Why Did God Forsake Jesus?

3_cross-why-forsaken45From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-46).

Have you ever wondered why His Father could forsake Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God? If you have ever had the opportunity to read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, one is struck by the majesty of the purest person to ever walk this planet. Even those that lived with Jesus, His disciples for three years, tell us that they had never seen this man commit any sin (1 Peter 2:22). Is it possible that there was a person who walked this earth and was sinless? The Bible records that there is not a man that has not sinned:

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

How could Jesus be different from you and I and not sin? This was the very reason that He was born of a virgin. The Holy Spirit had come on His mother Mary, and she conceived in a different way to the rest of the Homo Sapiens race. Jesus was 100% God, but also 100% man. Adam, the one who first sinned, had passed on to all of us this default in our nature to be disobedient to our Creator, what the Bible calls sin. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were told,

16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die(Genesis 2:16-17).

This death that they were warned about was spiritual death, which is separation from God and, of course, physical death too. After they ate the fruit Adam and Eve did not fall down dead, but something happened within their inner nature that made them hide from God when He came to enjoy their company (Genesis 3:8-10). Sin causes a barrier between God and us:

2But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

God has gone to extraordinary lengths to take this barrier of sin that separates Him from us. He came to this planet in the person of His Son being born of Mary in order to take upon Himself the payment of sin that we owed because of our sin. In His justice, God cannot weigh some in the scales and say you have done more good than another. The problem is deeper than that. All of us have sinned. There is not a person on Earth who is good enough to live with a Holy God. The wage that we receive for our life of sin is to be separated from God for eternity, what is called death. But God in His love for us chose to come to earth and pay our penalty of sin Himself:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 2:19).

When Christ hung on the cross, He was loaded down with your sin and mine, the just for the unjust to bring us to God, that was why He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He took your debt of sin, the very thing that separates you from God, upon Himself. The sin bearer, the Lord Jesus Christ, took your sin upon Himself at the cross—the just punishment of your sin was paid for at the cross. That was why He could shout a victory shout right at death, “It is finished!” The Greek words that are translated into English as “It is finished” literally mean, “Paid in full.” This is the Good News! Your sin and mine has been paid for! To become a Christian is to receive the full pardon for your sin that was paid for by Christ. Will you give your life over to Him and believe the good news of your deliverance from the penalty of sin, and ask Him to come into your life? There’s no better day than today.

Keith Thomas

One Thing is Needed

mm13detail_38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

Mary comes across to me as a person who is passionate about the things that really count. She knows that she is expected to be helping Martha with the food and drinks, but how often does one have the God of the universe over for tea and crumpets (or whatever they had for tea in that day)!  She sees the eagerness on the face of Jesus as He begins to answer questions and discuss the Scriptures. Wild horses could not drag her from the room! She made a conscious decision to ignore the unwritten rules, obligations, and expectations to help Martha in the kitchen. There are higher priorities than laying the table and pouring drinks. I am sure that Mary had a number of questions stored up in her heart. She was just waiting for the words of Jesus to feed her soul.

Mary was right in putting the word of God as her highest priority. We would all benefit from following her example here. All of our labor in this life should be subservient to the words of eternal life: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Mary was so hungry for truth, and Jesus was eager to feed her the Bread of Life.

Martha strikes me as a person whose self-esteem was bound up in what she does for Jesus more than who she is in Christ. She was a task-oriented person, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need task-oriented people. God has gifted them in their inner DNA to be like that. It was her home, so she felt that the responsibility was on her to treat the Master right. After all, if the Lord Jesus was coming to your house, wouldn’t you try to prepare a nice spread of food in hospitality to the visiting Rabbi? By the time Martha makes her final outburst to Jesus, we can imagine that she was getting as steamed up as her kitchen was! I can picture Martha banging the pots around, making plenty of noise to remind Mary of her duties in the kitchen. Martha’s focus shifts from trying to get Mary’s attention to blaming Jesus. “Why doesn’t He say anything to her?” she thinks to herself as she bangs a few pots in the hope of drawing Mary’s attention. There is no indication that Martha was directing her anger toward her sister. She can’t get her attention; instead, Martha accuses Jesus of not caring: “She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (v. 40).

Martha wanted Jesus to redirect Mary; however, Jesus wanted to redirect Martha! Martha attempted to get Mary to serve Jesus in the same way that Martha did. Martha’s irritability had grown to the point where she was literally commanding Jesus as to what He should do. We must give room to let people be different to ourselves. We are given different temperaments for a reason, i.e. to learn to live with one another’s temperaments. It wasn’t that Martha was wrong and Mary right, but that we should imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work. To achieve a balance in both, we must put first things first.

