BaptistWay Lesson 12, April 8, 2018 by Vicki Hollon

BaptistWay Lesson 12, April 8, 2018

Luke 23, “Tried and Crucified”

Friends,

Below the Grants have contributed some excellent material on the significance of the CROSS that I can imagine you would find helpful for this Sunday’s lesson.   I also agree with them that authors of the Guides provide plenty of detail on the crucifixion.  In fact, I will confess that having just walked through the powerful experience of Holy Week, I found myself not ready to go back to a lesson on the crucifixion.  However, as the Grants say, “without the cross and the empty tomb… the Christian Faith would be just another page in the book of the world’s religions.”

In the Study Guide the author highlights the radical nature of the “forgiveness” that occurred on the cross and as a result of the cross.  This is the issue that I choose to focus on in this week’s lesson.  The guilt and the need for forgiveness of Pontius Pilate, of Herod Antipas, of the religious leaders, of the crowd, of the unrepentant thief on the cross, and ultimately of all of us cannot be disputed.  And yet, Jesus fulfilled His mission so that we might all be forgiven.  The forgiveness that Christ demonstrated with his death on the cross reveals the radical nature of God’s love for us.  It also demonstrates the depth of forgiveness that Christ expects us to give others and ourselves!

To what degree has Christ’s death on the cross and forgiveness for your sins impacted how you forgive others?  As clear as scripture is about our need to forgive others and as radical as the nature of Christ’s forgiveness of us, most of us have still had to struggle to forgive.  Therefore, I am going to copy some notes and scripture references on the topic of “Forgiveness” that you may choose to use – or not.

I realize that you can choose to go several different directions with this Sunday’s lesson.  I trust that you know best the needs of your class members and my prayers are with you as you give shape to this Sunday’s lesson.

In His Love,

Vicki

Forgiving others is not an option in the Christian faith. 

  • Mark 11: 25-26 – When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
  • Lev. 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people; but love your neighbor as yourself…
  • Luke 6:37 – Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
  • Luke 17:3-4 – So watch yourselves.  If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I* repent”, forgive him.

God’s forgiveness of us is the basis of our forgiving others.

  • Ephesians 4:32– Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 
  • Matthew 18: 21-35 – How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  ….seventy-seven times. …..This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. (God’s forgiveness of us is the basis of our forgiving others.)

Holding on to an unforgiving spirit can destroy us spiritually:

  • Matthew 6: 14-15 – if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do no forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
  • 2 Cor 2: 10-11 – If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him.  Lack of forgiveness allows Satan to outwit us.
  • Ephesians 4: 26-27– In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.
  • Matthew 18: 21-35 – How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  ….seventy-seven times. …..This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. (God’s forgiveness of us is the basis of our forgiving others.)

An  unforgiving spirit can destroy us emotionally:

Every Christian counselor knows well the incredible destruction that resentment causes to emotional well-being.  Even the slightest grudge is like a cancer that can eat away at the soul.

Holding on to a grudge can destroy us physically.  (None of These Diseases by S. I McMillan illustrates how resentment is implicated in many diseases. )

  • Psalm 32: 3-4
  • Proverbs 17: 9 and 27: 4 – It can destroy others.  Resentment is contagious and causes others to turn bitter also. – #1 cause of divorce is unresolved anger.

Why is the ability and willingness to consistently forgive critical to the Christian faith and walk?

  • Conflict resolution and reconciliation are possible only through forgiveness
  • Interpersonal and personal peace depend on it.
  • Our testimony to the world and to young believers depends on it.
  • God’s power in our lives is demonstrated through it.
  • It is an essential element in spiritual war fare.
  • God is glorified as we live out the power of forgiveness in our church and community.

Comments by Wayne and Veronica Grant…

“If you were anywhere in the world and you wanted to find a Christian place of worship what sign would you look for?”

If you were to ask this question in your class the answer would certainly be “A cross.”

The Study Guide and the Teaching Guide do an excellent job discussing the details of the events in Jesus’ life leading up to the crucifixion. In these notes today, we will reflect on the meaning of the cross.

Indeed, the cross is the universal symbol of the Christian Faith. It has been so since the earliest days. As we learned on the trip to Israel, archeologists uncovering early Christian homes and churches discovered mosaics containing the cross to be a prominent presence. Throughout history, the cross has been openly represented in art and architecture—and continues to be true.  However, today many non-Christians, and even some Christians, question the centrality of this symbol as a representative of the Faith. Their objections center on the fact that the cross represents hurt, pain, desolation, death. It reminds us of things that modern folk do not want to think about.

Timothy Keller, pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has been extremely effective in reaching the modern skeptic. Redeemer, less than 30 years old, has an average attendance of six thousand worshipers on a typical Sunday—in the middle of highly secular New York. In his book, The Reason for God, Keller focuses on the confusion about, and increasing resistance to, Christianity by the modern man and woman. He states that one of the most common objections of today’s skeptics is to the cross. He writes: “Why would Jesus have to die?” is a question that I have heard from people in New York far more often than, “Does God Exist?” “Why couldn’t God just forgive us?” they ask. “The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed to be appeased by human sacrifice.” “Why can’t God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?” So, these questions continue: Why, then, don’t we just leave the Cross out? Why not focus on the life of Jesus and his teachings rather than on his death? Why did Jesus have to die?

I guess the modern skeptic cannot be faulted for his reluctance to accept the cross. Even the first disciples of Jesus, those living daily with him, had trouble understanding the concept of the cross and the suffering Messiah it represented. Matthew, in his Gospel, reports a dramatic scene: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. . . Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never Lord!’ he said, “this shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22) Paul, reflecting his experience of Christ, and of the Roman culture in which he lived, could write during the early days of the Faith that, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” (I Corinthians 1:10)

So, why do we find a cross on every church? Why does Paul, in his comments to the Corinthians go on to say, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18) Why, in spite of the harsh reality it represents, the cross from the beginning and till now is “the Power of God” and is the central symbol of our Faith?

Timothy Keller responds to the skeptical questioner with the firm assertion that the cross, indeed, is essential to the Christian Faith. The cross was precious to the early Christians, to those who followed them in the faith, and to those who continue to follow even today because, in the cross, we see the depth of God’s love for us. The cross is God giving of himself to release his children, his created ones, from the clutches of evil. Paul points to the central meaning of the cross when he states that, “…God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…” (II Corinthians 5:19. In the cross, God was, and is, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves—providing forgiveness and reconciliation. It was for this purpose of forgiveness and reconciliation that Christ came to earth in the first place. This intentional plan is exclaimed by Paul,

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

The hinge of the Christian Faith is this point in time and space—that is, the cross and the empty tomb. Without this moment the Christian Faith would be just another page in the book of the world’s religions—another example of man’s search for that which eludes him. That which makes Christianity unique is the working of God in men. This working is made possible by the acts of His son and empowered by the sustenance of the Holy Spirit. God’s first work, uniting sons and daughters with Himself, bringing them into the full measure of their destiny, begins here with the cross and the resurrection.

The cross does not represent a vengeful act of an angry God—the picture that seems so distasteful to the modern psyche. It is God, the Creator becoming himself the redeemer, loving us enough to take on the burden of evil which has invaded His creation. A mediaeval Italian painting of the crucifixion shows the nails going through the hands of Jesus, through the wood of the cross into the hands of God—who is standing in back in the shadow of the cross. This graphically reminds us of the words of Paul, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself…” In the cross we experience redemption and restoration; in the empty tomb we experience new life and hope for the future.

 

Vicki L. Hollon

Minister to Adults

Trinity Baptist Church

210-738-7766

vhollon@trinitybaptist.org