Words from the Cross
May 17, 2009
As we near the end of our study of the book of John, I will be focusing on biblical truths spoken by Jesus at the end of His life. Last week our message focused on Jesus’ words to Pilate about why He was born. “For this cause I was born , and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Jn 18:37).
Today we’ll look at words of truth spoken while Jesus was on the cross. As you can imagine, words spoken while in excruciating pain would be few and important. The words Jesus spoke from the cross to His mother are only recorded by John. Before we examine the words of God’s sacrificial Lamb, I want to look at another passage of Scripture about our sacrifice: Romans 12:1. Turn to it with me. WE think of the sacrificial system coming to an end at the cross, don’t we? But Romans 12: tells us otherwise. Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Henry Blackaby says, God takes great pleasure in worthy sacrifices. In the Old Testament God gave detailed instructions for how His people were to give their offerings. He declared that these brought a “soothing aroma” to Him (Lev. 1:13, 17). When the Israelites gave an offering to God, it was no longer their own, it belonged entirely to God. God would accept only the best that people could give. It was an affront to almighty God to offer Him animals that were damaged or imperfect in any way. God Himself met the standard for sacrifices when He offered His own Son as the spotless Lamb. Only the death of His perfect Son was a worthy enough offering to atone for the sins of mankind.
Now, God asks us to lay down our lives on His altar as a living sacrifice. Just as it was in the Old Testament, our sacrifice, once offered, cannot be reclaimed. We belong entirely to Him. We cannot make a partial sacrifice of our lives; our offering must be wholehearted.
Therefore, if you are a Christian, your life is not your own. Rather than dying, however, God asks you to live for Him as a living sacrifice. Every day, you are to offer your life to Him for His service. You do not serve Him in your spare time or with your leftover resources. The way you live your life for God is your offering to Him. Relentlessly pursue holiness so that your offering to God is unblemished and acceptable to Him. Eph. 4:1 and 1 Thess. 2:12 both exhort us to walk worthy of our calling. Now, let’s return to the foot of the cross and see how we can apply some of Jesus last words to our lives.
Please turn to John chapter 19 and we’ll read verses 26 and 27. So Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her into his family.
In the end Jesus was not absolutely alone. At his Cross there were four women who loved him. Some commentators explain their presence there by saying that in those days women were so unimportant that no one ever took any notice of women disciples, and that therefore these women were running no risk at all by being near the Cross of Jesus. That surely is a poor and unworthy explanation. It was always a dangerous thing to be an associate of a man whom the Roman government believed to be so dangerous that he deserved a Cross. It is always a dangerous thing to demonstrate one's love for someone whom the orthodox regard as a heretic. The presence of John as well as these women at the Cross was not due to their lack of importance that no one would notice them; their presence was due to their love - perfect love which casts out fear. (1Jn 4:18)
There are at least three reasons that this last word of Jesus to his mother and to the beloved disciple is a tremendous encouragement to our faith. The first reason is: if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for us, his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Ordinarily one would reason just the opposite: if he loved his disciples who were not his relatives, how much more would he love his own mother. But Jesus didn't view things in an ordinary way. With him it was strangely true: if he loved his mother with a natural affection, how much more can his obedient disciples bank on his love.
We know this because of an incident recorded for us in Luke 8:19–21:
His mother came to him and his brothers also, and they were unable to get to him because of the crowds. And it was reported to him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you." But he answered and said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."
That was not a depreciation of his mother and brothers. It means very clearly, those who hear the Word of God and do it have a more ready access to Jesus' fellowship and help than do his own family members.
In one sense it is very risky to hear and do the Word of God. For the Word of God is always calling us to sacrificial acts of love. "He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his own cross and follow me" (Luke 9:23). But in another sense there is nothing safer and more rewarding than to hear and do the Word of God, because Jesus said, those who hear and do the Word of God are my mother and my brothers. Loving obedience to the Word of God puts us in a relationship to Jesus which is more intimate and more certain to be heard and helped than his nearest family relations. So if he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs, "O ye of little faith"?
The second reason that this word to Jesus' mother is an encouragement to our faith is: if Jesus could provide for the needs of his mother in a moment of his deepest weakness, how much more can he provide for our need in his present power and exaltation!
