Lesson Ten dealt with several happenings connected with what is usually termed the closing phase of Jesus' ministry. This lesson will cover some further happenings taking place during this important period. But just here a question arises which should be given careful consideration: Should we continue to think of this phase of Jesus' ministry in terms of "closing," or should we now recognize it as a time of a new beginning? True, certain happenings during this period seem to indicate finality; but as we have already seen, Jesus' purpose in returning to Jerusalem was to undertake a mighty work in His own person, thereby opening to all people "a new and living way" into the kingdom. Therefore, in studying the following happenings connected with this phase of Jesus' ministry, it will be well to see them as representing both an "end," and also a "new beginning." This will become clearer as we proceed with our study.
1. The Upper Room Teaching.
After reading the New Testament passages given above, the student should make a brief comparison between these and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6, 7). Several striking similarities will be noted, and also some marked differences. Both the Sermon on the Mount and the Upper Room teaching may be regarded as compact accounts of Jesus' discourses; both will be recognized as being highly important, to the original hearers and to us today. The Sermon in Matthew's Gospel is reported as being delivered on a "mountain," while the teaching in John's Gospel was given in an "upper room"—and mountain and upper room both represent, metaphysically, a high place (or state) of consciousness. However, by way of contrast, it will be noticed that the Sermon on the Mount is presented in simple, objective language, while the Upper Room teaching appears in more' advanced, or metaphysical, form. Furthermore, the Sermon on the Mount seems to have been given during the early part of Jesus' ministry; but the Upper Room teaching finds its rightful place in the closing phase of the ministry.
What we should recognize here is that this Upper Room teaching is in fact a veritable gold mine for students of the New Testament. Almost every verse in these chapters has its own special message, and careful reading will be productive of rich rewards. The following suggestions will indicate helpful possibilities along tbese lines.
Verse 1. "Let not your heart be troubled." Emphasis should be placed on the word heart. Jesus did not promise freedom from trouble, for He said, "In the world ye have tribulation" (John 16:33). But Jesus also taught that if we hold steady at the center of our consciousness (the heart), nothing in the outer world can disturb us. In this verse also Jesus spells out the secret of the untroubled heart, when He says, "[You already] believe in God; [now] believe also in me."
Verse 2. Instead of "many mansions," read "many chambers" (or rooms). Earlier, the disciples asked, "Are they few that are saved?" (Luke 13:23). In this passage Jesus assures His followers that there will be ample accommodation in the kingdom (or the Father's house) for all who earnestly seek to enter therein.
Verses 5-10. Read very carefully the questions asked by Thomas and Philip, and note the answers given by Jesus.
Verse 27. Note the use of the words peace, and my peace. In New Testament times the word peace was used as a regular form of greeting—and as such, lost much of its meaning. Hence, Jesus here points out that His peace is not "as the world giveth." The peace of Jesus Christ is indeed that "peace ... which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).
Read through this fourteenth chapter again, verse by verse, and note how many helpful and inspiring ideas, similar to the above, will arise. The same procedure should be followed with the succeeding chapters. Suggestions given below will open other possibilities.
Verses 1-8. Note that the word vine here refers to the main stem, and not to the vine as a whole. This is important.
Verse 11. Jesus here uses the words joy—my joy, and says, "your joy ... made full." With this understanding, should we continue to think of Jesus as "the Man of Sorrows"?
Verse 12. Note that the "new commandment" includes more than to "Love one another." Jesus' words are, "Love one another, even as I have loved you."
Verse 13. Here Jesus indicates that He is about to lay down His life—and it should be recalled that this was included in Jesus' purpose in returning to Jerusalem. However, the verse points to the highest expression of love until that time—for a man to lay down his life for his friends. But Jesus was then preparing to go a step beyond this and lay down His life for those who proclaimed themselves as His enemies!
