His Voice from the Cross #1

HIS INCREDIBLE PLEA
by J. Quisumbing

The prisoner’s back was on fire. More than an hour ago, he endured a scourging of 25-30 lashes. He lost count. The whip used was the cat o’ nine tails, an odious punishment tool made up of nine knotted thongs of leather with jagged pieces of metal and bones embedded in the strips. Each stroke was relentless especially when the one wielding it was so enraged because the prisoner made no noise above a moan.

His vision blurred again. By the taste of salt on his lips, he knew that more blood was profusely pouring down over his eyes from the puncture wounds on his scalp. Shutting his eyes tight and blinking a couple of times, his vision somewhat cleared. Looking ahead, he could just make out the infamous execution hill which he knew was north of the city about half a mile from the city gate. Some say that this hill looked like a half buried skull hence its name.

A little strength seem to be coming back to his bruised and cut up legs especially when the heavy burden that he was carrying on his already torn up shoulder was alleviated by the overseers. Earlier, they saw that the prisoner may not make it to execution hill because he was stumbling, falling and getting even weaker with every step he took. So, they stopped the procession, grabbed an unsuspecting spectator from amongst the crowd and forced him to carry the prisoner’s burden which was a roughly hewn cross.

The prisoner finally reached the crest of the hill. He was shoved to where the cross that he carried most of the way was laid out on the ground. Men in red tunics were busily preparing it. He turned his eyes towards a commotion on his left. Another prisoner was screaming out in pain as his hands and feet were impaled onto another cross. Hearing a grating sound to his right, he turned his head to watch another cross being erected, the bottom of which fell into a carved hole on the stony ground. It made a heavy thud sound causing the prisoner already nailed and hanging from it to scream out in agony.

He was then stripped of his outer garments leaving just a loin cloth to cover him. Then, he was roughly shoved down onto the cross. He winced as his bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as his arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned his forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain was indescribable.

The executioners turned their attention to his feet. First, they tied his knees together. Then, they bent his legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested his feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.

Just as he was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into his skin, his own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing him to tears and then blacked out.

When he came to, he was gasping for air. He was not breathing properly. His chest felt compressed as he hung there with arms stretched up and his legs were limp. He realized that he can inhale but not exhale. He knew he had to put weight on his feet to exhale. But as he did so his torn back rubbed against the splintered wood, causing a constant stabbing into the open raw flesh. As painful as it was, he knew he had to do it regardless the pain he had to endure.

Then the taunts came.

From his high vantage point, he can see the north road busy with passersby going to and fro from the city. Most of them joined in with the mingling crowd that continued to hurl insults at him.

Someone in a rich robe shouted, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” Many laughed and shook their heads. Others mockingly called him the king of the Jews and that he should come off that cross to rule them. It went on and on, and even the condemned men left and right of him joined in. (Matthew 27)

Then another voice said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

The prisoner recognized that voice. It was the same voice that tried to tempt him during his time of fasting in the wilderness some three years ago. He said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

In his ear, he can hear that same tempter taunt him. “Son of God,” he would whisper, “You have at your command, legions of angels just waiting for you to give the order to destroy those that have done this against you. These creatures are not worthy of your love. See how they mock you. Elijah once asked God to send down fire upon his enemies who mocked him. You command the elements. Reveal your glory to them and watch them grovel in the ground and beg for forgiveness. Do you not see these people?”

He does see them. He looks down at the overseers laughing among themselves and callously gambling over his garment. He cannot get himself to hate them. Then, he scanned the crowd who continue to jeer at him. He saw their pettiness & shallowness; their angers & fears; their ignorance, their frailty & many faults. He also saw inside their hearts and he knew they were lost and hungry for a better life. He once told his disciples that what he saw in people was a flock without a shepherd. He saw each of them as created in God’s image. No, he could not condemn them. He knew that one day, the time of judgment will come, but not yet.

He peered up at the sky. The sky was clear but in the distance he could see angry clouds forming. He knew that his Holy Father was angry and rightly so.

The prisoner braced his legs and painfully lifted his body up. He breathed in, looked up to Heaven and said…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)


Author’s Note:

Holy Week is just around the corner. Every Week until Resurection Sunday, I will post a story on the last words of this prisoner who hung on a rugged cross and paved a way for you and me who believe to everlasting life.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

GOSPEL part 7

THE COVENANT OF BLOOD

Once a month, usually on the first Sunday, most churches celebrate by partaking in the Lord’s Supper (Communion). This is when little pieces of bread and tiny cups of grape juice or as some churches prefer, red wine are distributed among the congregation to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Technically speaking, this practice of eating the bread and drinking the wine is a ritual. Now, I am not usually fond on doing rituals and many traditions, however this ritual is one that I just love to practice. Do you know why? Because it was Jesus who institutionalized it for us until He finally comes and claims us .

