Immanuel Voices
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March 29, 2018, 8:00 AM

THE SUFFERING WORD


“I thirst.” John 19:29

 

6 "Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 "The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

11 "'Sir,' the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?'

13 "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

15 "The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'

16 "He told her, 'Go, call your husband and come back.'

17 "'I have no husband,' she replied.

"Jesus said to her, 'You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'

19 "'Sir,' the woman said, 'I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'

21 "'Woman,' Jesus replied, 'believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.'"

25 "The woman said, 'I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.'

26 "Then Jesus declared, 'I, the one speaking to you—I am he.'" John 4:6–26

 

 

Our Lord was no mere human phantom. He had a very real body and it experienced all that our bodies do, including tiredness and thirst. It is high noon as He sits beside the well to rest and eventually asks the Samaritan woman for a drink.

 

She is shocked that He as a Jew even bothers to speak to her. In His dealings with her we see what Jesus ultimately thirsts for (just as He will later in chapter 4 speak of His true hunger—to do the will of His Father). He begins almost teasing her, inviting her to ask of Him for some “living water.” She misunderstands Him (a constant feature of John’s Gospel) and still focuses upon earthly water and thirst. Jesus eventually leads her to see that He is talking about a deeper thirst being quenched than recurring earthly thirst. She finally asks Him for this “living water.”

 

But for her thirst to be satisfied with the Savior, she must first see her sins. Thus He invites her to call her husband. She prevaricates, and observes that she does not have a husband. At that point Jesus gives full-blast law. He admits she speaks the truth—she does not have a husband now. She has had five and is just living with the fellow she currently has. That Jesus could know this about her astonishes her, but clearly also embarrasses her. She tries to change the subject to Jewish/Samaritan questions. Jesus affirms that salvation is from the Jews, but His presence is clearly indicating the end of confining worship to a single place—in Jerusalem. The God she is encountering in the flesh of Jesus is the God who wills to be worshiped in spirit and truth throughout all the world. She had heard of the coming of Messiah, and she observes: “He will tell us all things.” He confesses freely to her that He is that Messiah.

 

Though we do not have time in this study to read the rest of the story, a most interesting point to pick up is verse 28. The woman leaves her jar behind! She has found the Messiah and He has indeed given her the living water promised. Her thirst is quenched—the thirst she never could quench as she looked for love in all the wrong places, marrying man after man, and never finding what she was thirsting for.

 

"Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips." John 19:28–29

 

If the human being is made in such a way that he thirsts for God (even when he does not know that is what is driving his thirst and why no earthly thing ever satisfies him), Jesus reveals the shocking truth that God in the flesh also thirsts for us. He desires our salvation. And it is as He knows that this salvation is now finished, that He cries out “I thirst.”

 

Every human being knows what it is to thirst. Thirst is our common experience. It happens when a person has been working hard out in the sun, or after a long night’s sleep, or when a person wakes from surgery, or when we die. We long for the touch of some liquid, usually water, to relieve the dryness of our mouths and to still the restlessness of our bodies.

 

This is the first and only word of the cross that deals with the physical pain our Lord endured. Long before it happened, the Psalmist had prophesied of this moment in Psalm 69:20–21: “I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” As the only good One is dying, this is all we find to offer Him: vinegar to assuage His thirst!

 

But His thirst is deeper than the body. He thirsts above all for the salvation of His people. This thirst He is now satisfying as He offers up Himself a sweet smelling sacrifice and aroma to His heavenly Father. His thirst will be quenched when, “Out of the anguish of his soul He shall see and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

 

Thirst is a common human experience. Even more than hunger for food, thirst for water or other liquid is a basic for sustaining our earthly life. But in the Scriptures, thirst is also used as a metaphor for our need for God—we cannot live without Him any more than we can live without liquids. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” the Psalmist cries out (Psalm 42:2). Only He can quench the thirst of our spirits with His living water—that is, with His Spirit—and it was to provide us this living water that Christ Himself thirsts upon the cross for our salvation.

 

 

*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource

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March 28, 2018, 9:54 AM

THE FAITHFUL WORD, MATT. 27:46


“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 

 

 

36 "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'

39 "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'

40 "Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'

42 "He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'

43 "When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 "Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'" Matt. 26:36–46

 

As our Lord begins to look the terrors ahead of Him square in the face, He does not wish to be alone. He knows He is heading into a terrifying loneliness; before it arrives, He craves the companionship of His friends in prayer. Sadly, they repeatedly let Him down. He ends up alone even before the moment of abandonment arrives.

 

The Garden is all about the cup. God has a cup full of wrath. (See Isaiah 51:17–22; Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 16:19). This is the payment that is due to human sin. Even more profoundly, it is exactly what human sin demands and wants. “Go away and leave me alone” is the prayer of fallen humanity in its unrepentant state.

 

We are afraid of hell, but not nearly as afraid as we ought to be. Jesus looks down into the depths of that cup and what He sees terrifies Him. He begs His Father for another way, if at all possible. But in complete contrast to the First Adam in a different Garden, our New Adam submits Himself entirely to the will of the Father: “Not My will, but Yours be done.”

