Matthew 27:23 (What Evil Has He Done?)

Artwork by Doug Kallerson

Matthew 27:23
What Evil Has He Done?

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”
24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.
25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

In the time allotted to each of us during the years we walk through life, and to varying degrees based upon where one is, the seasons of the year closely match the normally lived-out seasons of life. There is the spring where life begins, everything is fresh, young, pliable, vibrant, colorful, sweet-smelling, and so on.

Then comes the summer. It is a time of endurance. Life permeates everything, but it has become a more mature and developed life. It is a time of adulthood and strength. It is a time of great productivity, hard work, and revealed potency. For the wise, it is a time to store up for the future. The period will arrive when the provisions of this season’s produce will be needed.

Eventually, the fall comes along. It is a time of beauty, but of increasing tiredness. There is a change from the strength and productivity that so highlighted the summer to a time of slowing down, a need to rest from labor, and of diminishing output.

Those who stored up in the summer can rely on those stores to carry them through this period without forcing themselves to overwork. And that is a good thing because overwork can overload. And in being overloaded, damage can result. It’s surely not called “fall” simply because the leaves fall, but because man in this season can too.

The once-simple task of pruning the trees becomes a possibly life-threatening undertaking. Life slows down. Man can look back on the earlier days, remembering what once was, but he cannot get himself to go back there in reality. The season has taken over and it moves him further from who he once was with each day that passes.

And then comes the winter. The bleakness of ever-hardening joints and atrophying muscles sets in. The trees do nothing productive, the animals secret themselves away, hoping to not become prey to some other animal, and man’s faculties fail.

Solomon marvelously describes this condition in Ecclesiastes 12. That which once was vibrant and new, and which then became strong and developed, has gone through its failing fall, and has arrived at its woeful winter. It is the time when death is at hand and only the prospect of the coldness of a grave cut out of the frozen ground remains.

Man’s years end because his life force has been depleted. The journey that began in the spring has come to its termination.

Text Verse: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

If you take time to consider the world around you, one of the things you will notice, is that among individuals, cultures, and nations, there are hints of the biblical story everywhere you look. They may not be in line with the narrative, but it is as if there is a faint memory or inkling of what happened, or how things should be, still evident.

For example, most people agree that there is an evil force that exists. There is the idea that there is life after death. Many cultures have their own flood stories. The Chinese alphabet consists of characters that carry numerous hints of the creation story. And so on.

There is this ingrained knowledge in us of how things were, of how they should be, or of how they could be. They may just be vapory hints of the way the Bible presents these things, but they are there.

When I was young, one of my favorite albums was by the Beach Boys. It was entitled Endless Summer. To this day, if one of the songs from that album comes up – and even though I may not have heard it since I was 15 – I can remember every single word and every single note as if it had just played this morning.

Adam was created. The Lord breathed the breath of life into him, and he became a living being. From there, he was placed in a garden. From the account, it reads – at least to me – of a life more comparable to the summer span of man.

He wasn’t created as a little baby that had to grow. He wasn’t created as a failing older fellow that began to salivate every time he saw a rocking chair. Rather, he was – ostensibly – like any person in the prime of life that we may see today.

He was set in the garden and there was nothing set before him that would cause him to go through any seasonal changes that we now go through. Nothing except one simple thing…

“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17).

How simple that is! The man’s Endless Summer lay before him. It is that vapory hint of the ideal span of life that the Beach Boys sang about. A life of mature youth, vigor, productivity, unceasing enjoyment, and contentment. It is as if it is ingrained in us.

Hollywood movies, books, songs, and – indeed – entire albums, all hint at this marvelous state of life, as if it could be a reality. And because it could be, even though it is not, it is a hope that still exists because we want it to.

Because this hidden hope is so prevalent among humanity, it partly reveals why the gospel of Jesus is so relevant to all people. Every culture where the gospel is presented understands its premise. They get what it means because it speaks of the answer to something in us that is already there, but that previously had no suitable resolution.

It is the gospel – and it alone – that accurately, perfectly, and wholly meets the previously unfulfilled hope that exists in man’s soul. This is the relevance of the Person of Jesus Christ because the gospel is based upon His work. It is the greatest story ever told because it is the most relevant story ever told.

Truly unimaginable marvel and wonder suddenly becomes both imaginable and real through this most pertinent message that is revealed in God’s superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Messiah is Coming

Adam’s “endless summer” in Eden didn’t last very long. We can only speculate on how long he remained in the garden, but his son Seth was born in his 130th year of life. Seth came some unknown time after the births of Cain and Abel, but which was inclusive of all of Abel’s life, even if Cain was still alive.

As such, it takes Adam’s 930-year lifespan down to a rather short time in comparison to his years, and my guess is that the time in Eden was a lot shorter than that as well. How quickly paradise was lost! Regardless of the exact time, two major things resulted from his transgression.

