Merlin Howlett - Jesus' Seven Messages from the Cross

There are no people like God's people. There is no God like our God. I'd like to add one more thing. There are no children like the children of God's people. I am not sure the reason, maybe it is because of being a child. When I leave this convention, I will remember some of the children's testimonies better than some of yours. I don't know why but maybe they are brief and have one single point.


I want to tell you of two of those testimonies. One of them was in Malaya. The little boy was a slow learner. It came time for graduation and when he came home he had a little certificate in his hand and he was so happy. His mother was surprised and  wondered what it was about. "Did you come first?" He said "No, I am the only one who got this certificate and it was for the one who tried the hardest." When we leave this place, we don't have to be so talented, fortunately. We don't have to be so much better than others but when you come back here next year with the certificate that you were the one who tried the hardest, it would be a wonderful year for you. There was a little girl who had cancer and the doctor insisted that he tell her that she didn't have much time. When he told her, he said to her that if she had just one choice what would she choose? "Well," she said, "I just want to be like my master." Well, that wasn't what he expected at all and it made him speechless. The next thing he asked her was, "Let's say you had a second choice what would it be?" She said, "If I got my first choice, I would not  need a second choice." I understand that she was just 13 years old. I just felt unworthy to even be in fellowship with this kind of children. I just feel so glad for the young folks here. I am glad for the old folks, too. Some of you professed before I even knew there was anything like this in the world.

 

Today I want to speak to you about something that has meant so much to me and I'm afraid that it won't have the same meaning to you. I hope it doesn't all go flat and you would leave with a very disappointed feeling. It is the only thing I could settle on. All of you realize that for some of us who have been in conventions since last May that we don't get to break bread on our visit home. I asked Harry how often he has had that privilege and he said, "Twice since the first of May." That is why it's so special. We don't get to break bread here at convention. It can get so familiar that it loses its’ meaning unless we are really careful with it. When I went out of the last meeting where I had it, I thought to myself after singing that Hymn, "Calvary," "What did you remember about Calvary?" Well, you know, I was embarrassed. I was glad no one else knew what I felt. I started looking back on other times we have broken bread. It would be a terrible thing if we broke bread without remembering Calvary. So I made a little study of it just for my own provision. I just wanted to find out if there was something specific that I could remember every time I break bread that would help it to have real meaning for me each time. Since that time I have called it, "The forgotten message of Calvary." Maybe you will understand what I mean as I go along.

 

We are often reminded of the terrible suffering of Jesus, the anguish of Calvary and the wonderful sacrifice, the love of His heart that enabled Him to do what He did and it was for our sakes. We are reminded some times of the cost. We are reminded less times of the appeal of Calvary. I hope it never loses its appeal, but it is not often that we hear about the message of Calvary. When I went over those seven things that Jesus said on the cross, I wonder if you could believe that it was something that was so important to God, and something that was so important to the salvation of mankind, anything that was so important to Jesus Himself! That He would just causally speak on Calvary something that was never intended to be remembered? Or even deeply thought about? The more I think about it and read about it, the more I appreciate the message that Jesus spoke. I am positive that if we want to find a message in that little ceremony of partaking of the Emblems, that it will be a little message for us. This could be more meaningful to us all. Perhaps not all the seven times He spoke every time, but perhaps some of the time. That would be a wonderful thing.


I am not worried about the sequence. I couldn't promise you the real sequence, but we do know that maybe the most important of all is that, when Jesus looked down on that mob at the foot of the cross, He looked up to His Father's face in Heaven and He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." You know, that wasn't just for those men, those soldiers who put Him on the cross, as it was for you and I. Jesus in that short sentence completely abolished forever any excuse that we might try to have, that our sins wouldn't be forgiven. He also abolished forever any alibis that we have that we couldn't forgive. Can you just imagine that if He could look up at His Father's face and ask forgiveness that He was never denied one thing from His Father? For those that had just a few minutes before had pounded those nails into His hands, and lifted the cross and the weight of His body was on there and the blood pouring out of those wounds and the anguish that He was  going through and that He could do that? Do you know something? Those men might have to answer for other sins when they stand before God someday, but they'll never have to answer for that sin of crucifying Christ. It was forgiven and forgotten forever. It helps us to understand that when the devil tries to put into you that your sins cannot be forgiven, it's too bad a sin, it is a repeated sin, you remind him of Calvary. If he tries to bother you about your past, you just remind him of his future. That is the best way. The devil would like to try to bring up our past and plague us with it. Try to make us doubt that God has been willing to forgive and forget our past when we make an honest effort to walk in this way, you just remind him of his future and we wouldn't want to be in his shoes for anything. We don't want to be with him, either.

