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The Christadelphian | March 2009

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Fellowship in the Gospel: 7 – The Lord and his disciples
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Gethsemane” | Alan Siviter
  • Looking to the end | Colin Badger
  • In the image of God 13 – Worshipping with the head uncovered and covered | Michael Edgecombe, Rebecca Lines, Russell Taylor
  • Book review: Help from Psalms | (The Praises of Israel, Volume 1) | Michael Owen
  • Pause and ponder 26 – Married in the Lord, part 9: Raising children | Stephen Whitehouse
  • What the cross meant to Jesus | Jeremy Ashton
  • Acts of the Apostles 25 – Acts 22:24 – 23:35 | Paul Cresswell
  • An example to follow | Michael Jenner
  • The Letter to the Philippians 3 – “Stand fast in one spirit” | Mark Allfree
  • Signs of the times Holocaust row and the Vatican; Coming troubles
  • Israel and their land A demographic dilemma
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

What the cross meant to Jesus

IT is not difficult for us, living so many years after his death and with the outcome known, to treat Jesus’ perfect sacrifice as a certainty. Since we rightly exalt him so highly, it feels wrong even to discuss an alternative outcome. We can easily fail to remember that there was the possibility of failure, the possibility of sin. And yet in doing this we are ignoring clear biblical teaching and we risk not recognising the magnitude of what he achieved. We know from Hebrews 4 that the Lord’s temptations were no different from our own, with one distinction – they did not lead to sin (Hebrews 4:15). It would be to nullify how great the achievement was if we were to suggest that they could not have done.

The constant battle faced by Jesus in ensuring his temptations did not lead to sin is a powerful reminder of the enormity of what he achieved for us. With this in mind, a consideration of how Jesus viewed the cross is of substantial interest and value.

What it meant to him as Saviour

Evidently Jesus understood he had a task to fulfil. At the age of twelve he was able to declare to Mary: “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). By the time he began his ministry we can be certain that he understood the full extent of what he was to do. Throughout his ministry, Jesus declared frequently to his disciples the manner and necessity of his death. In the first year he stated that “the temple of his body” would be destroyed (John 2:19-21), clearly referring to his death and resurrection. Subsequently he spoke more plainly to his disciples (see, for example, John 6:51 and Mark 8:31).

The burden this knowledge would have placed upon Jesus cannot be underestimated. At what age was this revealed to him? Perhaps he knew by the age of twelve. His understanding of the scriptures we know amazed the teachers of the day – surely he would have understood the relevance of passages such as Daniel 9:26: “… after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” The detail in the 22nd Psalm would have provided a clear picture to our Lord of the trial that awaited him. His statement to the disciples, “My time is at hand” (Matthew 26:18) suggests the level of detail that Jesus knew of what was to happen to him.

We learn from Isaiah that the main source of this knowledge was the Lord God Himself. He communicated with His Son: “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught” (Isaiah 50:4, RV). The wording is similar to that found in 1 Samuel 9:15 where God communicates directly with Samuel, informing him of Saul’s imminent arrival.

What it meant to him personally

As the time approached for his final ordeal, Jesus, having steered events towards that conclusion throughout his ministry (see, for example, Luke 9:51 and 18:31), would undoubtedly have begun to feel an increasing pressure. The thought of what lay before him must have constantly occupied his mind, as our trials frequently occupy our own. The period of temptation in the wilderness revealed his desire to avoid the cross and yet, temptation overcome, his resolve was strengthened to continue.

And yet even in this most trying time, Jesus’ mind was also occupied by concern about the effect his death would have on others. In this alone, the depth of love and compassion shown is staggering. On many occasions he tried to prepare the disciples for his suffering and death (for example, Luke 9:22; 17:25). Having already warned Peter about it directly, Jesus still found time to “look upon” Peter as he denied his Lord for the third time, even while Jesus himself was being falsely accused by the leaders of the Jews in the courtyard of the high priest’s house (22:61). Moments before his last breath, this same selflessness and consideration for others was again displayed as he spoke to Mary and John and gave them instructions about their care for each other after his death (John 19:26,27).

Much of the feeling and emotion Jesus must have felt are not revealed in the Gospels. This perhaps demonstrates the extent to which his consideration was for his disciples’ state, rather than his own. However, when we join with Jesus and the disciples as they leave the upper room and walk to Gethsemane, we gain an insight into the depth of the anguish he felt. As we contemplate this short moment we feel the strength of feeling Jesus had – his desire to find another way to accomplish his task.

Gethsemane

As we consider that three times he besought the Almighty about the cup from which he was to drink, we can identify the same pull towards sin that is our regular experience. We can plainly recognise the significance of this moment for our Lord: on the one hand Jesus’ desire to do God’s will – a desire that pervades this entire event; and on the other hand the suffering of temptation (Hebrews 2:18) that we know only too well.

Arriving in Gethsemane appears to have brought into focus the magnitude of the Lord’s task. He confides to Peter, James and John that he is “exceeding sorrowful” (Matthew 26:38). Luke’s record describes his agony in prayer as he communicates with his Father. At this moment in time, more than any other, the possibility of failure is palpable. As he battles with this, the most arduous of his temptations, his sweat falling from his troubled brow is likened to “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).

Our reaction, unquestionably, should be heartfelt thankfulness and a desire to reflect his love – a desire that is demonstrated in lives that are pleasing to him. That Jesus could have failed only serves to elevate the fact that he did not. In Hebrews, Jesus’ endurance is attributed to “the joy that was set before him” (12:2). Having considered his determination to do God’s will, we can understand with greater feeling the words, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). It was this vision of wonders beyond our imagination that both encouraged Jesus and can strengthen us in times of trial.

These words in Hebrews 12 provide a fitting conclusion: “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (verse 3). Whatever suffering we might have to endure, whatever the heartache or distress, we can be assured that it compares neither with Jesus’ suffering, nor with the prize on offer for overcoming.

Jeremy Ashton

 

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