A Picture of Grace

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald. Today we will look at what Jesus was doing on the cross.

What was Jesus Doing on the Cross?

The cross is the signature symbol of the central event in human history. It was a symbol of execution until the second century when Constantine saw a vision of it and banned it as an instrument of execution. Today people are often casual about it and can wear it as a piece of jewelry, without understanding the meaning of the symbol.

He was substituting:

Between two robbers, thieves or better translated, revolutionaries, Jesus took the place of mankind, just as He did for Barabbas (Matthew 27:26). Jesus paid the penalty for us; He took the death that we all deserve (Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:8).

He was scandalizing:

The cross is an outrageous offense that evokes intense reactions from those who are not saved. Look across America at the intense, irrational hatred of Jesus. Why all the illogical animosity toward Jesus Christ? Would people react the same way to Krishna, or Mohammed, a Hindu or the Buddha?

There is an army of darkness that has it’s sights on Christianity. To really live for Christ, we are going to experience this scandalizing hatred (John 7:7, 15:18).

He was suffering:

First century executions were not like today. They wanted to torture and completely humiliate the criminal. For Jesus, the pain was a lesser issue; it was the separation and abandonment that Jesus experienced that caused His suffering (Matthew 27:46).  He was forsaken by the Father and surrounded by darkness.

He was satisfying:

The curtain of the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). The temple represented God’s presence. He lived in the Holy of Holies. The curtain represented that which separates man from God. It was torn from top to bottom, as if God was ripping it apart, saying “the way is now open, come into My presence, the wrath is diverted, My Son paid your penalty.” The debt is satisfied.

Why doesn’t God do something about sin? He did! It is finished (John 19:30).

Four Pictures of Grace.

Grace is undeserved, unmerited, unlearned; and received as a gift. It is not justice (getting what you deserve) or mercy (not getting what you deserve) because grace is getting something that you do not deserve.

Grace that redeems – the penalty is gone:

There was nothing special about any of us; God chose to set His love on us (Colossians 1:14). It is a picture of payment to God; not to come and get us but to pay a price to get us back.

Grace that releases – the power is gone:

Redemption without release is like a mountain climber who stays at base camp. It is not just that we have a home in heaven, but that we can be released from the power of sin here and now. No longer will we be slaves to sin; we have been set free. We have the power to say no to sin. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today (Romans 6:13, 14).

Grace that reconciles – the prejudice is gone:

Grace causes us to reconcile with every class, race and culture. The walls of separation are broken down (Ephesians 2:14). There are no barriers. The people of God should be the most diverse place on the planet because Christ makes us one, united in spirit. Not only is the wall broken down, but hostility is gone (Ephesians 2:15-16). We must hate every form of prejudice in our society.

Grace that removes – the past is gone:

All sins are wiped away because of the cross (Luke 23:42, 10:33-35, 15:11-31, Matthew 20:8-15). So, where is my debt? It is cancelled (Colossians 2:14). Sometimes the greatest barrier is the way we see ourselves: we don’t feel worthy of God’s love; maybe too ashamed for what we have done or what we were.

Not until we grasp the gravity of our sin problem can we grasp the amazing solution that God has provided by grace. He has redeemed us, released us, reconciled us and removed the shame from us.

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