It Wasn’t The Nails

Traditionally, Good Friday is the day when we stop and consider the crucifixion; consider what we have done to Jesus; consider our sin in light of His perfect sinlessness. And it is right to look at it this way. It is right to mourn and deeply contemplate that it is our sin that led to the crucifixion and His death. Simply said, we killed Jesus. But, don’t overlook the fact that His death was an achievement beyond all measure. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was not a tragedy; it was an achievement! The culmination of an eternal plan established before the foundation of the world, and which was repeatedly prophesied and explained in the Scriptures. We see this in so many different places in the Bible. Maybe most familiar to all of you is in Paul’s succinct description of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3 where he says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures“. We see it also in Paul’s opening statements in his letter to the Galatians where he says that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).

But, to me two of the clearest verses on the crucifixion being a plan of God the Father and in complete agreement with His sovereignty are, first, in Acts 2:23, where Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost in addressing the crowd says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” And then two chapters later, when Peter and John came back from the Sanhedrin, having been told that they are to no longer spread the gospel, they return to the rest of the disciples and in their prayer for more boldness to proclaim the gospel they say, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28).

I don’t think it can get any clearer than this. Jesus’ crucifixion was not some tragedy. God wasn’t taken off guard by these horrific deeds against His Son. No, the crucifixion was an achievement, a plan made in the eternal counsels of God, executed exactly according to His eternal design. Every detail meticulously planned and orchestrated. And through this, God is saying “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 49:10-11)

No, the crucifixion was an achievement, and it is God’s ultimate display of love for us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t wait until we got our act together, but He sent us Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners, because He loved us. Therefore, to genuinely say “Jesus died for me” you must also say “I have no strength to save myself. I am ungodly. I am a sinner.” Jesus died to save and transform these. It is love given to the undeserving, to those without strength, to the ungodly, to sinners, to us. This emphasizes the fact that the reasons for God’s love are found in Him, not in us. It would be easy to see the cross as demonstrating the indifference of God, a God who let the innocent Jesus be taken by wicked men, tortured, and crucified while He did nothing… Unless there is a sense in which the Father and Christ are one, it is not the love of God that the cross shows. But the Father and Christ are one, and it is the love of God. The work of Jesus on the cross for us is God’s ultimate proof of His love for you. The demonstration of God’s love isn’t so much in that Jesus died, but in whom Jesus died for – undeserving sinners and rebels against Him. Sinners and rebels like you and me. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16a)

No, it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to that cross. It was His love for us! When Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34), when He had taken upon Himself all the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future (including yours and mine) and was no longer one with the Father or Spirit, it was out of love for us! And even in that moment of utter pain, condemnation, and separation, He expresses His love for us by praying for us to the Father, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 22:34)

No, it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to that cross. It was His love for you and me! The cross is an invitation of love. An invitation that says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). An invitation that says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).

So, let us say “Yes” to this beautiful invitation of love. Oh, Lord, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live” (Psalm 119:77), “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise” (Psalm 119:41). “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6) “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!” (Psalm 132:7)

Why Should We Love The Torah?

The simple answer to this question should be because we should love Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Torah (Matt. 5:17-18). “The law [Torah] of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;” (Psalm 19:7). Jesus, the Torah, is perfect and restores the soul, bringing us back into relationship with the Father. We should delight in the law of the LORD and set our heart on studying and meditating on it day and night (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Ezra 7:10). That person “will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

But, man, what a challenge it is to love Jesus with all my heart, soul and mind! How I would love to study and meditate on Him day and night and to be firmly planted, in other words, be like Abraham who “did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:20-21). I want to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). It is all about His faithfulness, not mine. And that is comforting to know…

Yet at the moment I feel like an Ephesian, having left my first love, and I trying to figure out ways to remember, repent and do the first things again. It is a challenge, but I want to do it, because He is more precious than anything. So I guess I should start meditating on the Torah, get close to Jesus again in my heart so my love can grow and my soul can be restored.

The Dangers of a Divided Heart

The dangers of a divided heart are:

1. You can’t really love (1 Tim. 1:5)
2. You can’t really draw near to Him (Heb. 10:22)
3. You can’t really seek Him (Ps. 27:8)
4. You can’t really speak truth (Ps. 12:2)
5. You can’t really stand in His holy place (Ps. 24:3-4)
6. You can’t really sing praises (Ps. 57:7)
7. You can’t really see God (Mat. 5:8)
8. You can’t really treasure Christ (Mat. 6:21)
9. You can’t really be precious in God’s eyes (1 Pet. 3:4)

No, our prayer should be to say yes to God’s question: “Give me your heart, My son, and let your eyes delight in My ways” (Pro. 23:26) and ask Him to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10), so that “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 4:7) and that the law of my God is in my heart and my steps do not slip (Ps. 37:31). Then we can say to God: “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart” (Ps. 26:2). “You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” (Ps. 17:3), and “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:12-13)

What Jesus Added To The Shema

‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

I would say that Jesus added two things to the Shema:

1. You shall love the Lord you God with all your mind
The Greek word for mind is ‘dianoia’ and could be translated as ‘will power.’ We receive this will power when we are born again as the Lord at that moment puts the Law into our minds (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). This addition matches the addition of the porch to Solomon’s temple to the original tabernacle. The porch represents the entrance or doorway between our life into our hearts, and thus determines which direction we take, ours or God’s.

2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself
This is echoed in John 13:34-35 where He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Greek word for new (kainos) here implies freshness rather than recent or different. It’s for instance also used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation“). It’s not that Jesus just invented this command, but that He presents it in a new and fresh way. So what’s so fresh about it? Whereas the Old Testament demanded that men should love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18), the New Commandment is that they should love the brothers better than themselves, and die for their friends. The command to love wasn’t new, but the extent of love just displayed by Jesus was new, as would be the display of the cross. Love was newly defined from His example.

To love as Jesus loved results in to serve as Jesus served. The key verse here is Galatians 5:13-14: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Clearly, we can choose to use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. That option (or danger) is open to us. We can take the glorious freedom Jesus has given us, spin it, and use it as a way to please ourselves at the expense of others. This is the antidote for using freedom as an occasion for the flesh. The flesh expects others to conform to us, and doesn’t care much about others. But when we through love serve one another, we conquer the flesh. This is exactly the pattern set by Jesus. He had more freedom than anyone who ever walked this earth did. Yet He used His liberty to through love serve one another. The idea is that as we naturally take care of ourselves, we should also take care of others.

Paraphrase #2 – The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Jesus, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have a prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not Jesus, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not Jesus, I gain nothing.

Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on His own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Jesus never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when Jesus comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and Jesus abide, these three; but the greatest of these is Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)