Tuesday, January 29, 2013



In reflecting further on the death of Jesus on the cross I feel compelled to share one more thought with you.
NOTE when the love of God is mentioned in the New Testament it is usually found in the context of Jesus' death on the cross. In John 3:16 Jesus says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." Then in Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And then again in I John 4:10: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." John goes further and says that GOD IS LOVE.

Emil Brunner called this "The most daring statement that has ever been made in human language." But that statement alone tells us nothing. It is the cross that unpacks its meaning. As Eugenia Price says in Share My Pleasant Stones, "God's mercy was not increased when Jesus came to earth, it was illustrated! Illustrated in a way we can understand."

The love that Jesus illustrated was self-giving for the benefit of others. We tend to think of love in emotional terms, but the New Testament concept of love is more focused on active self-giving. And the greater the cost of that self-giving, the greater the love, therefore Jesus commands those who follow Him to "love your enemies" as well as friends. The very night before Jesus was crucified, He said to His disciples: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

On the day Jesus died all of the guilt of the world was paid for by the sacrifice of the lamb of God. And, on that day all of the love of God rushed in to touch and transform all those who will see and hear the self-giving love of Jesus. You are a delight to God. He desires to have fellowship with you. He continues to court you with His self-giving love to woo you into a relationship with Him, no matter what you've done or haven't done. Now that's AMAZING GRACE.

ONE MORE THING: As followers of Jesus you are to practice this self- giving love with all those He brings to you. This self-giving love is best illustrated by loving and touching those who are in need and who are identified as your enemies.

So, it's SELF-GIVING LOVE or SELF-CENTERED LOVE? The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the Creator-God is love. And, God wants you and me to continually get back on track with the ultimate purpose of life. Do you know what that is? It's LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It's all about self-giving love.

Every time you exert any energy toward "It's all about me!" or "What's in it for me?", you are spending yourself toward self-centered love which goes nowhere healthy. I find the greatest deception among followers of Jesus is that they can say, "I love God with all my heart as long as I can do life my way and I love my neighbor as myself as long as I can choose my neighbor." So, which is it for you? Self-giving love that spreads the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom to all the world around you or self-centered love that can only spread as far as your mirror and your decreasing band of friends? THINK IT OVER.



Listen to Luke's account of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"  
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

So, we've heard the story of Jesus' crucifixion and His resulting death so many times. But I think these events require a simple explanation in order to understand why Jesus had to die in the first place.

You see, it's like this. Every one of us has something innate, built-in to our psyche. We just know deep down, inside that we must pay for whatever we do wrong or don't do right. There must be a payment. So, I feel guilty whenever I do anything wrong. That sense of guilt can only be satisfied when I pay for it, like when I do some compensation or penance that makes up for this wrong.

This payment concept is inherent in the sacrificial system that God established with Moses. A most vivid illustration of this is the Passover. Each family was required to kill a lamb, putting the blood of the lamb over the door of their home. When the death angel saw the blood of the lamb, it passed over that home. The lamb was sacrificed as a payment. The lamb died, so that the families might live. The lamb paid the price of death so that the family didn't have to die.

This same concept is what the entire sacrificial system is all about. A lamb or some other kind of animal was sacrificed to pay for certain sins. This occurred frequently for the Jewish family-daily, weekly monthly and annually. In the minds of the Jewish people the sacrifice of an animal substituted as a payment for the one who offered the sacrifice. The greatest payment ever received through the sacrificial system was a year's payment for their sins. Once the sacrifice has been made successfully by the high priest, then the people were absolved of their sins for one more year. This annual sacrifice is called Yom Kippur.

Then the Lord through His prophets made it clear that He was going to send His lamb some day to be the ultimate payment for any and all things that anyone has done wrong. This lamb was God's Messiah who was to die for the sins of the whole world. This is why John the Baptist, when recognizing Jesus, said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." He knew Jesus was God's lamb.

You see, Jesus died as your lamb-the lamb of God, so that you don't have to pay for anything any longer. You don't have to feel guilty, because your account is all paid up.

There is only one catch to it all. You must personally identify with the lamb by placing your hands on the lamb sacrifice. This was the way to put personal trust in the payment. Well, today you must place your personal trust in God's lamb sacrifice for your sins-for all you ever did wrong or for whatever you will do wrong. Jesus has truly paid it all!

And, just as the Passover feast is a celebration of freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, you can be eternally free. There are two verses in Acts that say it all: "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).

Do you get it? Through Jesus' death you have FORGIVENESS of sins (all you do wrong), so that you don't have to pay any longer. In fact, you can't make any payment that satisfies. And, through Jesus' death you have FREEDOM from it all, IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD. Forgiveness and freedom form the bottom line of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. So, Jesus' death is not some religious or theological belief; it's the spiritual and psychological dynamic that every human being needs to find true satisfaction. Do you know what that means for you personally?