What’s Most Important in Life? The Last Sayings of Christ (Easter 2012)

Sunday, April 8th, 2012
Sermon Series: Easter, Topical

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What’s Most Important in Life?

The seven last sayings of Christ show us what’s important

 

Christians are funny people–when everyone else in our society is doing everything they can to keep the thought of death out of their lives, Christians are those who celebrate the death of another.  Easter, to a Christian, is not about bunnies, chocolate eggs or marshmallow peeps–even though some of us will be enjoying those.  Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In fact, get close enough to a Christian and you’ll find them excited about death.  They can’t wait to get through that door to a better life.  Because we live in such a comfortable culture, we actually forget how fallen, hostile and dangerous this planet is.  A friend of mine got a card once that said, “I wish for you all the world has to offer,” and he said, “Oh great–famine, earthquakes, sickness, tornadoes, tsunamis, plagues, war . . .”

For the Christian, this life is the worst it ever gets.  And for those without Jesus, this life is the best it gets.  This life is the only hell for a Christian, and sadly, this life is the only heaven for the non-Christian.  And that’s what dealing with death does–it brings into focus what’s most important.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to a house of feasting.”  Why?  Because that is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart.  The Bible says it’s better to go to a funeral than a party, because the living take it to heart.  Instead of being helplessly engrossed in our day-to-day lives that will someday come to a certain end, when we face death, we think about what’s really important in life.

Those of you who’ve been near death, either personally or by watching the struggle of a loved one through illness, disease, or accident, know how death brings all of life into focus.  When death threatens, it changes priorities–things that mattered days before don’t matter at all.  In fact, though we resent it, death makes us think about what’s really crucial, and makes us forget the trivial.

Now when I was young, that wasn’t true.  As a teen, I can vividly remember using my dad’s drill with a wire brush removing the rust from a wrought-iron railing.  As I was drilling, my arms suddenly popped up.  I stopped and wondered, why did I do that?  I continued my work when all of a sudden the drill screamed faster and faster, my body began to shake, and I couldn’t let go of the drill.  I was being electrocuted.  What seemed to be an hour was only seconds–but during that time, I tried to let go of the drill and couldn’t.  Then I thought I’d better scream–and when I finally did, it sound like—eeeee.  It was then I knew I wouldn’t die, I couldn’t die, for if I did they’d put on my tombstone, “Here lies Chris, who died screaming like a girl.”  I finally pushed the drill out of my hand and lived.  Thankfully no one heard me scream, except my sister–who I threatened.

In my late 20’s, I responded to death differently.  Trapped in the ropes of a raft under water, I thought, “This is it, I’m going to drown.  This isn’t so bad.”  Then my thoughts went immediately to my wife, Jean, and I said to myself, “Man, she is going to kill me for dying,” since she didn’t want me to go whitewater rafting in the first place.  I lived–but I was reminded about what’s important.

Then in my 30’s, I watched my father lose a 2-year battle with a terminal brain tumor.  As the days of his departure arrived, life became really simple.  Only a few things really mattered–events, tasks, and routines that had seemed important just days before didn’t matter at all.  Very few things were important, but the things that were became all-consuming.  Eternal life, salvation, forgiveness, family, love, making sure nothing is left undone, caring for others, trusting the promises of God, and making things right–all took their rightful place as most important in my life.

When you’re forced to deal with death, you become aware of what is most vital in life.  This is what the apostle Peter said about Jesus in 1 Peter 2:21, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”  Everyone agrees the life of Christ is an incredible example for us to follow.  But Peter says that the death of Christ is equally an example for all of us to follow.  How is that?

The death of Jesus shows us what’s most meaningful in life.  You can learn more about a person from their death than anything else about them.  You learn what’s really important in life as you observe the priorities of those who are dying.  You don’t really know a person in the good times, but you only know a person in the bad times.  And we know Jesus best by looking at Him during His greatest trial, His darkest hour, His deepest valley.  When Christ was dying He shows us what is most crucial.

But how does He show us?  It’s not in what He does, since He’s nailed to a cross.  And it’s not in His thoughts, because we can’t read his mind.  But we can tell what’s most crucial in life by what Jesus says in the seven last sayings of Christ.  In these words, Jesus shows us the secret of happy life, He shows us how to have a new life, and He shows us what is most critical in life.  Let’s look at the seven last words of Jesus on the cross and find out what really is most important in life.

