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The What and Why of Easter

04.01.18 Nathaniel Wall

  1. That I May Know Him
    04.22.18 47m 32s
  2. Why the Resurrection Always Matters
    04.15.18 51m 08s
  3. The What and Why of Easter
    04.01.18 41m 36s
  4. My Life is Hallel
    03.25.18 47m 19s

The What and Why of Easter

04.01.18 Nathaniel Wall Journey to the Empty Tomb Series

I want to welcome you this morning because for us as a church, this is the day of the anthem of which we sing as God’s people and what the Lord has accomplished for us. When we talk about Jesus being resurrected from the grave, the symbolism to that, the relationship to God enclosed in that is more than just a historical event, of which we’re gonna talk about what happened during this time period, but we’re also gonna talk about why it matters. This isn’t something we’re just like … and we say, “Eh, it happened.” It’s pertinent to your life and what Jesus accomplished on the cross a couple thousand years ago.

And being honest to us, I know that this story from an outside perspective, not having an understanding of exactly what Jesus has done, it can look a bit ridiculous. And you think about the proclamation of what we’re about today in the celebration of Jesus’s victory over sin, Satan, and death and what it means for us, that just from an outside perspective what we’re saying this morning is that you’re following a dude that claims to be God that overcomes the grave. Why? How do you know? I mean, if you make this proclamation and base an eternal hope on that story, what solidifies that kinda foundation where you would walk in faith in such a story as that? It happened thousands of years ago.

I want to invite you to Luke chapter 24, and we’re gonna unpack from this story the wrestling of what takes place here and the relation that it makes to our lives. And I want us to understand this when we begin this passage that what I’m provoking us to today is not just this historical understanding about an event, but to encourage your soul to respond in celebration. This matter over the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus so Christians might proclaim is more than just an event. This was a war raged and waged for your soul. And so what we do with this matters, and having an understanding of this matters, and I think it’s even important for us to go back to the first century when this event took place, because it’s pertinent to us to see that everyone had to wrestle with this story and what it meant for them.

Beginning with Luke chapter 24 and verse 15. I wanna share this story about two strangers walking on the road to Emmaus, discussing the events that they had just experienced with the death and now being reported resurrection of Jesus, and they’re trying to figure out what to do with this. How does this all fit in the framework of their thinking? And they’re seven miles outside of Jerusalem just trying to conceive in their mind what exactly is taking place at this moment in history, and trying to understand how scripture wraps all this together and what it means for them personally. And now in verse 15 as these strangers start this walk, it says, “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself,” now post-resurrection, “Jesus himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him, and he said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you’re walking?’ And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them named Cleopas answered and said to him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?'”

Luke as he’s writing this gospel, he begins the book of Luke, chapter one, first four verses, he’s writing to Theophilus this story, Theophilus likely paid Luke to go on this account. Luke’s a doctor, and Luke’s trying to be accurate to the historical understanding of everything that takes place. And so he goes on this journey investigating and discussing with people the details of this event and laying it out for us. And so Luke is sharing this part of the story where he meets these people exchanging, in Luke chapter 24, and the reason we know that Luke likely meets these individuals is that he names one of them. Starts off, “Two strangers on the road to Emmaus,” but then he says to us a little bit later that one of them is named Cleopas, and what Luke is saying within the context of the story, he’s sharing with them the detail of their interaction with Jesus, but he’s also saying in this last part of this verse that this wasn’t something done in a dark room in the corner of Jerusalem. That everyone was aware of these events. This was in the forefront of the society.

And this individual named Cleopas is responding to Jesus, and the reason Luke is identifying this individual is because when Luke is writing the story, Cleopas is still alive. Likely the other individual isn’t named because they’ve probably since died, but Luke identifies Cleopas as if to say to us, if you don’t believe the details of this story in which he’s writing, Cleopas is still alive. Go ask him. In fact, when the New Testament writers would record the events related to the resurrection of Jesus, they would often document the individuals that were there for this resurrection event.

In fact, when Paul writes about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, he calls this the gospel, he says in First Corinthians 15, “For I passed onto you as of first importance that Christ died.” This is the preeminent thing, of first importance, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, it was foretold in the Bible that he was buried then was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, again foretold in the Bible, and then he appeared to Cephas, who was Peter, and then he appeared to the 12, and after that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time. Again this resurrection wasn’t something done in a dark room. 500 people at one time witness this.