The first is that he died on the day he ate of the fruit. But this death was not in regard to his physical life. Rather, it was regarding his spiritual life. We know this for several reasons, but the main one is based on what Paul says in his epistles, especially Romans, but probably most explicitly in Ephesians –

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespassesmade us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7

Adam sinned, meaning he committed evil (the reason for saying this will be explained later), by violating the law set before him. In his sin, he died on that same day. From there, that same state of death (spiritual death, aka “dead in trespasses”) then infected all of humanity. A detailed explanation of that is recorded for us in Romans 5 –

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” Romans 5:12-14

This was the first, and immediate, consequence of his sin. He committed evil, and the spiritual connection to God – meaning the true life of man – was lost. Adam, and all who follow after him, are dead in this manner. The second, and obvious consequence of this state is physical death. It is this death we fear more, though it is only a death that results from the death we already possess –

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19

The anticipated endless summer has become an endless winter. We are dead, and we shall die. And in our death, we shall remain dead forever. What a bleak and dreary existence it ultimately is. It is a world without hope, even for those who possess that inner elusive vapor of hope that there is something more.

Death awaits and when it comes, even that secreted away hope is snuffed out. But correction of this state is what the biblical narrative reveals. Adam had a hope, but it was not a vapory hint that remained from some long-hidden memory within the collective mind of man.

Instead, he had the words of the Lord that had just been spoken concerning a coming Redeemer. The promise of One who would bruise the head of the serpent was conveyed. The implication was that if the serpent was crushed, a return to paradise now lost would come about.

Therefore, Adam’s hope was a real, certain hope. The Lord had spoken and, therefore, it could come to pass. And, indeed, it must. The Lord had spoken.

It is this truth, passed on to Adam, and that was then passed on to his own children, that has been remembered in the subconscious man. The Lord created the seasons, and it is the hope of spring – of the renewal of life after the bleak and dreary winter – that reminds us it is so. It tells us that life can come from death.

But knowing how it could come about is the uncertain element that man faced, and which many still face. Indeed, there is a promise of One who is to come who would restore humanity to that beautiful place and state of Eden’s perfection. And because there is the promise, it has sunk into the collective mind of man.

All around the world, in innumerable cultures, there is the hope of someone coming who would bring man back to where he belongs. That place, that understood place – which is not our current world – has been given many names. And just what it will be like varies by tradition as well. But when you talk to people about it, they will almost always describe something that is beyond what we now know.

And along with that “something,” there is more often than not a “Someone” who they believe will lead the way. Of course, there are lots of opportunists out there who will also claim that they are that “Someone.”

If you want to get something out of others, all you need to do is convince them that you are the promised One. Jesus Himself spoke of this reality when He said –

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:23-25

But by saying what He said, specifically that there will be false christs, it implies that there is a true Christ. His next words indicate exactly that, calling this true Christ “the Son of Man,” and thus a reference to Himself –

“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Matthew 24:26-28

He said it. What makes Him different than all of these others whom He claims are false? What is it that sets Him apart? It can’t be because He is Jewish. Lots of people are Jewish. They aren’t all the Messiah. That may be a necessary factor for being the Messiah, but it is not the principal one.

It is true that lots of Jewish people have claimed to be the Messiah, and lots of others have been called the Messiah, whether they claimed it or not. Even today, right in the land of Israel there are people who are heralded as the Messiah.

Likewise, there are lots of supposed messianic figures outside of Israel – either who have come or who are anticipated to come. Buddhists believe that they are following the right guy. Branch Davidians thought they were as well. Muslims think they are waiting for the true Messiah.

Obviously, Christians believe that “right guy” is Jesus. But within Christianity, there are varying ideas on who Jesus is and what kind of a Messiah he is. It is with all certainty that the Jesus who is proclaimed by the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, is not the same Jesus who is proclaimed by others within the faith.

And, unfortunately, even within “mainstream” Christian denominations, there have arisen other false impressions about who Jesus is and what He is like.

And then, of course, there are those people who claim they actually are Jesus. Right now in the world today, there are supposed “Jesuses” in the UK, Sibera, Zambia, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and even until a few years back, there was one in Miami. Others have come and gone, and more seem to crop up with each passing year.

They have latched onto the name of Jesus and claim that they are Him. It’s a bit problematic when Jesus Himself said that when He returns, it would be in an unmistakable manner. But a little fudging of the scenario, and people will believe pretty much anything.

Who is this Man, and what sets Him apart?
What is it about Him that tells us He is the One?
What is the way to know? Where should our thinking start…
To determine if He is truly God’s own Son?

Why should we cast our lot in with Him?
So many have claimed what He now speaks out
Following the wrong “Messiah” would be dark and grim
How can we know without a shadow of doubt?

What is it about Him that will tell us He is the One?
As we seek the Redeemer of Israel
This man claims that He is God’s own Son
If it is true, just how can we tell?

II. Born Under the Law

The Beach Boys sang about things related to their ideal of an endless summer. What is it that would really make your endless days a time of summer? For me, it’s hard to even think on those lines. I was born, eventually I matured into a man, and now I’m heading into the fall of life.

And I can say that if the summer I lived went on forever, I’d rather not live forever. The world has a lot of beauty, there are fun times, there are great people that have come along over the years, but there is also weariness by the end of every day.

For most of the world, the summer of their life is simply a quest to be ready for the fall and winter. What kind of an existence is that? Really.

We have a bit of enjoyment as we go, but we know – for sure and without a doubt – that we will get old and we will either need to prepare for that, or we hope that someone else will be there to help us along until we finally keel over and die.