According to Ephesians 1:19, 20 the greatness of God's power which is working on our behalf is described as " And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, " The satisfaction made for our sin at Calvary was so complete that God honored this sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead and giving him incomparable glory and power for us who believe. And so when the apostle contemplates whether we can bank on Christ for our need, it is this wealth of glory that gives him assurance when He says, "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). The risen Christ is so full of glorious riches that he need not turn anyone away. As Paul says in Romans 10:12: "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call upon him." Not only are you, as an obedient disciple, in a better position than Jesus' own mother to receive blessing at the hand of the Lord, but he is now in a better position to give it to you than he ever was.
Therefore, the word of Jesus to his mother from the cross is a great encouragement to our faith. For if he could provide for his own in His weakest moment, how much more can he meet all our needs today from the right hand of God, full of power and glory.
The third reason Jesus' word to his mother encourages our faith is that it illustrates for us the benefits of the church, the body of Christ. Notice that contrary to custom and expectation, Jesus did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Whatever the reason for not putting Mary in the care of her other sons, the new relationship between Mary and John illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ.
You recall how Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and follow him. The man turned away, and Jesus said, "How hard it will be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And Peter said, "Behold we have left everything and followed you." And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and the gospel's, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Now where in this life are we going to receive 100 children and 100 mothers? Answer: in the church, the family of God.
When Jesus says to Mary: "Look on John as your son"; and to John: "Look on Mary as your mother"; he is showing us how our needs are to be met when we have left everything to follow him. Paul said in Acts 20:28 that Christ "purchased the church of God with his own blood." Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church – this church – Good Shepherd Community Church - a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging supernatural family beyond any natural family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary. In His time of greatest torment, Jesus thought of relationship – our relationship within the bride of Christ. It is right for us, too, to think of our relationship within the Body of Christ. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We should be sensitive to the needs of those around us. Is there someone in the body who is alone – feeling isolated or estranged from others? Everyone needs encouragement. When God urges you to consider the welfare of others, it means He wants you to truly care about your brothers and sisters in Christ. When they don’t seem as “up” as usual or when they skip church, we should make it our aim to seek them out to bless them and strengthen their faith. The local church is designed by God to be a spiritual family where people display love for one another. Church should be a place where everyone is committed to being a blessing to one another. If you’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and truly concerned about the bride of Christ, God will show you when and where you can lift the spirits of others.
In this passage there is something which is surely one of the loveliest things in all the gospel story. When Jesus saw his mother, he could not but think of the days ahead. He could not commit her to the care of his brothers, for they did not believe in him yet (Jn 7:5). And, after all, John had a double qualification for the service Jesus entrusted to him--he was Jesus' cousin, being Salome's son, and he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. So Jesus committed Mary to John's care and John to Mary's, so that they should comfort each other's loneliness when he was gone. This is the example we should follow as we care for one
There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days ahead. He never forgot the duties that lay to his hand. He was Mary's eldest son, and even in the moment of his cosmic battle, he did not forget the simple things that lay near home. To the end of the day, even on the Cross, Jesus was thinking more of the sorrows of others than of his own.
So let us all take courage in the care and power and provision of our Lord. If he was eager to care for his mother, how much more eager will he be today to care for those who hear and do the Word of God! If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in the moment of his greatest weakness, how much more can he provide for your need in his present wealth of power and exaltation. And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find caring mothers, then no one should be without a caring family today in the body of Christ.
I’ll close with some final words from the cross: It Is Finished! What words! Words of the best news we’ll ever hear!
In John 19:30 we read: When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.—
God always finishes what He begins (Phil. 1:6). God never speaks a word without ensuring that it comes to pass (Isa. 55:11). Christ is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8, 17). Christ is as much at the end of His work as He is at its beginning.
Jesus was given an enormous mandate. He was to live a sinless life, remaining absolutely obedient to His Father. Even the manner of His death was to fulfill numerous prophecies that had been foretold in Scripture (Matt. 26:24, 31, 54, 56; 27:9, 35, 46; John 19:28, 36–37). Yet, despite the extremely complex assignment Jesus received from His Father, He could shout triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!” These words specify not the end of Jesus’ life, but the completion of His task. The purpose of His life was completed, dying for our sin And the consequences of His work on the cross are enduring, aren’t they?