 

Another thing in this particular statement that is very important to me - it is that Jesus could have whispered that prayer. He could in the quietness of His own heart have prayed to God that prayer, and it would have been just as effective for those who put Him on the cross, but there was another cross right near Him. He prayed out loud and that man hanging on that cross, that robber, heard that prayer and when he heard it, there was hope revived in his heart. I say revived because it is possible that he even had a hope at one time because he had some association with Jesus that we do not know about. He even reviled the other man on the left side of Jesus when he kind of reproached Him, "Don't you fear God? This man has done nothing amiss. We are getting what is coming to us but this man has never sinned." He knew something about Jesus before. Then he turned to Jesus and said, "Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom." Not a very big prayer. I'm sure that everyone has been brought to the place where we were ashamed to even beg for anything from God, especially when we had done something that we had already been forgiven of. We already made a promise that we would never do it again. Then we find ourselves doing it again and we come to God with it. What else can we do? I've just come to the place where all I could say was, "Help me, just help me." Maybe you have come to that, too?


Then Jesus turned and looked at that man and probably it was the second thing that Jesus said from the cross when He said to him, "You will be with Me in Paradise." Maybe it would help us to understand His love and compassion for a perishing world. In His anguish and suffering and His life flowing from His own body, He still had a heart for others. He reached out to that man in the last hours of His life and gave him hope for eternity. A wonderful confirmation of what Jesus had come for, accomplished and preached in the Gospel that He had brought to the world.


I am not sure, but it is possible that the next thing He said when looking down and seeing His own mother and three of the friends and one of the workers. There were five of them. He had the last message for His mother, "Behold your son," and then "Behold your mother." I find it very inspiring every time I remember this part of Calvary, every time we break bread together and to think of this wonderful Eternal family fellowship that we have been called into. There isn't any like it in all the world. There is no human relationship that can be compared with it. It doesn't matter how close we are in our human family. It is nothing like this Eternal fellowship that does not end at the grave. Jesus was just reminding His mother that even though He was dying, God would give her comfort, and give her sons and reminding John that instead of Him, he would have another mother among his hundreds other mothers.


Just lately, it has become more real to me. It is a wonderful thing. Until just last Friday, my mother was feeling quite well for her 93 years but her oldest son predeceased her. After that she went into a Home.  Really I should be home to look after my mother but I am 7,000 miles away in Korea trying to fill the place that God has called me to fill. You know why? There are some wonderful friends there in the city of Calgary and they count it a privilege of this life to do what they can for my mother. I have tried to thank them and there is no way. One of them said, "Don't even try to mention it. Your mother and I have become the best of friends and this is just a privilege." My mother is not very well this last week because of her age and her weakness but it might not be her last. She has fooled us before. But when it comes to the relationship between those two ladies, that is never going to end at death. Jesus was just confirming this wonderful family relationship, the Eternal family fellowship. We know from experience, without it being written, that Jesus' mother was very well looked after, after Jesus left. Another thing we notice from this incident, that mother saw her little boy on the cross. She wouldn't leave and her friends stood by her and couldn't do anything else for her. Three loyal faithful friends and one of the disciples. Another interesting thing to me and some of you mothers would understand it better than I do, you know, she never opened her mouth in protest.

 

If we go back a few years at the wedding when Jesus had to remind His mother that He was not just her little boy anymore. He told her to remember the relationship that was between them now. In our Korean Bible, it is even a little clearer that way. "What is the relationship between you and I?" He asked her. I wonder if you remember that Jesus' mother turned to those servants and said, "Whatsoever He says, do it." We don't have one single word that she said after that. I really believe at that point that she understood that the only hope of her salvation was in the sacrifice of Calvary and now you will remember that the messenger told her that a sword would pierce her heart, also. She did not understand what that meant when he told her that, but she was experiencing it when she stood there at the cross watching Him be crucified. I wonder if you agree with me that her silence that day spoke a louder message than anything that she could have said. She knew that little boy that had grown up, was not her Son. He was the Saviour. There was no hope of her salvation except He made that sacrifice. So she stood there and she never raised her voice in protest. What a wonderful message she shouted by her silence! I try to remember this as the example of submission to the will of God in the heart of Mary that day. This is the very thing, the sacrifice, that we can make and vow, when we take that bread and sip that cup. It is going to help us to drink more deeply into this fellowship as we go along. We then are going to understand it and be able to enjoy it and participate more deeply than we ever have before. There was no other way. It will help us to remember the message of Calvary when we break bread together.