Martha felt like she had to do everything and felt let down because Mary was not pulling her share of the load. She felt that this was unfair. Have you felt like that before? Some of us have heard these words from our parents: “Life is unfair! Get used to it!” Jesus does not respond this way, however. He gets straight to the heart with Martha. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 41-42). How tenderly He responds to her. These are not words of anger or disappointment leveled at Martha, and the doubling of her name reflects deep emotion on His part.

Some would say that Jesus was only after one thing on Martha’s menu instead of an elaborate meal. Bread and water would have been quite sufficient. It is more logical, though, to interpret the “one thing” to be Mary’s attitude of hungering after Christ’s presence. Time was short. Jesus was headed to the cross, and food was not on Jesus’ priority list, but Martha and Mary were! They were His priority! Jesus did not stop by Martha’s house for the food but primarily to spend time with them. What if Jesus were coming by your house today, would you be too busy for Him, or are you a Mary and love to sit at His feet?

Taken from the more complete study 26 in Luke entitled “Jesus Martha and Mary.” Found in the middle column under the heading Luke, A Walk Through the Life of Jesus. Click on the link to all the studies in Luke and find study 26

Keith Thomas

The Main Thing Must be the Main Thing

disciples_fishingI have spent a lot of time at sea being a commercial fisherman in my younger years. When you are out there in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the Dover straits of England, you get to see all kinds of boats and ships designed for all kinds of jobs. But for us as fishermen, our purpose was to catch fish. It could have been easy to waste time doing all kinds of things out at sea that we were not designed for. Now that God has called me to work on His net, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I invested myself doing things that wasted a lot of time, energy and money. The main thing must be the main thing! What is the main thing the church of Jesus Christ is called to spend herself on? Paul says that it is the gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is presented correctly and believed, brings about a radical change in the very core being of the believer. Paul, in the passage above, called it the power of God. Without this encounter with Christ, there is no change within:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Every effort of the Church is to preach the gospel to bring about this change in the hearts of people all over this world. Some people believe that if they work hard at reforming their lives and live like a Christian, that is being a Christian. Let me tell you something important: You cannot become a Christian by living the Christian life. To live the Christian life, you have to have the Spirit of Christ living in you. He is the only One that can live the Christian life. Here is how Merrill Tenney put it,

“Christianity is not a system of philosophy, nor a ritual, nor a code of laws; it is the impartation of a divine vitality. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[1]

You must have Christ in you, living and seated on the throne room of the temple of your life. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

We can help feed people, we can teach them to have better marriages, we can bring them into community with others, but if we do not help them to see that they need the main thing—to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), all our efforts are for nothing. The main thing is to help each person we can to be born-again of the Spirit and living the life of Christ. This is not the job of the professionals or the gifted leaders; it is the job of all that name the name of Christ. I am convinced that if we can help each Christian to learn how to share the gospel, a revival will break out that will be world wide.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).

As Christians, we should be ready and prepared at any time to share the essence of what the gospel is, and how the person interested can know peace with God through what Christ has done for them.

Keith Thomas

[1] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948) Pages 215-216.

This Man Welcomes Sinners

255911Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

The way the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were mouthing these words was with much venom and disgust. They muttered together about him. The Greek word diagongyzō is used, a stronger word than the simple Greek word gongyzō, which is used more often in scripture, and it meant to complain or grumble (aloud). They were voicing their disdain so much that those that He was seeking could hear them.  I’m sure Christ’s heart went out to the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ that he was seeking to reach, that they might know God’s heart towards them is one of love and mercy extended.

The Jews saw tax collectors as being turncoats. They were making money hand over fist working for the Romans in taxing their Jewish brothers and sisters. They were sometimes ranked with prostitutes (Matthew 21:32), being thought of as the lowest of the low. The religious elite uses the word ‘Sinners’ to describe those who were held in bondage to a sinful lifestyle. The Greek word translated is harmartolos. It speaks of one not careful at all about the observance of ceremonial duties, an irreligious person. The term was used of either an immoral person or a person whose occupation was not ceremonially clean.

