God-Forsaken Places

He Endured The Cross For You

It was high noon in Jerusalem, yet it was pitch black. With the cross as ground zero, our planet became a God-forsaken place as the Father turned his back, and the sun retreated from its place in the sky. As Jesus willingly hung on the cross, taking into his own life all the evil, vile sin-filth of mankind, God couldn’t watch. The Father was forced to treat his Son as an enemy; his righteous wrath was poured out on him as the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. In that awful, beautiful moment, Jesus became God’s enemy so you could become God’s friend.

The Journey: Mark 15:33-34

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Frederick the Great, was the King of Prussia for almost a half century in the 1700’s. He was in Potsdam when he encountered one of his generals, who was in his severe disfavor. At their meeting the general saluted with the greatest respect, but Frederick abruptly turned his back on the officer. To that, the general humbly said, “I am happy to see that Your Majesty is no longer angry with me.”

That got Frederick’s attention, so he turned and asked, “How so?”

The general responded, “Because Your Majesty has never in his life turned his back on an enemy.”

It was said that the general’s daring statement led to his reconciliation with Frederick.

There was another time in a far more important place when God turned his back on his very own Son as Jesus hung on the cross. That’s why Jerusalem, right in the middle of the day, went pitch black. In that awful moment, with the cross as Ground Zero, our planet became a God-forsaken place. With Jesus willingly hanging on the cross, taking into his own life all the evil, vile sin-filth of mankind, God couldn’t watch. The Father was forced to treat his Son as an enemy; his righteous wrath was poured out on him as he hung on that cross. Jesus became God’s enemy and paid the price of reconciliation so you could become God’s friend.

On the cross, Jesus took on your sins and mine—he became sin for us. It was our sin, the sins of the whole world, that he bore on the tree, and it was that sin at which God’s righteous anger was directed. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

For God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

What a beautifully simple yet unfathomable truth: Christ’s death on the cross was the only means to our reconciliation with God. Jesus paid the ultimate price to satisfy God’s righteous wrath and bring us peace with God. We who were enemies were brought near to God, now as friends. Martin Luther wrote,

Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.”

For Jesus, the cross was a God-forsaken place. Hallelujah for God-forsaken places!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for my salvation, so rich, so free.

You’re Worth It

He Endured The Cross For You

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” (Heb. 12:2) What was this “joy” that so motivated Jesus to go through the most humiliating, torturous death when he didn’t have to? It was you, my friend—you were the joy Jesus felt in his heart as his hands and feet were nailed to the cross. And when his mind’s eye saw that you would one day stand with him as one of the redeemed before his Father’s throne, his heart swelled even as the life drained from his body, and he said, “it’s worth it!” All the pain and shame of the cross was worth it to Jesus, because you’re worth it!

The Journey: 15:24

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross.

The account of the betrayal, arrest, trial, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus is moving beyond words. As you read again his description of what Jesus went through, I would encourage you to remember that Jesus didn’t have to go through this. But he did—and the reason was you.

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. (Mark 15:16-20)

He did it for you! Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” What was this “joy” that so motivated Jesus to go through the most humiliating, torturous death? I am convinced, my friend, that you were the joy Jesus saw as he hung there on the cross. And when he saw that you would one day stand with him as one of the redeemed before his Father’s throne, his heart swelled even as the life drained from his body, and he said, “it’s worth it!”

All the suffering and humiliation of the cross was worth it to Jesus, because you’re worth it.

Just take a minute before you do anything else today and offer your heartfelt thanks to God yet again for what he did by placing Jesus on the cross in your stead.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for my salvation, so rich, so free.

Oops I Did It Again

Free Grace Goes Into The Gutter and Brings Up A Jewell

Why are Peter’s blunders featured so prominently in the gospels? To remind us that by the power of the resurrection, failure doesn’t have to be final and sin does not have to be fatal. As John Newton wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.” “Oops, I did it again” doesn’t get the final word on you. God’s grace does. Jesus made sure of that at the cross!

The Journey: Mark 14:71-72

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.

Poor Peter! He can’t seem to catch a break.

He is the guy who boldly stepped out of the boat to walk on the water—and promptly sank like a rock. He was the one who inappropriately blurted out, “Hey, let’s build three tabernacles” when Jesus was talking about his impending death with Elijah and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was the first to declare, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” but within seconds was sternly rebuked when Jesus said, “Satan, get behind me, you are an offense to me.” Now, at the Last Supper, Peter blurts out, “if all else fall away, I never will”, but within hours he had denied Jesus three times!

Interestingly, each of the four Gospel writers—Peter’s brothers in Christ— have no problem recording Peter’s failures, particularly his denial of Jesus, in exacting detail, to be read again and again throughout the ages.

Peter’s blunder is like those sports bloopers of athletes blowing their teams chances for victory that get replayed over and over again on TV. Remember the poor guy name Steve Bartman, a Chicago Cubs’ fan who interfered with a Cub’s outfielder trying to catch a fly ball. The Cubs were in the playoffs for the first time in, like forever, and if they won, they would go to the World Series. And this over-zealous fan reaches out and takes a foul ball away from his own player, and the Cubs lose. That faux pas will be replayed on TV forever.

So will Peter’s denial. But thankfully, the story doesn’t end with this fireside blooper. If you take a sneak-peak at the end of the story in Mark 16:7, after the crucifixion, when the women came early in the morning to the tomb on Easter Sunday, an angel at the entrance of the empty tomb gave them this message,

But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that Jesus is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you. (Mark 16:7)

Did you notice the specific reference to Peter? “Tell the disciples…and you especially need to tell Peter!”

Why did Mark add this line? He specifically wanted Peter, and by extension, you and me, to know that the cross covers the worst of our failures, and by the cross God takes the initiative to restore us to full fellowship with himself. That is really the core message of the Gospel! Peter’s blunder forever reminds us that by the power of the resurrection, failure doesn’t have to be final and sin does not have to be fatal. As John Newton wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”

“Oops, I did it again” doesn’t get the final word on you. God’s grace does. Jesus made sure of that at the cross!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you for your great grace that is greater than all my sin. Thank you, thank you, thank you.