And then Paul goes on to say this: “Most of whom are still living.” As if to say to first-century believers, “If you don’t believe the story, talk to the hundreds of people that experienced the resurrection of Jesus. Though some have fallen asleep,” he’s saying some have died, “then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me.” And so Paul, Luke documenting for us the individuals that experienced this encounter of the resurrection of Jesus.

And then the strangers on the road to Emmaus, the story continues. “And he said to them,” Jesus saying to them, “What things?” And they said to Jesus, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.” I like what Jesus is doing here. Now Jesus is completely aware of all the events related to the resurrection, I mean he’s the living example of which they’re talking about. But what Jesus is interested in is understanding where their heart is and understanding the events that took place related to the resurrection. He’s meeting them where they are, and he’s asking them the question, “What is your understanding of all of this which takes place?” The wrestling in their mind, “How does this fit together and the events that we’ve been a part of?” And so they’re trying to see the broad picture in here, and Jesus is asking this question, and they identify him, this very important role in Jewish history, the prophet. You look at Jewish history to this point, God had been silent for hundreds of years. And now they’re acknowledging through this Jesus, God was speaking to them again.

And he goes on in verse 20, “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to the sentence of death and crucified him,” and look what they say in verse 21, “but we were hoping that it was he who going to redeem Israel. Indeed besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early this morning, the tomb was empty.” So what these individuals are wrestling with is the idea of what the Messiah would be. Verse 21. They know what “Messiah” identifies, Messiah means “anointed,” “God’s chosen,” “blessed,” “redeemer.” And yet it’s Jesus crucified on a cross of which scripture says, “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.” “How is it that the Messiah, the blessed one, the anointed one, the one that God is favoring, the Father is with him, how is it this one who died such a cursed death on the tree? We saw him prophetically saying utterances of which God had to be with him, yet such a despised ending to his life.”

And then on top of that, they add in verse 22 that the women were the first ones to see the resurrection. Can I tell you, if you were to make this event up, historically, in the first century, and you wanted people to believe your story, the last person you would want to validate your testimony would be a woman. The testimony of a woman wouldn’t hold up in court in this first century, but yet God is being truthful in the identification of what’s taken place. He’s not trying to deceive you in a story, he’s sharing what happened. If Luke or any of the apostles, any of the gospel writers, wanted to lie to you about first century, I can tell you how they would have written the story. They would have made themselves look great, and they wouldn’t have allowed women to be the first encounterers of the resurrection.

But when you read the gospel account, it’s Peter who rejects Jesus and denies him and curses him to his face. It’s the disciples that the Bible tells us forsook him at the time of his crucifixion. And it’s the women that went to the tomb. And seeing them wrestle, Jesus is asking them this question, “What things? What things? Tell me about your understanding of who you think this Messiah is.” And so they start to identify, and they say in verse 21 exactly where they’re wrestling: “We don’t understand how this picture fits together in our messy, [inaudible 00:11:08] understanding of what Jesus is to present. We know who the Messiah is. He’s to lead us in victory.” And it’s on the backdrop of this statement that Jesus then gives his response and said … And they did not find his body in the cave, and they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive, and some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found just exactly as the women also had said. But him they did not see.

And Jesus said to them, “Oh, foolish men, slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer in these things and to enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses, and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the scriptures. When Jesus starts to unfold scripture, I wonder where he started? Jesus wanted them to see how new covenant, old covenant ties together. Old Testament, New Testament, how God is culminating this entire picture with us. Maybe he started pre-Jewish history, maybe he started in Genesis chapter 3, where it tells us, “From the coming of a woman there would be one who would crush the head of the serpent.” Maybe he started with the story of Adam and Eve and how God is the one that pursued Adam and Eve, and sacrificed the first animal, and clothed them in garments, and the word that he used for clothing them in garments was “priestly garments.”

Or maybe he started in the context of Jewish history because this is where they’re wrestling with the identity of Messiah. Maybe he went to Psalm 22, where from the cross, Jesus cries, or in the psalm, the psalmist cries, verse one: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus says, “Remember when I was on the cross and the things that I were quoting, do you know that they were scriptural? Do you know that they were scriptural to show you the fulfillment of Old Testament and New Testament of what the Messiah would do?”