In this chapter, and also in several other places in this section, reference is made to the "Comforter." Nowadays, the word comforter is usually understood as meaning someone who soothes, consoles, or brings solace to a person in distress. But in the New Testament the Greek word used is Paraclete, which means an advocate, or helper—literally, someone who stands by one, as a lawyer stands beside his client in court. We should also note that, basically, the word comfort means "with strength." Thus, the promise here given is that the Comforter (or Holy Spirit) shall come to us, to give us strength, courage, and all needed help in any disturbing or distressing situation that may arise.
Here we stand on holy ground, for we are reading the prayer that Jesus prayed just prior to His experiences in Gethsemane and on the Cross. Frequently we make use of what is termed "the Lord's Prayer"; but it should be remembered that this is actually a prayer given by Jesus to His disciples, for their use. However, the prayer given in this seventeenth chapter of John is the intercessory prayer actually used by Jesus Himself during the closing moments of His ministry. It will be well to note how the prayer opens: "Father, glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee." Then Jesus follows with a prayer for His disciples, and all who should come after them: "I pray for them ... that they all may be one, even as we are ... Father, I desire that they also ... be with me where I am ... that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them."
Matt. 26:30-56; Mark 14:26-52; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-11
The scriptural passages given above tell of Jesus' final visit to the garden of Gethsemane. Careful thought should be given to the following details.
(1) Gethsemane: This was a small orchard-garden, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Tradition states that this garden was the property of Mary Magdalene, and that it was with her permission that Jesus used this quiet place for evening talks with His disciples. The word Gethsemane means "olive press," indicating that this much-prized oil was extracted there.
(2) Metaphysical meaning: Gethsemane indicates "the struggle that takes place within the consciousness when Truth is realized as the one reality. All the good is pressed out and saved and the error is denied away. This is often agony—the suffering that the soul undergoes in giving up its cherished idols or in letting go of human consciousness. The great work of everyone is to incorporate the Christ Mind in soul and body. The process of eliminating the old consciousness and entering into the new may be compared to Gethsemane, whose meaning is 'oil press,' 'press for extracting unguents, and ointments'; a press is an emblem of trial, distress, agony, while oil points to Spirit and illumination" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 231).
(3) It will be noticed that on this occasion Jesus stationed some of the disciples at the gateway of the garden—apparently to guard against a surprise attack. Jesus also intimated that instead of the usual private talk with the disciples, this would be a period wherein to "watch and pray." All this would indicate that Jesus was fully aware of Judas' plot, and also that He desired some further time for preparation. However, the gospel writers state that these disciple-sentinels fell asleep, and thus failed to convey to Jesus the desired word of warning.
(4) Jesus' prayers: Many students of the New Testament find it difficult to reconcile the two important prayers uttered by Jesus at this time. John's Gospel records that just before leaving the Upper Room Jesus prayed, "Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son" (John 17:1)—and the inference is that Jesus visualized Himself as going forward into a triumphant experience. However, the Synoptic Gospels state that immediately upon entering the garden Jesus prayed again, saying, "Father ... remove this cup from me" (Mark 14:36). Luke adds that Jesus was "in agony as he prayed," with "great drops of blood falling from his forehead" (Luke 22:44). Thus, it would appear that Jesus was hesitating from partaking of "the cup," and shrinking from the difficult experiences before Him. Why should there be this great difference in the two prayers?
This apparent reversal of attitude may never be fully explained, since the New Testament writers make no further mention of these prayers of Jesus. However, a suggestion has been made which may throw some light on the subject. It will be noticed that in the first prayer (given in John's Gospel) Jesus prayed not only for Himself, but also for His disciples. Jesus said, "I am no more in the world, and these are in the world" (John 17:11). This would indicate that while Jesus had attained a high state of consciousness wherein He realized that the world could not harm Him, He also realized that His disciples were still vulnerable, and that they might be affected and harmed. At this time Jesus said to Peter, "I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32). Even in the garden Jesus said to the disciples, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Mark 14:38). It seems possible that the "bitter cup" of which Jesus spoke in His agonizing prayer referred not to His own suffering on the Cross, but to the impending failure of the disciples. Judas was already involved in the betrayal plot—with its terrible consequences. Peter also was fast heading toward his tragic denial and subsequent breakdown. Could it be, then, that Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane was what might be termed a "last-ditch effort" to save the disciples? For Himself, Jesus could face the Cross without fear; but He did not want His disciples to fail!
