Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:45-46
This year, we suffered the never ending winter. It seemed like every time I turned around, it was grey and snowy. But as I think about the never ending winter, and the beauty of spring, I can’t help but think about the grimness of the cross, and the bright joy of the resurrection.
The day of the crucifixion seems like the grimmest of moments. On the face of it, this day is the darkest moment in history. Jesus is beaten, tried and found innocent, then condemned to die. He is forced to carry his own cross, and then he is nailed to that cross. When He is lifted up, the religious leaders and crowds stood and mocked Him, and even one of the criminals mocked Him. It was so dark and grim, that God the Father turned away, from this awful scene.
It was a grim day, a day that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, went to the cross. He went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, your sin, and my sin. All too often, we see sin as a joke, live comfortably with it, and condone it. But the reality is that sin is nothing to joke about. It is, to quote R.C. Sproul, ‘cosmic treason’. It is “treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself”, and it leads to separation from God, because God can have nothing to do with sin. In the Levitical sin-offering (which only atoned for unintentional sin, and did not cover willful disobedience or sin was punishable by death), this was symbolized by the burning of the flesh of the bull outside of the camp.
Sin is serious, it’s no laughing matter, because it offends a holy, righteous, and just God, and leads to death, both physically and spiritually. Sin required a serious solution. Jesus was that serious solution, He was, for all times, the perfect, sinless substitute. He was the perfect sin-offering for His people, the perfect sacrifice that was dealt with Sin in the only way possible, by shedding his blood. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). When Jesus was on that cross, he bore in His own body the full weight of the penalty of sin as he shed his blood. He bore it alone. He was forsaken by God, bearing our sins as the perfect sin offering, taking God’s just wrath on himself. In doing so, He provided the serious solution that we need, in His mercy and love, and as the sun darkened, as He experienced the separation from the Father that comes from sin, He paid the penalty for all time, providing a new and living way for us to enter into the presence of the Father.
As we celebrate Holy week, as we gather together in the Tilden Library on Maundy Thursday, as we gather at 6:30 on Easter morning at the Wheelock field for Sunrise Service, and as we gather for Resurrection Sunday worship in the sanctuary, think of all that happened throughout this week, think of the cross, think of how serious sin is, and how serious the solution was for our sins. At the same time, rejoice. “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27: 51). We can go before the Father with boldness. Rejoice, the sun has broken forth! Jesus rose, and His resurrection is a proof that he made a full atonement for our sins! It is proof that His sacrifice was accepted as a satisfaction to divine justice, and that His blood was the ransom for sinners! Rejoice, because the resurrection of Christ is also a pledge and an earnest of the resurrection of all believers (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:47-49; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2). As He lives, we also shall live. Rejoice! Your sins are paid for! ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ (Isaiah 1:18). In Christ, they are washed as white as snow! Rejoice, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, and the resurrection gives proof of that fact. Rejoice! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!