June 29, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Questions from the Street: “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”
Compassionate Comforter, pain and evil surround us and grief is twisted into the fabric of our lives. Give us, we pray, strength equal to our need, and courage equal to any challenge. For this we give You praise and thanks in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I have a touch of bitter-sweet in my heart this morning. For the last 2 months or so we have been in a series addressing questions about the Christian faith, the Bible, the Presbyterian ways, people often ask. We have had some fantastic questions from friends and neighbors who might not be believers, and we had had some pretty good questions from people who sit right here with us every week!
I feel bitter-sweet because it’s been kind of fun to listen to your questions, and coordinate dates for attendees to hear their questions be entertained, and to flex my theology muscles – as weak as they may be; so it is bitter to finish this series. But it’s kinda sweet to start a fresh series in the New Testament book of Philippians next week.
Lucy and Linus are gazing out the window at a staggering downpour.
“Boy, look at it rain,” Lucy says, fear etched on her face. “What if it floods the whole world?”
“It will never do that,” Linus responds confidently. “In the 9th chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”
“You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” Lucy says with a sigh of relief.
Linus replies, “Sound theology has a way of doing that!”
Today’s question is probably the biggest and most important question of sound theology for followers of Jesus to get a handle on. Today’s question is: “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”
George Atley was killed while serving with the Central African Mission. There were no witnesses, but the evidence indicates that Atley was confronted by a band of hostile tribesmen. He was carrying a fully loaded, 10-chamber Winchester rifle and had to choose either to shoot his attackers and run the risk of negating the work of the mission in that area, or not to defend himself and be killed. When his body was later found in a stream, it was evident that he had chosen the latter. Nearby lay his rifle — all 10 chambers still loaded.
George Atley shows us the reality of what it means to truly sacrifice for the good of others and I believe gives us a rare glimpse of the character of Jesus working in the lives of His people.
The Oxford Press defines a sacrifice as “an act of giving up something one values for the sake of something that is of greater importance”.
Sacrifice is very much a part of understanding the nature and work of Jesus Christ. In fact, without this understanding Jesus simply does not make sense at all. I believe that the life Jesus led was one of continuous sacrifice:
• He gave up the glory of Heaven
• He gave up human comforts to reach the lost
• He gave up popularity and acceptance to share the Truth
• He gave up His “rights” to accomplish a greater good
• He gave up everything so He could reach those who needed Him most
• He gave up His life so you could keep yours
Our passage from Scripture this morning is Romans 3:21-26. Listen to God’s Word from the Apostle Paul to the future seat of the Christian Church…. —-
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, to which the Law has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26 He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Jesus had to die to demonstrate the love of God.
Humanity had a problem that is almost as old as time; we have fallen from the purpose and plan that God had for us when He first created us. Literally, humanity had known God but had chosen to part from Him. Sin is both rejection of God and rebellion against God. In other words, sin is the act of turning away from God and doing what we know to be wrong. The result of sin was a marred relationship between God and humanity.
The goodness of God in humanity had been replaced with our stubborn selfishness. The glory of God had been swapped with the gain of self. The power of God had been traded with the helplessness of humanity.
Sin destroyed our relationship with God.
Sin was the obstruction that caused a separation to develop between God and humanity. Adam had walked with God in the garden and now that personal relationship was forever damaged because of sin. Sin had created a fundamental breech in the divine-human relationship and it was one that we could not repair.
Sin delivered death into the world.
Adam and Eve were made to live forever and be in fellowship with God in a deeply personal way. Just as sin destroyed the fellowship that Adam and Eve were meant to enjoy, it also brought death into the picture. The life that they were meant to have was now surrounded by the power of death. When sin entered the world so did death. Paul teaches in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” In other words, the just payment that sin gets us is death. The reality of sin is entirely connected with the reality of death.
From the Law and the Prophets, the means for the justice of sin’s debt to be paid was by the blood of sacrifice. The sacrificial lamb atoned for the sins of God’s people. Hebrews tells us that Jesus became that ultimate Sacrificial Lamb. Jesus came into this world to suffer and die as a way to reveal the love that God has for every person. Jesus came so that He could show God’s limitless and abundant love.
Again from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8)
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?Even though we were still filled with sin, Jesus made the choice to show God’s love by dying for us. Jesus came to this world to die, nothing more and nothing less.
Jesus had to die because a price had to be paid.
There is a little piece of silk in the museum of Springfield, Illinois, which can not be bought for any amount of money. Why the value attached to it? Because of its significance. That little bit of silk is all covered with blood. It was once a part of a dress worn by a beautiful girl, who sat by Abraham Lincoln when he was shot; and it was that beautiful girl who took his head in her lap, and it was that girl who held him while he bled his life out. The State of Illinois purchased that dress, and cut out this piece of silk covered with the blood of the great statesman, emancipator of an enslaved race, and the man who in the program of God became a cohesive force in the salvation of this great nation.
If sin results in death, someone or something had to pay the price. Let’s be honest, none of us is worthy enough to be able to pay for our own sins. The Old Testament is filled with rituals and regulations for living but it is also filled with the grace of a loving God. God instituted a system of sacrifice to cover the sins committed by His people. The price of sin was paid for in His blood.
Jesus came to pay a price He did not owe, because we had a price that we could not pay. Jesus died so that we would not have to suffer the consequences of sin. Jesus came so that we could be set free from the penalty of sin and the bondage of the Law. Jesus came to fulfill what we could not, and to do for all of humanity what we could not do for ourselves.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Jesus had to die to provide our redemption.
Jesus comes into the picture as our substitute; He put Himself in our place and died the death we rightfully deserved. Jesus shed His blood to pay the price for the sins that we committed and He bought our redemption with His own blood.
Jesus paid it all! Jesus paid for the time you lied to your husband. Jesus paid for the time you desired a woman who was not your wife. Jesus paid for the time you used your words to hurt instead of help. Jesus paid for the time you cursed God’s name in anger. Jesus paid for the time that you took what did not belong to you.
Jesus paid for every time that you ever sinned. Jesus paid for every time that you turned your back on God. Jesus paid it all! Your debt has been canceled and the slate has been wiped clean.
Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice….
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
The simple fact is that Jesus had first to die before He could be raised to new life. Jesus gave His life as an act of love, an act of sacrifice and an act of redemption. The blood He gave was the ultimate donation to the existence of humanity.
Jesus has given us a precious gift, what are we doing with it?
For those of you who have not yet found your way to come to Christ, you have a deep need to accept this sacrifice and allow it to change your life.
For those of you who are new believers, you have a need to share the news of the blood of Jesus with those you know who need it the most.
For those of you who have been believers for a long period of time, appreciate it. Live out your life with a bold thankfulness for what Jesus has done for you and for the power you have experienced. Amen.
Dewitt, David; “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”; March 2005.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 425.