(5) "Thy will be done": During Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, He used the words, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Since this statement is often misunderstood, the following quotation should prove helpful:
"Most of us have an innate shrinking from saying, 'Thy will be done.' Because of false teaching, and from associations, we have believed that this prayer, if answered, would take away from us all that gives us joy or happiness. Surely nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, how we have tried to crowd the broad love of God into the narrow limits of man's mind! The grandest, most generous, loving father that ever lived is but the least bit of God's fatherhood manifested through the flesh. God's will for us means more love, more purity, more power, more joy in our lives every day" (How I Used Truth 31-32).
(6) The arrest: Apparently the arresting officers anticipated some difficulty in recognizing Jesus in the semi-dark garden, so Judas decided to help them. He said, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he: take him" (Matt. 26:48). It should be noted that the kiss here referred to was not a mark of affection, but was a regular form of greeting in those days. But it is important to observe Jesus' response to this greeting. Instead of reproaching Judas for his traitorous act (for Judas' scheme was known to Jesus), Jesus actually called him "friend"! This seems like an outstanding example of "turning the other cheek." It is also important to note how Jesus healed one of His attackers, who was wounded in making this arrest.
Matt. 26:57; Matt. 27:26; Mark 14:53; Mark 15:20; Luke 22:54; Luke 23:25; John 18:12; John 19:16
3. The Trial of Jesus.
The New Testament passages listed above tell how, following His arrest in Gethsemane, Jesus was brought before the Jewish leaders, and serious charges were laid against Him. Careful study of the gospel records discloses that Jesus was tried five times, before being finally condemned. These trials took place as follows:
(1) Before Annas, the deposed high priest: Scripture states that Caiaphas was the ruling high priest at the time of Jesus' trial; but Annas, as high priest emeritus, still had considerable political influence. This first trial is recorded only in John's Gospel—possibly because John was present on this occasion. Mention is made of the fact that John had some family or personal connection with the high priest, and was therefore given permission to enter the house during this preliminary trial.
(2) Before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (the supreme council and highest judicial tribunal of the Jewish nation): Annas, following the first hearing mentioned above, sent Jesus to Caiaphas, the ruling high priest. This second trial consisted of two hearings.
First, Caiaphas and a few selected leaders held a preliminary meeting with Jesus and sought to elicit from Him a confession of words and actions contrary to Jewish law. The charges brought against Jesus included plotting to destroy the Temple, claiming to be the Son of God, and other forms of blasphemy; and the high priest's purpose was to establish these charges, so that Jesus might be condemned to death. The Gospels indicate that during this period Peter waited in the courtyard of the high priest's palace; and when challenged regarding his connection with Jesus, Peter vehemently denied all knowledge of his Lord.
Second, with the coming of daylight, the Sanhedrin was called into official session in accordance with the regulations governing that court. The assembled Sanhedrin then confirmed the findings of the preliminary court of inquiry as mentioned above, declaring that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and should be condemned to death. However, this decision should be fully understood. At an earlier period Caiaphas had met with his fellow leaders, and they reached the decision that Jesus must be put to death. (See John 11:47-53.) Thus, this second trial is revealed as a mere face-saving effort, since those so-called judges had already condemned Jesus and decided upon His death, even before His arrest. However, there was one weak feature in this condemnation: Capital punishment was the prerogative of the Roman courts, and the Romans would not allow the Jews to carry out an execution. Hence, a further trial was necessary.
(3) Before Pontius Pilate, at the Praetorium: At this point a further difficulty arose. Before the Jewish court Jesus had been condemned for blasphemy, which was regarded as the blackest of crimes; but the Romans did not consider blasphemy as a crime punishable by death. Therefore, before the Roman court the charge had to be changed to insurrection against the Roman government (Jesus' accusers said that He had proclaimed Himself to be a king). The Roman governor, Pilate, quickly saw through this subterfuge, and transferred the case to the court of the Jewish king, Herod.
