Why did Jesus die? Sunday 16th February 2020
Romans 3:9-26; Mark 15:21-39.
Second Sunday before Lent.
This talk is greatly shaped by the Alpha talk ‘Why did Jesus die?’
On 13th January, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90, taking off from Washington DC, crashed into the Potomac River. It was winter. And the river was full of ice. The crash happened near a bridge going over the river. The TV cameras set up there could see everything. Millions of viewers sitting in their living rooms, watched as a helicopter flew overhead and let down a life belt, on a line, to a man struggling in the water. He grabbed the line, passed it to another survivor just by him, clipped the woman in and they hoisted her up to safety. The helicopter let down the line again. And again the man did the same thing. He passed the line to someone else and rescued them. He saved others. Before finally, when the helicopter returned, exhausted, he himself drowned.
Why did this man not save himself? The answer. He was out to save others. In some way, this is an image of Jesus – and why he died – he did not save himself, he was out to save others…
The man was Arland Williams, aged 46. He is remembered – a bridge named after him, a medal created memory of his sacrifice.
About a third of the Gospels remember the death of Christ. You can’t miss the clear emphasis each gospel places on that last week which leads us to Jesus death. Much of the rest of the NT is explaining why he died. The central service of the Christian Church – Mass, Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Communion – it all about the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus. The cross has become, what you could say, the logo of Christianity, a symbol. We make the sign of the cross on the forehead of each person – adult or child who is baptised. Many people wear a cross.
Lenny Bruce, an American writer and comedian who died in the 1960s said:
“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”
Why do we remember Jesus’ death in so many ways and place such significance upon it?
Why remember his death?
Many leaders who influenced nations or even changed the world are remembered for the impact of their lives. Jesus, who more than any other person changed the face of world history, is remembered for his death even more than his life.
Why is there such concentration on the death? And what is the difference between his death and the deaths we remember on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day, Memorial Day?
John 3:16 – perhaps the most famous verse in the whole Bible, and in a way sums up the message of the whole Bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. “
Our first answer. Jesus hangs on that cross and dies because God loves us. For all of us, you me, past present future, out of love Jesus died.
What was the problem that needed him to die?
People at times to us say – I am happy, fine, no problems and so don’t have a need of Christianity. And it is true – every human is created in God’s likeness, also called the image of God. And we all know great people who aren’t Christians. Every human is capable of incredible good.
But there is another side to the coin. In my life, I know there are things that I do or say or think which I know are wrong – I mess up…
At times I find it hard to admit that I have done something wrong. The words get stuck somewhere down here. We come up with excuses why it wasn’t really our fault …We blame someone else.
Imagine you are walking home. A black van comes along side and you are grabbed by members of the Dutch Security Services. They take you to a disused factory – a room filled full of screens – and they put in a DVD. It is your life – this year – every thought, every word, every act every think you could have done but didn’t. It is everything! And then they say they are now sending a link to the phones of your family, friends, work colleagues to watch it too. There would be lots of good in it – in my year in your year – even thinking of this makes me feel uncomfortable as there would be things I’d want nobody to know – thoughts, words etc… I think all of us would feel uncomfortable if we were there…
Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Who – all have sinned. We have all – Paul says to the Christians, Jews and Gentiles – have done wrong. In fact he says, we have all sinned.
People say they have led a good life – but in comparison to who? Does depend on who we compare ourselves with.
Paul says the standard is not people around us, or even people in history. ”We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Another translation – NLT – says we have fallen short of ‘God’s glorious standard.’
The glory of God, is that revealed in Jesus and if we think for a moment or two – we fall very short, a long way short of Jesus.
We all have something on that disc we are not comfortable with…
So, people may say – okay, fair dues, but we are all in the same boat. Yes true, all in the same boat, but sin does have consequences. And they can be summarised under 4 headings.
1.Pollution of Sin.
Sin is something that influences us, like pollution influences the seas. It was discovered, since the 1980s, there has been an organized crime group from Italy that has made huge amounts of money by illegally disposing of vast quantities of all different kinds of highly toxic industrial waste. They would simply take it all out to sea and then awfully sink the whole ship!
Sin influences our heart, it damages our heart, it pollutes us – the core of who we are. And it shows itself in many ways and affects our lives in many ways. Jesus said, in Mark 7, ”Our of your hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder…” In other places, we read about sin’s effect being envy, slander, deceit, malice. So, Jesus teaches, sin influences, infects, our heart, and so our life.
2.Power of Sin
Sin can be addictive. Jesus said: ‘everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’ (John 8:34). Sin is a habit, is what Jesus refers to – if we hold things against someone, I think it is easier to hold it against someone else, if we gossip or we are critical, we find it easier to be critical about others and so on. We lie to our spouse or friends, it is easier to lie again. We become enslaved without even realising it. Sin gains power over us, our habits, actions, attitudes.
