The Mind of Christ
(Exhortation - July 1999)

The apostle Paul exhorts us: "Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus..." and in another place says, "we have the mind of Christ" (Phil. 2:5; I Cor. 2:16 RSV, as all quotes).

Do we really think like the Master? The letter to the Hebrews helps us understand the mind of Christ when we are urged to "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Heb. 12:3). And Jesus himself told the Pharisees, "I always do what is pleasing to him [his Father]" (John 8:29). God’s will and purpose so dominated Jesus’ thinking that it ruled every aspect of his life.

The zenith of this mind-set resulted in his intense prayer, "Father, if thou art willing remove this cup from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). All the costs had been carefully, prayerfully weighed. There was no turning from the task ahead. As Christ rose from prayer in Gethsemane, we follow him, contemplating his mind and drawing exhortation for ourselves.

During the six trials
Jesus was arrested and taken from the garden like a criminal to face six improper trials. The first three were Jewish -- before Annas, (John 18:13), Caiaphas, (Matt. 26:57, John 18:24) and then before the whole council (Mark 15:1). These were followed by three Roman trials -- before Pilate (Luke 23:1), Herod (Luke 23:7), and Pilate again (Luke 23:13).

Pilate knew that it was "out of envy that they had delivered him up" (Matt. 27:18). He found "in him no crime deserving death" (Luke 23:22), yet he commanded Jesus to be "scourged" (Mark 15:15) with the flesh-ripping Roman lash. Pilate’s soldiers made sport of him when "they struck his head with a reed and spat upon him and they knelt down in homage to him" (Mark 15:19). They clothed him in a purple robe, and forced a crown of thorns on him. In mock salute the soldiers proclaimed, "Hail, King of the Jews" (Mark 15:18).

Isaiah tells us he was "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (53:7). At Golgotha, rough dirty spikes were driven through his hands and feet into the stake. With Jesus firmly attached, the stake was then dropped into a hole. His disciples all forsook him and fled. The people at the foot of the cross mocked him, saying, "He saved others, he cannot save himself. He is the King of the Jews: let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him. ‘He trusts in God; let him deliver him now,’ if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’" (Matt. 27:41-43).

What was going through Jesus’ mind? Was he angry? Did he seek vengeance? Did he want God to deal with these ungrateful hypocrites now with 12 legions of angels? Jesus knew his present predicament was unjust, that he was regarded as a throw-away, "to die for the people" (John 11:50). But he also knew he was the sinless savior sacrificing himself obediently because "God so loved the world" (John 3:16). So he humbled himself to the will of his Father:

"I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting...I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near" (Isa. 50:6-7).

He did not seek his own vengeance but endured hostility against himself. The time of judgment would come, but not then, so he submitted to unjust torment for the sake of others.

Words on the cross
Further revealing of the mind of Christ are his seven words spoken while on the cross.

The first 3 sayings
Turn to Luke 23:34 for the first utterance, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is clear from the context that he is praying for the soldiers who had brutally beaten and mocked him, howbeit in ignorance. Is asking the Father to forgive those who have ignorantly wronged us something our minds are capable of doing at any time, let alone under rejection, stress and pain? Peter declares that Jesus "did not revile in return: when he suffered, he did not threaten; but trusted to him who judges justly" (I Pet. 2:23). Would Peter be able to say that about us?

Saying number two is recorded in Luke 23:39-43. Notice that the one criminal apparently knew "this man" for he told the other criminal that Jesus "has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:41). His request indicates he believed Jesus would come out of the grave and at some point return alive with "kingly power" even though he was about to die. He hoped (prayed) that Jesus would "remember" him. Jesus’ response offers hope of life in paradise to all repentant individuals. It is never too late to affirm your conviction about the Master’s gracious offer of mercy. The man died and was buried with Jesus. He will live with him also. Do we offer the hope of life to dying individuals?

Number three, the last saying spoken to individuals, is found in John 19:25-27. I find this a particularly moving scene. Verses 26 and 27 contain the bequeathal of Jesus’ most precious earthly responsibility. "Woman, behold your son. Behold, your mother!" Our mothers have spent many hours nurturing us. She who "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19) was the major human nurturer in his life. His imminent death precluded his continued responsibility for his mother’s welfare. John assumed the trust "from that hour." Will we at the point of death have this kind of mind -- to think of the welfare of others?

I find it particularly heart-searching that even while suffering indignity and great pain, he had compassion for the ignorant, offering hope to those near death and expressing love for the "helpless" (Rom. 5:6).

The next three sayings
The next three were uttered during the three hours of darkness. I believe Jesus recited Psalm 22 in its entirety. The target audience was and is those who are in darkness. His appeal was to look at what God had written and see what we are in the process of doing.

The fourth saying is found in Matthew 27:46. In a loud voice he said, "Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?" which translated means "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He quoted verse one of Psalm 22. Did his Father forsake him? The answer is both yes and no. "Yes," because only the sinless lamb of God could alone do what was necessary; die for the sins of the world. "No," because God reacted when Jesus’ cry "reached his ears." Read carefully the description of how God "was angry" in Psalm 18:4-15. God was watching his son’s distress and the nation’s brutal and callous rejection of His loving appeal through Jesus for them to, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4: 17). Jesus was very much aware that he had twelve legions of angels at his beckoning. But Jesus was "caught" (forsaken) for his benefit and the benefit of all faithful believers.

John 19:28 reveals another saying quoted from Psalm 22, this time from verse 15: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd , and my tongue cleaves to my jaws" which John indicates is equivalent to "I thirst." The watchers responded by supplying vinegar to quench the dryness Jesus felt. But there is another level of thought possible. Jesus earlier said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). He was also thirsty for his righteousness to be completed and for righteousness to be made available to his brethren, those for whom he was about to die. His obedience, even to death on the cross, was the climax of the righteousness by which we are saved.

The last verse of Psalm 22, which says "he has wrought it," is interpreted for us in John 19:30 as, "It is finished." In this sixth saying Jesus declares the work God gave him had been accomplished. He had "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). He told his disciples to, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Hebrews 2:14 says, "That through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil." Victory was his!

The seventh saying
The final recorded communication, different in that it was spoken to his Father, is found in Luke 23:46. In it Jesus presents us with the ultimate act of trust. His words "Father, into thy hand I commit my spirit" shows his dependence upon his faithful God. They also show he had no fear while facing death but with absolute confidence trusted Him who judges justly. He had "power to lay down his life and power to take it again" (John 10:18). The grave could not hold our selfless, sinless, sacrificing Savior. Will we develop that kind of mind so that when death approaches we, too, can gladly leave it all behind and trust him who judges justly?

Do we think like Christ?
What should our reaction be to the mind of Christ as it is revealed in the scripture? His attitude of mind was to pray for the ignorant, offer hope to the dying, care for the helpless, recite scripture in an open rebuke and appeal to those listening and watching in darkness. As his life ebbed away in agony, our Lord manifested the highest form of trust and faith.

Do we have the mind of Christ "among ourselves"? "Do I have the mind of Christ?" Shall we be with him in that day to share paradise eternally? We make the answer now by developing the mind of Christ.

Norm Luff

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