(4) Before King Herod: Apparently Herod took this move to be a compliment to himself—for previously there had been friction between Pilate and Herod, and Herod therefore accepted this maneuver as a "peace offering." Luke records that "Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day" (Luke 23:12). Thus was Jesus a veritable peacemaker, even when His enemies were seeking to destroy Him!
(5) The final trial before Pontius Pilate: Here should be noted Pilate's repeated efforts to sidetrack the demands of the Jewish leaders. But all these efforts were of no avail, and Pilate finally pronounced the death sentence upon Jesus. And in this connection it should be noted that an inscription was placed on the Cross, over the head of Jesus: "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Matt. 27:37). This would indicate that Jesus was executed because of the charge of insurrection, rather than because of the original charge of blasphemy.
Matt. 27:22; Mark 15:12-14; Luke 23:20-23; John 19:4-11
4. Pilate's Question.
The above New Testament passages are quite brief, and may be read in a few minutes. Nevertheless, these passages should be given careful thought, for they contain a very important question. Pilate asked, "What then shall I do unto Jesus, who is called Christ?" And a somewhat similar question often arises in connection with our present-day experiences.
Metaphysically interpreted, Pilate represents "the ruling power of the sense plane, the carnal mind" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 350). This "ruling power" also has a place in our consciousness, and is active in making decisions and ordering the final disposition of the problems and situations that confront us from time to time. Thus when a question arises—such as indicated in the above New Testament passages—this "ruling power" is called upon to make a decision; and the following possibilities should be considered.
(1) Like Pilate, we may seek to evade the issue, or pass it along for others to make the decision. However, this is only a temporary expedient, for the question is one to which we must give a definite answer.
(2) Like Pilate, we may make the wrong decision and thus eliminate the highest good from our life and affairs. We should here recall how Pilate yielded to the clamor of the crowd and sent Jesus to the Cross.
(3) Unlike Pilate, we may make a right decision, recognizing the place of the Christ in our life and affairs, and calling upon Him to take full control. Such a decision immediately brings about a startling reversal of the original question; for instead of continuing to ask, "What shall I do unto Jesus?" we find that He can do something truly wonderful to and for us. He can bring about a complete transformation in our life and affairs. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind, when he wrote, "Wherefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature" (II Cor. 5:17).
Matt. 27:27-56; Mark 15:16-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:1-37
5. The Crucifixion.
All four Gospels tell of Jesus' crucifixion. The New Testament passages listed above record the historical facts, and these should be carefully studied. Some slight differences will be noted in the various accounts, but essentially the story is the same.
However, when reading these accounts of Jesus' crucifixion, certain poignant questions are likely to arise and the student should be prepared to deal with these. For example, we may ask: Why did Jesus go to the Cross? What purpose was served by the Crucifixion? How should we interpret those tragic events that brought Jesus' ministry to such a distressing close? The following suggestions should be given very careful consideration.
(1) Martyrdom: Some historians have suggested that the Crucifixion should be regarded as a form of martyrdom. A martyr is usually regarded as one who is put to death because of his adherence to religious principles, or one who suffers as the result of promulgating certain teachings. With this definition in mind, Jesus could be regarded as a martyr—similar to Stephen, James, Peter, Paul, and many other Christian leaders. However, we usually think of Jesus as being something more than a martyr, and therefore the Crucifixion calls for further explanation.
(2) Vicarious sacrifice: Theologically, since New Testament times the Crucifixion has been regarded as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, and most students are familiar with the term "vicarious sacrifice." The early Christians knew of the daily sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem; but they came to regard these sacrifices as temporary, while the sacrifice on the Cross was final and complete. Thus, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews states: "Every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering sometimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins; but he [Jesus], when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God: henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:11-14). The Apostle Paul writes about "Jesus ... who was delivered up for our transgressions" (Rom. 4:24-25). Jesus also stated that "The Son of man came ... to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28); and when instituting the Lord's Supper, He said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). The New Testament contains many similar passages; and, as already indicated, this teaching has been generally accepted by Christian theologians.
