The SEVENTH WORD

SEVENTH WORD OF CHRIST from the CROSS

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit – Letting GO Gracefully!

According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus endured suffering on the cross for approximately six hours from approximately 9 am, until his death at what is agreed to be about 3 pm.

Jesus doesn’t leave a record behind that indicates that he did a lot of talking while on the cross. He hung there in physical pain for more than 6-hours. He was silent except for the very few words that we commemorate each year on Good Friday. But the words that he did speak gives us an opening into Jesus’ soul. They inspire us to an act of meditation and the use of our finite understanding to gain life through his own last words. What is ultimately important to this divine One who is dying on the cross for your sins and my own sins is others; not himself (Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries).

We don’t have a good time log about the intervals between the sayings but think about it … even if you are with someone under normal conditions, i.e. conditions that are not requiring that you give attention to pain, offering up only seven phrases over the course of approximately six hours is considered extremely quiet, even for the introverts reading this account. Many would fill the space with our noisiness many times over seven phrases during the course of six hours. I conceptualize this moment of intentional silence as one in which Jesus is letting go gracefully.

Hear the seven phrases as reflections in the silence of your own heart…

  • Jesus offered a prayer …Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  • Jesus extends salvation and hopes to the thief next to him; Today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43. …
  • Jesus makes provisions for his mother … Behold your son: behold your mother. …
  • Jesus questions the whereabouts of his Father… My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? …
  • Then Jesus reminds us of his human attributes then he asked for something to drink or did he, I thirst. … some immediately think about our own culture where to thirst means a need for water. But does it really mean that in this context? http://www.theologicalstew.com/i-thirst.html
  • With the first leg of his journey logged and in its final chapter, he statesIt is finished.
  • Then in a divine moment, he acknowledged his continued connectedness to his fatherFather, into your hands I commend my spirit.

During this graceful moment of transitioning, perhaps Jesus is meditating on Psalm 23 and saying

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!.[b]
He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He restores my failing health.

Our heavenly Father helps us do what honors him the most. Retaliation for his hostile treatment is not a priority for Jesus. Can we take this character trait and exploit it for the betterment of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? (text) Brothers and sisters, we have often resisted the call to become people of God in our dealings with each other.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in your scheduled time of rebellion, don’t get bitter during your time of testing in the desert and valleys of life (Hebrews 3:8)

God’s grace is sufficient … Grace, God’s grace, his grace is sufficient for you!

John’s account of the days leading up to the crucifixion tells us that

When all the people[d] heard of Jesus’ arrival in Bethany, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead.10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted the priests[e] and believed in Jesus.

John says that the leaders who were in charge, those with authority in the community, those with political sway in the religious establishments had targeted Jesus because of his popularity among the people …

and yes, Lazarus wore a target on his back as well too.  He contributed to the acceptance of Jesus by so many. Lazarus had demonstrated this unique ability to respond to the voice of Jesus.

It appeared to the natural eye and human senses that death had conquered Lazarus’ earthly presence.

BUT Lazarus got a call … “Hello Lazarus, this is Jesus. I need you to rejoin this wayward world for another teaching moment.”

Lazarus was obedient and received a fresh anointing! He responded, and Jesus said to those watching, take him out of those grave clothes and let him GO!

Friends, are you close enough to Jesus until you find yourself surrounded by the stench of dead works? Yet embolden by God’s amazing grace and his ever-present witness you are able to reach beyond the stench to the hand of Jesus and experience the tug and pull of his WORD to a new day and new opportunities…

Letting GO Gracefully is a matter of trust! Do you TRUST GOD to honor his word?

Reaching out beyond his own divinity, Jesus demonstrated the ability to let go of the royalty due him to take a 33-year assignment on earth! What do we learn from this often-celebrated text that brings us to the foot of the cross this Good Friday afternoon?

In the context of this very important commemoration of Jesus’ brutal death, we are still learning about resistance and commitment and fighting the Good fight of faith! From Jesus’ 7th word, we learn at least three things.

  • we learn that …we might have the end goal in view but your walk through the valley of dry bones and life’s challenges are a test of your resolve to bring honor God! (text) 9-10 Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines. (Prov. 3:9-10)
  • we learn that …we are never abandoned! (text) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (I John4:12) Yes, and Matthew records that famous reminder Jesus handed down … 20 … teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world Matt. 28).”[a]
  • we learn to …Never stop praying (text) John 17:20-23 Living Bible (TLB) 20 “I am not praying for these alone but also for future believers, for us my friends – Jesus included us in his prayer in John 17 – backdating this prayer, we are the “who, that Jesus prayed about … we came to Jesus because of the testimony of others; we continue passing it on.“ 21 My prayer for all of us is that we will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me—the glorious unity of being one, as we are— 23 I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one—so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.

Friends, you certainly recall that it was only about six (6) days ago before the Passover celebration began, is when Jesus arrived in Bethany, at the home of Lazarus—this was the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate[a] with Jesus. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar[b]of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.

Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man[l] to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. –

This passage helps us recalls the numerous United Methodist congregations who have merged or reconfigured in some way to give life to another congregation. Asking God for change sometimes requires a letting go gracefully of the familiar, thus making way for the new!

We are encouraged to walk in the light while you can so that the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

Getting back to the cross where Jesus is hanging at this moment of reflection

He’s the one who said … when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

In times when the pressures of life are pressing it, Jesus’ ability to let go gracefully is the key that opens a window into heaven so that all the world could peek in! Now we can even enter the Holy of Holies … this scared relationship is available to us because of the work of Jesus in these final live-giving moments on the cross!

Letting go gracefully like Jesus did bring us to our knees … Jesus recognized that his earthly ministry was nearing closure as the pain of the crucifixion seemingly takes its toll.

The ole prophet Isaiah asked … “Lord, who has believed our message?    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?”

Despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. They made fun of him during his moment of sincere service to others. Here we find Jesus giving up the ultimate sacrifice as he volunteers his service.

Community organizers often say, we have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we only have permanent interests (–attributed to Henry John Temple Viscount Lord Palmerston 1784-1865, Foreign Secretary and two-time Prime Minister under Queen Victoria.).

Jesus’ volunteer work is what carried him to the cross for his allies and his enemies. It was our sin-sickness that carried Jesus to the cross that is the source of our commemoration.

The worse thing good people can do is nothing when they are aware of social issues! What is it you are being called to let go gracefully? Are you being called to reconfigure the expression of your call to serve to make space to better address inequities in the church? In your own community?

The final prayer of Jesus was about you. His final pain was for you. His final passion was for you. God couldn’t turn his back on you.

He saw you cast into a river of life that you didn’t request and are challenged to swim through;

He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that gets weak. God couldn’t turn his back because God saw you, and one look at you was all it took to convince him to send his Son to open a pathway to hope and unconditional love. Jesus made his decision. Jesus would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you (Grace Memories).

Matthew 28:50 in the “Living Bible” says it this way … “Then Jesus shouted out again, dismissed his spirit, and died.”

The way Jesus “Let Go and gracefully” and dismissed his own spirit, led a Roman Officer standing near the cross to testify at the moment “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

Yes, my friends! This was! This is and forever the Son of God!

AMEN.

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