31. Partake – The Christian disciple and the Cross
Jesus said in Mark 10v45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Not only without Jesus’ death on the cross would there no Christianity, but also there would be no hope for the world! The interpretation that we place on Jesus’ death is paramount! That He died is without doubt, but why did He have to die and what gain do we have as His disciples?
By His very nature, God is loving and compassionate, forgiving, faithful and slow to anger - Exodus 34v6-7. That is the part if we are honest we are most comfortable with!! Yet God is holy, righteous and just and must punish sin because of this very same nature. That is the part we as 21st century people are uncomfortable with! We love to think of God as being all love and gentleness, but don’t like to think of Him as a Judge who must punish sin!
But remember that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45v7). Therefore sin must be dealt with and it cannot simply be ignored. God is set apart from humanity and holy, and if He wasn’t, He could not be worshipped. So, how can God be both just and the Justifier of sinners? He does this by declaring sinners righteous! But why does He do this and where do humans fit into the picture?
Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). Nobody escapes as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3v23). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22).
A blood sacrifice is God's way of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:
· It provided a covering for sin.
· It showed the great cost of sin.
· It was an exchange or substitution.
· It was only always going to be a temporary measure as it points forward to Jesus' death
The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10v4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), and that was only needed once! Therefore Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute!
Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners. That is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, (Romans 5v6-8), willing giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10v45) and when He died in our place on the cross, he bore the consequences of all sin – past, present and future. This substitution was the sacrifice, or sin offering, required in order that Jesus as the Lamb of God could take away the sins of the world (John 1v29). He therefore became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5v21) and it was His precious blood as a lamb without spot or blemish (1Peter 1:18-19) that fulfils God’s requirements permanently. He was the propitiation for all sin!
Now we must remember that with sin, God is angry (Psalm 7v11). Towards sin and sinful behaviour He has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Hebrews 10v30-31 reminds us, “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet as Micah 7v18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. Propitiation basically means the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).
Romans 3v25-26: God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—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.
1 John 2v2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4v10: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.
To some people, even some in the church, this is abhorrent! The very thought that God could willing send His son to be a blood sacrifice for sin is tantamount to abuse, some say! However God’s requirements are very clear! John 3v16 says it all in response to this “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. If there was any other way, would not God have done it that way?
Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christian disciples, we are bought at a price, and we have a new position before God! We are bought out of slavery to sin, into glorious freedom where we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19); slaves to Christ (Romans 6:22). We are also Jesus Christ’s personal possession (1 Corinthians 16:19). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.
What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?
For more to think about, please do read John 10:1-18. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. What parts of my life am I still holding onto, that should be handed over to Jesus?
Q2. What is the best thing I can do, in order to be thankful to Jesus, for His death?
Q3. How can I, as His disciple, learn to listen to Jesus’ voice speaking to me?
As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.