…And Then The Stone Moved.

The old man softly stroked his beard and leaned against the wall by his pallet. His grandsons, six and four, snuggled up to his side. He smiled at them and tousled their hair. They had asked him to repeat a story they had heard many times, a story he himself loved and never ceased to wonder at.

He had been a young man, a Roman soldier stationed at Jerusalem. Like many of his fellows, he had hated it, hated the country, hated the people with their strange belief in one god, their refusal to blend in with other people. And they hated him. He wanted to be back in Rome, where the emperor was, not in this backwater of civilization, with its strife, controversy and unrest.

Beside all that, now there had been an uproar in the city during Passover, always a difficult time with the influx of Jews from all over. Silly people, to believe that killing an animal could somehow take away their sins. Even sillier, to believe that their god was really interested in them and would, or could, help them. After all, look at their country now – occupied by Rome. And how often he had prayed to his own god, and nothing had happened.

And yet, here he was, on a clear Judean night, with only the stars, the crickets, and several of his fellow soldiers, guarding, of all things, a tomb! The tomb of a criminal, at that! The orders had been clear. Guard this tomb! It was said this criminal – this Jesus – had promised to come back from the dead. Everyone knew that was impossible! But the authorities had been afraid that His disciples would come and steal the body! Stupid authorities!

He looked at the stone which sealed the tomb’s entrance and smiled at the thought of a bunch of ragtag Jews moving it, especially after having to overcome the Roman guard first. He smiled again. So ridiculous! He and the other men, hardened Roman soldiers, would have had a difficult time themselves, moving the stone, nestled as it was in a shallow inclined trough. Beside that, the stone had been sealed. It was a death sentence to tamper with that Roman seal.

He began to muse on what he had heard of this Jesus. Strange things about what He had done and said. Something about giving His life for His sheep, giving them an abundance of life. Who cared about sheep!? Whether they lived or died? He supposed a shepherd might, but here, this shepherd was dead. What could He do now? And this talk of forgiving sins…. What was that all about? Everyone knew that you did your best, and hoped that was good enough.

The old man roused himself, and looked at the half-asleep boys by his side, thankful that his questions had been answered. That Jesus had indeed come as the sacrifice for sins, that He had paid the penalty for sin, and that those who repented and believed in Him would be saved from their sins. That Jesus had cared enough for an ignorant young soldier to take his place under the wrath of God and suffer what he, the soldier, should have suffered. That He had done the same thing for many others, as well. The old man looked at the boys again. “May you both,” he whispered, “come to know the Good Shepherd, who gave His life a ransom for many, that One Who died that His sheep might live.”

He thought again of that long-ago night, that watershed night in his own life….

Because, you see, it had been a quiet night, …and then the stone moved.

What DID Jesus Do on the Cross?

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday.  This is Holy Week.  In four days, it will be Easter.  Perhaps even moreso than at Christmas, this is a time of fervent religious activity.  There was an article in the paper about Palm Sunday, and one of the reenactments of Christ’s journey carrying the Cross to Calvary.

The article quoted one of the participants as saying that this reenactment strengthens us as we consider how Christ suffered.  The daughter of a man who was “crucified” as Jesus asked what her daddy was doing on the Cross.  Her mother answered that he was showing how much Jesus loved us in dying for us.

Not for a moment am I questioning the fervor or desire of those people, or any of the others around the world who participated in Palm Sunday services, or who will participate this coming Sunday.  The thing is…

What DID Jesus do on the Cross?

I asked a fellow this question some time ago.  “He died” was the answer.  Beyond that, he couldn’t really tell me anything about the death of Christ.  The thing is, two other men, say, Jacob and Eleazar, died that same day.  Why don’t we talk about their deaths.  Why is Jesus’ death “special”?

“Well, He died for our sins.”

True.

What does THAT mean?