First  Luke 23:34, “But Jesus was saying, Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus shows us what’s most important in life by forgiving those who sinned against Him.  All His life Jesus experienced unfair treatment and hatred.  He was rejected, attacked, put through mock trials, and now was being illegally crucified.  And as He hangs there because of the hatred of men, what’s His reply?  “Help me, Father,” or “Kill them, Father”?  No—“Forgive them, Father.”

He could’ve cried out for pity or vengeance, but the first thing Jesus says is a prayer of forgiveness for those who are taking his life.  Jesus, who is their Creator–He gave them existence.  He knows how wicked their hearts are.  He understands the sinfulness of man, and how much they deserved to die for their rebellion and rejection of their God.  Yet, He forgives.  Unlike those who go on shooting sprees, wives who get bitter and harden their hearts, or children who hate their parents, Jesus was forgiving those men who were killing Him.

Even though men had continually treated Him unfairly, Jesus knew what was most important.  He knew they needed forgiveness, because the only way they could ever be with a holy sinless God in eternity in heaven was if their sins were forgiven.  For this sin, murder, and for all the other countless sins they and we commit, needs forgiveness in order to be with God forever in Heaven instead of separated from Him forever in Hell.

You see we’re sinners and unfit to stand in the presence of a perfect God–and because of that it’s vain for us to live by good rules, and do good things, until the question of sin is dealt with.  Why attempt to clean up your life, when there is no right relationship with God without forgiveness first?  Cleaning up your life without forgiveness is like making eyeglasses for those who are blind.  It doesn’t matter if I am popular, good, nice, kind, liked, or a good provider or a volunteer, if I’m still in my sins.

Jesus understood our deepest need.  We need forgiveness.  At His death, Jesus shows us what’s most important.  He shows us our need for forgiveness, and our need to give forgiveness.  Jesus knows the person who harbors unforgiveness always loses.   You say, “I can’t forgive.”  And the only reason you can’t is that you haven’t yet been forgiven by Christ Himself.  For when He forgives your debt to Him, He empowers you to forgive those who’ve sinned against you.

More hospital beds are filled with the unforgiving than they are with the sick.  Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little loves little, but He who is forgiven much, loves much.”  Jesus shows us what is most important by forgiving those who were taking His life.

Second  Luke 23:43 tells us, “Jesus said, Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

You remember the story of the two thieves.  One said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” to which Jesus replied, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”  In doing so, Jesus shows us what’s most important by bringing the truth of eternal life to a condemned soul.  It’s hard to imagine how Christ, while on the cross bearing the sin of the entire world, feeling the wrath of the Father for that sin, could still be concerned about the salvation of one of those sinners.

But He was never too pre-occupied to lead someone to a true understanding of how to be right with God.  Jesus show us what’s important by His life and death commitment to bring people to salvation.  This scene was very dramatic.  How could Jesus on a cross convince anyone He was God in a bod, the Creator and Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

It wasn’t from his circumstances.  He didn’t appear to be a victor, but a victim from a human standpoint.  He’s dying because He was rejected by His society.  Even His friends had forsaken him.  He’s disgraced.  His lowly position was never understood, and now His death just confirms to others He’s not their King.

All the supernatural events of darkness, stones splitting, earthquakes, graves opening, some rising from the dead, the centurion saying, “Truly this is the Son of God.”  None of that has happened to convince the thief that Jesus is God–yet.  In the most unfavorable circumstances, this thief becomes convinced Jesus is His Savior.  Do you remember what the thief says?  He tells the other thief, “Why are you cursing Him?  This man has done [what?] nothing.”  He affirms Christ’s sinlessness, His perfection.

Then the thief says, “Remember me.”  What does he mean by that?  He’s pleading for forgiveness.  He understands Jesus’s saviorhood as the only One who can forgive him and bring him safely into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He says, “Remember me when you come.”  With that he’s affirming Jesus’s resurrection and second coming.  He knows death is not the end for both of them.  And last he says, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” thus affirming Jesus’s sovereignty, as the controlling ruler of all.

There the thief is on the cross, and in the most unlikely of circumstances he sees the sinlessness, the saviorhood, the second coming, and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.  But you say, how could the thief have seen all that?  Simply, salvation is not a work of man, but a work of God.  Anytime anyone comes to God through Jesus Christ, it is because as Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  God moved in the thief’s heart to convince him who Jesus was and is.

When someone gets right with God, it is not the preacher or a program, but God who gives salvation by His grace.  It didn’t matter what kind of circumstances He was under, God sought to save this dying man.  So by grace, God awakened this spiritually dead man, opened up his spiritually blind eyes to see, and called him to respond to Jesus.  It is always that way with Jesus.

