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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Good Friday Communion Service, 2005-03-25

Text: 1 John 4:10

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this evening to remember the death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us recount the events that took place from the time that Jesus Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. According to the biblical account, Jesus went through a total of six trials in Jerusalem on the night before He was crucified - Three of them were Jewish trials: The one before Caiaphas the high priest, the one before Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas, and the one before the Sanhedrin council. This was followed by three Roman trials - twice before Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman procurator of Judea, and once before King Herod Antipas. 

During these trials our Lord Jesus was mocked, beaten, scourged with whips, arrayed in a purple robe, and crowned with thorns. Then he was led away to be crucified, bearing the wooden cross. At Calvary, He was crucified between two thieves. This began at about 8.00 to 9.00 in the morning and it ended when Jesus breathed His last breath at about 3.00 in afternoon. The gospel accounts tell us that the whole sky was dark from noon until the time that Jesus died. 

As Jesus submitted Himself to enduring such a painful death He knew exactly why He was going through all of this. He had come into this world for the very purpose of going to the Cross. Jesus even foretold His own death. He had shown His disciples, 'how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.' (Matthew 16:21). He had told Nicodemus that like the brazen serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, He must be lifted up on the Cross (John 3:14). He said,'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die.' (John 12:32,33).

There is therefore no doubt that dying on the Cross was the main reason why Christ came to live on earth 2000 years ago. And the Lord Jesus was most willing to suffer and die on the Cross, because that alone could bring us back to God. 

Dear friends, the Cross of Jesus Christ is the focal point of all human history. It is the place where God and sinners are reconciled. And every one of us must first come to the Cross and be saved, if we would have the bliss of eternal life. The Cross of Christ is also the place where two seemingly irreconcilable things have been brought together: The Love of God and the Justice of God. The love of God desires the salvation of sinners, while the justice of God demands their condemnation. How can these two things be reconciled? How can love and justice meet together? The answer is: Only at the Cross of Jesus Christ!

One verse of Scripture that brings this out very well is 1 John 4:10 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' Two truths are brought out in this verse. The first is that God loved us, and the second is that God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Let us consider the second truth before looking at the first one -

I. The Cross of Christ Propitiated God's Justice against Sin

The term 'propitiation' in this verse means an appeasement or satisfaction for wrath. God's wrath against our sin demands a complete satisfaction because He is a holy and just God who cannot tolerate even the slightest sin. There is only one way in which God's wrath against sin can be satisfied: It is by death. Absolutely nothing but death can appease the awesome wrath of a Holy God! The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that 'the wages of sin is death.' And in Ezekiel 18:4 we are told that 'the soul that sinneth, it shall die.'

When sin first infected the world through Adam's disobedience, God's wrath immediately exacted the death penalty upon the human race! Eternal Life gave way to Eternal death, as pain, sorrow, sickness and decay began to take an increasing toll on human life. All these were required against our sins, in order to appease the righteous wrath of God. If not for the entrance of sin into this world, these things would not exist to trouble our lives at all. But they have now become a grim reality for us because of sin. 

But God made a special provision for man�s sin. Since death alone can satisfy His wrath against our sins, animal sacrifices were permitted in order for man to approach God. This began at the point when God Himself made coats of skin to clothe Adam and Eve when they had sinned (Genesis 3:21). In order to make these coats of skins, some animals obviously had to be slaughtered. This was very the first instance of animal sacrifice as God's provision for our sin. 

In the Book of Genesis, we see animal sacrifices being offered up to God by Noah (Genesis 8:20), by Abraham (Genesis 12:7), and by the rest of the patriarchs. Job, also offered animal sacrifices to God (Job 1:5). In all these sacrifices, the animal was regarded as a substitute that died in the place of the person who offered it. Before an animal was sacrificed, the person for whom it was offered first had to lay his hands on the animal's head. This means that the animal now represents him. The animal was then killed by the extracting of blood. And the blood had to be poured on the sides of the altar of sacrifice.

One of the best examples of this substitionary death can be found in the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb as described in Exodus 12. This came about when God brought the Ten Plagues upon Egypt. The last plague was the worst of all. It was the plague of the death upon all the firstborn children who lived in Egypt. There was only one way that families could prevent the death of their firstborn: By slaughtering a lamb and sprinkling its blood on the entrance of their homes. When the Lord's angel saw the blood of the lamb at the entrance, he would pass over that house and go to the next one, because the blood indicated that death had already taken place in that house (Exodus 12:13). But any house that did not have the lamb's blood applied would lose every firstborn son or daughter who lived in it to death.

There were two important requirements that the Israelites had to observe when choosing a lamb for the Passover. They are found in Exodus 12:5 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.' Why were these requirements given? It was because the Passover lamb was meant to be a preview or symbol of Jesus Christ (cf 1 Corinthians 5:7). Hence it must be without any blemish at all, in order to portray the sinlessness of Christ, and it must be a male, like Christ. That is why, when Jesus began His public ministry in Israel, John the Baptist introduced Him to the crowds as 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' (John 1:29). 

