Silence: Our Suffering Saviour Is Speaking!
Reading John Chapter 19 v 26-30
Preached By Ken Humphries,
Those who teach us Greek keep reminding us that the ancient Greeks had a great ability to say much in a few words. Someone put it like this,
"They could put a sea of matter in a drop of language."
A well-known Greek motto says ‘Much in little’.
Now folks, if only in some small way today, we can draw much out of the little
we have to say around the cross and this sixth saying of the cross, ‘It is finished’ (Greek: Tetelestai) how blessed will our meeting together be?
During the past years few biographies have influenced young Christians more than Hudson Taylor. We might well ask, what was his secret? Well, here it is in his own words. "The Lord was looking for a man weak enough to use and he found me."
This from Dr. Vance Havner.
"God is on the lookout for candidates with hearts perfect toward him. He is not a talent scout looking for somebody strong enough or good enough. He is looking for someone with a heart set on pleasing Him and an eye single to His glory, He will do the rest." End quote!
In other words God is looking even today for a Caleb like ‘Great Heart’ to serve Him!
Remember Caleb was one of the twelve spies sent to spy out the land of Canaan. On their return, Joshua and he brought back the same report but the other ten brought a different report, and the majority won the day. (By the way a report that leads us to realise that the majority is not always right.) Nonetheless, it was decided to act on their report, yet for all those intervening years we read of Caleb’s Quest, he wholly followed the Lord! When the moment was right Caleb comes back with his request, "give me this mountain." When given the green light, Caleb went and conquered for God and took that mountain, and his Conquest became his Bequest!
This is the kind of individual our God is still looking for today.
This from D.L. Moody.
"We may easily be too big for God to use, never too small. Job 28 reminds us, The way of the wind is the way of easiest motion, the way of water is that of easiest coursing, the way of lightening is that of easiest yielding. In other words, the wind, water, and lightening take the line of least resistance. End quote!
Even so in the life of God’s dear people, the Holy Spirit seeks the line of least resistance to the will of God.
As we listen to this sixth saying, "It is Finished" it would appear that our Lord Jesus Christ is at His weakest point. In the eyes of those who stood around, this cry must have signalled the end. That’s it, it’s all over, He’s dying, He’s finished. Ah! Listen , listen, He did not say, " I am finished" but "It is finished" "Tetelestai" is a cry of victory not defeat.
If only they had realised what was finished!
- This Was The Consummation Of Prophetic Scripture!
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
When Jesus said, "I thirst" not one single prophecy had failed. Yes, true, there still remained prophecies to be fulfilled.
- The passing of His Spirit into the hands of His father Psalm 31 v 5.
- The piercing of His body with the spear Zech. 12 v 10.
- The preserving of His bones unbroken Psalm 34 v 20.
- The placing of His body in the rich man’s grave Isa. 53 v 9.
But there remained nothing more for the Saviour to finish.
John 17 v 4.
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
Dear brother, sister in Christ, when your life on earth comes to its finale will your work for eternity be finished. Will you, will I be able to say, the work you gave me to do is finished. Ah, pastor it’s not easy. Living for Jesus becomes more and more difficult, sometimes I wonder if I will ever finish the course never mind finish the work. Dear friend, you can both finish the course and finish the work God has allotted you to do. Here’s the secret, simple really.
As God adds years to your life let Him add life to your years!
And that is not written in there just to be a slick saying, I place those words there because it’s the only way we will finish our course and finish the work given us to do. Beloved, it’s only as we allow God that complete control of our lifestyle will we be those who truly overcome and bring Glory to our dear Saviour.
An interesting piece of arithmetic landed on my desk some time ago, which is, I believe, worth repeating here. It was entitled, ‘The Scriptural life span of seventy years" 23 years earning wages, 24 years sleeping, 12 years watching T.V. 5 Years eating = total 64 years. Leaving only six years and sometimes God does not even get the left over!
And dear friends, if that’s how we are living then there is an amazing amount of waste, we desperately need God to add life to our years. How can such a thing happen you may ask?
John 12 v 24.
"Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains a single grain, but if it dies away in the ground the grain is free to spring up in a plant bearing many grains."
The corn or grain of wheat is "kokkos", signifying the seed corn of the wheat. All gardening and farming are founded on the principle that a seed has to be sown into the ground, that its germ of life can reproduce only when the seed is sown and dies. A grain of corn can never fulfil the "law of its being" apart from the process of death, burial, and reproduction in resurrection. "But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." The Lord could see himself multiplied in the ages to come as a result of His being obedient unto death.