(3) Overcoming: There is one aspect of the Crucifixion which seems to have been largely overlooked in the development of Christian teaching; but if we are to fully understand the meaning of the Cross, this should now be given careful consideration. In the opening section of this lesson the statement was made that "Jesus' purpose in returning to Jerusalem was to undertake a mighty work in His own person." The Gospel accounts show how Jesus, in the outworking of this purpose, advanced step by step toward the Cross. But a careful study of all the factors involved shows clearly that Jesus' purpose in going to the Cross included something greater than martyrdom or sacrifices—although these may appear to be very important. The New Testament makes clear that Jesus, by His work on the Cross, met and overcame "the last dread enemy of mankind"— death—and thereby opened for all people "a new and living way" into the kingdom, and into the experience of eternal life. Earlier in His ministry Jesus said, "My sheep ... follow me: and I give unto them eternal life" (John 10:27-28). Such a gift became possible because of Jesus' mighty victory over death on the Cross. All this was fully recognized by the apostles and the early Church, as is shown by statement after statement in the New Testament: "Our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light" (II Tim. 1:10) ; "As sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21); "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22); "Death is swallowed up in victory ... thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 15:54-57).
Matt. 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Psalms 22
Luke 23:44-46; Gen. 2:1-3.
6. The Seven Last Words.
The "last words" (or statements) uttered by Jesus while He was on the Cross are included in the scriptural passages given at the head of Section 5 of this lesson. However, it will be noticed that none of the Gospels contains all the statements. The complete list of seven statements, as generally recognized, is arrived at by combining the information given in all four Gospels.
Metaphysically, the Cross symbolizes a process of "crossing out" certain error beliefs that have been given a place in our consciousness. Nor is this a mere play on words. At the time of Jesus, the Romans used the punishment of the cross as a means of eradicating (or crossing out) wrongdoing from the land. It will be recalled that two thieves (or highway robbers) were crucified alongside Jesus—while Jesus was crucified for the alleged crime of insurrection. Similarly, in a metaphysical way, we seek to "cross out" those erroneous beliefs and conditions which tend to mar and spoil our life and affairs. The preceding section of this lesson indicated how Jesus sought to "cross out" those dominating beliefs of sin and death through His Crucifixion; but in uttering His last words Jesus also indicated that there were some other error beliefs that needed to be "crossed out." Thus, even from the Cross, Jesus was giving some very important teaching. The significance of all this is seen when we recall how Jesus had said earlier, "If any man would come after me, let him ... take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). These seven last words of Jesus should therefore be given careful consideration.
FIRST WORD: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:33-38.)
This statement had reference to all persons who opposed Jesus during His ministry, as well as to those who actually sent Him to the cross and crucified Him. Metaphysically, this would indicate that all negative beliefs of resentment, bitterness, hatred, ill will and the like are to be "crossed out" by an act of forgiveness. Sometimes there is a tendency for us to rationalize, claiming that we have legitimate reasons, or "the right," to hold such thoughts. But such an attitude still leaves us in the bondage of error thought. Freedom is found only through forgiveness.
SECOND WORD: "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43.)
The general tendency is to interpret this statement as a promise regarding entry into some favored state, or place, in the hereafter. When these words were uttered, both Jesus and the penitent thief were suffering on their crosses; but it is implied that when this suffering was ended the thief would join Jesus in "Paradise." However, looking carefully into the context, we find the penitent thief making this request: "Jesus, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." (See margin.) Thus, the thief was projecting the kingdom into the future—"when thou comest." But this was contrary to Jesus' teaching, for He stated that the kingdom is here, now. (See Luke 17:20-21.) This might be difficult to understand—especially under such circumstances! Nevertheless, Jesus made it clear that the experience of the kingdom does not depend upon time or circumstances, but may be attained even within the framework of the Cross. It is most important to recognize how Jesus changed the emphasis from "when" to "today." In other words, we must "cross out" the belief that our good is to be projected into, or is dependent upon, the future; and we must claim our good in the here and now. This attitude is expressed in the well-known hymn:
"Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross That raiseth me."
