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I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried

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In preparing for this morning’s message, I once again viewed Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. As I watched it, I was once again emotionally overwhelmed, drained, and stunned by the brutality of the scourging and the crucifixion. The violence perpetrated upon our Lord is simply unimaginable. It’s a movie that gives vivid insight into Peter’s proclamation "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Pe 2:24, NIV)

We’ve come to that segment of the Apostles’ Creed that states: "I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." It is noteworthy that the Creed passes immediately from the Virgin Birth to the death of Jesus with no mention of anything in between. There is nothing about his sermons or his miracles. Not a word about Jesus walking on the water or confronting the Pharisees or healing the sick. In so doing the Creed teaches us that Jesus was born to die. The word suffered sums up everything that happened between his birth and his death. Isaiah prophesied that he would be “ ... a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ... “ (Isaiah 53:3). When he was born, King Herod tried to kill him. When he began his ministry, the people of his hometown took offense at him, and attempted to stone him to death. His own family tried to confine him believing he was mad. At the end of his ministry, the crowds turned against him, Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and his disciple forsook him. His sufferings did not begin with his Passion Week, but they climaxed there and ultimately led to the cross.

Did Jesus really suffer and die? Or was he merely a demigod – pretending to be human as some of the early heresies taught? Did he truly die as the gospels maintain or did he merely faint away during his crucifixion and later resuscitate in the coolness of his tomb, and then triumphantly claim that he had come back from the dead?

These are crucial questions. The early church sought to answer those questions in a document we now call the Apostle's Creed. It was a systematic statement of faith that sought to refute the blossoming heresies of the day.

This morning we look specifically at the fourth great confession of the Christian faith: "I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." This morning’s message will help us examine this great truth that is central to the faith of the believer, and a non-negotiable fundamental doctrine of the church.

I. JESUS CHRIST IS OUR FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST WHO DIED FOR OUR SINS

    • "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." (Heb 2:14-17, NIV)
          1. when was the last time you needed a priest?
          2. unless you have been a member of a religious group that has priests, you may feel that you have never needed one
              1. Baptists in particular find the idea of a priest interceding for us especially distasteful
          3. but all men need a priest
              1. we need a priest because we are totally incapable of approaching a Holy God by yourself
              2. we need mediation and someone to make intercession for us and to plead our case before God
                • ILLUS. When the Supreme Court of the United States listens to a case, the actual defendant is not present. He or she is represented by a lawyer who pleads the merits of the defendant's case. The fate of the defendant rests solely in the hands of his or her mediator and how well he argues the merits of the case.
          4. without mediation ... without someone interceding with God on our behalf ... we are doomed to an eternity in hell
              1. praise God, that Jesus Christ choose to be our intercessor
              2. He is our mediator before our Heavenly Father, and He has never lost a case!

A. JESUS REALLY LIVED AND SUFFERED

          1. the forth confession of the Apostle's Creed tells us that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate
              1. that simple statement fixes for us the historical certitude of the life of Jesus
          2. there were many stories in that day about gods who died and were resurrected
              1. most of them were perceived as myths and non-historical stories symbolic of the renewal of the vegetation every spring after the seeming death of winter
                • ILLUS. Take for example the myth of Adonis. In Greek mythology, Adonis was a handsome young shepherd loved by Aphrodite. Legend maintained he was the offspring of a love affair between King Cinyras of Cyprus and his daughter Myrrha, Adonis was born from the trunk of the myrrh tree into which his mother had been changed by the gods. Aphrodite left the infant Adonis in the care of PERSEPHONE, the queen of the underworld, who also fell in love with him. While hunting, Adonis wounded a wild boar, which turned on him and killed him. Aphrodite pleaded that he be restored to her, but Zeus decided that both goddesses should share him for eternity: Adonis would spend the spring and summer with Aphrodite and the rest of the year with Persephone in the underworld. The Anemone, a wild flower that each year blooms briefly and then dies, is said to have sprung from his blood. Adonis came to be revered as a dying-and-rising god.
          3. but if you were to ask the typical Greek on the street "When did Adonis die?" they would tell you either "Long ago and far away," or else "His death is not an event in earthly time"
          4. Jesus, on the other hand, died at a particular time and place in history
              1. how important is it to the Christian faith that we believe Jesus really lived?
              2. listen to the apostle John
                • "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God," (1 John 4:2, NIV)
          5. the sufferings of Christ are clearly outlined in Isaiah 53
            • "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Is 53:4-5, NIV)
              1. four time the prophet uses the word “our” — our infirmities, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities
              2. in some profound, vicarious way, we were there that day
                  1. it was our sins that nailed Christ to the cross
                  2. and in do so “ ... the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6)
                    • ILLUS. In our hymnal is a song entitled O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. It is based on a 12th century Medieval poem by Bernard of Clairvaux. Listen to the words of the second verse: What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered Was all for sinners’ gain: Mine, mine was the transgression, But Thine the deadly pain: Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place; Look on me with Thy favor, Vouch-safe to me Thy grace.
          6. that verse captures the whole problem of the human race — “mine, mine was the transgression”

