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In the Father’s Hands

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Posted by Emma Scrivener, 9 Apr 2020

Our Lent series, The Blessed Life, concludes with Jesus's final words spoken on the cross.

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. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Starter Question
Jews demand signs and Greek look for wisdom, but what does your society or subculture look for?

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46

When you think of God, what do you picture?

We all want beauty; something so bright we fall to our knees before it.  Something bigger than us; the kind that makes us shield our eyes but look and look and look again. We never grow out of this yearning; but it takes different forms. The newborn reaches for her mother’s earring. The toddler is transfixed by Christmas lights. Teens scroll furiously through pages of Insta-perfection.

The Bible says we’re made to worship and it’s beauty that captures our hearts. But be careful what you gaze upon: Those who worship idols become like them (Psalm 115:8). Worship strength and you’ll have no truck with weakness. Worship physical beauty and you’ll spend everything on your appearance. Worship relationships and you’ll be destroyed when others let you down.

The question is always ‘Who is God?’ And it’s a question you must answer whether you subscribe to ‘a religious outlook’ or not. But how should we answer? The Bible gives a surprising route to knowing God: the cross!

Knowing God at the cross
We naturally look for power and wisdom, and a particularly human kind of power and wisdom. But as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1, God reveals himself at the cross as a God who subverts all our expectations. We thought he’d press down on the world with strength, instead he shows up in solidarity with the downtrodden. We thought he’d raise himself up with wisdom, instead he is content to be considered a curse and a by-word.

Want to know God? Look to the cross — that is the Christian approach. And with today’s word from the cross we are led into the deepest truths about God. The heart of it all is Christ, the obedient Son, praying “Father.”

Here is Christ doing what sons are meant to do: he is reverently submitting. Having accomplished all that the Father has given him to do he is acknowledging that everything has come from on high and everything must be returned back. “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36).

This is the Son’s heartbeat. As he entered the world he said ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God’ (Hebrews 10:7). And he carried that attitude all the way to the cross. As he entrusted his life to the Father, so he entrusts his death. In this prayer we have a window onto God’s life. At the cross we see into the deepest realities of life: the Son entrusting his spirit to the Father. As Hebrews 9:14 describes it, ‘Christ… through the eternal Spirit, offered himself unblemished to God.’

So then, as Jesus prays ‘Father’, so we are invited in. In fact, the whole point of the cross is that we, through this sacrifice, may join Jesus in his relationship with the Father. Just as he prays ‘My Father’, now we pray ‘Our Father’, because we pray in his name.

Approaching God
How will I approach God? In my own name and according to my own obedience and worth? That is spiritual death. If I’m a legalist, I’ll imagine a God all about rules and I’ll live and die by my performance. If I’m insecure, I’ll imagine an arms-length God, always holding back and I’ll be desperate for approval. If I trust my feelings, I’ll imagine a God who might deliver on emotional fulfilment, but only if I can work up enough faith or feelings of my own.

The unconditional love of an earthly father gives us a wonderful start. But the unconditional love of a heavenly Abba changes everything. To a distant Power I might bow my head in fear. But the love of my Father makes me fall, rejoicing, to my knees.

Questions for Reflection
1. What false pictures of God are you most tempted towards?
2. What picture of God does the cross of Jesus reveal?
3. How does the unconditional love of our Abba change how we think and live day to day?

Prayer
Our God and heavenly Father,
whose Son, Jesus Christ, gave himself in love upon the cross:
fill us with his Spirit
that we too may know your fatherly goodness
and yield our own lives in joyful service to the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Emma Scrivener is the author of several books, including A New Name, and A New Day (IVP). She blogs about identity, faith, and mental health at emmascrivener.net.

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