I wrote yesterday about the priceless value of God’s gift of our redemption in Jesus Christ. There is another aspect that is important. We see a gift as valuable depending upon the depth of our need for that gift. It is nice to find a $5 bill laying on the sidewalk, but we would have continued on doing what we were doing without it. To a man in the desert dying of thirst a bottle of water is of utmost value. Understanding the gift of our salvation in Jesus Christ only has a true depth of value when we realize how lost and separated we are from our Holy God because of our sin.(Romans 3:23) We are worse off than the man dying of thirst in the desert. The problem for modern society is that we really don’t think we are that bad. We love the phrase “well, nobody’s perfect”. Very true, but God is. How can we imperfect people come to a perfect and holy God? “Oh”, but we say, “God is love and doesn’t reject anyone”. But that really is not what the Scripture says. “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.”(Hebrews 12:14) And holiness is not something we can achieve by our good works. It can only be given to us as a free and unearned gift through the sacrifice of Christ. In our own nature we are truly dying of thirst in the desert. When we realize this the living water of life in Christ is of supreme value. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8) In that truth we truly bow in worship and thanksgiving.
We are currently studying the Gospel of Mark in our Adult Bible Class. One of parts of Jesus nature that St. Mark shows, perhaps more than the other Gospels, is His human nature. Jesus got frustrated with the slowness of His disciples to understand His teachings. He got angry at the Jewish leaders for their hardness of heart. Jesus was fully human, both true man and true God. He was not God who just looked like a man, not really feeling pain, heartache,and suffering. He experience all that it means to be human, “yet without sin”.(Hebrews 4:15) He was the perfect human being. Because He was perfect He, alone, would be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.(John 1:29) Jesus is the fulfillment, and perfect completion, of all the Old Testament images of the unblemished lamb sacrificed in atonement for sins. The man, Jesus, went to the cross in our place, bearing our sins, and giving us His perfect righteousness in exchange.
As we continue through this Holy Week we can ask what it is all about? A short answer is very simple. It is about sin. This is a word we don’t like and has all but been erased from society’s vocabulary. We have succeeded in bringing God down to earth as a gray haired loving grandfather who accepts all his children. But that is not the God of Scripture, nor the God who presents Himself to us in this Holy Week as a Saviour. Scripture tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory”.(Romans 3:23) We are separated from the absolutely holy perfection of our God, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Our sins make us worthy of death and eternal separation of our Holy God. Yet because of His love, God choose to take the punishment we deserve into His own being. Jesus, God in human flesh, took our sins into himself, making atonement for all mankind. This week is about an act of God’s love greater than anything we can imagine.
The esteem and honor given to a cure is directly related to the seriousness of the disease. If a scientist were to find a cure for hangnails, so that no one would ever get another hangnail, that would be a rather ho-hum event. If someone where to find a complete cure for all cancer, he would be lauded world wide and given the Nobel prize. The problem with the acceptance of Jesus is that too many don’t see the seriousness of the disease of sin. All people are infected with the disease of sin. We are corrupt to the core and separated from God. The only remedy is the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The Apostle John wrote, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.” (I J.2:2) For those who see the seriousness of sin in their own life, Jesus is everything, and we worship Him for the wonder of His grace that has cleansed us and made us righteous in the sight of our God.
Coming down from the Mount of Olives Jesus had approached the city to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The people wanted a change. They had been under the thumb of Rome for many years. They knew the Scriptures where God had promised a descendant of David to sit on Israel’s throne forever. This Miracle Worker must be the one. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Their acclaim was right, but the end that they sought would not bring them what they truly needed. Only Jesus understood the path He was on. The throne that He must occupy was on a hill called The Skull. His only acclaim the taunts and curses of those looking at His bloodied body. His only scepter a reed that would bring a taste of sour wine to His dying lips. Within days of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem this true King would be dead. But this King knew something that all the others did not. It was only by His atoning death that a change could be wrought in their inner being, and only that change could give them the life they truly sought.
When one thinks about the execution of Jesus, the question arises about who was responsible for His killing? Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? Was it all of our own sins? The answer is – none of these! The one responsible for the death of Jesus was God the Father, Himself. Certainly, all of our sins are the reason He had to die, but that atoning sacrifice was part of God’s plan before time began. It was first announced in the Garden that an offspring of the woman would come to crush the head of the Serpent. His death was foretold in prophecies in numerous places in the Old Testament. Jesus knew that His earthly destiny was the cross. God loves mankind – each and every one of us – so much, and has such a wonderful, eternal plan for us. He determined a way to complete that plan in spite of our rebellion. Not by ignoring it, or pretending it is not so bad, but by offering up the sacrifice of His only begotten Son in our place. God, Himself, took in His own being, the punishment we justly deserve. It was God, the Father, who killed Jesus, His only Son, making atonement for all sins. And He did it for you.
I have several old tape recorded sermons, and I even have an old real to real tape recorder to play them on. One of those messages is a 60 year old sermon by The Rev. Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He is speaking about the sins we all commit that nailed Christ to the cross. Mel Gibson made the film, The Passion of the Christ, with the same message. We can read hundred and fifty year old sermons by Charles Spurgeon and other pastors from the past with the same message. Or for that matter, the sermons of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the book of Acts 2000 years ago. The message hasn’t changed, and it will never change. Sin is real. It is rebellion from the absolute standards of Almighty God. Sin separates people from God, and requires the punishment of death. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. But God loves us so much that He was willing to take the punishment for our sin into His own body. The nails in Jesus’ hands and feet were meant for our own hands and feet. He willingly received the blows for us. Our punishment has been removed. Jesus has given us His righteousness as we stand before Almighty God. We have forgiveness and life the moment we turn to the cross. The message will never change. Hallelujah!
The debate has gone on for centuries about who is responsible for killing Jesus. Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? Was it all of our own sins? The answer is – none of the above! The one responsible for the death of Jesus was Almighty God, Himself. Certainly, all of our sins are the reason He had to die, but the atoning sacrifice of Christ was part of God’s plan before time began. It was first announced in the Garden that an offspring of the woman would come to crush the head of the Serpent. God loves mankind – each and every one of us – so much, and has a wonderful, eternal plan for us, that He determined a way to complete that plan in spite of our rebellion. Not by ignoring it, or pretending it is not so bad, but by offering up the sacrifice of His only begotten Son in our place. God, Himself, took in His own being, the punishment that we justly deserve. It was God, the Father, who killed Jesus And He did it for you.
My remark yesterday about America not being a Christian nation meets opposition from some people. We are a nation of many Christians, but we must be clear about what a Christian is. The word is thrown around too easily, and is claimed by many people who seek to live a moral, upstanding life. Seventy plus percent of people in the U.S. take the title Christian for themselves. But a Christian is one who believes in the divinity of Jesus, that He is God incarnate come among us, and further, that His death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is these two beliefs that set Christianity apart from all other world faiths. Christians seek to be moral people, but there are many moral non-Christians. The divinity of Jesus, and the atoning sacrifice, are central to our faith. It is important that our nation was founded by God honoring men, but they are not the source our salvation. That is found only in Jesus Christ.