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11th April, 2011

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Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani

The suffering and death of Jesus Christ, though occupying less than 24 hours of time, provided the grounds for the redemption of the entire human race. Few give His Passion a passing thought today, but the time is coming (alleluia) when that will change:

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations (Ps. 22:27-28).

The eyes of all the blind of all generations will be granted sight in the day of judgment and will, in due course, worship God and Jesus Christ for the stupendous victory of Calvary. When they see the love and faithfulness of God made manifest in Jesus' Passion all except the most stubborn of rebels will bow in joyful adoration before their King, their Judge, their Savior. All will see the endless glory of God and become privy to the infinitely good and rich workings of His mind and will squirm with embarrassment to contemplate the folly and pride that prevented them from worshiping God before. He will then implement the saving work wrought on Calvary to extend salvation to all who will receive it.

The wise will not wait until the judgment to "look up and live". They will gaze in humble awe upon Jesus writhing in pain on the stake; they will cast themselves upon His mercy. For they will understand, if they do not harden their hearts, that His groans of pain are instrumental in their own escape from the misery of eternal annihilation. You see, God so loves mankind that He gave Jesus Christ to the torment of death by crucifixion for a vital reason - to bear His implacable wrath against sin in our stead. Sin may be a forgotten concept in the world today, but it certainly has not been forgotten in heaven. Those who joke about sin and treat it lightly have no idea how foolish they are being. Sin lies at the heart of all suffering, all wretchedness. Its originator - Satan - is dead in utter misery. God's plan is to create a deliriously joyful kingdom peopled by sinless saints. 2 Peter 3:13 tells us about it:

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Righteousness, here, means total absence of sin. While sin abounds amongst us, it will be non-existent in the kingdom of God. Hopeful candidates for that kingdom must come to see and hate sin as their Savior, Jesus Christ, does. Sin

simply cannot be swept under the rug; God is not capable of just pretending that all is well with us human beings when it isn't. While human beings treat sin flippantly, God detests it. He will not compromise one atom with it. When God extends forgiveness He does not do so by just saying, "It's O.K. Just forget about it. I have." The saving forgiveness He offers is grounded in the suffering and death of Jesus. In His deepest anguish, Jesus cried out,

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matt. 27:46).

These words are taken from the first verse of Psalm 22. The rest of the Psalm speaks of the goodness of the Forsaken One, thereby highlighting the incomprehensible anomaly of His rejection by God. Jesus Christ is worth more than all humans who have ever lived. He is "big enough" to experience the accumulated wrath of God in our stead. His goodness is vast enough to placate that wrath. Can we grasp the staggering notion that Jesus somehow, in some real way, shouldered all our sins and suffered the consequence of God's wrath in our stead? He "bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24); He "was wounded for our transgressions. bruised for our iniquities" (Is. 53:5). Or, as Paul put it, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). We would do well to think about this event every day of our lives. Our future fate depends largely upon our attitude towards it.

Who can grasp the love of Jesus Christ manifested in His willingness to experience agony and humiliation in our stead, for our sins? He knew perfectly well that almost nobody who watched the spectacle of His agony had any inkling of his own sinfulness or of the wrath of God against him because of it. Who can grasp the love of the Father shown in His willingness to turn away from Jesus in the moment of His sin-caused suffering? For a short period God turned His back on the spotless Passover lamb because that lamb was laden with all our wickedness. Unbelievable. Some consider such a deed obscene. They have got a lot of rethinking to do.

Few lines of thought could be more beneficial for kingdom-of-God aspirants than contemplation of God's abhorrence of sin. His zeal against it is most clearly expressed in the day of the Lord, and His determination to completely cleanse the human race of it is most vividly demonstrated in Jesus' plaintive cry, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"


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