A couple weeks ago, our Life Group leader asked us the question, “What does the Cross mean to you?” The answer immediately came into my mind, but I just didn’t feel like I could verbalize it at that moment in time without bawling my eyes out. So, instead, I listened to other people’s answers and marveled over how the cross is so very personal to each individual that Jesus gave His life for. I was able to say a few remarks later in class and then had a conversation with my husband on the way home that sort of brought it all together for me.
When the question, “What does the Cross mean to you,” comes up around me, my mind flashes back to October of 2003. I was on the tenth floor of St.Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina overlooking the most beautiful view of the mountainous city. We were in the family waiting room taking a breather from the agony of watching my Daddy being eaten alive by cancer. His nurse came in to check on us and also to have a chat with us. What she said absolutely took the breath out of us. She said to my mom, “Mam, I just want you to know that what your husband is going through right now is very much what Jesus went through on the Cross. He is being asphyxiated and suffocating to death.”
By this point, the cancer had metastasized in his entire body, including his lungs, which were full of fluid. Pretty much daily, he had to have a hole drilled in his back and a tube hooked up to it in order to drain the fluid out so that he could have any chance of breathing. But, it was to no avail. It just kept filling back up. The sound of him gasping for air made us gasp for air as well so as not to just burst into tears in front of him.
She was so right. I knew it. My Daddy had preached on this very subject more times than I could remember. Now he was experiencing suffocation like Jesus did. When they hung Jesus on the Cross after already being beaten, they placed the nails in his hands and feet, and he had to push himself up to gasp for air because the position of his body messed with his lung capacity so much that there was no other way to catch a breath.
I often thought to myself throughout the six month and two day battle my Daddy fought with cancer of what a vivid picture of sin it was. His battle was an indirect result of sin because after the fall of man disease entered the world, while others around us were experiencing direct results of sin because of wrong choices they had made. Daddy was dying one of the most wretched deaths you could ever imagine because sin had entered the world way back in the Garden of Eden. From the day he was diagnosed, he said, “Why NOT me?” I can’t say the same for myself. I asked God why a few times. He was one of the most righteous men I knew and so many other people who were living like the Devil were just as healthy as could be.
I’ll never know the complete reason on this side of Heaven why He chose him. But, God’s shown me many reasons why he saw fit to trust my Daddy to die that way. Maybe some day I can share some of the amazing God stories of people that He has connected us with to encourage and be encouraged that have shared similar struggles. But today, I’ll just share why He showed me more about the cross through the death of my Daddy than He has in any other vehicle.
Jesus took on the “cancer” of the world that SHOULD have suffocated US after it had ravaged our lives when He died on the cross for our sins. Not only did the metastasized mess that we all made overwhelm his perfect being, it literally took the very breath out of His body and forced Him into death. We deserved to experience that and stay there…dead…dead in our trespasses and sins. He did it for us, though. But that wasn’t all.
Throughout Daddy’s last days, he kept on saying, “Enough’s enough. Enough is enough.” Additionally, he had an unquenchable thirst between Gatorade, Cranberry Juice, and Milk. On November 7, 2003…God said it was, indeed, enough to this despicable disease.
I kept thinking about those words he said countless times and then I realized why they sounded so familiar. After having His last drink on earth- that of wine vinegar-Jesus had said the same words in a different language, “ It.Is.Finished.” (John 19:30).
It was finished. It? Yes, it. He had the “cancer” of the world transfused into His body so that we could have the definition of health running through our veins. It was dead now. Finished. Enough was enough.
Just a fraction of a hair before he took his last ride to the hospital, Daddy preached His last sermon from his church office. We’ve got the video to prove he was a bag of bones himself. Through breathless whispers in the Swannanoa Valley, He preached the most powerful sermon of His life on Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.
Listen to the Word of God for a moment, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:1-7)
So, Ezekiel did what the Lord had commanded him to do, but at first there was no breath in them. So, do you know what the Lord told him to do? Prophesy to the breath and say, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (v.9). So he did. Just wait. Are you ready?!
This was what the Lord said back to him, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.” (11-14).
Do you see how this relates?! Those d-e-a-d bones of ours that were CUT OFF because of the valley they were in…the valley of the shadow of death you know… were made ALIVE! Why? Why? Why?! Because the Spirit of the Lord breathed on them. That’s why. So when Jesus said it was finished on the Cross… IT WAS. Those old dead bones that we were would be buried. Oh, but then they’d be brought back up from the grave back to the Kingdom of God. Why? Was it just so we could escape what we deserved from the “cancer” of this world? No. It was so that we would know that HE IS THE LORD from His very own Spirit…the one that He had given up along with His last breath and that our life would be His own.
You know what Daddy’s closing words were in his last sermon? “Breathe on me, breath of God.” Those old cancer ridden bones of His will rise from the grave some day when Jesus comes back. But those old sin bones of his… they’re gone… and He’s feeling the wind of the breath of God right now. That’s going to happen for me too some day and for you too, if you’ve asked Him to breathe new Life into you.
The breath of God respired into a bag of bones where enough is enough…
that’s what the Cross means to me.