The Story, Chapter 26: “The Hour of Darkness”

July 23, 2017

The Story, Chapter 26: “The Hour of Darkness”

Matthew 27:32-44


Introduction:  Claude was a great golf instructor. His four sons also became great golf instructors.  As they were working their way up, Claude gave them this advice: “Boys, whenever someone comes to you to learn to play golf, you will see in their swing ten different problems. Your job as their teacher is to find the one that causes the other nine.” 


When we look at the world we can easily see ten problems, but what is the one that causes the other nine? With all the problems in the world, is there one that causes the others? The Bible gives a resounding, “Yes!” Jesus dealt with the particular problem, the fountainhead of all others, on the cross. When the problem was addressed, Jesus declared, “It is finished.” The question comes to us, “What was finished?” What happened on the cross that makes the cross such a big deal? In The Story we find an answer to this question.


Let’s look at the journey to the cross and what occurred while Jesus was hanging there in Matthew 27:39-44.

We recall the scene, right?  There he is being crucified.  Hanging publicly in the most pain you might experience. And there are those in the crowd and on the other crosses who have no mercy or pity on him.  Instead they bully.  READ


When Jesus later says, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He was speaking truth!  The people had no idea what they were daring him to do when they said “let him save himself”.  They were forcing him to answer a “would you rather” question.


Jesus could not save both himself and all of us.  If he were to take them up on their dare and save himself, what would have become of us?  We would have had our fate sealed.  We would have been kept in eternal jeopardy.  It’s not that he couldn’t have saved himself.  He could have called 10,000 angels down to save him.  He could have told God the Father, “This is too hard.  I’m calling it quits.”  But he had made up his mind in the garden. He would do what God the Father had asked him to do because he was an obedient son and he loved the people God loved. He made the hard choice so that you could be saved from death. He chose to take care of the one problem that leads to all the others in our life.


So the first reason we celebrate what happened on the cross is that Christ chose to save us from sin, which we could never save ourselves from.  Can I get a “Thank you, Lord!”


Second, The cross reveals both the holiness of God and the severity of sin.


The holiness of God is a foundational truth in Scripture.  Beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, the holiness of God is reported again and again.  You can’t miss it!


To be holy means to be set apart, unique; God is totally different from anything else that we can know.  And here’s the thing we tend to forget about His holiness: it is totally incompatible with sin. Let me say that again. God’s holiness is not compatible with sin.


Remember the golf lesson illustration we began with?  Looking for that one problem that is at the root of all the other problems?  Here we have it!  God is holy and we are sinful and the two can’t work together.  We hear on the news about all the problems of the world:  it’s the government, the politicians, the schools, the families without dads, its the decline of morality, it’s drugs.  But what word don’t we hear as a problem in the news? “Sin”.  But there it sits at the root of all of these other things.  It’s just no one wants to go there!


We tend to make excuses for our own sin and the sins of others.  We give people the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the person suffered a mental lapse, but God’s holiness does not buy that.  God sees our sin for what it is, exactly, and he really can’t stand it.  And he will not compromise his holiness by indulging our sinful behavior and say “It’s okay, keep reveling in that rebellion you’ve got going on there!”


If sin were not such a big deal.  If it weren’t something that we absolutely needed to be saved from, then why would God have his Son suffer on the cross?  God takes our need to be saved from sin seriously.  God takes that seriously, but do we?  Do we understand how desperately we needed Jesus to die on the cross for us?


The third reason that the cross is important is that it shows that God’s holiness is connected with his love and not his wrath.  Greek mythology gives us a lot of stories of the wrath of the gods and they have been made into these really exciting motion pictures in which the hero must avenge the wrath of the offended god.  But none of them really speak much about a transforming love for the people who are in danger.  


If God’s holiness were only connected with his wrath, we would all be in trouble.  He would be a god hungry for power with no concern about what happened to the people he created.  But our God’s holiness is connected with his infinite love for us.  His wanting what is best for us. His desire to buy us back from sin and give us abundant life that is transformed and living in his great love.


If God were only holy (without love) we would be destroyed because of our inability to obey his law.  If God were only love (without holiness) then we could do whatever we want and chaos would reign. Love without holiness is what our society has tried to make God to be and because of that we live in a culture where truth is relative and to try to speak about God’s holiness gets one labeled as a bigot or racist or one who doesn’t care about anyone.  It leaves us with a God who allows anything, is not offended by anything, and who is really insignificant.  


But God IS holy.  And we can thank God that his holiness operates from God’s infinite love rather than his wrath.

This is what God has done because of love:

  • He becomes a human being
  • As a human, Jesus lives a sinless life
  • As a human, this perfect person dies in the place of sinners

This is the great drama of the cross.

And where was God the Father when Jesus hung on the cross?  He was forsaking Jesus. He was turning away.  Why? Because Jesus was carrying all of our sin.  Because of his holiness, God could not look at Jesus as he held our sin.  That was the sacrifice Christ made.  In that moment he knew what separation from God looks like. And it killed him. Literally.


But before the world began, Jesus had decided that you were worth it.  If he could keep you from being separated from God the Father, he would do whatever was necessary to bring you back to him.  And he did.


The cross matters.