The next thing He said as He looked down, and He looked at that mob, He must have wondered if there was just one who dared to give Him a cup of cold water. He said, "I thirst." I would not be afraid to say that in the heart of some of those people they felt smitten with their conscience. But there wasn't one of them, not even one, that would lift a cup of water to His parched lips, probably because of what others might think. Probably because of many other things that we know a little bit about in our experience. Just the reproach of being different. Have you ever stopped to think of what they missed when they missed that? As far as I know, there is one other place in the Bible where Jesus asked for a drink. In John 4, the woman at the well never did get around to giving Him a drink but she left her bucket at the well when she went to the village, and He could have drunk the bucket full. Do you understand the bucketful she got? When she was willing to accept what He told her and the story that unfolds as others were involved and He was invited to stay in the village and He left that little group of people so thankful and so overjoyed for the day that the Gospel came. Maybe this is one of the first little groups, the first little church that we read of in the New Testament. That little group of people rejoicing in their salvation because of a cup of cold water. Jesus had spoken two times in particular of the reward of a cup of cold water that will never loose its eternal reward. A cup of cold water costs so little, we can't hardly believe that it is worth anything, but it is worth a lot for God when it is given to the right person in the right spirit.

 

Let's go to Matthew 25 and look at the day of the Lord's coming when Jesus will appear. When all the nations are before Him and those on the left are like goats and those on the right are like sheep. It is speaking of the time when the Eternal destiny is decided and now remember what He told them, "Come ye blessed of My Father to inherit the Eternal Kingdom. The Kingdom that has been prepared for you before the world was ever made and, when I was thirsty, you gave Me a drink, when I was hungry, you gave Me something to eat. When I was sick or in prison, you came to visit Me." Can you understand that there and then their Eternal destiny was being decided? What was He talking about? He is talking about a cup of water! They are talking about a meal, some little incident of service, to whom? It was just to one of the least of the little ones, of My brethren. That is why God has Books in Heaven. I'm not sure how many He has but He has at least three. He has the Book of Life and the Book of Records. Everything that we have done in His name and for His sake will be there, not because God will forget but because He knows that we will forget. On the day the books are opened, right there it is. There is the day, there is the place, and there is the person. Can you understand what it is going to mean to hear, "Come ye blessed of My Father." To understand at that moment what we are included in this wonderful Eternal Kingdom. There is not one of us that is going to feel worthy but He will open those books and there it is; "you have given a cup of cold water to one of the least of My brethren." Every time I think or read this, it helps me to understand what is important to God. These are some of the things that are going to be talked about on that day. It is going to decide how much we are going to enjoy Eternity.


In Hebrews, it speaks about those that refused deliverance, do you remember why? That they might receive a better resurrection. It is going to be a wonderful thing that we feel just included and we understand that God, in His great mercy, has included even me. I am sure that we won't be able to do anything but weep and maybe  that is the time that God with His finger will wipe all tears from our eyes because it says, "We'll never weep again." Maybe there was not one that understood what they missed that day when they were not even willing to give Jesus a cup of cold water in response to that little, not so loud, cry. I don't know just how much strength He had left and it was getting on to the end and He just said, "I thirst."

 

I believe that the next thing He said was; "It is finished." He had done everything that He had gone out to do. He knew that He could not do any more. There was not one among that whole group that would even give Him a drink. There was nothing more He could do. There was nothing He would not have done. There is a real message in this for me and that is, this spirit of volunteering service. It forms such a very vital part of this fellowship. He did not need to do what He did. He did all the requirements for Salvation but He went even further. The night before He prayed that prayer, "I have finished all that Thou gavest me to do." There was nothing left unfinished. I believe it 100% that He had done all that God asked Him to do but He still had not gone to Calvary. That is why there was the struggle in Gethsemane. Can you understand this, Jesus knew how hard it would be for His Father to ask Him to go to Calvary and give His life, as He did, for your sake and mine? So Jesus knowing the heart of His Father, volunteered. He said, "I have finished what You gave Me to do." But now, He went out of that meeting into Gethsemane. Then He prayed three times before He felt He had complete control of His spirit and absolute willingness to go all the way. He prayed twice and He prayed the same prayer but He was not satisfied that He was ready to meet that mob that was coming to get Him, to arrest Him. God sent Him an angel to strengthen Him. Did you ever notice what happened after the Angel's visit? God did not remove the cup, He did not change the situation at all. This is good for us to remember when we pray. Then He went back and prayed the same prayer again. He prayed more earnestly. That is how the Angel will help you and help me when we don't feel that we have victory. The Angel will help us not to avoid the cup that God has prepared, but to pray more earnestly, then we can accept it in its entirety. Then Jesus arose from that and there was no more need for Him to pray for that any more. He walked out of that garden to meet that mob with boards and clubs and torches and Judas was leading them. I can hardly talk about this without crying. Then Judas stooped to betray his Master with a kiss. Jesus had already got complete victory. This helps us to understand what He meant on the cross when He said, "It is finished."


