God's End Game - Part 22
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
April 14, 2019
Today is Palm Sunday. It’s called that because historically in the church the Sunday before Easter has been recognized as the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people exalted him and treated him like the king he was by laying down palm branches on the road.
Of course just a few days later came Good Friday. What happened on Good Friday was tragic and horrible for Jesus and his followers, but good for us.
It just so happens in our End game series that we just finished up getting a better understanding of the incarnation, God with us in the flesh, and now we are looking at the crucifixion of Jesus, God himself hanging on a cross.
In ancient times the scandal of dying on a Roman cross was so shameful, it wasn’t talked about among proper folk. Let’s review our text from last week…
Luke 23:44–46 (ESV) — 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Now you wouldn’t think it, but this account in Luke, as well as the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, are hotly debated.
Some say it didn’t happen. They say the Gospel writers made it up. We talked about how, forgive for me putting it this way, idiotic that is. Creating a religion where your central figure dies a criminal’s death on a Roman cross is crazy.
If they were making up a religion, they might have their figurehead die (martyrs definitely spur on a movement), but not that way. That would shut it down before it even started.
The Gospel writers gave that account of Jesus’ death because it was true. And all credible, honest, historians (Christian or not) know that a Jew named Jesus really died on a cross 2,000 years ago.
The reason their movement took off and changed the world anyway, to spite the cross, is because God’s spirit was working in it.
Some say it didn’t happen while others say it happened but Jesus didn’t actually die. He just swooned or fainted on the cross. So when they took him down he wasn’t really dead.
Again, honest, credible historians (Christian or not) know that Romans were known for being good at crucifying. In fact, a Roman soldier in charge of carrying out a crucifixion would be put to death if he failed at his job.
The reason skeptics don’t want Jesus really dying on a cross is they don’t want what came next: the resurrection! We’ll fast forward for one Sunday and look at that next week.
Remember, we could camp out for a long time on the issue of whether the crucifixion is true, but I want us to dial down on…
What did it do?
What did Jesus’ death on the cross accomplish?
For a really long time we Christians have limited the answer to one thing:
Jesus was crucified on the cross to save me from my sins so I can go to heaven when I die.
That’s not wrong. But what happened that day when the world went dark and the veil in the temple was torn in two and the Son of God breathed his last breath is way more than that.
To help us figure it all out, I’m borrowing something from a theology book, something that sums up what Jesus accomplished on the cross well…
Jesus’s death by crucifixion was a divinely ordained historical event by which he lovingly accomplished atonement, purchased Christians’ freedom from sin’s bondage, won their justification before the Father, and triumphed over Satan’s tyranny.
Except for our little fast forward next Sunday, we will take our time and break down this breakdown of the cross.
Today, let’s pull out that first part. The cross was a…
Divinely ordained historical event.
We’ve already covered it being a historical event. We certainly could cover it more (like so much I’ve held back), but so we stay on track and move forward I’m going to focus on the cross being divinely ordained.
That means God willed for it to happen before it ever happened. You and I might want something to happen, we might even set things in motion to make something happen, but only God can ordain something to happen. That means it will for sure, 100%, without fail, happen no matter what. Amen.
God can ordain something to happen before it happens and we won’t know anything about it until it happens. But often God either outright tells us what he’s ordained or gives us hints about it in his word, the Bible.
The early Christians’ Bible didn’t take as long to read as ours because it was missing a testament, the New one. They had the OT and sure enough, there were hints everywhere.
Paul in his letter to the Christians in the ancient city of Corinth mentions this…
1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
That’s another way of saying the cross was divinely ordained. If Christ died for our sins on a cross in accordance with the Scriptures, what scripture is he talking about?
One takes us all the way back to where we started in this series: Genesis. You know this. God made the world and all there is. God made us. Everything was good until that old serpent the devil came along and deceived Eve. She and Adam ended up disobeying God and plunging us all into darkness.
God put a curse on the serpent…
Genesis 3:15 (ESV) — 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
That doesn’t seem to say much at first, but when you look at it from the cross backward you get it. One Bible commentator writes…
The “offspring” (literally, “seed”) mentioned in this verse became the “ ‘mother prophecy’ that gave birth to all the rest of [God’s] promises” (Kaiser). The messianic significance of this is that “he [Christ/Messiah] shall bruise your [Satan’s] head, and you [Satan] shall bruise his [Messiah’s] heel.” And more, this significance was understood some three hundred years before Christ, when the Jewish translators of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, interpreted the word “seed” ( “offspring” in the ESV) as a single individual—“he shall bruise your head.” The Septuagint translators, totally free from Christian controversy, understood the seed of the woman to be a future individual who would deal a crushing blow to the serpent. Today’s scholarship supports the Septuagint rendering that God’s curse predicted that an individual man would engage the snake in combat and win.