Solomon speaks of this type of existence in Ecclesiastes, and he opens the book with a note that pretty much sums things up –

“‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher;
‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’” Ecclesiastes 1:2

Other translations say “meaningless,” “futility,” “pointless,” and so on. What a miserable existence if this is all there is. And yet, Solomon elsewhere speaks of the summer gathering as a positive thing –

“He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Proverbs 10:5

He doesn’t just limit this to humanity either –

“The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;” Proverbs 30:25

Obviously, Solomon is making a point about ants that should be then converted to a point about men. We know this because he had already noted the ant in relation to man earlier in Proverbs –

“Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:6-11

But this begs the question. If we are to look to the ant and be like him by being prepared in the summer for what lies ahead, what is the point if everything is meaningless?       The same end will come upon the industrious man as will come upon the sluggard, but the sluggard just doesn’t wear himself out in the process! Who is the smart one then?

This is true, but only if the premise is that there really is the same end for both. What if, however, being prepared in the summer points us to a spiritual truth. What if the seasons are there to teach us a lesson?

Night is coming when no one can work. Winter is coming when life is at an end. And so on. We are instructed to be wise with our time. We are to be prepared now for what is coming. Paul says it this way –

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15

Whether a saved believer, or someone who is looking for salvation, the statement remains true. The days are evil. If they are evil, it is because this is not a place without evil. An endless summer of evil days would be a terrible existence. I dare say that I cannot even imagine it.

People who talk about living forever in this world are just plain nuts. Who would want to live forever in a world as things are now? And yet, there they are. People are working on medicines, DNA advancements, and all kinds of other technologies in hopes of living forever.

Just two days after I typed the first draft of this sermon, an article came out in the Guardian, saying, “If they could turn back time: how tech billionaires are trying to reverse the ageing process / Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel are pouring huge sums into startups aiming to keep us all young – or even cheat death. And the science isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.” No thank you!

If I am going to store up in the summer of my life, it is going to be for something way better than this. Paul speaks of this in his first letter to Timothy –

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19

When the Bible speaks of eternal life, it speaks of it in two different ways. The first is in that which is possessed, but not yet attained. The second is a state that is attained, but which is not at all like the one we now have. Thank God for that!

But, again, we need to know how to go from days that are evil to days without evil. This is the key to both understanding who the Messiah is and what He can truly provide. As this is so, defining what evil is becomes necessary.

In short, evil isn’t. It is not an entity that actually exists in and of itself. Rather, evil is a state (the state) of imperfection. To say that the days are evil is to say, “The days are not perfect.” To say that what Adam did was evil is to say, “What Adam did was imperfect.” It did not measure up to a standard of perfection.

To say that the virus in a sick person is evil is to note that something in him is not as it should be. Rust is a great example of this. A car without rust is as it should be. Its body is good. But when a hole occurs in the metal because of rust, that hole is a lack of metal. It is a lack of what is good.

If God created Adam as a living being, and if he died on the day he ate of the fruit that he was commanded to not eat, then it means that what he did was not good, and the result of what transpired, meaning death, is not good.

What is good is life. But it’s not the physical life that he continued to live. We know this, because the days are evil. As such, the life that is good, the life that is truly life, the life that is eternal, is found in the spiritual reconnection to God that was lost. Jesus said as much –

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:1-3

But again, how do we know that He is the One? How do we know that He can truly give this? The answer is found in the state of things as we have already gone over.

Adam sinned. He did something that lacked goodness. As such, it was evil. In this, he was separated from God. He spent the rest of his life apart from God and in a world that is evil. This doesn’t mean evil in the absolute sense.

Rather, it is a world lacking perfection. The good thing that once was has now been replaced with something less good. From there, we will experience different gradations of that lack of perfection because, as Paul said, “death spread to all men.”

This state of separation is inherited by all who descend from Adam as sin travels from father to child. So, we are imperfect and living in an imperfect world. As this is so, we now have a way of excluding those who claim to be the promised One, the Messiah.

It is not necessarily that they are living in the world that disqualifies them. The part of the car that doesn’t have rust is fine. It’s the hole where the rust consumed the metal that is lacking. The lack of goodness in one part of something doesn’t mean that everything lacks this goodness.

The thing that makes man evil isn’t that he is a man. It is that he is a man born from a man. Adam wasn’t evil when he was created. But in becoming evil, he passes his imperfection on to those who follow him. It is Adam, and each father after Adam, that passes on this state that is lacking goodness.

And so, how do we eliminate the false messiahs of the world? Well, if they are human beings that had a father that begat them, then they are not capable of being the true Christ. They bear the stain of sin, and they are thus disqualified.

Understanding this, every person ever born to a man and a woman, and thus every person ever born, stands disqualified. That is every person, except One. This is Jesus. But this is only the Jesus who is accurately portrayed and explained in the Bible. Jesus was born of a woman, but He was sent forth from God –

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4

This is also explained by the angel Gabriel who was sent to Mary –

And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” Luke 1:35

Jesus was born of a woman and of God. As such, no sin – no imperfection or evil – transferred to Him. He is qualified to be the Messiah. However, Paul said something else in Galatians 4:4, didn’t he. He said that Jesus was “born under the law.”

Which law is he referring to? The question is important because the law was given to Israel, and yet Paul says that Jesus was sent to “redeem those who were under the law.” Paul is writing to the Galatians. They are not of Israel, and they were never under the Law of Moses. As such, he cannot merely be speaking of that law.

