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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - At the Cross

John Bradshaw - At the Cross

John Bradshaw - At the Cross
John Bradshaw - At the Cross
TOPICS: Easter, Cross, Crucifixion, Redemption

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Standing at the side of an enormous memorial a little more than 30 miles from the Spanish capital, Madrid, is the world's largest cross. It's almost 500 feet tall, 150 meters. It's about as tall as a 50-story building. The cross stands on top of a 3,000-foot-tall mountain, so it can be seen from miles away. It's part of a complex called the Valley of the Fallen, which features, among other things, a church and a monastery. For more than 40 years, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was buried there.

Owing to the controversial nature of Franco's rule, estimates say he was responsible for the deaths of between 30,000 and 50,000 people, Franco's body was exhumed in 2019 and relocated to a cemetery in Madrid, where he was laid to rest a second time, this time next to his wife. Now, while Franco is gone, that cross remains. It's impossible to miss as it reaches into the sky reminding people... well, reminding people what, exactly? The cross is ubiquitous in Western society. It's everywhere. And even in the secular age, it can only mean one thing: the death of Jesus, who 2,000 years ago died on a cross. His death and subsequent resurrection gave rise to Easter, observed today in dozens of countries around the world.

Of course, much of what gets lumped into commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus has nothing to do with either the death or the resurrection of Jesus. Several pagan customs have been absorbed into the Christian celebration of Easter, not surprising, considering pagan customs crept into Christianity itself. Eggs and rabbits, which are totally unrelated to the death of Jesus, were ancient symbols of new life and fertility. Add commercialism to the mix, and Easter became an opportunity to sell copious quantities of chocolate and other Easter items, such as hot cross buns, while crowding out of the spotlight the actual event that gave rise to Easter.

And unlike a national holiday or observance, such as the Fourth of July or Australia Day, say, the date of Easter moves. Easter Sunday occurs on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the vernal, or spring, equinox. That's the day when there's an almost identical amount of darkness and daylight. This confusing calculation is an attempt to associate the date of Easter with the timing of the Jewish Passover. Easter is when Christians commemorate the death of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus on a cross, which itself has been used as pagan symbol. It's thought that crucifixion originated with the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Five or six hundred years before Christ, it was used by the Persians, then by the Greeks before it was perfected by the Romans. The thing about crucifixion, as employed by the Romans, wasn't just the pain. Oh, crucifixion was painful, brutally so. But beyond the pain, the cross was akin to the gallows or the electric chair. It was where criminals met their fate. It was a symbol of shame, defeat, condemnation. And given that crucifixion victims were executed naked, it was a shameful, undignified way for a person to die. It was utter humiliation. If you were crucified, you were the offscouring of the earth. And Jesus was crucified.

So, why the cross for Jesus? The Bible says He "did no sin". But He got under the skin of the Jewish leaders to the extent that they wanted Him gone. And because they had no authority, legally, to execute anyone, they appealed to the Roman authorities, who sentenced Him to be executed. Even though He wasn't a criminal, certain people wanted Him dead. Jesus had swept away the rubbish under which truth had been buried. But the religious leaders felt, in Israel, that He was sweeping away the truth itself. And He died as a result. But why did Jesus have to die from a biblical perspective? Let's go back to the beginning, just after Creation, to the first promise ever made. It was made by God, and it was made to you and me, essentially.

The first promise made in the Bible was a gospel promise. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God spoke to the serpent that tempted them and said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel". That's Genesis 3:15. Now, let's analyze that a little. Speaking to Satan, God said, there will be "enmity between you and the woman," God's people down through time, the church. Saying there would be enmity between the devil and the church was a promise that there was a way out of sin for sinners. Turning their backs on God and surrendering to temptation left Adam and Eve fundamentally flawed. They were broken. Sin had taken hold of them.

That was a desperate situation. As long as they were surrendered to God, living in connection with God, they were protected. But when they chose to go it alone and follow the suggestions of the devil, they were altered. Connected to the heart of God, they were one with God in purity and holiness. But no more. And they couldn't remake themselves or fix themselves. They were created to live forever. As long as they remained connected to God, trusting God, they could look forward to eternity. But when they turned away from God and sinned, they forfeited the gift of eternal life. It's as though they said, "Thanks for creating us, God, but we're going to go on our own way without You".