Or maybe Jesus quoted from them Isaiah 7:14, “A virgin will conceive, and he will be with us, and his name will be Emmanuel, meaning ‘God dwells with us.'” Or may it’s Isaiah 9:6, “Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, the government will rest upon his shoulders,” or maybe it’s Samuel 7:14-16, where he would come from the house of David, or maybe Genesis 49:10, from the house of Judah, or maybe Zechariah 9:9, that he would ride on the back of a donkey, or maybe Zachariah 11:12-13, that he would be sold for 30 pieces of silver. Or maybe Micah 5:2, that he would be born in Bethlehem, flee to Egypt, die on a cross in Jerusalem, Isaiah 53.

I wonder what he told to tie the stories together. The Old Testament gives us over 300 plus prophetic statements of what Jesus would fulfill. For me perhaps one of the most scandalous in all of scripture is Isaiah 53. In fact, if you were to read that passage of scripture, what unfolds in Isaiah 53 truthfully begins in chapter 42, but the highlight of it starts in chapter 52. Remember when Jesus was presented by John the Baptist, John says, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” which by the way is a statement uttered during the Passover celebration, identifying exactly what Jesus would be? And when Jesus is finally baptized by John, John knows Jesus’s identity, because John says, “I’m unworthy to even untie your shoes,” and in Jesus’s culture, touching someone’s feet is something the lowest servant in a household would do. That’s why when Jesus in the upper room with his disciples, he washed the disciples’ feet, showing the lowest form of serving towards those he loved.

And John says, “I’m unworthy to even untie your shoes, I’m beneath that servant, certainly I’m not gonna baptize you.” But when John is commanded by Jesus to baptize him, so John baptizes Jesus, and when Jesus is baptized, God the Father utters these words from Heaven: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” God quoting that passage, Psalm 2:7, and Isaiah 42:1. He takes two passages and crushes them together in the statement of Jesus, why? Because he’s identifying for us who the Messiah is. Psalm chapter 2 is the kingship psalm, a psalm that they thought identified the Messiah ultimately, and Isaiah 42 is the servant psalm, Isaiah 42:1, the servant psalm. And the Jews would refer to Isaiah 42, to chapter 53 as not just the servant section of Isaiah but the suffering servant section of Isaiah. Why?

Because of the content of Isaiah 53. You see in Isaiah 42 God calling his servant, and by Isaiah 53 that servant’s suffering. But the way chapter 52 starts to conclude in Isaiah, is it starts to … Chapter 53 is where the challenge is found. It says this, “Behold, my servant will prosper. He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted,” identifying messianic thoughts, and then it says, “Just as many were astonished at you my people, so his appearance,” look at this, “was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” So God is taking his servant exalted, and now allowing that servant to be marred beyond recognition and then in verse 15, “Thus he will sprinkle many nations,” alluding to the thought of atonement, and Leviticus chapter 16 where, “sacrifice was made for sins, king will shut their mouths on account of him, seeing the ruling of his greatness for what had not been told them, they will see and what had not been heard, they will understand.”

So you see this picture of this servant both in authority and suffering. And then 53, which I can’t show you all the text, but just to get the flavor of what’s said, verse 3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we did not esteem him. Surely our griefs he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried. Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” So our perspective is that position of him. And then in verse 5, “But he was pierced through for our transgression, crushed for our iniquities,” our sins, “the chastening for our wellbeing fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed.”

Now look at this, all of us like sheep going astray. Each of us have turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him. Jesus is like a lamb as led to the slaughter.

Strangers on the road to Emmaus struggled with this. I think the apostle Paul struggled with this. I think in Acts chapter 9, when he’s on his way to persecute Christians, this is the challenge in his mind: he sees this Jesus, he has the messianic thoughts of the coming king in his mind, that’s why when we read last week in Luke 19, Jesus on the back on the donkey, they’re shouting, “Hosannah,” salvation now, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They’re seeing a king on a donkey riding triumphant in Jerusalem to take his throne. Paul wrestled with this. But then on his road to Damascus, Acts chapter 9, Paul sees resurrected Jesus. How does that work? How does that work in Paul’s mind? You hear this one claim to be Messiah, and he dies a despicable, despised death. “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.” And yet he’s resurrected. How can he be resurrected? God’s favor is on him. God’s favor is with him, and Paul could not deny it.

