Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Crucified One is the Lord

Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Acts 2:36

A meditation on a portion of Peter’s Pentecost sermon might seem out of place in Lent, especially on Ash Wednesday, a day of solemnity. A day of repentance.

Pentecost is a celebration. It’s a day to give thanks for the birth of the Church.

But what was Peter calling the people to in his Pentecost sermon, the first sermon in the Book of Acts? Repentance. The birth of the Church begins in repentance. The Church itself daily begins in repentance.

I wonder if that put a damper on things that first day of the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, thousands of people were converted, a new wind was blowing. Why did Peter have to bring up anything about repentance? Why the talk about sin? Why take the knife already stuck in them and twist it by telling them that they crucified Jesus?

Because there are certain things we need to know. And God is the one to tell us what we need to know. We may not like to hear what He has to say. We may deny it. We may even ignore it. But His words are clear: know for certain.

What is it we ought to know? Peter concludes His Pentecost sermon this way: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The very last word of the first Christian sermon is “crucified”. The nailing of Jesus to the cross is the center of the Christian Church. At the heart of Christianity is the crucifixion of the one man Jesus. Our Christian lives, they are nothing apart from the one who was brought to death on the cross.

And who did it? The House of Israel. We may not think that applies to us since we’re not Jews. But remember which sermon this was—the first Christian sermon. Peter was preaching to you and me. The Holy Spirit got a lot of mileage out of that sermon almost two thousands years ago by having it still preach today. To you and me in fact.

It’s what we need to hear on Ash Wednesday. On this first day of Lent. Because it’s about repentance. What does the death of Christ do for us if it doesn’t bring us to repentance? If we’re not met with our utter unworthiness and sinfulness in seeing Christ hang on that tree, what are we thinking of ourselves? That we’re okay? Is that why Christ died on the cross? Because we’re okay as it is?

No, He was crucified because we need the sacrifice on our behalf. To repent is to turn around. What do we need to turn around from? We’re thinking we’re okay as we are. We need to turn around and look at that one man on the tree. Because in His death is life. Because in that crucified one is the Lord and Christ.

I was watching the animated version of Ben Hur the other day and Ben Hur kept wanting to serve in the Messiah’s army to overthrow the Romans. But his friend kept telling him that Jesus’ army was not of this world. Jesus came not to battle the Roman Empire. He came to assault our sinful nature.

It is so corrupt that we nailed Him to the cross. We weren’t there, but we have done our part. We keep sinning against Him, don’t we? Why do we do that? Why would we who know why Christ died and rose continue to abuse His commands?

Know this for certain, the one we nailed to the cross with our sins is both Lord and Christ. He is not only the only God but the Savior of the world. That’s why He died. He wasn’t the victim of people who reveled in killing innocent men. He was the Victim God the Father gave on the altar of Calvary as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. He chose that death precisely because He is both Lord and Christ.

Know this for certain, in His death is life. This is how we know He loves both you and me and every sinner—He chose that death on our behalf. Amen.

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