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Uncommon Salvation

Date: Apr. 20, 2014

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Luke 23:26-24:12

Key Verse: Luke 24:;7

“The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”

Welcome to our second day of Uncommon. Yesterday morning, we heard about how uncommon Jesus truly is. Jesus is an extraordinary healer, teacher, savior and God. He hardly ever was what anyone expected. In the afternoon, we heard from a bunch of people about how God has been working in people’s lives. We saw how a life with Jesus is something that is great and not mediocre. It has been great to hear about Jesus, who he is and what he has done in people’s lives. Some people think that Christianity is a 2,000 year-old religion that is no longer relevant, but we are here to say that Jesus is alive, even now. Following him is real and leads to real impact in our lives. Jesus is not some sort of sky fairy or spaghetti monster. Jesus is God who came down from his throne in heaven to be born as a man. That’s the Christmas story. He came to this earth and became God with us. He is a God that likes to get involved in our lives. He wants to bless us in ways that we can’t imagine. There are some people out there who will tell you that if you believe in Jesus, your life will be great because God will bless you. Your debt goes away and your wealth grows. Everyone will love you and you will never fight with anyone, but those are all lies. Those things might happen, but that’s not why Jesus came down. Jesus didn’t come down so that you could get stuff. That’s not how God wants to bless us. He wants to bless us by reuniting us to him. Not only does God want us to be reunited with him, he wants to makes us heirs to his kingdom. We would become princes and princesses. God wants to do this for us, but there is a really big problem and is has a three-letter name: sin.

Sin is one of those words that is kind of ambiguous in our society. There is a sense that sin is something that is negative – that it is forbidden or evil. However, being forbidden makes sin very enticing. That is why Las Vegas is known as Sin City. Vegas is a place that people can indulge in their darkest desires because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Interestingly, sin is more than our dark desires and evil. In its simplest form, sin is merely a separation from God. Anything that takes you away from God is a sin. That’s very basic and doesn’t seem so bad. The problem is that when you are separated from God, you are separated from the source of all life. When we are separated from the source of life, we don’t die immediately. Instead, our lives tend to slowly degrade over time until we die. Not only do we physically die, but the quality of our life degrades, too. We become lonely, bitter, angry and full of doubt and despair. It happens to everyone. So many rich and famous people are depressed and take drugs to feel better. They have everything a person wants on this earth, but they are not complete. They are disconnected from the life source. It’s like your phone. When you take it off the charger, it doesn’t die immediately. It holds a charge for a day or two depending on how you use it, but eventually, the phone will die. When you plug it back in, it charges back up. If we were able to reconnect ourselves to the source of life, our lives could charge back up, and if we were to remain connected to that life source, our lives would never end and we would have life everlasting. That’s the promise that Jesus gives to those who believe in him. “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.” (John 3:16)

Unfortunately, we can’t plug ourselves back in. If a phone is getting ready to die, it is not able to plug itself back in to charge up. It requires outside intervention to make the connection. We are not that dissimilar. We can realize that we are away from the life source, but we are truly powerless to reestablish the connection. If we walked away from God, then we stepped into a dark room blindfolded with our hands tied. There is no way for us to find our way back. We will stumble and fall. We will hurt ourselves, but we won’t find our way back. We need someone to rescue us, to take the blindfold off and untie our hands, so that we can reconnect to the source of life. That someone is Jesus.

Only Jesus is able to reconnect us to God, because only Jesus is uniquely able to. Jesus is the only person to ever walk this earth and not sin. He was the only one to never walk away from God. Look at the heroes of the Bible. Each one of them was severely flawed. Noah got drunk and naked. Abraham sold his wife to save his own butt twice. Moses was a murderer. David was a adulterer and covered it up by having the woman’s husband killed in battle. Peter denied Jesus to a little servant girl. Paul had Christians thrown into jail because they were Christians. These were not good men. They were sinners, but Jesus is different. In every aspect of life, from beginning to end, Jesus never once strayed from God. Oh, he was tempted, but he did not succumb to that temptation. Jesus remained sinless. That makes him very unique, extraordinary, even. Jesus is uncommon, and his lack of sin makes him uniquely suited to reconnect us to God. The real question, now, is: how does Jesus reconnect us with God?