But, of course, there is no other way. It's either life with God or death without God. But God offered Adam and Eve a way out. God would provide a path to repentance. He would put enmity between His people and Satan. God said, "He", the Seed of the woman, "shall bruise your head". That's God saying a descendant of Eve would ultimately crush Satan. Good news for Adam and Eve, and good news for the world: Satan would ultimately be defeated. But notice God said to Satan, "And you shall bruise His heel". While Satan would be defeated, heaven wouldn't get out of this unscathed. Jesus Christ would be bruised. He would die for the sins of human beings. And this was illustrated shortly after. When Adam and Eve realized that they were naked, they stitched together fig leaves to cover themselves. God provided clothing for them, skins, the skins of animals from the Garden of Eden. There hadn't been any death until that time. But now, as a consequence of sin, death came into the world.

Genesis 3:21 says, "For Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them". Something had to die to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. Someone had to die. The death of those animals prefigured the death of Jesus. But that's clothing we're talking about. Where's the faith connection? When Adam and Eve sinned, along with losing what had covered their nakedness, they lost much more: They lost their righteousness. And that's where we find ourselves today: unrighteous. Paul wrote, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God"? He said, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God".

Jesus died so that we could receive righteousness. We have none of our own. The prophet Isaiah wrote that "all our righteousnesses are...filthy rags". Sinners are unrighteous. Jeremiah showed us the seriousness of our situation when he wrote, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil". Sin came into the world. And in order for sinful human beings to be reconnected with a holy God, we need righteousness that we do not have. God is inherently pure. In order to be happy in His presence throughout eternity, we need to be fundamentally altered so that our hearts and God's heart beat to the same rhythm. That's possible only one way: through receiving, by faith, the righteousness of Jesus. In a moment, we'll find out why being spiritual isn't nearly the same as being saved. I'll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. As I drove along a certain street, I was intrigued to see a spiritual center in a row of stores. A spiritual center, that's where you can buy items which help you to be spiritual. No, not Bibles, but crystals and incense and jewelry. The spiritual center claims to deal with healing and offers reiki and clairvoyance, as well as mediums and tarot card readings. A "spiritual" center. Of course, there's nothing Christian about all that, and none of it can help you one bit in terms of eternity. The Bible says God's law is spiritual. It speaks about spiritual songs, how a spiritual person should seek to restore a sinner, and about spiritual gifts. The spiritual center had nothing to do with the spirituality of the Bible.

The problem human beings face is not that we're not spiritual, but that we're not righteous. It seems it's more common now for people to talk about how they're not Christian but spiritual. But a faith journey oriented towards heaven isn't a quest to be spiritual in a general sense or even to be a good person, because there's honestly no such thing in biblical terms. Every human being alive is a sinner, and the only one who is good is God. What sinners need is righteousness, cleansing, forgiveness. And the only place to obtain that is through faith in Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".

Jesus' death opened up to us the opportunity to triumph over sin and its penalty, in fact, even over its power and its presence. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, their very nature became corrupted. In and of themselves they would have neither the power nor the desire to resist evil. And that, of course, extends to their posterity. After eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would have the knowledge of evil. They'd given Satan access to their hearts, and he would be able to tempt them from that time onwards. They would know anxiety and grief and pain, and death. They were sinners now. That one sin that seemed so small in Eve's eyes opened the floodgates of misery to the world. But the cross would stand against that. Jesus' appointment with the cross was thousands of years in the making.

The Bible says that Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" in Revelation 13:8. He was born to die. And His death on the cross was predicted. David wrote, "They divided my garments among them," and "they pierced my hands and my feet" in Psalm 22. David wrote about the agony of Christ's death when he penned these words: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within me". Psalm 22 again. Isaiah wrote, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities". There's that word "bruised," which we saw in Genesis, chapter 3. "The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed". He described Jesus as being like "a lamb [led] to the slaughter," saying, "He was cut off from the land of the living". He wrote that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him".

Notice again: "bruise". And that "He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors". It's all from Isaiah, chapter 53. And in Isaiah 53 the prophet got to the crux of the matter when he wrote about the life of Jesus being "an offering for sin". And that's why Jesus died: as an offering for sin, for your sins. Okay, but couldn't God have worked it out another way? Why should Jesus die at all? Let's work this through. In the Garden of Eden, God told our original grandparents that eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would cause death. Disobedience would lead to death. Here's why. John wrote in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life".