3.Penalty of sin:
In our nature, we cry out for justice, and so most people would say, who deserves to get into heaven and those who don’t – on the exclusion list would be killers, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, people who do evil things. But Paul says when we judge others, we condemn ourselves because we who judge do the same things – no we don’t, we say, we don’t kill etc. But if all sin is equal, which is a scary concept, and we all sin, then we are in the same boat as all these nasty people.
4. Partition of sin
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Wages of sin – what sin earns – is death. Paul is not talking about physical death – rather spiritual death, That comes from a cutting off from God – there is a barrier created between us and God. And these things have the potential to cut us off permanently from God. That is what the Bible calls Hell – hell is being cut off from God, it is spiritual death, as Paul puts it.
Sin is bad news. Pollution, Power, Penalty, Partition. But Mark’s Gospel begins, in its first verse: ‘the gospel about Jesus Christ’ – Gospel, we must remember means GOOD NEWS. Christianity’s message is fully 100% good news! It is Good news that God loves me and loves you. It is about a solution.
It is about GRACE to us – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
1 Peter 2:24 – He himself – that is Jesus – bore our sins in his body on the tree – (on the cross) – so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
This is not some innocent bystander on the cross. This is, God Himself.
This year is 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated. On 31st July 1941 a prisoner escaped. And as a reprisal the commandment and his SS assistant randomly selected ten men to die in a starvation underground bunker. One of the men who was selected to die was a man called Francis Gajinisdek. And when Francis Gajinisdek was selected, he cried out: he said, `Ah, my poor wife and my children. They’ll never see me again.’
And at that moment, a Polish man—very unimpressive-looking in many ways, with round glasses in wire frames—stepped out, and he said, `Look, I’m a Catholic priest. I don’t have a wife and children.’ He said, `I want to die instead of that man.’ The commandment said ‘Request granted’ and walked on.
Maximilian Kolbe was the name of the Catholic priest. He was 47 years old at the time. Nine men and a priest went to the starvation bunker. Kolbe was a remarkable man — he got them all praying and singing hymns. He was to be the last to die – the bunker was needed for others – so he and the remaining other 2, were given a lethal injection of carbolic acid on 14th August 1941.
41 years later, on 10th October 1982, Maximilian Kolbe’s death was put in its proper perspective. In St. Peter’s Square in Rome, present in a crowd of 150,000 people—including 26 cardinals, 300 bishops and archbishops—was that man, Francis Gajinisdek and his many. And the Pope described the death of Maximilian Kolbe in these terms. He said, `It was a victory, like that won by our Lord, Jesus Christ.’
Francis Gajinisdek died in March 1995. His obituary said he spent the rest of his life going around telling people what Maximilian Kolbe had done for him, because he’d died in his place.
Jesus died in our place, and he endured crucifixion. Crucifixion was a terrible brutal way to die. Yet the Bible does not concentrate on the physical pain or the emotional pain described by Mark, it focused on the spiritual suffering of Jesus, for he is cut from God, for our sins. ”My God my God why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15), he cries.
Isaiah 53:6 helps us understand.
We, all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
A way to look on it. This hand is us, Imagine you place a book on the hand, it shows the barrier between us and God. And this hand is Jesus. The Book is placed on Jesus representing how the Lord laid on him the inquity of us all – the book is Jesus.
The cross – Jesus carries your sin and mine. He cries out ”My God my God why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34) – not the cry of a Jew who felt abandoned – it is much deeper, Jesus who knew and loved God the Father so perfectly and yet it cut off from him due to our sin.
That leaves us FREE to have a relationship with God.
Jesus said: God so loved the world that he gave his only son SO THAT…
The results of God’s Son being crucified. Like a diamond reflects different colours as light hits it. We see different results from the cross.
Four NT pictures which were common day to day images.
1. The Temple (cf Romans 3:25)
The Cross is the answer to the Pollution of Sin.
In the Old Testament, there were very careful laws about what happened when you did something wrong. Basically, you had to go to the temple and you got an animal, a perfect animal for sacrifice, and you confessed your sins over the animal. It was imagery, signifying that your sin passed from you to the animal, which was then sacrificed. But the Bible is clear animal sacrifice never sorted out the sin problem. Hebrews 10:4 – “It’s impossible for the blood of bulls or goats to take away sins, they are only a shadow” A man called John once called Jesus, in John chapter 1, – ‘Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’
A perfect sacrifice – Jesus dies once, and it is resolved.