As Jimmy mentioned yesterday, the heroes we know about are like Iron Man, powerful, flashy, and flawed. Since Jimmy dabbled in Marvel, I’m going to go to DC. He’s got Iron Man and Captain America, but DC’s got Batman and Superman. If Batman were to save you, he’d beat the snot out of everyone and outthink all of his opponents, because he’s Batman. Then there’s Superman. He is the ideal of humanity: unwavering in his beliefs and not shaken by anything. The idea behind Superman is not all his powers; it is to give us a pure example to show us the grand potential of humanity and that we can be greater that what we are. That’s also the idea is also behind the majority of the world’s religions. The founder of the religion gave us so much to attain to. The idea is that they give us the grand plan and show us how to follow it, but it is up to us to follow it. If Jesus were Superman, then his lack of sin would serve as an example for humanity to follow. His goodness and purity would be something that we would strive for in our lives and we would follow his example. Jesus does show us how to live a perfect life. By following Jesus to the letter, we would be sinless…outwardly. We could, with great determination, follow all of God’s rules in our lives, but we wouldn’t necessarily follow them all in our heart. There are parts of ourselves that we don’t have control over. How often have we overreacted or flown off the handle over something? That’s just a sign that we don’t have control over our hearts and minds. We’ve had thoughts and desires that are contrary to our better judgment. We knew that we shouldn’t eat our third slice of Chicago deep dish, but we couldn’t help ourselves and now we are paying for it. If we can’t stop ourselves from overeating, then how can we trust that we have control over every aspect of our lives, including our hearts and minds? We don’t just need to follow an example. What we need is a way to be completely and utterly transformed. Uncommonly enough that is just what Jesus came to do.

I’m going to give you a little outline of what I am going to do. I don’t normally do this, but I can see this as getting a little confusing, so I want to be upfront with you. First, I am going to talk about what Jesus did to save us and how truly uncommon that is in it’s own right and then I will talk about the meaning behind it. But before we actually get into this passage, we might need a little background. We read the passage, but some of you might be wondering how we got here. At this point in time, Jesus had been going around Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee for about three-and-a-half years. During that time he taught about God and heaven, called people to follow him and learn from him, healed people from all sorts of diseases, and even raised the dead a few times. Jesus showed his authority and even claimed to be the Son of God. Those last two claims really riled up the religious leaders. They viewed themselves as the authority on all things God. They never approved of what Jesus was doing, but the people liked him and his teaching better than theirs. Plus, when Jesus called himself the Son of God, they thought that he was blaspheming God. The religious leaders had Jesus arrested during one of the great religious festivals, and convened a secret, midnight trial. Although they had no proof, they found Jesus guilty and sentenced him to die. The Roman authorities, however, forbade the Jews to execute anyone, so the religious leaders brought Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate. Pilate couldn’t find any reason to execute Jesus, but because of the pressure from the people who were riled up by the religious leaders, Pilate ordered that Jesus be crucified. The Roman soldiers took him away and had him flogged, and then we arrive at this passage.

We start this by seeing Jesus being led out of the city to the place where they would crucify him. Normally, the condemned would carry the cross-beam of their cross to the execution site, but because of Jesus’ weakened condition after the flogging, they grabbed a guy named Simon off the streets to carry it behind Jesus. As they were walking along, there were some women weeping for Jesus. These women were mourning for his upcoming death, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” (23:28) The women were concerned for Jesus, but Jesus told them to weep for themselves. He could have taken solace in the fact that people were weeping for him. The crowd had turned against him, but there were still some people who loved him. Instead, Jesus changes the direction of their mourning from him to the mourners. He tells them, “For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (23:31) It’s amazing, Jesus is on his way to die and he tells people who are mourning for him to weep for themselves. Even in his death, he is concerned about others.