Now, that's not a rule imposed by God; it's a fixed law. God gave life in the first place. He then said, "I want you to retain this gift of life. Therefore, stay surrendered to me. Stay with me. Stay connected to me". Adam and Eve severed that connection and became subject to death. The earth that was created perfect was now tainted by sin. Even the ground was cursed. But that promise in Genesis 3, in there was the plan of salvation. But why did Jesus have to die for the sins of the world? Why death? The law of God had been broken, and as Paul wrote in the New Testament, "The wages of sin is death". He wrote in Galatians about "the curse of the law" and how Jesus would assume the penalty of breaking the law, becoming "a curse for us".

Sin brings death, not just death in this world, death from a heart attack, not just that kind of death. Sin brings the second death, the eternal death. People created in the image of God could now only look forward to death. So how could they be saved from the penalty that accompanies sin? There was only one way. Instead of Adam and Eve dying the second death for sin, Jesus volunteered to die in their place. He couldn't set aside the penalty for sin, but He could assume it Himself. That way the penalty could still be levied, the sanctity of God's law could still be respected, justice could be served, yet mercy could still be offered to sinful humans. And Jesus could die for the breaking of the law because it was His law. He was the Lawgiver. He is as sacred as the law itself, and so He could redeem people from the penalty of breaking God's law. He didn't have to.

Jesus didn't have to die for sinners and their sin. He could simply have left humanity to itself. So why did He choose to die? Well, the well-known Bible verse tells us: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life". John 3:16. How do you fully understand that kind of love? At this side of eternity you don't fully understand it, but you behold it and meditate on it. You ponder it and wrestle with it and try to comprehend that unfathomable love revealed by the death of Jesus on the cross. The weight of the sins of the entire world rested upon Jesus as He went to the cross. And He did it for you.

So what do you do about the love demonstrated by the death of Jesus on the cross? Let's consider that in just a moment. You can see crosses on churches and hanging around necks to the point that the cross today is little more than an architectural feature or a fashion accessory, not quite what Jesus had in mind. For the believer in Jesus, the cross is where salvation became real. It's where Jesus voluntarily gave His life, as He said, "for the life of the world". So what do you do about it, about the single most powerful, most dramatic demonstration of love for the world the universe has ever witnessed? The cross was God showing humanity that His love is beyond our ability to even imagine.

Who would expect that the divine Son of God would take it upon Himself to give His life for a planet full of rebels? "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". Romans 5, verse 8. At the cross God demonstrated His love for you. There's no doubt now; the cross shows you how much you mean to the heart of God. Heaven would do whatever necessary to reconcile a sinful world to itself, to give sinners the opportunity to be saved. John wrote in 1 John 4:19, "We love Him, because He first loved us". What else are you going to do? You can't ignore the cross where a dying Savior yielded His life to take your sin.

Look at the sanctuary service in ancient Israel. The burnt offering represented Jesus, an offering where everything was given as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus gave all He had. He gave Himself on account of your sin. You can have faith in Jesus as the offering for your sin. As Paul wrote in Romans 7, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death"? He answered, "I thank God through Jesus Christ [my] Lord". Romans 7:24 and 25. Who shall deliver me? Jesus delivered me. And when did He do that? When He died for me at the cross. "Herein is love," John wrote, "not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins".

First John 4, verse 10. So, the cross, like nothing else, enables you to see the love of God. Gone are any arguments that suggest God does not love you. At the cross we saw, in fact, we see the love of God. And that love urges you to love God in return. How can you not when you see so clearly that God loves you? The love displayed at Calvary urges you to love others. John wrote, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought [also] to lay down our lives for the brethren". That means that the cross is so powerful that it not only convinces you of the love of God for you, but it'll move you to demonstrate the love of God to others.

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross". The Bible writer says, emulate the mind of Christ. Allow God to produce in your life the character of Jesus. And there's something more. Paul wrote this: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body". That's 2 Corinthians 4, verse 10.

In other words, He died for us so that He might live in us. So the death of Jesus secures us forgiveness for our sins and opens up to us the gift of everlasting life. Sin brings death. That's an unalterable law. But when death came to the human family, Jesus stepped in and took our death so that we may have His life. As 1 Corinthians 15:3 says, "Christ died for our sins".

The cross reveals the love of God, inspiring you to love God in return, and to love others. And the cross urges you to allow Jesus to live His life in you. That's the key to everlasting life: surrendering to Jesus so that His will can be done in your life, in your heart. So let me ask you: Are you willing to allow the power of the cross, the impact of the cross, the love of the cross to impact you? It's one thing to hear about the love of God, the sacrifice Jesus made, but it's another to allow that love to fill you, to accept the death of Jesus for you. Will you do that today?
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