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Archive for the tag “Jesus’ death”

The Sacrifice

Throughout centuries, words were written down for eternal purpose. These words were complete when it was put together and called God’s Word – the Bible. It’s interesting to see how each author had a message to share. Scholars point out stories which depict Jesus Christ from one book to the next. The books are intertwined to relay God’s message – we all need a savior to save us from our sins. In the first book of the Bible, we see our need for a Savior.

Genesis 3:13-15 tells the story of sin entering the world for the first time. The woman ate the fruit that was forbidden because of the serpent – God’s enemy (and ours) Satan. God said because of this act of defiance, there will be “enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From this account, we know the why of the story. But the Bible continues as it answers the how, where, and when this will come about.

Scholars point to passages throughout the Bible giving foreshadow of Jesus. Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah was one of the passages foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice. Genesis 22: 2 begins the story of God’s call to Abraham concerning his promised son. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” On the third day of traveling, God showed Abraham the place where the sacrifice needed to be made.

The story continues in Genesis 22:6-8. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

God did provide the sacrifice for Abraham’s offering after God saw Abraham’s willingness to obey. But the real sacrifice still needed to be displayed in other ways. We jump a few centuries later to a captive people in the land of Egypt. At the right time, God made a way for His people to be delivered from their bondage. It took four hundred years to come to the point of sacrificed lamb’s blood to be poured out for the sake of the people.

This event was called Passover because of the sacrificed lamb’s blood was put on their door posts so that the angel of death would pass over that house. Everyone in the house would be saved if the blood of the lamb was poured out for them. After the Jews were delivered, they celebrated this event year after year. It was the first of the seven major festivals they celebrated each and every year.

It seems pretty cruel to sacrifice animals, but God said it must be done in order to cover sins. Leviticus 17:11 stated: For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

It seems harsh to sacrifice animals, but sin was the reason. Sins of the people had to be resolved. Year after year, a lamb had to be sacrificed until Jesus. The perfect Lamb needed to be sacrificed for all sins – past, present and future. A one-time act of sacrifice will wipe away every sin. It was God’s plan from the beginning.

John the Baptist was the first one to recognize Jesus as the perfect Lamb. In John 1:29, John said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” When Jesus was baptized, God spoke this word about Him in Matthew 3:16-17. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Only a perfect Lamb was able to take away the sins of the people.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). God’s plan was coming together perfectly.

At the right time, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy Abraham spoke about to Isaac when God would provide the Lamb for sacrifice on the very mountain God showed Abraham thousands of years before. At just the right time, Jesus’ fulfillment was made on the celebration of Passover – the time of recognition of Israel’s deliverance from death.

God’s plan is still at work. The world is still being redeemed by the blood of His perfect Lamb, Jesus. He fulfills everything as He states in His Word at the right time. He did everything for us; all we have to do is believe. Something I heard not long ago – sin doesn’t keep you out of heaven, unbelief does.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-38

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

Do you believe Jesus is who He said He is? Do you believe Jesus did what He said He would do? Believe in the one who was sent to take away your sins. This is the season to recognize Jesus’ sacrifice. Remember what He did for you today.

The Sabbath Rest

According to God’s Word, the Sabbath was to be observed by the Jewish community wherever they lived. No matter the circumstances, there were rules they were commanded to keep on the Sabbath. It was a day of rest. They couldn’t work; they couldn’t walk but a short distance. They were to keep the day holy. God set the time of the Sabbath on the seventh day – evening to evening – not when the sun rises but when it sets to the time of the next setting is a day. God created nothing on the seventh day. He rested and commanded His people to rest as well – to set it aside as a holy day.

God created humanity and everything we would need for food on the sixth day. I think it is quite fitting that Jesus would die on the sixth day; the day humanity was created. It just seems symbolic, doesn’t it? Jesus died for humanity on humanity’s day of creation. It all goes back to the very beginning when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. They believed the lie from God’s enemy over God’s word. The first sin. And Jesus died for that first sin and every sin thereafter.

But the Sabbath rest came at sundown. They wanted Jesus’ body down from the cross before the Sabbath came. They rushed to put Him in the grave before sundown. Then they rested. I bet it really wasn’t much of a rest. The disciples gathered in an upper room mourning the loss of their leader – the one who was supposed to save them from the Romans, or at least that was their expectation. They were disillusioned, disappointed, and grieving such a devastating loss. Yet, it was the Sabbath, a day set aside for holiness – contemplation and rest. I am sure they discussed what took place. I am sure they wondered what’s next – who’s next? They weren’t just up in a room contemplating; they were in that room hiding from the ones who would come after them.