Christ now resides within each believer. His assignment today is to complete God's will in each Christian. He is just as determined to do this in us as He was to complete God's will for Himself. You will have to resist Christ in order to remain out of the will of God. What is it God wants to do in you? Have you allowed Him to complete what He has begun? He will not force you to receive all that He has for your life. If God's work has not been brought to fruition in you, it is not that Christ has not been diligently working toward that end. Rather, you may need to release areas of your life to Him and be as determined to see God's work in you completed as Christ is. Review the things God has said to you. Are there promises God has made to you that you have refused to allow Him to complete? If so, commit to yield your will to God today
The last words from the cross concern us – our relationship to other believers and Jesus’ finished work for our salvation. Once again, like Paul, I urge you to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)
In a recent devotional, Rick Renner quoted Hebrews Hebrews 10:23, which says: Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; and then adds: Years ago, I was staying at a pastor's house while I was preaching in his church. The first day I slept in his home, I became very frustrated early the next morning. About 5 a.m., the telephone started ringing — and it rang and rang and rang. I began to count the rings — thirty rings, forty rings, forty-five rings. Finally on the fiftieth ring, I got up, put on my clothes, and walked down the hallway to the kitchen, mumbling to myself, "If no one else cares enough to get up and answer this telephone, I'll do it!"
I picked up the receiver and said, "Hello." But to my amazement, the phone just kept on ringing, even though I was holding the receiver in my hand! Then I noticed that the ringing wasn't coming from the telephone at all, but from something to my right that was covered with a big white sheet. I pulled the sheet back to look, and there in a big cage was a Grey African parrot looking back at me! It had been mimicking the ringing of the telephone! That parrot sounded just like a telephone, but it was not a telephone!
As I walked back down the hallway to my bedroom, I started thinking about how that parrot reminded me of some people I knew! I'm talking about people who made what sounded like great faith confessions, but who weren't really in faith at all. Their words sounded right, but they weren't doing anything but parroting what they had heard someone else say or do. Because there was no faith backing up their words, their confessions were no more real than the ringing telephone coming from the beak of that parrot!
In Hebrews 10:23, the Bible says, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith." Today I'd like to draw your attention to the word "profession." The word "profession" used in Hebrews 10:23, or "confession," as it is translated in other scriptures, is not the picture of a person who simply repeats what someone else says. This is an individual who has gotten God's Word into his heart and who has come into agreement or alignment with what God says. This person sees a matter like God sees it; hears it like God hears it; feels it like God feels it. Now his heart and God's heart are so unified on the issue that their hearts are nearly beating in syncopation with each other. Thus, when the believer opens his mouth to "confess" God's Word, his confession is no longer powerless parroting; instead, it comes from a very deep place of conviction inside his heart.
In light of this, Hebrews 10:23 carries this idea: "Let us come into agreement with God and then begin to speak what He says, holding tightly to what we confess and refusing to let anyone take it from us."
So, what is he saying? Simply this; we grow from being in God’s Word; from allowing the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and heart to see and understand what we read. We can also read expository books; that is books which help to expose the true meaning of Scripture; books by respected and theologically sound authors such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproule, A.W. Tozer, Henry Blackaby, William and Howard Hendricks, John Piper. But be careful who you read – there are many false teachers out there, some of whom are simply in error, but others who have ungodly intentions. Avoid anything to do with the “emerging church”; at its roots it’s connected to ancient and Roman Catholic mysticism and Ne Age teaching – it’s scary when you read about some of the so-called “big names” in Christianity with connections to this movement. If you are in doubt, you are welcome to ask for my suggestions or advice.
Keep in mind too, you are not going to grow from reading fiction! It may be entertaining, it may be enjoyable, but it is no way to grow. The same goes for watching Christian television – there are simply too many charlatans peddling their corrupt views. The only qualification to be on Christian television is to have enough money to pay for air time. Unless you are very careful, you will be deceived. Unless you are very sure of the person you are watching, turn off your television. If they ask you to send them money, turn your set off immediately – the shouldn’t be asking the general public to fund their ministry.
If you looking for a good, well-written, theologically sound book to read consider “Don’t Waste Your Life” and “What Jesus Demands From the World” by John Piper, “Faith Undone” by Roger Oakland, “Truth War”, “Because the Time is Near”, and “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur, “The Best of A W Tozer”. If you’ve read all of these, then ask me; there are lots more.
Don’t waste your life, don’t waste your time watching or reading stuff that will pollute your mind rather than enlarge it and grow it closer to Christ
Let’s pray. Father, it is written in Your Word that if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that You have raised Him from the dead, I shall be saved. Therefore, Father, I confess that Jesus is my Lord. I make Him Lord of my life right now. I believe in my heart that You raised Jesus from the dead. I renounce my past life with Satan and close the door to any of his devices.
I thank You for forgiving me of all my sin. Jesus is my Lord, and I am a new creation. Old things have passed away. Now all things become new in Jesus' name. Amen.