St Paul's UMC
October 23, 2022
  • Come Christians Join To Sing
  • There Is A Name I Love To Hear (There Is A Name)
  • Doxology
      • Luke 23:18–25NIV2011

      • Hebrews 2:14–18NIV2011

  • It is a pretty common theme in movies - the hero gives up their own life to save another.
    Harry Stamper - the main protagonist in the outlandish movie Armageddon played by Bruce Willis, is an oil rigger who dies in a suicide mission in space protecting the earth from an approaching asteroid.
    In Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzeneggar returns as T800 - a humanoid machine who sacrifices himself so that Sarah Connor, and the rest of humanity, can live on.
    In the movie Man on Fire, Denzel Washington plays John Creasy - a former secret service agent who had given up on life, until he meets a little girl named Lupita who gives him something to live for. The story culiminates with Creasy giving up his life so the girl would live.
    Avengers: End Game - from the Marvel series, finds Tony Stark, the Iron Man, sacrificing himself to save trillions of lives around the galaxy.
    And then there is the movie Lone Wolf, the true story of an ambushed team of Navy Seals and we watch Lt. Michael Murphy sacrifice himself to call in air support for his team.
    There is something about that storyline that resonates deeply with us humans. The natural instinct of animals, and humans most of the time, is self preservation. When we witness someone laying down their own life for another - it stirs the emotions and reminds us that love is the greatest of human virtues.
    John 15:13 ESV
    Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
    Yet the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus wasn’t a movie - and reality does not play out like it does on the big screen. In the eyes of all who witnessed it - in that moment on the cross - there was nothing heroic or virtuous about what was occurring. At least not from the world’s perspective.
    If you were a disciple - what you witnessed was a grave injustice, a shocking reversal of events, the sudden dramatic end to a highly anticipated uprising.
    If you were a Pharisee, you witnessed a threat being eliminated, the necessary end of a blasphemer and the return to order.
    And if you were in the crowd, you witnessed another alleged criminal get his due punishment.
    In his book, Give Them Christ, Steve Seamands writes:
    “People in Roman times dreaded the shame associated with the crucifixion...since crucifixion was reserved for the dregs of society, outcasts, slaves and common criminals, the fact that one was crucified defined him or her as a miserable, wretched being that didn’t deserve to exist. By pinning them up like insects, crucifixion was deliberately intended to display and humiliate its victims. Stephen Seamands, Give Them Christ.
    What did Jesus dying a criminal’s death accomplish? How and why was this a part of God’s plan?
    It may help to return to the beginning. All the way back, before the fall, in the Garden of Eden. God had created man and woman and placed them in the garden. In the center of the garden were two trees - the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
    Genesis 2:15–17 ESV
    The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.”
    God had given man and woman the key to life. It was obedience to God. They could eat from every tree but one - and most importantly, they could eat from the Tree of Life. They would enjoy eternal life in communion with God.
    We know what happened. They disobeyed. They ate the forbidden fruit. In so doing, they surrendered the keys to life.
    Now, instead of life…Satan, the snake, the deceiver, held the keys to hell and death. Where obedience to God leads to life, disobedience leads to death. Man and woman, in their sin, would die.
    Romans 6:23a (ESV)
    For the wages of sin is death...
    But what happens when One comes along who knew no sin? What happens when this sinless god-man steps in and pays the wages of sin for all humanity?
    Short answer: He takes back the keys.
    This is what the writer of Hebrews is communicating in today’s passage.
    Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
    Thomas Long, professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology and local Dorchester County resident, wrote the following in his commentary on Hebrews on this passage,
    Of the several views of the atonement found in the New Testament, here we see an image of Christ as the liberator, the one who breaks into the slave quarters and sets the slaves free. The Preacher (the author) pictures all humanity as slaves and the devil as the heartless slave master. Every slave master has a whip, a means of power and fear and control, and the devil’s whip is death. All human beings are “held in slavery by the fear of death” (2:15). (Thomas Long)
    Jesus broke the power the death on the cross. He effectively grabbed the devil’s whip, snapped it in half, and discarded it. All who followed Him would live eternally - their earthly death would not be the end of the story.
    Late in his life, when the Apostle John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, and he received his vision of Christ which we know as the book of Revelation, he says this:
    Revelation 1:17–18 ESV
    When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
    Jesus holds the keys of Death and the afterlife. Everything is under His power and authority.
    Those who were present when he was arrested, beaten, tortured, crucified and died had no idea what he was accomplishing in the spiritual realm - and they would not know until He walked out of the grave.
    I will be speaking to resurrection and ascension in the coming weeks, but today, as we dwell on what it is we declare to believe, we need to sit awhile with his suffering and death.
    Listen as I read one of the clearest visions God ever gave to a prophet in regards to His plan of salvation for all people. Listen to the writings of the prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Jesus was born, as he describes the suffering servant (The Message):
    Isaiah 53 M:BCL
    Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true. Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly— the best of everything, the highest honors— Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.
    We are all sinners, we all have rebelled against God in our thoughts, words and actions. Often times, we downplay our sin. We do not consider the ripple effect of even the smallest lie, or dishonest gain, or careless word, or selfish gesture. We often hide our sin, and when we feel others haven’t noticed - we think it is behind us and no harm is done. We fool ourselves. We rarely consider how much God despises sin - He sees the full ramifications of it all. He watches His good creation suffer with the spread of this wicked virus.
    We are deserving of judgment - yet our loving God offers mercy.
    Romans 3:22–26 CEB
    God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before, during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.
    I hope all of you have already received God’s mercy - but I do not presume anything. This is a heart matter - and God knows your heart. I want to close by leading us in a prayer for salvation - but want to emphasize that it is not a particular prayer that saves. Only sincere, earnest repentance and genuine faith in Jesus saves.
    Let us pray:
    Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I confess my complete helplessness to forgive my own sin or to work my way to heaven. At this moment I trust Christ alone as the One who bore my sin when He died on the cross. I believe that He did all that will ever be necessary for me to stand in your holy presence. I thank you that Christ was raised from the dead as a guarantee of my own resurrection. As best as I can, I now transfer my trust to Him. I am grateful that He has promised to receive me despite my many sins and failures. Father, I take you at your word. I thank you that I can face death now that you are my Savior. Thank you for the assurance that you will walk with me through the deep valley. Thank you for hearing this prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
      • John 15:13NIV2011

      • Hebrews 2:14–15NIV2011

      • Revelation 1:17–18NIV2011

      • Romans 3:22–26NIV2011

  • I Believe in Jesus