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Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

Why the Cross?

All 4 Gospels lead to the cross!  The other New Testament books make commentary and teach the implications of the cross.  The Old Testament is said to be a prophetic precursor to prepare God’s people for the cross.

 

We’ve spent a few weeks examining the details of the cross of Christ in John’s Gospel.  On Resurrection Sunday last March, we looked at the details of the resurrection account.  I thought it fitting to spend some time at the cross to consider what God was actually accomplishing there – and with this knowledge we can begin to realize the new life we have as a result of Christ’s death

 

Let’s look at A section of how Jesus began preparing his disciples for the cross…

 

12.27 "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35 So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."

 

à We have some interesting terminology here in this passage needing definition.  The concept of Judgment of the world must be considered.  The ruler of the world, is important.  Being ‘lifted up,’ has a context.  The title of ‘Christ,’ and ‘Son of Man,’ becomes a good discussion.  And Finally, Jesus wants us to become, `Sons of Light.`

 

Why is judgment coming to the world?  Well, John’s gospel tell us that Sin is a matter of grave consequences.  John 3:36 tells us that those who do not obey God have the wrath of God upon them!  This is not good news!  TO be under God’s wrath. 

SO when Jesus arrives, we hear this announcement about him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes AWAY the sin of the world.”  Wow!  How can someone do that?  Take away sin?  Well, let’s first consider Jesus’ attitude about sin.  When he heals people he often says to them, “Sin no more.”  When he defends an adulterer caught up in a mock trail.  He says to her, “I do not condemn you, but go, and sin no more.”   Jesus will ask in John 8, “Who here can convict me of a sin?”   After his fantastic teaching and miracles which bring joy to so many people; a group of religious leaders decide Jesus is a trouble-maker.  Jesus says of these guys…, John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.

So, Jesus is anti-sin, he says he never commits sin, and The greatest sin of all -- is rejecting and hating God.  Now, no one ever thinks they are guilty of this; but it’s pretty simple to accomplish – if you despise, neglect, mock, ignore, replace, or trivialize the person of Jesus Christ and what he came to do – You hate God!  Hate in the sense that you value and prefer all your own opinions and goals and dreams more than you do the creator of your existence!

 

Instead of thanking and worshipping the true God, many have defaulted to thanking and worshiping “What I want to do and think!”  – which is actually what Jesus defines as, in John 8, “doing the will of your father – who is the Devil!”  This is why the ruler of the world needs to be cast out!  He leads too many people into lying!  Lying to themselves and to everyone else, about whatever they need to in order to protect the right to “do whatever I want think!” 

 

Somehow, the cross becomes a remedy for the judgment of the sin problem while at the same time, has power to cast out the ruler of the world – the devil, so that he does not have the power to lead people astray into self worship.

 

So Jesus needs to get our attention!  He must be lifted up! The First time Jesus says “Lifted up” is in Jn 3.  Jesus alludes to Moses lifting a serpent. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

 

Those who looked upon the snake in Moses’ day had a curse removed from them.  Jesus, by comparison, states that when he is lifted up, those who look upon him will have their curses removed.

 

The first curse is that which falls upon Adam and Eve when they sinned!  Cursed is the ground, cursed is their labors, cursed is every relationship – Adam & Eve also need a covering to hide the shame of this curse.  So a sacrifice was provided.  Animals were killed to provide this covering, And a promise from God was made to the woman – “your seed is going to smack down that serpent, though the serpent will bruise his heel – both will be wounded, but only one – will be fatally so…”

 

à That provision of an animal and it’s covering for Adam and Eve Connects us to Israel’s’ entire sacrificial system that culminates at the temple.  Jesus claimed in John’s Gospel, that he was the TRUE temple – therefore, HE is the only acceptable covering! The OT sacrificial system with it’s priestly duties, sacred spaces, sanctified ceremonies, annual pilgrimages, required feasts, and participatory observances, ALL pointed to a final sacrifice that would wrap up all of God’s dealing with Israel’s propensity to sin.

 

Now who was permitted to perform all those religious duties and service just mentioned?  A person anointed with the task.  This is why we need a Christ!  The title Christ, means, “anointed one.”   A priest was anointed to perform duties related to sacrifices (kings and prophets were also anointed for other tasks…)  Jesus was anointed to offer the final and perfect sacrifice – announced with the cry – IT IS FINISHED!  No more will God require the blood of bulls and goats that could never take away sin – they could only COVER.  God would, in Christ, actually pour out his judgment and wrath against sin so that it would not have to fall upon those who deserved it!   The atoning body and blood of JESUS’ SACRIFICE – would be the only one who could pour his blood for Adam’s lost race.

