Sermon for Quinquagesima, Sunday February 23, 2020
Sermon for Quinquagesima – Sunday February 23, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)
Colossians 2:13–14 (NKJV)
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who gave himself to atone for sin,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
I understand, I really do. I can imagine how it looks to those outside of Christianity. We Christians must look like we are nuts. We believe things that are unreasonable, things that are openly mocked by the vast majority of human beings. Would you like a few examples? I knew you would.
We believe that God, by speaking, brought into existence the earth and the universe less than 6,000 years ago.
We believe that God judged the same fallen world by means of a world-wide flood, which drowned all but a handful of human beings delivered in a hand-made boat.
We believe that the Eternal Son of God, one with the Father and the Spirit, was miraculously implanted in the body of a virgin named Mary, and was born without sin.
We believe that the Death of God’s Son is the greatest victory of all time.
Now every other human being agrees that Death is never, ever a good thing.
When a family member dies it can completely change the dynamic of a family – rarely for the better – because it leaves a giant hole in the family.
When a spouse dies, it can leave the other feeling hopelessly lost and alone.
When a child dies, it often leaves us asking ‘why’ and feeling like we were cheated from knowing a valuable life.
In spite if this, when Good Friday arrives each year, we Christians gather together to open old wounds by retelling the death of our master, Jesus the Christ! We both sorrow over the event, while at the same time we celebrate and rejoice in it!
What kind of nuts are we? How can death ever be a good thing?
We aren’t crazy, but we haven’t done a very good job of helping people to see what Jesus’ death accomplished.
People generally view death as the end of something beautiful. Death extinguishes the life of someone that God has given life and breath and being. When human beings die…that’s it. Our only choice is to turn our backs and walk away from the cemetery. We can only move on, because death is door through which we exit once.
We rarely see death as having accomplished something good. When an evil man is extinguished, we may think that a victory has been won…but inevitably another rises to take his place. When an enemy is killed, we may think that one small victory has been achieved, but then another enemy rises to take his place.
On Calvary, on Good Friday, three men died. If we look at these deaths from the standpoint of human justice, we may conclude that one death was a travesty of justice; while at the same time looking at the death of the two criminals as no great loss to humanity.
When we look at these deaths in the light of Holy Scripture, we reach a very different conclusion:
One died poorly, for he died in his sins. He will be raised to life to stand before the Judge, the very man who he mocked the day he died. He will be condemned because he rejected the one person who could cleanse his slate with God.
One died well, for he died to sin. He will be raised to life to stand before the Judge, who will remember him, and has granted him access into the Father’s House, his sins forgiven.
Still, in a very real sense, neither man’s death accomplished anything.
Which brings us to the man in the middle, the man hanging on the center cross. He died before either of the other men expired.
What good did Jesus’ death do? By means of His Death, all sins are freely forgiven. By means of His Death, the record of our misdeeds is taken away and the Law of God fulfilled.
Let us begin with prayer:
Lord Jesus, on the cross you cried out "It is finished!". We thank You that You completed the work which Your Father gave You to do: You fulfilled the law of God for us; You bore its curse in our stead; You have reconciled all humankind to God. Grant that we may with our whole heart believe this and never rely upon any work or merit of our own, but always trust in Your finished work on Calvary. In Your Holy name we pray. Amen.
“YOU aren’t good enough.”
Well, at least that’s what certain visitors were telling the Colossian Christians. It was true in sense. God’s Law reveals that no sinful human being can stand or be declared righteous before God on the basis of their own goodness. However, rather than give the Colossians good advice and direct them to these ‘newbie’ Christians to Jesus; the ‘know it all’ Jewish moralists told them that they had to make things right themselves by completing certain Jewish religious rites (which God had – in fact - NOT demanded of them).
This letter to the Colossians would not have needed to be written had the Colossians been directed to the Man who died on the middle cross. Since they weren’t directed to Jesus, the Holy Spirit put the letter to the Colossians into the mind of the Apostle Paul and into a letter.
The Apostle Paul reminded them that while they were not good enough, their sins had been laid upon Jesus and in effect, nailed to the Cross with him and buried in His Tomb, never again to see the light of day. The Holy Spirit would direct the Apostle to write in a similar way to the Christians in Ephesus, telling them that their sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus and His Death set them free from their sin.
