Br Rd Good Friday 2003
Nailing it to the cross
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)
That which the world regards as a supreme disaster provides us with the greatest triumph. We gladly surrender the delights of a sunny Good Friday morning in a warmer than usual April to reflect for a while upon the central focus of our faith. Here we celebrate His work upon the cross for us:
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
Because this is no disaster – no tragedy – no dismal failure – but the Conquering Christ defeating our most awful enemies.
If you look at these words – particularly from “He forgave… to by the cross” you will see that Paul sets the message of the cross against two barriers to our fellowship with God:
the written code 14
the powers and authorities 15
There’s been a lot of argument about the meaning of the first phrase – but it’s significance is clear. We were excluded by a binding agreement – whether you think of a huge outstanding debt, or a criminal charge made plain by the Law of God – such a judgement was against us – but Christ has dealt with it on His cross.
Paul adds one metaphor to another in these verses – so that we can be in no doubt as to the outcome of Christ’s work on the cross.
Overall Christ was working our FORGIVENESS 13b
he CANCELLED the written code 14
he TOOK IT AWAY
he NAILED IT TO THE CROSS
Some of you will know that I’ve been trying to get to grips with the Legal system just recently. The law has all manner of ways of restraining or enforcing its judgements – and whether you think of a debt, or an injunction, or a warrant, or a summons – all these ideas are grouped together by Paul as he describes our condition apart from Christ. We were indeed powerless. But Christ died – and in His death our freedom our belonging to the family of God is secured.
And if that was not enough, Paul describes the work of Christ in terms of those POWERS AND AUTHORITIES which held us in thrall and captivity.
those he DISARMED
those he MADE A PUBLIC SPECTACLE
over those he TRIUMPHED.
It’s a remarkable series of hammer blows – driving home the truth that Christ has achieved so much for us by His death on the cross.
The cross as the centre of the believer’s hope
The cross as the cancelling of sin’s debt
The cross as victory over the powers of Satan
THE CROSS is at the centre of the believer’s hope
Of course I do not want you to have any misunderstanding. This is not about SYMBOLS or ICONS.
Whilst the cross may indeed be both of those things it is not the symbol or the icon – but the SAVIOUR DYING UPON THAT CROSS that guarantees my salvation and my hope.
It is CHRIST who achieves this for me – and for you.
Are you looking for FORGIVENESS?
Then you can look no further than the cross on which Jesus died. As we read in our first lesson this morning
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
and there may I, as vile as he,
wash all my sins away.
“HE FORGAVE US ALL OUR SINS, …
How often we have reflected that the crucifixion is one of the most frequently painted scenes from our Lord’s ministry – but it remains a two dimensional mystery until we come ourselves to the same living Lord Jesus in repentance. Seeing that it was the weight of our sins that hung there – that kept Him there.
Now – as I bow in adoration at His feet – I recognise two wonders – that the cross is empty – and that my sin is dealt with.
The CROSS is the cancelling of sin’s debt
He cancelled the written code…
He took it away
Nailing it to the cross
I need to dwell on those words – for it is in the realm of sin and guilt that Satan continues to work his greatest works in believers – depriving them of their peace – calling in doubt their Saviour’s true work of salvation.
So I need today to hear Paul tell me three times over:
NAILED TO THE CROSS
It is indeed a CROSSING OUT.
He stamps my life with an indelible mark PAID IN FULL
It is indeed a TAKING AWAY – a great subtraction
Until my Saviour completed His work upon that cross there was a weight of evidence against me – a whole testament of laws to back it up – I was GUILTY VILE and HELPLESS.
So I can ask now “What was nailed to the cross?” and know that the answer involves me.
So I can ask now “Who was nailed to the cross?” and know that the answer involves My Lord Jesus.
And by faith that follows repentance I can say with Paul elsewhere “I am crucified with Christ…”
So I look at the representations of His death with new eyes. I see a three dimensional – indeed eternal view of My Lord and Saviour CANCELLING my debt, satisfying the law’s demands, TAKING AWAY my sin and my guilt and NAILING IT TO THE CROSS.
It is FINISHED – DONE – as in a transaction marked by the fall of the gavel – DONE!
The CROSS is His victory of the powers of evil
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
What powers did Jesus disarm then?
At the time of His death it seemed that the occupying forces of Rome, as well as the malicious actions of a legalistic Judaism had triumphed. Surely if there was a triumph, if there was a disarming it was of Christ Himself?
And if there was a public spectacle that awful dark Passover time – surely it was the spectacle of the self styled Messiah dying at the hands of Roman soldiers and Roman judicial system?
To many – as we said in our opening remarks – that seems to be the case. A spectacular failure – and agonising defeat – a ruination of hope.
BUT IT IS NOT SO
God had intended it all along – it was no mistake.
And as the Lord rises from the dead the conquest and the completion is affirmed.
Yes – it is a SPECTACLE – but not as the world sees it
Yes it is a STRIPPING – a disarming – but not of the Man upon the central cross
Here, paradoxically is a great TRIUMPH a great VICTORY
triumphing over them
ALL that was represented in those days as power and authority – whether secular or religious – all that was DISARMED
and behind the characters of that great drama – the powers and dominions so frequently referred to in these letters – but so often ignored in our reckoning of things – the power of sin and of Satan.
the power of a sin stained universe tumbling headlong into loss and conflict.
You want to know what Christ disarmed then?
Look around you today at all the evidence of SECULAR PRIDE of national and social corruption.
From the offensive character of our own country’s laws where they conflict with Scripture, to the offensive nature of media that peddle unproven stories of man’s origins, and dwell on the darkest side of human nature.
From the deeply disturbing realities of international terrorism to the ever challenging emergence of new diseases and new threats to peace. From blatant materialism to awesome poverty.
These are the marks of those POWERS AND AUTHORITIES that Jesus dealt with on His cross.
And down through the centuries those powers have been busy – in the words of Luther which we had some difficulty singing last Sunday:
The ancient prince of hell
has risen with purpose fell;
strong mail of craft and power
he weareth in this hour;
on earth is not his fellow…
And let the prince of ill
look grim as e’er he will,
he harms us not a whit
for why? his doom is writ;
a word shall quickly slay him
Ah – those were the days! But are they so different now?
Does it mean He failed then?
The answer to all the self important strutting of modern man in his secular clothing and his desperate desire to be independent – the answer to all the wickedness in the world is there on that hill outside that city on that day…
The centre of the believer’s hope
The cancelling of the debt of sin
The victory over the powers and authorities
nailed to the cross
made a public spectacle
My Jesus on His cross!