Archive for April, 2016

Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 4)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

We tend to classify people when we are in school and sometimes even in adulthood we do that. I remember in high school, there were classifications that people fell into. There were the jocks. They were the athletes who populate the high school’s sport teams. There were the prom queens. They were the social elite girls who ran the school from a teenage political standpoint. There were the nerds. They were the Big Bang Theory types who had many times more brains than they had understanding of teen social skills and teen politics. There were the hoodlums or rednecks. These are the ones that were negative about everything, would fight at the drop of a hat and just wanted to get out high school as soon as possible. There were the social outcasts. They were the loners who had no friends and the ones that you would never miss if they did not show up at school. It is rare that you had mixtures. It was rare to have a smart athlete for example. However, occasionally, there would be one of those rare birds of a smart athlete. They would surprise you when you found out that they had 4.0 grade point average in addition to being a star linebacker. It used to make the nerds mad when there was such rarity because it ruined their definition of the universe. They were smart and as a result were untalented athletically and socially awkward whereas athletes may be talented and socially accepted. There was rhyme and reason to the universe through this view. Having someone break the boundaries by being both smart AND athletic shook the foundations of teen social strata. The way we classify people as unworthy of our interest as an easy way not to witness to them is what I was thinking about as I read this passage again this morning. Let’s read Matthew 27:45-56 again and, today, lets concentrate on vv. 54:

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

In this scene, we see these Roman soldiers, who were pagan idol worshippers of the Roman pantheon of gods, recognize that Jesus is who He says He is. It is the Roman soldiers who see Jesus for who He has but yet it was the supposedly holy leaders of Israel, those who understood the Old Testament better than anyone in Israel, that could not see who Jesus was. It is like seeing a football jock get the answer to the essay question more right than the brainiacs. It is the unexpected. The braniacs are making fun but the teacher says to the athlete guy that he’s got the spot-on answer and there is a look of shock on the faces of the brainiacs. Here, we have the unexpected jocks of the Roman Army getting it right when the brainiacs of the Jewish religious elite did not.

 

That’s the thing here that I think we learn that we can take away. No, not about classifying people as jocks and brainiacs but rather that we should not pick and choose whom we share the gospel. We should not pick and choose whom that we will show the love of Christ to and those we will not. Here, in this passage, you see that Roman soldiers were able to get it even though they were idol worshipers. Everyone no matter how much they say they oppose Christianity has the ability to “get it!” Therefore, instead of writing off practicing homosexuals and practicing transgenders and classifying them as unreachable and incapable of understanding the gospel, we love them right where they are and we witness to the power of the gospel to change lives. Same is true for Muslims. They have the capability to “get it!” They should not then be written off as an unreachable people and as a people that we should hate. Same is true for people of different ethnicities from us. Same is true for people the ganstas. Same is true for those who think all roads lead to heaven and that we should just co-exist. Same is true for those who do not believe in God at all. The same is true for anyone that is different from me, from a different background, different social background, different economic background. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for even the most hardened member of ISIS to be able to understand that Jesus Christ is Lord. If we write people off as unreachable, we are disobeying Jesus Christ. He called us to make disciples of all nations. That means that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live or what you currently believe, God has made it possible for you through the work of the Holy Spirit to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ. Insteading of hating those who are not like us, we should be loving them…so that we can have relationships with them…so that we can speak truth to them…so that we can tell them about Jesus…so that they can “get it!”

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 3)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

In the movie, Armageddon, there is that darkest moment when Bruce Willis’ character, Harry Stamper, is left behind to detonate the nuclear weapon that they had planted deep in the asteroid. As the asteroid begins to slow down is 22,000 mph pace as it approaches the earth’s gravitational pull to maybe a mere 20,000 mph, all the associated debris trailing the asteroid starts flying past the main part of the asteroid, it does not seem that Harry’s going to be able to get the job done. It is really bad on the surface of the asteroid. Gas vents exploding. Debris flying everywhere. The ground shaking on the surface of the asteroid. But Harry Stamper, being the hero, that he is, cannot fail. He finally is able to regather himself and reach the button on the trigger and right before he pushes the button, he says, “We win, Gracie!” He was speaking of his daughter. If, in that moment, you do not shed tears as the nuclear bomb explodes and rips the asteroid in half, you have no heart. Harry Stamper sacrifices his own life to save billions of people on earth. The nuclear explosion sheers the asteroid in half causing the asteroid not to impact the earth and our planet is saved from an extinction level event. Back on earth, when everyone realizes that Harry’s bravery saved the planet, everyone is celebrating. Everyone except Gracie. She has mixed emotions. She and the rest of humanity would have died immediately upon impact of the earth-killing asteroid or would have died within a year afterward (the dust cloud that would have covered the earth would let no light in for two years or more before it cleared and thus all plant life, animal life, and human life would die within months of the impact). She has mixed emotions. Her own life and those of billions of people have been spared because of her dad’s willingness to do whatever it took but yet she grieves for the father that she loves so dearly but will never see again until the day she dies. It is a powerful ending to the movie. We know of the tumultuous but loving relationship that Gracie has with her dad but you know they love each other without end! Her tears for the loss of her while knowing at the same time her dad saved the planet is what I think of when I think of the physical reactions of the earth that we see at Jesus’ death. Let’s re-read the passage that is our subject today, Matthew 27:45-56 and concentrate on vv. 51-53:

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

Today, we look at all the weird geophysical events that took place at the moment of Jesus death. A lot of unusual stuff happened. Palestine, if not the whole earth, fell into darkness as if it were nighttime in the middle of the day. An earthquake occurs. The veil between the Holy Place in the Temple and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the area of the Temple where God’s presence was said to have been on earth. This veil was no slim, thin curtain. It was heavy duty but it was ripped in half like it was a napkin. Further, the graves were said to give up the bodies of prophets.

