JESUS DIED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS
Pastor Paulus Budiono
Good Friday
April 14, 2017

 

 


Shalom,
It is undeniably true that we find it terribly difficult to admit our faults or transgressions. Even when we are found guilty, we still try to make someone the scapegoat to bear our faults. Indeed, such a practice is not uncommon. Even an innocent child knows how to do it. Without any tutorials, a child masters the basic know-how to lie when confronted to admit his wrongdoing.
What is the significance of Good Friday that we, the Gentiles, celebrate today? The apostle Paul reminded the believers in Rome, “He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification” (Romans 4:25).
Let us not observe Good Friday – the agony and death of Jesus – year in and year out just for the sake of liturgical rituals.
It is noteworthy that the Earth currently holds 7 billion people occupying vastly different geographical locations with multiple varieties of cultures, customs, religions, ethnical groups and languages. Consequently, they have various perspectives to death. We have a tribe that never buries the dead. Instead, a medium mutilates the remains and feed them to thousands of scavenging birds. Another tribe lets babies hunger to death and dumps their corpses in swamps to feed wild animals at the request of a medium assuming that the lives of the babies are not worth living.
The atheists, who disbelieve the existence of God, and the polytheists, who believe in multiple gods, are of the opinion that sins are man-made attributed to human errors. They believe that anyone who commits crime (fraud, fornication, corruption, murder, etc.) pays off his criminal act after he has served his sentence in prison.
To God, there are no white, minor or grave sins – every transgression is a sin. Some people consider birth and death as natural phenomena (like what happens to animals and plants). Others do not believe that the wage of sin is death. Neither do they believe in judgement or resurrection after death. But God said right from the start that death was a serious issue as it is written in Genesis 2: 17, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”
What are we to do as followers of Christ who belive in one and only God – the three-in-one God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it – and Jesus Christ who came to the world and died on the cross for the sin of mankind? Our duty is to carry out His great mandate, namely to proclaim the Gospel to those who do not (yet) believe in God (Matthew 28:19-20) so that they may also receive salvation in Jesus, the one and only Savior of the world (Acts 4:12).
Who first got saved when Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross? One of the criminals hanged alongside with Jesus (Luke 23: 33-49).
Man is to die and this applied to the three men who were dying on their respective crosses. But, who were they dying for?
- One criminal crucified beside Jesus cursed Him and died for his own sins.
- Jesus was nailed to the cross between the two criminals and died for others.
- The other criminal also died on the tree for his own crime but received guaranteed salvation after he had dialogued with Jesus. It is not recorded in the Bible whether this criminal had read the Word of God or had participated in a worship service in a synagogue. But, amazingly, he had great faith in Jesus and believed that He would return as King despite the fact that they were in the same plight at the time – powerlessly dying. His faith sparked when he heard Jesus say,” Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23: 34).
How did he manage to keep his faith rock solid while his fellow criminal was cursing Jesus, to say nothing of the mocking crowd including the religious leaders and soldiers? He knew that he would die in no time but he realized that he had to take responsibility for his actions. Physically, the government sentenced him to death on the cross for his transgressions but, spiritually, his soul had to be responsible to God, the Creator. Didn’t Jesus once say, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28).
Is our faith better than the faith of this criminal because we have heard more sermons of prominent preachers for a longer period of time? Is our faith still there in the midst of crisis? Peter denied his Master and left Him in the lurch when Jesus was tortured and eventually nailed to the cross, didn’t he? When contemplating the crucifiction of Jesus, do we see our own sins? Or do we feel that the sins of our spouse or others are greater than ours?
Jesus died earlier than the two criminals on His both sides. They died later after their legs had been broken to speed up their death (John 19: 30-32).
In reality, Jesus did not die due to anemia or cardiac arrest. Rather, He Himself said, “This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father.” (John 10: 17-18).
As we know, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and this criminal did not feel the need to trumpet his faith upon hearing what Jesus said to His Father. In fact, Jesus begged His Father to forgive those who heard Him because all had sinned (cf. John 8: 7-9). While only one criminal showed his response, the clamoring crowd openly expressed their hatred against Jesus and let Him hang to death on the cross without feeling guilty. Even His disciples left Him. The faith of this criminal got even more confirmed when he heard the commander of the