The cross wipes the slate clean. Through the cross we can know forgiveness for what we have done. Through the cross healing can come, we can know shame being lifted, and the power of forgiveness released into what has been done to us. The cross enables us to make a fresh, clean start. Jesus blood purifies us from all sin, it washes away, he atones for, and removes the pollution of sin.
2. MarketPlace. People would get themselves into debt. And in the ancient world they would sell themselves into slavery – you would have a price around your neck and you would stand there and see if someone would buy you as a slave – and the price would go towards your debt but you’d be in slavery. However, someone could come along and ask how much was your debt. Say, you say it was 10,000. And they offer to pay it. And you are not a slave, you go free and the debt is paid. That figure was called a ransom price.
Jesus: ”For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).
Lionel Ritchie the singer was interviewed. You may not know who he is – ask your parents or some of the older members of All Saints – or search on Spotify!
In the British interview, he was saying that he came from a very poor background but he started to make money out of his singing. And one time it was his father’s birthday, and he gave his father this huge present, and his father was really excited about it.
But as he took off the wrapping paper, he found there was more wrapping paper inside. And then he took off another layer; there was more wrapping paper, and more wrapping paper. And this present just got smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, and he could see his father’s face falling.
And eventually he got to the heart of it, which was just a little tiny piece of paper. And on the piece of paper it just said this: `All debts paid.’ And his father said, `Well, you’ve paid my credit card debt?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off all your credit cards.’ He said, `Well, what about the car?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off the car.’ His father said, `Well, what about the mortgage?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off your mortgage.’ All debts paid – that is what Jesus did on the cross.
As we said, Jesus told those listening: ”I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” He then went on to say: ”So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 10:34 & 36).
The cross is the answer to the power of sin.
3. Law Court. (Romans 3:24, 26 & 4:25)
Paul says that Christ’s death has made us justified – made right with God. Justified is a legal term. If you go to court and you are aquitted, you were justified.
There were two friends at school. They were great friends. They went to university together. They were great friends at university. Then they went their separate ways. One of them went on to become a lawyer and then a judge. The other one went into a life of crime. And one day the criminal appeared before his old friend the judge.
And the judge was faced with a dilemma: because he loved his friend, but he had to do justice. That, if you like, is God’s dilemma: he loves us, but there has to be justice. He can’t just say, just like that judge couldn’t just say, `Oh well, you’re an old friend. I’ll let you go.’
So, in this illustration, the judge fined him the appropriate (he’d pleaded guilty)—he fined him the appropriate penalty for the offence—let’s say £20,000. And then he took off his robes, he went round the other side and he wrote out a cheque for £20,000.
He paid the penalty himself.
The penalty is paid. For Jesus, the cost of that cheque was his life. In God’s justice, God judges us because we are guilty – all have sinned – but then in his love, he came down in his son Jesus Christ, and paid the price. ‘He shows his justice, and he justifies’ , as Paul says, (Rom 3:26).
4. The Home. We become part of God’s family. So we are atoned for, our debts are paid, we are put right with God, but even more – and there’s more – the result of sin is a broken relationship. Sin is not what we do – it is much deeper than that. It is a self declared independence to do as you free, regardless of what God may want or plan. Sin is therefore a broken relationship with God.
Paul says: ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.’ (2 Cor 5:19 also cf Col 1:19-20)
God was in Christ – hence we remember Jesus is not a man, a conman, a mad man, he was not some innocent godly man being picked out by God, but Jesus is God among us – God reconciles us to himself. The barrier between us and God is removed in this life, and beyond this life. As Mark records in Mark 15:38 – when Jesus dies, the temple curtain which was like a big NO ENTRY sign into God’s presence, it is ripped. People are free to draw near. No barrier, no partition in this life, none in the life to come.
And to be honest as we get restored to God, we see the other impacts on our other relationships with ourselves, others with whom we work or live.
I learned years ago, that we consider who Jesus and why he died, it demands a response from us. It may be praise and adoration, as John sees in his heavenly vision – ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and walth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise.’
It may be to dwell on the face that this all happened due to our sin, and due to his never changing, unceasing never given up love for you and me.
It may bring a response like the centurion before the cross : ”Surely this man was the Son of God!”
It may demand something else. A commitment or perhaps a recommitment.
”God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believed in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Whoever believed. The response asked of us – to believe and to accept the free gift he offers.
So I am going to pray a prayer – you may want to pray this yourself in your heart, as a means to commit or recommit to the Lord in the light of all he has done.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying for me on the cross. I’m sorry for the things in my life that have been wrong. I now turn away from everything that I know is wrong.
And I now receive your gift of forgiveness.
I put my trust in what you did on the cross for me.
And I ask you, please, to come and fill me with your Holy Spirit, to give me the strength to lead the kind of life that deep down I’m longing to lead.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.