There’s an old story about a King who was suffering from a painful ailment. His astrologer told him that the only cure was to find a contented man, get his shirt, and wear it day and night. So messengers were sent throughout his kingdom to find a man who was content and order that he surrender his shirt so it could be brought back to the King to wear.
Months passed, and after a thorough search, the messengers returned, but without the shirt. “Did you find a contented man?” the King asked. “Yes, your Highness, we found one man who was content.” “Well, where’s his shirt?” the King demanded. The messengers looked at each other and said, “Master, the man had no shirt.”
Last week, after preaching on Jesus’ sixth word from the cross – “It is finished” – and the finality of the cross, a person came up to me harboring a burning issue. I know it was “burning” because it had been festering for seven weeks. For seven straight Sundays this person had been waiting to express utter contempt for our new member process.
The problem? Friends joined Hebron seven weeks ago and this person was not asked to be their sponsor. Never mind that one of the principle goals of sponsorship is to widen the friendship circle for new members by specifically asking those that they may not already know to sponsor them. For this person, the selection of someone else as a sponsor was an egregious act of discrimination. And the reason I know that is because no matter what I said, it didn’t begin to atone for the perceived slight!
Now I can understand being miffed. I can understand feeling depreciated. But what was most striking to me was the timing of the diatribe. Seven weeks had elapsed in which seven messages on the total sufficiency of the cross had been preached. Moreover, the spewing discontent came on the heels of one whole hour of focusing on the finality of the cross and gathering around the communion table. I walked away thinking, “Really?”
Not too long afterwards I heard the Lord say, “You’re a lot like that so many times.” And I confess that I am. If you are anything like me, you find that your discontent can surface at any time, even after a worship service, even after worshipping a Lord who repeatedly laid down His own interests.
As we have said from the start of this series, there’s only one place where our deepest needs are met and that’s at the cross. The cross isn’t a place to go once – it’s a place to go every day. The cross is our Lord’s office. The cross is the place where He chisels off the corners of our self-interest and self-righteousness. The cross is the place where He breaks the tyranny of our felt needs by meeting our deepest need for love and worth.
This Sunday we will end our nine-week series “The Wondrous Cross” with a message entitled, “The Contentment of the Cross.” We will focus on the seventh and last statement of Jesus on the cross as recorded in Luke’s gospel, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’” (Luke 23:46) It’s in this final statement that we find the ground of true contentment – now and forever.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. Read Galatians 6:11-16 and Luke 23:44-46.
2. Read Luther’s commentary on Galatians 2:20 in the section 2:15-21.
3. What do you make of Jesus’ address of God in verse 46? How often is God addressed as “Father” in the Old Testament?
4. How does “Father” differ from the One He addresses in His fourth word, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
5. What is the significance of Jesus committing His spirit into His Father’s hands?
6. What is the relevance of such a commitment for you as a Christian?
7. What else does Jesus say about His Father’s hands in the Gospel of John?
8. What does it mean to “commit” His spirit to His Father?
9. What significance is there for you in Jesus’ enduring judgment before His commitment?
10. What is the relevance of what’s referenced in Luke 23:45 preceding verse 46?
11. Why is Jesus’ seventh statement from the cross the absolute ground of a Christian’s contentment?
See you Sunday!