Lifelines:

“It is finished,” were among the final words that Jesus uttered as life left Him (John 19:30). It was His doing. No one took it. He gave up His spirit. Human hearts rejected Him. Human minds formed the plot. Human hands drove the nails, but humans did not take His life. No, that was at the time that He chose, and it did not occur until everything had been done. The plan was completed. The Scripture was fulfilled, then He died and not a minute before.

The love of God sent the One who called Himself the Son of Man. Seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) was the passion that ultimately consumed Him. It started simply among the animals and ended brutally on a cross. His roots are improbable. His family tree included the good and the bad, but mostly the unknown. He selected an unlikely group of fishermen and tax collectors but mostly, you guessed it, the unknown. To them He handed off the mission of searching for lost folks who want to be disciples but not before He finished what He came to do.

Sin. That is what it was all about. It wrecks everything that it touches, and He came to take it away (John 1:29). This was no band-aid approach. It was a cure, a remedy for everyone who accepts it. He was not just a role model; He was that and more. He was a Savior. Our sins were charged to His account, and He paid the price. This was no partial answer. It was a total cleansing flood of blood to remove it totally. The love of God is amazing. “It is finished,” screams of mission accomplished.

It had all the appearances of defeat. It was not. As He hung suspended between heaven and earth, He was conquering the one who seemingly had the upper hand (Hebrews 2:14). He stepped up to and through the whole experience. His innocence was evident to Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:14-15). His righteousness was obvious to the centurion who watched Him die (Luke 23:47). He completed the sinless life to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. It was finished, done, completed. Then He hung His head and gave up His spirit.

A lingering look at that event ought to sink deep into our hearts. It is the ultimate expression of just how much the Lord loves us. It was not because we were strong and righteous. We were anything but (Romans 5:6-10). Yet, He took this remarkable action to make a way for us to come back to Him. Blood dripped from the whips and rolled from His body. His love held Him there until it was finished.

Lifelines:

It is hard to imagine a more serene setting than a garden. It conjures up images of blooming plants and all that is beautiful in the creation of God. It all began in just such a location. Eden equates to paradise in our minds. Indeed, all was exactly as the Lord intended until the encounter with the serpent. Temptation is in that garden, too.

Dangling a piece of tempting fruit proved to be the devil’s most powerful weapon and the first lady’s downfall. People have been falling down ever since. Expulsion from that ideal locale was the obvious penalty for their rebellion, but the fruits of that deadly seed were more dramatic than that. Remember the warning. Death was immediate if not apparent.

Jesus made His way into a garden of His own (Mark 14:32-42). Peter, James and John were along, but the pressure was on the Lord. Distressed, troubled, nearly grieved to death; He went to pray. He would be dead soon, executed for our crimes, but first He would appeal to His Father. Luke tells us that Jesus was in such unspeakable agony that it even affected His metabolism (22:44). So much for the peace and tranquility of the garden. It was disrupted by His impending ordeal.

As for His disciples, His closest companions, they slept. If He looked to them for comfort and support, He was surely disappointed. Of course, He knew. He was fully aware of their shortcomings, and this came as no surprise to Him. We could not possibly comprehend what He went through. Friends dozing. A cross waiting. Enemies coming. The hour had come. The end was near. Judas led the mob. Jesus stood to be betrayed by a kiss from an supposed friend. Welcome to His garden.

We frequently find ourselves in a garden of our own. It may not have flowers and trees, but it is teeming with temptation. A twenty-first century serpent dangles a modern day piece of fruit in front of our face, and it is decision time. A difficult mission that we would really rather avoid faces us, another tough choice. We make our way through those challenging days with one simple question: Whose will shall we do? In our garden is where we decide.

Lifelines:

The glory of God occupied the mind of Jesus in His closing hours. He prayed for it (John 17:1) and passed it on to His disciples so that they would be united (Vs. 22). Eyewitnesses saw it (John 1:14). There has never been anyone like the Son and He displayed it, full of grace and truth. It is that which lit up the countryside at the angelic birth announcement (Luke 2:9). Now, it is the task of the church to glorify our Father.

Jesus did so by accomplishing His God given assignment. It took unexpected twists and turns that surprise us. Lazarus, Mary and Martha could have vouched for that. Sickness and death, mourning and grief, disappointment and doubt do not seem to be a likely formula for the glory of God. They are (John 11:4). Peter could verify the unpredictable ways of glorifying the Lord. Death was his way, too (John 21:19). Completing our mission is the means by which God is glorified. It is not always what we expect.

Jesus told His disciples what it meant to glorify God. He defined the terms by which it will inevitably happen and the conditions in which it is impossible. It all has to do with our relationship with Him (John 15:5). We are dependant upon the Son to glorify the Father. Those two are inseparable. If we break our connection with Jesus, it will not happen. There are visible indicators that prove that we are followers of Jesus and glorify our Father (Vs. 8). It happens when we walk with Him. It never will if we do not.

