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May 31, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .’”—1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
Daring rescues are one of the most common narratives found in film. From Black Hawk Down to Captain Phillips to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the rescue mission is often an exciting and chaotic narrative.
What is it that draws us to these types of stories? Why do we get so much satisfaction and joy in seeing someone rescued? Maybe it’s the excitement and action, the thrill of the story. But it could be something more. Maybe it’s because deep down, in the depths of our souls, each and every one of us realizes we are hopeless, helpless, and in desperate need of rescuing. And the good news is that rescue is available to all of us!
In today’s verse, it says that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The word used by Paul here is save, which means “to rescue; to deliver out of danger, to rescue from destruction and bring into divine safety.” You see, in Genesis 2:17 (NKJV), God gave Adam a simple command, saying, “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.”
Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin entered the world. And as God warned, by this one act of disobedience, Adam and Eve sealed the fate of all humanity and brought death into this world. In that moment, their spirits died. “Sin made its entry into the world through one man, and through sin, death. The entail of sin and death passed on to the whole human race, and no one could break it for no one was himself free from sin” (Romans 5:12 PHILLIPS). Their sin became our sin, their fate became our fate, and we were powerless to save ourselves from this fate.
We were, as Paul claimed, slaves to sin, which “brings condemnation for everyone” (Romans 5:18 NLT). Why? Because sin separates us from the holy and perfect God. So, in order to bring us back to life, death was required. Blood needed to be spilled. Leviticus 17:11 (NKJV) says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood . . . for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul,” and Romans 6:23 (NIV) says, “For the wages of sin is death.”
But because God loves us so deeply, He didn’t leave us to our well-deserved fate. He didn’t leave us stranded in sin. No! He sent His Son into the world to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 ESV) “in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live” (Galatians 1:4 NLT). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).
On this day, which we affectionately call Good Friday, our Lord Jesus was beaten, insulted, scourged, wrongly condemned, forced to carry our cross, and then was nailed to it and died upon it! At that moment, Jesus uttered, “Tetelestai . . .” which means, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The debt was paid, the punishment had been fulfilled! God's work of redemption for fallen man was complete; mission accomplished. The blood of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29 NLT) had been poured out on the altar of eternity!
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the debt of sin for all mankind. He took all of our iniquity upon His shoulders and conquered sin at the cross. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).
Think about what this all means . . . Jesus, the Son of God, who holds the universe in His hands, was quite literally crushed and killed. He hung very publicly on the cross and died. And while, yes, He was up there for all of mankind, for humanity as a whole, He was also up there for YOU personally! Your name was on His heart, your face was in His mind, your soul was what kept Him up on that cross because He loves you so deeply and unconditionally!
But look at what 1 Corinthians 15:14–19 (HCSB) says: “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.”
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that everything hinges on the resurrection, on Jesus’ power over death. So often, we focus all our attention on the cross. Of course the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is supremely important. It was on the cross He paid the debt of our sins. If not for the perfect, sinless Lamb of God willingly giving Himself up as a sacrifice for us, sin would still have power and control over us.
But the cross is neither the end of the story nor the greatest moment of triumph. If you really think about it, the cross of Christ was the darkest moment in history. Why? Because the Son of God had to suffer and die a horrible death.
In that moment, “God made him who had no sin to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the entire world . . . past, present, and future; those who were weeping at His feet and those who were spitting in His face; those who would come to love, follow, and glorify Him and those who would hate, reject, and blaspheme against Him.
Imagine the disciples. As far as they were concerned, hope died on the cross—it’s what we discussed in day seven. And here’s the thing to remember: If Jesus had simply died on the cross and the story ended there, they would have been right and we’d have no hope. In fact, apart from the resurrection, “your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins . . . we should be pitied more than anyone.” Why? Theologian Albert Barnes put it this way: “The pardon of sin was connected with the belief of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and, if He was not raised, they were still in a state of sin . . . Your sins are yet unpardoned. They can be forgiven only by faith in Him, and by the efficacy of His blood. But if He was not raised, He was an impostor; and, of course, all your hopes of pardon by Him, and through Him, must be vain.”
So why is the resurrection such a big deal? In a nutshell, it’s the evidence that the dominion of sin is over. Remember, the penalty of sin as laid out in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 is death. So, had Jesus just died on the cross, it would essentially prove that sin still had dominion because death would have won. But the resurrection of Jesus means that the power of sin had been destroyed and the debt of sin completely paid for. That’s the miracle of the resurrection! That’s the power of Christ on full display!
Finally, after thousands of years of periodic sacrifices of animals that stayed dead and only covered sins for a short time, a sacrifice for sins was offered that God fully accepted. This sacrifice, evidenced by the resurrection, shows us that the dominion of sin is broken and the penalty of sin has been removed for those who believe.
We have hope because He stripped sin and defeated death of its power! We have victory because He conquered the grave! 1 Corinthians 15:56–57 (NIV) says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and Ephesians 2:4–6 (NIV) declares, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
This is why a relationship with Jesus changes EVERYTHING!