 

And so He leaves the Garden at peace. The battle was over. He would drink the cup and drain it so that any who are in Him would never have to know the terror of sin’s final and ultimate consequence. Sadly, those who refuse to shelter beneath His cross in effect demand that the cup be given to them; and God on the last day will grant their final prayer. He will leave them alone forever.

 

45 "From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')." Matt. 27:45–47

 

Darkness at noon is striking. It recalls when God’s judgments visited Egypt and there was a darkness that could be felt. The darkness is itself a sign of what is happening to Christ. He is being cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth—He is experiencing and taking into Himself the fate of those who want nothing to do with God and show it by their persistence in sin.

 

Jesus picks up the words of Psalm 22 and begins to pray them. He is the innocent sufferer who feels Himself abandoned by God, forsaken by the One in whom He had trusted and hoped. As the totality of human sin is swept up from the ages and heaped upon that hill, the Father turns from His Son, and the Son gasps in the horror of the abandonment. Yet even as He tastes the horror of this, He will not let go. Faith is holding tight in the dark. Not “O God, O God!” But, “My God, My God.”

 

There is no answer from heaven to His cry that day. The rest of the New Testament gives the answer: You are left, so that they may never be left; You are made their sin, so that their sin might lose all claim upon them and that they might be set free to become in You My perfect righteousness.

 

The onlookers mistake the prayer. They think our Lord is calling for Elijah. He is not. In the darkness He is groping for His Father as the weight of sin settles and the moment of death begins to creep near.

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

“Go away and leave me alone!” we scream. And that is what hell ultimately is: God reluctantly granting that demand. He goes away and leaves a person alone. All alone. Forever. Terrifying! None of this, “Well, if I end up in hell, at least I’ll have some good company.” No. The company is in heaven. Think of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man is alone in the flames while Lazarus enjoys a feast with Abraham and is served by the Holy Angels. This “leave me alone!” is what our every sin demands of God. This the Savior receives from the Father. He will drink this lonely cup and drain it to its bitterest dregs. The One who had ever known the Father’s joyful presence embraces the empty loneliness of all our sin, and experiences in moments of time an eternity of hell’s loneliness for us. He does it so that we would never have to be alone; not now and not ever. “I am with you always.” To be in Christ is to know that there is no suffering or agony we will ever go through that can separate us from God’s love in Him.

 

 

 

*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource




March 27, 2018, 10:39 AM

THE PARDONING WORD, LUKE 23:34A


Theme Verse

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

Love for Enemies

27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36

 

The first reading comes from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain (see Luke 6:17), which functions in Luke much as the Sermon on the Mount functions in Matthew. It introduces the disciples and us to the nature of Christ’s kingdom. After setting up the theme of the great reversal in the Beatitudes and woes, our Lord goes on to show the greatest reversal of all: that in His kingdom, under His reign, those who hear Him (His disciples), are called to do the amazingly unthinkable: to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, to bless those who curse them, to pray for those who abuse them, and to give to those who would steal from them and not demand payment back from those who beg from them.

Christ points out that being kind in return for kindness is no mark of sanctity but a common heathen virtue. The mark of sanctity in His kingdom will be in concrete expressions of love and care for those who treat us poorly.

Everything inside us, in our fallen nature, rebels against this and thinks it is impossible and certainly undesirable. The fear that rises up in the old Adam is that if he does not guard and protect himself and his own rights and turfs, he will lose them. Our Lord is at pains to teach us

what a lie this is—it is BY protecting himself, guarding his rights and turfs that the old Adam is guaranteed to lose them all: “For whoever would save his life will lose it” (Luke 9:24).

The Lord wants to open our eyes to see a whole new way of living—a way of living that He will vindicate by His cross and resurrection. A life where judging and condemning are renounced and replaced by giving and forgiving. A life of love for the enemy that prays for those who persecute. The astonishing revelation is that such a life is indestructible. True, our Lord died upon the cross. But HE LIVES! His trust in the Father’s vindication of such a life of sacrifice and love was totally justified.

 

 

32"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:32-34

 

It is no accident that precisely as the crucifixion is beginning, as the nails are being driven into our Lord’s hands and feet, He prays to the Father for our forgiveness. And curiously, the answer to the prayer is in the pounding of the nails and the raising of the cross. God forgives by providing us a sacrifice of atonement, and that sacrifice is His Son.

That Jesus prays for this forgiveness is significant. He renounces before His Father the right of vengeance for which He could have justly prayed. This renunciation manifests the whole of His life: He will not deal with us by paying out what we have deserved—not unless we insist upon that. He wishes to show mercy, and the mercy takes the form of prayer. So it will be in our lives too. Too often we focus the prayer on ourselves: “Oh God, give me the strength to forgive so and so for what they did to me.” But this is not how Jesus prayed or how He teaches us to pray. Instead, we pray: “Father, forgive. Father, bless. Father, pour out the gifts of heaven upon them.”

To live with Christ and in Him, is to live in a kingdom of forgiveness. There is no more scorekeeping—tallying the wrongs done to us, demanding that they be paid for. Rather, there is the joy of not keeping score on others just as God does not on us. The blood of His Son has blotted out not only our sins, but the sins of the world—including those that we have suffered from. So when we suffer hurt and sorrow, we rejoice that we can walk the way of our Savior and pray for those who wrong us. Forgiven, we become forgivers ourselves. This is to live with Christ.

 

*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource


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