 

But Jesus was also the Son of Man.  This title of an Old Testament character who comes from the very throne room of God in Daniel chapter 7.  Now let’s recall again that before Jesus’ shouted, It is Finished, he also shouted, My God My God, why have your Forsaken me?  In John’s gospel, the time we hear God’s voice coming out of heaven, it is a mention of the concept of GLORY.  The vision of the Son of Man in Daniel is also glorious!  Jesus only knew in heaven, glory and love and honor from God the Father!  Even as the Son of Man come to earth, Jesus only knew God’s love and affection and support and strength!  The other gospels report God’s voice saying of Jesus, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!” 

 

But, Upon the cross, Jesus, in the place of sinners, did not hear words of glory or sonship from his Father – Upon the cross He heard these words from the Father, “'Depart from me, you worker of iniquity, you cursed lawless one, I do not know you!”

 

My God, my God why are you forsaking me?

 

à the notion of Jesus, the true son of God, the true Son of Light being cursed and judged by the Father is the most profound horror that Jesus could have ever experienced.  As I have been beating a drum over and over about John’s gospel, John wants his readers to recognize a profound truth of the Gospel:  That We too can know the Father as a true and loved son – And as a son we will be loved just as much as Christ is loved because Jesus lived with only one goal in mind, and that was to please the Father in everyway possible – in thought, word, and deed, Jesus lived for and loved the Father – and for what reason?  So he could gather to himself, a whole flock of people who would look just like him, and they would be presented to the Father as the greatest gift of love ever given to God – the most God glorifying gift that Jesus could present to the Father would be a new humanity with a restored image of God!  Bearing God’s image with proper knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and rule over all the creation!

 

Because of who Jesus was, and because of what Jesus did, Jesus could do something that no one else could do.  Jesus could redeem lost sheep who had gone astray.  

 

But to accomplish this, the sheep would require changing.  These NEW sheep would be given new ears to respond to the shepherd’s voice!  They would be given new appetites so that they would only want to feast on the shepherd’s provisions.  They would be given new feet (hooves) so they would know how to follow faithfully.  They would be given a new coat, so they would be as pure and white as snow!

 

But for that all that change to take place, the spirit of God would need to be sent in order to convert the sheep.  The Spirit of God is the change agent for the sheep – The Holy Spirit changes us and convicts us of the truths already mentioned.  He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  God the Father will convict us, by his Spirit, that we are wandering sheep.  And in that conviction, what would the Spirit tell us?  Go clean yourself off?  Do better next time?  Follow the shepherd more closely you silly little sheep?!  No, the Spirit points us to the cross!

 

The Spirit would set our gaze upon the shepherd who willingly lays down his life for the sheep.  The spirit would set our gaze upon the cross… Why there?  Because our problem is sin, and the lack of righteousness, and certain judgment – and upon the cross – Jesus atoned for our sin, he fulfilled all righteousness, he endured our judgment.

 

And when Jesus did this, he said it is finished!  Perfectly completed.  Paid in full.

 

He did not die on the cross to pay off the devil!

He did not die to simply set an example of selfless sacrifice!

He did not die to simply make himself vulnerable with his love!

He did not die to simply show us what happens to bad sheep!

 

He died to remove the curse by taking the curse upon himself!

à consider what the other NT passages say of the cross.  If we just isolate the phrase, “The Cross,” here is what we will read related to “The cross”  = That it creates enemies because it is associated with folly, shame, and offense.  The cross leads to persecution because it removes human boasting, --- , but for the ones it saves,  it puts hostility to death between God and us --because by the cross, all debts are off!  And why are we in debt?  Because every time we sin, every time we break God’s law, we destroy the image that God placed upon us – and there is a cost required to repair the damage.

 

This is so important when we consider what the cross accomplishes!  People who actually deserve the cross don’t like seeing it because it reminds them of the shame of their own lawbreaking that they ought to bear themselves; but Christ offers himself to pay the debts that even human religious activity could never accrue to cancel the debt of our sin!

 

The cross is the focal point of where believers go to be justified by putting to death our sinful lives – WE EVEN CRUCIFY all our religious observance that people place their confidence in in order to buy God off, or to earn his favor.  This means that in a very sad way, religious people are more apt to despise the cross because they try to place all their confidence in their own religious observance rather than in Christ!!

 

I don’t know about you; but for me, it is often more refreshing and real to hang out with sinners who knows they have no hope, than to hang out with religious folks who think they are dressed pretty enough to make it into heaven without Jesus!!

 

The cross is the place where WE are crucified, where our body and soul receive a just reward!  For those who trust in the cross alone, we are given the assurance that Christ has borne our sin and received the wrath of our lawlessness, so that He could state, IT IS FINISHED.

 

For those who trust in the cross, God’s  Judgment has been executed upon sin.  The ruler of the world has no power to lead us astray, in being lifted up, Jesus is displayed for sinners to look upon and be saved, because He is the Christ and the Son of Man who will make his people Sons of light.

 

Prayer

By the righteous life of Christ, we are first confronted; by the agony of Christ we are identified; In the death of Christ we are judged; by the blood of Christ we are washed; in the resurrection of Christ, we are restored, by the promise of Christ we are assured of our eternal status as beloved children of God.

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