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  • From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove

What does God say about Jesus’ work on the cross?

During His earthly mission Jesus continually asked us to forgive others, Matt 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” and while hanging on the cross, He demonstrated He is not a hypocrite, Lk 23:34a, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do...” for He forgave those who were about to end His earthly life. The work of His first appearance was not a work of judgment, but one of salvation, Lk 23:42-43, “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” So, while dying on the cross, He continued to save, all who would come to Him, no matter what they had done and no matter what else is happening. Jesus consistently delivered the same message of salvation throughout His earthly ministry, and He is never too busy to save us. However, accepting Him is the act that invokes our salvation. Only one of the two thieves accepted Jesus.

Jn 19:26-27, “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” In telling John to care for His mother, Jesus was also telling us to care for each other. This is the very nature of God’s love; He cares for everyone, even those who hate Him and deny His existence. He wants everyone to feel His love, so we will all have the chance to accept His offer of salvation. We cannot lead people to Jesus when we are condemning them for their sins. We are to take care of them, showing God’s love for them, and when they choose to come to Jesus, they will recognize their own sins and deal with them.

With death approaching, Jesus allows us to experience the horror of being separated from God, Matt 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He wants us to understand there is nothing in this world that comes close to the pain of eternal separation from God. The story of Oscar Wilde’s deathbed conversion, whether true or not, forces us to deal with the question we all face; will we choose to remain separated from God, or become a member of His eternal family? Feeling Jesus suffering on the cross brought this decision to life for me, “Will I come to Jesus, or not?” This is why it is so painful for me to watch the movie "The Passion of Christ;" it takes me past the intellectual understanding of that moment, into the world of feeling Christ’s pain, the intensity of that moment destroys the shield I built to hide from the reality of His sacrifice.

Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the Old Testament, so we might know He is the Messiah, Ps 69:21, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” and, so Jn 19:28-29, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.” God’s plan includes our coming to the truth that Jesus is fully God and that He came to offer us salvation. Our souls thirst not for drink, but rather for a relationship with God, Ps 42:1-2, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God” whether we acknowledge it, or not. When we are separated from God, it is this thirst that produces the angst we feel but cannot explain. Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we might have the choice of accepting His blood as a cover for our sins; our choice, Ps 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” His time on the cross was nearing an end, and so was the intense humiliation He suffered during His torture and crucifixion.

Jesus’ final words are a sign of one who has completed His work, not the words of a dying criminal, Lk 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Jesus came to do the will of the Father, Jn 4:34, “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” and all who opened their eyes witnessed not a dying criminal on that cross, Jn 19:30, "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." but a man who had lived a sinless life of devotion to the will of God, Lk 23:47, “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” Nothing more need be done, God has completed His part of His eternal plan. Now it is up to each of us to decide whether we believe in Jesus and the work He completed or not.

Jesus came to save, not to condemn, Jn 12:47-48, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” A man was standing on his rooftop praying for God to save him, as the floodwaters continued to rise. Two boats came by and asked him to enter them and they would take him to safety. He refused both boats, saying he was waiting for God to save him. So, he cried out to God, "why have you not saved me?" God answered, "I sent two boats and you refused to enter either of them. What more should I do?" We need to get off the rooftop and enter the boat, which is God's Word. We will decide our own eternal future; this life only, or believe what He told us and share eternity with Him as part of His family, Eph 1:13-14, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” His final word on the cross “tetelestai,” which means "it is finished," cries out to us through all of eternity.

The evidence is plain, He was resurrected, and it changed the lives of all who saw Him after His resurrection. We have their testimony and the transformed lives of billions of His followers, as our witnesses. We can choose to ignore this evidence, but whom does that serve? What is gained by that choice? Do we serve God or man? Paul clarifies this question, Gal 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Christ died so that we might have this choice. His life demonstrated His desire to fulfill God's Will and He taught us to pray so that we would do the same, Matt 6:6-7, 10, " But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking... Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." "Thy Will be done," and He told us what awaits those who choose to do the Father's Will, Matt 12:50, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Jesus' death was marked by several miracles, which non-believers have unsuccessfully tried to explain.

Lk 23:44-45, “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” This event is well documented in several sources outside of Christianity. No one has been able to explain it, for it was not an eclipse.

Matt 27:50-51, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;” The veil had separated God from His people, and Jesus’ death ended that perceived separation. This separation was established because God's people were afraid of Him and His miracles, Ex 20:19, “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Our separation from God is now a choice, a choice each of us must make.

Matt 27:52-53, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” People rose from the grave and were seen by many. This is another reason there are no documented lies, from that period, to oppose the Bible’s version of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. There were too many witnesses.

No one else could have offered themselves as a sacrifice, for no one else lived the perfect life, Heb 9:12-15, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” This inheritance is assured because Jesus is fully God and He came to die for us, 1 Cor 15:54, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Jesus died so that we might have a choice. Death is not the only option, for Jesus came and swallowed up death! Please, enter the boat.

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