THIRD WORD: "Woman, behold, thy son! ... Behold, thy mother!" (John 19:25-27.)
This is a well-known passage, and it reveals something of Jesus' way of thinking. Somehow, He always managed to think of others first. Even on the Cross, His thought was for others. First He prayed for His persecutors; then He gave a word of encouragement to the penitent thief; and finally, there was this thoughtful provision for the sorrowing mother, Mary. The presence of John at this time should also be noted. All the other disciples had fled in terror when Jesus was arrested; but John followed Jesus, even to the Cross.
Metaphysically, both Mary and John symbolize love, and Jesus' action at this time brings out a very important teaching concerning love. Scripture instructs us to "love God," and to "love one another" —and these instructions are always regarded as paramount. But if love is to amount to anything worthwhile, it must be put into action. Love has been defined as the law of giving and receiving carried to the highest point of expression. Thus, the teaching here is that we must "cross out" the notion that thinking and talking about love is sufficient; we must actually do something about love—just as Jesus did. Love is best expressed, not by words, but by deeds. Shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
FOURTH WORD: "I thirst." (John 19:28-29.)
This is a very brief statement, and seems to refer to an urgent physical need. The circumstances would indicate that Jesus must have suffered from thirst at that time. However, there is a thirst beyond the physical; and several times during His ministry Jesus used the word in a spiritual sense. He said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). Also, when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said, "Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:13-14). Perhaps, therefore, we should interpret this statement from the Cross as instruction to "cross out" the erroneous thought that material things can satisfy our longings and "thirstings." Man is a spiritual being; and only that which is spiritual can fully satisfy his thirst.
FIFTH WORD: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Psalms 22.)
This is usually regarded as the most difficult of the words from the Cross. At first reading, it seems to indicate that Jesus had abandoned all hope, feeling that God had utterly failed Him. No wonder this passage is regarded as difficult! Scripture states that some of the bystanders at the Cross completely misunderstood the import of Jesus' words; so there may be some excuse for similar misunderstandings by present-day readers of the New Testament.
However, the situation is somewhat clarified when we realize that Jesus was quoting from the opening verse of the Twenty-second Psalm. The student should therefore refer to this psalm, and read it carefully from beginning to end. It will be noticed that the Twenty-second Psalm consists of two main sections. The first section (verses 1-21) expresses the anguish of the human heart during periods of severe trial. At such a time it may seem that God has withdrawn His presence and power. But the second section of the psalm (verses 22-31) shows the response of what we sometimes term "the indwelling Spirit." In other words, there is the realization that despite all appearances God is still with us, and at the right moment His salvation will be made manifest. Notice how the Psalmist expresses his trust in God:
"Ye that fear Jehovah, praise him . . .
For he hath not despised nor abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted;
Neither hath he hid his face from him;
But when he cried, he heard." (Psalms 22:23-24)
Metaphysically, this indicates that we should "cross out" all erroneous thoughts about God withdrawing His protecting presence from us—no matter what appearances may indicate. We should realize that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28)—and that in all our experiences, nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39).
SIXTH WORD: "It is finished." (John 19:30.)
There are two possible interpretations of this statement, (1) We may regard the words as indicating that Jesus' ministry had come to a tragic end. He had tried His best; but apparently all His efforts had failed, and all the bright hopes regarding the kingdom had sunk into oblivion. (2) However, in the light of subsequent events, we are now able to see that the words "It is finished" actually represent a cry of triumph. Jesus' ministry had not failed— notwithstanding all the efforts of those who opposed Him. A few hours before the crucifixion, Jesus said, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). And now, even "the last dread enemy, death" was overcome, and the "new and living way" was opened into the kingdom.
This would indicate that we should "cross out" all thoughts relating to the inadequacy or failure of Jesus' ministry. At an earlier period a wavering John the Baptist inquired, "Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?" (Matt. 11:3). John was not privileged to see Jesus' ministry carried to its completion, whereas we now have the complete story. Therefore, we should "cross out" all negative or limiting beliefs. The New Testament states emphatically that Jesus' ministry was fully complete, and that His was the final word. "God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets, ... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son" (Heb. 1:1). And the Apostles Peter and John fearlessly proclaimed: "In none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
SEVENTH WORD: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:44-46; Gen. 2:1-3.)
