April 10, 2020, Pastor Cliff Bergman
This week is called Holy Week, or Passion Week. It began last Sunday, Palm Sunday, and concludes with Easter Sunday. It happens this year in the most unfamiliar circumstances – Church gatherings, the very thing we normally seek to attend, are suspended throughout our country due to COVID-19. Our society has been turned upside down and we are required to resist our natural desire to have face to face interaction with our family members, neighbors, fellow Christians, and with people in general. That God given inclination for social interchange is particularly apparent during a special week like this one. It is understandable that people are experiencing a variety of emotions as the isolation continues with no end in sight. But the events we focus on this week, even if at a distance from one another, provide the basis upon which we can exchange fear and uncertainty, for assurance and confidence, and worry and anxiety, for calm and comfort.
All who have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ are recipients of God’s promises, not only for today, but for the future.
The reason that is so is because Good Friday and Easter Sunday are the watershed of redemptive history when Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will. Because of God’s unfathomable love detailed in
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus left the glories of heaven and came to earth where He clothed Himself with humanity so He could do what no one else could. He alone met the qualifications to be a sacrifice for sin, which were to be a human and to be without any sin. He came because the human race was infected with something far more serious and deadly than the coronavirus, sin. All of us, despite our good and sincere efforts and commendable qualities are sinners both by nature as well as by choice.
As a result of sin, it was as though the human race was travelling down an enormous expressway, oblivious of the fact that it ended in a godless eternity in hell. Fortunately God tells about our predicament in the Bible, His word to us. There we learn that because there was no other way to rescue people from the outcome due to their sin, God sent His Son to become a sacrifice for sin, to provide a solution.
Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the ultimate in unfair exchanges, our sin was placed upon Jesus, while those who place their faith in Jesus are clothed with the righteousness of God, a covering for their sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In a sense, Jesus provided an off ramp from the expressway people were on, an exit for those who would accept Jesus’ invitation to trust Him for salvation. He provides a solution to the number 1 problem humankind faces, sin. Forgiveness from Him is extended to all who turn to Him in repentance, seeking His forgiveness. Those who turn to Jesus are born-again, they become part of the family of God, they experience newness of life and become spiritually alive to God. Thus they begin a personal relationship with God.
No one is capable of earning their salvation. No matter how many good deeds they do, no matter how sincere their efforts may be, no matter how many commendable qualities they possess, they will never be able to erase their sin. Salvation from sin is available only from Jesus.
John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
To the recipient of salvation, it is totally free.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
While salvation is free to all who turn to Jesus in faith, it wasn’t without cost. Jesus laid down His life so many years ago at Calvary. It is that voluntary sacrifice that we remember on Good Friday. As we reflect on Jesus’ death on the cross we understandably often focus on the physical pain He suffered. But as horrific as that was, it was eclipsed by the unfathomable pain and emptiness Jesus experienced when His Father turned His back on Him as Jesus experienced the judgement due the sinners for whom He died. The intimate fellowship Jesus had experienced with His Father throughout eternity was broken. The pain of that unimaginable and unbearable breach in fellowship throughout that three hour period while the world was in utter darkness, is embodied in Jesus’ 4th Cry From the Cross,
Matthew 27:46 (ESV) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When I read those words, the depth of the pain that brought about my salvation is etched upon me one more time. Let us especially be mindful today, that if it were not for Jesus willingness to face the judgement we all deserved, we would have no hope or peace or assurance or intimate communion with the God of this universe, for apart from our embrace of Jesus as our Savior and Lord we would remain on the expressway to a godless eternity of unrelenting pain and suffering.
If any of you aren’t sure whether you have a personal relationship with God, ask yourself the question, “If I was to die today and stand before God and He was to ask me, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’” what would I say? If your answer would be something like, “I’ve been pretty good and tried my best.” He won’t open the door to heaven for you. Entrance into heaven is gained only by depending exclusively upon Jesus and what He did at the cross of Calvary. It is only by trusting by faith on Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. While works, good deeds, and righteous living will never earn a person’s salvation, they are nevertheless the inevitable result of having been saved, for they flow from that relationship with the Lord.
May each of you take the time to thank the Lord for the pain He suffered so you could experience newness of life and be set free to become the person He created you to be. It is that which Jesus did at Calvary and our trust in Him that forms the basis upon which we can exchange fear and uncertainty, for assurance and confidence, and worry and anxiety, for calm and comfort.
If you want an enriching portion of Scripture to read, turn to Isa 52.13 to 53.12 which encompasses that which unfolded in Jerusalem that day.
May you know the joy of the Lord today.