This Week's Gospel Sermons
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October 24, 2010
Let’s look at a scenefrom the first century — a scene on a hill just outside of Jerusalem. This is a place where men come to die — not a peaceful and pleasant death, but one of suffering and humiliation because of punishment due. There are three crosses here this day. One is for the Jew named Jesus. “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke 23:32‑33). This was God’s plan, that Jesus be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).
Between two criminals we see the utter humiliation and depths to which Jesus was willing to go for you and me. Between two criminals we see the value that sinful man placed upon the Christ. Between two criminals we see God’s love and man’s response.
The left-hand cross clearly shows us man’s attitude of rejection and refusal. “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). This is the same heart we see in the soldiers who scoffed, in the priests who mocked, and the in the people who shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Mark 15:13). And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. (Matthew 27:39-42).
This cross also shows us how near to Christ we may come and still be lost. This man could talk to the Christ. He could see the Christ with his own eyes. How close he was to Christ — yet how far! Many today are close to the Christ in that they claim to be religious, yet are still lost because of their unwillingness to submit to Jesus. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
The cross on the other side gives us a picture of repentance and remission. This man had been as his companion and engaged in mocking the Saviour (Matthew 27:44). Upon seeing the Christ and being in the same circumstance, he came to repentance. “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:40‑42). Repentance, in simplest terms, means to change one’s mind so as to change one’s actions. Jesus gave a perfect illustration (Matthew 21:28-29). This man may have been bound to his cross, but he was quite capable of acknowledging Christ as the Son of God. Christ understood his heart, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” We see how close a sinner can be to hell, yet can turn and be saved. Today, we may be a vile sinner, but can acknowledge and submit to His will, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). So many think they can wait until the eleventh hour to submit to God’s will. One problem with this is that those who wish to be saved at the eleventh hour die at 10:30!
The center cross — the Christ’s — shows us a picture of redemption and reconciliation. The man on the left-hand cross died in his sin, and the man on the right-hand cross died to his sin, but the Christ on the center cross died for sin and every sinner.
The cross in the middle shows the awfulness of sin. It shows suffering. It was not His own sin for which He suffered — He had none. It was for your sins and mine that He was nailed to the cross. His cross was an altar where was slain the greatest sacrifice in all history of guilty, condemned man. Hebrews 9:26 reads: “But now once ... hath he appeared to put away sin ... so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.”
Perfection: teleiow (teleioo) — to bring to an end, to complete.
Hebrews 10:14 — For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Hebrews 12:22-24 — But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
Through the shedding of His blood, Christ has brought about perfection — completion — for the righteous, the sanctified. He is the beginning of our faith, and He is the completion of our faith. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).
apokatallassw(apokatallasso) — to reconcile completely.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Colossians 1:19-23)
Through the shedding of His blood, Christ has brought about reconciliation — “cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible” (Oxford American Dictionary). By His death, we can again have a right relationship with God. We can have peace instead of conflict. We can be one in Christ in fellowship with God. “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).
— S. Scott Richardson Sr.