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. [Matthew 26:26-28]

I have been privileged to go to four churches; 2 churches here in Manila and a couple in Washington State and in California. And in all of them, I had heard many wonderful sermons on the first part of the Lord’s Supper about how the bread represents the body of Christ and what He endured on the cross. But because the preachers were allotted with a limited amount of time during the services, I have yet to hear about the second part. What does Jesus want us to learn about the blood of the covenant? First things first…

What does the Bible say about blood?

For the life of a creature is in the blood… [Leviticus 17:11a]

I need not have to explain why the life of all creature is in the blood.

I learned this quite young when my grandfather who was a farmer had me watched for the first time the slaughtering of a pig. I am afraid I may have to be a little bit graphic here. In those old days, the animal was still very much alive when the farmer plunged his knife into the creature’s neck severing the jugular vein. Its lifeblood gushed out in a constant crimson stream slowly and surely denying the brain of oxygen. It was not long until what was once a living creature, had then become a lifeless carcass. I was 7 years old then.

So, since blood is synonymous to life, God commanded this…

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. [Deuteronomy 12:23]

One reason God prohibited the consumption of animal blood in the Old Testament was to teach respect for the sacredness of life. Blood is viewed as a symbol of life throughout the Bible, so much so that after mankind sinned, God had set a precedence for their redemption.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul… [Leviticus 17:11,14]

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [Hebrews 9:22]

By definition, redemption means the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt… and innocent blood was the price.

God illustrated this to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had just sinned by eating the fruit that was forbidden. They then covered themselves with fig leaves in an attempt to hide their shame. Deep down they probably thought they were successful in hiding their guilt. Of course, God is never fooled.

gen-3-skins-wHe saw through their futile attempt to make themselves look presentable that He disapproved. Verse 21 simply stated that the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Did God just simply cause the garments of skin to appear from out of nowhere? He could, quite easily, in fact, but what was evident in Scriptures suggested that God had a large animal slaughtered before their eyes. They witnessed the blood of an innocent creature being spilled so that their sins will be covered. Instead of being totally cut off from His grace, God had provided the people of the Old Testament a way to approach Him without being destroyed by Him.

Adam passed this practice down to Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and yes even to Job. But it was in the time of Moses, in the book of Exodus, that God provided us with a clear picture of how innocent blood redeems.

It was at the time when Moses confronted the king of Egypt with the commandment of God to ‘let His people go’. Nine plagues God had already released upon Egypt and yet Pharaoh refused to obey. So, God intended to send the tenth and final plague… the worst of plagues… the deaths of the first born in Egypt. This would have included the first born of Israel if God had not provided a way for them to escape. How? Every family would have to kill a lamb and place its blood on the door frames so that God’s angel of death will pass over that house and spare their first born. Which he did.   [Exodus 11]

After the fateful event, God had commanded that an intricate system of animal sacrifices  be established as way for the people of Israel to gain forgiveness and then worship. A system that was repeated year after year. Why year after year? The system was meant to be temporary and besides which…

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. [Hebrews 10:4]

Here still lies the problem for mankind – SIN. If the shed blood of innocent animals could not truly redeem us from eternal damnation of hell, then what could?

By every right, it was one man that brought SIN in, so, it should be a man to pay the price.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. [Romans 5:19]

The problem is that no man born in this world (i.e. born of man and woman) can qualify to God’s precedence for redemption. So, who can save us?

Enter JESUS CHRIST! Hallelujah!

The Old Testament Temple practices were never meant to solve mankind’s ultimate dilemma. It was a dress rehearsal, so to speak, for the biggest show!

The show when God enters our reality as man… Jesus Christ…

Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:6-8]

To what end?

…and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies (cleanses) us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]

So, when you partake in drinking the cup, keep mind of what Jesus preciously shed and remember the covenant which is when God who is Holy looks at you, He will choose not see your old sinful self but the blood of Christ than covers you.

If you are not sure if the blood of Christ is covering you, then set your mind to learn and get to know Jesus Christ. Then believe.

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Well, where ever you are right now, know that God is listening for you. Talk to Him with no delay and express your faith in Jesus Christ and receive Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior. You only have to pray the prayer below once, but with sincerity, because when He enters your life, He will never leave you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you so much for loving me. I confess that I am a sinner worthy of eternal punishment. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for all of my sins. With your help, I am turning away from all my sins. Today, I put my trust in you as my Lord and Savior and I receive you into my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins and for coming into my heart. I accept your free gift of eternal life. Thank you that one day, I will go home to be with you in heaven. From this day on, I will follow and obey you. Amen.*

* Note: It is not the prayer that saves us but faith in Christ. The prayer is a way express belief.