Good Friday: The Meaning of the Cross (April 2nd 2021)
So today is Good Friday.
Why do we call it? Good Friday? After all, this is the day that we remember Jesus death on a Roman cross. Across was an instrument of torture. If the Romans wanted to kill you. If and if you were a Roman citizen you would be beheaded and that was considered a merciful death. Across was it considered a death that was? A form of torture before you died and it was reserved for barbarians non Romans. Or slaves or those who were the scum-of-the-earth the worst of the worst.
And a good Friday we see the Son of God the only man who ever lived a perfect life hanging on a Roman instrument of torture. It is the darkest day of the world. rejected by Jews and gentiles that means rejected by the entire human race because every human being in the world is either a Jew or a gentile and the Jewish leaders on behalf of Israel rejected Jesus and the Roman Empire on behalf of the Gentile World rejected Jesus. In rejecting Jesus, they were rejecting God. a whole world reject God the Son of God hangs on a cross How can this day be called Good Friday?
The Bible teaches that Good Friday is good because on this day Jesus died for our sins. Melatonin for our sins. He took God's wrath upon himself and made a way of Escape for us and because of this on selfish Act of sacrifice we have hope
Put in our day and age the death of Christ makes no sense to most people. Most of our contemporaries in Canada today have little sense of the Holiness of God. They have little idea of the anger and hatred God has for sin. I think of themselves as good people occasionally make little mistakes. And they knew God as tolerant and understanding of them. In fact of you suggest the opposite if you suggested God is not understanding then they say God is Not tolerant. God must be evil. It's over people think this way the cross makes no sense. It seems gross in comprehensible and certainly a very little relevance to their lives Good Friday is just a holiday in opportunity to mow the lawn or watch the game or relax. The Bible has a very different understanding of sin. This morning we're going to consider two of the greatest passages in all the Bible Isaiah 6 and Romans 3, Isaiah and Paul the Old Testament and the New Testament the prophets and the apostles.
These two passages hang together. And one answers the other. In one we see a problem in the other we see a solution.
In the first passage Isaiah sees a vision of the Holiness of God.
And the Holiness of God is a problem for sinful people because God must either judge sin or cease to be holy. In the second passage Paul is explain the meaning of the Cross explains how the cross may seem like just a horrible tragedy. But the atoning death of Jesus Christ is actually the answer to the problem of sin. And so this morning we're going to look at the problem in Isaiah at the solution in Romans. And then we're going to just reflect a little bit about the results of that atonement.
First of all, we want to look at the problem that the send that the cross addresses and Isaiah 6 here. We see Isaiah having a vision of the very throne room of Heaven. He sees the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up and his the train of his robe filled the temple. Holy holy, holy cry the seraphim.
And they call back and forth to each other. Holy holy holy. And I say or knows that God is Holy and throughout the Book of Isaiah the phrase the Holy One of Israel occurs repeatedly 26 times in the book of Isaiah the Holy One of Israel. And that's a problem because not that God is Holy being a problem in and of itself. It's the problem is he's the Holy One of Israel.
And Israel is desperately. Unholy. Woe is me for I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips or a my eyes have seen the king the Lord of hosts.
Isaiah knows that he is a sinner.
I do know is that the people of Israel are sinners?
He knows that this means that God in order to be God must judge the sin of Israel. But how can he be the Holy One of Israel and Israel survive, how can he be the Holy One of Israel without destroying Israel? Isaiah do the scriptures he knew about Noah's flood. He knew about Sodom and Gomorrah. You knew about God sending the Serpent's to bite the Israelites in the desert and end in judgment on their for their rebellion in their on face and their Sim. I knew that God cannot tolerate sin in his presence. He must either Johnson or cease to be himself.
And what is soon anyway? The whole law of Moses is given so that Israel would understand what sin is. Send on the one hand is very complicated. There are many laws many rules. Then on the other hand is very simple. It's anything that offends the Holiness of God. It's anyting that refuses to acknowledge God as the Lord. And so in one sense no matter how big or how small the sin is has the same meaning. Whether I go out and murder a hundred people or whether I simply lie and gossip either way. I am not acknowledging God to be the Lord.
And when we don't acknowledge God of God, we in essentially we will lift ourselves up with we park ourselves up so that we become equal to God. We we are challenging God's got nervous with challenging is worship. That's obscene is deliberate decision on the part of the creature to refuse to be a mere creature who worships God and to seek to exalted itself to be like God and God cannot tolerate that. Whether this team is the sins that are currently seen as bad by everybody in society or whether their sins that are just overlooked and seen as minor in society makes no difference.
Sin is the creature refusing to let God be God.