When they reach their destination, they crucified Jesus between two criminals. The author, Luke, just writes that Jesus was crucified. Now Luke was a doctor and could have described the entire situation, but merely writes that Jesus was crucified. It is a really horrible way to die. Crucifixion was designed to torture a person as long as possible before eventually killing them. It was reserved for the worst of criminals. As the condemned hung on the cross with nails through their wrists, they couldn’t breathe. For them to breathe, they needed to raise themselves up on the nails and take a breath. Every breath was excruciating. After being beaten and bloodied by the flogging, Jesus would be exhausted, yet he had to raise himself up to breathe and speak. It took extraordinary effort to do so. With all the pain and suffering that Jesus was going through, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (23:34) Oh man, that’s weird. Who in the their right mind would ask God to forgive the people who are killing them, while they are being killed? The answer is: only Jesus. Even during his execution, the uncommon love that Jimmy spoke of overflowed onto the very people who were killing him.

As Jesus hung there, the people mocked him and insulted him. They humiliated him in every way possible. One of the criminals that hung on a cross next to Jesus was also mocking him. At around noon, everything became dark until three because the sun stopped shining. It was as if creation itself was mourning the coming death of Jesus. Who in creation had the sky go dark as they were dying? This was no ordinary death, and even the sun knew it. It is normal for the sun to come up and go down. Clouds may obscure it, but clouds don’t make it black as night. Eclipses block the sun, but eclipses don’t last for three hours. This was an extraordinarily uncommon event. The source of life was dying. God in flesh was dying. That doesn’t happen every day.

Just before Jesus died, he said one more thing, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (23:46) At the end, Jesus surrendered to the Father and gave up his spirit. Jesus died. Yesterday, Jimmy called Jesus an Uncommon God. It really looks that way, because what kind of God can die? What kind of God allows himself to be crucified, mocked and humiliated? That doesn’t seem like an almighty God. In the words of the Hulk, Jesus seems like a puny god. I knew some Muslim guys that couldn’t accept Jesus as God because of his death on the cross. God is almighty and powerful; he cannot die. How can God, the source of life, die? It is simple. Jesus chose to die. It was his decision to die and he didn’t say dead. Jesus said concerning his death, “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.” (John 10:17-18)

Jesus may have died. God may have died, but that doesn’t mean that he has to stay dead. Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. The people knew that he was dead. His body was prepared for burial and these people knew what a dead body looked like. On the third day after his death, Jesus came back. I want to read the account from this passage:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. (24:1-12)

The women went to the tomb to further prepare the body for burial, but they didn’t find the body. Instead, they saw angels who said that Jesus has risen. I don’t know about you, but I have never gone to the cemetery and seen angels walking about. Angels in the tomb are not normal. Jesus was raised from the dead. That, too, is not normal; it’s extraordinary. The body wasn’t stolen. Who unwraps the body before stealing it? That’s more work. After the women told Jesus’ disciples what they had seen, Peter, the top disciple, ran to the tomb to see for himself. Sure enough, when Peter arrived, Jesus wasn’t there. He saw the strips of linen that once surrounded Jesus lying on by themselves, but he was wondering what happened. What happened was exactly what the angels said: Jesus had risen from the dead.

You might be wondering about how this is salvation. Jesus died a horrible death, even though he was innocent of all charges. He was placed in a tomb on a Friday, and rose from the dead on a Sunday. How is that salvation? Let’s go back to something that we talked about at the beginning: sin. Sin is a disconnection from God. A man named Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus wrote, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
 your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2) Our iniquities, our shortcomings, separate us from God and it is universal to all of us. When the first man and woman Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one and only rule, they walked away from God. They willing separated themselves from God and that potential for sin has existed ever since for millennia. Every man and woman, ever born is a sinner. Paul was once a man who was the greatest enemy of Christians. He would round them up and put them in prison, but Jesus came to him and showed him what he was doing. Later, Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) We are all sinners and if you don’t believe that Paul also wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are sinners because we fall short of God’s glory. No matter how good you think you are, you fall short of perfection. No matter how good you are, you still have times of bitterness, rage, and selfishness. We envy what others have. Your actions may be perfect, but your hearts are not. If we are honest with ourselves, there is a lot of evil in our hearts.

