“The Road to the Cross” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship 28 August 2011

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As we have gone through Luke’s gospel we have seen how Dr Luke systematically, and chronologically sets the scene for the life of Jesus, starting with the events surrounding the birth of Jesus and telling us in detail about the early days of Jesus ministry, the so-called Galilean ministry. During the Galilean Ministry, Jesus has gathered around himself a band of disciples, has preached the gospel of the kingdom, healed the sick and raised the dead.

In chapter nine we have seen how Jesus was acknowledged as the Messiah by Peter and from that moment on a new era starts. Immediately following Peter’s recognition of who Jesus is, Jesus starts to point to the cross. He dispels the disciples’ assumption that the Messiah will setup the kingdom of God on earth here and now by telling the incredulous disciples that he will suffer and die.

After the remarkable events of the transfiguration and the deliverance of the demoniac boy when the crowd is once again looking forward to the emergence of the messiah, Jesus once again points out how he will be going to the cross, and then we read that Jesus sets out resolutely towards Jerusalem.

From this point on Luke’s narrative is all about the journey to the cross. Jesus continues with His teaching, his miracles and his confrontation with the religious establishment but the progress is always towards Jerusalem.

Luke, along with the other gospel writers, describes the events leading up to and surrounding the death of Jesus in some detail. The explanation of the event, however, is left to the writers of the epistles. Peter explains the cross in this way:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2 v.24-5)
From this let us draw out four points of learning:

1. Remember

As we break bread today, let’s remember what Jesus did for us. A very small child can understand the concept that wrongdoing deserves punishment, and that if someone else pays the price then I can go free. Today we remember that Jesus stood in our place. The cross is an offence precisely because we find it unacceptable to think that we are sinners, that an angry God punishes sin and that there is nothing that I can do to save myself. Today we remember and believe that Jesus took my punishment.

2. Reflect

The first letter to the Corinthians was written, amongst other reasons, to insist that the Corinthian church treat the Lord’s Supper with respect. They were over-eating, getting drunk and showing no regard for what Jesus had done. Today we reflect on the fact that by his wounds we have been healed. The very thing that brings death to Jesus – his wounds – brings life to us.

3. Rejoice

It is perfectly proper to remember the death of Jesus with a big smile on our faces. We were like sheep going astray but now we have returned to our shepherd. Just like a child reunited with a parent, there is great joy and great relief at the re-union.

4. Respond

Reflecting on the life of Jesus brings us to a decision. Are we prepared to live in the light of it. Peter says that a purpose of the cross was for us to die to sins and to live for righteousness? Are we taking on board our responsibility?

John MacDiarmid
August 2011

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