So what we have here (right after the fall!) is what the [early Christian] fathers … called the “first gospel” (protoevangelium). Genesis 3:15 promised that one was coming who would defeat the serpent who had perpetrated the fall.
How were Adam and Eve saved? By believing in the Gospel just like us.
We also see the cross hinted at in the OT story of the first Passover. The Israelites were in bondage to Pharaoh. God raised up Moses to deliver them. He kept telling Pharaoh that God said, “Let my people go!” Pharaoh wouldn’t listen so one plague came after another. The last, the tenth, was the worst. The firstborn child of every household would die.
The Israelites were given commands on how to make sure the angel of death would pass over their household…
Exodus 12:1–13 (ESV) — 1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
Think about that and how the Jews of Jesus’ day celebrated Passover by sacrificing a lamb and having a special Passover meal commemorating that night the Angel of death passed over those who had the blood of the lamb on their doors.
The night before Jesus was crucified, the disciples came together for that very celebration…
Mark 14:12 (ESV) — 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
Now, look at what John the Baptist said of Jesus…
John 1:29 (ESV) — 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Look at the first Passover from the cross backward and it’s so clear: Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God slain for us. When his blood is on the doorposts of our hearts, God’s judgment on sin passes us over.
Do you see why Paul would say Jesus died according to the Scriptures? How the cross was divinely ordained? God willed for it to happen long before it ever happened and hints were planted all over the OT!
If that’s not enough. Look at this…
Isaiah 53 (CEV) — 1 Has anyone believed us or seen the mighty power of the Lord in action? 2 Like a young plant or a root that sprouts in dry ground, the servant grew up obeying the Lord. He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us. 3 He was hated and rejected; his life was filled with sorrow and terrible suffering. No one wanted to look at him. We despised him and said, “He is a nobody!” 4 He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his suffering was punishment from God. 5 He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well. 6 All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the Lord gave him the punishment we deserved. 7 He was painfully abused, but he did not complain. He was silent like a lamb being led to the butcher, as quiet as a sheep having its wool cut off. 8 He was condemned to death without a fair trial. Who could have imagined what would happen to him? His life was taken away because of the sinful things my people had done. 9 He wasn’t dishonest or violent, but he was buried in a tomb of cruel and rich people. 10 The Lord decided his servant would suffer as a sacrifice to take away the sin and guilt of others. Now the servant will live to see his own descendants. He did everything the Lord had planned. 11 By suffering, the servant will learn the true meaning of obeying the Lord. Although he is innocent, he will take the punishment for the sins of others, so that many of them will no longer be guilty. 12 The Lord will reward him with honor and power for sacrificing his life. Others thought he was a sinner, but he suffered for our sins and asked God to forgive us.
That was written 700 years before Jesus was born.
Before we wrap this up today, I want to touch on something about this that may be hard for some. Maybe your new to all this Bible stuff or you’re a skeptic (so glad you’re here) and you’re thinking…
The Bible, the Christian faith, is so bloody and violent. How can that be good? Why does blood need to be spilled like this?
How many times have you heard me say this? I don’t know. If it bothers you that your pastor says he doesn’t know a lot, go find a church with a pastor who never says that. We’ll see you and him on the news when your cult is exposed.
I don’t know why blood must be spilled, but the writer of Hebrews writes…
Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) — 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Evidently, sin is so serious, such an offense to God, the spilling of blood is the only thing that can atone for it. The writer of Hebrews writes in that same chapter…
Hebrews 9:12–15 (CEV) — 12 … Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls. 13 According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. 14 But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That’s why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death. 15 Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God’s eternal blessings!
Conclusion: If you and I had been around in Jesus’s day, living in Jerusalem or nearby, we would have heard of him. We might have even been his followers. Or we might have been his enemies (like the Pharisees and Sadducees).
But no matter who we might have been back then or what we thought of Jesus, when we saw him suffer and die on that cross we would have considered it the end-of-the-line for him and his ministry, his kingdom, his message.
The disciples would have been crushed, thinking he wasn’t who they thought he was (but just for three days).
The Pharisees and Sadducees would have been elated, thinking the troublemaker from Nazareth had finally got his due and had been exposed as a fraud.
The devil himself would have been prancing around like a prairie chicken thinking he had defeated the Son of God.
But the cross was a divinely ordained event. What God wills to happen, happens. If a divinely ordained event occurs (as they all do), then who is really the victor? Who wins? Jesus. We are going to see how the cross blew the devil that death blow and destroyed all his works.
In God’s End Game everybody and everything, even the devil, is just a pawn in His chess game.
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