Their sorrow was great; but Peter’s sorrow was greater. He denied Jesus. He let Jesus down or at least, he let himself down. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Jesus wasn’t disappointed in Peter; he expected Peter to act that way. I would think that Jesus was sad that Peter denied Him, but not disappointed. Jesus also knew who all these things would be resolved. Jesus would return. Jesus would reinstate Peter as the leader of the movement in a few days time. But in the meantime, Peter and the others didn’t know all this would be resolved.

On this Sabbath rest, they saw nothing of the future even though Jesus told them the future. Jesus taught them all that would occur. Jesus said He would rise again. Jesus said that Peter was the rock that would build His church. They had a future, but they couldn’t see it on that Sabbath. They thought it was the end when it was truly the beginning. Something far greater was going to occur in just a few hours time when everything would change again. Victory would rise up. Sin was defeated by the blood of the Lamb.

We look back in ancient times when the Jewish people had to sacrifice a lamb to take away their sins to find that Jesus was that Lamb. God spoke to the prophets to record these things so that we could see the thread throughout history. Passover was an observance of killing the lamb, placing the blood on the doorposts of the house so that the death angel would pass over that house. It was in the land of Egypt before the deliverance of God’s people. The Passover lamb was slaughtered; the blood was shed to cover the people in that house. They didn’t have to fear death, because the blood covered them. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice – the Lamb that was slain to defeat death so that we would no longer fear death. He would save us from our sins through His sacrifice and His blood offering.

The Bible is full of threads that Jesus will one day fulfill completely. He is the Word of God come to life. In Him all things will be complete. God said it. We are to believe it. And Jesus will bring it to completion because He always fulfills what He started. It is done when He says it’s done. Today is the day we contemplate all that Jesus has done and will do.

This is the day set aside for holiness and the anticipation of things to come. Victory has been won. The blood of the Lamb says so. It is finished; rise up in victory and praise the Lord! We might not see everything right now. Like the disciples, we are still wondering what will happen next; but we haven’t seen the end yet. It’s still only the beginning of greater things to come!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14

The Tree

In my small group time this week, we were challenged to tell our story. First, to write it down. Second to share it with someone. Statistics tell us that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ will not share with non-believers the story that changes everything. They will not share how they came to faith or what a difference Jesus has made in their lives. They will not lead others to the foot of the cross where Jesus died for everyone’s sin. It’s uncomfortable to share something that others might reject us because of it. However, rejection is all a part of the story. It’s all about the tree. The first tree, in the Garden of Eden, is where the story begins.

You might have heard the story of Adam and Eve and bite that changed everything for humankind. Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit off the tree of good and evil. The bite was not the sin that was introduced to the world; it was taking the word of the serpent over the word of God. The tree of good and evil brought death. It brought spiritual death. Spiritual death was brought on by the broken relationship between God and Adam and Eve. When the “fruit” of sin became part of Adam and Eve, they passed it along through their DNA to each generation. It’s a natural part of us. And in our natural states, we are far from God. We are clothed in nakedness with guilt and shame; with no hope of a relationship with God. The fruit of sin does that to us. It makes us offensive to God.

However, God didn’t leave the story of humankind to that one bite or that one tree. He had another tree in mind. God created another tree that would one day become the place of death that would bring spiritual life. At God’s appointed time, and through His way, He brought the answer to our brokenness. Jesus. Jesus became the only way to right the relationship between God and us. Jesus is the bridge of hope for us all. It is by God’s design through Jesus’ death on a tree (also known as a cross). Jesus died so that we could have eternal life. This tree brings life – spiritual life.

I have heard Jesus’ story all my life. I was raised in a Christian home. So I knew about Jesus early. On Easter Sunday, 1973, on the front row of my small Baptist church, I heard a word to “Go” when the invitation was offered. I moved out of that seat to walk the small distance to the preacher who asked me if I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I said yes. This wasn’t a life altering decision for me. I was almost eleven years old on that fateful day and had no clue that I was naked and covered in shame and guilt because of my sinful ways. I just heard the word go and I did.

I believe on that day, I had the covering of Jesus’ blood. I believe on that day, I became protected and His. My faith journey resembles the faith journey of Jesus’ disciples. They walked three years with Him to get to know Him but it wasn’t until the death and resurrection of Jesus when their eyes were truly opened. My faith walk took more like twenty years. It wasn’t until the death of my friend in 1993 when my eyes were truly opened to Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that meant for me. I recognized my sinful nature as it truly was; a broken relationship with God and no way out of my mess except through Jesus.

