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Seven Statements from the Cross

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

While hanging from a cross on Calvary's Hill, Jesus uttered seven powerful statements that reveal His heart and ministry to us. Each statement carries the weight of the Gospel in itself, but together they provide a portrait of God's eternal plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. This portrait reminds us that nothing but the finished work of Jesus Christ will assure our eternal salvation.

The first statement Christ made was right after our Lord was nailed to the cross: "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Then, He spoke words of assurance and promise to a repentant sinner on a cross next to Him, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Undistracted by His unimaginable and immeasurable pain, He then made provision for His mother by asking John to take care of her. The fourth statement came when the brightness of noonday gave way to the darkness of midnight and He uttered a mysterious cry, "'Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani!' - which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

Fulfilling Psalm 69:21 - "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst" - Jesus cried, "I am thirsty" (John 19:28), His fifth statement from the cross. As Jesus was drawing closer to his final moment, He cried in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit" (Luke 23:46), a scriptural prayer that every faithful Jew prayed at the end of the day. As was only recorded in the gospel of John, Jesus' final word from the cross was "Tetelestai," or "It is finished" (John 19:30).

For two thousand years, believers throughout the world have treasured these words of our Lord, which reflect His great love for us. Over the next week, we will take a close look at each of these final words of Christ as He hung on the cross. As Easter approaches, take some time to meditate on these seven powerful statements.

Prayer: Lord, as I reflect on Your final words on the cross, show me the power of each statement and the depth of Your love demonstrated at Calvary. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).


The Message of Forgiveness

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When Christians doggedly try to force others to be so focused on the rules, they often miss the more important message of forgiveness.

In the story of the prodigal son, the older son lived a life of legalism (see Luke 15:1-2, 25-31). Though he outwardly sinned less than his younger brother, he still had heart issues that were just as heartbreaking to his father.

Although the older son stayed home working faithfully, he had the attitude that his father owed him something for his efforts. Neither the father in Luke 15 nor our Heavenly Father owes us anything for our service or obedience. The older brother's disrespect and disobedience were sin just as the prodigal's immoral lifestyle was sin.

The older son disrespected his father's decision to welcome the prodigal home and angrily refused to attend the homecoming celebration. For the second time in a day, the loving father humbled himself to go to one of his sons in a gesture of reconciliation. The cost to the father was great as he suffered humiliation in front of his guests.

When Jesus told this story, He was trying to tell the Pharisees of the Father's great love for all men. He stepped down from His throne, humbling Himself to become a man to reach us. The arms of the father in this story are outstretched to embrace both sons, much as Jesus' arms were outstretched on the cross to include every one of us.

The most heartbreaking sin of all, however, was that the older brother could not love and forgive his brother. Granted, there was much to forgive. When God calls us to forgive, He does not ask us to only forgive the easy sins. God commands us to show others the same kind of grace He has shown us. He wants us to pattern our lives after His example of mercy and forgiveness.

Prayer: Father, help me to follow Your example and extend forgiveness to others, even those who are difficult to forgive. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15).


Sons, Not Servants

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Sin is deceptive. Initially, the charm of sin is all we can see. When the prodigal son was drawn by the allure of the far country, he could only see the upside of leaving his father for a more exotic land. The prodigal's self-centered thinking led him to believe that his father owed him his inheritance.

The prodigal son stayed prideful long after his money disappeared. Only when a famine destroyed his chances of even a menial job did he admit he had been wrong and that his father's house was a pretty wonderful place after all. The son said to himself, "I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants" (Luke 15:18-19). All the way home the young man probably rehearsed his confession and his story of degradation.

As soon as the dirty, unkempt prodigal said he has sinned, the father interrupted him. The father did not need the details of the terrible times in the far country. Instead, he "was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." The father called for a robe and a ring, and fully reinstated the young man as his son and not as a servant.

God is not in the business of making us slaves; He is in the adoption business. He makes us his sons and daughters and freely gives us all good things. When we ask for His forgiveness, He wipes away our sin and accepts us as His own. What a loving Father!

Easter is about wiping away the guilt and shame we all carry. In one magnificent act on the cross, Jesus showed the inexhaustible grace of the Father to cleanse us of sin. He simply asks that we realize our sinful condition and repent. He will cleanse us, clothes us in the robe of His righteousness, and accept us into his household with open arms without condemnation.

Prayer: Father, thank You for adopting me as Your child. Thank You for Your grace and forgiveness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" (Ephesians 1:5).


