Christ Crucified - the Cross


Peter 2:21-25 & Matthew 27:38-52
3rd Sunday of Lent
SMAS 9.00am Holy Communion (CW) & 10.30am All-Age Worship

Remember that God made a good world and He made us to love us and for us to love Him. All about relationships. People ruined this by sin, doing things their own way. Selfishness. sIn being selfish, is a very bad thing. It causes hurt, not just to God, but to others. It had to be punished and the punishment that came into the world was death.

How do human parents deal with their children’s naughtiness?

God kind of put us on the naughty step – removed us from close presence with Him. He kind of grounded us – separation from each other. He even tried taking everything away, flood, and started again. He gave out some ground rules, 10 commandments. He set up a punishment system – if you do this then you must give something up. Sacrifice. This sacrifice was meant to hurt, people couldn’t sacrifice some ropey old sheep that was past its sell-by date or only had three legs. No people had to sacrifice their best lamb. If they were poor they could go to the temple and fork out money for a good
dove or pigeon. It was designed to cost people rather like losing our pocket money. Sin carried a cost. And in case people forgot the laws and the rules (as they did!) God kept sending prophets, his messengers to tell them.

But, people being people, and God allowing people to have a free choice about things meant that everyone carried on being selfish and doing their own thing. Staying a distance away from God. But every good parent carries on loving their children. Every good parent wants the best for their child. But every good parent knows that allowing their child to do whatever they like with no consequences attached is wrong and doesn’t work. Parents know that they cannot condone their child’s naughtiness - it hurts other people. We can’t go round being nasty to or about others or hitting other people or taking their stuff and be let off with no punishment. So good parents, and God is a very good parent to us, allows us freedom to choose how to live but says there has to be a punishment for doing wrong.

Firstly, let me demonstrate how sin separated us from God with Bible and my hands. (two hands, us and God, Bible comes between as the sin that separates, us. Bible rotates over on to top hand, Jesus, who takes that sin off of us)
Jesus is the one off perfect sacrifice, the perfect Lamb, that pays for our sins. When Jesus died on the Cross it was at the time of Passover. A time when God’s special people were sacrificing lambs as they celebrated how Moses led them to freedom from the Egyptians. This had happened by the angel of death passing over the land and killing the Egyptian’s sons. The Israelite sons were saved by marking their houses out by daubing lambs blood on their door posts. A perfect lamb’s blood. A lamb sacrificed and it’s blood being daubed on with a hyssop branch. The stick mentioned in that Gospel reading to offer up the wine vinegar to Jesus was in fact a hyssop branch.

Are you seeing lots of connections here?

I hope so but there’s more: that reading tells us that when Jesus died the curtain of the temple split in two. It wasn’t an ordinary curtain. It was very, very big and immensely thick (18 inches?). It hung in the temple to separate the holiest place, the holy of holies. For the Jewish people that was where God lived and because people had been separated from God by their sins no-one was allowed in there.

Jesus’ sacrificial death which paid for our sins, broke through that separation. It is His death which has allowed us back into a right relationship with God. God loved us that much that He
sent His son to die in our place. And, if you have heard or read last week’s talk you will know that I explained that Christ, God’s son IS God Himself.

So, God, our loving heavenly Father, loves us that much that He died to take our punishment. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this:

There was a judge whose own son was brought before her for a crime he’d committed. The judge felt deep grief her son had broken the laws upon which she based her entire life. Tears welled in her eyes as she listened painfully as the evidence against her son was presented. The courtroom sat in silence wondering how the judge would rule.  Would she just give him a reprimand in an act of mercy? Would she give him the minimum penalty for the offence? Much to their surprise, she handed down the maximum fine, upholding the law to its fullest degree. The son was in shock, for he knew he couldn’t pay the fine and was anguished at the thought of imprisonment. He looked up at her in disbelief.

But then something happened that nobody expected. She stepped down from the bench, took off her judge’s robe, told her son how much she loved him and then paid, out of her own pocket, the fine she had just handed down. Not everyone understood what she’d done. As a judge, she showed her commitment to honour the law, but she had stepped down from her seat of honour to show her love for her child.

He hadn’t understood the depth of his mother's commitment to the law until that moment, and, until that moment, he never knew the depth of his mother's love for him. He felt deep sorrow for the pain he’d caused her and for those he’d hurt by his act of crime. With his head bowed, and tears flowing, he asked for her forgiveness, which she willingly gave to him.

Like the judge in that story, God came down from heaven to us in Jesus Christ to help us to understand His laws, to show us the depth of His love for us and to pay the price of our sin with His own life. All we have to do in order to receive the full benefits of the cross, eternal life being just one of them, is to accept that God did it for us. Believe in it. Ask His forgiveness for our sins and believe that God removes them from us. Allow this to change our lives and in turn allow it to change the lives of those around us.

We don’t obtain the benefit by what we do or give. We obtain it by holding out our hands and receiving it as a gift from Him. That’s what GRACE is all about, receiving what we don’t deserve or earn – God’s free gift of love. And I will tell you even more about that next week!

The story is told of a small English village that had a tiny chapel whose stone walls were covered by traditional ivy. Over an arch was originally inscribed the words: we preach Christ crucified. There had been a generation of godly men who did precisely that: they preached Christ crucified.

But times changed. The ivy grew and pretty soon covered the last word. The inscription now read: we preach Christ. Other men came and they did preach Christ: Christ the example, Christ the humanitarian, Christ the ideal teacher.

As the years passed, the ivy continued to grow until finally the inscription read: we preach. The generation that came along then did just that: they preached economics, social gospel, the environment, book reviews, just about anything.

The story isn’t literally true, but it illustrates how we can allow other stuff to overtake the real message of the Cross. And nothing should ever overtake that message. Christ Himself died to pay for our sins.

He conquered death that we might have eternal life because He paid the price for us. This is not something we can are able to do for ourselves – for it is by His wounds that we are healed. Amen