And so when you consider, if you could just take a step back from this for a moment, I know skeptically from our perspective today, we think, “How can we trust these prophecies? How do we know someone just didn’t write it in later, or give these details about Jesus’s life in the Old Testament, 300 accounts? Well I can tell you it’s because we have manuscripts of these prophecies related to Jesus, older than Jesus. In the 1940s and ’50s, Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, dating as early as 225 years before the coming of Christ. Within the context of these scrolls, there’s 39 from the book of Psalms, 33 from the book of Deuteronomy, 24 from the book of Genesis, 22 from the book of Isaiah, 18 of the book of Exodus, 17 of Leviticus, 11 of Numbers, 10 of the minor prophets, 8 of Daniel, 6 of Jeremiah, 6 of Ezekiel, 6 of Job, 4 of First and Second Kings, and of First and Second Samuel, and of Judges, and of Song of Solomon, and of Ruth, and of Lamentations, and of Joshua, and Ecclesiastes.

You have manuscripts older … You have the Bible Jesus read. The probability of someone fulfilling over 300 prophecies. If you just gave every prophecy a 50/50 chance of you fulfilling in this room, and you took one prophecy for every book of the Old Testament in the English translation, which is 39, so if you take 39 prophecies and you give a 50/50 chance of fulfilling them, it’s 1 in 549 billion. And I will tell you, us in this room, we don’t have a 50/50 chance of fulfilling nearly any of them. You think, you had to be born in Bethlehem, flee to Egypt, die on a cross in Jerusalem. Everyone in the world is eliminated from that one, right? I mean, when’s the last time there’s crucifixion? The probability of this happening for us …

And that’s not the only way to validate the resurrection. Not only is it prophetically, but Jesus fulfilled images in the Old Testament, and the New Testament tells us how he has the role of prophet, priest, king, lamb, temple, sabbath, law. Some debate whether or not Jesus was actually crucified or if he died in the crucifixion. You think about what Jesus endured at the crucifixion itself, that Jesus was crucified by professional executioners. Their entire job as Roman soldiers was to kill people and to make sure they were dead, and if they did not succeed at that, and they pulled someone off a cross before it was determined that they were dead, they could suffer punishment if not execution for not fulfilling their duties. And when Jesus is crucified in Jerusalem, the book of Mark, chapter 15 verses 25 and verse 34, tells us that Jesus is crucified at the exact time in which the Jewish people would conduct the sacrificing of the animals within the temple. 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Coincidence?

Jesus crucified by professional executioners, and you think about what he went through. He was scourged to the point that his organs and bones could have been exposed, which historically had killed men. Taken to a cross, crucified, pierced through, and dies on the cross, then determine that he’s really dead, they run the spear through his ribs into his chest. Thrown in the cave for three days, boulder rolled in front some estimate weigh as much as 4000 pounds, sealed by Rome and placed with guards at the front of it. If by some random chance someone could survive that type of torture, who could do it without treatment? And who then three days later would be up walking around? Yet by God.

When you look at Jesus’s life, one of the most inspiring things for me, and one of my favorite portions of the gospels, John 13 to 17, the last six hours Jesus spends with his disciples. Can I tell you if Jesus were just a mere man who happened to go through crucifixion, even though prophecy had declared this, if I were in his shoes, last six hours of my life and I knew it, can tell you the last thing that I would be doing was washing the feet of my disciples. I would be holding onto the table saying, “Don’t let me go out of this room. Guys, I know what’s coming. Judas just betrayed me, he’s got 30 pieces of silver because of it, oh, woe is me … ” That’s what I would be doing. You know what Jesus does? Jesus encourages the faith of his disciples. Jesus continues to serve others. In fact when you read the gospels, 40% of the story of these gospels, four gospels, 40% of it, is centered around the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You know it’s that individual that lives his life for 33 years, and 40% of what they share are about his death, burial, and resurrection. Why?

Because it’s the theme of what he desired to accomplish in the redemption of your soul. It’s the point of the story. In fact I would go so far as to say, when the Bible shares the 60% about Jesus’s life that the only reason it’s sharing that 60% is to validate his position as Messiah, which is leading to his death, so that we understand the picture of which he has created for us. The thought of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the central theme of our story. It’s why Luke starts his account in the beginning of his story saying that he’s writing this accurately so that we understand the significance of Jesus. It’s why John says at the end of the story, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

One of my favorite thoughts in all of this is to read the reaction of the individuals that believed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in the first century. So Jesus wasn’t the only child born to Mary. Jesus was the first but Jesus had half brothers and sisters, and in the book of Mark, in 3:21, it says, “When his family heard about this,” talking about Jesus, “they went in to take charge of him, for they said he’s out of his mind.” You wanna know what their picture was of Christ as he taught throughout the streets in Jerusalem? The man’s insane. The disciples, Mark 14:15, “They all forsook him and fled.”

