Sunday Summary, 6/4/14
Yesterday we began our Easter series, in which we’re examining the seven things that Jesus said from the cross.
We began by hearing Ps Ed share about the first saying: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” from Luke chapter 23. Ps Ed made the point that forgiveness is not an optional extra. We need to remember the context of Jesus’ saying here… He had just been arrested and tried illegally, falsely accused, condemned to die while the same crowd freed a murderer; he was then stripped, beaten, flogged, with a crown of thorns jammed on his head, and then nailed to a cross.
And the first thing he said after all this? He prayed for the forgiveness of the one who arrested him. He prayed for forgiveness for the crowd who condemned him, for the torturer who flogged him, for the soldier who nailed him to the cross and for the on-lookers who mocked him or simply did nothing.
Jesus’ death on the cross was the very means by which we can be forgiven and Jesus demonstrates this by making this first saying a prayer for his enemies’ forgiveness.
So, on the one hand Jesus’ is providing the very means by which we can be forgiven. Jesus died so that we don’t have to. Jesus was punished so that we don’t have to be.
And on the other hand, Jesus’ death and prayer provided the ultimate example for our need to forgive others. There is no situation or circumstance we will go through that is worse than what Jesus went through on that day. And therefore, if Jesus’ prayed for the forgiveness of those who sinned against him then, how much more are we without excuse to forgive those who sin against us now?
In the evening, we moved on to Jesus’ second saying. This also comes from Luke 23, when Jesus says to one of the criminals on the crosses next to him: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
We talked about the fact that this paradise is imminent, guaranteed, Christ-centred and perfect.
It is imminent in that it is very near to us. It is in our hearts and it is near in the sense of time when considered in the light of eternity. If a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, then even a long life on this earth is only a heart-beat compared to eternity. And therefore, paradise is much closer to us than we think.
It is guaranteed for those who choose to receive and open the gift of grace offered to us by Jesus. We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, we could never pay him back for it… it’s a gift. But we still have to open it!
This paradise is also Christ-centred. We said that gold is so valueless compared to Christ that heaven uses it to pave its streets. To make paradise about mansions, or gold streets, or and incredible city above Christ is like looking at the Mona Lisa and saying, “what a wonderful frame”!
Finally, this paradise is perfect. We looked at Genesis 2:8-9, where it shows us that in the midst of paradise, God set two trees. A tree of knowledge of good and evil, which represents human rebellion and desire to become like God, which is pride. And the tree of life, which represents our reliance on God to give us life and true fulfilment. Then we looked at Revelation 2:7, which shows us the new paradise, and in the midst of it, another tree of life. Paradise was lost in Genesis 3, and it is regained in Revelation 2. But how is it regained? In the middle is Jesus Christ, hanging on a tree of death, promising paradise to others who are lost in their sins and failings, if we would only trust in him.