What has God done for me?

March 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Many people today, inside and outside the church, have become focused on self. They are all about them and what they can do. They often don’t know or care what God has done for them. Those who aren’t professing Christians can’t see that their very life is a gift from God. Sadly, this affects the gospel. When people don’t understand what God has done for them or why He did it, is cheapens the gospel and lessens the effect the good news can have in a person’s life. When pastors don’t preach the true gospel, the people listening don’t receive what they need to hear to help them understand who God is and what He’s done for them.

So, what has God done for you? Let me tell you exactly what He did for you. After thousands of years of sin and death, violence and debauchery, God entered into human history. He poured Himself into a fragile, flesh-covered body and was born of a virgin in a small town in Israel. After escaping certain death at the hands of Herod the Great, He lived a relatively peaceful life as far as we know. At the age of 30 years old, Jesus began an earthly ministry whose sole purpose was to reveal to man the truth about God. He spent every single day preaching and teaching the truth of God in synagogues, fishing boats, and the temple itself. He preached that all men should repent of their sins. He confronted the false ideals of the day and spoke with wisdom and authority. He healed the sick, lame, and blind; raised the dead; and fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. He challenged the beliefs of the scribes and Pharisees and condemned the hundreds of laws that they added to what God had already written. He had compassion on the broken and gave harsh words to the proud, but in all that He did and said, He never sinned. He befriended prostitutes, tax collectors, and Roman soldiers and told them to repent of their sins. He handpicked twelve men to follow Him knowing that one of them would one day betray Him.

After three and a half years of ministry, He returned to Jerusalem. He entered riding on a donkey while people proclaimed, “Hosanna in the highest”, and threw down the cloaks and palm branches along His path. He again began to teach the people about the kingdom of God using parables. He warned the people listening of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes, the burdens they placed on God’s people, and the danger of appearing pious on the outside but being lawless on the inside. After this, He began preparing for what would be His last Passover. He warned His disciples that He would be “handed over for crucifixion” (Matthew 26:2).

The Passover would be the beginning of the trials for Jesus. Passover seems to have been on Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning the year Jesus was crucified (there is much more controversy and debate about this than I realized). The disciples of Jesus prepared the Passover and then gathered together with Christ to share it with Him. While sharing this final Passover, the Lord of the universe got up and began washing the feet of those who were sharing His table. When He finished, He explained His example:

“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you should also do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Then, Jesus revealed one of the most shocking things the His disciples could have heard. One of the twelve men that had followed Jesus for the last three years would betray Him. A man who sat at His own table, traveled with Him all over Judea, and even preached the gospel to the lost sheep of Israel would turn his back on the Christ. The disciples were perplexed and the fact that they continuously asked the Lord if they were the one shows a couple of things. First, it shows that they understood their sinful nature (unlike many professing “Christians” today). They realized that they could easily betray the Lord because of the evil desires of their flesh. Second, it shows that they didn’t know that it would be Judas Iscariot. Obviously, Judas had done nothing to give any hint to the disciples that he had already made an agreement with the chief priests to betray the one that he called Lord (Mark 14:10). Even after He told them that it was one who dipped with Him in the bowl, they didn’t realize that it would be Judas. In the midst of this commotion, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He broke the bread and told them: “Take. Eat. This is my body” Then, He took the cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take. Drink from it, all of you; for this is the blood of My covenant which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins”.  He told them that they will all fall away because of Him this night in fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 13:7). Peter then boldly declared that he would never fall away, even if it meant dying with the Lord. Jesus told Peter that he would deny the Lord three times before a rooster crows. The Lord then began to teach them about the new commandment He gave them: that they should love one another. He reminded them that He is the only way to heaven (John 14:6). He told them about their need to abide in Him and how He would send them the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort them. They got up and left the upper room.

Then Jesus prayed for His disciples, both those present and those still to come. He prayed for their unity in the face of adversity and death. They entered the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus drew away from the disciples taking Peter, James, and John with Him to pray. Jesus went off a little way to be alone and began to pray:

“Abba! Father! All things are possible with You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Jesus prayed that God’s will be done. The agony of the coming events pushed Him to the point that He began to sweat drops of blood. Despite the great pressure He was under, His focus was on being obedient to the will of God, even to the point of death. On two occasions the Lord paused in His prayer to find that the disciples had fallen asleep. When He woke them a third time it was to tell them that the time had come for Him to be handed over. As the disciples gathered together, Judas Iscariot came into view with the temple guard and a cohort of Roman soldiers, all of whom were armed with swords and other weapons. I can’t help but wonder why they felt the need to bring such a large group of armed and deadly men to bring one Man into custody? Did they expect a hard battle from the group of fishermen? Or, did they realize that there was something more to Jesus than they were ready and willing to admit? Judas came up to Jesus and greeted Him with a word and a kiss. Jesus stepped forward and asked the throng who they have come for. The Roman commander responded: “Jesus of Nazareth”. At this Jesus replied, “I am He”. With this simple response, 600-1000 Roman soldiers, a group of temple guards, and Judas Iscariot fell down to the ground. Jesus asked them again and they responded with the same. At this point, Peter grabbed the sword he had been carrying and attacked Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. With a word Jesus stops Peter and healed the man on the spot.

