God the Son: The Cross and Death
Ever heard one of those sermons that gets you thinking, and after weeks you are still thinking bout it, but it is weeks before the penny drops? No? Just me then.
You see over at Holy Trinity Huddersfield we have been having a sermon series, we have plenty of these the latest one started back in September, This is about the creed, those things we believe in, so we have been going through the Apostles Creed, slowly, step by step, one bit at a time: A series of eleven sermons. Sermons are recorded and found here. You’ll have to scroll down and use the ‘earlier’ link to find it.
Now we heard the introductory sermon, but missed the next two. Not having children means we holiday either before or after the school holidays; this year we holidayed in late September. On October 1st, having returned home the previous night, we turned up at church tired and bleary eyed, not the best state to worship God or to listen to God, and no reason to take in what was said.
The sermon was on God the Son: The Cross and Death — Here’s the reading:
See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces<
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
he righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,<
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
The sermon was good, very good, don’t doubt me there, but it is one of those can’t win situations for a preacher. So much was achieved by the crucifixion of Jesus that it cannot be said in one sermon. This one has been bugging me about what it didn’t say.
The preacher linked the Isiah passage to the atonement. To the sins being transferred to the scapegoat. OK. so far so good, you cannot read the New Testament far, particularly the writing of Paul without seeing that the sacrifice of Jesus is linked to atonement. So good sermon. Not too long and good in what it said.
But as I have said earlier I have two questions in my mind that arose from the sermon and that the sermon did not tackle:
- The scapegoat does not die.
- Why was the crucifixion at Passover, near the vernal equinox, and not at the feast of atonement which is near the autumnal equinox?
There were two goats at the atonement. One was a sacrifice. The other, the scapegoat, has the sins of the people transferred onto it then it is sent out, alive, into the wilderness. The people see their sins walking away.
I thank God that my sins,our sins have been taken away through Jesus’ sacrifice. But what about Passover? Passover is all about freedom. The Angel of Death passes over the Israelites and they are set free from slavery. Before his death at a Passover meal Jesus links his Sacrifice to bread and wine of the Passover meal. This meal the Jews ate every year to remember their slavery and their freedom. Jesus is all about freedom, and he asks us to remember this as we break bread as a memorial of his death.
If we make everything about atonement, bout being put right with God through our sins being taken away and forget to remember it is also about freedom, it is like saying to God, “I don’t want your freedom.” Instead we should be celebrating our freedom in Christ.
That is what was bugging me, but while I was thinking about it, a friend of mine, Sean, on Facebook, in a totally different context, as discussion of the 10 Commandments, posted:
Not true. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus was the only person in history to keep the law perfectly and thus provide Himself as a living sacrifice:
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14.
Therefore, the law no longer has the power of life or death over us, because it has been fulfilled and kept perfectly, according to Gods standard, by Jesus, and Jesus has been sacrificed in our place.
Therefore, we can live in freedom from the law because we have been set free from the law by Jesus. But the law has not been abolished, only fulfilled:
“Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses”. (Acts 13:39).
It might seem like semantics, but it is an important distinction.
That was three weeks after the sermon. He could easily have quoted Romans 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
That, written by the same Paul that we use get our theories of atonement, clearly links Christ’s death also to freedom.
I am not criticising the sermon from early October, as I said to get everything achieved by the passion of Christ in one sermon is a thankless task, and the one aspect it covered was well covered. I have mentioned one of the other things and ended up with a blog over 4 times my usual blog length. We are still only scratching the surface.
Let us celebrate not only the forgiveness of our sins but also our freedom from the law of sin and death.
Thanks Sean for clearing my mind on this.