FOR THE CHILD OF GOD,
THIS IS THE HOLIEST OF WEEKS,
SO LET US TAKE OFF OUR SHOES
FOR WE ARE STANDING ON HOLY GROUND
It was thirty years ago when I was studying to write a book about friendship when I saw the pattern. Important things are said when time is running out. When Ruth thought Naomi was going to leave her and she would never see her again, she poured out her heart with her famous “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest…(Ruth 1:16)
When Jonathan thought he might never see David again, for he had to send David away from his murderous father, David fell to the ground and wept, but Jonathan told him: “Go in peace, because we have sworn, both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between your offspring and your offspring, forever.”(1 Samuel 21:42)
And then, beginning ten years ago, I experienced it personally. I was blessed with a wonderful father who loved his three daughters well. I actually will talk about him this Thursday on Midday Connection as I share how he called me “Deedle” and asked me not to ride my bike down Ridge Hill. (A commandment I broke as soon as he and Mother left for Mexico.) Here he is, before I was born, with my sisters, Sally and Bonnie.
My dad was a man of the highest integrity, but struggled with many things about Christianity. I do believe Christ came to him at his deathbed and rescued him. My sister Sally has said, “There is a presence of God at the deathbed of those for whom so many prayers have been offered.” There was. I will never forget that holy place and the presence of God. Dad was in a coma by the time I arrived, and I sat by his bed day after day and pleaded with God to have him awaken so I could share one more time. When I walked in, that last night, the nurses came running: “Your dad’s eyes are open!” I rushed in, took his hands, and words and emotions and tears tumbled out as I shared with him again the most important thing, how Jesus had died for his sins.He could not speak, but his eyes were fastened on me, piercing, really, and then filled with tears. My heart was bursting with love and I thanked him for many things, but the last was always faithfully meeting me at the gate (for this was before 9/11 and he could) whenever I was getting off the airplane to visit — his eyes searching for me, lighting up when he saw me, and I’d hear his great shout, “THERE SHE IS!” My very last words before he slipped away were:
“Daddy — please meet me at the gate.”
And then Steve…he spoke to each child and to me — some things I have shared, some too holy to ever share. I understand the anger of the mother whose son’s last words on 9/11 from a voice-mail were played without permission in the opening of the movie: Zero/Dark/Thirty. That was holy ground that was trespassed.
I realize how blessed I was to have two men who loved me dearly. Many of you have not had either a father or a husband who loved you deeply or who was able to express it. But you have One who loves you so. Last week Mary from Canada said “I may not matter to a number of people, but I matter to God.” Oh! That is what you will see this week as you meditate on what Jesus said when time was running out.
Last words are holy. During holy week of 2012, we considered three screams of Jesus in the dark. We’ll review those in the beginning of the holy week.
And then, as the week marches toward Good Friday, we are going to look at the very two last things that Jesus said on the cross that shows us two vital aspects of the gospel and will also show you how deeply you are loved.
Take off your shoes, we are on holy ground.
Easter is a time for testimonies, and Easter is next Sunday. Many of you have already given such good testimonies (If you missed the last three comments last week from Mellany, Jill from Ohio, and Diane2 — please go back and read them!) But next week I need help from each of you, and I’m looking for brevity, so I thought “cardboard” testimonies would be perfect! Would you send me a picture of you holding a cardboard testimony? Or just the cardboard if you really don’t want to be in the picture (though we would love to see you!). Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. We know that you will not have “arrived” in the area you post, but you should see some change for which you can give glory to God. For example, I still want to control people, but I know I am changing. This week Sally texted me a picture of Sadie while she was in the salon chair getting her hair cut. I wanted to text back, “Don’t cut off her beautiful curls!” But I saw my depravity of wanting to control, and knew, because of the gospel, that I could let go of this. (I know — I’m so bad!) So, instead I texted,”She looks so excited! Send me a picture of the finished cut!” God helped me not to rain on their parade. (And Sadie looks darling.) SO HERE IS ONE PIECE OF HOW JESUS IS CHANGING ME:
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. How might you approach this week so that you can be still and know He is God? On Good Friday He hung on the cross from 9 to 3. Might you have any way to take time during that period?
Tuesday: He was forsaken so we will never be.
The sermon we listened to last year was from Matthew. It is free but I suggest downloading for smoother playing. (Link)
4. If you have time to listen, share your notes.
5. If you don’t have time to listen, it is still important that you see what Jesus said right before he said, “I thirst.” Find it in Matthew 27:46. Stay there and try to see what it means.
The worst physical pain I ever experienced, more than childbirth, was a burn. I was in a fire as a child and I literally longed to die. They say that death by crucifixion dehydrates you so you are burning inside. Yet Keller says that Jesus did not say “I Thirst” because of physical pain, for that would be the only time Jesus “complained.” Instead, He thirsted for God, for He was cut off from God when He was bearing our sins. Keller takes us to two important passages to help us understand “I thirst,” so we will go there too.
6. Have you ever been burned? Describe the pain. How does the physical pain that Jesus endured for you impact your heart?
7. Read John 4:7-15. What is happening here, and how do you think this might be related to Jesus’ words on the cross?
8. Read Psalm 42:1 — how might this be related to Jesus’ words on the cross?
There is another reason Jesus said “I thirst,” and it is profound. See if you can find it in the text.
9. Read John 19:28. What reasons can you find for Jesus saying, “I thirst?”
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday:
He said, “It is finished,” so let it be!
10. What are the very last words Jesus spoke (John 19:30) and what do you see in these words for your life?
Listen to this message — it is not free — but it is gold. (Link) You do have to give them info and your credit card, but then you will be registered and not have to fill things out all the time.
11. What are your sermon notes? What stood out to you and why?
12. What’s your take-a-way this holy week? Have you “sensed” Jesus? If so, when?