The armed men then moved in to take Jesus and all of the disciples flee. They bound the Lord with ropes and took Him to the house of the high priest, while Peter and John followed. John, being known to the high priest, was allowed entry into the court while Peter waited outside the door until John talked them in to letting him in. A slave girl who was at the door asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denied that he was. Jesus’ trial with the high priest began as the “witnesses” were brought forth to explain how Jesus was blasphemous and taught against the truth of God. Not one of the testimonies lined up with another. When His response to the priest wasn’t respectful enough for the guards, one of them struck Jesus. While the trial continued on, Peter warmed his hands by the fire. One of the men standing there asked him if he was a disciple of Jesus. Again, Peter denied that he was. Another man standing by the fire, the relative of Malchus, asked him the same question. For the third time, Peter denied that he was a disciple of Jesus. At this, Jesus looked to Peter while a rooster crowed in the background. Peter rushed out of the court, weeping bitterly. When the high priest saw that the false testimonies were not getting anywhere, he stood up and asked Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus responded, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven”. Immediately upon hearing this, the high priest tore his clothes and said that there was no further need of witnesses. Jesus has committed blasphemy (in the eyes of the priest) by making himself out to be the Son of God. The guards holding Him in custody blindfolded Him and then mocked and beat Him saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” The entire trial was a circus and bore no resemblance to the way that the trial should have gone.

According to the Law, the penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning (Leviticus 24:16). Early Wednesday morning, the Jewish Council bound Jesus and took Him before Pontius Pilate saying that He was an evildoer. They began to accuse Him before Pilate saying that He was misleading the nation, wouldn’t pay taxes to Caesar, and called Himself a king. Pilate said that he found no guilt in Jesus. The priests accused Him even more and tell Pilate that he stirred up the people from Galilee to Jerusalem. When Pilate found out that He was a Galilean, he sent the Lord to Herod. This was approximately two miles from the Praetorium where Pilate lives. When Jesus arrived at Herod’s palace, Herod was happy to see Him and asked Him to perform some kind of miracle to prove that He was the Messiah. Herod then questioned Jesus while the priests and scribes continued to accuse Him. When Herod saw that Jesus wasn’t going to answer any of his questions, he mocked Jesus, dresses Him in a “gorgeous robe”, and sent Him back to Pilate (another two miles).

When He stood before Pilate again, Pilate asked the Jewish leaders what accusation they were bringing against Jesus. They said that they wouldn’t have brought Him to the governor if he wasn’t an evildoer.  Pilate told them to judge Him according to their own laws and they responded by saying that they were unable to put anyone to death. Pilate went inside (the Jewish leaders wouldn’t go inside because they would have been unclean and therefore unable to celebrate the Passover) and asked Jesus if He is the King of the Jews and Jesus asked in response, “Did you ask this by your own initiative or did someone tell you about Me?” Pilate then asked Jesus what He had done to be delivered to him. Jesus told Pontius Pilate about His kingdom. Pilate went back outside and told the scribes, Pharisees, and crowd that neither he nor Herod found any guilt in Jesus. Therefore, Pilate said that he will punish Christ and release Him. When the Jewish leaders heard this, they cried out for Pilate to release Barabbas. Barabbas was a murder and had started a riot in the city. Pilate stood before the crowd and asked them if they want him to release their King. The same people who had, only days before, shouted “Hosanna” were now shouting for the crucifixion of their Lord. While deciding what to do with Jesus, Pilate received a note from his wife Claudia about how she had a horrible nightmare about Jesus and how Pilate should have “nothing to do with this righteous man”. The Jewish leaders continued to incite the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. Finally, Pilate gave in to the crowd. He washed hands in a bowl of water and told all of those in the crowd that the blood of Jesus was on their heads. They replied that His blood was on them and their children. He sat down on the judgment seat and declared that Barabbas should be released and Jesus should be crucified.

Jesus was then led away to be scourged. He was chained to a whipping post and stripped bare. Roman soldiers picked up whips called cat-o-nine-tails and began to scourge the flesh off of Jesus. The cat-o-nine-tails was a whip with nine leather strips coming from the handle. Embedded in these strips were bits of bone, glass, metal, and shells that will dig into the victim’s skin and muscle and shred it to ribbons. After giving Him the prescribed number of lashes according to Roman law, cohort of soldiers (600 – 1000 men) put a scarlet robe on Him, twisted a crown of thorns on His head, and put a staff in His right hand. They then began to mock Him saying “Hail, King of the Jews”, spitting on Him and striking Him on the head with the staff, driving the two inch thorns deep into brow. After they had finished beating Him, they tore off the scarlet robe (which had been drenched with His blood and would have reopened His wounds) and put His own clothes back on Him. Then, Jesus was forced to carry the cross He was to be crucified on approximately 600 yards from the Praetorium to the hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha. Sometime along the journey, He turned to the mourning women following Him and said:

 “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop worrying for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘fall on us’, and to the hills, ‘cover us’. For if they do these things while the tree is green, what will they do when it is dry?”

