Friday, 02 April 2021 01:03

Communion Tenebrae

Written by Jesse Neustadter

I have been thinking about the power of words to either hurt or heal. We have all said things that we wish we could take back. There is a time-tested object lesson, I think that Allyson, our children’s ministry director, even used it last summer during a kids’ message.

In the object lesson, you take a tube of toothpaste and squeeze out all the contents. Then you ask, “How difficult is it to put the paste back in the tube?” Of course, it is impossible to put the paste back in. In the same way, our words, once they are out, cannot be taken back. It’s a powerful visual. But on this Good Friday, I don’t want to focus on the fact that you can’t put the toothpaste back, even though that’s an important lesson to learn. I want to focus on the fact that it was pressure that pushed the toothpaste out. Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Pressure will push the inclinations of the heart out through our words. So, in those pressure moments, what do the words we say reveal about our hearts?

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he spoke seven different phrases. Under the greatest amount of pressure that any human being has ever endured, he opened his mouth and through his words gave a glimpse into his heart. Each of these seven phrases, the last words of Jesus spoken while on the cross, could be a sermon message in and of themselves because each phrase gives us understanding into how Jesus loves.

There is a song called “Last Words” by Andrew Peterson that includes each of these seven phrases, verbatim from Scripture. The song simply says what Jesus said. I was trying to figure out a way find a way for my worship team to play the song, but I cannot make it work. I can play the song and just sing each of the phrases in a linear way, but the power of the song is that each of the phrases are sung in the round. One phrase is sung, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” What an amazing glimpse into Jesus’ heart, that under the pressure of death, he was praying for those who were murdering him. While that phrase is being sung, the next one comes in, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus looked at the thief next to him, who was dying a death he deserved according to the law, and Jesus offered him grace in response to repentance. While those two phrases are being sung, the next one starts, “Behold your son, behold your mother.” Jesus looks down at John, the disciple he loved, and at Mary, his own mother, and his heart goes out to them. Sensing their pain, Jesus gives a foreshadowing of the identity of the church, that in Jesus a new family is forming. It will be a family that cares for one another. While these three phrases are being sung, the other phrases are introduced one by one. “It is finished.” “I thirst.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

The power of the song is in catching all these glimpses into the heart of Jesus nearly simultaneously. In a matter of only a few short hours, Jesus’s heart experienced each of these things. This overwhelms me. I sense the power of Jesus’s words and his love and I am met with the truth that I regularly fail to reveal the heart of Jesus through my words. But the challenge for myself and the challenge I have for you is to not focus on your words. Focus on your heart. Where is your heart failing to conform to Jesus? Because it is not only our words that Jesus is concerned about. It is not even primarily our words that Jesus cares about. Jesus did not die to save us from saying stupid and insensitive things. Jesus died so that, in him, our hearts can be reshaped and reformed to look like his heart. This Good Friday, may we be reminded that Jesus is not only concerned with our words, but that Jesus is primarily concerned about the posture of our heart. May our hearts be inclined towards his.

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More in this category: « Week 2: Shattered and Scattered

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