As Luke 19:10 says, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.”  As 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Jesus came to save sinners,” and that’s what Jesus is doing on the cross.  Jesus shows us what is most important by bringing the truth of eternal life to a condemned soul.  Between now and your uncertain death, you will either respond to Christ and enjoy Him forever, or like the other thief, reject Christ and endure Hell forever.  Will you respond to His Word today?  If you were to die this week, would the issue of your eternal destiny be settled and certain?  It can be in Christ.  What else is most important?

Third  In John 19:26 to 27 Jesus said this, “Women, behold, your son!”  “Son, behold your mother!”

What is this about?  By His death, Jesus shows us the importance of selfless love.  Standing at the foot of the cross is a little group of five people–much different than the mad mob who put Him there.  John the apostle, Mary the mother of our Lord, Mary’s sister, Mary the wife of Clovis, and Mary Magdalene out of whom Jesus had cast the demons—three Mary’s, a sister, and John.

As Jesus was crucified close to the ground, they could have touched Him, and were close enough to hear Him speak.  And what does He say?  “Women, Behold your son.”  Why not call her “Mother”?  Because that relationship is now over.  Once Jesus began His ministry He no longer called Mary His mother.  Why does He call her “Women”?  Because she must not look to Him as her son, but as her Savior.

He says, “Behold your Son,” not to Himself, but to John.  What is He doing?  He is giving His mother into the care of John.  He is saying, “Mary, John is now forever your son.  And John, Mary from now on is yours to care for.”

Caring for our family is very important.  As Jesus is dying, His mother is on His heart.  Out of that whole crowd, His mother was the neediest of all.  She’d be in pain as she watched her firstborn die.  Most likely Joseph has died, since he disappears from the gospels very early.  And Jesus would not give His mother’s care into the hands of His half-brothers–they didn’t believe in Him yet.  But in doing so, Jesus teaches us the importance of selfless love.

Here Jesus is bearing the weight of the world’s sins, and yet He is concerned about the care of His mother.  He is bearing the wrath of God for sin, a far greater internal pain than any external physical pain.  But His sympathy is extended toward someone else.  He’s concerned about those who need to be cared for.  Again, Jesus is showing us our need to be loved unconditionally, and our need to show selfless love too.  What’s most important in life?  To know a love that has no conditions, so that we might love others with no conditions.

But how can we be free from pre-occupation with our own needs in order to love others?  It is to have, as Romans 5:5 says, “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.”  In order to be able to love like this, we can love because Jesus first loved us.  But we can only know this love and love others like this when Jesus lives in us and through us.  As Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”

So what is most important in life?  To forgive those who sinned against us, to bring the truth of eternal life to condemned souls, and to express selfless love to others, perhaps even when they have less pain than we have.  The fourth saying from the cross is in Matthew 27:46.  This has the most emotion of all.

Fourth  “My God, My God, why Hast Thou forsaken Me?”

How are we to understand this statement?  Jesus is showing us the seriousness of sin.  What is so important about that?  Sin separates us from God.  “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  Forsaken is a painful word–it means abandoned, and when you add to it, “My God, My God,” it means intimacy with God is broken.  Sin could do what nothing else in the universe could do.  Nothing could separate the Father from the Son–only sin.  Men couldn’t, demons couldn’t, Satan couldn’t, but sin could.

The most devastating reality Jesus shows us in His death is that sin separates from God.  Jesus’s physical torture was incredible.  He was stripped, beaten, had His beard plucked out, beaten over the head, spit upon, and stakes were driven through His legs and arms–but it was nothing compared to bearing our sin.

But you ask—“What is sin?”  It’s missing the mark of God’s perfect plan for our lives–shooting at the target and missing the target.  Sin is going our own way, and not God’s perfect way.  And the Bible says we all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.

But you say, “I’ll just clean up my act and God will accept me.”  No, it doesn’t work that way.  The problem of sin is in our hearts.  It’s an internal problem that behavior can’t change.  If you have a four-year-old boy, and he goes outside, you automatically have a problem–it’s a dirty problem.  They go outside and very quickly get dirty.  Even when it is nowhere in sight, they find dirt piles, mud puddles, dust balls, and grease spills.  We can clean them off, hose them down, scold them for being dirty and admonish them to stay clean.  Then if we let them go outside, what happens?  They get dirty again.  Why?  Because they love dirt.  In their hearts, they want to get dirty.  Their problem is an internal love for dirtiness, for all things dirt.  It is the same with sin.  You can clean up the outside, but your heart still needs changing inside.  You love sin.