Roman army (a non-Jew), upon witnessing the death of Jesus, say that He was indeed the Son of God (Mark 15:39).
Let us not stay focused on material issues, but rather on faith that goes beyond human needs. Honestly speaking, we often exercise our faith for spectacular events like what the Pharisees and the Law experts did. They asked Jesus for a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). Our faith should rest on the offer of Jesus since this type of faith leads us to perfection and glory that He has promised (Hebrews 12:2). That is what the top figures of faith experienced. They were even ready to die a martyr although they did not obtain what had been promised (Hebrews 11:36-39). In reality, non-Christians even frequently admit that God is good while we, as regular church goers, do not have the courage to testify.
By any means, God’s promise to salvage mankind still holds good today. After the fall of Adam and Eve, the seed or the offspring of that woman (Eve) would crush the head of the serpent and the serpent would crush her offspring‘s heel (Genesis 3:15). This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross to conquer the devil who held the power of death (Hebrews 2:14) even though it cost Him a crushed heel.
Amazingly, the criminal did not ask Jesus to take him down from his cross (in physical terms). Instead, he made a request to Jesus that implied his great faith, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!” (Luke. 23: 42 - GNT)
 “Jesus,”
Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, stealthily met with Jesus at night for fear that people, including His disciples, would see their meeting and hear him call Jesus “Rabbi,” meaning teacher (John 3:2). In contrast, this criminal assuredly called Him “Jesus,” which means Savior. Let us mention His name Jesus – the Savior – with confidence knowing that He died to save and give us life.
 “Remember me,”
How could one expect the dying Jesus to remember the criminal? Logically, it was highly unlikely. It must have taken great faith that surpassed reality to do so!
As for us, we do not see Jesus physically today. But, do we believe that Jesus remembers us and that He is our Mediator mediating between us and our Heavenly Father as written in Hebrews 7: 24-25? In reality, His priesthood remains unchanged or fixed. He is able to save all people without exception and make them whole – those who come to God with their conflicts in marriage, domestic issues, problems at work, economic crisis, you name it. Read closely, anyone who believes in God must believe in Jesus because God only answers prayers through His only Son, Jesus (cf. John 3: 35-36).
 “when you come as King.”
This criminal definitely possessed the ultimate kind of faith as he believed that Jesus would die but rise from the dead and come as King.
How about our faith? Every time we take part in the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul reminds us that whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s
death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11: 26). We believe that Jesus died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and will return as King of kings and take us to reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelations 20: 4-6).
How do we develop steadfast faith? Only by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Otherwise, our faith will weaken. However marvelous a preacher might be, he is not able to provide faith. He is just capable of sharing the Word which the listeners respond to in a different manner – either communally or individually. How happy we are when the Word of God reprimands us individually. That way, we may have our sins forgiven and our lives changed.
How did Jesus answer the criminal’s request? “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 43).
The Word of God is “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Hold on to His Word and do what it says. It may come as a piece of advice, a comfort, a warning or a reprimand. No matter how it greets us, the bottom line is that it is for our own good.
Who has potential access to Paradise?
- The apostle Paul was taken up to Paradise and heard things beyond words (2 Corinthians 12: 3-4). Therefore, he feared nothing since he knew that the Lord was with him in all situations.
- The church in Ephesus that has lost its first love will be given the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God if they repent and win the victory (Revelation 2: 7).
- The Church of God which is now going the last mile on the way to Paradise (Revelation 22).
Do we wish to live in Paradise? If so, how do we gain admission to Paradise? To begin with, have faith in the cross of Christ – the agony and death of Jesus for the sake of our forgiveness and salvation. Next, have faith in His Resurrection, His Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Last but not least, have faith in His return as King who will meet and make us kings to reign with Him for a thousand years. A m e n.