Sermon Manuscript . . .
Jesus Bore Our Sin
Easter has long been a celebrated holiday and rightly so. Religious or not, it is an opportunity to get the family together, dress in pastels, take a family picture, and have an Easter egg hunt. For others it marks that singular time of the year when it’s time to go to church. Like going to the dentist or doing your taxes, it is a necessary part of being an adult in America.
For many, it is the religious high holiday in which special penance is required to please God. Extra church services, certain fasts, additional efforts of goodness are all part of the equation. It might include a pilgrimage to cathedrals where you can pray on your knees as you ascend the steps, or admire the age-old artifacts associated with the life of Christ–such as the crown of thorns housed in Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and believed to be the actual crown worn by Christ on the cross.
During the fire this past week, it was saved when first responders made a human chain to retrieve it and keep it safe. I’m sure you are glad to hear that. But for Christians, Easter is a celebration of our salvation as accomplished by His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, to draw our hearts near to Him once more, and to be reminded that He is alive, He is victorious, and He is on His throne. And in gratefulness, we lift our hearts to Him in worship.
And we will get there on Sunday–but for tonight, in this Good Friday service, we come to examine the cross. And we are all, at some level, familiar with the cross. Even if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you are familiar with the cross. Let’s face it, we see crosses everywhere–in cemeteries, in churches, in jewelry stores, dotted on hillsides and even tattooed on the general population. As many recognize the cross as a symbol of Christianity, most do not understand its significance.
Sure, most people would be able to tell you that Jesus died on the cross, some would even add to pay for sins, but what does this really mean? What did the cross of Christ accomplish? Was it necessary? And what does that have to do with me? In the few minutes we have together, I’d like to explain from the Word of God what Jesus accomplished when He died on the cross. To give us something to hang our thoughts on, I have organized this into three main ideas.
1. On the cross, Jesus bore our sin
Let me begin by declaring that every one of us has a sin problem. That is, each of us has broken the perfect standard that God has set. This sin problem goes back all the way to our first parents. In an act of willful disobedience, Adam and Eve chose to challenge the direct command of God and go their own way.
It was not a cute childhood story with an apple and a snake and a fig leaf, it was defiant rebellion. It was treason against a sovereign God. And the problem is worse because it didn’t end with Adam. First Corinthians 15:22 tells us that in Adam, all die. That is, the sin of Adam is passed down from generation to generation, because we are all sons and daughters of Adam. You are a sinner and I am a sinner. Your kids are sinners and their kids will be sinners.
Like Adam, you have rebelled, choosing your own way above God’s. You have looked in the face of the Almighty and said, “No–I will not obey!” Like Adam, you have lived as if you are ruler of your life. And yet here in Murrieta in 2019, it doesn’t seem like this matters. We live in security and peace with control of our destiny.
We eat healthy and exercise. There is money in the bank and a beautiful place to call home. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where all is as it should be. The kids are excelling in school, the job is going well, and spring is in the air. We have insulated ourselves from our greatest problem . . . the problem of sin. And your sin rises to Heaven to the all-knowing and all-seeing eye of God.
And He will bring every person to account for their sin. The author of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed for man to die once and after this comes judgment. This is what we have earned, it is what we deserve, the judgment of God, physical death followed by spiritual death. So what do we do? Most people try to live better, do more good, give to the needy, become a family man, go to church, even attend a community group–this is man’s way. This is religion. If I do enough good, then God will accept me. It is what every religion teaches, it is what most people believe. More effort, more good works, and someday, someway when I stand before God, my good deeds will tip the scales and God will let me into Heaven.
But it’s not enough. It will never be enough. There is an infinite distance between you as a sinful man or woman and a holy God. And no amount of good works can close that gap. Your sin has separated you from God. In the same way that God cast Satan from Heaven when he sinned, and banished Adam and Eve from His presence in the garden, so your sin has separated you from a holy God. And on your own you can never be right with God.