And in these painful words, Jesus shows us the importance of knowing what sin does.  Sin wrenches us away from God.  For the Christian, it tears you away from intimacy with God.  For those without Christ, it keeps you from God now and for all eternity, unless you turn to Christ (there is no other way).  Jesus tells us the importance of remembering sin always has serious consequences, and that only Jesus can save us, forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.  As 1 John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (Are you cleansed?)

Fifth  In John 19:28 Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

You say, “Chris, what’s the possible importance of this?  I’m thirsty now, so what’s the big deal with this saying?”  Though Jesus is fully God, He shows us He’s also fully human.  He displays His humanness and frailty with this word, and thus shows us the importance of expressing our dependence.  We are human, not superhuman, not gods or God.  We’re human, weak, needy, dependent.  Jesus needed a drink and couldn’t get it for Himself, but needed someone to get it for Him.

Jesus was not unfamiliar to human need.  That is why He is such a sympathetic God.  As Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”  He knows what it is like to be human, to hurt.  Think about it–throughout His life Jesus grieved, groaned, was hungry, was sleepy, He wept, He was happy, thirsty and dependent.  And He needed someone to help Him, showing us the importance of living our lives–admitting our weaknesses and needs.

Why is this important?  The only person God helps is the one who admits their need.  (It is not, “God helps those who help themselves,” but “God helps those who know they can’t help themselves.”  In an emergency, if I don’t dial 9-1-1 no help will come.  With God, if we don’t admit our need and seek to draw near, there will be no help.  Hebrews 4:16 says, “Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  It’s important to know where to go in time of need.

All of us have needs, so Jesus shows us the importance of forgiving those who sinned against us, even if it takes our life bringing the truth of eternal life to damned souls and expressing selfless love to others, understanding the seriousness of sin, that it separates us from God AND willing to admit our human weakness and to depend on God.

Sixth  Jesus said in John 19:30, “It is finished!”

Jesus shows us here the importance of completing the work God gives you to do.  It’s one thing to end your life–it’s another to finish it.  It’s one thing to have your life over–it’s another to have your work done.  In a marathon race, everyone will start and everyone will stop, but not everyone will finish.  For many people, life will soon end–but for most, their work will not be done.

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant He had finished the work of providing a way for man to be right with God.  Jesus took away sin through His own sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus shows us how vital it is to be more concerned about finishing the work God has given each of us to do than being more concerned about the pain, consequences or sacrifices it takes to complete the work.  Jesus endured the pain of the cross and bore our sin, because He could see what it would do–it can save us.  Thus Jesus shows us the importance of finishing the work He has given each of us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  God has a job for you to do, that only you can do.  It is probably not singing.  You may be a prison singer, always behind a few bars and can never find the key.  It could be serving, teaching, giving, caring, mentoring, administrating, or leading–but He has a purpose He created you for, and Jesus reminded us we need to get at it.  Don’t just live life until it’s over or it ends–live it to finish the work God gives you to do.  Are you any closer to doing that task this year over last?

Seventh  Finally, Jesus said in Luke 23:46, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”

In doing so, Jesus shows us the importance of entrusting yourself to God.  Jesus tells us He trusts the promises of the Word of God.  Jesus trusted God would raise Him from the dead, a promise God made thousands of years before Christ in Psalm 16.  By doing that, Jesus shows us the only way to live is to entrust yourself to God and His Word.

Do you fear the future?  Do you trust the direction of our national leaders?  Are you confident of your financial stability?  Are you sure you will keep your job or home?  There is much to fear today, but the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5 to 7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

Jesus shows us it’s important to trust God with your marriage, children, finances, your future–with everything.  I have been with men moments before their death.  The last words of one were, “I don’t have to worry about my eternity,” just as he stepped through the door of death into eternal torment.  Others have said, “I can’t wait to go home and be with Christ.”  What will it be like for you as you face death’s door?

What is so wonderful about Jesus’s words on the cross is that His statements don’t end with His death.  He proved everything He said is true by rising from the dead that first Easter morning, and now lives to transform lives.  First Corinthians 15:3 says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

There is only one faith that is true.  There is only one person who conquered death by rising from the dead.  There is only one God who is your judge, and there is only one way you can be found not guilty, and that is to turn to Jesus Christ alone to exchange all that you are for all that He is–repent in faith.  Jesus Christ changes broken lives, allowing all men and women to experience abundant life now and eternal life forever.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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