, the mockery, the beatings and the agony, that was the cross. Jesus had known this from time immemorial, yet He came to earth and dwelt among us in the flesh. Our finite minds cannot grasp or understand this infinite, unconditional love. But there is a void in us that can only be filled with this love. The world is looking for this love without knowing or understanding why. There was a time in each of our lives when we were in the same place as the lost people around us. We were looking for something or someone. If we had been asked, “Who are you looking for?”, we probably would not have understood that we were looking for Jesus and our answer would not have been so quick and sure. But then, someone took the time to share with us about the love of Jesus and we realized that He was who we were looking for.
Even if we are staring death in the face just as Jesus was at that time, are we willing to take the time today to ask someone “Who are you looking for?” and then share the love of Jesus with them?
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV
As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made. Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others. The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed. The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things. We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrong doing. I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done. I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them. Those events seem so far away and foreign to me. And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be. Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain? We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts. We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure. They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us. I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.
It should break our hearts to think about what pain Mary felt as she gazed upon the cross and saw her Son in such agony. What anguish she must have felt as she remembered that this was the little baby that she had held in her lap on the first Christmas day! It must have been hard for her to believe that it took that kind of suffering to redeem a fallen world. As we celebrate the season this year and every year. let us remember that there is no gift that can match the one He gave on the cross. He gave His all for us, so let us commit to living lifestyles that reflect His love for us. Let us rejoice because the cross is empty! Let us sing with gladness of heart, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” and He has risen in our hearts!
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did. 25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said,“I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.-John 19:23-30 (NLT)
Even while hanging on the cross in agony, Jesus was still concerned about others. He instructed John to take care of His mother. A sip of sour wine from a hyssop branch and then came the last words from the cross, “It is finished!”. Three words that are so full of meaning that men have spent the years since trying to understand the extent of what was said. What was finished? His life? No, this was just an interlude between humanity and heavenly. His work on earth? Yes, but exactly what was His work? If it was just to redeem us by dying on a cross, then what was the rest of it about? Jesus was sent to fulfill prophecy, there is no doubt about that. But a majority of His work was to be an example to us and show us how to live for Him. Our persecuted brothers and sisters will tell you that dying for Jesus is the easy part, it is living for Him that is hard. But with his death on the cross, Jesus paid the price for everything that we need to live and die for Him. There are over 200 names for Jesus in the Bible. Each one either gives us an attribute of Jesus, the work He (as the Holy Spirit) does on earth for us or a need that He fulfills for us. There is nothing He left undone. His part as God the man was truly complete. “It is finished”!