Even the very best of us—the overachiever, the goody two shoes, the vegan, the teacher’s pet, the person that drives the speed limit and doesn’t cheat on their taxes will not amass enough good to appease God. Isaiah 64 tells us that even our very best works are nothing more than filth in God’s sight. And James 2 tells us that even if we keep the whole law perfectly but stumble in just one point, we are guilty of all. This is the state of every human being.
And the question is, how do I deal with this? This was Job’s question all the way back in Job 9:32, “For God is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together.” I can’t just enter into Heaven, stroll into the divine courtroom, and negotiate with the Almighty. He is a holy God and I am sinful man. And so he concludes in verse 33, “There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:33).
He is asking for an arbitrator–someone to mediate. He is looking for someone who could enter into the presence of God and speak on his behalf. But that mediator that could stand in the presence of God would have to be God. And in order to represent him, a man–that mediator would have to be human. And Job said, “How can this be? There is no one who can lay his hand on us both.”
The answer came almost 2,000 years after Job died in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not just a good teacher who loved children and had a few parlor tricks up His sleeve. He was God very God, and yet a man. He lived among us in total obedience, He perfectly kept the law, completely without sin. He was the perfect man. Adam and Eve failed, we failed–He did not.
And as such, He enters into the courtroom of divine justice and makes a plea on our behalf. Looking over the evidence, He sees that you are guilty. In your file, there are sins of omission–not doing the right things. And there are sins of commission–doing the wrong things. There are sins of thought, of word, and of deed. There are past sins, there are present sins, and no doubt there will be future sins.
All of these sins are amassed together, and in an act of love they are transferred to Christ. They are put into His account–1 Peter 2:24 says, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” And 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
What does all of this mean? Jesus Christ offers Himself in your place. He agrees to be treated as if He had lived your sin-stained life and asks the judge to treat you as if you had lived His perfect life. And so on the cross, the innocent, perfect, righteous Christ carries your sin. I will explain more on this before we finish, but let’s move to our second thought.
2. On the cross, Jesus bore our shame
Crucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of execution ever conceived. Invented by the Persians, and perfected by the Romans, it was used extensively around the time of Christ. Reserved for the worst criminals, it combined physical torture with a slow and agonizing death. The horror of being crucified was in the inability of the condemned to breathe.
Hanging from the nails in the hands, the muscles of the chest are unable to bring air into the lungs. And so the condemned must transfer the full body weight to the nail in the feet to lift themselves up in order to get a single breath. When unable to bear this pain any longer, the body slumps back down, transferring the body weight to the nails in the hands. And so the prisoner writhes up and down on the wooden cross in agony.
There is one more detail to add–the condemned has been stripped of all clothing and hangs there naked. There is no common courtesy, no human decency. There is no dignity or human kindness. Jesus hangs there fully exposed. He has been beaten so badly that Isaiah 53 says He does not even look like a man. Unprotected, isolated, and completely disgraced, He is the picture of shame and humiliation. In dishonor, He is fully exposed to the eyes of man and God.
Do you remember–in the garden, as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, what is the first thing they did? Genesis 3:7 says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
They felt great shame in what they had done and so they covered themselves, retreated into the shadows, and hid from God. And like Adam and Eve, we hide our sin. We do it behind closed doors when no one else is watching. We are careful to make sure that no one knows. And when they find out, we make excuses or blame others in an effort to protect ourselves.
Think of the most shameful deeds from your past–who knows about the skeletons in your closet? Maybe your spouse, maybe your best friend, but my guess is no one knows. You keep it hidden and private and you would be mortified if anyone ever found out. We don’t tell anyone about our most shameful deeds, because we don’t want anyone to know how disgusting we really are.
But this is foolishness–God He sees all and knows all. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” But instead of exposing and even broadcasting our shame, Jesus in an act of supreme love, is publicly shamed for you. He is there, hanging from that tree–not because He is guilty, not because He has done anything wrong, but because of you.
