But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. – Romans 5:20
As I look at Calvary, as I look at the Cross on which my Saviour Jesus Christ was hanging crucified, my first reaction is to turn my face away in abhorrence. Just like how repulsive the Israelites felt when they had to look at the bronze serpent, raised on the stake.
But the more I look at the suffering Servant, the Son of Man who knew grief, I realize what caused all these. My sins. My disobedience. My rebellious nature. My lustful heart. I must be the one who was punished like that. I must be the afflicted one. Then it dawns me, yes, it is true, that I must be the one… but it serves only one purpose. It serves only the Divine Justice. For I richly deserve that punishment. It would have told the world that the Lord our God is righteous.
The more I meditate on the sufferings and death of my Redeemer, suddenly the Holy Spirit whispers in me… it is not just for the “sins” I have committed… but for the “sin” that indwells in me. Jesus Christ did not just carry my “sins”, He became “sin” for me (2 Corinthians 5:21) on the Cross. Sin abounded; the Cross became an emblem of sin – the most repugnant sight on the world.. Yet, the One Who was suffering there was not guilty. Not guilty of anything. Innocence personified. Oh, the Cross is not only about Lord our God is righteous, but it also tells me that He is gracious.
In the obedience of Jesus Christ, the grace of God abounds much more. Much more than I can comprehend. All I can do is humbly bow my head before God our Loving Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son and my Saviour for the grace that abounded. Amen.
Many years ago, as I was leading the worship in our church, there is this elderly believer who would make me very angry. She would be on her knees, with her hands clasped together and head bowed down… except she would be sleeping. Even when the believers are asked to stand and praise the Lord, somehow she would manage to fall asleep standing. Never once, I had seen her lose balance and falling over. To be honest, I wish I could do that.
When I spoke about her to other believers, everyone pounced upon this chance to condemn her. Apparently, everyone knew about her sleeping problem, and for some reason, some of the believers who were sitting next to her, blamed her for all their unanswered prayers. She was even blamed for the stagnancy of church growth – how would God answer our prayers when she is sleeping through the entire service? Some even compared her to the wayside land in the Parable of the Sower. While I did not share in such sentiments, I could understand the resentment of the believers.
One Sunday, I was leading the worship and saw her asleep yet again. I was so angry, I shut my eyes and kept leading the worship, and asked the Lord about her and other believers. I was expecting a pat on my shoulders for my zeal towards the Lord. Instead, the Spirit of God moved gently in my soul and asked me to open my eyes and take a look at her and other believers. Nothing had changed. Now the Lord asked me to look at them, the way He is looking at them. And I could not understand what that meant.
Then the Lord explained me, right there during the worship: all those who were sleepy or not worshipping happily are women. Women, who work for 6 days a week. They get up at 5 am, so that they can prepare everything for their family. Then they go to work and come back. Most of the time, they eat only one meal a day. And when they come back, they cannot take rest, as they have to get the food ready for their children, wash the clothes and clean their homes. No one would do that for them. The Lord asked: Whenever Jesus saw such a crowd, He was moved with compassion. Even now, He is compassionate towards them. Are you going to be angry at them?
Now, I am not very amenable. Yet, at the moment, the Spirit of the Lord broke my resolute nature and for the first time, I had compassion towards them. Slowly things changed. Honestly I don’t remember when she stopped sleeping during the worship service, but now just looking at her face, listening eagerly to the spoken word, praising the Lord with a smile on her face… it is such a blessing. Not just for me, everyone is talking about her child-like faith and her eagerness in listening to the Word of God. Once everyone wanted to throw her out; now she is being shown as an example to every new believer. Oh, how compassionate our Lord is! Why am I talking about this elderly believer? God willing, I will write, in another blog, more about two things that the Lord had done in her life, and may His Name alone be praised. Amen.
O Christ, what burdens bow’d Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee:
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
To bear all ill for me.
Death and the curse were in our cup,
O Christ, ‘twas full for Thee!
But thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘Tis empty now for me.
Jehovah lifted up His rod,
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee;
Thou’rt risen; my bands are all untied;
And now Thou liv’st in me.
The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. “Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!” they said. “Go and get him,” the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot. – 1 Kings 20:33
As we saw earlier, Ahab and Ben-Hadad were the worst of enemies. Yet, when the time came to take vengeance on Ben-Hadad, Ahab, an evil king by any standard, was merciful towards his arch-rival, calling him as his brother. But surprisingly, Ahab was very gracious towards Ben-Hadad. Not only he spared his enemy’s life and called him as his brother, he showed his sincerity by making Ben-Hadad come up into his chariot. This is grace, because of all the people in Ahab’s life, it was Ben-Hadad who did not deserve such a treatment.