John 12 v 25 reminds of us of an amazing paradox.
"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life."
The paradox is that death is the way to life. We must be so committed to Christ that there is no self-centredness, no concern for self. Why? Because of the principle that follows in John 12 v 26.
"If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be."
The paradox is part of a principle: every person has to determine which world
he or she intends to live for. We can live for Jesus and the world to come, and
be with Him for all eternity. Or we can live for this world and be the losers in eternity, as the next clause shows. v 26.
"If any man serve me, him will my Father honour."
It is possible to have a saved soul, and a lost life. Many dear people have professed faith in God but have never served the Lord. At the judgement seat of Christ, those who have served will be honoured. The honoured will be those who have died martyrs’ deaths, those who have forsaken houses and lands, loved ones and friends, home and business, to serve Him in many different ways and places in this world. The honoured will be those who have gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed, they will be honoured by the Father.
Go to the old burying ground of North Hampton, Masseuses. U.S.A. Look up the early grave of David Brainerd, beside that of the fair Jerusha Edwards, whom he loved but did not live to wed.
What hopes, what exceptions for Christ’s cause went down to the grave with the wasted form of that young missionary of whose work nothing now remained but a dear memory and a few swarthy Indian converts?
But that majestic old puritan Jonathan Edwards, who had hoped to call him son, gathered up the memorial of his life in a little book. That little book took wings and flew across the seas, landing on the table of a Cambridge student called Henry Martyn. Poor Martyn! Why should he throw himself away, with all his scholarship, his genius and opportunities? What had he accomplished when he turned homeward from Indians coral strand, broken in health, dragging himself northward as far as the Togat by the black sea, where he crouched under the piled up rubble to cool his burning fever against the earth, and there die alone.
To what purpose this waste? Oh dear folks, out of that seeming waste, the early grave of Brainard and the lonely grave of Martyn have sprung up the Nobel
Army of missionaries we have known loved and prayed for, for many years.
When my life on earth is final, will my work for eternity be finished!
The Consummation Of Prophetic Scripture:
- The Culmination Of Personal Suffering!
One hesitates to attempt to depict the suffering of our Lord. We know so little of suffering ourselves; we can but turn to God’s Holy Word and glean what the Holy Spirit was pleased to write.
We do of course know that our Lord’s suffering was not confined to physical pain. There was the unutterable sorrow and anguish of both Spirit and Mind.
At Gethsemane He said to Peter, James and John. " My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death." Matt. 26 v 28.
He did suffer physically, the kind of suffering we can only imagine. He was holy, harmless, spotless and undefiled, showing love and kindness to all men everywhere He went. Yet He was misunderstood, criticised, threatened, beaten, spit upon, slapped, tortured, abused and finally condemned to die the shameful, ignominious death of a criminal on an old rugged cross.
John 10 v 11.
"I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep."
And in verse 13 of John ch.10 we are reminded that "The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."
My beloved people please remember this; the good shepherd has given His life for you and me. Since that time He has supplied us with many undershepherds to care for us, that they may lead and feed us and give us the nourishment and guidance we need.
Now, allow me the liberty as an undershepherd to speak here to some that may be thinking of entering the ministry by way of life’s vocation. Becoming a minister, pastor or undershepherd is not a matter of looking over an assortment of professions such as law, medicine, physics, music, then saying, "I think I will become a preacher." God is not running a cafeteria where you choose your favourite piece of pie and enjoy it. Believe me dear friend, you need to be certain that this is God's calling for the whole of life. It may cost you dearly in many different ways and you must be prepared to pay the price. There may be times you get discouraged, defeated, denounced, degraded, and maybe even delirious, Ha! What I am saying is, this better be a calling for you or you may have some problems you will not be able to handle well for the good of people and the glory of God. That’s just a by the way!
Dear people, here is something I want you to take on board and remember well. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in His own suffering and death, is an unequalled example of the reality that one can be completely in the will of God, supremely gifted and used by God in ministry, and perfectly righteous and obedient toward God, and still undergo tremendous suffering. Our dear Saviour was tried and executed as a criminal, yet he had done no wrong. He was the ultimate subject of unjust suffering and punishment, and in so doing He gives the standard for how to respond to our unjust persecution.
