April 22, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Wilson Fong, Gracepoint Berkeley

John 19:17, 28
What does Jesus’ statement “I am thirsty” show about what he endured on the cross?
Jesus was thirsty because his body was suffering from significant fluid loss – given the scourging inflicted upon him (John 19:1) and the strenuous trek from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha, “carrying his own cross” (John 19:17).  His statement, “I am thirsty,” shows that there, nailed to a cross and fighting for his last few breaths, Jesus experienced the full extent of human weakness and embraced the fullness of human suffering.  The Son of God, the Ancient of Days, the One who holds eternity in his hands and through whom creation came to be, became nothing, reduced to a dying man with dry lips and parched throat, desperately longing for a drink.  On the cross, Jesus emptied himself of everything – his power, his glory, his life – in order to become sin for us, so that we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

John 19:25-27
What picture of Christian relationships and family ties are depicted through what Jesus tells Mary and John about their relationship?
Jesus instituted a picture of Christian relationships that is fuller, richer and broader than traditional family ties.  In Matthew 12:50, Jesus taught, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  The word “whoever” is very broad and very inclusive, referring to all those who follow Christ and do the will of God.  At the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted his own mother into the care of John, his beloved disciple – not to be simply a caregiver, but to be her own son as she would be his own mother.  In doing so, Jesus elevated the definition of family beyond the customary view of family as nuclear family and blood relatives exclusively.  This act became the precedent for the early church members to call each other “brother” and “sister.”  Because of the common Fatherhood of God, there is the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers.

To what extent have I experienced the church in this manner?
I have experienced the church as the family of Christ just recently, as I had been distancing myself from a brother and sister because of a wrong I had committed.  I felt terrible, but I was too proud to apologize.  I know that if such a thing happened in my own family, there would be an all-out cold war, where peace comes in the form of relational distance.  However, the couple would not allow a wedge to form in our relationship and actually called me over to their place to talk and share how they were feeling, giving me a chance to confess and apologize.  I still felt terrible, but so relieved that I could tell them how sorry I was and that I could hear how they had forgiven me.  Even though I have been at our church for over twelve years now, this incident showed me how much I took these relationships for granted, and I was challenged and rebuked by how much my brother and sister in Christ valued our relationship to confront me.

John 19:28-30
“The use of the perfect tense in ‘It is finished’ (tetelestai) signifies full completion of Jesus’ work and the establishment of a basis for faith. Nothing further needed to be done. Jesus’ act was voluntary and confident, for he had discharged perfectly the Father’s purpose and was leaving the scene of his human struggle. […] Jesus retained consciousness and command of himself till the very end.”[1]
Reflect on Jesus’ final words, “It is finished.” What implication do these words have on my life, and my struggle against sin?
“It is finished.”  Mission accomplished.  Jesus came into our world with a job to do, with a task to fulfill, with a specific purpose – to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  “It is finished” is a bold proclamation, ringing of triumphant finality.  On the cross, Jesus did what he came to do: taking our sins upon himself, dying the death we deserve, and paying the debt we owe to God with his precious blood.  In Jesus’ day, the word tetelestai was also written on business documents and receipts to indicate that a certain bill was paid in full.

Jesus purchased my pardon and cleared my debt, so now I stand forgiven and free before God.  Because of Christ’s completed work on the cross, I can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  The implication for my life is that I do not have to drum up spiritual merit of my own to earn my place before God.  Instead, simply acknowledging my utter poverty and simply claiming Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross, I can humbly come before God and relate with him.  In my struggle against my sins, it means I can freely confess them, knowing that Jesus has secured victory over every one of them.  The power of my sins to drag me down and keep me low comes from the thinking that I need to beat them and overcome them in order to be presentable before God, but the cross of Jesus and the declaration “It is finished” remind me that it was because of my sins that Jesus came and died, and that it was because of his death that all my sins in the past, the present and the future are forgiven forever.

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Submitted by Ray Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

John 19:16-42
Reflection questions
John 19:17, 28
What does Jesus’ statement “I am thirsty” show about what he endured on the cross?
It shows his human frailty and weakness.  It shows that when he was flogged, spat upon, beaten, pressed down with a crown of thorns, pierced and raised up on the cross, it hurt as much as it would hurt any human being.  Jesus was not immune to the pain because he was God.  He suffered and endured the full pain and agony of the infliction he went through.  It’s a small but powerful reminder that God made himself vulnerable to suffer, that his suffering on the cross for my sins is not just a nice cliché or theological proposition, but a historical reality.  Jesus suffered to the full the punishment for my sin, indeed he died the death I was supposed to die, so that I would not be eternally cut off from God.

John 19:25-27
What picture of Christian relationships and family ties are depicted through what Jesus tells Mary and John about their relationship?
It’s a picture of family ties that transcends blood.  Jesus was not disintegrating or doing away with traditional family ties, but rather expanding them.  For John, if his own mother was still alive, he now had two mothers to care for and look after.  The Christian understanding of relationships obligates us to embrace more and more people as brother, sister, mother, father, people to care for and claim.  This picture of Christian relationships is the fullest and brightest (or at least ought to be) in the church, the new community, the people of God, God’s family.  It means that my brother’s financial difficulty is my difficulty, a need that I can meet if I have the means.  It means that what that sister is going through is my prayer concern (e.g. Joohye’s health prayer requests).  It means that the older ones I ought to regard as mothers and fathers whom I should be respecting, caring for and praying for.

