+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 19:6
Theme: No Guilt, Still Condemned
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Crucifixions were not unusual events. Death by this horrendous method of torture was standard punishment for the condemned. Jesus did not merit special consideration when it came to His method of execution. Common thieves shared His fate on Calvary. But this crucifixion had a different meaning and a different ending. Pilate sought to wash his hands of the matter saying, “I find no guilt in Him,”1 still, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. The great exchange of guilt was about to occur and the cross was the facility for the transaction.
We can reasonably speculate that some people became somewhat numb from witnessing crucifixions just as we become desensitized to violence by watching too much on TV. Nonetheless, the stomach-turning nature of it undoubtedly had the desired effect of deterring those planning to transgress the authorities. The earliest symbol of Christianity was the fish, not the cross. This may reveal the sensitivity of proximity the early Christians had. Nevertheless, Paul said all that really need to be said when he wrote to the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”2
The crucifixion brings clarity. In no other way can sinners be absolved than by receiving the forgiveness which has its source there. We worship a bleeding, dying Saviour. The specificity of what we recognize today should not escape our notice. The belief that humanity considered corporately, or that life considered compositely, is the essence or power of the divine, the very definition of God, is an ancient pagan idea. The deification of nature or the collective life force of all living things characterizes some human attempts explain the mysteries of existence. But the belief that one individual man is God, that is Christianity. In seeing Jesus, we see God. God is everywhere but we only have access to Him where He wills to be. He willed to be present among us in the flesh and blood person of Jesus, the Christ.
Christ was sacrificed to resolve the guilt of sin. That’s where the rubber meets the road for us. Humans are complex composites of self-awareness and myopathy. We are full of self-contradiction. On the one hand, we know what temptations we are vulnerable to. We know our public sins that shame us and private sins that embarrass us. We know those sins we desperately want to justify so that we don’t have to give them up. We can call it intuition, which the Bible teaches us is simply the proper functioning of our conscience as it responds to God’s law. We bear the image of the Creator and we have a sense of when we are tarnishing it. The Scripture talks about unbelievers “who do not have the law, [yet] do by nature things required by the law…they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.”3 Therefore, no one is excused.
On the other hand, we can be so short-sighted, narrow-minded, arrogant, and ignorant that we don’t even realize we are sinning. We might habitually hurt others and not have a clue. We might be so biased and out of touch we don’t even know we are falling under God’s condemnation. Furthermore, we may be puffed in self-righteousness, actually believing our sins are blessings to ourselves and others. The apostle Paul says, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.”4 And David pleas to the Lord, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”5
Public or private the Scriptures tell us this matter of our sin must be resolved and we are directed to the Crucified One. Therefore, we pray the Holy Spirit would fill us with a trust that we cannot muster on our own. After all, it’s a tall order to believe that this single act is the source of divine pardon. But, dear friends, the only people that don’t have some sort of faith, some type of trust, some manner of confidence are those who are in complete despair or utter confusion. Some believe science will provide all the answers, others trust that everyone will “go to a better place”, some think they have no sins to be forgiven, while still others think people just simply cease to exist when they die. But, all of these positions express some belief about what will happen when mortality is realized. Atheists also have beliefs, they just don’t have faith in God.
The message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is not parochial. It’s not met for a certain people of a specific time or place. It never becomes obsolete. People are always looking for God. Any god they find that didn’t get hung on a cross is an idol. That’s a radical message. It allows no competitors. It is offensive to some, not sensible to others. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”6 Some think it’s outrageous that the Father would require the blood of His own Son. Others prefer to go their own way without any help from God at all.
Isaiah asks, “Who has believed our message?”7 The message is a tough sell today too. What about the pre-flood era? Was Noah a poor preacher? He preached for 100 years and didn’t have a single convert. What about Elijah and his near-despair about people’s rejection of God? Jesus Himself says that before He returns the love of many will grow cold and He asks rhetorically whether He will find faith on the earth. These are sobering things to ponder.
It's hard to imagine how personally hurtful the sins committed against Jesus leading up to His crucifixion were. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest of the disciples forsook Him and fled. The soldiers mocked Him. Pilate washed his hands of the whole matter. Both thieves He shared the Skull with even ridiculed Him at first. Still, He persevered. At the death of Jesus, the whole creation convulses and recoils. Darkness descends at midday and tremors rattle the earth. More importantly, the curtain of the temple is rent in two and some believers are raised from their graves. It was a preview of the great day of judgment and resurrection.
In the crucifixion, we see the very heart of God. Abject humility, supreme sacrifice, perfect obedience illustrate not only the ideals but the necessities for atonement. A sinless Son of God was required to pardon sinners. No half-way measures would do. No mediocre efforts would suffice. You are baptized into this death. You are fed with divine food supplied by the table of the cross.
There hangs Jesus, the Son of God, from the cross. He hangs there so that we can stand in the assembly of the righteous. He hangs in darkness so we can enjoy divine light. He gasps for air so that we can breathe easily. He bows His head so that we can dare to lift our necks and behold the very face of God. He succumbs to death that we might have life. Now is the hour of the power of darkness, but the light of the resurrection will soon pierce the horizon. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
14 April, 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 19:6
2 1 Corinthians 2:2
3 Romans 2:14-15
4 Romans 7:7
5 Psalm 19:12
6 1 Corinthians 1:23
7 Isaiah 53:1
8 Romans 7:7