Truly Saved (3): The Necessity of the Cross
Intro – A mother introduced her 5-year-old Alexis to a friend. The friend said, “Beautiful name. Why did you call her Alexis?” “Because if I hadn’t had her, I’d be driving one.” Everything worthwhile comes at a price, right? No free lunches. So, no surprise the thing most worth having in the whole world comes at the highest price of all – forgiveness from sin. To be truly saved involves an infinite cost to God the Father, to Jesus and to us. In Lu 9:18-27 Jesus hammers that point home to a group of disciples who just didn’t get it.
In v. 20 Peter makes the great confession that Jesus is the promised Messiah. That warms Jesus’ heart. But He knows their definition of Messiah is incredibly short-sighted. They expect political deliverance -- NOW! They got the deliverance part. But they were clueless about the cost. They are stunned when Jesus responds to Peter’s confession, “Right on Peter. That’s exactly who I am. But the next step is I’m going to Jerusalem to suffer and die.” Wow, the air went out of that balloon! But they must understand – before the crown comes the cross. He must suffer, be rejected, die and rise again.
II. What It Cost Jesus
A. Suffering – was necessary to prepare Jesus, as a man, to obey God’s ultimate will, the cross. Years of obedience prepared Him to pay the price of His Father’s rejection to pay the penalty for our sin.
V. 22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes.” Being rejected isn’t much fun, is it? Not for Jesus either, but He ran right into it. Mt 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things.” Jesus must go to Jerusalem, walking right into the arms of His bitterest enemies. He doesn’t hide or stall for time. He is not run down in some far-off hideout. He intentionally places Himself at the disposal of His worst enemies. He tells His disciples in Lu 13:33, “Nevertheless, I must (it is nec) go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Imagine Gnrl Eisenhower, having shown His superiority at the D-Day landing, suddenly instructing his driver to Berlin to capitulate to Hitler. Unthinkable. Yet – for our sake – Jesus is about to turn off His power, go to Jerusalem in complete humility and pay the price for our sin. Do you see, friends, salvation is costly.
So who are the elders, chief priest and scribes who will reject Him? Elders are national leaders who have reached the pinnacle of authority as judges – like our Supreme Court. The high priests were religious leaders. Scribes were ordained experts in OT Scriptures and rabbinic tradition. Together they formed the 71-member Sanhedrin – the ruling body of Israel. These should have been the first to recognize the Jesus’ legitimacy as Messiah. They knew the OT and should have welcomed Him with open arms. Instead, they are His most adamant opponents. They officially reject Him!
The word “reject” (ἀποδοκιμάζω) means “to discard after submitting to a test, to declare unworthy.” It was used of counterfeit coins. It is an official opinion of unworthiness based on examination. The most worthy man to ever walk the earth is about to be declared “unworthy” by the elite rulers. Human wisdom discarded perfection. The perpetrators of this outrage were Israel’s leaders. They discounted Jesus like a cheap counterfeit. Peter had just proclaimed Him Messiah. Jesus responded, “That’s right Peter. That’s me. But official rejection is just around the corner.” While some individuals accepted Him, the nation as a whole officially rejected their own Messiah.
Now, we gotta go deep. Jesus’ rejection shows salvation is always by grace alone – never merit. Israel began around 2,000 BC. God saw a world gone mad with evil. In Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, everywhere, He saw His previous revelation perverted in idolatrous systems that worshiped the creation rather than the Creator. So He chose a pagan Gentile named Abraham, moved him from Chaldea to Canaan, promised him land, descendants and blessing to all nations thru him. What did Abraham do to merit this favor? Nothing! This Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional. God promised to do all this regardless of the performance of Abe or descendants.
Fast forward 400 years. Abe’s descendants have been captive in Egypt and God uses Moses to deliver them. He gives Moses the Law -- the Mosaic Covenant. This shows the people how to live a life aligned with God. It promises blessing if they kept the commands and judgment if they do not. It includes a sacrificial system that provides forgiveness “on credit”, anticipating some undefined ultimate sacrifice. Now the promised Messiah, the perfect keeper of God’s Law and the ultimate sacrifice for sin – stands personally before the leaders of the nation. But rather than follow Him, they charge Him with blasphemy and kill Him. They declare Him worthless. In rejecting Him, they reject 2,000 years of preparation by God. The nation, by this official act, demonstrates that it is unworthy of salvation. It is no better than those pagan nations it was originally created to bless. It has committed spiritual suicide.
So, God is done with Israel, right? It’s all over for them as a nation, true? Not by a long shot. This is where we part company with our dear amillennial friends. God is not done with Israel. Why? One simple but profound reason. Because He made an unconditional promise to Abraham and He will not break it! He’s put Israel aside for a time. Jesus Himself predicted that she would be destroyed by the Romans as she was in 70 AD. 2,000 years of humiliation, dispersion and persecution followed. But God is not thru with Israel. Gal 3:17-18, “ This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” Israel failed the Mosaic Law. If salvation comes by law, Israel is dead. But the Mosaic Law never nullified the promise to Abraham. God keeps His promises.
Paul amplifies in Rom 9: 31) but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law (Israel failed under the Mosaic covenant). 32) Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” That perfectly describes Israel in Christ’s time – pursuing the law, but not as intended. Instead of seeing they could never keep it and must come by faith, they re-interpreted the Law in a way they thought they could keep. They became totally lost and devastated by legalism. In trying to be saved by keeping the law, they killed their only hope.