 

If you think that this was literary license of the authors of Scripture, consider again. If you look at the sedimentary record in Palestine, particularly in the Dead Sea, geologists, as they can in any place on earth, tell you when earthquakes have happened in a given region, if any, by examining core drillings of the soil and layers of rock in the region. The geological evidence is there that shows that around 33AD there was an earthquake event in Palestine. Additionally, a historian name Thallus wrote in 52AD that the region had been thrown inexplicably into darkness during that time. Astrology had become sophisticated enough in certain societies by the first century that they could predict (not nearly as precisely as today) generally when eclipses of the sun would occur. However, this was an out of cycle eclipse which Thallus found frightening when you combine it with the earthquake that hit the region. With this historical, geological and extrabiblical references to these events, it bolsters the biblical account and, if these things happened then why not people rising from the grave. All of this weird stuff happened. Why?

 

Plain and simple to me. God had a Gracie complex. He was like Gracie in our movie illustration. Just as Gracie knew that humanity would not have survived without the sacrifice of her father’s life that he willingly gave up, yet she grieved. Without Harry’s sacrifice, humanity would not have survived. Yet, she lost her daddy. She lost the grandfather to her future children. She lost the man that loved her first, her daddy. She grieved but yet she was thankful that she could grieve. Without her dad’s sacrificial act, she would not be alive to grieve. In the same, God grieved when Jesus died on the cross. God grief is expressed through his creation. Creation moans at the death of Jesus Christ. All of creation moans. The sky is darkened. The earth shakes. God grieves at this moment. God knows that it had to be done. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we are doomed. It was necessary. It was necessary for this death to happen. The death tears the veil that separates us from God. The veil was there because of our sin. It had to be separated from the presence of God. The death ends the separation. It is through Jesus’ taking on God’s wrath and anger toward sin that reconciles us to God. Through Jesus’ death and sacrifice, we can now exist in the presence of God. It was necessary. But yet at the same time, God grieves over the necessity of it. God grieves over the sacrifice of His Son. He grieves. He knows that it was part of the plan and it had to be executed but still He grieves and it is expressed through His creation. For a moment, He suspends the normal operation of the physical laws of the universe that He created to grieve. In His grief over this nuclear explosion in the asteroid of man’s sin, God grieves over the necessity of sacrificing His Son. But The Father can whisper to the Son, “We win, Son! We win!”

 

We now have victory through God’s own hard fought sacrifice. We now have victory over the sin-filled creatures that we are. We win, Gracie. We Win. We now have reconciliation with the father. We Win, Gracie! We win! We now have direct access to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. We live because He died. We Win Gracie! We win! We now stand in purity before God through the clothing of righteousness given to us through his sacrificial death. We Win Gracie! We win! We now have a second chance through His willingness to die for us! We Win Gracie! We win! … Amen and Amen!

Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 2)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

Have you ever been punished for something that you did not do? One of my favorite movies from back in 1993 was The Fugitive. It was a movie that paid homage to a television series that extremely popular even further back in the 1960s. In the movie, Harrison Ford plays the part of Dr. Richard Kimble who is accused and then convicted unjustly for the murder of his wife. On the way to prison on a department of corrections bus, there is a horrific accident where the bus lands on railroad tracks down an embankment from the road above. Just before the train busts through bus, Harrison Ford is able to escape the bus,  the train and its subsequent derailment within an inch of his life. From his arrest, conviction, and his escape, Dr. Kimble spends the rest of the movie trying to prove his innocence which he does in the final climactic scenes. From the time, he is arrested he is treated like a criminal by everyone even though he is innocent. The machinery of justice was bound and determined to make someone pay for the crime in this high profile case and Dr. Kimble was the easiest target. Has anything similar to this happened to you. Maybe when you were a kid, you got accused of something you didn’t do and got punished for it. Maybe your brother or sister did something and successfully pointed the finger at you and let you take the fall for it. Maybe, it was a similar situation at school where you got accused of something you did not do, because you had a reputation as a trouble maker. Maybe, just maybe, you got accused of doing something wrong and you took the fall for the wrong thing done to protect a friend from getting in trouble because it would have ruined or hurt your friend in some way. In any of those cases, the wrongly accused feeling the full weight of punishment can feel abandoned and all alone. Let’s re-read the passage that is our subject today, Matthew 27:45-56:

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

Today, we will look at Jesus’ exclamation of separation from God. In the English translation of what Jesus said in Hebrew was “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” This statement is one of the most mysterious sayings of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. So, let’s take a look at what it means.

