John 3:16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It’s Sunday and Jesus has risen from the dead.

We are told that three days ago Jesus was taken from a garden where he and his companions where resting. He was then beaten, spit on, dragged through the street, humiliated, and tortured, then nailed to a cross of wood and killed.

For many people the idea of the Cross is absurd.

Why would the all powerful, all knowing, creator of the universe walk among us as a man, only to meet this result?

How weak? How repulsive? How ludicrous?

There are a lot of answers you will hear over time.

  • Blood of a perfect lamb
  • God cannot be in the presence of sin
  • The blood of Jesus washes us clean of our sin
  • Once covered by the blood of Jesus God no longer sees our sin, but instead sees us as clean
  • Punishment needed to be rendered for the sin of humanity. Jesus took on our punishment for us.
  • It was a debt that was owed and humanity could never repay it. Jesus paid the price that none of us could pay that we might be free.

These are all illustrations that help us to grasp something that there is no way for us to fully grasp. Know that no matter what I say today I am not saying that these are necessarily wrong.  As C.S. Lewis would say, they are a formula that many use to help them come to terms with the event itself. If these or any other formula help you to come to terms with it then I beg you to hold them dear to your heart.

The only thing that really matters when it is all said and done it this.

John 3:16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Today I want to offer a formula that may help those who are still standing on the outside fearing to come in and accept this gift.  It is nothing new, but maybe it is just what you need.

When I was 9 or 10 years old, a friend of mine and I road our bikes to the Rivoli Theater in downtown Muncie.  We were going to a creature feature.  They were running old scary movies all day. It was great.  But at intermission there was a magician. This magician did all of the classics, take-a-card, make a rabbit appear, saw a lady in half, the works. But as he did these tricks some of the older kids in the audience began to poke holes in the illusions he was presenting.  “Hey, you pulled that card from your shirt. –  That hat has a box in it. – Hey I can see that lady pulling her legs to the top of the box”

The illusions that had entertained them for years no longer worked for them. They now saw it from a different angle. So today when some hear these human analogies of why Jesus died do they see the logical flaw in them.

Isn’t Jesus God? (John 10:30)  Is God a child who fools Himself into believing that he can no longer see you, but instead He is blinded by some symbolic act?

While I know the scriptures that lead to some of this thinking, I want to ask that we consider the nature of God and then look at this as if He is real.  Those are formulas that help understand the thin. They are not the thing.

Look at this question again from the perspective of a real God, in a real universe, who is at least as perceptive as any adult human being.

Would the all-knowing, all seeing, all perceiving Father of all fool himself by pretending that Jesus death, blood, suffering made our failures go away?

Didn’t the flood cleanse the world?

When you big sister got in trouble for something you did, did that make what you did go away. Even if she did think she was perfect?

You might be mad at me right now, but I guarantee that this will hit you square in the face at some point.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

So am I saying that Jesus did not pay for our sins? NO! Am I trying to turn over thousands of years of theology and pretend that Jesus didn’t have to die? Not at all! What I am saying is that we need to stop pretending that God is the one who needed help here.

When it is all said and done, I would argue that if you take a walk back through the Bible with me and observe human behavior that there we really no other plan that would have worked.

In the beginning of our relationship with God we had no concept of death at all. In the story of the creation of man and his relationship with God we are told that Adam and Eve were in the image of God and we at told that death was a foreign to them.

Genesis 3:4 “You won’t die”

But after “The incident” we became painfully aware of death and many other things we wish we hadn’t. We were broken. Our relationship with God was broken. How would it get fixed?

God had a plan and it started immediately.

Genesis 3:21

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

Wait! Is this God in the presence of sin? How many more times, just in Biblical history, is God ‘in the presence’ of sin or sinful people?

Fast forward to the children of Adam and Eve and we begin to see a new form of relationship between God and man. We begin to see man attempting to make atonement to God and to show him that we care

The story of Cain and Abel is one of deep contrast in showing Love and offering that Love through sacrifice.

Genesis 4:2-7 (Cain and Abel Scrifice)

At first you might look at this story and wonder why Cain’s sacrifice was not good enough. What was the difference?

But I’m going to ask you to look at God. Think of who God is and what he knew about the situation.

