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Tonight, with Gods blessing, well move on in the Puritan study we began a few weeks ago. Its called Matthew Henry on the Seven Sayings. Henry was an English pastor who died in 1714. Hes best known to us for his great Commentary on the Whole Bible. Thats the book were using to guide us.
Our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross for six hoursfrom nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. During that time, He spoke seven times, six of which are very much in character.
The first three sayings and the last three are things wed very much expect Him to say. Were not surprised that He prayed for His enemies, promised to save the penitent thief, or turned His mothers care over to His most trusted disciple. Because He was as human as you and I are, wed expect Him to ask for a drink. Because He lived in perfect obedience and trust, what would you expect Him to say at the end but what He did say: It is finished and Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. All these sayings are very much in character.
But the one we just read is not. Surely the holiest Man in the world would have the favor of God in His last hours and feel that favor. If you read Foxes Book of Martyrs, youll see that nearly everyone who died for Gods glory also died with a powerful sense of His nearness and grace. But the Lord does not. His last hours are spent in alone. Hes cut off from the sympathy of men and from the favor of God. Both are painful, of course, but the latter is so bad that He cries out
Henry has a lot to say on this one. But before expounding it, he tells us how to approach it. ThisI thinkis the best thing he says here. If you learn nothing else about it, learn this.
Everything in the Word of God demands your respect. But some things are so mysterious or so appalling or so awesome that before you say a word about it, you ought to shudder in godly fear. This is one of them.
Bernard of Clarvaux was a fine theologian and a great poet. Yet when thinking about the sufferings of His Savior, he didnt know what to say or how to say it. His hymn expresses the bewilderment he felt at majesty of Gods Son dying in his place,
Everyone has suffered, some more than others. But no onenot Joseph or Paul or even Jobhas any idea of what our Lord suffered being forsaken by His Father. Henry notes this and tells us to stand in awe of it. Before we think about it or say anything about it, let us feel its solemnity. And be humbled before it.
Henry goes on to cite the source of our Lords cry and why He used it.
Did you know that? No one was more eloquent that the Lord Jesus Christ. Had He wanted to, He could have used original words to give vent to His pain. But He doesnt. He quotes the Biblewords that were first spoken by David about his own sufferings and fear.
Why would the Lord do this? Henry says He did it for two reasons:
A bit later we learn that most people who heard the Lord thought He was calling for Elijah to rescue Him (for God and Elijah sound alike in Aramaic). But, had they been listening more carefully, they would have recognized Psalm 22 and, after the resurrection, they would have understood that both parts of it were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That the Messiah must suffer and rise or go to His throne by way of the cross. This would have greatly confirmed the faith of these Bible-believing Jews and made them know for sure that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel.
Henrys second reason is this:
What prayers will the Lord answer? According to I John 5:14, He answers the ones that are according to His will. Now, where do you find the will of God? You find it in the Bible. If, therefore, you want to pray wellthat is, according to Gods willyoull use the Bible to inform and to limit your prayers. The Word informs your prayers by telling you what to pray for; it limits them by telling you what not to pray for.
How often do you use the Bible in your prayers? Its not that praying is the same thing as reciting memory verses, of courseit isnt! But surely the Lord must love to hear His own words spoken back to Him. When used sincerely, theyre the best words you can use.
Dr. Martin Luther found prayed this way. Though he was a fine scholar and a great preacher and writer, he mostly studied the Bible to find things to pray for! To him, there was no real difference between study and prayer. When the Word gave a command, he prayed to keep it; when it gave a promise, he prayed to believe it; when it revealed Christ, he prayed to love Him.
This might slow down your Bible reading. But thats the speed God wants you to read His Word. Not plowing through enough chapters to finish it this year (or in two years or in six months or whatever your schedule is), but to read it at the speed of prayer, faith, love, and obedience.
And so, the Lords prayer on the cross came right from the Bible, so that we would look for Him in all Scripture and so that we would use Gods Word to direct our prayers.
Henry goes on to the agony of this prayer,
It is impossible to exaggerate the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some may have suffered as much from the hands of men. Think of the Christians tortured in the Inquisition or the Jews in the Holocaust or all kinds of people in the Soviet work campsterrible suffering!
But, at the hands of God, no one outside of hell has ever suffered what our Lord Jesus Christ has! The godforsaken man in the world is not godforsaken! But our Lord was. This was the heaviest blow, the only one He could not keep inside. The Lord was a tough manand not a complainer. But this was so appalling, that even He cried out in agony.
What does it mean to be forsaken by God? I hope no one here ever knows this by experience. But its good to know it from the Bible. Henry says it means three things:
Everyone has been mistreatedsome in ways too awful to mention in public. But our mistreatment is always limited by the mercy of God. He permits us to suffer abuse, but He also checks the abuse. He does this for every believer and every unbeliever, for that matter. But He did not do it for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave Him into the hands of men to do everything they wanted to do to Himto His body, to His mind, to His spirit. They were freetotally free to abuse the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord had always had His Fathers approval. Until He went to the cross. He lost it then, not because He was doing something wrong, of course, but becauseon the crossHe was taking our place as people who dont have the approval of God! It is you and I who should have been forsaken by God. But it is not you and I who suffer that fate, our the Man who stood in our place, the Lord Jesus Christ!
The sinner deserves two things: Gods back and Gods fist! On the cross, our Lord took them both for us. He was forsaken and punished. The pleasures of God were taken from Him and the terrors of God seized upon His soul. Not because He deserved either, but because we do.
Some parts of the Bible you can breeze through without much thought or feeling. But this is not one of them! The Lords cry on the cross makes us:
1. Feel the awfulness of sin. If sin does this to the Lord Jesus Christ, it must be far worse than we think it is.
2. Feel grateful to God. What a Father we have, to turn His back on His dear Son for our salvation.
3. Love the Lord Jesus Christ. Would you die for your best friend? Maybe you would. But would you lose God for him? You wouldnt. Yet our Lord did just that, for hours on the cross, He lost God so that you and I could find Him!
4. Want to tell others about the Lord. What a great and wonderful Savior we have! I understand why others would be ashamed of their gods or their religions or their holy books and so on. But with this kind of God, Savior, Bible, and religion, what have we got to be ashamed ofother than ourselves for being ashamed.
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