There is a law that man needs to be redeemed from. Paul using law as an example tells us about its effects on man –

“I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.” Romans 7:9-11

Adam was given a commandment, a law. In his breaking of that law, he died, and “death spread to all men,” as we have already seen. As this is the state of all men, God put the onus on Himself. He did this by calling out a nation from the world and giving it a law, the Law of Moses. It was to be His standard for righteousness for them to see and live by. As He says –

“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:5

To live is to not die. The law is explicit. The man who does the things of the law will live. But the law of Adam already condemned all men. Death spread to all. Therefore, the way for man to live was to live this law out perfectly.

Christ, however, was not born under the law of Adam. Adam’s death did not spread to Him. But Paul says that He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. How could Christ redeem those under the law if he was born under the law given to Adam? He would bear Adam’s sin.

Hence, God gave Israel the Law of Moses. He then sent forth Christ, born of a woman but not of a man, and so He was not under the law of Adam (and thus He was without sin). But He was born under the law of Israel, God’s standard by which if a man does those things, he shall live by them.

If you see the point I’m making, it’s not just that Jesus came, but there had to be a law other than Adam’s law for Him to come under. He could not come under Adam’s law because he would bear Adam’s sin. But by coming under another law, He could both perform and redeem.

There was no imperfection (no evil) in Him at His birth. There was no imperfection (no evil) in Him under the law. This is testified to by the four gospels. It is testified to by His question to those who came against Him when He asked, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46). None responded.

It is also testified to in the lack of a response to the question of the Roman authority appointed over Israel, and who was thus over Jesus who is of Israel, when he asked, “Why, what evil has He done?” No response was given because no evil had been committed by Him. As such, Pilate proclaimed, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.”

What Pilate could clearly see was ignored by those who stood against Jesus. No sin, no imperfection, and no evil were found in Him. And yet, they crucified Him.

What a wonderful, marvelous thing that God has done
He has brought us back to Himself this day
Through the giving of Jesus, His only begotten Son
We have the smooth path, He has paved the way

In Him is found life and length of days
And so, to Him we look and call out His name
To God, through Jesus, we shall give all our praise
He has removed our guilt and taken away our shame

Praise God all you saints of His, praise Him today!
Rejoice in the marvelous thing that He has done
God has brought us back to Himself this very day
Through the precious gift of Jesus, His only begotten Son

III. The Greatest Story Ever Told

One premise of the Bible, and which is something easily discernible among humanity, is that man is an imperfect being. If there is a God, it can be deduced that He is perfect. We don’t need the Bible to know this.

As this is so, then what He does is perfect. Because He created, His creation was perfect at the time He created. This can all be deduced without the Bible. And yet, there is now imperfection in the creation. The Bible explains how it came about, and it explains why things are the way they are at this time.

It also tells us that what is imperfect will be corrected, and that it will either be done through God’s giving of His own perfect Son, or through the purging of imperfection through the Lake of Fire. The Bible records that Jesus was born of a woman and of God. As such, He was born in a state of perfection.

He is fully God – perfect in all of His deity. And He was born fully Man – perfect in His humanity. There is no contradiction in this, something which is unlike the god seen in Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jesus, the God/Man, was born in a state of perfection, He lived perfectly under the law that promised life to the man who did the things of the law. And He died on the cross in a state of perfection, having never sinned. The disciples were unaware of the nuances and failed to make the necessary connection stating, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”

Israel was redeemed from Egypt. They were brought into the covenant and under the law. As such, what did they need to be redeemed from? It’s curious that they would even say this, but Scripture had spoken of the redemption of Israel so much that it was something they knew they needed.

Scripture had taught about redemption from enemies, from oppression, and other such things. But these things point to something else, a state of imperfection, that which is evil. Logically, if there is evil – the lack of a good thing – then being redeemed must go much deeper than some temporary need.

They could not see that the very law that they were under only highlighted their own imperfections. As Paul said earlier, I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death” (Romans 7:9, 10).

Israel needed to be redeemed from the law, but the law was given to allow Jesus to redeem everyone, including Israel, from the law of Adam – the imperfection (the evil) – that condemned all men.

If Jesus had died under the law, it wouldn’t have meant very much to Israel, or to us, if He didn’t resurrect.

It would have meant that He was tainted with sin and the imperfection would have clung to Him. But if that was the case, it would mean He was not God. And if He is not God, then He would not have been born without sin. And if He was not born without sin, then He could not redeem us from the sin of Adam.

In other words, everything is tied up in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In His coming out of the grave, it means that He was (and is) sinless. If He is sinless, and yet He is a Man (a sinless Man had to die for the sins of Adam), then it means that He is also God because He would not be sinless unless He is God.

If he was a man created in Mary’s womb, even as a perfect man, then he would not be God. If this was so, then he would not have possessed the knowledge of good and evil.

In order to possess that knowledge, he would have had to learn through law what that knowledge meant. And in order to learn what that knowledge meant, then he would have to sin by breaking the law. As such, he could not redeem fallen man.

