Jesus came to this earth from the glories of heaven to begin the restoration of creation. God created this world in perfection. This world is a beautiful place when lived in harmony with our Maker. But that was broken. So, Jesus came to this broken world to put it back together, again. Jesus came, from the glories of heaven, to be one of us, to re-create our world... as the Christ! The Prophet! The King! –Tim Stidham
That was a quote from me from last week. This morning, I want to take it to the next level, with, what I feel, is a significant, but difficult question. Last, week we saw how Jesus lived. This week I want to ask about his death.
Why did Jesus die? Of all the stories about Jesus, his death on a cross is the most well-known... the most told... the most contemplated... the most depicted in art and symbolism and even, jewelry. But, did Jesus have to die? He certainly could have lived forever. Jesus could have chosen to rule the world in perpetuity... in this context perpetuity means from 30 AD until today... and beyond?
But why did Jesus have to die? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? How does the cross make any sense? How does the cross make a difference to me, today and forever?
This morning, I want to take a shot at these questions. We have been working on the answers for more than a year. Our Sunday morning adult class has been pondering the question of the cross for quite some time. You think it would be an easy question. But, it turns out to be a complicated question. I’m sure we do not have all the answers, just yet. This sermon is my current attempt to explain the cross.
Let’s look at four questions...
#1 Why did Jesus have to die, at all?
Let’s turn to Paul’s writings for the beginnings of an answer.
Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
1 Corinthians 1:23-25 But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Jesus’s death is the power of the kingdom. Jesus came to this earth to show us how to be his agents. Jesus demonstrated how much we are to love the world; even to death. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate power of the universe to change this world; the power of self-sacrifice. Obedience to the point of death is the foolishness of God that is stronger than man.
--How much are we supposed to love each other... we love each other to death.
--How much are we supposed to love the “others” ... we love them to death.
--How much are we supposed to love our enemies... (don’t say it) we love them to death, ours not theirs.
--How much are we supposed to love God... we love Him to death.
We are agents of re-creation. We are agents with keys. Those keys advance the kingdom with the power of grace; with the power of mercy; with the power of with-ness. Never forget how rare this is. Our community, our congregation, this church is built upon connections of charity... with the power of charity.
Jesus died to show us the max amount of charity.
--It is the currency of the Kingdom!
--It is the power of his people!
--It is the fuel of his followers!
Why did Jesus have to die?
Jesus died to be the model of our charity!
#2 Why a cross?
Could Jesus have died in some other less brutal way; like beheading or stoning. Both of those would have accomplished his death, without 6 hours of agony. Why did Jesus have to die by one of the worst forms of capital punishment, ever?
Mark 15:22-33 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" So also, the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
The cross was all about humiliation. The cross was a political statement. The Romans ruled the world. They ruled the known world with the power of brutality. The Romans brought peace to the world with a simple philosophy. “Cross us and we cross you. Everything will be just peachy, as long as you pay your taxes and don’t even think of rebellion.”
Spartacus led a major slave revolt about a hundred years before Jesus. The revolt ended in a major battle. Many thousand slaves died in that final battle. But six thousand of Spartacus’s followers were capture; were crucified all along a 130 or so miles of the Appian Way from Rome to Capua There was roughly one cross every forty yards for the 130 miles. Their remains stayed on crosses for days and nights, becoming food for vultures and vermin, until there was nothing much left to bury. Nobody, who walked along that 130 miles stretch of road, would have missed the point. “Don’t cross Rome!”
Watch what Jesus did. This is amazing! Jesus transformed the cross. He reversed the meaning of the cross. Jesus took the symbol of human brutality, human force, human power and re-created it into a symbol of charity! The charity that changes powers his kingdom!
That concept alone is enough to believe in Jesus as the Son of the Living God. How did that happen?
--The cross used to be the symbol of Roman authority.
--The cross used to be the symbol brutal-power.
--The cross used to be the symbol of Satan’s control of the world.
--The cross is the symbol of the Kingdom of heaven.
--It is the symbol of charity.
--It is the symbol of Jesus’s ultimate power to recreate the earth!
Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? To establish His ultimate power!
#3 What about forgiveness of sins? Does the cross forgive sins?
This is the part of the cross where we have struggled for the last year or so. The simple answer is yes, of course.
But how does the cross forgive sins... here is my current thinking.
God is a covenant God. Throughout history God has made covenants. Most of these covenants have been instituted with blood. The classic example is the covenant God made with Abraham.
Abraham’s covenant was formed with the passing of a flaming pot between animals cut in half.
Genesis 15:17-18 When the sun had gone down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram...
The covenant that God would bless the world through Abraham was insured; guaranteed with blood.
The Mt Sinai covenant was formed with the blood of bulls.
Exodus 24:6-8 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you...”
The Old Law, the Mosaic covenant, the forming of the people of Israel, was done by the sprinkling of blood on the people and on the alar. Blood, death is the guarantee of covenants.
This is what Jesus said his death accomplished
Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus explained that his blood, his death on the cross, was the blood that formed a new covenant. Jesus death on the cross formed a new deal with God. A deal where sin is forgiven; here the power of sin is gutted.
Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Colossians 2:13-15 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Those who are in Christ have forgiveness because in the New Covenant there is no condemnation. Under the new deal, sin has been nailed to the cross. This new covenant creates a new kingdom. We have been moved from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Light where there is diplomatic immunity.
Jesus died to be the blood of a new covenant where sin is forgiven.
#4 What about eternal life? Does the cross provide eternal life?
The cross opened the door for the resurrection; which defeated death to offer eternal life!
1 Corinthians 15:20-26 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Death defeated death. The resurrection ended death. His return will put our last enemy to death. We will reign with Jesus on the re-created earth!
Romans 8:16-23 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Jesus died to defeat death. We will join Jesus on the re-created creation, in glory!
Let wrap up these questions with a verse from Hebrews. Watch for all four of our answers...
Hebrews 2:9-11 But we see him, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with (#1) glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he (#3) might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, (#4) in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their (#2) salvation perfect through suffering.
Jesus came to this earth as the pioneer who leads us to be agents of re-creation by his death!
July 22, 2018