Friday, March 23, 2018
Scratching the Surface
I’ve often repeated, “What’s deep in the well comes up in the bucket.”
That’s especially true for folks knocking on heaven’s door.
People tend to say what they really mean when they don’t have much time left to say it.
It’s very, very, very sad for people who do not believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Their last words are often filled with inconsolable fear about what happens the first nano-second after the last breath.
While I would never judge anyone’s eternity – only God knows that – some folks look and talk and act so desperately to hang onto this life that it can make one wonder if they really believe in heaven/paradise; causing me to well up with tears of pity for anyone who faces the inevitable like Elizabeth I: “All of my possessions for one more moment of time.”
Conversely, people who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior face eternity unafraid; bringing President Andrew Jackson’s last words to mind: “Please don’t cry for me or yourselves, dear children, for we will all meet in heaven.”
My next-to-favorite last words come from my grandfather Hayden Phillips who died on May 18, 1984.
Just a few days before he passed on from here to eternity, he called from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania’s General Hospital to say he was going home to Jesus; and I said as a young pastor in Kansas City at the time, “Grandpa, I’m going to fly out to be with you, talk about some old times, and pray with you.” Calmly with a chuckle that helped me to remember his smile, he said firmly yet gently, “That’s not necessary. When I die, you will come and preside at the service; and then I’ll see you later.”
My favorite last words are the seven last words of Jesus from the cross; because what Jesus said about who He is and what He has done for us caused my grandfather’s strong calm sanity at the end of his life as preface to something with Someone much, much, much more heavenly.
According to Holy Scripture, these are the seven last words of Jesus:
1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This is among the most unpredictably astounding things that Jesus ever said. He is asking Father God not to hold the torturous and murderous sins of everyone culpable for His passion and death against them; but rather to forgive them as ignorant. How often we have heard, “Ignorance is no excuse.” One of our Lord’s last words disagrees with that sentiment. There is no way on earth for us to understand such forgiveness. All we can do is praise and thank Him for “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
2. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus said that to a criminal dying next to Him who was saved for paradise, as Jesus described heaven, at the last minute. Yes, foxhole religion is real. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus no matter who, what, where, when, or why; even if that faith is expressed just before the last exhale. While waiting that long forfeits the “good” of participating in life created by Him as “good,” the pure and perfect place of personal peace where there is no more crying or pain or tears anymore is forever and ever and ever for anyone who places trust and confidence in Jesus even if it’s with only one tick left on the clock.
3. “Woman, behold your son!…Behold your mother!” (John 19:26-27). Even while He was suffering so horrifically, Jesus remained concerned for the comfort, care, safety, security, and welfare of His family. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote extensively, Jesus was truly, truly, truly the “man for others.” Of course, He embraced the predestination of His crucifixion and death as the inexplicable cost of our eternal salvation enabling our confident living from now until then.
4. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Rather than questioning God or suggesting the Father had abandoned the Son, Jesus was quoting Psalm 22. The psalm is about moving through suffering to triumph. The psalm acknowledges existential pain then praises God for eternal security. Jesus was expressing confidence in His movement from the moment of crucifixion and death to resurrection and reign. By quoting this psalm, Jesus acknowledged His suffering for us as preface to glorious victory for/with us.
5. “I thirst” (John 19:28). Again, Jesus suffered; yet the bigger meaning is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies in Psalms 22:15 and 69:21 in concert with Isaiah 53. Just as Jesus predicted His passion, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and reign in great detail as evidenced throughout the New Testament, every Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Him beginning with His incarnation as Emmanuel.
6. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” (Luke 23:46). Akin to the trust and confidence of Psalms 46, 62, and so many others, Jesus, as reflected throughout His life and ministry, is the perfect enfleshment of strong calm sanity. His total dependence upon Father God as incarnate Son is the perfect illustration of Matthew 5:3.
7. “It is finished” (John 19:30). The deal has been sealed by Jesus. The price has been paid and the glory is hours away! God’s plan of salvation has been completed by Jesus. I think of the missionary who was asked, “What must I do to be saved?’ Answer: “Too late! Jesus has already done it for us!” No more nor no less than Jesus is needed for wholeness, happiness, joy, safety, and eternal security. Saved by grace through faith in Him, we live confidently until moving with Him from here to eternity.
Our Lord’s seven last words have often been described by seven summary words: (1) Forgiveness; (2) Salvation; (3) Relationship; (4) Abandonment; (5) Distress; (6) Reunion; and (7) Triumph.
In short, Jesus saves!
Sooner or later for everyone without exception, last words are uttered.
Having loved people enough to tell them about Jesus and what He has done for us by grace through faith, I’m expecting mine will be, “Thank You, Jesus!”
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!