 

First, there are those who take this statement to validate that Jesus is not anything other than a human being. It is often used to rail against our Christian theological belief that Jesus is of one and the same as God. They claim that if Jesus is truly the Son of God, as we Christians call Him, then why would He have exclaimed this statement. They claim that He probably felt abandoned for having been so dedicated all His life to being a preacher and this was His end. No miraculous saving from the cross by God. He just was allowed to die. This so called man of God, a great teacher, was unable to get God to react and He felt abandoned and foolish on the cross. That would be the easy view. However, why would the gospels include such a statement if the effort of each of the gospels is to prove that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, a divine being in human flesh. The gospels included this statement without hesitation. To the gospel writers, this seemingly contradictory statement, in fact, assists in proving that Jesus was of one and same essence as God. Why?

 

First, it points out that Jesus was fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 22. According to the CARM.org website, it says:

 

First of all, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, which begins with, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus quoted this Psalm in order to draw attention to it and the fact that He was fulfilling it there on the cross. Consider verses 11-18 in Psalm 22:

 

    “Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. 13 They open wide their mouth at me,  As a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water,  And all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax;  It is melted within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;  And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me. They pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.”

 

The term, “dogs,” was used by the Jews to refer to Gentiles (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). His heart has melted within Him (v. 14). During the crucifixion process, the blood loss causes the heart to beat harder and harder and become extremely fatigued. Dehydration occurs (v. 15). Verses 16b-18 speak of piercing His hands and feet and dividing His clothing by casting lots. This is exactly what happen as described in Matt. 27:35.  

 

Jesus was not exclaiming that He was not divine. He was exclaiming His fulfillment of prophecy. His audience below Him at the cross would have known that He was quoting Psalm 22. So, even in His darkest hour, He still had full faith in God and His Word enough to exclaim a scriptural reference. Jesus quoted the Old Testament often during His public ministry so in this moment, He is still reminding people that all of this is happening for fulfillment of the scriptural Messiah’s actions not the popular military hero that everyone in Israel had morphed the Messiah into being. His quoting of Scripture here points people to the Old Testament as to what the fate of the Messiah was going to be and the fact that it was being fulfilled right in front of them.

 

Second, Jesus exclaimed this statement not just to point out that prophecy was being fulfilled in plain sight in front of this audience but it was also to express grief. It was fulfillment of prophecy but it was also grief to Jesus to have to fulfill it. Isaiah tells us that “he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). In that moment on the cross, Jesus was made accursed by the Father and bore the sins of all mankind. He was suffering the wrath of God for our sins. Your sins, my sins, the sins of all who had already passed by that point in history and those who will have lived for every moment in history after that point. Thus, this moment on the cross, Jesus is bearing the weight of all sin of all time. Since Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, He was sinless and pure Himself so He was the perfect sacrifice to end the Old Testament sacrificial system. There was to be no more sacrifices. Jesus completed. He was perfect. He was divine. He was pure. He was the only one who could take on the whole wrath of God for all sin for all time. In this moment, Jesus became the object of God’s wrath. He became sin. He was punished for it. Though He was sinless, He bore the wrath of God for sin so that we would have the opportunity not to. He was being punished in our place so that we could have the right to come near to God. It was in that manifestation of God’s hatred of sin that Jesus feels abandoned. Just as someone who takes the blame for wrongdoing for another to protect them from the consequences of wrongdoing, when the punishment comes, though expected, does not take away that feeling of abandonment. According to gotquestions.com, it says,

 

“In those awful moments, Jesus was expressing His feelings of abandonment as God placed the sins of the world on Him – and because of that had to “turn away” from Jesus. As Jesus was feeling that weight of sin, He was experiencing separation from God for the only time in all of eternity. It was at this time that 2 Corinthians 5:21 occurred, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became sin for us, so He felt the loneliness and abandonment that sin always produces, except that in His case, it was not His sin – it was ours.

 

Just think of the fact that Jesus who had been and is now and for all eternity, except for this one moment, been in perfect unison and togetherness with the Holy Trinity (The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit – the three parts of the Godhead). Throughout all eternity! Jesus was separated from the unity that He had known for all eternity at this moment. God turned his back on Jesus at this moment so that Jesus could become sin and take the punishment for it. Imagine how alone he felt. It is like those stories that you hear of a husband and wife who have been married for 60 or 70 years and one of them predeceases the other. The remaining one grieves themselves to death because of the separation that feel with the person that they have known and loved since they had an understanding of what love is. In these cases of long-term marriage, it is often that surviving spouse follows their deceased spouse in death within a short period of time. In these 60, 70 plus year marriages there is this connection, this unison of souls that makes the remaining one feel like part of their soul has been ripped out by the death of the other spouse. That’s how Jesus felt at this moment. Though he knew in His omniscience that this moment was going to come, it does not make the moment any less potent to Him.