To what extent have I experienced the church in this manner?
I have experienced the church in this way, as the family of God, ever since I entered this community as a freshman, and in fact, it was the family-like dynamic and ownership people had over one another that was a huge drawing point for me to church and the Gospel.  My peers and I learned to claim each other as brothers, and more and more, I grew to claim and be claimed by the older and younger brothers.  The web of relationships that I have developed, that I have been given, truly has been nothing other than a radical expansion of “family,” something which is as radical as when Jesus said to John, “Here is your mother,” and when he said “who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 35).

John 19:28-30
“The use of the perfect tense in ‘It is finished’ (tetelestai) signifies full completion of Jesus’ work and the establishment of a basis for faith. Nothing further needed to be done. Jesus’ act was voluntary and confident, for he had discharged perfectly the Father’s purpose and was leaving the scene of his human struggle. […] Jesus retained consciousness and command of himself till the very end.”[1]
Reflect on Jesus’ final words, “It is finished.”
What is finished?  Jesus’ work of coming to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), the work of saving people from their sins (Matt 1:21).  That is the mission that Jesus was born into our world for, as a tiny, vulnerable baby.  He was born to die for the sins of mankind, for my sins, and at that moment on the cross, the mission was accomplished, the work of redeeming and reconciling mankind to God was done.  Jesus was the cosmic battle against sin and death and made a way for anyone to come to God, free of charge.  Jesus did the work, and he finished it, perfectly, once and for all.

What implication do these words have on my life, and my struggle against sin?
These words mean that the biggest fear that I could ever have – i.e. the punishment that I deserve according to the demands of justice and the moral law, eternal separation from God – has been diverted and intercepted by Jesus, the Son of God.  All of my deepest longings, desires, and needs for love, significance, security, purposeful work and identity, which could never have been met by this world but only God, had been ripped away from me by my own sin.  My sinfulness and the punishment of death robbed my life of all these things and set me on a course toward unending isolation and wretchedness, and my very best efforts and best days of being a “good person” are but filthy rags, desperately inadequate attempts to pay for my sinful debt.  But Jesus died on the cross for my sins and said “It is finished,” doing what was impossible for me and yet was my greatest need, greatest desire and longing – to be reconciled to my heavenly Father. “It is finished,” once and for all, done with perfect finality.  Nothing else to do.  It has been done for me, a free gift.  Therefore my life is a smashing success, all I could have ever wanted has been done for me by Jesus on the cross.

Therefore, my struggle against sin is claiming the victory that Jesus has already won.  There is always that triumphant note of hope and promise that in the end, my sin will be no more.  I don’t ever have to, and should never, give into defeatism or fatalism.  Sin is a dying breed.  It has been cut off from its grounding.  The struggle is still fierce and sometimes feels like I am not changing, like I am getting worse as I see more of my sinfulness and how deep it goes, but there is always hope and this confidence that Jesus has finished the work, and so I can pick up again and again in the battle against my sin and evil in this world.

John 19:38-40
“Joseph’s action was courageous, for his petition was a tacit admission that he was a friend of Jesus and consequently an associate in whatever supposed subversion Jesus might have advocated. Joseph took the initiative and petitioned Pilate for permission to remove the body. His request was an open confession of his faith, for up to this time he had been a secret believer[…] Like Joseph, Nicodemus was a secret disciple whose faith grew slowly…his cooperation with Joseph in the burial shows that his faith had finally matured.” [2]
What would have motivated Joseph of Arimathea to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body and Nicodemus to bring “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds?”
Although mostly likely bewildered and devastated by the sudden turn of events leading up to Jesus’ death, Joseph and Nicodemus both must have believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be, that he was the Messiah.  Although they were secretive about their faith and fearful of what others in the Council and community would think, by this time they overcame their concern for their image and position – they believed Jesus was the Messiah, and preparing and burying his body was something they both stepped up to do.

What caused them to finally cross that line of faith and enabled them to have the courage to cut ties with all that they built up their lives for? It must have been seeing Jesus suffer and die on the cross so silent like a lamb being led to the slaughter, seeing him intercede for the forgiveness of his persecutors, seeing him meek and strong as he made his good confession that he is the Son of God.

What was the significance of their actions?
The significance of their actions was that it revealed that these two men, members of the Sanhedrin, prominent teachers and Jewish leaders, had put their faith and allegiance with this rebel Rabbi who had been condemned, tortured and shamefully killed as a criminal.  They were tossing their careers and positions aside by stepping forth to take custody of Jesus’ body and give him a proper burial.

How do their actions show what my response to the cross should be?
My response to the cross should be like Joseph and Nicodemus’ – a stepping out, a clear break willingness to break from what the world considers high and valuable: position, success, approval of people.  My response should be to make my allegiance with Jesus, to be known as a radical “little-Christ,” regardless of the consequences.  The world may shun and persecute me as well, as they did Jesus – in fact that was what Jesus promised (John 15:20).

Is my life that kind of clear standing on the side of Jesus, or can I blend in with the crowd? Even though I am involved with ministry as a staff of our church, more and more I need to become a person of love, in my character and decisions, in the depth and breadth of my ownership and claim over our ministry and over people (my co-workers, neighbors,  my extended family and relatives, everyone I would come in contact with).

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