I want to ask you to take a short walk with me down memory lane. What I call to your attention likely has always happened among people in all the ages. A person is impressed and excited about some new information or understanding. So he or she excitedly shares this information or understanding with others. The "others" are definitely unimpressed. The "others" are so unimpressed that they verbally declare their disappointment.

Long ago in our society they might say, "Big deal!" What they meant was that the information or understanding they heard was horribly insignificant. "You are excited about that?"

Or, there was a time when they might say, "Whoopee for you!" What they meant was, "This information or understanding IS NOT cause for celebration. It is hardly worth mentioning or noticing!"

In a latter period they might say, "So what?" They meant, "There is nothing in this information or this understanding that is worthy of getting excited about. There is no real significance, no real meaning in it. It is not even worth noting."

Consider some questions. Are you here tonight because of your faith or because of a habit? That is not intended to be a discouraging question. I am very happy that you are here, very happy to have an opportunity to think with you. It is a reflective question.

Are you here because of your commitment to God through Jesus Christ? Or, are you here because good people go to church? Those are not easy questions to answer.

John 19:17-30 They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS." Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews.' " Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture:, "They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Tonight I want you to consider the crises created for each one of us by Jesus' death. To you, is the fact that Jesus was executed by Roman solders at the insistence of Jewish leaders a "big deal," or a "Whoopee," or a "So what!" or entirely something different?

"What crises are created for each of us because a man called Jesus died 2000 years ago?" I can think of at least three crises.

  1. Crises #1 is revealed in the answer we give to this question: is the fact the Jesus died upon a Roman cross the completion of a divine plan or a purely natural occurrence in the sequence of natural events?
    1. Is it the completion of divine planning to fulfill divine promises?
      1. Did God make Abraham a promise?
      2. Did Sarah give birth to Isaac long after she we past childbearing age?
      3. Did God from the son bring into existence a larger extended family?
      4. Did God through Jacob produce the twelve men whose descendants would be the twelve tribes of Israel?
      5. Did God through Joseph situate Abraham's descendants in Egypt?
      6. Did in time those descendants become (a) an enormous people who existed as (b) Egypt's slaves?
      7. Did God through powerful acts release these people from their slavery?
      8. Did this same God forge these people into a nation and give them a land?
      9. Did God after hundreds of years send Jesus to earth through this people?
      10. Did God allow Jesus to enter this world as a baby, have a ministry in Israel as a Jewish man, and be executed on a cross to provide us with a blood ransom from evil?
      11. Did all that God promised Abraham and his descendants become reality in the death of Jesus?
    2. Or,
      1. Was Jesus just a Jew born in the first century world of Palestine?
      2. Was he just a Jewish man who disagreed with the way things were being done in Palestine?
      3. Did his popularity with the people just place this man at odds with those who held political power in Israel?
      4. Did these men just manipulate a tense situation between the Roman authorities in Palestine and the Jewish people in Palestine to get rid of a man who was truly an irritation and inconvenience?
      5. Was it just a matter of some Jewish leaders manipulating the Roman presence to get rid of some irritating competition?
    3. "I don't know" is not an option for us.
      1. We each must decide if God was at work or nothing unusual was at work.
      2. That creates a crisis.

  2. Crises # 2: what did God accomplish in Jesus' death?
    1. Did He actually accomplish these things?
      1. Potential forgiveness for everyone who realizes his or her sinfulness.
      2. Redemption: a ransom that changes ownership in a person's life by rescuing that person from the consequences of evil.
      3. Propitiation: the act of satisfying justice through having another pay the penalty of our failure.
      4. Purity: a cleansing from all evil.
      5. Holiness: making us able to stand in the sight and presence of a pure God.
      6. Justification: allowing us to appear before God as if you had never done anything wrong.
    2. Or,
      1. Did just a good, unselfish man die?
      2. Was a innocent man from a peasant's background become the victim of power politics--he just got caught in the middle of Roman and Jewish politics?
    3. "I don't know" is not an option for us.
      1. We each must decide if God achieved His purposes or a good man was the victim of power politics.
      2. That creates a crisis.

  3. Crisis # 3: in my total life, how will I respond to what happened?
    1. There are many ways that I can respond to what happened.
      1. I can say, "God was not at all involved, and there is nothing to think about as I live my life." Thus I declare no further response is necessary.
      2. I can say, "There is a possibility that God was involved, so I better learn how to 'play the game.'"
        1. This tends to be an external ("outside of the real me") response.
        2. I decide I must go through the motions.
      3. I can say, "God was unquestionably involved, and I had better learn how to do the right things."
        1. In this I may give a little of my internal self.
        2. But it is mostly a matter of demanding of myself that I perform the right acts.
      4. I can say, "God definitely was involved, but all He is concerned about is how I feel."
        1. In this I try to make everything internal and nothing external.
        2. I may "do" very little for God, but I constantly affirm how I "feel" about God.
      5. I can say, "God has provided me the opportunity to be someone I could never have become without what He did in Jesus' death. I want my whole person to be changed, transformed by putting God in charge of remaking me inside out."
        1. It is a matter of emotions and attitudes.
        2. It is a matter of service in God's purposes.
        3. It is a matter of treating other people as I want to be treated.
        4. It is a matter of both how I think and what I do.
    2. But I must respond in some way.
      1. God was or was not at work when Jesus died.
      2. If He was at work, I am one of the reasons that He was.

Thus far in your life, what have you decided? How have you responded? Is Jesus' death more than a "big deal," "whoopee," or "So what?" to you? Or much more?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 January 2003

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