Contrast this with our status. God could have just forgiven our sins; that would tell His great mercies. Jesus Christ calling us as His brothers and sisters, shows us the love He has for us and proclaims the great sufferings He took on our behalf. But, God did not stop there. For our Lord God is also gracious. So, He went ahead and made us sit with Jesus Christ in heavenly realms.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:6.
Now this is my problem. I believe the Bible. Therefore I believe that we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms. But do I understand the magnitude of this verse? The only thing I understand is that this verse talks about a glory that I cannot possibly even begin to understand. It is something beyond my comprehension. I know who I am. Like Ben-Hadad, I was an enemy of God. Everything in my nature was to rebel against God. And when I was finally made to realize my folly, not only the Lord forgave me my sins, not only Jesus Christ called me as His brother… now I am seated with Him in the heavenly realms. Oh, the wonderful grace of our Father!
However, we also have to remember that both Ahab and Ben-Hadad were kings. If we compare them, then we will realize that Ahab was the first generation king. That is, Omri, father of Ahab, was the first king in their family and Ahab was the second. But for Ben-Hadad, they had been kings for generations. And most of the time, the Syrian kings were victorious over Israel. So, when Ahab condescended to call Ben-Hadad as his brother and had him come up into his chariot, it was not a huge leap.
But I am not of royal blood. None of my parents infused any royal lineage into my blood. If at all they gave me something, they gave me a DNA filled with sin. Yet, here I am. God made His sinless Son to become sin for us, and we are called the brothers and sisters of Jesus; and seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. How great is His love for us!
So they wore sackcloth around their waists and put ropes around their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’ ” And he said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” – 1 Kings 20:32
When the servants of Ben-Hadad sought the mercy of Ahab, there were few obvious choices before the cruel king of Israel. He could have, of course, opted to murder his arch-rival. Or Ahab could have just forgiven Ben-Hadad and sent him his way. But, the king of Israel says, that “Ben-Hadad is my brother.”
Dear friend, when we seek the mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are many ways in which He could deal with us. For our sins, we could lose our life on earth; or even the eternal life itself. Or we could be forgiven and sent our ways. But Jesus Christ chose to became our Brother. For us, it is a great honor. But to the Son of God, the Most Holy One, it is not a honor; it is something to be ashamed of. But the Bible tells that He was not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11)
Once I asked some fellow believers about how they see their relationship with Jesus. For many, Jesus is the Lord; for some, He is the Master. For few, He is the Husband. For others, He is their Friend. But not one of them said, Jesus is their Brother. The Bible says that He had to be made like His brothers in every way – like you and I in every way. Isn’t this amazing?
For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)
Jesus became, in every single way, like us. HE had the same nature as we have; He faced the same trials as we face today; He suffered temptations like we do. And why is this important? The Bible answers that in the very next verse.
Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
Dear friend, Jesus knows your pain. Jesus understands your suffering. HE sympathizes with the amount of temptation you are facing. And He is able to. HE is able to help you. Not only to help you power through your pain and suffering, but Jesus is also able to help you from sinning. Because He won a decisive victory over the temptation, the tempter and the sin that so easily entangles us, HE is able to help you. Come to Him. Come to Jesus. Come to your Brother Who is ready to help you.
In one of the previous blogs, I wrote about how my blood pressure was high and initially the physicians thought I was suffering from hypertension. I also mentioned how my blood pressure was normal after that day I was admitted to the ICU. However, there was one exception to that.
On the second night of my stay at ICU, around 2 AM, I woke up suddenly, as I heard someone yelling very close to me. As I woke up, I saw a medical intern of Goliathan proportions, screaming at the top of his lungs, very close to my face, saying, “Why are you crashing? Talk to me. I am not going to lose you under my watch.” He kept screaming these same words again and again, and in the background, I could hear the alarm sound of the blood pressure monitor ringing louder and louder. And, I had absolutely no clue what the ruckus was about.
Then the staff nurse in charge of me told that intern to calm down and that she would take care of me. Even then the intern took only a couple of steps backward, saying, that he would be watching me all night. Then the nurse took hold of my hand and in a gentle voice, told me that suddenly in my sleep, I started to breath heavily, my BP went above 150 and the alarm went off. And after I woke up, it went up to 180. Even as she was talking to me in an assured voice, my BP started to climb down and in the next five minutes, it was back to normal.
So, what happened? As my edema got worse, I had trouble lying down, as I felt suffocated and had trouble breathing. So, from July 1st till the day I got admitted to the ICU, I spent days and nights just sitting. Even if I had to sleep, I would be sitting and sleeping. Three times, I tried lying down and every time, it was a horrible experience, and everyone around me got scared that I would die of suffocation. And since I was closer to 125 kgs (around 275 lbs) during that time, my wife and others had trouble lifting me up. So, I was so scared that I would sit for hours and sleep in the same position. Though now I was in ICU and was sleeping in an inclined position, apparently I had a nightmare while sleeping, was breathing heavily and the BP had gone high. And when the intern came and screamed so close to my face, the BP went higher.