Somewhere along the 600 yard trip, Jesus gave out and could no longer carry the cross. The Romans pressed Simon of Cyrene into service to carry it for Him the rest of the way. Two other criminals were also being led to the hill to be crucified. When He finally reached the hill in the third hour of the day (9:00 AM), Jesus was stripped of His clothes (while the Bible doesn’t say it for certain, I believe that He was stripped bare as part of the humiliating murder). He was laid out on the cross the soldiers began to methodically pierce the Lord. They pulled His arms until they came out of the sockets and then drove a nine inch nail into each wrist. This nail went directly through the largest nerve and the biggest blood vessels in the arm. His legs were made to straddle the upright of the cross and each foot was nailed to the cross through the nerve/blood vessels above the heel. While Jesus was being crucified, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When this was finished, the cross was raised up so that the end could drop into the prepared hole. The jolt of the dropping cross sent waves of agony throughout His body. To even take a shallow breath He had to push up on his nail-pierced feet, slide His shredded back against the rough wood of the cross, take a short breath (which is all He can afford because of His arms being stretched out like they are), and then slide back down the cross so that His weight can once again bear down against His feet and wrists. While the Lord of heaven and earth hung in midair, the Roman soldiers gambled for His clothes.  The sign above Him read “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Jesus looked to John and Mary and made it clear that the beloved disciple was to take care of her.

Some of those who stood and watched pointed fingers at Him and mocked, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The mocking also came from the Pharisees. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:43) Even one of the thieves mocked the Lord, “Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” The other thief understood the truth of their predicament though. “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then turned to the Lord and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom”. Jesus looked at the repentant thief and said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”. At the sixth hour (12 noon), darkness fell over the whole land and lasted for three hours.

When the ninth hour (3 PM) had come, the darkness ended and Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani!” Some thought that He was calling on Elijah and gave him a drink of wine on a sponge. The Lord Jesus then cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” He then cried out, “It is finished!” and breathed His last. The earth shook, rocks split, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and many of the saints who had been dead were raised to life again. The Roman centurion who stood before Jesus as He died said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” and began to praise God. Another soldier took a spear and pierced Jesus’ side and blood and water immediately came out. Because it was preparation day for the Sabbath (the third one this week), those who were crucified were not allowed to remain on the cross until evening. The Romans broke the legs of the two criminals to cause them to suffocate (they couldn’t push themselves up to take a breath), but Jesus they didn’t touch for He was already dead.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both members of the Sanhedrin, came with spices and took down the body of the Lord Jesus (with Pilate’s permission). They buried Him in Joseph’s own tomb, in the garden near where Christ had been crucified. They also rolled a stone in front of the entrance to close it off. The Pharisees, fearing that one of the disciples would steal the body to allow them to claim He had been resurrected, asked for the tomb to be sealed (with a Roman signet ring) and a guarded by Roman soldiers.

In the morning of the first day of the week (three days later), while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to anoint the body of the Lord with spices for a proper burial. When she arrived at the tomb, she saw that the stone had been moved. On top of the stone were two angels. They told Mary that the Lord had risen and then charged her to go and tell the disciples. Meanwhile, the Roman guard came in to Jerusalem and told the priests what had happened. They didn’t go to Pilate because he would have had them killed for failing. The Pharisees and chief priests bribed the soldiers to lie about what had happened. Over the next fifty days, Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples and others, including a group of 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). He then gathered His disciples and gave them the great commission to go out into the world and tell them the truth about Him. He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God.

So, what has God done for you? He came down to earth to live as a human being. The infinite God made flesh. He lived as a human for 33 years and did it without sinning. He healed the sick, raised the dead, consoled the broken-hearted and forgave sins. He loved those that no one else would love. And then, after doing all that He did while He lived, He allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked, and spit upon by the very people that were supposedly looking for Him. He turned Himself over to the cruelest empire in history and suffered the most humiliating, excruciating death a man could know by the hands of those who were experts at it. A large amount of Jews hated Him and the Romans were even worse. He was betrayed by friends and denied by followers. And He let it happen. He could have called legions of angels down from heaven to save Him, but He didn’t. Why? Because He knew that He was the only One that could save mankind from His sin. And while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For me.  For you. While we were lying, stealing, lusting, coveting, murdering, hating, and following idols, He died for us. While we were railing against Him and hating Him with our actions, our words, and our very beings, He hung on the cross.

The amazing thing about what Jesus did on the cross, besides the fact that He did it for us knowing we would sin against Him, is the fact that the free gift of salvation is still available today. If you mock God, repent of your sins and He will save you. If you live a lifestyle that God has clearly labeled sin, repent and He will save you. If you go to church, sing songs, and claim to be a Christian but watch pornography, and live like hell the rest of the week; repent, and He will save you. Now that you know what God has done for you…what will you do about it?

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