John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
1 John 5:12 “Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life.”
Easter brings to mind what? Pastel colors? Easter eggs, bunnies, Easter baskets, Cadbury candies? Hopefully your thoughts about Easter don’t go that direction first. When I think Easter I really think Good Friday. Good Friday is the best/worst day ever. The greatest sin ever committed happened on Good Friday and the greatest amount of forgiveness and love was displayed freely by the One sinned against. The laying down of the life of the Son of God shows the greatest amount of love and forgiveness because it was given freely. Jesus was not kicking and screaming on the way to the cross. The Bible records that Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem. Jesus was determined and would not be dissuaded on the way to the cross. When Jesus reveals to the disciples that He would be crucified Peter tells him, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you” and Jesus replies, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Later, when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and the officers come with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus, Peter retaliates against the servant of the high priest, Malchus, by cutting of his ear, and Jesus says to Peter, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
The plan of God was the crucifixion. Revelation 13 speaks of the Book of the Life of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. In the death of the sinless, perfect Son of God, the glory of God is shown most clearly and most radiantly. God’s love was shown clearly and beautifully in Jesus’ death because the people He was dying for were/are so undeserving and because He is deserving of all. God was in control through every moment of agony experienced by His Son. After being scourged nearly to death, Pilate knowing the peoples’ desire for Jesus to be crucified, and not wishing to crucify Him for fear, starts to question Jesus. Pretty much Pilate is looking for Jesus to say something that would help Him avoid the death penalty, by crucifixion. Pilate says, “Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, "You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” Jesus says earlier in John, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again…”
The crucifixion was not God’s plan gone awry, it was the plan. Jesus, while on His way to Jerusalem, gets this warning from some Pharisees, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." And he said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” Why is this significant? I think the significance is this, not mainly, but partially: Say you buy your wife flowers. You come home, ring the door bell and your wife comes to the door with a smile on her face after seeing the flowers in your hand and she asks you, “Honey, why’d you get me flowers,” and you reply, “Because I’m supposed to.” The gesture would be wasted. A more proper, honoring-to-your-wife response would be, “because I wanted to.” God had no obligation to rescue us. And what we see throughout the Bible is a Sovereign God who answers to no one or no influence ultimately outside Himself and He wanted to go to the cross to redeem His people. It is more glorious to know a voluntary Savior than an obliged one. Why God would do this for us? I think the answer truly is from God, “I love you because I love you.” In other words, God’s love for us is not motivated in anyway by our love for Him, our response to Him, or our choice to follow Him, our good works, or anything else. That’s why the Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” God loves us because He wants to.
The cross is God’s love, but it’s also God’s justice. Have you ever wondered why the cross was so severe, I mean, why not have Jesus die by some other means? I think this is at least part of the answer. If you look in the paper and see that someone received two life sentences for a crime, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that that person had done something very wrong. When you look at the cross you realize the weight and sinfulness of humanity. The punishment of Jesus fit our crimes. Really, the worst part of the cross was not the physical pain, but the wrath that was poured out on Jesus by His Father for us. Isaiah, prophesying of the Messiah, wrote that He was wounded for our transgressions and that He was bruised for our iniquity. Wounded by whom? Well, obviously the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. Obviously by the crowd who mocked Him and screamed “Crucify Him.” Obviously by the ruthless heartless persons who scourged Him nearly to death. But Isaiah says that it “pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He has put Him to grief.” God killed His Son. God poured out wrath on His son. That is the cup Jesus asked to pass from Him sweating blood in the garden, the cup of the wrath of God.
God is more concerned about justice than anyone can understand, but I’m glad that God delights in mercy more than He does justice. In Romans it says that God is the Just and the Justifier, or the Right and the Righteousness provision. So my plea to you is embrace the wrath removing, sin-forgiving, righteousness providing Savior Jesus. What do I mean by righteousness providing Savior? Jesus fulfilled the Law of God. The moral Law, the 10 Commandments. He kept the Law that we do not keep. We all are guilty of sin by way of the Law. The Law says don’t use God’s name irreverently. Godly Jews wouldn’t even use the name of God for fear of blasphemy. The Law says don’t have any idols, or do not let anything in your life dominate your priorities other than God. The Law says, don’t steal, cheat, lie, lust, commit adultery, fornicate, covet, dishonor your parents, have any other gods before God, murder (or hate), etc. Who is guiltless before such a standard? No one.
Time doesn’t forgive sin. Reformation of lifestyle won’t acquit a murder from 50 years ago. We can clean up our moral act to some degree but that won’t help us get out of blame for former or future sin. I think this is the thing I find most assuring about trusting Jesus. Everyone seems to know you’re supposed to believe He died for your sins and rose again, but what about your day-to-day sinning? What about how we value television above our Creator? What about how we’d rather spend time eating than praying? Why is it that we are much more fascinated with comfort than we are with the One who owns and has made everything that exists? My great assurance that I won’t go to hell on judgment day doesn’t come from all my righteous deeds, it comes from believing that all Jesus’ righteous deeds count for me. His death counts for the wrath removal of God towards me and His perfect sinless Law-keeping life counts for me to get me to Heaven to enjoy His presence forever. If it counts for you, praise Him this Easter. Happy Easter.