Resurrection Sunday 2011
Why The Cross?
Why the Cross? That’s a question often asked by believer, unbeliever, or those not sure. When Mel Gibson filmed “the Passion of the Christ”, I heard him speak at a Pastors’ gathering. In his stunted theology, he made a statement that sounded good but didn’t bear the weight of a fuller examination and understanding of the truth. Mel said “Shedding of blood is required to pay for our sins, and Jesus in his perfection could have just pricked his finger and shed his blood … but instead he went through the horrific scourging and then death on the cross as an example of faith and to show just how much he loved us.”
Well Jesus certainly showed us the depths of his love. But the cross was more than an unfortunate turn of events. It was more than the death of a tragic martyr or even a beautiful extravagant show of faith and love.
The Cross was necessary in order to make us right with a Holy God
So, Why the cross? A few reasons I want us to see today
1. Because God is Just
God’s Character has many facets and one of those is that God is love. Many want to focus on his love alone and ignore the rest of his nature. God is, without a doubt, a God of Love, but God is also JUST.
From Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve first sinned, the judgment was death. God had told them that if they disobeyed him in one area, eating of the tree of Knowledge of God and Evil, that they would surely die. They chose disobedience and therefore death was the sentence.
Romans 6:23 tells us “the wages of sin is death”
Romans 5:15 says “many died by the trespass of one man”
Romans 5:17 says “By the trespass of one man, death reigned.”
Because God is Just and God is Holy …
A. Sin Separates Us From God
From the beginning God required death as the payment for sin. God provided the 1st sacrifice for Adam and Eve in their sin.
The Old Testament sacrifices were carried out over and over to provide for sin. But those sacrifices were temporary and had to be done over and over.
- Our sin and God’s justice made us enemies to God’s Holiness because that is also part of his nature.
Romans 5:10 says we are God’s Enemies because of our sin
Not only is physical death the sentence, but eternal punishment and separation follow
Genesis 3:10 –teaches us we were cursed because of our sin and cursed because we couldn’t keep the laws God had given.
And so because God is Just our separation will result in eternal separation in a place called hell … and be certain
B. Hell is a Real Place
- The cross itself demands that Hell must be real.
If hell is not real and there is no consequence for our sin, it was ridiculously cruel for God to allow or demand the death of Christ on the Cross.
Jesus taught that we should be aware and fear the one would can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)
Jesus said that just like “weeds are pulled and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age” (Matthew 13:40)
Jesus said that those who are not his will hear him say “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)
Our sinful nature has consequences. Yet, we are being told by many liberal preachers and unbelievers alike that Hell isn’t a pleasing theology. Well of course it isn’t pleasant. Not all truth is pleasant. They say it is a turn off. They say a loving God wouldn’t do that. People, God doesn’t do it, Hell was prepared for Satan and his angels but all who choose to side with them and reject his loving offer of sacrificial forgiveness will share it with them.
- I don’t enjoy the message of hell any more than a Doctor enjoys telling a patient that they have cancer.
But if a Doctor likes saying “but there is a cure”, well all the more, I LOVE saying “There is a Cross”, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flow, lose all their guilty stain.”
So because God is Just and we are unable to satisfy his justice with perfection or with payment for our sin … then
C. The Death of Christ was the Only Acceptable Substitute
Jesus couldn’t just prick his finger and satisfy our debt with God.
- Blood wasn’t our debt alone, it was DEATH.
Since death was our sentence, then one must become like us, life a life of perfection that he might take our place.
You and I can die for our own sin but we can’t reconcile ourselves to God. Our death would just mean we continue separated from God
1 John 2:2 “He is the Propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (ESV)
1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (ESV)
1 Timothy 2:5 “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Lisa and I were at a baseball game some years ago, a friend of mine was playing for the Texas Rangers against the Kansas City Royals. We were on the OUTSIDE and he asked everyone to move aside, he told the guard to open the gate and he let us in. We got in, not based on us but based on who HE WAS.
That’s what Jesus does for us
Ephesians 2:13-14 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,”
1 Peter 3:18 “…Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. he was put to death in the body but made alive by The Spirit”
And Galatians 3:13 quotes from Deut. 21:23 in saying “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”
Because we were under the curse of our sin, Jesus Christ became a curse for us.
That is why the cross.
Why the Cross?
2. Because God Wants to Be Gracious
God is compassionate, slow to anger, gracious and abounding in Love and faithfulness, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin, but he also doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished. That is what he told Moses in Exodus 34:6-7.
- He is Just, but he WANTS to be Gracious.
So, his justice must be satisfied, our guilt must be dealt with … So Christ went to the Cross
Hebrews 2:9-11; 14-15; 17- "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. ... 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. ... 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Romans 3:21-25 - "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—"
2 Corinthians 5:15; 21 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- “That we might become …”
God Wants to be gracious … that is why the Cross
Why the Cross?