The book of Hebrews in the New Testament tells us something that will help us find the answer. It says

Hebrews 11:4

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

This subtle difference in the worship of these men is that difference in worshiping and playing Church.  Abel worshiped a God he had faith in by bringing a portion of the animals he raised. Conversely Cain brought an obligation to a god he feared.  It is Interesting to note that Cain believed and that did not equal faith.

The concept of making a sacrifice to show God that we had faith in his power to heal us and guide continues to follow man throughout the OT. We must remember that it was not the original plan, but it was the plan that God knew WE would understand.

Several generations after Cain and Abel we see Abraham’s faith tested through the exercise of sacrifice.  In Genesis 22

The ram took the place of man in the sacrifice.

The concept of sacrifice follows man forward through century after century.

Moses is given the law we know as the Ten Commandments, but because God knows that man is incapable of keeping the law on his own he provides a way for man to atone for his sins and that way is sacrifice. With rare exception the offering for the atonement for sin was a blood offering.

Leviticus and Numbers

God knows that for man the idea of death and blood is repugnant. We know instinctively that blood represents life itself.

Gen. 9. 4; Lev. 17. 11; Deut. 12. 23

Leviticus 17:11

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

The Passover

As we look at the lesson that God started teaching us from the Garden to the cross it is obvious that he was teaching us to understand the concept of sacrifice for atonement. Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Israelites, all of them where layers of what the final lesson would be. Jesus is this classes final in this lesson.

God had led us to the demonstration of His love by making sure we would understand it when it came.

God has setup in humanity the understanding of atonement so that we could share the experience and understanding of His Love through Jesus Death, but also in His life.

Hebrews 2:14-15

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)

When I was a young man I had a horrible way of dealing with a misbehaved dog.  We had a dog named Nickel.  Nickel was a 110 lb  Labrador/German Shepherd mix that looked like a giant German Shepherd.  Beautiful dog and he taught me a lesson about life.

When Nickel would get outside of the fence he would love to take off and run. Let’s call it taking a field trip.  If you waited long enough he would come back, but I was not going to wait. I was so worried that he would be hurt, hit by a car, or be lost that I would go charging out to find him. When I did finally corner him I would grab him and beat him then drag him home. ( I know… Boooooooooo) Surprise, when he got old enough and knew what was coming there was no way I was going to catch him.

What I learned was from book on dogs. It taught me that the best way to get him to come to me was to sit or even lay on the ground and lovingly call him.  Don’t take a stick. Don’t let him see a leash. Just get down on his level and call him in a loving voice.

Guess what… It worked like a charm.

But the next part is the hard one… You must love on the ‘bad dog’ and give him a treat and make a big deal about his obedience.  Do that enough times and he will always come to you.

God has done this for us. God has stooped down to us when what we deserved was punishment and he has sacrificed His pride and power to make us whole. To call us home. He has lowered Himself to us and used that, not for His gain, but for ours.

He could catch us beat us and make us come home. Be He has chosen to Love us home.

1 Corinthians 1:30

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (NIV)

God’s plan for all of humanity is that they be redeemed to Him and have eternal Life. Many know John 3:16, but

John 3:17 says “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”.

Through the Holy Spirits prompting of prevenient grace and conscience no one has an excuse for separation from God. Through the atonement offered by Jesus no one is unable to complete the act of being redeemed.

1 Peter 1:18-19

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (NLT)

Why did Jesus have to die? Why…. Because He Loves us

God got down on our level and said,

“It’s OK. It is all going to be alright. I Love you. Come Home.”

“Yes, I know who you are.”

“Yes, I have seen what was done to you.”

“Nothing could hide you from me.”

“But something has separated us.”

“Drop it there were you are and come home.”

The second you are ready He is right here.  There is no longer any need to wait.  Jesus has come and shown us how to live, but the final lesson was to show us how big and complete His Love is for us.

C.S. Lewis compares it to a rich man paying the debt of the one who cannot possibly ever pay it so that this one can enter into true freedom.

You no longer have the excuse of being too dirty, too wrong, or of being unaccepted. You no longer can claim that the master is simply waiting to beat you. He has come down from His thrown and laid down, suffered, and died that you will know the He Loves you.  All that is left is for you to drop you pride, repent of your sin, and accept the gift.


About toddcbrown

The body of Christ will never grow if the Pastor is the one using his gifts to MAKE IT grow through some cool program or inspiring turn of a phrase.
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