From all this we can now understand better why Christ had to die: So that He may be our Passover Lamb, who is slain for our sins in our place. He died so that He could fully appease God's wrath against all our sins. 

But why then did He have to die such a cruel death as to be nailed onto a cross? Could Christ not have been put to death in a more humane manner, for example by being hanged? It is because the only kind of death that could make a full satisfaction for our sins, is one that comes about by the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Just as the blood from all animal sacrifices had to be poured out on the sides of the altar, and just as the blood of the Passover Lamb had to be sprinkled on the entrance of the house, so the blood of Christ had to be shed on the Cross. For only His precious blood has the power to make the full satisfaction that God requires for our sins.

Actually, without the shedding of Christ's blood on the Cross, all the animal sacrifices that had been made since the time of Adam would have accomplished nothing at all. The Old Testament animal sacrifices did not actually remove anyone's sin on their own. Christ's death was the actual propitiation for the sins of all believers in the Old Testament, like Abraham, Moses and David. The animal sacrifices they made had no power in themselves to propitiate God's justice, or to take away sins. They served only as a temporary measure, depending upon the final sacrifice that Christ would make on the Cross! Romans 3:25 makes this clear when it says about Christ 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.'

Dearly beloved, let us pause for a while now to consider what all this should mean to each of us. It means that when Jesus suffered and died on the Cross, He bore the full force of God's wrath against all the sins that were committed by believers in the Old Testament who lived before His time. The prophet Isaiah who lived 700 years before Christ said that, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.' (Isaiah 53:5) 

Besides that, Jesus also bore the full force of God's wrath against all the sins that were committed by all New Testament believers who lived after His time. And that includes our sins as well. Dear friends, it was your sins and my sins that nailed Christ to the Cross, and caused Him to bleed and die! If it were not for these sins, Christ would never have had to suffer such intense agony on the Cross. Therefore each of us is responsible for His death! In the final analysis it was not the Jews nor the Romans who crucified Christ, but every one of us! 

Now, the wonder of it all is that Christ could easily have spared Himself the agony of the Cross. At any time on the way to Calvary, Christ could easily have stopped and obtained instant deliverance from the Father (Matthew 26:53). Why should He bother at all to subject Himself to such great torments for us? Why should He bear the full force of God's wrath against all our sins upon Him? Who are we, or what have we done, that He should do this for our sakes? We are only unworthy sinners who have constantly grieved Him by our sinful ways. And we fully deserve the eternal death that our sins have earned for us. Dearly beloved, there is really nothing that can explain why Christ should want to die for us, except that He loves us. 

II. The Cross of Christ Proclaimed God's Love for Sinners

This is the other truth that is brought out by 1 John 4:10 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' God's love was never revealed as fully and as powerfully as the time when the eternal Son of God died for us on the Cross of Calvary!

This is not to say that God had not shown love for His people before Christ died. Throughout the pages of history, God had been manifesting His love in many other ways: Delivering the Israelites from oppression in Egypt, providing for the needs of His people during their wilderness journey, giving them victory over enemies who were many times stronger than them, and settling them in a land flowing with milk and honey.

But the supreme manifestation of God's love did not come until Christ died on the cross. God's Word says in Romans 5:8 'But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' Christ's death shows the love of God the Father in giving His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice for our sins. His death also shows the love of God the Son who was willing to lay down His own precious life to save us. This is why Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians 'May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' (Ephesians 3:18-19). The death which Jesus died is the greatest expression of love that God has ever shown to man. This world has never known any love greater than this. 

Dearly beloved, do you long to comprehend the height, and length, the depth and breadth of the love of God? If you do, you only need to let God reveal it to you fully in one place: at the Cross of Jesus Christ. 

Tonight, two wonderful things have been revealed to us at the Cross of Christ: The Justice of God and the Love of God. We have seen how the Cross of Christ reveals God's Justice: In His death to appease the righteous wrath of God against our sins. We have also seen how the Cross of Christ reveals God's Love: In His willingness to endure such a cruel death for unworthy sinners like us. The Cross of Christ is the only place where both God's justice and God's love can be seen together. These two seemingly irreconcilable streams have now come together at the Cross where Jesus died, and the end result of it all is really marvelous! Let us meditate on this for a moment, to absorb its full impact into our souls.

What a great God our Lord is! What a wonderful Saviour He is! There is absolutely none like Him, who is both just in dealing with sins, and loving in dealing with sinners! Now that we know these things, let us be careful to respond to them well. How should we now live, when we have seen the Cross of Christ? The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:15 'He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.' 

Here we are told that the death of Christ must bring about two results in us: Firstly, we should no longer live unto ourselves, to fulfill our own wills and ambitions any more. Secondly, we should be living for Him alone. Are you living now for Jesus Christ alone? Let us rededicate our lives to Him. Since Christ has died to save you, won�t you die to self, and live for Him alone?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25