Yet by the time you get to Acts chapter 1, the conclusion of the gospels, you find all of those individuals that forsook Jesus joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. By the time you get to Acts chapter 2, they’re preaching with such boldness that they face persecution because of it. What happened? Jesus’s half brothers James and Jude, martyred for their faith, 10 of the 12 apostles or disciples martyred for their faith, one of them heavily persecuted but never faced martyrdom, which was John, who lived into old age. What changed? Why from coward to not denying?

Can I tell you when you study the history of those that have faith religiously, I can very plainly, even today we see this often that people will die for an ideology. They’ll sacrifice themselves for an ideology. But can I tell you the thing that led the disciples to lead their lives with such bravery, to the point of martyrdom for Christ, had nothing to do with ideology. Their faith was built on a historical event. Their faith was built on a fact, and what was it? They couldn’t deny the resurrection of Jesus. They had experienced it with their own eyes. And so when someone came to them, and they said to these individuals in the faith, “Deny Christ or die,” they said, “We can’t. We’ve seen it with our own eyes.” And they became devoted followers.

In our history, there was this event some of you may remember or not, but called Watergate. Richard Nixon. These individuals that were involved more than Nixon tried to collaborate their story together to keep anything from happening to them. One of those individuals was a man by the name of Chuck Colson who went to prison because of Watergate, and one of the things that led Chuck Colson while in prison to Christ was the idea of what these disciples when through because of their testimony related to the resurrection. They didn’t profit from this. And Chuck Colson looked at his own friends related to Watergate and watched as one after another, they began to break down, and the lie that they had concocted to try to hold the story together, but they started to turn on one another.

And Chuck Colson realized how easy it became when pressure was added to their lives to deny the truth in which they stood for. And because of that, Chuck Colson gave his life to Christ. He looked at the testimony of these disciples facing death all over the world and realized if they, in being such in prominent positions, had so much to lose, couldn’t keep their story together, how truthful the testimony of these disciples must be for them all to give their lives.

When you go throughout Christianity, you see the effects of this. For the first 250 years of Christianity, they faced persecution under the Roman Empire. Of the 250 years, 125 they faced persecution that could lead to death, starting with Emperor Nero to [Dominician 00:30:48] and ending with Diocletian before Christianity was legalized by Constantine. Christianity spread so rapidly by the mid-300s, Emperor Julian wanted to revive pagan religion, and he goes on record as saying this, that “Christianity has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who was a beggar and that the Christians care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.”

And you can look in history, from the first century during the time of the disciples, both secular writers and believers commenting on what’s taking place in the life of Jesus. You can read from secular writers like Pliny the Younger, and Tacitus, and Flavius Josephus recording this event in history. Or you can read from Christian writers. You can read Irenaeus, and Polycarp, and Justin the Martyr it’s recording events, Clement of Rome, of all that’s taking place. What faith can validate for you the hope of a resurrection? I mean, you think about all the beliefs taught in the world in an afterlife, and the hope people carry in such a faith for an afterlife, but yet Jesus demonstrates the hope of an afterlife through the power of the resurrection. Individuals throughout history have examined these historical facts related to Christ. Men like C. S. Lewis, I said Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, they’ve all examined it. People from America, from a perspective of really trying to disprove Christianity and finding it out to be true.

One of the more famous individuals that started this tradition of examining Christianity in American history was a man by the name of Simon Greenleaf, who was the founder of Harvard Law School. Simon Greenleaf, he would mock Christianity, he would call it a hoax, but he taught his students to use evidence in the court of law and not to argue against the evidence. In fact he wrote a book entitled A Treatise of the Law of Evidence, which is considered by many the greatest legal volume ever written. And one day as he was mocking Christianity in his class, referring to it as a hoax, one of his students challenged him. “Have you ever examined the evidence?” And so Greenleaf went on a mission to disprove Christianity. He walked away writing this book, it’s called An Examination, it’s more of a thesis statement, but it says, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Gospels by the Rulers of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. And if I just take the evidence of Christianity, would it hold up in court?