Again, everything is tied up in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It proves He is God. It proves He is the sinless Man. It proves that He can and did, in fact, redeem His people by dealing with our sin. And if He dealt with our sin in His death, then that means that our sin is dealt with forever. We have entered into a New Covenant where sin is no longer considered. We are not under law, either that of Adam or that of Moses, but under grace. And, as Paul says –

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19

What are we doing here today? We are celebrating the greatest story ever told. Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has He done?” The answer, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is “None.” The perfection of God in Christ has accomplished all things for us.

This story is logical, it is understandable, it is without fault in all that it proclaims, and it resolves the greatest problem that man has ever faced. Through Jesus Christ, evil is eliminated, and death is swallowed up in victory.

You can live your life in futility, pursue that which is meaningless, and perish in the vanity of your impoverished existence, or (OR) you can come to Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God through His full, finished, final, and forever work. Demonstrate wisdom today and yield your soul to the One who loves you enough to have done these things for you. Call on God through Jesus.

And for those who are the redeemed of the Lord, be sure to demonstrate your thanks to Him today and always. After all, it is a long, long time that you will live – even to eternal days. Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord. And all of God’s people say… Amen.

Closing Verse: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

Next Week: Deuteronomy 33:1-5 Moses will pronounce his blessings and then he will die… (The Lord Came from Sinai) (99th Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and a purpose for You. Though Paradise was lost, He offers access to it once again through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So call on Him, and trust Him, and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

A Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

This is the gospel which was preached to you
It is also the one you received and on which you stand
It is the gospel of salvation, providing life that’s new
And which will carry you to the promised Holy Land

What is delivered to you is what was before received
That Christ died for our sins according to God’s word
He was buried and He rose, and so we have believed
And many witnesses testify to this message you have heard

Now, if Christ is preached that He is risen from the dead
How can some among you say the resurrection isn’t true?
If there is no resurrection after Christ was crucified and bled
Then our faith as well as yours is certainly askew

And if so, we are found false witnesses of God
Because we have wrongly testified of this mighty deed
And our faith is futile, no heavenly streets we’ll trod
And we are still dead in our sins; fallen Adam’s seed

Even more, those who have fallen asleep in the Lord are gone
And we are the most pitiable creatures the world could ever look upon

But indeed, Christ is risen from the dead
He is the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep
And as death came through one man, Adam, our federal head
So Christ will make all alive; our souls He will keep

There is an order to the Resurrection call
Christ was first, the pattern for the rest when He comes
When He does, He will make a shout out to us all
And we will rise as if to the sound of heavenly battle drums

Then comes the time, when He delivers the kingdom to the Father
When all rule, authority, and power have come to an end
The last enemy to be destroyed is death, never more to bother
Then the Son will to the Father eternal rule extend

But you ask, “What will we be like after our time of sleep?
After we have been buried in corruption’s pit so deep?”

Our body is sown in dishonor, but it will be raised in glory
It is sown in weakness, but raised in power – the resurrection story

The first man Adam became a living being, it is true
The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit, life to me and you

And as was the man of dust, created so long ago
So are those likened unto him, also made of dust
And as is the Man, the Lord from heaven, you know
That we shall bear His image for eternity just as we’ve discussed

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God
Nor can corruption inherit that which is incorrupt
Be we shall all be changed, and so, heavenly streets we’ll trod
In the twinkling of an eye, the change will be abrupt

When the last trumpet sounds, we will be taken to glory
We shall all be changed, completion of the gospel story

Where O Death, O where is your sting?
When Christ our Savior, us to Himself does He bring

Where O Hades, O where is your victory?
When Christ translates His children to eternal glory

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin the law
But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord
My beloved brethren be steadfast in all you’ve heard and saw
And cling confidently to God’s eternal word

Know for certain that your labor is not in vain
Be of good cheer, Christ is coming again

Hallelujah and Amen…


Matthew 1:18 (She was Found with Child Through the Holy Spirit)

Matthew 1:18
She Was Found with Child Through the Holy Spirit

As we celebrate this day, just as we do each year, let us remember that it isn’t a day which is founded on myths or superstitions. It may have devolved into that for most of the world, but that was never its original intent.

It has become common for people to find fault in all the assorted things we do at Christmas. We put up pine trees, and someone finds fault in the symbolism. We hang up ornaments, and someone finds fault in our doing so. Even the word “Christmas” is there for people to find fault in.

And it is true, that we should never let these customs and traditions obscure our vision of what this day actually symbolizes, but even the fault finders are to be found at fault over that. The day has real significance, and it has the greatest of importance. And so, whether traditionalist or fault-finder, most of us have never understood the true connection to the meaning of the 25th of December.

It is, in fact, the day that Christ was born, but not in the sense that most people understand. People in Korea would, but for most of the rest of the world, there is little comprehension of the day’s meaning.

You see, Korean people reckon the span of their lives differently than we do. When you ask how old they are, they will tell you an age that is different than what we are used to. I was born on 18 August 1964, and so I would be, as of today, 52 years, 4 months, and a couple of days old.

But a Korean would tell you they were 53 years old. The reason for this is that they reckon life from conception, not birth out of the womb. To the liberal left in the western world, that thought would be utterly scandalous. How can you justify killing someone in the womb if their life had actually already begun. The horror of the thought for them would certainly drive their bloodthirsty minds to madness!