 

All of this seems very high brow theology doesn’t it? And, yes, in some ways it is. The whole Holy Trinity thing is hard to fathom and is only as we mature in Christ that we BEGIN to understand it. But what is it that I can take away this morning about Jesus exclaiming to God that He feels forsaken? That takeaway is that Jesus “gets me”. He understands me and what I experience as a human being. Though Jesus was divine as evidence by his fulfilling Messianic prophecies made 1,000 years earlier before his day on the cross but He understands grief like we humans experience. He understands feeling forsaken like we humans experience. He understands feelings of abandonment like we humans experience. He has lived in the flesh and understands pain, sorrow, and suffering. He understands being wrongly accused and suffering for it. He understands feelings of loneliness. He understands emotional pain. When your marriage has broken up not by your choice and you feel the lowest of lows and you feel abandoned and all alone. Jesus understands. He’s been there. When you feel persecuted and left high and dry by your enemies or betrayed by your friends, He’s been there. When you are paying the consequences for the actions of others, Jesus has been there. No matter the pain of loss and abandonment that you may feel, Jesus knows it. Like the old commercials featuring super-do-anything-athlete Bo Jackson used to say, “Bo Knows!”, you can say the same about Jesus, “Jesus knows!” Like the old saying about having already experienced something, “I’ve been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt”, Jesus can same the same to us when we are feeling lost and alone. Jesus can look you in the eye and with all honesty say to you, “Been There. Done That. Got the T-Shirt!” Jesus understands you. Jesus gets you!

Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 1)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

Today, we come to the most important moment in human history. As you many of you know, my usual format for my daily blog is to come up with an illustration from my own life or an illustration from the world around me that I am familiar with to get the reader to focus on a central idea that comes from the illustration. Today, that just does not seem appropriate. There is no illustration from my life or from the world I know around me that compares to this moment. This is Jesus Christ dying on the cross. There is no comparison in my life to that. There is no cute illustration, no funny illustration, no illustration of any kind to compare to this moment. It is the single most important scene in human history. It is the pivotal moment of the Bible. Everything before it in the Bible is building toward this moment. Everything after it in the Bible is as the result of this moment. Human history is measured from this moment. Most of humanity measures time by this moment. The years that we count to measure time are either minused or plussed from this moment. Needless to say, this moment is a big deal in so many ways. It is so significant that we will spend several days here analyzing this passage. Without further ado, let’s get right into the passage, Matthew 27:45-56:

 

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

 

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

Today, we will look at the theological significance of this scene. Tomorrow, we will look at Jesus’ exclamation of separation from God. Next, we will look the significance of the geophysical events that took place at Jesus’ death and why they are significant. After that, we will look at how it was curious that Roman soldiers, non-believers, were able to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. And, finally, we will look at the fact that it was Jesus’ female supporters that were present at his death.

 

For today, let’s take this event in. Jesus died on the cross. As I said earlier, this is the most important moment in human history. Let us not in our knowledge of it having happened that we do not grasp the significance of it. Jesus died on the cross. Let that soak in for a moment. Don’t move on to the next passage quickly. Let this moment marinate in your mind, heart, and soul. Jesus died on the cross. Drift back in time and sit there on Golgotha’s hill. Clear your mind of other thoughts and what you have to do today. Drift back in time and sit at Calvary. Sit there and watch the participants but then look up at the cross. Jesus’ life is slipping away and then it is gone. Jesus’ badly beaten body is there on the cross. He had not any sleep for probably at least two days by the time he died. His body ripped to shreds by the cat o’ nine tails whips that he was beaten with. His head pounding from the repeated blows to his skull. The loss of blood unimaginable. The painful nails driven through muscle and bone in his hands and his feet. The slow agonizing asphyxiation that occurs in crucifixion where by the way your body hangs on the cross tears at the muscles in our arms by the sheer weight of your own body. The ability to breath requires you to raise your body to a level that you can exhale air and quickly take oxygen in and then let your body fall downward again. As your body weakens from the stress of hanging awkwardly, the ability to move up to exhale carbon dioxide becomes less and less and ultimately you begin suffocating from the carbon dioxide build-up in your body. The combination of suffocating and the blood loss leads to death. It is a gruesome way to die.

 

We sanitize in most of our films about Jesus. We sanitize the beatings he took. We sanitize how Jesus’ body looked after those beatings. We sanitize his nine grueling hours on the cross. We often treat it as though the Romans slapped him on the back a couple of times and then that he was fully alert and oozing only a few drops of blood. And then all of a sudden our clean, sanitized Jesus dies on the cross. Mel Gibson, for all his personal faults and feaux pauxs, got it more right than anyone so far in cinematic Jesus on the cross. Jesus most likely had very few areas of his body that was not covered in his own blood. Very few areas of his body where the skin was not ripped or bruised. His face was battered and swollen from the beatings about his face and skull. And he suffered through getting nails driven through muscle and bone in both his hands and his feet. His feet stacked on top of one another and a huge nail drive through both at the same time to hold them together on the downward beam of the cross. Could you imagine that particular nail going through one foot and the anticipation of it being driven through the foot stacked below it. Jesus died on the cross in a gruesome death.

 

Then we hear Him exclaim to the Father in heaven, why have you forsaken me? If Jesus is the Son of God and He and the Father are of one and the same essence, why did He say that? But this curious statement point us to the whole point of it all.