The very nature and circumstances of Christ’s suffering exposes as utterly false the present-day notion that Christians who suffer are always sinning or out of God’s will. If Jesus, who was the perfect, sinless Son of God, suffered so much, then how can Christians who are so imperfect expect to escape all suffering? The answer is quite simply, we cannot! 1 Peter 2 v 20-23.
"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:"
The theology of nonsuffering, if carried to its logical extreme, must claim that Jesus was out of God’s will when He died on the cross. Now folks, that kind of thinking is more that just flawed, it is absolutely heretical.
Peter in verse 21 puts it like this.
"For even hereunto were you called: because Jesus Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps."
The word "example" is the Greek word hupogrammos, which literally means "writing under." It carried with it the idea of a young child learning to write the alphabet by putting a model under the writing surface and tracing the model. In the same way Christ is our model to trace as we anticipate suffering and how to handle it.
The word "steps" is the Greek ichnos, meaning "line of footprints" or "tracks." We are to follow in Jesus’ tracks because the path to glory that He walked is the path of righteousness, and the path of righteousness in an unrighteous world is also a path of unjust suffering. If we are to be on the right path we are to follow His footprints.
Of course this idea parallels Paul’s admonition, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2 Tim. 3 v 12. Not all Christians will suffer in the same way or to the same degree, but those who seek to walk the path of righteousness that leads to glory will discover many trails, adversity, and suffering.
Beloved, if we are going to wholly follow the Lord, there will be times when it will be difficult and we will feel like quitting, giving up.
Please allow me to use Jeremiah as an example.
Jeremiah 20 v 9.
"Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak in His name."
But His Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
Dear people, we need to understand something about this prophet, Jeremiah did not merely have to say something, he had something to say.
There is a vast difference between pouring out your heart and getting something off your chest. Jeremiah was without doubt a faithful prophet, the word of God burned in his heart like a fire, but every time he preached his people refused to listen. They made life unbearable, so he resigned! I have a feeling this is something he was thinking about for some time. Why, back in chapter 9 v 2 he said.
"Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them."
He had been thinking of opening a bed and breakfast or motel in some little out of the way place just to get away from the people of God. They had broken his heart. But then the Word of God was like a Holy fire in his being and he just could not keep quiet, he could not after all, leave.
Yes, he could have just up and quit and resigned or he could have become resigned to the status quo and simply go along with things as they were. Not rise any heckles or annoy anyone, become one of the modern day Punch and Judy Christian side shows. Adjust to the modern ways and settle down and take things easy and not get excited about anything or anybody.
But there was a third thing he could do; he could let God re-sign his commission. Allow God to renew his zeal for following the Lord.
Beloved, that’s the very thing you should be doing for your pastors daily! Praying that they be Jeremiahs with the Word of God on fire in their very bones and when they get weary in the work, while never weary of it, pray that God will renew them to even greater things.
Personal suffering is very hard to take, but be assured, always, it leads to blessing. Alan Redpath has a delightful book which puts these thoughts in prospective entitled ‘Blessings Out Of Buffetings’ based on 2 Corinthians, it really is worth reading.
Dear folks, the Lord Jesus suffered, not only to save, sanctify, satisfy and supply your every need, he suffered to have you shepherded through this waste howling wilderness of a world. And however difficult that is for the shepherd to carry out his task or for you to accept his task it is God’s way for His people in this age.
And by the way, how you respond to shepherding says mountains about your spiritual maturity!
The Culmination Of Personal Suffering:
3. The Completion Of A Perfect Sacrifice!
When God gave instructions to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, He made provision for every utensil and piece of furniture, interestingly though, made no provision for a chair. There was the Alter, laver, table, lamp, curtain, veil, and lampstand, but no chair, no place to sit down. You see there was never an end to the work necessary for the atonement of sins. It was sacrifice, sacrifice and more sacrifice, year in, year out, until the people might well have cried, "will the sacrifices never be finished?" must we always have before us a remembrance of sin?
Then one day this sin sick world’s redeemer came as a baby to Bethlehem’s manger. The whole purpose of His life was to die on the cross for the redemption of mankind, and that is exactly what He did.
Hebrews 10 v 14.
"For by one offering, He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified."
Oh the wonder of it all! Warren Wiersbe says,
"We must learn to wonder again. True wonder is not a passing emotion or some kind of shallow excitement. It has depth. True wonder reaches right into the heart and mind and shakes you up. It has value, it enriches your life, wonder is not a cheap amusement that brings a smile to your face, wonder is an encounter with God, and with a reality that brings awe to your heart. End quote!