And God is a holy God who must judge sin. He cannot not judge it. And when what we see here is a reference to the Lord of hosts. Yahweh David off the Lord of host the host of Angel host the host aren't Army. The holster armed Warrior angels And he is the commanding officer of that Army. He's the general. That's who Isaiah is seeing in this Vision. He is seeing a God who stands at the head of an Angelica arm that is armed to the teeth and prepare to come and execute Vengeance on those who refuse to acknowledge God is God at a moment's notice.
If we were to understand our true situation before God, we would understand with Isaiah that our lives. Hang by a thread.
But the situation is that the sword of this Angelic Army hangs over our head and could fall at any moment. That's what I say Oh Sees. That's what he understands. We think that we're just fine. We think that everything is normal. We think that the world is proceeding as it ought. We think God is an angry. We think we're in no danger Isaiah season 2 The Throne Room of God, and he knows that that's not true. He understands our true situation for what it is.
And we know from the scripture that sinful people fall short of God's holiness.
To be a Christian is to be saved we use that word all the time. Are you saved? Have you been saved? When were you saying? Are we talkin about?
Talking about save does that mean? Yes, cuz the average Christian some people say well being saved means that I have my best life now. Means that I'm fulfilled to be saved means I'm I'm walking with God and everything's wonderful. U-Save means I fellowship with my fellow Christians at church to be saved means that I'm a good person.
Being saved doesn't mean any of that.
There are other words that we have to talk about the blessings of the Christian Life. We can talk about Fellowship. We can talk about joy we can talk about blessings of various kinds the worst because of specific meaning. When your saved your saved from something? You're saying from a danger.
If you are out in the woods out in a national park walking along a cliff Edge and you fell over that cliff and somebody came and threw you a rope and pulled you back up. You would say you were saved. Safe from what saved from falling to your death in that Canyon? Same from that danger when we talked about being saved as Christians. We mean we're saved from some terrible catastrophe that's looming over us that almost destroyed. What is that? What are we talkin about?
If you've never understood yourself to be in danger from the holy God, you may not be a real Christian.
If you have never felt afraid of the wrath of God, you may not be saved. if you would never realize that you deserve nothing, but he'll You're not grateful for your salvation, and if you're not grateful for it, maybe you don't have it. When you don't even understand the first thing about what it means to be a Christian.
Because to be a Christian is to be saved as to be saved is to be saved from the threat that Isaiah felt as he looked into the throne room of Heaven it is to be saved from the Wrath of the Lord of hosts.
That's what it means to be saved.
Isaiah wants to know how can a righteous God not destroy sinners. Now the problem for Isaiah was that got to promise to do he promised that he would save Israel hit promise volume all the way back to Abraham. You said through your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. The David he said he descended of yours would sit on your throne forever. Isaiah nosek promises and he knows that and he has written himself these these visions of of the Glorious kingdom of God. Would God would Reign and rule over the earth and its people would acknowledge Him and be his people and he would be their God. Isaiah wants to know how can this be? How can this happen? If Israel is a sinful people and God is a holy God. How can we escape? How can a righteous God not destroy us?
Some people today are preoccupied with what they call the problem of evil philosophers discuss the problem of evil. Why does evil exist? How could you believe exist in a world created by a good guy and so on? Isaiah and Paul Arkham were concerned about the problem of good problem of goodness. Why is there goodness in the world? Everybody knows their goodness in the world. Don't Christians experience goodness in the world Christians experience goodness in the world. That's the real God sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike. Atheist farmers get the rain to water their crops just like the Christian ones. Do there's so many things that we experience in life whether we're Christians are not that are blessings Health spring our daily food shelter close the joys of family life. All these blessings come in abundance on all the peoples of the Earth every day. This is a problem.
Why would God allow us to have all these blessings when we are in Rebellion against him when we are sinners? Isaiah sees that as a problem. He is worried that it might end at any moment policies. That is a problem. He thinks there's got to be some explanation for this. Why has God delayed his rough so long
philosophers made dispute about the problem of evil because they think that we are good people and we deserve to have a good life and we deserve all these blessings we have prophets and apostles of Holy Scripture know better They know who we really are. We're Sinners were Rebels were antagonistic toward God. We don't deserve any of this we deserve what Sodom and Gomorrah got but why does got delayed on why does God hold back? Why does the fire not falling on us? That's a problem to be wrestled with that. He struggled with to be meditated on.
Then we come to the solution in Romans chapter 3.
This paragraph is packed full of profound theology far more than we have time to talk about this morning. I just want to focus on three words from this paragraph. Free images that Paul uses to describe this this the solution to the problem because you see the connection between these two passages is that at the end of Isaiah and verse 7, if you have your Bible, you'll notice that that the Angel takes a burning coal and touches Isaiah's lips with it and says your sins are at home before.
Know that burning coal did not really take away Isaiah's guilt. Any more than the blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament sacrificial system really took away the sin of the Israelites. Adjust as the sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of Christ's atoning death on the cross. So that burning coal was like a symbol of that coming atoning death on the cross by Jesus. And what what Isaiah experiences as a symbolic promise of something that would happen in the future Paul describes is a reality that has now happened in history.