It has been a long process to come to the place where I can totally confess with my heart that Jesus is Lord of my life. I had already confessed that He was my Savior; but when He became my Lord, everything changed for me. I liked to think of my faith journey as a fishing analogy. Jesus is the fisherman. He caught me on His line in 73; He gave me a little line to wear me out so that He could finally reel me in. I fought the process for twenty plus years, but eventually He reeled me in. He got me in His boat, cleaned me up, and released me back into the waters. I was released to bring others to Jesus’ line, not to go back and live a life of sin. Like the disciple Philip where he finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus; we are told that we are to testify about Jesus – to be a witness of Jesus’ work. Philip said to Nathanael “Come and see.” This is the purpose of our stories.

My story isn’t really that exciting. It’s the process of learning about Jesus, knowing Him fully as Savior and Lord, then experiencing His transforming work in me as He leads me each and every day. Two trees changed everything for all of us. The first tree took everything from us; the second tree restored it all through Jesus. It’s with this thought I leave with you – have you been changed by the second tree?

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Romans 9-10 (MSG)

The Championship Team

Last week was an anniversary that I had completely forgotten this year. One of my college friends posted a picture of a plaque she received on the 20th anniversary of NAIA National Championship won by our women’s basketball team. She was the point guard, and I was the manager of the team. We had different roles on the team, but we got to experience the same event. It was an exciting year in my life.

We were the Cinderella team that won the title. If you had asked any of us just a couple years before that championship year if we would be in a national title game, we would have thought you were delusional. I joined the team my sophomore year (it was also the coach’s first year as well). We only won five games that year. It was a transitional or building year. The next year we did better. Our coach had recruited well.

We were a much different team with the new recruits. However, it wasn’t really about the quality of the players. We had chemistry and functioned well. There was a unity on the team that was remarkable. By the third year, we were almost unstoppable. We did lose five games that year. I don’t remember too much about the losses except for one we had on the road in New Orleans. It was a Christmas break trip. We faced a scrappy team that played more “street ball” style than “play book” style. We lost by about a dozen points.

The reason I remember this team over the others was because we faced them again in one of the playoff games before the title game. When we faced them the second time, we knew their game plan. Our coach had counter moves to thwart their play. We ended up winning by about 18 points. That last week of our season was completely March Madness!

My friend’s plaque reminded me about that time in the past, but I heard a message about unity that brought to mind something deeper. The message spoke about Jesus bringing unity through His life and death. Before Jesus died on the cross, He recruited a bunch of rugged men who were diverse in their backgrounds. The team He formed had fishermen to tradesmen. There were two though who were extreme in their differences: a Zealot and a Tax Collector. Who in the world could bring unity to this bunch? The Tax Collector (Matthew) would have thrown the others into a tizzy. Matthew was a hated man among the Jews.

Yet, Jesus saw the diversity and called it good (I assume). The disciples each had different gifts and different roles. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group; not Matthew. Judas was trusted with the money, even though he shouldn’t have been since he regularly “helped” himself to the funds. Matthew would have been trusted with nothing since everyone knew Tax Collectors regularly “helped” themselves to the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. But Jesus taught them for three years how to live together and actually love one another (in the end).

In the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him before He called Judas Iscariot. Peter, one of the twelve, had something gnawing in his gut about forgiving someone. He asked Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The answer: seventy times seven or don’t keep score! Maybe Peter had problems with Matthew or maybe the “loved one” John. But the team had problems; they were too unified in the beginning. By the time Jesus died, everything changed then. In His teaching, Jesus was adamant about loving one another. He instructed them over and over this is how others will know they were part of Jesus’ team.

Just as my college team was unified for a greater purpose, we as followers of Jesus are to be unified as the Body of Christ. There should be no division in the Body of Christ. We stand on the foundation of Jesus and work together as a Body with one Head – Jesus – who directs us in the mission. We all have different roles but the same purpose – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus! Others will know us by our love for one another – it was a commandment by Jesus!

Without the unification of Jesus, the disciples would not have brought the message beyond the borders of Israel. They would have scattered without getting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But because the disciples were true to Jesus, we are here today proclaiming the same message that was given 2000+ years ago. We don’t get national championship rings with the victory we are given in Christ; we get a crown that lasts for eternity! Now that’s something to remember and really celebrate! Let’s get in the game and finish well for the winning team!

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

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