THE CROSS OF THE CHRIST – GOOD NEWS STORY !
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
A while ago I watched a movie called Hacksaw ridge directed by Mel Gibson. It is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a paramedic who won Congressional medal of honour for his service even though he refused to wear arms during WWII due to his religious believes. Some you might have seen the movie? The plot of the movie is intertwined with his faith story, courage and his compassion to save victims one by one. As he picks the injured soldiers in the battlefield he carries them to safety lets them down the ridge one by one. Even in the fiercest battleground, with no concern for his safety, or fear of enemy he runs around, searching for the victims to help them. As he searches for the injured soldiers he prays, ‘Lord, help me get one more please, help me get one more.’ As I was watching that movie seeing Doss’s compassion and care for his mates, I wondered, if humans care so much for one another, how much more does a loving God cares for the world? The answer for this question is found today, at the foot of the cross.
Scripture proclaims, God made this world, but soon enough, our selfishness turned us against God. Right in the Garden of Eden, people rebelled against God, and as a result brought separation from God’s presence. The invasion of sin brought death both physically and eternally. If you want an example of this, all you have to do is carefully read your own Bibles.
At least the first three chapters of the Bible, they tell the story: God made this, and God made that, and God saw ‘it was good.’ This phrase of how beautiful creation was repeats a lot. ‘God saw the light…it was good’, God saw the separations of waters and forming of dry land and ‘…it was good’, God saw the plants producing their kinds and ‘…it was good’, God saw the separation of darkness from light ‘….it was good’, God saw birds and living creatures….it was good.’ When God created humans and he reviewed his work, He looked at his creation, guess what he saw? ‘Very Good’ (Genesis 1:31). But as soon as sin entered, all we hear is disease, destruction, and death. One after another the pages of the Bible are filled with stories like this. Genesis 4 gives the story of Cain killing his brother Abel ‘…and he died’ is a phrase we hear way too often. Death is still out there both physically, and spiritually. The agents of sin is still out there rotting societies, breaking relationships, causing frustrations between people.
Throughout past centuries, human hearts haven’t really changed. Selfishness, pride, arrogance, and so on are still there in our nature. Those flaws in human nature is also visible in the Bible with the way people behaved. Our Lenten journey this year from Mark 14 and 15 exposed people like that. From Peter who denied Jesus to, the mob that falsely found fault with Jesus in Sanhedrin, from the disciples who could not keep watch, to the betrayer in Judas Iscariot, to Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. People continue in sin, they cared only about themselves, neglected God and his commandments. God’s prophets exposed our sin, prophets in the Bible like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, Zechariah, they all share how God’s own people rebel against God. We are no different from them.
What did God do? He takes up action: God took on human flesh and came down to dwell among us. Christmas story presents saviours birth as a time of peace and good news for the world. In Jesus God gave us the Saviour.
How about us? What did we do with our Saviour? We put him on a cross! We took the one who grew up as carpenter’s son, and probably worked for his carpenter father, and nailed him to a piece of wood! The human justice system (as Pilate authorised it to be) found Jesus guilty and put him on the cross. The cross, wasn’t just Roman punishment to Jesus, it was also a punishment God placed on Jesus for our sake! Jesus was without sin, yet God punished him for our sake. To bring us peace, God put Jesus on the cross. Listen to these words of prophet Isaiah (53: 5-6):
‘but he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
The Lamb of God was put on the cross to take away our sin, our shame, our punishment, and our death. I can sum up my sermon in one sentence for you: ‘Yes, we have put our Lord on the cross we need to go home and repent!’
Our sin caused death on the cross. But wait, today is also called ‘Good Friday?’
Because it is Good Friday, there must be some good news, right? Yes there is. Jesus, endured the cross, its suffering, its shame and its injustice willingly for us. Like Desmond Doss who prayed desperately to save the injured, Jesus from the cross offered prayers for our sake. Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 24:34). The obedient prayers and cries of Jesus were heard by God.
The writer of the Hebrews says, ‘in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Jesus shed his blood to save us. Shortly, we will hear this story as we go through The Stations of the Cross, followed by ‘adoration of the cross’ as part of our liturgy. The Stations of the Cross once again captures the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. This is not a piece of information for us to listen to, but it is a journey that we ought to receive in our hearts, minds and lives. So the plan today is after each reading, there will be a brief pause to meditate on the Bible reading, then we respond to the reading through prayer and singing of a verse of the hymn. In repentance, let us cast aside our fears, worries, and ideas to just receive the blessings of the cross.
God put Jesus on the cross for us, to save us even from ourselves. The cross offers perfect redemption from sin, death and devil. As you receive the Stations of the Cross, today, I encourage you to give thanks to God who gave up heaven for you. Sinners we are, broken and lost we maybe, the truth maybe dust we are and to dust we shall return, but to God who loves and cares for us, we are special. Special not because of our worth or wealth or our perfection, but because Jesus paid for us. Through His prayers, Christ calls to make a saint out of us. Again, that doesn’t mean you will all of sudden develop some special skills, talents, gifts, character traits…. but because you are in Jesus you are accepted and loved by God. Forgiven in waters of baptism, saved because of the blood of the Lamb. This might sound too good to be true, but trust me, in Christ you are perfect to God….and that is the good news worth celebrating today!
Peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740