The Suffering Savior
April 1, 2006 - As Easter draws near, consider anew the significance of Jesus' death upon the cross. When Jesus lifted up His voice and cried, "It is finished!" He did not mean that God's plan had been foiled. Though His physical death was near, He realized that the final obstacle had been overcome and the last enemy had been destroyed. By His death and resurrection Jesus Christ fully and triumphantly completed the task for man's redemption. He removed the barrier between God and man.
A Message by Billy Graham
Here was the Son of God dying on a cross that was made for the vilest of sinners. His was the act of substitution raised to the highest degree. Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sin of the world by His suffering and death. Here was the blood of God poured out in selfless love for a dying, doomed world.
To many people the mention of the blood of Christ is distasteful. It grates upon their proud egos to think that such a price had to be paid for their wickedness. A deep revulsion arises within them when we mention the precious blood of Christ and His supreme sacrifice on the cross. To the natural man Jesus' suffering and death are foolishness.
The message of the blood and the Cross and the work of redemption are still foolishness to a people who would like to believe that man can save himself by his own goodness.
Modern man is in conflict with the truth of God at this point. God speaks of a fall and a condemnation, and His key word is grace. Modern man speaks of the soul's native goodness, its aspirations and natural good will. Man's key word is works.
God speaks of the depths into which men have fallen and the depravity of the natural man. Man boasts of his nobility, his ideals and his progress. God calls men to believe in Christ or be lost. Man says that it is enough to try to be like Christ. God says that Christ is the Savior of the world. Man says that Christ is just a great example. We have drifted away from the biblical truth: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22, NIV). God said that as a result of our rebellion and sin, man must die. Jesus Christ became our substitute. He suffered our death on the cross. That blood is essential and indispensable for our salvation. Without its mark upon us, we are unfit to come into the presence of the holy and righteous God.
First, the blood of Christ justifies and saves us. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Romans 5:9, NIV). The word justify means to account righteous, to clear of guilt, to acquit.
The word justification means "Just-as-if-you-had-never-sinned." It means much more than forgiveness. You and I cannot justify people who have wronged us. We can only forgive them. God alone can justify.
Christ was nailed on a cross that was meant for a notorious criminal named Barabbas. But Barabbas was set free. He was saved from the death he deserved. The person who takes his stand at the Cross is saved forevermore. He can never come into condemnation, for he is cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Second, the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences: "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14, NIV).
From a cleansed conscience emerges a changed life. The alcoholic can lift his head with a new honor, dignity and self-control. The prostitute can be transformed into a modest wife and loving mother. The delinquent, with the youthful lust for evil, can find the peace of Christ and yield his or her energies to the service of God. The businessperson who has made some unethical transactions can be restored to a life of honesty and integrity. The blood of Christ has cleansed their consciences from dead works.
Third, we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Bible says, "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19, NIV). The word redeem means to buy back, to recover by paying a price. On the cross Jesus paid the price for our deliverance, a price unthinkably greater than our true value. He did this because He loves us. We were redeemed, recovered, restored not with corruptible things of silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.
A loving mother once saved her little girl from a burning house but suffered severe burns on her hands and arms. When the girl grew up, not knowing how her mother's arms had become so disfigured, the girl was ashamed of the scarred, gnarled hands and always insisted that her mother wear long gloves to cover up that ugliness.
But one day the daughter asked her mother how her hands had become so scarred. For the first time the mother told her the story of how she had saved her life. The daughter wept and said, "Oh, Mother, those are beautiful hands—the most beautiful in the world. Don't ever hide them again."
The blood of Christ may seem to be a grim and repulsive subject to those who do not realize its true significance, but to those who have accepted His redemption and have been set free from the slavery of sin, the blood of Christ is precious. Have you ever seen a person who was receiving a blood transfusion? The blood is precious, life-giving, certainly not repulsive.
Fourth, the blood of Christ was shed for all. When Jesus served the Last Supper to His disciples, He took the cup of wine and said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28, NIV).
Speaking of His crucifixion, Jesus Himself said, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32, NIV). By "all men" He did not mean all people without exception, for there are many who refuse to be drawn to Him. He meant rather all people without distinction, whether it be of class or color or anything else.
The appeal of the Cross of Christ is universal. I have met people of every race who have trusted in the merits of Jesus Christ and His shed blood for their salvation. The power of the Cross reaches into opium dens, salvaging and redeeming people from a living hell. It touches the hearts of slum dwellers and penthouse owners. It penetrates into the mansions of the elite where men and women live in luxury, bringing them peace and joy that money cannot buy. It changes the headhunter into a soul-saver. It gives people of every nation dynamic and purposeful living.
The power of sin has been broken by the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ on Calvary; the power of sin was completely overcome by His victorious resurrection on the Sunday morning that we call the first Easter. That is why we can sing with the hymn writer: "In the Cross of Christ I glory!"
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