But this is when life begins, whether the left likes that or not. The Koreans got it right. It is a moment to celebrate and to cherish. It is a time of light and happiness. It is the beginning of the time of our life. Our text verse today is Isaiah 7:14 –

Text Verse: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Seven hundred years before the coming of Christ, Isaiah said that something unimaginable would occur. A virgin would conceive and bear a Son. The two things are separate and yet complementary events. First she would conceive, and then she would have a Son. One follows logically after the other.

But in the normal course of events, the first would be impossible. A virgin simply cannot get pregnant. People argue over the Hebrew word that Isaiah used which we translate as “virgin,” claiming that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean “virgin.”

However, the context necessarily demands it, the Greek translation of the Old Testament supports that fact, and Matthew’s use of a word which can only mean “virgin” settles it. The virgin would become pregnant, and the Child would be called Immanuel – God with Us. The verse itself then tells us when life begins. It is not as the child leaves the womb, but when the womb is impregnated. The word “virgin” explains the matter.

As Isaiah wrote, he may or may not have had any idea what he was writing, but if he did, his mind surely went back to the first pages of the Bible where a promised Deliverer would come who was the Seed of the woman. When speaking of genealogies, it is always the seed of man which is referred to. But in Genesis 3, it is the Seed of the woman.

Whether Isaiah realized the importance of the words he penned or not, we can and should realize them. We who have the whole story penned out for us can see the whole picture. It is a picture clearly revealed in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Spark of Life

Much has been said of both the Deity and the Humanity of Jesus Christ – on both sides of the debate. There are those who believe that He is fully God and fully Man. There are those who believe He is God, but was never really a Man. There are those who believe He is a Man, but is not God. There are those who believe He is not God and that even His manhood is just a made up fable – in other words, He never even existed. And then there are those who just don’t care.

Within those views, there are more divisions – He was both a Man and God for a spell, but now is only God; He became God after being only a Man; and so, on and so on. And yet, if we take the Bible simply and at face value, even from the few words of the one verse which comprises the sermon’s title, we can really only come to one conclusion. Matthew 1:18 says

εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου –
heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou
“She was discovered in womb holding from Spirit Holy.”

Two things must be admitted here from a simple reading of the Bible. One is that Mary is a human and this Child is the product of her womb, and thus this Child is a human being. The second is that the Holy Spirit is not a human.

If one then accepts the obvious interpretation of Scripture which shows that the Holy Spirit is God, then the Child is the product of God. There is no human father, and it is the seed of the father that determines lineage in the Bible, thus this Child is Deity – He is the Son of God.

Of course, there are those who will do anything possible to diminish the Deity of the Holy Spirit because by doing so they can then tear apart the central message of the Bible. However, this stupidly-argued premise is for a debate which is unnecessary here. The Holy Spirit, in both testaments of the Bible, is clearly defined as God and is easily defended as such, and so we will overlook that as unnecessary here.

What we have in these few words, which are so quickly passed over by our eyes and our minds, is a description of the most incredible occurrence which has ever come to pass – in all of time. Not just in human history, but in all of time itself. The very creation of the universe pales in comparison to what is described by the words heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou – “She was found with Child through the Holy Spirit.”

When God created, He created not out of Himself – ex Deo, or “out of God.” God is Spirit and is not limited to that which is created. Rather, when He created, it was ex nihilo or “out of nothing.” The psalms say –

“For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:9

There was nothing. No time, no space, no matter – only God. And by the power of the spoken word, there was then something. Time began, matter stood firm, and space filled the void – both around matter and within it. Everything that we see, even to the farthest reaches of the universe, came into existence at that one moment. It is an incredible thing to contemplate, but it was of far less moment than the enormity of what occurred in the womb of Mary.

In a flash as brief as the utterance of the word of creation itself, life – the true Life of all things – sprung into existence in her womb. And yet, it was life that always existed, even before the creation of our physical realm! What a paradox, and yet what an event of the greatest marvel of all. God had united with His creation in that blessed womb – Christ had come.

Just this past year, in April, it was published that science has discovered that at the very moment of conception, a bright flash of life marks this incredible event. There is darkness in the womb, and then there is a flash of light. For Mary, there was darkness in her womb, and then there was the Light. The Light of the world had come. God stepped into our darkness and revealed Himself!. Imagine it – try to get your mind around that.

That which brought all things into existence by a mere utterance… the light of ten trillions sons, and the light of the candle on the Christmas tree, even the light of the phosphorous creatures of the deepest oceans… and all other lights that our eyes will ever behold – even for infinite days ahead – these combined are not as bright as the Light which created them… this same Light sparked in the womb of Mary. heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou – “She was found with Child through the Holy Spirit.” The Christmas Child had come.

Who can believe such a thing! Who could have imagined it in times past, and who can grasp it now that it has happened! And yet the words testify to the event. The Light has come in a form that we can experience, feel, interact with, and rely upon. In this Light, there is no darkness, and thus there is no fear.

This marvelous event is that which occurred on that cold December day in the land of Israel. We celebrate the 25th of December as the day of Christ’s birth, and it is. It is just not the birth out of the womb. Rather, the Bible points to this date as the birth within the womb.

And not without significance, this is the same time of year that the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukah, is celebrated. At times, the two events occur on the same day. Such is the case this year. This is probably what occurred that year as well. The Light of the world came into the world on that same Festival of Lights. This day is mentioned in the book of John, chapter 10, and the 22nd verse, where it is known as the Feast of Dedication –

“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.”