There are consequences to our sin. For every action that we do, there is a consequence. Our actions and hearts do not exist in a vacuum. If we are yelling and screaming all the time, living grumpy lives, it affects other people around us, and it affects how people treat us. Paul, the guy who used to hate Christians, wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Sin leads to death. That is the consequence of our sins. If we have ever sinned, then we will die. There is a saying that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes, but death is only certain because we have all sinned. In this way, death brought power to sin and enslave us to it because we’re all afraid of death. The power of sin is to say to you, “You’ve already sinned, so you are going to die. You can’t change that. You might as well enjoy yourselves, then, because no matter what you do, you are going to die.” You get into a cycle of sin that seems never ending. We’re tied to it and stuck with it with no way out. Whatever we do, we cannot negate the fact that we will die. My grandmother, had I don’t know how many heart attacks, and after one, she had seven bypasses performed on her heart. She was given months to live, but she lived on for nearly another decade by shear force of will. Her mind was still sharp and she overcame tremendous odds, but five years ago, she succumbed to death. This is why we need to be saved.

Again, we come to the question of how Jesus’ death and resurrection mean our salvation. Couldn’t God just cancel our sins and forgive us? One, that doesn’t solve the root issue. Our sins aren’t a list of what we have done wrong, our sins are a condition of our hearts. We are not sinners because we sin; because we are sinners, that is why we sin. Two, God is just. He has to see justice done. It is part of what makes God good. God doesn’t show favoritism or give preferential treatment. If he did, you would never know if you were saved or not. If salvation depended on a whim, it could get lost at any moment, and God would be as corrupt as an Illinois governor. Since God is just, to save us, God must find a way to pay for us. Again, the wages of sin is death. A death must happen for our sins. It doesn’t say that it has to be our death for our sins. There can be a substitution and we call that an atoning sacrifice. The idea of a sacrifice has been around for a while. Give an offering to God to appease him. But those sacrifices don’t have that much power. Peter, Jesus’ top disciple who denied Jesus to a servant girl wrote, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 18-19) The old sacrifices had to be with a perfect sacrifice, no blemishes or defects. I mean, who would want a broken gift? Who wants a half-eaten donut as a gift?

Sacrifices can offer outward cleansing. They can help us clean house, but they don’t solve the root, but God’s sacrifice can. It’s written, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14) The blood of a man is worth far more than the blood an animal. So to heal us all required the blood of a man. A man had to die to cleanse our consciences from the acts of death, and he had to be perfect. Honestly, if you look around, there are no perfect people. Remember, we are all sinners. Therefore, God our Father had to step down, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14-17)

Jesus came to be that atonement, and we use his perfection as our own. Paul, the man who hated Christians, wrote a few times, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) We get Jesus’ righteousness by proxy because of what Jesus has done, that is sacrifice himself for us. He took our punishment and in exchange, gave us his perfection. We can call his perfection our own, even though we are still not perfect. I know that I am not perfect. There are times that I am like a giant rage monster, screaming at the top of my lungs. I don’t have a righteousness at all, but Jesus died for me so that I can wrap myself in his righteousness and be reconciled to God. Paul again wrote, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10)

In our sins, we were enemies of God, but through Jesus we are reconciled and saved. If you are wondering how this could happen with one man, remember, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) We became sinners because of one man, and we gain righteousness also through one man. It is that powerful, and that is because it is not just Jesus’ death. Remember, the power of sin is death. As long as death has power over us, sin has power over us, but Jesus overcame death. He didn’t stay dead. Paul, again, wrote, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) When Jesus conquered death, he broke the power of death and eternal life can be ours. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory?
 Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56)

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