Respecting the Father

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

As we read yesterday about the parable of the prodigal son, we learned that the love of the father drove him to extreme measures just to demonstrate his love for his son.

In the father's willingness to humiliate himself, we see the image of the cross. God was willing to humble Himself to come to earth, not as a king, but as a lowly servant to mankind. The God of the universe was willing to be spat on, disrespected, and crucified to draw us home again to His loving arms. Though He had the power to control the very tides and stars, He gave us the freedom to stay in the far country or come home again to live in the security of His love and protection.

Some people today are indifferent toward God, almost as if He is dead. But God is very much alive and present, whether you acknowledge him or not. His heart is breaking if you choose not to live in close fellowship with Him every day.

This Easter, consider if you are respecting your Heavenly Father. Some people take all of the resources and blessings of God to spend selfishly on sin and pleasure. In the process, they lose their most precious blessing - a relationship with the Father.

Prayer: Father, I pray that You would reveal to me if I have become distant from You. Reveal any hardness or dissatisfaction in my heart. Help me to return to You, knowing that You are always there ready to run to meet me. Amen.

"But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you" (Psalm 130:4).


The Love of a Father

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is more a story about the love of a father than about the sins of the son. The way the father responded to the young man's departure and return gives us particular insight into the heart and the character of the father. The story takes on even greater significance if we understand a few things about the dignity and role of the father in Middle Eastern cultures.

Westerners cannot comprehend the insult the father received when the son asked for his portion of the estate prior to his father's death. This request was the equivalent of saying, "I wish you would hurry up and die so I can receive my money now." Despite this blow, the loving father gave the son his portion and let him go his way.

The father could have refused the son's request. He could have tried to control him. Instead, the wise father understood that love only has what it will let go of, so he released the son to make his own choices, no matter how ill-advised.

The father's response to the return of his son is another example of a man going against all cultural tradition and dropping all personal hurts to demonstrate his love. You see, in that part of the world, men don't run - ever. Running is for children and servants. The revered heads of household never lower themselves to run. Yet while the son "was still a long way off," the father saw him and broke into a full-out run. He humbled himself to go to the son to let him know he was forgiven and loved without reservation.

Prayer: Father, thank You for this reminder of just how much You love me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).


One Lost Sheep

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus shares the parable of the lost sheep to further reveal the heart of God to us. In it we see that God's love is so merciful and personal that He notices and pursues even one erring sheep.

How amazing that our God is intimately concerned with those who have strayed from His fold. When He finds the sheep in Luke 15:5, "He joyfully puts it on his shoulders" and carries the sheep all the way home. The shepherd never sets the sheep down but carries the entire burden on His strong shoulders.

Likewise, Christ stands ready to take on all of our burdens, whether physical infirmities, heartbreaks, or worries. He has shoulders capable of bearing any weight we are willing to give up to Him. Your burdens become His burdens as you rest in Him.

Christ pursues us, saves us, carries us, and rejoices over us. Luke 15:6 says the shepherd calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep."

How long has it been since you brought so much joy to someone that the person wanted to throw you a party? How does it feel to know that your salvation brings such joy to our Almighty God?

Easter is about God's greatest expression of love for you. He stepped down from His throne in Heaven to come, seek and save each one who is lost.

Prayer: Lord, help me to fully understand how extravagantly You love me. Help me to remember that You are my shepherd and have given everything, including Your life, to rescue me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love" (Psalm 145:8).


"I Am the Resurrection and the Life"

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He spoke these words to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26). When the stone was removed, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave - and he did.

When you were dead in your sins, God called you by name. You were called to come out of your sins and to experience the power of the Resurrection.

Jesus also faced death, but God raised Him from the dead. It was not like Lazarus's resurrection, because Lazarus later died again.

The Bible says that Jesus died, was buried, was raised, and appeared numerous times after the Resurrection. Christ's tomb was empty then; it remains empty today. He is our risen Lord and Savior.

Even the Romans, with all their power, could not produce His body. The Jewish leaders, with all their hatred and bitterness toward Jesus, could not produce His body. And if the disciples stole His body, as some asserted, can you imagine the disciples' willingness to die for a hoax they themselves had perpetrated?

Instead, Jesus appeared to Mary and told her, "Go ... to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17).

Have you experienced the power of the resurrection? Are you living in triumph or defeat? Jesus conquered the grave, and you can also conquer eternal death - but only by placing your faith in Him. He sacrificially died on the cross for your sins and rose again, that you might spend eternity with Him.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for eternal life through grace by faith in Christ. May I live my life in the power of the resurrection. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).


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