There are many places in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament where you can find scripture addressing the cross, and why the cross is so central to
our faith. But the thing I like about today's scripture reading from Isaiah is that it's not just about the coming Messiah, or the cross of Christ, it includes us.
Today's scripture refers to our sins and how we deserve the wounds, the whip, and the wrath as it is proclaimed in our scripture reading. But then somehow by
God's grace, through Jesus wounds, we are healed.
When it comes to prophecy surrounding the Messiah, no one describes it more accurately than the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was a bold prophet who wasn't afraid to
tell is like it is, as he receives God's word from God himself.
Now Isaiah was a controversial person, as most prophets were, and for even suggesting the Messiah would come from Galilee instead of Jerusalem - which was the
home of the temple and hierarchy of priests - was a controversial proclamation of that day, and it created tension among the people, especially the priests. Isaiah told the people
that the coming Messiah would be rejected, inhumanly tortured, and put to death between two sinners. And all of this was predicted 700 years before the birth of Jesus.
Isiaiah was a spiritual leader of his day and as the insert in your bulletin on spiritual leadership states, Isaiah honored the past its teachings and
traditions, but then he disrupted and realigned the thinking of his people as he proclaimed the prophetic truth of God. God was using Isaiah to move his people from where they were
to where God wanted them to be.
If you take the time to reflect on this scripture (and I encourage you to do so this week) you'll see very quickly that the words of Isaiah bring the entirety
of Christ's sacrifice into clear focus for us. It makes our salvation real and personal.
You see, because of our sin we deserve death (there's no sugar-coating it), as God has told us the penalty for sin is death, but because of God's love for us,
he dealt with our sin in another way.
But the penalty for sin still had to be paid, so God sent Jesus, his Son, to be a suitable, real flesh and blood person who lived among us, to pay the price
for our sin; the sin of our past, present, and future.
And if you've read the passion of Christ in the Bible or have seen the movie by Mel Gibson you know that what Jesus went through on our behalf was horrible,
yet it was necessary in God's eyes.
Did you know that God, more than anything else wants to be in relationship with us, but what keeps this relationship from flourishing is the fact we
continually turn away from God, most dramatically by our sin. So God because of his amazing love for us came up with a way to restore our relationship with him, and he did this for
you and me.
Now the reality of Jesus' crucifixion isn't something we should simply blow by, or pull out of the closet once a year in the spring during Holy Week. People
have told me they don't want to think about the crucifixion because it's too horrendous to think about, hey besides it's done and over with, it's time to move on.
But we need to think about it, and remember often, what Jesus did on the cross, we need to understand what Jesus did and why. It's important to remember that
the cross is a tool of execution it was not a fancy piece of jewelry. Now a days many of us wear the cross, why? Well, I hope it's so we can remember what Jesus did for us on the
cross, and not because it's a "religious" thing to do or because it adds something to our outfit.
You see it cost us very little to be religious, there's no cross in it. Anyone can claim to believe in God and even call themselves Christian, but to truly be
a Christian it cost our all, it requires dying to ourselves and being raised with Christ, this is what baptism represents, and the image of dying and being raised with Christ is all
the more vivid if immersion is being used as the mode of baptism.
True Christians surrender and follow Jesus, they don't just go through some religious rite and say, "I'm done and I'm good to go." True Christians follow
God's call on their lives; they don't ask God to follow them.
I read a sign outside a church I passed the other day that read, "If God is your co-pilot move over." God needs to be the pilot of our lives, we're to follow.
The crucifixion isn't just something that happened "on a hill far away" over 2000 years ago, it's much more personal than that, it's a truth we should live
with and live into daily. We ought to remember Christ's sacrifice often, so that we take full advantage of our status as a redeemed people.
The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature from hate to love, and no amount of science and technology can change humanity's basic
nature. Only God, who created us, can recreate us.
But for this kind of radical transformation to occur God had to do something radical, so he sent his son Jesus to live among us and to serve as the sacrifice
for our sin. In this selfless act we are given the opportunity to be in a right relationship with God when we surrender our live to Jesus. It's then, and only then we are redeemed.
Remembering the crucifixion is not meant to make us feel bad or feel guilty, remembering what God did for us in Jesus is meant to remind us of just how much
we're loved by God. It's only in understanding the human cruelty of the cross, that we can truly understand the divine power of the cross.
Then when we begin to understand God's love for us, the cross is radically transformed from a tool of execution into a tool of love. Again, a transformation
that only God can make happen. As Max Lucado has said, "It wasn't nails that held Jesus to the Cross; it was His love for us."
Now it's natural and understandable, at least to a point, that we don't want to think about, let alone participate in Christ's suffering and sacrifice, it's a
normal disconnect we make. And the truth is we probably could never really appreciate or embrace what Jesus did for us anyway, it seems so other-worldly, but it was his purpose.
We're told in 2 Corinthians "God made him (meaning Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (v.21).
Again, the power of the Gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is that Jesus took on the punishment we deserve. Jesus, the sinless one, took on the punishment
for our sin so that by trusting in him, we can escape eternal separation from God and embrace eternal life. We are invited and can enter into a relationship with the living God
through the gate of Christ's sacrifice.
Isn't it ironic that many folks struggle with life being about their glory? And for many the desire for self-glory takes them right up until the moment of
their death. We want to play god and rule our own lives, we want to be the pilots, and our culture supports and encourages this attitude, often to the extreme. That is until we're
faced with being in Christ's shoes on that gruesome Friday and then there is opportunity for us to put life in the proper perspective.
The truth is we often live our lives struggling to let Christ be Lord of our lives. We ignore him and try to save ourselves; that is until we reflect upon the
cross, and all of a sudden our perspective changes. This is the power of the cross.
And this is a good thing because "it's at the cross where we can first see the Light, and then the burdens of our hearts roll away; it's at the cross where by
faith we receive our sight, our spiritual site, and can then be happy all the day." You know the cross is really about us,
- it's about how we don't want it, even though we deserve it,
- it's about how we want to ignore it, because of the horror it brings to mind,
- it's about how we want to thank Jesus for what he did, but let's move on quickly because we don't want to think about it anymore, we would rather bask in
the glory of the resurrection.
And this truth is really played out during Holy Week. Of all the worship celebrations we have during Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and
Easter Sunday, which one is least attended? Sure, it's Good Friday. But you know what:
- There's no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
- There's no resurrection without Jesus dying for us.
- And there's no salvation without God's glory being revealed through the cross.
Our approach to the cross should not come by theoretical or philosophical teaching, but through faith. And to really understand the cross we must have an
attitude of the mind and a faith of the heart that's responsive to the meaning of the cross.
If you think about it, to understand music one must have somewhat of the musician within them; to understand art, one must have somewhat of the artist within
them; to understand the meaning of the cross one must have a faith-led response to the sacrificial spirit of Jesus within them as well.
I have seen many non-Christians, suffering for a cause, come closer to the meaning of the cross than many professed Christians, who while knowing of the ideas
of the cross, live selfishly. The cross is not understood by an argument or theological debate, but by faith.
God's glory is revealed through the cross in a profound way to those open to it, and as children of the Christian faith, as followers of the one who
sacrificed himself on the cross for us, we ought to boldly lift high the cross and proclaim for all the world to hear, that Jesus is Lord, until all the world adores his sacred name.
And all of God's people said, Amen!