B. JESUS REALLY LIVED SO THAT HE MIGHT REALLY DIE

          1. not only did Jesus really live, but he also really died
              1. the second part of this morning’s confession says, "[He] was crucified, died, and was buried”
          2. here the confession hammers home the point that Jesus really was dead
              1. it was not an illusion
                  1. he was nailed to a post
                  2. he died
              2. he was not merely unconscious
                  1. his spirit left his body and went to the realm of the dead
                  2. he did not merely swoon or fall into a coma only to revive later in the tomb
          3. the death of Jesus Christ is directly mentioned at least 175 time in the New Testament
              1. he became a partaker of flesh and blood in order that He might die
              2. the incarnation was for the purpose of death
                  1. his death was not some tragic accident perpetrated upon an innocent and harmless itinerant preacher'
                  2. his death was the supreme reason for his life
                  3. he became a man in order that he might die as a man for man
                    • "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit," (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)
                    • "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)
          4. He died because His Father willed that He should die
            • "Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand." (Is 53:10, NIV)
              1. the terrible suffering our Lord endured did not happen by chance
              2. it did not happen because the Jewish leaders wanted it
              3. it did not happen because Pilate cravenly caved into the mob
              4. behind the evil deeds of men stands the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who came to this world in the flesh to suffer and die to redeem a fallen race

C. JESUS REALLY LIVED SO THAT HE MIGHT REALLY DIE SO THAT WE MIGHT REALLY BE FORGIVEN

          1. Jesus died so as to effectively mediate between a sinful man and a holy god
            • "but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need -- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever." (Hebrews 7:24-28, NIV)
          2. Jesus is our priest who stands between us and God and mediates on our behalf
          3. Jesus died vicariously for your sin and my sin
              1. it was our sin that made his death necessary
              2. the word vicarious refers to one who is just and deserve to live, dying in the place of the unjust who deserve to die
                • ILLUS. In 1893 a World's Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago. It was the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths. Representatives of all the world's major Religions were there. They made speeches and read papers on various religious ideas and ideals. As the meeting progressed, the noble features of the world's religions were set forth. Many of the observers were professing Christians and they were impressed as they heard about the other religions and their high ethical ideals, deep mystical experiences, and great social concern. Some of the observers wondered what could be claimed for Christianity that already had not been claimed for some other faith. Then Joseph Cook, a minister from Boston spoke. Cook was a noted lecturer and Evangelical apologist. He began to describe a scene from Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. Macbeth and his wife had murdered King Duncan in order to ascend to his throne. Lady Macbeth has arranged to frame Duncan's sleeping guards for the murder by planting bloody daggers on them, and covering their faces and hands in Duncan's blood. By the end of the play, Lady Macbeth goes mad and becomes obsessed with a sense of guilt. She continually tries to remove Kind Duncan’s blood from her hands which she imagines is still there, crying Out, damned spot; out!” But the guilty red spot which is really the guilt in her soul cannot be removed. Then Joseph Cook said, "Christianity is the only faith which can wash Lady Macbeth's hand!"
                • "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10, NIV)
          4. most of us think of ourselves as pretty good people, or at least we’re not as bad as the fellow next door
              1. and it’s true—most of us haven’t done every terrible thing that others have done
              2. but still—like Macbeth our hands are not clean
                  1. we have cheated ... we have lied ... we have gossiped ... we have falsely accused ... we have made excuses ... we have cut corners ... we have lost our temper ... we have mistreated others
              3. when we finally get a glimpse of the cross of Christ, we see clearly how great our sin really is
                  1. in the light of Calvary, all our supposed goodness is nothing but filthy rags
          5. but Isaiah 53 contains the good news we all need
              1. He was wounded—for us ... He was beaten, betrayed, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified—all for us
                • ILLUS. If you remember, Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ began with Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions.” The end of the verse adds a wonderful truth: “And by His stripes we are healed.”

II. RESPONDING TO OUR FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST

          1. if Jesus really lived so that he might really die so that we might really be forgiven, then what does that mean for you this morning?
          2. let me offer some suggestions
              1. FIRST, Since Christ is the believer's intercessory high priest, we can approach God's throne of grace with confidence
              2. SECOND, Since our redemption is an act of grace due to Christ's vicarious death, Christian living should be based on inner compulsion of God's Spirit, not obedience of an external religious codes of conduct
              3. THIRD, Since God has forgiven us through Christ, so we should forgive others who sin against us
              4. FORTH, Since Christ died freely for us, we should live faithfully for him

Close by quoting all for stanzas of “And Can It Be” page 147 in the Baptist Hymnal.

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