Two important features should be noted here.
(1) The significant change from "My God," to "Father." As was stated earlier, the Fifth Word from the Cross was a direct quotation from Scripture; but in the Seventh Word Jesus returned to the divine name which He used so frequently during His ministry. Thus, in making present-day application of these terms, the words My God may symbolize a knowledge of God; while the term Father would indicate an intimate and loving relationship.
(2) The Seventh Word also indicates how we may "cross out" all fears or feelings of apprehension regarding the future, by placing all our affairs "lovingly in the hands of the Father." It is interesting and instructive to notice how, in the story of the Creation (as given in Gen. 1:1-2:3), the six periods of creative activity were followed by the divinely-planned seventh period of rest. Similarly, all the "crossing out" activity, as indicated by the Words from the Cross, culminates in the realization of resting in the love of the Father. All activity connected with the Cross reaches a point where "it is finished"; but the Father's love continues for ever.
Matt. 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42
7. The Garden Tomb.
The above passages give a clear account of the events immediately following the crucifixion and the entombment of the body of Jesus. However, some brief notes regarding two persons mentioned will be in order.
(1) It will be noticed that Nicodemus is mentioned only in John's Gospel. During the early period of Jesus' ministry, Nicodemus came to Jesus "by night" (John 3:1-21). Later, Nicodemus incurred the displeasure of the Jewish leaders by an attempted defense of Jesus (John 7:45-52). Nicodemus also took part in the entombment activities, as recorded in the passage given above. Questions are sometimes raised regarding Nicodemus' attitude during the trial of Jesus. Why did he not raise his voice in protest? Several possibilities have been suggested; but the most likely reason seems to be that Nicodemus, still somewhat skeptical, felt that if Jesus was really the Messiah, He would surely declare Himself, and thus overcome His enemies.
(2) Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned as being a disciple "in secret"—yet he seems to have displayed great courage in claiming the body of Jesus and having it carefully placed in his own prepared tomb. However, at that time, the burial of strangers was regarded as a work of great piety, and acts of that sort would have been regarded with approbation by the Jewish leaders. The Book of Tobit, in the Old Testament Apocrypha, tells how its hero buried several Jews who had been murdered by oppressors; and Joseph of Arimathea would have been quite familiar with this story. Tradition states that, following the resurrection of Jesus, Joseph became an ardent Christian, and legend has it that he was instrumental in carrying the Gospel to Britian.
Questions for Lesson 11
- In which Gospel do we find the "Upper Room teaching"? Give chapter references. Compare this "Upper Room teaching" with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6, 7), and then list some similarities and also some differences in these two accounts of Jesus' teaching.
- When and where was Jesus arrested? Using your own words, tell briefly what happened in the garden of Gethsemane.
- At the trial of Jesus, two serious charges were laid against Him. What were these charges? and 5. where were they made? Explain why the change was made when Jesus was brought before Pilate.
- List the "seven last words" of Jesus, giving the Scripture references for each statement. Also give a brief explanation with each statement, indicating what circumstances gave rise to the words uttered by Jesus.
- Why was the body of Jesus placed so hurriedly in the garden tomb? Give the names of two persons taking a prominent part in the burial of Jesus.
- Using your own words, explain briefly the metaphysical significance of Gethsemane. If possible, give an illustration showing what this would mean in our own experience.
- Briefly explain the term Comforter, as used in John's Gospel. (John 14:16) How does an understanding of this word help us today?
- How would you explain the statement, "Thy will be done"? (Matt. 26:39) What misunderstanding is frequently made when considering these words?
- Metaphysically, what does the Cross symbolize? Give three instances from the "seven last words," showing how certain negative beliefs or attitudes should be "crossed out."
- What was Pilate's question regarding Jesus? (Matt. 27:22) Does a similar question sometimes arise in present-day experience? If so, how should we deal with it?