Bible Study Tuesday 23rd February 2021

BIBLE STUDY: LENT- SEVEN LAST WORDS (PART ONE)

  1. What is the most important thing anyone has said to you? What was the context in which they said it?

I wonder if you can remember the last words someone said to you? We tend to scour those words for meaning. We hang on the last words of famous historical figures hoping they might offer us some wisdom. Those facing the gallows are permitted to offer their final words.

Some Christian traditions have a service on Good Friday based on the seven last words, or last sentences, that Jesus spoke from the cross. It is a tradition that goes back to the 12th century. Jesus’ words bear witness that he is the Word of God and despite the coming silence of the grave they ring out bold and true. In these hard times where there is so much suffering, silence, and sadness I hope they can ring out again. We fear that words are meaningless, but these words come from extreme pain- they survive, they still hold meaning on the cross. Therefore, we should listen to them carefully. They might hold meaning for us now.

FATHER FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO

Read Luke 23:24

One of the things that strikes me is that Jesus forgives the onlookers (and by implication us) before they kill them. He forgives them before they even realise what they have done. That is a lot to get our minds around. We tend to view asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness as something that happens after a wrong has been committed. Maybe, that is how it works on a human level, but Jesus works on a difference level. Perhaps because Jesus is the only totally innocent human being and divine his forgiveness can operate like this.

Forgiveness comes first is the scandal of the gospel. It doesn’t mean that Jesus/God forgets our sins or thinks they are not serious but that because we are already forgiven, we can actually face what we have done. We dare to remember the failures, defeats, hurts caused and lack of love. We dare to remember not to feel miserable about ourselves but to open our lives to transformative power of God.

  1. What difference does it make to know that God has already forgiven you…even for the things that you don’t realise are sinful yet?

Was Jesus just offering forgiveness for his murder as an innocent man or for the violent act of crucifixion itself- the taking of life? Others died with him that day and crucifixion was almost an industry of death. There are countless people who have died as the result of our nation’s actions/inactions. If we trust that forgiveness comes first can we dare open our eyes?

  1. How do react when nations/organisations apologise and ask forgiveness for past mistakes?

TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE”

Read Luke 23:39-43

  1. What is your idea of paradise?

I suspect your idea of paradise is not a cross. How extraordinary that paradise is talked about at Golgotha and one criminal believes what Jesus is saying. We think paradise has to be attained and pursued. That when we have accrued enough stuff and status then we will be in paradise. But these men have nothing, and their lives are ebbing away. It is a sheer gift offered by Jesus. We don’t know if the criminal is a thief, but he is often labelled as ‘the good thief’ and it seems apt. He pulls off an amazing heist. He gets Paradise without paying for it. As we all do. It is another scandal of the gospel. We just need to learn to accept God’s gifts.

5- What small gifts have brought paradise into a situation of loss or pain for you?

The word ‘Paradise’ comes from the Persian and it means ‘a walled garden’. Gardens in the Bible are places of rest, renewal and joy. They are the places where God delights in us and we delight in God. Think of Eden, the resurrection and the Song of Songs. Joy is not incompatible with sorrow. I have laughed beside people on their deathbeds and enjoyed the final day of a romance even though I knew it must end. Sorrow hollows out our hearts so there is a space where God’s happiness can dwell. The opposite of joy and delight is not sadness but being stony-hearted like the other criminal.

6- Why do you think the two criminals react to Jesus so differently?

Prayer

Faced with your cross and in Your presence now,

Don’t let me be stony-hearted Jesus, still scrabbling for a scrap of power,

Make me open-hearted.

Remind me that Your forgiveness comes first and therefore I need not fear condemnation or retribution. I can name my faults and failings honestly and my places of hurt can be transformed by Your love.

Remind me that You offer me paradise even in the hardest of places if I just have the eyes to see it. You offer me Yourself and that is more than enough. You delight in me. Help my heart be open enough to fully delight in You.

Jesus, thank You for Your teachings from the cross.

Amen.

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