 

Yes, Jesus and the Father in Heaven are of one and the same essence. They are part of the mysterious trinity of God. He is God. Three in one. The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are all named separately in the Bible and represent the three personages of God. Thus, since all eternity, Jesus has existed in perfect union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Even as Jesus walked the earth, He was still in unison with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was still God when He roamed by foot as a human being. He was God in the flesh. He set aside all the glory that is His at all other points in eternity. He set aside His glory to break into human history for two very specific purposes. One was to raise up disciples who would attest to the generations of who He was what this all meant. The other purpose was to die on the cross. It was here on the cross that He would take on the full wrath of God for the sins of all mankind, past, present and future. God has proclaimed that it why Jesus died on the cross. Thus, the cry from Jesus is both for his physical pain but also the separation from the trinity while He was taking the punishment from God for all sin of all mankind. That’s the point of it all. That’s why at that moment Jesus was all alone. He was made into that one ball of all sin ever committed and the Father punished Him for it so that there would be a way for us not to be condemned by our own sins.

 

Jesus willingly took on all that pain and even greater the separation from the Father and the Holy Spirit that He had never experienced before or since. Why? So that we would have a way for our sins to be not counted against us. Each of us sins daily and they condemn us but it only takes that first one to condemn us much less the mountains of sin we commit daily, hourly, by the minute. Jesus’ death on the cross is the substitute for our sin punishment that we deserve at the hands of a perfect and holy and sinless God. In that moment of exclamation, Jesus was separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit so He could take on the full brunt of God’s wrath against all sin. He was alone in doing that. He did that so that you and I would have the opportunity to experience grace before God. All we have to do is believe that this was the purpose of the cross and that Jesus was willing to do it. Jesus, part of the trinity, holy and perfect in power and glory, set it all aside to willing come to earth to do what He did. Die on the cross for you and for me and for anyone who will believe that He is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, and that He rose from the dead.

 

Sit that at Calvary and see the dead and lifeless human flesh of Jesus Christ. Look at Him. He is there beaten and bloodied beyond recognition. All for you. All for you. All for me. All for anyone who will believe it. He took all that ugly, brutal punishment because God loves us that much that He did not want to automatically condemn us to hell without giving us the lifeline that this death on the cross gives us. See the body, beaten and bruised. See the pain and suffering that is evident on his body. See what He went through for you. It brings to my that wonderful old hymn, Were You There, whose lyrics go like this:

 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

 

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

 

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

 

Stand before the cross. Look upon Jesus’ body, given up and punished and beaten. It was all for you. No greater love has there been than this. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 27:32-44 (Part 2)

Jesus is Led Away to Be Crucified

Have you ever drawn into something that you did not want to do but it ended up being something profound in your life? Maybe, you had to take your cousin to a prom. Maybe, you had to go on a double date with your geeky brother who just got a girl to go out with him for the first time. Maybe, you had to go to wedding that you didn’t want to go to, but end up meeting the love of your life at the reception. However, for me, it was less profound than that but I do remember a time when something dreaded ended up being something good. Back when I was in middle school, I was fairly popular at Lakeside Middle School in Anderson, SC. I was good kid but mischievous. I was a good student but was a class clown. Many of the teachers at the school knew me as just that, a good kid but fun loving to the point of be a disturbance at times. There was one time that my clownery got me in trouble for some reason. I can’t remember the exact reason but it ended me up in after school detention hall. I dreaded going because detention hall was usually that death march that people would laugh at you when they saw you go in the cafetorium (cafeteria and auditorium together) after school. I didn’t want to be there. In the afternoon, after school during the weeks leading up to a public presentation of a play, the drama club would practice on stage in the cafetorium. So, here I am sitting at one of the cafeteria tables being quiet as required. I hear the drama team rehearsing their play. I had several friends as it turned out among that team. So, I walk up to the stage and ask them if I can be a part of the play. As it turns out the drama teacher needed another actor for small speaking part so she grabbed me up. I already knew her so it was not like I was stranger to her. So, after school detention turned out to be a part in a play. And then in the spring play, I had a major role in that next play. So what seemed like a chore, something I had to do but did not want to do turned into something amazing. That is what I think of when I think of Simon of Cyrene in this passage that we take one more look at today.

 

Let’s read the passage together again this morning, Matthew 27:32-44:

 

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

 

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

Here, we see Simon picked out of the crowd to do something nobody in their right mind would want to do voluntarily. He was from Cyrene. Based on what we know of Roman history and archaeology, Cyrene was a city in what is now the country of Libya. Settled by the Greeks in 630 B.C. and later infused with a significant Jewish population, Cyrene was the capital of the Roman district of Cyrenaica at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. By then, Cyrene was home to a large number of Greek-speaking, or Hellenistic, Jews. Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew only records his name and place of origin (27:32), but Mark and Luke say that he was “on his way in from the country” (Luke 23:26). Mark, uncharacteristically, provides the most information about Simon, adding that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21), men obviously well known to Mark’s readers. It is speculated that the Rufus mentioned here may be the same man Paul greets in his letter to Rome, whom he calls “chosen in the Lord” and whose mother “has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:13). Paul’s knowledge of Rufus’s family indicates that at some point they lived further east. Thus, what we have here is a Jew in Jerusalem who had made the pilgrimage from northern Africa for Passover.

