“The Heart of the Matter” (John MacDiarmid)

Reference: Luke 23 verse 44-49

Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 8 May 2016

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Today we deal with the part of the Bible that sits at the very heart of our faith. If we understand nothing else about the Christian faith, we have to understand this. We have noted that the gospels were written to give the historical background to the truths that the believers know.

Here we have the historical account of the most important event in history – the death of Jesus.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching. 

There are three questions to ask ourselves here – questions we would do well to ask ourselves each and every time we look at the gospels:

  1. What is happening here?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How should I respond?

What is happening here?

It doesn’t look that remarkable – an obscure Galilean preacher meeting his end on a Roman cross. But it is not without reason that the cross has become the symbol of Christianity around the world.

1. The judgement of God – we are into the second period of three hours which found Jesus on the cross. He has already been paying the penalty for our sins, but now it moves into a whole different level, as the Father withdraws his presence from Jesus, and Jesus experiences the torment of spiritual separation from his Father,  forfeiting a joy which he had experienced throughout eternity. If we could have seen Jesus, we may not even have lived: he looked like hell itself as the whole force of God’s wrath against sin was poured out. This is where Jesus cried out in torment – “My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?”

As Isaiah had prophesied:  “his appearance was so disfigured  beyond that of any human being, and his form marred beyond human likeness”

2. The tearing of the curtain – in the temple was a part called the Most Holy place where the High priest went to offer sacrifice for sin once a year. No one else could enter the presence of God. It was surrounded by a thick curtain. When the price for sin was paid, the way into God’s presence was open, and God himself burst out.

3. Knowing that the price for sin was paid – Jesus cried out in triumph “it is finished”

4. Jesus chose to die: he could have chosen to die at any time, but now that sin has been totally paid for , Jesus’ job is done and he willingly “gives up the ghost”

…and it’s over. The penalty for sin for all time has been paid.

5. The centurion – his comment that Jesus is a righteous man is highly significant. No one but a righteous man could have paid the penalty for sin

6. The witnesses look on from a distance. Today – we are those witnesses. So what do these events mean to us?

What does it mean?

  1. We have a clear view of the way God sees sin.
  2. The way between God and man is clear: the very thing that has kept us from God has gone forever
  3. There is nothing left to be done to make a sinner acceptable to God – it has all been done. The tearing of the curtain and the cry of “it is finished” prove that.
  4. We have a clear way into God’s presence when we die – we can be like the thief to whom Jesus said “Today you will be with me”
  5. We have the ultimate expression of the fact that we are loved.

How should I respond?

  1. There is a choice to make: the fact that there is a way to God does not mean that I will  automatically accept it. As the writer to the Hebrews says of those who reject Jesus:  “no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
  2. We respond by offering our lives to the one who gave everything for us. As CT Studd said: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him”
  3. We respond by remembering as we break bread together, with worship, adoration and thankfulness.

 

John MacDiarmid

May 2016

Posted Under: Talks

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