And in this paragraph Paul is talking about the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
He says that what Isaiah hope for and long for? Has now happened. and because of Jesus death our sins are really atone for And he uses three words to describe this first the word justification.
first image comes from the Law Court the be declared Justified is to be declared not guilty. That is to be found not guilty of the crime you're accused of having committed. The amazing thing about us being justified though. Is that we're Justified even though we are guilty of committing that crime. We're guilty of everything were accused of we stand before God in the court of heaven and he accuses us of this crime and this time and that law-breaking and that's in and we're guilty on all counts. And yet were declared justify.
Because God. I knew that the only way a sinful people could not could avoid being destroyed by his judgment. Is it something?
Covered them to protect them as the judgment and rothfeldt you see the raft not following was not an option. Isaiah new Paul new God new God's Wrath Must Fall on it must There is no way that we can the God can just say, oh, I'll just change my mind and decide I guess I won't punish in after off. I'll just not be wholly now that can't happen. So the rats is going to fall. So the only way anybody can survive when that rock balls. Is it they're covered by something that protects them?
And what happens in the atonement? Is that God sends Jesus Christ Jesus the son is both Divine and human so because he's human he can really die on the cross as one of us. And he can bear our sin. As our sin Bearer as God was teaching the Israelites all through the Old Testament Lay Your Hands on the animal that the sin be transferred to the animal then the animal is slaughtered in the that's a picture of God's Wrath falling on the animal and you going free and now we see that picture in in reality where the Son of God becomes human and he Bears our sin and the Wrath falls on him, but he's not just human. He's also Divine and because he's Divine when the raft hits him. He's not destroyed.
Scripture tells us that death could not hold him.
The Wrath falls upon the Divine human sin Bearer, but he cannot be destroyed stingrays is from the dead triumphant. And all those who are covered by him. Who are protected by the shield of his goodness of his divinity?
Justification by faith alone was the heart of the Protestant Reformation justification by faith alone and Grace along with what made the reformers have to what they considered to be the heart of the gospel and it led to a division in the church. The Roman Church would not accept the doctrine of justification by faith. And that's why the Protestant Reformation was necessary so we could get back to the teaching of scripture that has Paul says here in verse 23 at justification is by grace alone. It's by our faith alone. It's not partly God's grace on partly our works. It's not it's not God and then cooperating together in the work of salvation Salvation is something that God does for us.
Justification by faith alone. The second word that I want to draw your attention to is the word Redemption. The Jesus Christ became a Redemption. This image comes from the slave market in every major city in the Greco-Roman world. That would be a slave market and you can go to the slave market and you could purchase a slave and some of the early Christians who had wealth did just that they would go to the slave market and purchase the slave and then set the slave free.
Jesus said the son of man did not come to be to serve to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
The precious blood of Christ is poured out on the cross as a ransom for our Salvation. He gave his life to pay the price of our freedom.
But behind this practice was something deeper and older which one the background against which Jewish readers would read Romans 3. every Junu it's a nation of Israel became a nation. Because of an act of God by which the slaves in Egypt were liberated from bondage to Sparrow in The Exodus 15 hundred years before the coming of Jesus Christ. God sent Moses to deliver his people out of Egyptian slavery. And Moses and Aaron went into pharaoh and informed him that he was ordered by the the Lord God to let his people go free. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and refuse to let Israel go and then exit is 1 to 15 wearied of the terrible 10 plagues that God Unleashed on Egypt culminating in the final plague the plague of the death of the firstborn of every family in Egypt from the household of Farallon down. Any preparation for that night of death God instructed the Israelites through Moses to take a spotless lamb and the slaughter. Laman to sprinkle the blood of that Lamb on the doorpost of their homes and that way with the angel of death swept across Egypt killing all the firstborn of Egypt. He would see the blood and Passover. House.
For three and a half thousand years. The people of Israel have celebrated the Feast of Passover. This is Passover week in Israel right now is Passover week everywhere that Jews are and they're celebrating Passover and it happens to end this year on Easter Sunday two days from now.
when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming pointed to him and said The Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.
Jesus according to the Gospel of John was spotted on the Friday when the Passover Lambs were being slaughtered in Jerusalem. Jesus is our Passover Lamb Paul writes Christ Our Passover has has been sacrificed for us now. Let us keep the feast.
We are Redeemed by his blood and we're set free from bondage to fear bondage to sin bondage to Satan. We are redeemed. We've been set free. The third word that Paul uses here is the word propitiation. This is a word we don't use in common everyday English today. It's worth learning this word though, and knowing this word is used for times in the New Testament including here in Romans, 3:25. And this image is me is that the blood of Christ was a propitiation of God? Oh, by the way, I just want to insert one thing here. Do you know when we talked about Jesus satisfying the Wrath of the father?
