Every now and then my mind goes to dark places. These dark places are the streets where the scoffers and the non believers walk. The streets are filled with questions about our faith that can cause the weak to stumble.
It was these same streets that the Sadducee’s walked. The Sadducees were like you and I. They were smart people. They thought through what they believed. The idea of a resurrection was one of those things that they had trouble grasping. They said, think about it. If there really was to be a resurrection it would be one big mess. For example, you have a brother who is married. The wife dies, the brother remarries. Then the brother dies, and his second wife remarries. If there is to be a resurrection then who is going to be married to whom? We ourselves have known brothers and sisters who have remarried after the spouse dies. In the resurrection who will be married to whom?
And even if we don’t end up marrying someone else in this life, does that mean that in the resurrection we will be eternally married to our spouse? And what about all the other questions that come when we think through what it would be like to be raised again to live forever. What would that life be like? How about the animals? Will they still live and die? What about trees and plants? What will we do for work? Will we do the same job for millions of years? Wouldn’t we get bored?
The more the Sadducees thought about these questions and issues, the more they determined that there just could not be a resurrection. They were fine with that conclusion. They were fine with the idea that they would not live forever. They didn’t need the promise of eternal life to motivate them to serve God.
On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable and solid conclusion. But when they confronted Jesus with their conclusion they were told that they were in great error.
Some think that Jesus had inside knowledge. But the conclusion that Jesus taught them could have been reached by anyone who in their meditation found a truth that fit with all scripture. In his meditations he had confidence in the power of God and he found that in the resurrection we will no longer be married. Instead of a family based life, life in that age will be community based.
They had both walked down the same street, pondering, mediating, and thinking through what they believed. The Sadducees fell into a trap and in their reasoning they ended up rejecting a key doctrine in the scripture. But Jesus found deeper truth that was consistent with all scripture.
The point is, at some point in our life we may find ourselves walking down the street where scoffers and non believers walk. Many of them never reach the end, and become side tracked by all the questions and doubts. But if we keep the truth always in front of us we may reach a place of deeper understanding.
One of the subjects that can lead us down that street is the sacrifice of Christ. This is a subject that will either make our faith stronger or cause us to stumble.
So this morning we will walk along that dangerous way, and think about the question of why the sacrifice of Jesus was so violent. Because we will travel this road together, hopefully we will reach a place of deeper understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ.
On the surface we understand it all. The emblems before us represent the body and blood of the Lord Jesus who was offered on our behalf. On the surface we partake of these emblems over and over again. Some of us may have partaken of these emblems two to three thousand times in our lifetime.
But when we dig deeper into what we are actually doing, it can lead us down that street of hard questions.
He was “offered on our behalf”. We are not talking about taking the best of our crops and burning them on an altar. We are not talking about taking some bird or animal, killing it and burning it as an offering. We are talking about taking a man, a living human being, killing him as an offering for our own sins. This is a human sacrifice. Blood is spilled. Every time we partake of these emblems we participate in that death.
When Noah took and sacrificed animals and birds on the altar it is recorded that the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. When Christ was sacrificed on the cross, did the LORD smell the same sweet aroma? Does the God we worship take pleasure in sacrificing humans? Did he take pleasure in the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus? Why was it even necessary to sacrifice Jesus?
Certainly God writes the rules. Could He not have just forgiven us our sins? And even if a human sacrifice was necessary, then why not just kill him quickly and less painfully?
Noah was much more kind to the animals that he offered up. But Jesus was spit on, was beaten, was tortured, nailed into a cross, raised up and left there to bleed to death for six long hours.
So what happened to lead up to this horrible need for a violent sacrifice?
The base of all our belief is that God created the heaven and earth and that man is an essential part of the creation. And if you read between the lines you will see that man (made in the in the image of God) was created so that the Father himself would have joy from conversing with and friendship with the man. That He would dwell in man and that we would be His offspring.
Why would a Living God that has the power to create all that we see around us want to dwell with us? We are nothing in comparison to Him. It just doesn’t make any sense to us. Our minds have trouble understanding why. But the Father in response to the question of why, tells us that it is because His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, and even though we don’t understand it, He will abundantly pardon our sins and dwell with us.
This purpose is emphasized in the birth of His only begotten son. Jesus is called the Son of God. A son has a very significant relationship to the Father. More significant than other things that the Father might create. A tree, for example is not a son. A rock is not a son. Animals are not sons. But people were created to become sons and daughters of the Living God.
All was very good. Man was created and with his wife they were placed in the garden. We all know what happened. In fact let’s put our self in the place of Adam.
It is nearing the end of the day, the temperature is getting cooler. We become very aware of what we have done. Once again, we gave into the temptation. Once again, we let the desire of our eyes win over our heart. And now we really feel naked. It is getting colder, we shiver, and then we hear the voice of our Father walking in the garden. We crouch down into the trees, trying to hide. We feel so ashamed. We don’t want Him to see us like this. Why couldn’t we just do what He asked? Why couldn’t we just stay away from the tree? Was the fruit really that good? Was it worth it? What did we really gain by disobeying Him? Don’t we realize just how much the Father gave to us, and just how little He really was asking of us? Why couldn’t we just do the right thing? Why couldn’t we just walk away from the temptation?
And this is where the Father stood at that point in time. He created us to be his son, his daughter. He provided for us. He gave us everything we needed. And the next thing He would give to us is eternal life. It was there already, ready for us to have. The plan was that we live forever as a son or daughter of God.
It could end here. We had a chance, we blew it. And even if we were given another chance we would still fall short. Because we have had lots of chances, and regardless on how hard we try we always find ourselves back hiding in the trees, naked and ashamed.