The reason Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples for forty days after His glorious resurrection was to renew them to wonder. The wonder of worship, the wonder of witness, the wonder of work, the wonder of warfare and the wonder of winning.
John Bunyan said, "Rather let your heart be without words than your words be without heart." End quote!
You see beloved; wonder will put heart back into your work for God.
That little group of 120 disciples went out from the upper room and saw three thousand souls won to Christ in Salvation. It almost seems today as though three thousand cannot win 120 souls to Christ. They did so much with so little!
That little handful recognised His presence in them, they believed His promise to them and they responded to His program through them.
When Billy Graham was invited to preach a gospel mission in a certain city, someone opposed his coming. Saying, "we do not Graham in this city, he will set evangelism back 200 years." Later, Billy Graham was interviewed and told of the comment made by another preacher. "Well sir," said Billy, " I am sorry to hear that, but let me assure you it is not my intention to set evangelism back 200 years, it is my dearest desire to set evangelism back 2000 years. Back to a time when we allow God do His work through us as a spirit filled people." End quote!
A pastor friend would keep a glove sitting on his office desk. Before going out to preach each service he would place that glove on his hand and flex his hand inside the glove. "Why?" said a bemused assistant pastor. "To remind me, it is only as the Holy Spirit fills and anoints me that I can be of any use on that platform."
Make your self wholly available to Christ’s ability.
Here I am wholly available, as for me I will serve the Lord!
F.B. Meyer invited D.L. Moody to preach in his church in England. Meyer was somewhat ashamed of Moody’s way of speaking and his use of grammar, yet the power of God fell on those meetings during that amazing campaign. (Someone said of Moody, he may have murdered the King’s English but he never once disappointed the King.)
Visiting a lady from his congregation later, who was also a Sunday School teacher, Meyer said, "how is it with you today?" "Wonderful, since Mr. Moody came I have seen every girl in my Sunday School class saved through his ministry." "I learned that day" said, F.B.Meyer, "only a man full of the Lord and full of His Word could be fully surrendered and used like that. I never was the same again." said the good Doctor.
Beloved, our Lord had to make a complete sacrifice to finish the work His father had for Him to do; there was no other way. Thus the reason the Apostle
Paul calls on God’s people everywhere in Romans Chapter 12 v 1-2. to do the same.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
"A sacrifice is an offering placed before the Lord so that he can make something of it. Once offered it is in God's hand to do with what he will. It is no longer in your hands to improve a little more. ... His will is to work with offerings, not your perfection’s or your press clippings. Just leave it. You have lived your day; now leave it on the altar, an offering."
The Completion Of A Perfect Sacrifice:
4. The Conquest Over The Power Of Satan!
When Jesus said, "It is finished" he was saying I have conquered the very power of Satan.
Satan is the master deceiver, the mock angel disguised as an angel of light.
He does not plough up the wheat in our Lord’s parable, he plants tares that resemble wheat so closely that few seem to know the difference and the final separation is left to the angels.
When Moses performs miracles, Jannes and Jambres are on hand to match the performance 2 Tim. 3 v 8. Jesus repeatedly warned against deceivers appearing in the last days, and brothers and sisters, we desperately need to be warned against deceivers these days.
Remember Eve? Satan came with cunning enough to deceive even Eve.
Satan commenced with a doubt, "hath God said?"
Satan continued with a denial, "ye shall not surely die!"
Satan concluded with a delusion, "you will become as God’s!"
You will notice when Eve took her eyes off the Holy One and placed her eyes on the evil one everything began to fall apart.
Eve saw and Satan turned a look into a lust.
Eve took and Satan turned a desire into a decision.
Eve ate and Satan turned that choice into a chain.
Eve gave and Satan turned that sinner into a seducer.
(I draw this from Dr. John Phillips)
Satan is the great imitator and one of his devices is to simulate the work of God. And because many false prophets are gone out into the world we need much grace and wisdom in these last days to determine if the spirits be of God.
Some of these false imitators can duplicate to an amazing degree the work of God. Satan has a false gospel, false repentance, false dedication, false faith, false discipleship, false sanctification, and false everything else.
Weak Christians, not well read in the Holy Scriptures, will easily fall prey to modern magicians.
Sometimes the Aeroplane pilot can see little or nothing and must fly by instrument only. The Christian must do the same, that instrument is the Word of God and it guarantees a safe landing.
I conclude with this thought!
When my life on earth is final, will my work for eternity be finished?