 

I could imagine his disdain for the duty he was called to perform. I could imagine that even after the Romans had forced Him into duty, that he probably made sure that Romans knew that he was not the criminal. I am a Jew here for Passover! Please don’t mistake me for this guy when we get to the hill. I do NOT feel like being crucified today! But apparently this encounter with Jesus was profound. Mark’s reference to him as the father of Alexander and Rufus makes one believe that Alexander and Rufus were major figures in the Chrisitan community in Rome. It means that Simon must have made quite an impression on these boys about this Jesus Christ. He must have told them that he carried Jesus’ crossbeam to Golgotha and he must have told them that he knew that Jesus was dead. And he must have told them that this same Jesus arose from the dead three days later, as Simon would have assuredly still been in Jerusalem when Jesus arose. Back in those days, a trip from Cyrene to Jerusalem would have taken over a week so when you got there you would have stayed awhile before returning home. Simon was drafted into service against his will but it ended up being the most profound thing that ever happened to him. He encountered the Son of God. This meeting led him likely to become a Christ follower who then raised two Christ following sons, who had great impact on the Roman enclave of Christians.

 

Maybe, you think that this Christianity thing is something that you don’t want to do right now. Maybe, you think that it has too many resrictions on the way you want to live your life. Maybe, you think that Christians are backwards and way too conservative to match your anything goes beliefs. You stay away from churches like they are the plague. You seen Christianity as outdated so you don’t want to know anything about it or go anywhere near it. But what can it hurt? Come over to LifeSong Church (or any church) and meet our people. We do not have horns and we will not beat you over the head with a Bible. We will welcome you with love and you will probably not be greeted more times than you will be greeted at LifeSong. We will invite you to just listen to the worship. You can even tap your feet to the beat of the drums and electic guitars, but doing that doesn’t make you commit to being a Christian. Listen to the words of the songs. Let them sink in. Then, listen to an anointed pastor preach God’s Word in a way that makes this Christianity thing make sense to your world in the 21st century. Then, we just let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If you would just try it out. You may not want to be here at first but there is just something about this church, the preaching, the people that draw you to Jesus Christ. It may just ended up being the most profound decision of your life. All we ask is that you give Jesus a chance. Encounter him on the road to the cross. It may end up being the most profound thing you have ever done in life. Encountering Jesus Christ in a real way. Not from a distance but up close. Not from the crowd but eye to eye. When we throw off all our humanistic beliefs and objections and encounter Him one on one, eye to eye, it will be the most important thing you have ever done. Come out of the crowd and encounter Jesus.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 27:32-44 (Part 1)

Jesus is Led Away to Be Crucified

I know we have rough weekends sometimes where we had so many things to do you seemed to have no time for rest. As I sit here on Monday morning writing this blog, I am just so tired this morning. We had a busy weekend full of activities that has left me wanting more weekend. The weekend began with a party for the staff of the church, full-time staff, part-time staff, and the key volunteers that make up our church’s leadership team. It was a fun time and great time was had by all. Then, Saturday morning, my lazy day, sleep-in, get up and lounge around day, was different this weekend. We had to get up before sunrise. As my wife is the leader of our church’s community outreach/community events team, she had to be at our church-sponsor 5k event in support of Relay for Life. We had to be at the site in downtown Lyman by 7:15 to assist the team that was running the event get things set up before the race began at 8:30. Registration tables had to be set up, event t-shirts set out, food and drinks for the runners had to be set up, memorial signs for survivors of cancer and for those who had passed on because of it, personnel had to be put in place at the various key points in the race and so on. Then, I also participated in the 5k as a walker (not a runner!). By the way, my walking time was 59:39 – not to shabby for an overweight 53 year old man. After the 5k event, we had to load up a table and chairs that had been in storage in our garage and deliver it to my oldest daughter who lives about an hour west of me between Easley, SC and Clemson, SC. After we delivered the table and chairs, we then went out to dinner with my daughter and her husband. Busy day instead of a lazy day on Saturday.

 

Then, Sundays are always busy when you on staff at a church. But this one was a little different. As soon as I got to church at 8:15, prior to our two Sunday church services (9:30am and 11:00am), I discovered from two staff members that had preceded my arrival that half the electrical power in every room of our administrative and education building was down. Some lights and outlets worked and some didn’t. Long story short, as you know power coming into a building has two phases to it and one of the two phases was completely dead. As a result, the power was only half on in the whole building and the HVAC units were not running but the capacitors on all of them were chattering like a thousand birds in a tree because they were not getting enough power to run the machines. After helping another staff member get our children’s ministries extension cords to link to power outlets that were working so that they could have children’s church. Then, between calling an electrical contractor that attends our church and having him evaluate the power situation, we found that the power coming into the church from the street was deficient. Something had happened to the transformer that services our church. Earlier, we had called Duke Energy and finally they came and they figured out what was wrong with the transformer, fixed and were gone within 10 mintures. Bam! Full power restored. Then after church, my wife had a meeting with her community team (with a meal) so we were 2pm getting away from the church. Next up was our small group meeting at 6pm that we had to prepare for. Then, at the small group meeting, we had week two of our sharing of personal salvation stories in this relatively new group. So, for the second week in a row, it was a rather emotionally charged night listening to people’s winding roads to the cross. And by the end of the meeting it was 9pm. Long weekend done. Wiped out. Tired. This morning, I am still tired and littly cranky ‘cause I really didn’t have a weekend. Then I read today’s passage, it all kind of put it in perspective for me.