There were many of the population that had given up on trying to keep all the rules and regulations that the Oral Law, the traditions of the elders, had imposed on the general populous. It is the same today in many countries—it is just different religions these days. The rules were so numerous and nonsensical that it became a heavy burden to the people. Many felt alienated and far away from God. When Jesus came preaching about God’s love for lost and unloved sinners, they were drawn to Him like flies to rotting fish. We don’t know what Jesus looked like, but his personality was and is attractive, He is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). When those who were caught in their sin looked at the Scribes and Pharisees, their scowls showed no godliness or grace at all. There was no accepting attitude. They did not see God’s love in the religious leaders. People know when they are loved. When they looked at Christ, He had an inviting heart and welcomed sinners eagerly. The orthodox Jews had written off the tax collectors and sinners as worthy of the fires of hell, but God is gracious and extends kindness to men. He takes the initiative in seeking those that are alienated from Him.

But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him (2 Samuel 14:14).

What a beautiful truth the above passage communicates. The creator of the Universe has devised ways of reaching out to each of us.  I believe that God has arranged situations in your life and mine so that through the painful trials we undergo, God reveals Himself to us. The trials you are experiencing are used by God to shake you out of spiritual lethargy, forcing you to wake up to the reality of a God who is seeking to draw you closer to Himself. How far will you go before you turn to the One who welcomes sinners?

Keith Thomas

The Prodigal Father

anak-yang-hilang-pulangIn Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a story about two sons who really knew little about their father’s love for them. One just wants to give vent to his lower nature and sin to whatever depths he can, the other elder son is also a stranger to his father’s love and thinks that he can please his father by keeping rules. The story is more about the father of the two than about the boys themselves. The father is a picture of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and all who call upon Him. He is the prodigal Father. Now before you throw me an electronic stone, let me explain by saying that the word “prodigal” is not mentioned in the text and actually means:

Rashly or wastefully extravagant:” as in prodigal expenditures on unneeded weaponry; a prodigal life. Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse: prodigal praise.” [1]

Yes, the younger son was wastefully extravagant, but the father was even more so with his grace, mercy and acceptance of his son back from the distant country. Let’s look at the parable with that view in our mind, the father’s lavish kindness toward his lost son. When the younger son comes to himself and decides to return to his father, he makes up his speech and turns in the direction of home:

20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:20-24).

We are told that the son had gone to a distant country (v.13). Certainly there was no need in Israel for pigs, so he was probably amongst Gentiles (non Jews) in an adjacent country. Wherever he was, we can figure out that he was several miles from home. The father in this story is a picture of the Father who loves each of us. He also was a long way from home, waiting, looking for his son. We are told that as soon as the son turned for home, there was the father, a long way from home (v.20). There was no anger within the father; the immediate emotion within the father even before he got up to his son, was compassion. Dictionary.com says that compassion is: Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. As soon as the father saw his son he ran to him. The father has been in pain for his son while he has been away from home.

Upon the son’s turning toward home, this father is so ready to forgive that he does not even give the young man a chance to speak his words. This is a father in great love with his son. He runs to him. No self-respecting aged father runs in the Middle East. But here we see the father is unrestrained in kissing his son.  The English King James Version says, “he fell on his neck, and kissed him.” There is no thought about the stench of the pigs that still hangs on the boy. He is just so pleased to see him! The Greek tense says that he threw his arms around him and kissed him again and again and again. The father expressed his kindness before the son expressed his repentance. This speaks of God’s kindness and His readiness to be reconciled to those that have been apart from His love. Finally, the young man, in the midst of sobs, I’m sure, manages to get out part of his speech that he had prepared. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father cuts him off, and speaks to his servants to bring some things.

They were told to bring the “best robe.” There is a double emphasis here in the Greek text, the robe, that principal robe. We are not talking about a coat here; this robe speaks of the son being restored to a place of honor. It speaks to us of a robe of righteousness that covers over our pigsty of sin. The ring speaks of authority and power of attorney. In that day, rings were used to sign official documents.  Often the ring had an impression on it that, when pushed into hot wax, was the official seal of the family. Pharoah gave Joseph such a ring when he was elevated to second in command of Egypt, after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:42). We too are given authority by our God to do the works of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). The son was given shoes. No slave ever wore shoes, and the father would not let his son go barefoot. He was a son, not a slave.  Our feet are shod with the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). We have been made sons of God. The servants were told to kill the calf that had been fattened ready for this day. This father had been slowly fattening the calf that he may celebrate when his son would come home. These were all gifts of grace lavished on the slave returning home to be restored to sonship.

Keith Thomas

[1] Dictionary.com