Symphony of Christ, 4th Movement: The Culmination

Recap

We are now through three of the Symphony of Christ’s four movements…

The Promise

In the first we saw the creation of the heavens and the earth; our original parents almost immediately blow it by losing trust in God; and our Lord…instead of giving us the destruction we deserved…giving a promise of a Messiah instead. Perhaps what stood out most in that movement was how, by demonstration, God confirmed His words in Exodus 34:6-7:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation" (ESV).

The Anticipation

In the second movement we heard the repeated melody of a promised savior in the Old Testament…and by the time our Lord was due to arrive, expectation in Israel was high for a Messiah:

  • An earthly king who would rule the world or
  • A suffering servant who would bear our sins or
  • An apocalyptic judge who would come in the clouds from heaven

The Incarnation

The Promised One arrived in the third movement. We heard much of the Nativity Story, and discussed 10 reasons Jesus came:

  • To redeem us
  • To adopt us
  • To make us rich—but not in a "health and wealth" kind of way—true riches!
  • To destroy the Devil
  • To deliver us
  • To become our high priest
  • To provide a propitiation for our sins
  • To help us when we are tempted
  • To sympathize with our weaknesses…and (most of all)…
  • To manifest the Father…to show people what God is really like!

When the movement completed we were left staring into the eyes of the ultimate "sibling savior"…an infant who wasn’t born to provide bone marrow for her brother or sister. No, the treatment our disease required was so extreme our Sibling Savior was born to die

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Mary Did You Know?

Many of you may be familiar with a Christmas song written by Mark Lowry (with music by Buddy Greene). It starts off with the questions:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.1

After doing the research for this sermon I was going over it in my mind and I wondered…not what Mary did or didn’t know…although the song’s questions are thoughtful and beautiful…

Instead I wondered what the young Jesus did or didn’t know…and when. As we were looking into His newborn eyes, did He already see the cross? Did He already know our hearts…the very hearts that would send Him to such an awful death?

Or did He have a period of peace…where he could be an ordinary little boy…enjoying the "common grace" God showers on all of us?

The Bible is basically silent about His youth…although we do know He gave His parents a fright when He was 12 years old. Let’s read about it together:

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." 49 And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?" 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:41-52)

At this point I would like to sing:

Jesus did you know, that one day these teachers would crucify you?

Jesus did you know, that every one of your disciples would deny you?

Jesus’ words, as shared by Luke, seem to indicate that the "tween" Son of God was already aware of quite a bit by that time:

"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"

And, assuming He know what His future held, could you imagine what a burden that would be on a 12 year-old?

Just think about it! How many of you have had something in your future that you really weren’t looking forward to? A test you hadn’t studied enough for? A court date that promised a fine or, perhaps, even jail time? Your father’s return from work after those motherly words, "Wait until your dad gets home!"?

The day when the doctor tells you the treatment is no longer working and there is nothing else they can do?

I think we’ve all experienced that type of negative anticipation. Sometimes we know exactly when the feared day is due to arrive….other times we just know it will…and, if anything, the most painful part is not knowing when. Kind of death by a thousand cuts as every time it comes to mind we get an adrenalin shot and our heart races. Just let it happen!!!

Jesus Did Know

And at some point…I suspect even as a tween in Jerusalem…Jesus did know those teachers would crucify Him:

"See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day" (Matthew 20:18-19).

Not only that, but our Lord knew in His time of greatest need His disciples would deny Him:

And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." 29 Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." 30 And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31 But he said emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same (Mark 14:27-31).

And we know…no matter how vehemently Peter insisted he would not desert Jesus…when "Judas came…and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders" "they all left him and fled" (Mark 14:43, 50, emphasis mine). Although Peter initially pulled out a sword, even temporarily separating the high priest’s servant from his ear (see John 18:10), "all" included the man who said that even "if I must die with you, I will not deny you."

Of course, "they all said the same"…and they all denied Him in action.

"But Alan…He was God…yeah He know He was going to suffer and die…but that wouldn’t frazzle Him like it would you and me!"

Really?…let’s see…

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50)

"How great is my distress!"…sounds decently frazzled to me.

"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:27-33).

Jesus’ was distressed…and his soul was troubled…but it was "for this purpose" he had come…to "draw all" to Him…

And when the time had finally come, it was all but overwhelming to Him:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand" (Matthew 26:36-46).

If that doesn’t seem extreme enough…perhaps this addition from Luke cements it:

And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:43-44).

Even with an angel strengthening our Lord was in agony so much "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

Our Lord knew exactly what He what was in store…and if He could have avoided it He would have…

But He also knew that to cure the disease we inflicted on ourselves in the Garden He had to suffer in another Garden…the Garden of Gethsemane…and on a hill called "The Place of the Skull"…Golgotha.

God is dead!

As our final movement heads toward a close we are on that hill looking on the face of the one, only a few decades before, who had such humble beginnings in a manger. What He had expected…what He had predicted…came to fruition…and "for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:28).

Instead of staring into the eyes of a baby we are now gazing into the eyes of the one our sins are killing…because we know the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

The wages of OUR sins.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

I mentioned in the third movement that it seemed to me that when Jesus came to earth there probably was stunned silence in heaven as they wondered why Jesus would give up His glory to come in the form of a servant for those who had so quickly (and repeatedly) rejected Him.

At this point I am all but 100% confident the Symphony is silent. To any non-omniscient being it not only looked like humankind had once again rejected the grace of God, it seemed like the Devil had won!

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote…

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. ‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I’ll tell you! We have killed him — you and I! We are all his murderers"…"God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murders!"2

We had killed God!

The Rest of the Story

Although Nietzsche was not speaking of the cross…we can assure his madman that God is not dead…yes, He died on that hill on that evil day…but three days later…as He predicted…He rose again…and the disciples who had all denied Him had nothing to find in the Garden where He was buried…

The tomb was empty! (See John 20:1-8).

It bears repeating…

The tomb was empty!

And not only is God not dead…we did not kill Him. Remember…when the soldiers went to break His legs He was already dead (see John 19:33). Instead, let’s remember some of Jesus’ last words as shared by the Apostle Matthew:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

Now…I can’t "prove" it with Scripture…but I believe God killed God…not in a direct way…but by, as already noted, making Jesus sin in our stead. As such God the Father removed His spirit from Jesus…and…just like would result for any human…Jesus died.

And that is why Christ was in such great agony over His future…why he sweated like drops of blood…

He couldn’t bear to be separated from His Father…and…I suspect…He could not see beyond the grave…instead He had to trust the Father based on His close communion with Him throughout His life.

Trust

And just like a breakdown of trust led to the cross…the faithfulness of the trustworthy one led to the resurrection. Jesus’ confidence in the Father was rewarded…and He now sits at the right hand of the Almighty.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:3-5).

Our symphony began with creation…a creation quickly marred by our fall whose only saving grace was a promise.

It also ends with a promise…a promise to all of us who have been baptized into his death…that we can "walk in the newness of life" and will be "united with him in a resurrection like his."

If you have not been "baptized into Christ Jesus"…do you really want the next symphony…the one that includes His Second Coming…to play without you? Do you want to face what Jesus did on the cross alone…instead of allowing Christ to cover you?

Jesus knew exactly how horrible that was going to be…do you?

Trust God. Be buried with him into death. "Be united with him in a resurrection like his."

He played this symphony for you.

Footnotes

1http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0WIJw8JVeU (accessed 12/18/2010).

2http://books.google.com/books?id=Vf8KETLiKXMC&lpg=PP1&dq=the%20gay%20science&pg=PA120#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 12/18/2010).


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