I am so glad that the story does not end there. That is where He breathed His last. I am so glad and so should you be glad, that the story does not end there. When the sun was darkened, there was no moon or stars. It was the blackest night the world has ever known. For three dreadful hours, Jesus had to taste the horror of a lost Eternity so He could be our perfect High Priest. So He would know how worthwhile His sacrifice was on Calvary. He experienced a separation from His father, from His favour and His love, from the Family, and the fellowship. He tasted that, so you and I would never have to taste it. I hope we remember that when we meet together. He could tolerate any kind of suffering, any kind of physical pain without crying out. It says that He was like a lamb that opened not His mouth. There was one thing He could not stand and that was to be separated from His Father. That should help us to understand the horror of going out into Eternity separated from the Father's love and presence.

 

There are two other things in the Bible that help me to understand the horror of a lost Eternity, and that is that verse in Peter where he speaks about 1,000 years being as one day and one day as 1,000 years. It's put that way for God's people because the very instant we see Jesus appearing in the clouds, every thousand years will seem like a day. We won't even be able to calculate time, in fact we won't even have time in hours and minutes, we don't know. But a day is as a thousand years for those who did not share in the resurrection. Every day is as a thousand years and so on, can you imagine? I think you have had experiences where time kind of crawled by a little slow. Did you ever have a day that seemed like a thousand years? We cannot even imagine it.


The regret and the remorse that they will live in. You know where Jesus said those on the left would be put. It was the lake that was prepared for the devil and his angels. It was never prepared for people but for those who had opportunity to give a cup of cold water to even one of the least of the little ones in His Kingdom. They did have a chance to give them something to eat and they refused. They did have a chance to visit them when they were sick, and they did not. That is the lake of regret. That is where every single day is going to go by as a thousand years and no way to change it. That helps me to understand the horror of a lost Eternity.


There is something else in Luke 16. You remember that it says, "There is a line that is drawn by rejecting the Lord." We find that God holds the line. The rich man when he died, that line was just there. One step of repentance would have put him on the other side but he never did it. I would not be afraid to say that maybe sometime he intended to, but he never got around to it. Then in Eternity, he found that the line had changed into a gulf that was fixed. He could see across it but there was no way to cross it. It was fixed by God and that for all Eternity. What do we see him doing? He never prayed to God. He dared to talk to Abraham and ask that Lazarus give him water. The very one that he passed by right there in his gate every day. How do we know? He saw him in that poor wretched condition and couldn't he have said, "Can't we do something for that poor fellow?" Even give him a cup of water but he gave him not one. Never. Now this is what Jesus was tasting so that you and I will never taste it, never need to feel excluded from God's Eternal family. Jesus couldn't stand it any longer and He cried out, "My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" It is just a confirmation that Jesus taught in preaching the Gospel, that there are only two possibilities. The bottom line is just the one or the other. If Jesus couldn't tolerate it, would anyone dare to choose it?


The story doesn't end there. The sun has come out again, things are as before but the price is paid. Then He said, "Into Thy hands, I commit My Spirit." I like that so much. I like to think of it every time I break bread. There is so much in the world today, even amongst God's people. We are wondering what happens to our spirit when we die. We don't have any idea what happens after death. Jesus committed His own Spirit into the loving Father's hands when He came to the end. He could commit His Spirit unto that same Father. We understand that, because Jesus did it so that we will be able to do the same. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to look forward to when the day comes, whether sooner or later for us, when we finish our days here, that we just commit the keeping of our spirits into His hands and say the same as our Saviour, "into Thy Hands, I commit my spirit."