At this point, our destiny is to turn back to the dust we came from. That is all we deserve. Certainly a world filled with disobedience would not be a good world to live in at all. We are already well familiar with what that world is like. This world we live in now is not what the Father had in mind when He created the heaven and earth.
So at this point, the Father could just wipe the earth clean and start all over again. Or He could just go on to other things. The Father could have reversed everything He had just done. As quickly as the creation came into being, the creation could have been removed never to be found any more.
But when you are creating something that is made in your own image, after your likeness, something that resembles who you are, and something that will become your offspring, something that of its own free will wants to be with you and to do what is right, something that it would be impossible for any other being to create, the process of creating that something takes time and requires shaping and molding with fire and trial in order to reach perfection.
So being faced with an impossible goal to create men and woman who will be His offspring, the Father provided a way.
Lets think for a minute what this means that the Father provided a way. We look around the room. In many ways we are just normal people. We spend time with our family, we go to work, we go to school, and we go to the store to buy food and clothes. We live in houses and drive cars. We do struggle at times with our faith. We do struggle at times controlling our anger, our jealousy. We struggle with depression and anxiety. We struggle with drunkenness. We struggle with the pleasure of immorality. We struggle with being self centered. We struggle with laziness. And the list goes on.
But regardless on how long that list is, there is something that the Father sees in us. We are not a lost cause. We are not trash that just needs to be thrown in the fire. There is something of value to our life. It is so valuable that the Father provides a way for us to be His.
And the way wasn’t made with the blood of bulls and goats and countless sacrifices and whole burnt offerings because it is impossible for all that blood from all those sacrifices and offerings to take away our disobedience. The scriptures are clear that those sacrifices could NEVER take away sin. The scriptures are clear that the Father doesn’t want sacrifice and offering, that the Father doesn’t even take pleasure in those things.
From the beginning, it has always been about us doing His will. We are the body that is being prepared for the son. And it is with that body that we have come to do His will and with that body we love Him with all the heart, with all the soul and with the entire mind.
Sacrifices don’t remove sin. Sin can only be removed by obedience.
And this was the real trial that Jesus faced. The people were expecting a Messiah that would come in and remove the Roman power. They just did not see what the role of the Messiah actually was. The role of the Messiah was not to free the people from the Romans, but to free the people from their sins. And the only way the Messiah could do that was by obedience. So the trial of Jesus was to completely surrender his will to the will of the Father.
We read about what happened and we can see that Jesus held it together pretty good through out the time of his ministry. But as he approached the end, when he was in the garden, when he was wrestling with eating the fruit, when he felt like running away, when his emotions reached a point where he no longer could hold them in. When the sweat and tears just came, and poured down his face, when his body sank feeling the weight of what was about to happen, when those around could hear him crying in the cool of the night.
He didn’t hide in the trees, instead he surrendered to the will of the Father and stood up and went to meet those who had come to take him away.
Regardless of how painful, agonizing and violent that death was, he learned obedience by the things he suffered. The more violent the death, the more his obedience stood out. So there would be no doubt in all of the earth or in all of the heaven as to his obedience to the Father. And for this reason, because he obeyed even through the most violent of all trials, the grave had no power over him. He gained the victory that we could not gain.
But what about us, what about us?
Perhaps we missed something in the sacrifice of Jesus. Why would the Father who was well pleased with the son, why would the Father WILL that the son go through such a horrible death?
The Father had found a way that would allow each of us in this room to be His offspring. That way would be through the power of what is called sanctification. Very simply by allowing us to join together with his son, we become part of the body of his son. We die with the son, and we rise up again with the son.
And this is the real truth behind the sacrifice of Jesus. It wasn’t about altars and offerings and fire. But instead, God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.
If there is ever any doubt in your mind as to the Fathers love for His creation, then you only have to look at the violence of the sacrifice of His son. We often focus on the son and the things he suffered. But the Fathers gift, the Fathers suffering was far greater than that of the son.
The violence in the sacrifice of Jesus didn’t come from the Father, and the violence didn’t come from the angels, the violence came from other men. It was not the first time that this world saw violence. We remember back in the days of Noah that the earth was filled with violence. So much violence that the Father repented from even making man in the first place. Of that violence it says that He was grieved in His heart. This is another way of saying He mourned, He was sad, He suffered.
So this very thing that grieved Him the most would also become the thing that demonstrates to us just how deep His love is for us. To stand by and watch his son suffer so violently took everything the Father had to give. This is the reason why the land went dark for three hours, because the Father of all things was suffering at the pain that His son was going through.
The same Father who heard and provided comfort when the outcast cried out, the same Father who when the children of Israel were in trouble used His power to turned the sea to dry land, the same Father who was there and delivered Goliath into the hand of David, the same Father who was there and at the cry of Elijah sent fire from heaven that burnt the offering, the wood the stones and even the dust. The same Father that consumed the world with water and saved Noah and his family, the same Father who provided a ram for Abraham when he needed it the most…
Now this same Father when faced with violence against His own son had to do something that no Father could do. He needed to hold back all His power and might, He needed to restrain every emotion that He was feeling, and just let it be.
He needed to let it be because otherwise you and I would perish.
Now we know that by the love of the Father his children have been set free. Now we know that both the Father and the Son paid a terrible price just so you and I could be here today to partake of these emblems.
Each day that goes by we are each given an opportunity to show the Father that we have come to do His will. That opportunity can be found in the little decisions we make each day. Some would say that those decisions don’t really matter, but for the children of the Father, those little decisions we make every day reveal where our heart is. If our heart is in the right place then we will praise the Father and lift Him above everything else that is important in our life.
So that from age to age, we may always be His.