"Smitten, stricken, and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree! Tis the Christ by man rejected, yes, my soul, 'tis He, 'tis He." Jesus Christ, the One who was born for this very thing, endured the cross, despised the shame of it, because of the joy set before Him.
With the celebration of Christ's resurrection in nearly forty days from now, the church season of Lent will commence tomorrow. My earnest desire during this period of preparation is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to myself each day: through speaking it in prayer, through writing out Scriptures detailing it, through meditating on it. In doing so, I hope that my every day life is changed because my focus will be fixed on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
As Jesus hung on the tree of shame, He uttered several phrases that I plan to highlight on this blog's Tuesday posts during Lent. Beginning with Luke 23: 34:
Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Mocked, beaten to almost-death, and soon-to-be-forsaken by His Father as Jesus took our sins upon Himself, this divine Man asks God to forgive the haters. Every time I read this and think about the times I want to withhold forgiveness, I can't help but imagine when the last time I was mocked, beaten and forsaken by God the Father. (That would be, um, never.) Yet, here is Jesus, among His first words as He is nailed to the despicable cross, forgiving His tormentors.
Let that soak in for a minute.
How could anyone do that? I mean, can you forgive that woman who said something rude to you? Or your husband when he seemed to ignore your needs? Or how about the person who hurt your child's feelings the other day? We're so focused on the little offenses that hit us daily that we can't even fathom forgiving people out for our blood.
Don't belittle the application to us as we read Jesus' words. Yes, He was perfectly obedient to His Father. No, we cannot be. Don't belittle our response to Jesus' example here, though. Jesus asked for forgiveness because He knew that God could do this. He trusted God fully to take care of the situation in His sovereign way. And, Jesus knew that He was dying on that cross so that these men of long ago, and men and women of today and the future, could be forgiven of our sins!
Knowing Christ's accomplishment on the cross--to die in our place, take our sins before the Father in our place, endure His wrath upon those sins in our place, defeat death in our place, secure us His righteousness in our place--must cause us to be grateful! We could never dream of doing any of this on our own. Our works are as filthy rags, they are nothing apart from Jesus Christ. We are indebted to His perfect sacrifice.
And yet we somehow act as the Matthew 18 Unforgiving Servant and hold forgiveness over another even though we've been freely forgiven.
It's a rare woman who doesn't struggle with bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness at some point in her life. Seek the Lord, ask Him to point this out to you, and then quickly slay it! Because of Christ's death, God forgives us and restores us to Himself. I praise Him! We have no business as professing Christians to hold onto unforgiveness. Now, go and sin no more. Reap the joy that is found in forgiveness.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2
("Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted" words by Thomas Kelly, Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture, 1804)