The Big Promise
Happy Easter greetings all,
I want to begin by thanking all of you for your prayers. We feel them. As we begin today I have no idea what will happen here at OH this week. Only that, whatever it is, it will be ordained by God. I’m fine with that. I’m praying for an Easter miracle for God’s glory. Please continue to join me in this prayer. Thank you again.
As we begin our Easter week I would like for us to continue to look at the promises of God, only now we will focus on the promises of God in scripture that pertain to Jesus Christ. When we look in the Old Testament, these scripture are known as Messianic prophecies. There are hundreds of these prophecies found throughout the Old Testament. All of them are true. Most of these prophecies are made hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. The Old Testament scripture that we are looking at today was written 600 years or so before the baby Jesus was born.
The promise that we are looking at today is a big one. It is a promise that reveals just how much God loves each one of us. The promise is this: The Messiah will bear our sins and suffer in our place. In other words, Jesus will take our cross. Jesus will take the cross of each and every human being from Alpha to Omega. This is a big promise.
The problem for many of us to truly understand just how big this promise is, is for us to understand the true horror of the cross. Today, because of the sheltered nature of our modern lives, it is hard for us to understand just how cruel, how degrading, how torturous, how painful, and how evil the cross really was.
We are shocked and horrified at the pictures coming back from Ukraine’s war. These are terrible images. War is terrible. Watching someone take 24-72 hours to die naked while hanging on a cross would be just as terrible. Maybe, more so.
You and I had a date with our own cross. We all should have died for our own sins on our own cross. However, the big promise for us today is that Jesus canceled our appointment on that cross and took our place, also canceling our sin debt along the way. He took our pain, our punishment, and our guilt and shame, totally canceling our debt.
On top of all this, the work is complete. By that I mean Jesus’ work is a finished product. By his own lips this is a completed project. It now comes for each man and woman to realize this work before they end their lives on this planet. This is the only question left for us to determine. Who is it that believes this promise? Let’s begin with Isaiah 52:13-15,
“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness – so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.”
After nailing Christ’s wrists and ankles to the cross, the soldiers lifted him up and dropped the cross into a hole they had dug. Jesus was raised and lifted up, and left to die. He had been scourged and beaten before being placed on the cross.
Christ will be as an animal who has been abused. This is to an extreme with a purpose. So that no man or woman can say, “that’s not so bad”. All of us, even kings and today’s leaders will acknowledge the suffering of Jesus Christ. The cross was maximum suffering.
The punishment that was meant for us was taken by Christ. This punishment was so horrendous that “kings will shut their mouths”. Many kings over the years have ordered such executions, even today’s leaders, through back door deals and diplomatic errors, have caused such suffering. Christ’s death leaves them all speechless. Isaiah 53:1-9,
“Who has believed our message (Good News) and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men and women, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him (the most beautiful verse in the Bible), and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
So, an innocent man willingly took our place on the cross. Jesus’ body was crushed and his blood shed so that each of us would have the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and have salvation, eternal life with him and his Father in heaven. The choice, it is a choice, is up to us. What is your answer today?
On the night Jesus was betrayed he had supper with his disciples. This is Matthew 26:26-29,
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body’.”
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the (New) Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
You get this everyone, right? Just like the doves and the lambs, and the sheep and the ox were sacrificed ritually for the Jews and their sins, Jesus was sacrificed, once, for all of mankind.
This is what we remember and experience every time we take communion. This is what we remember and experience every Easter. We aren't celebrating Christ’s death today, but his sacrifice, his sacrifice for us. And of course, his resurrection.
God’s word promised us that Christ would take our place and our punishment on our cross. Jesus did this. What is your response?
I prefer the words of Peter himself, the man who denied Christ three times on the night of Christ’s betrayal, to end today. 1 Peter 2:21-25,
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have been returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Do we not each owe Christ our very lives? I consider my life forfeited. Whether joy and peace, or suffering and heartache, or, more likely a rich mixture of all, I’ll trust God and his call on my life. Will you do the same?
I will do so because of this big promise delivered: Jesus took my cross and suffered in my place. He did this for all of us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it is finished.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
Happy Easter blessings,
and Harmony UMC