 

Let’s read the passage together, Matthew 27:32-44:

 

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

 

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

Jesus had rough weekend. When I think about the things I had to do this weekend and how tired I am this morning, it pales in comparison to Easter weekend for Jesus. His weekend involved no sleep at all. Physical beatings, insults, degredation, humiliation, and crucifixion. He had a bad weekend. It was rough to say the least. No time for sleep much less anytime for rest. How whiny I get sometimes about my busy-ness. It is shameful to even consider those thoughts when I compare that to Jesus’ Easter weekend. What He endured. And it was just the physical beatings and the crucifixion, it was the verbal abuse. Not only was He being beaten by some, but also He was been insulted by just about everyone He encountered. In His humanness, how desperately alone He must have felt. Some of us have had playground experiences as children where everyone was ridiculing you about something that seemed super important at the time. We typically ran away to get away from it, but here Jesus could not run. He had to hear all these insults and derisions. He was in in excruciating physical pain already from the beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers to the point he was too weak to carry His own cross. To add insult to this injury, everyone was ridiculing Him even as He is nailed to the cross (more blood spilled) and is pulled high into the air and the cross bar is affixed to the permanent post. Up high as he is slowly suffocated to death by his own weight on the cross and dealing with the rips and tears of his flesh from his beating (to the point that he is hardly recognizable), he endures more and more ridicule.

 

I think I had a rough weekend. I think I had a busy weekend. I should be ashamed. My Savior endured the most horrendous weekend an innocent man could ever endure. My Savior endured excruciating physical pain, sleep deprivation, physical beatings to the point that his bones were exposed. He endured suffocation and struggling to breath with a body that was so tired, so beaten, and so weak. He endured extreme physical pain. But He endured great emotional distress from all the ridicule and feeling of isolation. He endured separation from God that He had never experienced before in all eternity. He endured receiving the full wrath of God for sin of all mankind of all time. Jesus had a busy weekend. I just had a lot of things to do. Jesus had a busy weekend for all mankind. He suffered the worst weekend ever for you and for me. Jesus suffered this weekend just so you and I could be reconciled to God. He was willing to put up with all this physical, emotional, and spiritual pain all concentrated into one weekend just for you and for me. He loves us that much. He loves us that much!

 

Anytime we get to feeling sorry for ourselves and how rough we have, think about Jesus. He suffered mightily for us over a weekend. He suffered mightily just so you and I could be made right with God by believing in Him as the Son of God. That kind of puts my weekend of busy-ness into perspective. Now, arise Mark, go to work and live a day of thanksgiving for what Christ has done. You, reader of this blog, get up and do the same. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 27:27-31

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Have you ever seen a college or pro football team that was considered the best team of the year, or the best team in a long-time, or the best team ever assembled to play the game while their opponent for the championship game just seems to be lucky to have gotten there? The underdog vs. the prohibitive favorite. You hear the trash talking from the prohibitive favorite. The other team will just be lucky to be on the same field with the odds-on championship favorite. The favored team takes for granted that they are going to win the game. So, they begin belittling the other team and their capabilities. Mocking them almost. Bulletin board material abounds. You’ve seen it before.

 

A great example was the 1993 Sugar Bowl that was decide the national championship. It pitted the two undefeated teams from the 1992 season, the top ranked University of Miami Hurricanes and the 2nd ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Miami was flash and glitter and lit up the scoreboard with dizzyingly amazing passing game. Alabama was rough and plodding run-first offense and relied on defense.  Throughout the weeks leading up to the game, there was trash talk from certain Miami players, particularly Lamar Thomas. Thomas made many disparaging remarks about Alabama’s conference, the SEC, how the Miami receivers were faster, smarter and more elite than any that the Bama defense had faced EVER, and called into question the manhood of the Alabama defensive backs.[1]

 

Miami was coming off back to back undefeated seasons and consecutive national championships, they were the big bullies of college football. They were good. They knew it. And they proved it on the football field, often pummeling their opponents by obscene score differentials in those days. The had a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Gino Toretta. The receiving corp was awesome. Even the reserves could have been starters at other school. Alabama was Alabama. Not flashy but always good during those years. Always great defenses and a good enough offense to ensure victories. But in those years, they were usually just short of winning championships because the SEC was actually better top to bottom in those days. Now it’s Alabama and then there’s the rest of the league. But in those days, it was a four-team league (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, and then maybe LSU every now and then). So, for Alabama to reach the title game in the 80’s-90’s, it was like phew! They finally passed through the gauntlet. They finally made it. Miami expected to be there. Alabama was just happy to have made it. Miami was expected to show up the slower, plodding Alabama team even though they were ranked right behind Miami.

