Today: Sunday, August 18, 2019
 
 

Facing Judgment    (4/29/2018 )

Prisons are about punishment.  They are also intended to have a deterrent effect - to be a warning to all who are tempted to commit a crime.  They may also be designed to change the lives of those serving sentences - encouraging them to reform in some way.

In extreme cases, of course, such as murder or treason, some states impose not prison but the death penalty.  That is the ultimate punishment.

Jesus was brought before a Roman court, and on trumped up charges, condemned to death.  His life had been without reproach.  “He went everywhere doing good" (Acts 10, verse 38).  His “crime" had been to upset the authorities, to the extent that he was seen as a political and religious threat.

However, from the beginning, Christians have seen Jesus’ death as something much greater than a judicial murder.  This was a cosmic event, in which as God's Son he was taking on himself the punishment that was due to all of us, not in terms of human laws, but in terms of the divine law of holiness and justice.

That understanding is based on the belief that we are all sinners, none of us live as God intended.  In terms of God's laws we are all guilty and all deserve punishment and indeed death.  What Jesus has done is to stand in for us, facing the consequences of all our sin.  He has stepped in to take our punishment.

One of the key New Testament verses on this theme - 1 Peter 3, verse 18 - says that “Christ suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  He who was innocent died for those who are guilty.  It has been one of the great debates within the church ever since as to what that means and how it works.  Without struggling to work that out in a few short lines, it’s important to notice two things.

One is that Jesus’ death, however it works in God’s great scheme of things, has the purpose of drawing us to God.  In what must be the most famous verse in the Bible, the message is “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3, verse 16).

The other is that we should understand that Jesus did something vastly important through his death - for each of us, for all of us - something that demands a response from us.  The “demand” or rather intention, is that we should be so moved by the love of Christ for us that our response is one of penitence, trust and a longing for restoration.

To go back to the prison analogy, we are released from prison to live a new life - because we have been changed by the “influence” or impact of Christ on our lives - the love of God compels us to live a new life. 






Prayer:

Lord Jesus, by your death you have endured the suffering that should have been ours and borne our punishment.  By your loving sacrifice draw us ever closer to God and to our true freedom. (See Isaiah 53)


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