Now, I turn back and remember how Jesus Christ has dealt with me in similar situations. Yes, I have renounced sin when I was baptized. And every year, I have made so many renunciations, that I had lost count of them. By the grace of the LORD, though my old self had been crucified with our Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ, my flesh is still alive. My flesh is used to the sins that I had committed; they have become habits. And there are times, like a nightmare while sleeping, I just fall into the habit and before I realize, I am back to the sinful ways.
However, every time, I realize that I had fallen, because Jesus Christ tells me so. But He does not scream in face; He does not shout from the top of His lungs. Instead, He whispers to me, in a gentle voice. Not once, He let me continue in my nightmares; He woke me up every single time. Though I have failed Him so many times, never once He has failed me. If I had continued in my sinful ways, it was only because I did not listen to His voice or I did not want to leave that sin. There are times, the gravity of the sins I had committed have startled me, but not once the Voice of our LORD has startled me. For my Shepherd knows that if I am scared, I would go into my shell; I would try to hide my face from Him, like my parents Adam and Eve did.
Instead, Jesus looks at me, with same love and mercy that He had in His eyes, when He looked at Peter on the day He was betrayed. In His voice, I can hear the same tenderness He had, when He asked Thomas to put his hands into His wounds. I hear His voice in the gentle breeze that made Elijah realize the presence of God.
Oh my soul! Listen to that gentle voice! Listen to the voice of your Shepherd! Run into His arms. Jesus Christ knows your shortcoming, oh my soul! HE understands you more than you can ever understand yourself. Jesus loves you with all your faults. Yet, He never shouts at you. For He is meek and humble. And HE is waiting for you to open the door to your heart. Let Him come in and sup with you. Whenever you turn right or left, He whispers in your ear, the path that you have to take. Listen to Him. Listen to His gentle voice. And never take your sins lightly, just because Jesus Christ is being gentle to you. Your sins are horrible, and Jesus knows that. HE must, for HE paid the price for those sins. So, listen to His gentle voice.
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. – Luke 23:46
This is the seventh and the last of the utterances of our Saviour Jesus Christ from the Cross and it is the Word of Rest.
Just like God created the world and its order and finished everything on the Sixth day, Jesus said “It is finished!” as His sixth utterance from the Cross. And God rested on the Seventh day. And the seventh utterance of Jesus is a Word of rest.
Before “It is finished!”, the cry of the Lord is, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” After it is finished, it is “Father”. Yes, dear friend, Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law and has paid the price in full. Before it was “our God”; before we felt as if He has forsaken us. Not anymore, because God, Who is the Father of Jesus Christ, is also our Father in heaven.
Before “It is finished!”, Jesus felt as if the hands of Father had let Him down. But, once it is done, it is into those same hands, Jesus commits His spirit. We can rest knowing that the eternal God is our Refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
Before “It is finished!”, Jesus asked His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?”. But now, He says, “I commit My spirit.” Dear friend, commit your life to our Father now. Commit your future to Him. Commit your everything to Him. As Paul said, we know Whom we have believed. Believe in our Father Who gave His only Son for us. May that faith bring rest unto our life. Amen.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” – John 19:28
There are many explanations why Jesus said, “I thirst!” and some of them involve His unquenchable thirst for souls to be saved and deeper spiritual meanings. I am not qualified to go so deep into the words of the Saviour, so I will talk about one of the simplest things that Jesus wants from us, something that will quench His thirst.
In John 4:7-32, we see our Blessed Saviour talking to the Samaritan woman. The icebreaker that the LORD used to start the conversation is, “Give Me a drink.” The Gospel clearly says that Jesus was exhausted and all His disciples had gone into the city to get some food. And, when the Samaritan woman came to fetch water from the well, the LORD asks her for some water to quench His thirst. And when the disciples come back, they ask Him to eat, but His response implies that He has eaten already.
Except that the Gospel does not record that the Samaritan woman gave Him water as He had asked. She talked with Him and asked Him lots of questions. And, personally, for me, it is something that the LORD wants from us.
Jesus saved us so that we can be His brothers and sisters, to be the children of God. Jesus wants us to be His disciples, His followers. But, He also wants us to be His friends; a chosen people, who are ready to converse with Him.
We pray, but most of the time, what we call “prayers” are not prayers in the true sense; they are more like supplications. We ask for this favour and that mercy. We cry, we give all our burdens to Him. We do all these things, because He is God and He is a Good God. But have you ever been to His presence as His friend? Or as Jesus as your Friend? Jesus longs to talk to us. HE loves when we ask questions. When we do not understand things, He is ready to explain the Scriptures, like He explained it to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Yes, dear friend, He thirsts for our friendship. Are we willing to quench His thirst today?