3. Because God Wanted Us to Know
If Jesus had been quietly killed in some backroom or private religious ceremony, who would have known and believed the depth of God’s love for us and forgiveness available?
But my bible says “God SO LOVED the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
And it says “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
So Jesus came and Matthew 20:28 says that Jesus came to “give his life a ransom for many”
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were afflicted by a plague of serpents because of their sin. Moses lift up a pole in the middle of the people with a bronze serpent on it. According to God’s command, all those who looked, in faith, to the object of their sin, were healed.
So Jesus said in John 3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”
He became like us so we would know that we could have eternal life
In John 12:32 Jesus said “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”
- The Cross was God’s display of how much he loves us and how much he hates sin.
I was reading St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a Bishop from the 4th Century. He said that since Satan was the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” then Jesus had to be raised up in the air to clear the air and make way for us to come to God
The Cross let the Whole World Know for All time … That we are Sinners, God is Just, but there is a Solution in our Savior
The cross of Christ is the most significant single event in History. No other death has affected us by touching our hearts or effected us with the change in nature and destiny of everyone who comes to the Cross in faith.
Pick any death of any person in history, whether natural, martyred, tragic, or celebrated, none match that of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
That’s why the cross
Finally, Why the Cross?
4. Because Heaven is Real and God Wants to Offer it to Us
Because of the cross, the world knows that God is serious about sin, but we also know that he wants to offer us the grace gift of an eternal relationship in his Perfect Presence.
The cross of Christ was not the end. It was the end of providing for us but the beginning of promise.
Jesus died but Jesus is Alive and we are taught that His Resurrection was the start of something.
Jesus is called the First fruit. That is to say that
- He is the beginning of something.
There are many records in scripture of people who died and were brought back to life. But they all died again. Jesus was resurrected. That is, he came back in a body that would never die.
And according to 1 Corinthians 15:20 Jesus is the First Fruit that means that WE when we receive him, because of the cross, will be resurrected in a body like his body.
We can live WITH him not just for a day but for eternity …
Yes, we have noted that Hell is a real consequence for those who refused God. And Hell is eternal, Jesus taught that. Hell is not just a place where we get another chance to straighten out.
There is an interesting story in Luke 16 of a Rich Man and a Beggar who both die. The beggar belongs to God and goes to Paradise. The Rich man was a prideful sinful man and he went to Hell. The beggar is seen with Abraham and the Rich Man calls out in his torment for relief. Abraham in Luke 16:26 Abraham tells him, “between us and you a great chasm is fixed so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
- Upon death, our fate is FIXED …
there is no getting across. If there was another chance, Abraham would have called him to repentance, he would have witnessed to the opportunity but there was none.
But though Hell is real, and we deserve it …
At the Cross Jesus said"It is Finished” that is what he said as he died.
“It is Finished”
God’s Justice is Satisfied”
“It is Finished”
“Your Debt is Paid”
It is Finished”
“The Way of Grace is Provided”
“It is Finished”
“Death is Defeated”
“It is Finished”
The World is Put on Notice
Jesus said in John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”
- The first step to preparing for us to be with him was providing the way
In John 14:5 Thomas said “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?”
And Jesus said “I AM THE WAY” … (John 14:16)
I can stand before you today and say
“I may be in a white suit but I am the blackest of sinners. I may have a purple shirt and tie, colors of royalty, but I am the least pauper with not a mite to offer God for my debt of sin.”
I have nothing today to about which to boast. But I can say with Paul in Galatians 6:14 that there is nothing to “boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
David prayed “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)
In his cross, my sin has been washed whiter than snow
I in myself, my righteousness is just filthy rags … (Isaiah 64:6)
But In the cross I have been elevated from poor beggar of mercy to a Prince of Grace, the Child of the King.
In Christ we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praices of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
Oh I need to close, but I read about an extremely poor sculptor in the region of Flanders in Western Europe. He lived and worked in terrible conditions and often went without food and worked in a cold damp studio. On one terribly cold night, he had just finished his greatest work, a beautiful sculpture. But it was so cold, and so damp, he was afraid that his clay would freeze, crack, and be destroyed before the night was over. His work was so important, so special, so precious to him. So, he took off his warm coat and wrapped it around his masterpiece.
That night, the sculptor died from exposure but his masterpiece lived. In sacrifice he saved his greatest work.
Friends it is hard to wrap our mind around, the how, the why, and to a great extent the what of his sacrifice.
But at the Cross Jesus Christ took off his coat and offered to wrap it around me that I wouldn’t be destroyed.
Through the cross of Christ, I gain life
Through the resurrection I know that though I die, yet I will live!
“What wondrous love is this, Oh my soul, oh my soul,
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul
What wondrous love is that, that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul”
(From an American Folk Hymn - Author Unknown)