It got its name from the time of the Maccabees when the temple which had been defiled was cleansed and restored to proper worship. Because of this great event, it was memorialized and held annually. A later tradition concerning a day’s worth of oil lasting eight days is merely a fable recorded in the Talmud. But Flavius Josephus tells us the reason for the annual event –

“I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.”

The Jewish people had been given a liberty beyond their hopes, a light which shone for them that God still favored them. How much more then is the fulfillment of this marvelous picture to be found in the Light which came to provide a liberty never before dreamed of.

The true temple of God, pure and undefiled, was prepared in a human body. The defiled temple which had existed from the time of Adam was, once again, made acceptable to God and for His service. This then was to be a liberty not from human rule and oppression, but that of freedom from the spiritual forces which have waged war on humanity since its very beginning.

This Light stepped into His creation in order to restore all that had gone astray. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied over his own son concerning this Light which would accomplish these marvelous things –

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

The Light was coming and John would be there to proclaim that fact, preparing the way for Israel to meet the promised Messiah. And Zechariah’s prophecy was one which built upon the words of Isaiah, pronounced 700 years earlier –

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:1-7

What a marvel occurred in the dark recesses of the virgin womb! The Deliverer had come to deliver! The Light of the world had come as God’s divine Beacon to rescue man from himself. The Lord God Almighty had condescended to come and dwell among us. heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou – “She was found with Child through the Holy Spirit.” Christmas had arrived.

In darkness I groped, darkness of the deepest night
Looking for life that would last, but it could not be found
But then came the most marvelous Light
And with it came the heavenly chorus, a glorious sound

Through the tender mercy of our God
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us
There is now light on the path that we trod
The everlasting light of our Lord Jesus

Now there is a new hope for us, a hope eternal
To those who sit in darkness, and in death’s shadow
There is salvation from hell’s pit so infernal
There is from the Lamp of God, Christ’s eternal glow

II. Darkness and Light

The Christmas story fills our minds with wonderful pictures of days past. We revel in this time of year each year. We smell the scent of pine, we rejoice in food which fills our taste buds. The weather has returned to where it was, just twelve months before. These things delight our minds with memories of past days when we smell the same smells, taste the same tastes, and feel the same cool chill upon our necks.

It is a time to remember, and a time to make new memories. But it is a time that we should also reflect upon why we celebrate. In reality, and without the holiday, for many it is the bleakest time of the year. The nights are at their longest, painful cold has settled in, and the winter of our despair has come.

Many don’t survive the ordeal, and the true winter of eternity’s darkness arrives to claim their weary soul. God chose this unfavorable time of gloom to give us the greatest hope of all. What manner of love is it that would impel Him to do what He did? What is it about man that God takes notice of Him?

From our perspective… Oh boy, the answer is easy. “I am ME! This is MY life.” Just like the wolf whose leg is caught in a trap will chew that leg off in order to survive, we will do anything to survive and to keep on living. It is the eternal dream of man to just keep on living. Novels are written about it; movies are made about it. It is our desire to… just keep on living.

But if we try to look at things from God’s perspective, it all is so hard to figure. What on earth is of value in that mass of organisms which are nothing but rebellious, self-consumed, and hopelessly arrogant beings? We walk around in the darkness looking for anything to fill our brief existence with pleasure – going from darkness to darkness.

Maybe that’s it though. Maybe it’s because we are in darkness that we choose the darkness. No, wait… no that can’t be it. Adam was surrounded by light and yet he chose the darkness. Only after making the choice did he want the light once again. He did want it.

That must be it then, without knowing one from the other we can’t know which we want. That must be why God allowed it all to happen, and then to step in and give us a choice as to which we would choose. Surely that is it.

The Light of the world came to show us a contrast. We can choose the Light, or we can revel in the dark. The choice is ours. And sure enough, this is what the Light Himself said. In John 3, while talking at night with Nicodemus, Jesus said to him, and thus to us –

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:18-21

The distinction can be seen, the choice must be made, and all will pursue only one of two paths – towards the Light or remaining in darkness. This then is the reason for the Christmas story. It is the reason for the otherwise unimaginable thing which God has done. He has come to give us Light, if we will but just choose it.

We are here today to worship the King of the Universe, the manifestation of the unseen Father in human flesh, to behold the marvel of the Light which shines forth for us and which came to us in the most astonishing way of all. heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou – “She was found with Child through the Holy Spirit.”

God created all things out of nothing. He created something separate from Himself and yet which is contained within His omnipresence. And then He joined together with that which He created – all for the sake of frail, fallible, rebellious beings who otherwise had no hope at all.

In that stupendously marvelous act, He has given us a choice. We can continue on in the darkness, or we can come to the Light. There is no tunnel of light for us to choose after death – I’m sorry, it doesn’t work that way. There is only continued darkness which will span eternal ages. But there is a Light which we can come to now, and in so doing we are surrounded with Light which shall never end, no nor even fade.

God did this thing for us, for you. The perfection of Jesus Christ is seen from His moment of conception, through His birth in a lowly manger, in each step He ever took, and in each word He ever spoke. The perfection of Jesus Christ is seen in His torturous death on a wooden cross, and it is seen in the resurrection which came just days later.