 

It is wonderful comfort to me to remember that is what happened. It just brings us to the place of the first resurrection. So many people think the first resurrection is the end of the world. Maybe they're going to wish it was, I don't know, but it isn't. It is going to go on for a whole millennium after that. But for God's people, it is the beginning of Eternity. In Matthew 24, we read that Jesus is going to appear in the clouds, where those who have died in Christ are going to be sharing in this first resurrection. They are going to change and they are going to receive that new and glorious body like unto His resurrection body. Jesus is not coming to the earth but they will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Those who have lived in Christ up to that day - we have not faced that yet – but living and serving Christ, we won't taste death but will be changed. As soon as those are caught up, we'll be caught up and just that quick, we will be changed. Not a new spirit but a new body that is going to be able to cope with a new environment that we live in for all Eternity.

 

One of our friends got up to give his testimony one time and said, "If Heaven is going to be better than this, I don't think I am going to be able to cope." Sometimes, maybe you wonder. Well, we are not going to be asked to cope in this old human body. You just try to think of the day that is coming when Jesus appears in the clouds and just in that instant, we are to get a new glorious body like into His glorious body. From that very instant, when we shed that old body, we will never again be plagued with weakness and the limitations of our Human nature. We are going to be united with God in the Eternal family from that instant. It says, "To forever comfort each other with these words." From that very instant, we are going to be able to enjoy the Eternal blessings that God is waiting all this time to share with us. I think sometimes that He can hardly wait. I am really glad that He is still waiting when I see all of those out there in the world waiting for their day of visitation. Fields that are opening up to the Gospel and the Workers that are going into countries that have never been opened before and much closer to home, some of our family that has never made their peace with God. Because God is still waiting, there is still hope for them.


A question I have been asked again and again is, "Do you think we will know each other on the other side?" I can only tell you what we have in the Bible. At the time when Jesus took those three disciples up the mountain, they recognized Moses and Elias and they had never met them before. Now, if they could recognize them whom they had never met, don't you think you will recognize your own? I am sure we will. When the rich man died and looked across and saw Lazarus, he knew him. He saw Abraham whom he never met in his lifetime and knew him. Of course, we will know. I wonder if God will help us to understand, that this message from Calvary is more than just some causal thing in Jesus' weakness and in this pain that He uttered those sentences, two of them in a loud voice. It is just a marvel to me that He was able to speak at all for us to have Salvation, but more than that, it helps us to understand the only alternative that can be considered. I hope we have a "stretchy" enough heart that God can fill our hearts so full of hope as we leave here, that it will keep us until the next year when we come back again. One thing that thrills me most is that you appreciate that little Sunday morning meeting and the ones you meet with there. That fellowship that is so sweet and is so wholesome, that has kept you.

 

In our conversations, I have found that there are a lot of God's people who are under the impression from some of the verses in the Bible that Jesus could appear right today or tomorrow. That is not quite true. If you read Matthew 24, you will find there two verses where Jesus said, "This is not the end, this is the beginning." After He talks of wars and rumours of wars and famines. This is the beginning of sorrows. He spoke about a tribulation period and He spoke about that tribulation period's end, but probably not before He appears. He spoke then about the time when the moon will disappear and when the sun will be darkened and when the powers of Heaven will be shaken, when the stars will start falling to the earth. Now look for the Son of Man appearing in the clouds. So you understand that God has planned an expected end, not an unexpected end. This is what He has said, that He would give them peace and not war, so that you might have an expected end. Before Jesus appears in the clouds, every person living in the world is going to know that the coming is imminent and that the day is here. I don't know how God is going to do it but nothing is impossible with God. The man who pierced the side of Jesus when He was hanging on the cross is going to see Him appear before him. Those that refused to give Him water are going to see Him appear and we are the only people in the world who will be looking forward and awaiting that day.


Another question is, "How will I know when I am ready?" A very faithful couple got news that the husband would only have three months to live. The doctor told him to just go home and get ready. He told the doctor that he had looked after that 42 years ago, "I am not getting ready, I am ready. I am looking forward to the day that I can meet my God and be with Him forever." Afterward when he and his wife were driving home, they wondered if they were so ready. "Well, I have done everything I know to get ready but let's try to make a list of things we can do now to get ready because if we're not ready we want to be ready." They went for two hours in the car and tried to think of something they were not doing or something they were doing that they should not do and they could not think of a thing. Not one thing. Is there something you should do right now? Well, do it right now. And if there's something that you should not be doing, then quit doing it right now. The age we live in is so suitable to serve God, so j


**This testimony is incomplete