Luke 23:44-49  Believers must embrace suffering, without which they cannot be sanctified for God’s use

Luke 23:44-49  Believers must embrace suffering, without which they cannot be sanctified for God’s use

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. Having said this, He breathed His last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, Certainly this man was innocent. 48 And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. 49 And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.

Background

The events leading to the crucifixion culminates at the tearing of the veil. The tearing of the temple veil that separated the holy presence of God and the place where the blood of animals was sprinkled signified the reconciliation between God from man. At the cross, Jesus won the battle against the fleshly urges of hatred and revenge. Although Jesus suffered unjust treatment, sorrow and pain, He remained merciful and righteous. Not only did the devil fail to incite Jesus to hate and to doubt, Satan saw the destruction of his kingdom. Through Jesus’s mercy and righteousness, the power of sin that estranged humanity from God is broken. In today’s devotion, we learn: Believers must embrace suffering, without which they cannot be sanctified for God’s use.

Observation

And darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.

The darkness that fell over the land portent an event of cosmic proportions: the death of God. Here, Jesus suffered as a sea of sorrow descended upon His soul. Jesus, in embracing death denied Himself of His most basic and personal rights. The armies of darkness taunted, and tortured Jesus inciting Him to go off the course of divine mercy and righteousness. Leading to the crucifixion, Jesus endured the loss of His family and disciples; the loss of His human aspirations; injustice at the human court; the mockery of wicked men with the compulsion to destroy them; the shame of condemnation and doubt towards God’s righteous nature. The battle lasted from the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3pm) on multiple fronts. The devil’s endgame was not to destroy Jesus’s body, but to push Him beyond the limits of His faith in God and mercy towards His tormentors. By inciting Jesus to hate man and to doubt God, the devil would have robbed Jesus of His rightful name: the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29).

And the veil of the temple was torn in two.

The veil separates the outer tabernacle (first section) from the Holy of Holies which only the High Priest can enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. The veil is a symbol of estrangement between God and man. The below list the reasons for this separation:

  • Man, by virtue of his corrupt conscience and bondage to sin was unable to walk with God on the path of righteousness.
  • God, by virtue of His holiness can never walk with men of corrupt conscience.

Hebrews 9:8-9 substantiates this, “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,…”

Note that the veil separates the outer court (first section) from the holy place barring worshippers with corrupt conscience from walking directly into God’s presence. For not even with repeated offerings of gifts and sacrifices can the worshipper’s conscience be delivered from his self-centred ways.

The splitting of the veil signifies the destruction of sin that held man under its bondage. And Christ’s blood that flowed works in purifying the conscience of those who desire to reconcile with God. With the power of sin removed, worshippers can now walk with God and God can accept men whose conscience are sanctified by His blood.

Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.

Matthew’s gospel account places the splitting of the veil right after the act of Jesus committing His spirit into the Father’s hands. It is important to note that the path to victory and resurrection requires Jesus to give up His spirit. Hence, the death of His natural body must be understood in the light of this. Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17. Thus, the focus is on the resurrection life, and death (albeit necessary) is only a milestone. Jesus spoke about His impending death,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. John 12:24-25

Death, in Jesus’s perspective is not just the cessation of natural body functions, but everything that pertain to the natural life: his aspirations, possessions, and rights. Unless one dies to everything that is important to his natural life, he cannot enter into eternal life. Jesus’s suffering in death comprises not only the painful closure of His natural life, the sorrow of losing everything that He cherishes, but also the sorrows of the world.

Paul taught that if man is to enter the kingdom of God, he must acquire the spirit life by dying to his natural and fleshly passions (see 1 Corinthians 15:50). In fact, God said to Adam that in the day that he disobeys, death becomes inevitable. However, there is a kind of death that leads to the resurrection life and another to eternal death. Therefore, those who believe in Christ and obey Him, must in due process die to his flesh to receive an imperishable spirit life. But for those who do not believe, they die only to enter into eternal death. Paul said,

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 1 Corinthians 15:45-49

It is God’s design that the natural is first, then comes the spiritual: the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. Death of the natural life, in God’s design leads to the spiritual life, the heavenly life. In a fuller sense, Jesus died not to exonerate us from eternal punishment, but to fulfill the law; death. Indeed, repentant sinners died with Christ on the cross, but not to damnation but to the resurrection life: we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, Certainly this man was innocent.

The account of the Matthew’s gospel contains descriptions of earthquakes where tombs were opened… And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many (Matthew 27:52-53). The centurion, having seen these supernatural events exclaimed, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Apparently, many including His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him attributed the cataclysmic happenings to Jesus’s divinity and righteousness. Those who mocked Him beat their breasts having realised the sins they have committed against God.

Truth

Believers must embrace suffering, without which they cannot be sanctified for God’s use.

Jesus was betrayed, pierced, crushed and scourged so that through it all, He may become the perfect sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. The prophet Isaiah said,

But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him. And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

The above text speaks of Jesus’s chastening under wicked men. And because He forgave His tormentors, God appointed Him with the authority to bring life and glory to all who believe. Hebrews 2:10 speaks about the necessity of suffering on the road to perfection. And in order for Jesus to be perfected, He must not respond with hatred towards His tormentors, but with love and righteousness.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10

Jesus, having been made perfect became the author of salvation in bringing many sons to glory. Likewise, unless believers sanctify themselves through suffering, they can never be used mightily by God. That said, many want to be used by God, but are unwilling to be sanctified. While some may agree that sanctification is good, they do not want to go through suffering. For they supposed Jesus’s suffering is purposed to free them from all suffering. Such have completely misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’s suffering. Indeed, all who desire to be perfect must endure divine discipline. Hebrews 12:11 says,

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

That said, there is a suffering that does not lead to perfection but to death and eternal hell fire. Such experience torment in this life and the life to come. For they continue to harbour the sinful passions in their flesh refusing to die to them.

Therefore, in view of the glory to come, believers must have the right attitude towards the trials of life. When believers look to Jesus, His grace fills us with hope energising our minds, and strengthening our hearts on the path of sanctification.

The righteous need not fret for God will surely vindicate them.

After Jesus committed His Spirit into the Father’s hands, a catalysmic event that had never before seen followed: the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:51-53). The supernatural event became for Jesus an unequivocal vindication of His righteousness. And at His resurrection, the saints who died were also vindicated when they were raised to life being seen by many.

Therefore, as believers we must not fret when falsely accused or unjustly treated. But to persevere in doing what is right and God will vindicate us and fulfill the desires of our hearts. The psalmist said,

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light.
And your judgment as the noonday. Psalms 37:1-6

Application

Do you see life’s challenges as inconveniences or means to perfection? In every circumstance, make it a habit to understand God’s will for your life. Ask Him to provide wisdom and clear directions to navigate the waters adversity. A right attitude towards tribulations is the surest way out of it.

Are you experiencing some kind of difficulties through no fault of yours? And they have returned your kindness with treachery. Paul said, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” 1 Peter 3:14. You are indeed blessed if you continue to stay the course of righteousness and mercy. And God will surely vindicate and reward you in due time.

Dear Lord, I desire to know your will for my current predicament. Impress upon me divine wisdom and a clear direction. Strengthen me with your grace and cause me to soldier on on the path of righteousness. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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