I’m not trying to be difficult or anything.  It’s just that Jesus’ death, and resurrection, is the foundation of our faith and the basis for our eternal hope.  It’s important that we understand something of what was involved.  I don’t think we can ever completely understand it – especially if we consider that Jesus was God incarnate.  If that isn’t true, if He’s just another man, as many who will participate this week believe, then His death was no different than the deaths of Jacob and Eleazar.  We are lost, and there is no hope for eternity.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [NKJV].  There’s enough here for a lifetime of study.  The few words of this post won’t even touch the hem of the garment of what’s in it.

The death of Christ was a substitution.  Our sin was put to His account and His righteousness is put to ours.  He had no sin.  We have no righteousness – in spite of all our “religion” and fervor.

Jesus took the place of sinners.  Their – our – sins were considered to be His.  He suffered the penalty – death – for sin.  But He suffered more than just a physical death. As a man, He suffered a momentary separation of God from Himself.  This is the reason for that awful cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

I’m NOT saying that Jesus was lost, or that He suffered in Hell, or any such thing.  What He endured is quite beyond our understanding.  But for a brief moment, that eternal fellowship the Son had enjoyed with the Father was severed and Jesus felt all the despair and hopelessness of separation from the Father.  He endured the wrath of God against sin.  Words don’t even begin to convey what that must have been like.

If you want to know what God thinks of sin, look at the Cross.

What did Jesus do on the Cross?  He drained the cup of God’s wrath against sin.  He took the punishment due sin and paid every last penny of it’s penalty.  There’s nothing left to suffer in that way for those for whom He died.  The debt is all gone.

Hebrews 1:3 says, When He had by Himself purged our sins, [He] sat down at the right hand of the Father. “He sat down .”  In the old Tabernacle, or in the Temple, there were no seats for the priest to sit on.  Their work was never done.  The sacrifices they offered could never take away sins, could never bridge that infinite gulf between our sins and the righteousness and holiness of God. Hebrews says further, Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption, Hebrews 9:12.

Sin has been purged, redemption has been obtained.

Not just “made possible.”

Purged.  Obtained.

What does all that mean?

Simply put, unless you agree with the Bible teacher who said that the plan of salvation was a colossal failure, it means that there will not be a single person in Hell for whom Christ died.

Nor in heaven for whom He did not.

When Jesus cried out, “It has been finished,” just before He died, it wasn’t a sigh of relief that things were finally over.  It was the exultation of triumph.  Redemption was complete!  He had done what He was born to do!

The wonder of salvation isn’t that Jesus died for everybody, but that He died for anybody at all!

There’s a lot of discussion about all this.  In the final analysis, though, it all boils down to one thing.

What is your hope of heaven?

In that rather fanciful, and completely unScriptural, picture of St. Peter at the pearly gates asking people why they should be admitted to heaven, why should you, or I, be admitted?

???

My answer, and I don’t mean this at all in the way it might sound, is, “Talk to my Attorney.”

1 John 1:9 says there is an Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous.  

I don’t look to my “faith.”  It’s feeble and fluctuating.  Jesus isn’t.

Jesus is the Righteous One.  Not me.

What Jesus did on those dusty roads in Israel – His perfect life, and what He did on that Cross – His payment for sin, these are my hope of heaven.  They alone.

That, and His promise, “…the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out,” John 37b.

 

Glimpses in Genesis: The Flood, Genesis 4-9.

With all the interest in the movie about Noah, I thought I would reblog the post I did on him and the Flood almost a year ago.

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In Genesis 1-3, we saw that God created a perfect world, inhabited by two innocent people:  Adam and Eve.  We say “innocent”  because they had no knowledge of good or evil.  All they knew was what they had seen and experienced: a perfect world, ideally suited for them.  The sad record is that they didn’t appreciate what they had, didn’t understand what they had and so, listening to their enemy and the enemy of God, they decided to take things into their own hands, with catastrophic results to themselves and their posterity.  Chs. 4 and 5 shows us something of those results: murder and mortality.

Chapter 4 records the first murder, and chapter 5, I have labelled, “The Book of the Dead.”  Chapter 4 tells us that the first murder was over religion: the fact that God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  Even though there is no direct record…

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