That's not exactly wrong. But it's not exactly right.
I want you to think hard with me for a moment here.
We mustn't fall into the temptation of thinking of the father as the wrathful God and Jesus as the merely human being. Jesus is the god man. Jesus is both fully human and fully Divine at the same time. The wrath of God is the Wrath of the Triune God. Father Son and Holy Spirit In all of their operations they act insufferably together. And it is the Triune God who is wrathful. And so the wrath of God is falling on Jesus, but it's also falling on Dawn. What's the thing we need to see in the cross? the self substitution of God the God lets the rough that is due to us fall upon himself when it falls on Jesus. Jesus is not just a man. He's gone. And if God did not there God's Wrath. Then we would be destroyed as Isaiah fear.
Some people don't like this word propitiation. They say it it reeks of paganism. They stay at it. It speaks of an Angry God who doesn't love us. They don't understand. Let's think about this word a little bit.
Why does the cross happen? Well why why does propitiation happened while in paganism because the gods are capricious. That means you never know what they're going to do. One minute. They're light ones. They like you one minute. They hate you one minute. They're angry one minute. They're happy you you never can predict. What they're going to do. The gods are just up and down back and forth are not morally consistent. But in the Old Testament Yahweh is a holy God in the New Testament. Yahweh is a holy God the very same in paganism. We do it we offer sacrifices to God, we bring our animal sacrifices to the witch doctor and he kills them and that's an offering to the Gods in the Old Testament. The priest does it but that's important because the priest is given to Israel by God to the Mosaic legislation in in The Wedding cast of the priest is a gift of God and that becomes in in in in the New Testament Christ is the priest the great high priest who doesn't What is it law in paganism? It's basically a bribe. It's it's giving the gods the food that they crave or the the sacrifices that they need something that benefits them. In the Old Testament, it's a recognition of God's Own Grace's provision in Israel understands that God gives them the crops and they give the first fruits back to God in recognition of that the Israel under stands that God gives them the animals and the fertility of the flocks and herds and they receive a sacrifice these animals to God Israel is just giving back to God what God already gave to them. And in the New Testament this becomes even clearer because God sends Jesus Christ to die to be the perpetuation for our sins. And what is the result of the gods are temporarily placated? If you never know when they're going to be angry again and stop the rains or whatever, but in the Bible the believer is reconciled to God.
propitiation loses all of its pagan connotations when you understand it as not man propitiating God. What is God propitiating himself? in Christ This is something paganism never dreamed of paganism is human Works religion. This is totally justification by grace and faith alone.
And what's the result? All the results of the atonement is twofold. the two different outcomes first of all Sinners are saved What are we safe from were saved from the wrath of God received from hell were saved from condemnation were saved from from the the looming sort of that Angelic host that's hanging over our heads we save from that. and secondly God is revealed to be righteous. I don't know if you understand that little phrase at the end of Romans 3 at the end of that paragraph you notice in verse 26. the Paul says That all of this meaning the cross the whole atoning death of Jesus. He says that all of this is done so that
so that it was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus that he might be just and the justifier.
Why does Paul put it that way? Why did Paul say that the whole purpose of the atonement the whole purpose of the coming of Christ the whole purpose of Good Friday is that God might be shown to be both just and the justifier.
Because God loved us and he wanted to save us he wanted to give us his grace. He wanted to to lift us up out of our sinfulness and to reconcile us to himself and to give us eternal life. He wanted to do that.
But you could not do that at the expense of overlooking sin and being unrighteous.
The reason the cross is so important is that the cross is where God actually causes sin to be punished. He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.
So in a sense you and I have been punished in Calvary. we have experienced the wrath of God, but are our sin bearing savior did it for us and in our place, but that rap still fell and so God is still just But even though he's still just he's also the justifier the one who justifies Sinners the whole problem was how can a just God justify Sinners without becoming on Jost? And the cross is the answer to that problem. Cross is the incredible mystery hidden from the foundation of the world, but plan from the foundation of the world. It's the way by which a holy God can save a sinful people while remaining holy.
That's why. This is Good Friday.
It's good in every possible way. It's good in that Sinners gets saved. But it's also good that God remains. Holy. It's good in the sense that the salvation is accomplished. But without the character of God changing.
same God he's just as wholly now as he was then.
when we stand before God in heaven and we have that Vision that Isaiah had
We will not have the reaction Isaiah.
Instead of crying wall with me. Prime a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Instead of saying that we will say holy holy holy is the Lord God of hosts. We will praise His grace. We will praise His Holiness. We will join with the Sarofim in knowing that he is Holy and we can be confident and sure and him because he never changes.
he has Justified us but remain just and so he is both just and the justifier of sinners.
That's why it's Good Friday.
What could possibly be better than that?