The Holy Spirit directed him to write to the Roman Christians (Romans 6:6-7), know this:
“…that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
He reminded the Colossian Christians that though they were, as ‘natural born unbelievers’ spiritually dead, when they were baptized, their sins, which Jesus paid for on Calvary, were removed. When baptized, their sins were removed, like a cancerous growth and they were given new life, brought into a new and living relationship with God.
3 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
It wasn’t JUST the Colossian Christians. Since the first humans disobeyed God, every newborn human is born spiritually dead in sins, dead to God. We show that the cancer of sin still infects us when we sin in thought, word and action. Our sinful natures are naturally self-centered not God-centered, which is why we are happiest when we get our way and please ourselves.
If God had not forgiven our sins in baptism, like people with progressive cancer, our sinful natures would grow and finally take over. We would die in sin and be left to face the judge and be condemned. God didn’t leave the Colossians to deal with sin on their own, instead, He forgave them all their sins. He didn’t just ignore them, He made atonement for them by sending His Son to bear our sins and to die for them.
All of the 25 words of the 13th verse are important, but I want you to take note of and remember one word, the word – All, in the phrase, ‘having forgiven you all trespasses.’ God has forgiven us all trespasses – the word pictures sin as stepping over the line. Jesus didn’t only die for your sins, He died for the sins of every human being.
Jesus died…for sins…to atone for the sins of all. He died for the sins of the religious leaders who lied about Him and mocked Him. He died for the sins of the soldiers and for Pontius Pilate the governor.
He died for every sinner…but it’s only when we see ourselves as sinners that this truth becomes personal. Jesus died for me, to atone for my sins.
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Shortly after we moved to Marquette, I asked if the ‘deck’ on the parsonage could be enlarged. In order to do that, plans were made and a building permit was purchased from the city. We may complain about permits, they are necessary to verify that a structure is safe, in this case to verify that the deck would hold up under the weight of people and snow.
The permit was to be posted in plain sight, so that if a building inspector came on site, he could verify that the structure was being built lawfully and safely.
We were all born dead in trespasses and sins – Paul and Timothy, the Colossian Christians – you and me. As a result, we were destined for the same fate as the impenitent thief – a date with the judge, condemnation and eternal death.
God made plans to remedy the situation.
First, God planned to offer the one and only complete payment for sin – by offering up His one and only Son. The man on the middle cross wasn’t only the perfect human being; He was also the Son of the Living God, one with God the Father from eternity. God gathered all the black marks from every sinner’s ledger and laid them on His Son. Jesus paid the punishment we earned by breaking God’s Law. Jesus died to satisfy God’s Justice. God wiped our slate clean by means of Jesus’ death.
But there was still a problem. God’s Law demands that we measure up and condemns us if we don’t. So, God made Jesus our living substitute. He lived in perfect love to God and satisfied every demand of God’s Law. When His perfect life had been lived, Jesus fulfilled the handwriting of requirements that was against us. It was taken out of the way, pictured here as having been posted on the cross, paid in full.
The phrase ‘the handwriting of requirements’ pictures the demands of God’s Law. When Jesus completed His sinless life, God posted that perfect record on the cross, to verify that His law had been forever satisfied. The cross of Jesus held up it bore the weight of Christ and the sins of the world and the forever fulfilled law of God.
God fulfilled the requirements that we could not; He nailed the receipt of payment to the Cross. You have been freed from the accusation of God’s law and from its condemnation, not because you never sin, but because Jesus kept and fulfilled that law and has taken it out of the way.
It’s strange that the man on the middle cross was accused of attempted insurrection, of preaching against taxes and of claiming to be an earthly king; even though He had never attempted insurrection, preached in favor of taxes, and was proven to be God’s appointed King. He is God’s Son, declared to be so by the voice of God from heaven. He was proven to be God’s Son by doing things that only God could do.
It is because He is God’s Son that His death has indeed paid the debt to free us from sin. He died for sin, for every sin.
So, shouldn’t the Cross of Jesus be black, for it bore the sins of the world? Shouldn’t the cross of Jesus be covered in sticky notes upon which our misdeeds against God’s law are written and posted as forgiven, paid in full?
Why is the center cross…gold?
It is gold, because from the point of view of sinners – it is the most valuable thing of all time. Yes, three men died on Calvary on Good Friday. Only one of them was also God’s Son, who died the sacrifice to atone for human sin so that we might die to sin and be raised to eternal life (TLH 179):
On my heart imprint Thine image, Blessed Jesus, King of Grace,
That life’s riches, cares and pleasures Have no power Thee to efface.
This the superscription be: Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my Life, my hope’s foundation. And my Glory and Salvation.