 

What happened? Superior defense overwhelmed flashy offense. Underdog defeated the favorite. In fact, the underdog dominated the favorite. Alabama won the game 34-13. On offense, Alabama’s running game piled up 267 yards of rushing against a team that had given up less than 100 yards rushing per game on average. On defense, Alabama made the Heisman trophy winning quarterback’s night a rough one, intercepting him three times (one of which was returned for a touchdown). All of it just goes to prove the old saying, “That’s why they play the game.” If we measured games by pre-game trash talk and predictions, Miami would have won hands down. They were the gold standard of college football at the time and had not lost a single game in a long time. They were the Roman Empire of college football. They were a machine that rolled over anything in their path. But Alabama won in the end. For all the perceived superiority of Miami, Alabama won in the end.

 

It is that sense of what seems hopeless and inferior that in the end proves superior that comes to mind when I read today’s passage, Matthew 27:27-31:

 

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Here in this passage, we see the humble servant-king, Jesus, being treated with derision. If there was ever any trash talking about who a person was, it was here. The Roman soldiers were trash talking to Jesus. They mocked the fact that claims of royalty had been ascribed to Jesus. They mistreated Him badly both physically and verbally. It was the pregame trash talk. The Roman soldiers were part of the Roman army, the most efficient and ruthless army the world had ever known. Their military weaponry and their military tactics and their military training was far superior to anything known to man at the time. They, by the first century, were a professional army. They were not a conscripted army. They were paid warriors. Being in the army was their full-time job. Technology and technique were so far ahead of any army they encountered – kind of similar to how far ahead of our enemies that the US military is today. Jesus was a nothing to them. He was just another political prisoner at the hands of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. The Roman soldiers were arrogant and brash with reason. They represented the most advanced military on the earth and were pretty much undefeated up to this point. So, who was this Jesus man to them. He was nothing. He was a flea on the back of the mighty dog of Rome. He was a speck of dust on the Roman globe. So, this “king of the Jews” was nothing to them. They had the might of the empire behind them and Jesus was nothing. Why not mock what seemed an inferior opponent? They were the better team. They had all the flash and glitter of being the long undefeated Roman army and Jesus was just one guy. Another victim of the might of the empire standing there. It appears to be the 1992 Miami Hurricanes vs. the 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide. The loud brash Roman soldiers against the quiet humble Jesus. But what happened? That’s why the game was played out in real life and not just theoretically. It was played out in real life and not in some philosophical debate. Jesus won in the end. The underdog won. Jesus was victorious over the mighty Roman Empire and over the Jewish leaders that forced the game to be played. Jesus is the national champion. He won the game. He is the victor.

 

That is the thing that I take away from this scene. Jesus wins in the end. The Roman soldiers in their arrogance deride and mock Jesus. He quietly and humbly takes it all even though He is the Superior One. He let them trash talk. He let them feel their own arrogance. They did not realize that they were in the presence of the Mighty One Himself. They did not realize that their own arrogance was part of Jesus’ game plan. Jesus knew the game plan. It mattered not what they said, because this was how the Father chose to have the game play out. He had a far superior game plan to the Roman Empire. Heck, eventually the faith named after Jesus eventually becomes the faith of the entire empire. Jesus wins in the end because he did not trash talk. He stuck to His Father’s game plan. The game plan was the cross. He knew all the tendencies of all the players on the opposing side and He used those to accomplish his goal. Jesus wins in the end. It looks dark here in the pre-game trash talk. It looks dark for a while for Jesus and his disciples. These three days are the pregame. The cross and the grave are game day. There the game is played out. If we let the pre-game trash talk of the Roman soldiers be it, the Empire would have won. But that’s why the game gets played out on the field. Jesus won.

 

From the pregame trash talk, to the seeming victory at the grave when Jesus is laid to rest in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. That, too, is why they play all four quarters of a football game. The tomb was just late in in the third quarter where it seemed the Roman Empire had a commanding lead. The game seemed over and the lead insurmountable. But, Jesus staged the greatest comeback of all time. He arose from the dead. He came back and won the game. He arose. Up from the grave, He arose. And He will return again in complete victory and stand on the championship podium of all time. Trash talk will no longer matter at that time. He will be the undisputed national champion of all time. All will bow down in recognition of His superiority. Jesus wins in the end. The Superior One. The Best Ever. The King of all Kings. Trash talk ended!

 

That is my Jesus. He can be your Jesus too. When you like seems like it has hit the lowest of lows, remember Jesus wins in the end. He is the ultimate victory. He defeated the grave. He arose from the dead. He is our champion. He knows your pain. He felt your pain on the cross. But He wins in the end. You can too through Him. Give your life over to Him. Worship Him. Serve Him. Become more and more like Him daily. And you too can win in the end. Jesus is our eternal national champion. Trash talk is just that! Jesus wins in the end! Amen and Amen.

[1]  Murphy, Austin (1993-01-11). “The End Of The Run”. Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008.