CS Lewis said there are only three options with regard to who Jesus is based on his claims and actions and the witness of scripture and history:
Your decision! And not to decide is a decision. If he’s Lord – the appropriate position to connect with him, starts on our knees. He’s not a hypothesis to consider but the God we were made to worship.
There was a famous occasion where some friends of a paralysed man lowered him through the roof in a crowded home to get him to Jesus. I would have thought his most pressing need was obvious (sometimes what we think we know gets in the way of what we need to know) – he couldn’t move to walk. Paraplegic or quadriplegic. Jesus knew what he needed more, first and foremost:
‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
The religious people there to check him out were amazed, not that Jesus was focusing on forgiveness – but that he was OFFERING it!
They said, ‘Who can forgive sins, except God alone?’
And you know what? They were RIGHT!
The only person who can truly forgive you is the one who you have sinned against and wronged. In forgiving sin like this, Jesus wasn’t pronouncing absolution in some general religious sense, but claiming to give what belonged to God, the ability to judge or forgive sins. How could he? Because Jesus is God.
Jesus said, ‘Trust in God – trust also in me!”
That’s the kicker. The ultimate test. Not just the perfect life, the blameless character, the unsurpassed teaching, the most powerful healing, and resurrections. Not just the offer he made to give people forgiveness of sins, and lavishly pour upon them his love forever (oh – and eternal life too!). Not just the claims to be God, to return in glory and one day be the judge of all people, when all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. ‘Blasphemy!’ Cried his accusers.
How do you know it’s real? Jesus’ offer of love of another kind, love that surpasses knowledge – how do you know it’s for you?
That’s the CRUX of the matter, isn’t it?
As Good Friday approaches.
That word Crux of course = Latin for cross. The most important symbol of Christianity. The cross gives us the answer. The most profound thinkers have never fully grasped it. The best religious brains at the time couldn’t see what was going on. Why the cross? Why?!
Why would this wonderful God-man end up, nailed up – impaled outside the city walls on a blood stained pole, amid the flies and the heat on a cross? A death no Roman could have ever been sentenced to it was so beneath contempt. Jesus was mocked, despised, reviled, spat on, flogged. Then, it got worse. A terrible lingering half-death, until all the lights went out as his Father covered the Sun to hide the shame of it all and yet this cross is said to demonstrate God’s love to us? How come?
I watched the new movie ‘Source Code’ the other day and a recurrent theme of that is, ‘If you knew you only had a very short time to live before you died, what would you do?’ – Good film by the way!
We are in a series at Ivy Manchester looking at what have become known as ‘The seven sayings from the cross.’ We’re calling it ‘Cross words.’ It’s seven short sentences Jesus mouthed as he hung in agonised dying agony. They’re available as podcasts and this series (not yet finished) is from one of those talks.
And if you knew you only had a short time to live, and if every word meant you had to push up on a nail that held your feet to exhale it. If every sentence brought your death sentence closer and shortened your life – wouldn’t you want to make those words count?
Many people were crucified by the Romans. Thousands in a single day at times. They once ran out of wood and just nailed people to the walls around Jerusalem. Many hundreds of thousands of crosses then, but we only remember this one. Those who were dying usually shouted and swore and cursed those who put them there.
Here’s what Jesus said: in Luke 23 – ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
…they did know what they were doing, didn’t they? They were whipping him, driving long cruel nails into him, putting a crown of thorns on him, and killing him – very slowly. Laughing at him the whole time.
They did know.
And the problem is, when I sin, I do know what I do, too. All too often it’s not something that just happens, I choose to be selfish or greedy. I do know what I do.
Sometimes I justify it.
I say I can’t help it
Or nobody’s perfect
Or everyone else is just as bad
Or I’m not as bad as Adolf/Saddam/(insert name)…
But really, I do know what I do, when I do wrong.
So I don’t think that’s what he was saying, when Jesus prayed that one sentence prayer to God.
He called him FATHER.
Then… he said FORGIVE – because they knew exactly what they were doing...
But they didn’t know who they were doing it to.
Blinded by Satan and religion and jealousy and pride, they gave a criminal’s death to the Christ – the holiest, most perfect and good man who is God.
They spat on him and laughed as he died and said they were doing it for blasphemy, ‘Because you being a man, called yourself a King, the Son of God.’ There’s a dark irony in that.
They knew not what he was. They knew not what they were doing, and who to – that they were killing God. Spitting in his face.
And I don’t see what my sin is, or what it does to a holy God, either. That’s why I need what I don’t deserve. Grace. Forgiveness.
A nanny wanted to explain the reason for the cross to the children in her care and she wrote the hymn, ‘There Is A Green Hill Far Away,’ to help them get it. You might already know the words? Do you get it?
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven,
Saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.