And this is the conclusion he made: it was impossible that the apostles could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not Jesus Christ actually risen from the dead. Greenleaf concluded, “According to the jurisdiction of legal evidence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the best supported event in all of history. I mean when you consider the totality of scripture, 66 books, 40 authors, 3 continents, 3 languages, one central theme. How do they do that over a span of 1500 years? Yet God be in it, right?

So you look at all this evidence, and we certainly have some, but can I tell you the most important question isn’t “What happened?” The most important question is, “Why?” So we all walk away with a historical understanding Jesus did that, that’s great, but the question really that all of us need to wrestle with is why? Why would God do that? And then you read, if we go back to the strangers on the road to Emmaus for just a minute, verse 30 it says this, “When he had reclined at the table,” talking about Jesus, he’s sitting with them now at the table, “When he had reclined at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, he began giving it to them, and then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

What was Jesus doing? Communion. He’d just had it with his disciples in the upper room, he takes the bread and breaks it, and Jesus makes this statement in the upper room with his disciples, “This is my body, which is broken for … ” what? ” … you. Do this in remembrance of me.” This is for you. It’s not about just looking at what happened but why.

When you consider the nature of God, he is both just and gracious. He has wrath against sin, and he is merciful. And when you look at the cross of Christ, it becomes the place where those two characteristics, those attributes of God, collide together on your behalf. God is holy. God is just. And God demands because he is good that all sin be accounted for, otherwise he would never be good, nor could he be just. And so God pours out his wrath on Jesus, who becomes the sacrifice for man on our behalf. Psalm 53:7, “But at the same time God created you in his image, so that you could enjoy a relationship with him.” So this invitation in Christianity, it’s not this invitation to religion, it’s invitation to relationship. The reason Jesus had to die is because we stand before a holy God, our relationship with God is dead. We can’t come before that God. But because God is also loving and gracious, being created in his image for relationship for all of eternity, Jesus takes the wrath on him at the cross so that we can be reconciled to God and enjoy that relationship for all of eternity in him.

Jesus did this for you. The wrath of God and the grace of God. And here’s the challenge that we face, guys. In our lives, we become calloused to the effects of our sin. We kinda justify it like, “Eh, someone else is worse than us. Eh, Jesus died on a cross.” But can I tell you, Jesus invented a sacrifice way back in history called the Passover, where a lamb, blood was shed. Every family would go to this temple at this time every year, sacrificing this lamb and this blood would pour from the temple. Why?

Because God wanted us to be aware of our sin, the consequences of sin, death. God’s not about “Let’s just kill things for killing things.” God hates death. In fact Jesus came to conquer death. But Jesus also created the symbolism of this sacrifice to remind us in a very sobering moment what the effects of our sins really were. Our sin nailed him to the cross. When they would sacrifice this lamb, it’s even written about the day of atonement in Leviticus 16, they would place their hand on this lamb as if to confess their sins, and to symbolize that this lamb would carry the weight of their sin. And so when John said to us, in John 1:29, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he’s making this declaration of the image of who Jesus is. Why? For you. For me.

That when we think about Jesus, I need to end here, as he went to the cross willingly, no one made him. Rome couldn’t have hung him up there. There was no anger, no one could keep Jesus on the cross. When Jesus went to the cross, Hebrews 12:2 tells us he went to the cross “for the joy set before him.” Jesus went arms wide open, palms stretched out. “This is my body which is for you.” This moment for us is intended to be intensely personal. Your sin holds him there. It’s not an invitation to religion but to relationship. It’s Jesus takes the curse of your sin upon his shoulder, that you can enjoy this relationship with God for all of eternity. And it’s always the same to us, if ever in your life there was ever a doubt that God loves you, the cross screams it, to the point that God laid down everything to confess and demonstrate his love for you by bearing the curse of your sin.

That’s why today we don’t just talk about it like it’s an event, but we celebrate it as a personal mark in our history, because Jesus gives us all this position to come before him now and saying, “The head of the lamb, what is your posture?” Do you place your hands upon his head and say, “Jesus, thank you for dying for me”? Or do you walk away carrying the weight of your own sin on your shoulders?

This day in history is immensely important to the depth of our soul and relationship with God. As Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am he, you’ll die in your sins. Unless you believe that I am he.”