But God’s not done: Rom 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” 11:1, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means!” God is not done with Israel. 11:25-27, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26) And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27) “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Israel’s salvation is coming! Already they’ve been miraculously regathered. On May 16, 1948 Israel become a nation once again. The Jebusites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites – long gone! But Israel is alive and will one day be well. They are in the land and more is coming. Zech 12:10: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.” Israel’s 1st century rejection will be overturned by a generation that will turn to Christ en masse. Why? Because they deserve it? No – because God promised Abraham and His promises never fail.
Salvation is by grace from start to finish. No one comes to Christ on their own. The rejection of Christ demonstrates that given every human advantage mankind will still reject His Savior – unless there is divine intervention. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” According to Eph 1 we are chosen, predestined to adoption, redeemed, forgiven and sealed all according to His sovereign purpose. But God always puts man’s responsibility side-by-side with His sovereignty. He promises in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Have you believed in Him? You can pass from death to life this very day. That’s His promise to all who believe and His promises never fail. And those chosen by God are eternally secure. Jesus said in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Once chosen, Israel could never get out of God’s hand. God gave us the same promise – and His promises never fail.
Note closely, v. 22: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.” Jesus must be killed. Either we pay for our sin, or He does. That’s the message of the Bible from cover to cover. BUT most modern thought, even most churches, reject that view. Man hates the idea of penal substitution. So many insist that Jesus died for bad politics, for championing the cause of the disenfranchised. The political powers feared He would cause an insurrection and killed Him. But He gained a measure of victory by turning His death into a supreme example of loving our enemies. It was a tragic but useful end.
This view found expression in a Tribune faith column by a local pastor on July 10, 2010. He wrote, “Was Jesus’ death on the cross a divine necessity? . . . The Bible itself . . . is at best ambiguous when it comes to answering the question of the divine necessity of Jesus’ death. [Denying Jesus’ unambiguous statement!] An honest reading of the Bible can only lead us to the conclusion that the Bible is uncertain on the significance of Jesus’ death . . .” He concedes that some believe Jesus died for sinners, but he rejects that view out of hand because “it turns God into a child abuser, one who requires the death of his/her only son. . . . In a world infatuated with the idea of Empire, there can be little question as to why Jesus was tortured and crucified. He was killed by the state, because his way of life was hazardous to the continuation of the Empire.” This is a blasphemous lie! The Gospels show Jesus was killed for claiming to be God. Both Roman leaders involved, Herod and Pilate, declared Him innocent and wanted to release Him. He was not killed as a threat to the Empire; He was killed because He truthfully claimed to be God. That’s from a human perspective. From God’s perspective, Jesus’ voluntary death was the only way to rescue condemned people.
Jesus said He must be killed. It is not a tragedy; it is a necessity! He must die. It was purposeful and intentional. Contrary to the denial of wicked men, He must die as a substitute to implement God’s eternal plan for man’s redemption. The Bible is unambiguous on this point. 700 years before it happened, Isaiah 53: 4) “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God [not Romans or Jews], and afflicted. 5) But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (not social healing, spiritual healing from iniquities). 6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus died on purpose, for sin. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus told His disciples the night before He died, when He could have still avoided capture: “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Why did He die? As a martyr for the oppressed? To show how to love enemies? No, Beloved, He died to forgive sins. Heb 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Peter did not go around fomenting insurrection in Jesus’name after the cross. He went around preaching repentance. He reminds us in I Pet 1:19 that we are ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” And he further states in I Pet 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (what did He do? Provide a great example? Become a martyr? No!) He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
The point is Jesus had to die for one reason. To pay for your sin and mine. The whole Trinity hates sin worse than anything. It violates the very character of God. But rather than destroy sinners, the Father destroyed His own Son so that we would not need to face eternal destruction. That is the one and only reason He died – to satisfy the wrath of Father, Son and HS against sin. That is why He must die. And that is why we must accept His gift of life to live with Him forever. There is no other way. Jesus must die; we must accept His death as ours.
Oswald Chambers said it this way: “We trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only explanation for the forgiveness of God and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting is the death of Jesus Christ. . . . It does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Jesus Christ and by no other way, not because Jesus Christ pleads, but because He died. It is not earned, but accepted. . . . Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement is a propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy.” Paul says is simply in II Cor 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That is why the death of Christ was necessary, do you see? It was necessary for you and for me.
Now the good news. Not only was suffering, rejection and death a must, but so was resurrection. Good Friday was essential to salvation, but so was Easter. The resurrection pulls it all together and says, “There, you see? You can be forgiven! It’s all true.” It’s like the guy who paid for dinner with a gift card. It was not enough, so he gave the waiter a credit card to cover the rest. The waiter said, “Wow, a lot of people would have stuck me with the bill. Thanks for being so honest.” Then, he asked, “Could I please see some ID?” He wanted proof of the good news. That’s what the resurrection was! It was also necessary to put God’s final seal of approval on all that Jesus had done. Want proof? There it is. The living Christ shows we too can be truly saved.
Conc – This is the best news that the world ever heard. You and me, anyone who will believe and give their life to Christ can be saved – not based on anything we do – but based on what He’s already done. That’s why He had to do it.
It’s like the very persuasive lawyer who appealed with great emotion to the jury. So great were his powers of persuasion that when the jury returned the foreman read the verdict: “We find the man who stole that horse – not guilty!” Guilty as sin, yet declared righteous because we accept Jesus’ death in our place. That’s the gospel. Have you received it? Today could be your day to be truly saved. Let’s pray.