The Child in the womb, the Baby in the manger, the Teacher on the mountain, the lifeless Body on the cross, and the Man standing victorious over death itself all speak of a wisdom and a love which spans the eons of time and the length and breadth of the universe itself. All things make sense when we ponder what God has done, and which started in the sudden flash of Light in the womb of Mary. heurethe en gastri ekhousa ek pneumatos agiou – “She was found with Child through the Holy Spirit.”

Praise God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Praise God for His infinite love, poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Lord. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Closing Verse: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:1-4

Next Week: Exodus 40:1-16 Paths, and Lights, and even Lambs… (Seven I Am’s) (104th Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if the world around you seems dark, there is the Light of Christ to guide you back to your heavenly Father. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Light of the World

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows:
After the betrothal of His mother Mary had come around
Before they came together
She was with Child of the Holy Spirit found

Then Joseph her husband
Being a just man, righteousness he did display
And not wanting to make her a public example
Was minded to put her secretly away

But while he thought about these things
Behold, an angel of the Lord
Appeared to him in a dream, saying
This he did say, his spoken word

“Joseph, son of David
Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife
For that which is conceived in her
Is of the Holy Spirit; the Divine spark of Life

And she will bring forth a Son
And you shall call His name Jesus
For He will save His people from their sins
He is God’s Christmas Child; holy and marvelous

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, I know that you agree
You are little among the thousands of Judah, it is so
Yet out of you shall come forth even unto Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel, My word is true you know

His goings forth are from of old
From everlasting, thus you have been told

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon
Her who is distressed or in agony
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali

And afterward more heavily oppressed her
By the way of the sea
Beyond the Jordan it shall occur
In an area of the Gentiles around the land of Galilee

The people who walked in darkness
It is they who have seen a great Light
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death
Upon them has shined a light so bright

You have multiplied the nation
And likewise its joy you have increased
They rejoice before You with great ovation
According to the time of harvest, a joy which will not be ceased

As men rejoice when they divide the spoil
When they receive the bounty and no longer toil

For You have the yoke of his burden broken
And the staff of his shoulder is taken away
The rod of his oppressor no longer an unfriendly token
As in the time of Midian, when he was destroyed that day

For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle
And garments roooooolled in blood
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire, worthless chattel
Useless implements overtaken by time’s great flood

Praise God O Israel, For unto us a Child is born
Praise the Lord Land of Judah, For u nto us a Son is given
And the government shall upon His shoulder be worn
And through Him shall man’s sins be forgiven

And His name will be called Wonderful
The Counselor and Mighty God is He
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, pure and white as wool
Of the increase of His government and peace no end shall we see

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom’s realm
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever, He at the helm
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this

The scepter shall not depart from Judah
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet
Until Shiloh comes and we shout Hallelujah
And to Him the obedience of the people shall be sweet

This helpless baby lying in a manger
Will rule the world in everlasting peace
Through Him will come security with no danger
And the rule of His glory shall never, never cease

All praise to our stupendous Lord of glory
Yes, all honor to this precious King
Praising God for the wondrous Christmas story
Let all the Lord’s redeemed shout aloud and sing

Hallelujah and Amen…



Matthew 27:22 – Crucifixion – Good Friday


Friday, 29 March 2013

Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Matthew 27:22

Two men, probably very close in age and both having the same name – Jesus Barabbas (son of a father) and Jesus, Son of the Father (bar Abba) stand before the ruler Pontius Pilate. One was a robber who was imprisoned for his crimes and the other, the sinless Son of God who was being accused falsely. The record of His life testifies to both His innocent state and His fulfillment of the Scriptures. The law was satisfied in Him, and though He stood before the judgment seat in innocence, His life would be given as a Substitute for the sins of the people.

A picture of this act is found recorded in Leviticus 16. This chapter provides the instructions for the Day of Atonement rituals for the people of Israel and every detail is realized in the bringing of these two before Pilate. Two goats were to be presented and lots were to be cast: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be offered as a sin offering. The goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat was to be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and then to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.

The goat for the sin offering was slaughtered, its blood was brought inside the veil, and it was sprinkled on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. In the same manner, Jesus was offered for the sins of the world. Hebrews chapter 9 explains what occurred –

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11, 12

The cross of Jesus Christ wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t something that came out of nowhere. Instead, it was determined by God before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) that Jesus would be slain for the sins committed by the people He created. Peter told the people of Israel that He who was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” Acts 2:23

God in His infinite wisdom, mercy, and goodness, determined that man was worth redeeming from the power of sin. He knew that sin would come and that without working salvation by His own arm, the chasm could never be crossed. But through the incarnation, Jesus could stretch His human hand out and place it on finite man and He could stretch out His divine hand and place it upon His infinite Father, thus bridging the gap and restoring what was lost.

Two men, standing before the throne – one guilty, one innocent. The decision was rendered, the Innocent was taken, and the cross was His reward. Thank God for the cross.

Life application: Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.

Glorious Heavenly Father, as I learn the Old Testament, time and time again my eyes are opened to the glories which are hidden there and which become apparent and obvious when seen through the lens of the Messiah. I stand in awe of what You have done though Him and I make my boast in His cross… thank You for the cross. Amen.