Christians are the Light of the world (Matthew 5:14). In the midst of our poverty of spirit, mourning, gentleness and all those other characteristics of disciples (Vss.3-12); we may not feel particularly illuminating, but we are. The purpose of our shining is to spotlight the good works that lead to the glory of our Father. His glorification is the ultimate point. Any other results are misguided.

The church of the Lord has the potential to be filled to the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). It is impossible to fully comprehend that possibility, but Westside has such opportunity. We may even think that it is beyond us, but it is not, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…(Eph. 3:20).” He is able if we are willing. Let us honor Him be being all that we have the possibility to be, “…to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Vs. 21).”

Lifelines:

The forces of evil collected themselves for the ultimate conflict. The violence would be indescribable as they collided with absolute holiness. It was the collision that would shake heaven and earth. The Son of God prepared His followers for the traumatic confrontation with unlikely words of peace (John 6:33). Indeed, this world brings trials and troubles. Not to worry, He has conquered it.

News of peace is always welcomed. Wars rage. Terrorists smuggle bombs aboard planes. Radicals shoot up military bases. Gangs bully the streets. Peace is in short supply and high demand. The world has a counterfeit that it offers (John14:27) and finds many takers. Do not be fooled. The Lord has something better. His emanates from a purer source and has eternal qualities. It lasts forever and is ours for the taking.

The treaty is signed in blood and ratified in faith. The conditions were met when Jesus hung on a cross (Colossians 1:20). Never has any individual endured so much to make peace possible for so many. The battle lines were drawn when we chose to sin. We picked our army, and it was the losing one. Only holy blood could reconcile the two warring factions. Jesus paved the way to resolution hanging between to criminals.

The guilty are justified by faith (Romans 5:1), and the consequences echo through the halls of heaven. The justified sinner has peace with God. No longer on the losing side of the conflict, we enjoy harmony with the One who desires it the most. Formerly weak, sinful enemies are reunited with their Creator. There is nothing on earth to compare. The sleep is sweet when we are at one with our Father.

Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). We need look no further for a solution to human conflict. This world is characterized by division. People segregate themselves by age, gender and race. Soon separation turns into agitation and the war is on. Words fly with guns and knives following close behind. What is the answer? Jesus Christ. He took enemies and brought them together. He made them one new thing; Christians. Peace resulted.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled…(John 14:1).” Those are among the last words that Jesus would say to His apostles as He prepared them for the turbulence ahead. You and I will never know such times. As troublesome as our times may be, they cannot compare with those. The Son of God will never be executed again. If He could offer them peace at such a time, surely He has it for us; peace with the Father, with each other and within our own hearts. Accept no fraud. His is different than any other.

Lifelines:

It was an unlikely setting for such a topic. Jesus faced the prospects of imminent crucifixion. He would experience a rupture in His relationship with His Father that would shake the world. The consequences of sin would rip them apart. The suffering would be immeasurable. The nails through His flesh, as agonizing as they would be, could not compare to the spiritual upheaval about to take place. The setting was incredibly grim. Yet, He spoke to His apostles of joy (John 15:11).

An angelic declaration startled the peaceful countryside (Luke 2:8-11). It was night. Calm prevailed. Suddenly a heavenly messenger rattled the shepherds. Information like this does not come everyday, and fear was the last thing the angel wanted to share. Good news was on his script, and it was for everyone. Great joy was making its way into the world, and it was heaven sent. Oh, how God wants you and me to have it. He sent His Son to bring it.

This was no ordinary birth announcement. No, this was a Savior. What a mess sin had made of things. It ruined a perfect paradise. It infiltrated the first family, and turned brother against brother. Even a flood could not wash away the lingering stains. It degrades everything it touches, but God has a plan. A missionary was born among the animals, and joy was embodied in a baby. He came to retrieve us from the ruins. Good news of great joy…Suddenly there was an entire chorus. This was too much for a single angel.

The angels proclaimed it; Jesus delivered it and still most missed it. A few along the way figured it out but mostly there was opposition, rejection and eventually execution. Hardly the type of reception we would expect for someone on such a mission of mercy. Things have not changed. In the hustle of daily existence, people miss it. Joy is right here for the taking, and they do not grab it. They reach for a sedative, instead. Sad, huh?

The Lord put joy high on His list of spiritual benefits (Galatians 5:22). Extending the possibility was no small matter. Satan’s deception had stolen it from us. Sin buried it so deep that most of us could never find it. It took a cross and an empty tomb to salvage it, and Jesus wants us to have it so badly that that is precisely the road He traveled. Surely, none of us will refuse such a high priced gift.