People are walking by, they are laughing, mocking, shaking their heads at this disgusting, disgraceful, pitiful man who hangs from the cross. And all along, it is your shame He carries. It is your burden He is bearing–all of your secret, humiliating, embarrassing, disgusting sins on Himself. He was exposed in order to cover your sin. He was rejected so that you could be accepted. He was cursed so you could be blessed.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our “eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He despised the shame–but for the joy set before Him, He endured. And this teaches us that having gone to the very lowest depth of human shame, there is no person, no matter how debased by sin and guilt, that is beyond the reaches of His grace. Jesus bore our sin, Jesus bore our shame, and finally . . .
3. On the cross, Jesus bore our punishment
This certainly goes hand in hand with what we have already discussed, but allow me to go one step further and connect all of this together. Just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus brought His disciples to the garden to pray. Mark 14:34 says that “His soul was deeply grieved to the point of death.” The cross loomed before Him in such a way that it blocked out all other light. It not only affected Him emotionally, but also physically, as the blood vessels in His forehead burst and He sweat drops of blood.
Luke 22:44 tells us that He was in agony and prayed fervently asking the Father to “let this cup pass from Me.” What brought Him to this point? What brought the Man of Sorrows to His breaking point, the very point of death, according to Matthew 26:38? Was it the anticipation of the ridicule and mocking, the beating and physical suffering of crucifixion? Yes, I’m sure that was part of it–Jesus as fully man was not immune to the pain. But there was something more than this.
He is anticipating something greater than physical pain, something much worse awaited Him on the cross. We see it in Mark 15:33 where it says, “When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.” In the Bible, darkness represents the judgment of God. At high noon, darkness falls, and God pours out judgment on His Son. In response, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Separated from the Father as He bears our sin and shame, He experiences the justice of a holy God as He judges sin.
This is His beloved Son. His only Begotten Son. The One in whom He was well pleased. And He turned His back and poured out His furious, unmitigated, holy wrath on Jesus. The cup He drank was the cup of judgment reserved for sinners. It was the payment for sin. That payment is being stored up and will be distributed in a place called Hell–a real place described in the Bible as a place of sorrow, of regret, and of eternal loss that awaits every sinner as the just punishment for sin against a holy God.
This is what you and I deserve. But in an act of selfless love, Jesus bears your punishment–He took the cup of wrath that was reserved for you, and He drank it, draining every last drop. He experienced the full wrath of God for your sin. Charles Spurgeon said it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup. He seized it, and, “in one tremendous labor of love, He drank damnation dry.” In that three hours on the cross, Jesus paid for an eternity of Hell that you deserved.
Imagine that you were to stand at the bottom of Hoover dam and look up at it. All the water it is restraining is the judgment of God stored up for you, and while you are alive, the mercy and patience of God holds it back and withholds His judgment. But once you die, the mercy of God is removed and the flood of judgment falls on the sinner. It is a fire that will consume the adversary.
Hebrews 10 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus stands in front of the guilty sinner, hides us behind His cross, and tells the Father to pour out His wrath on Him. He takes it all. He bears our sin. He bears our shame and He faces the full wrath of God for you and for me.
And from the cross, having drank the cup, He says my favorite words in all the Bible–“It is finished.” Definitive. Final. It is the last words from the lips of the victorious conqueror. And we don’t have time to finish the story, because after all it is only Friday–but Sunday is coming. We know that death could not hold Him, the grave could not contain Him, He rose vanquishing His enemy and rising victorious.
And why? Romans 5:8 and 9 say it best–“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” What good news.
For those in Christ, are you not so thankful for what He has done? We celebrate that tonight. For those who feel the weight of sin, you thought this was just another night–but God is drawing you to Himself and you know you need to deal with Him. Cry out to Him for mercy and forgiveness. Salvation does not come from our works, but trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Won’t you trade your sin and guilt for forgiveness and hope tonight? Let’s pray.