We are continuing our study of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His payment on the cross for the debt of sin we owed. Christ did not die the death of a martyr; He came to be our substitutionary sacrifice. Peter the apostle wrote, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18 emphasis mine).
What is a substitutionary sacrifice?
One of the most famous English pastors, C. H. Spurgeon wrote: "If you believe in Jesus, that is to say, if you trust Him, all the merits of Jesus are your merits, are imputed to you; all the sufferings of Jesus are your sufferings. Every one of His merits is imputed to you. You stand before God as if you were Christ because Christ stood before God as if He were you—He in your stead, you in His stead. Substitution! That is the word! Christ, the Substitute for sinners—The Lord Jesus was standing for men and bearing the thunderbolts of the divine opposition to all sin, He "being made sin for us who knew no sin." Man standing in Christ's place, and receiving the sunlight of divine favor, instead of Christ.
Today, I would like to ask you, before the court of heaven, how is your debt of sin? Is it gone from you? The Messiah has paid your debt for you, but until you receive the pardon, you are still in your sin. Let me illustrate with a real-life story:
In 1829, a Philadelphia man named George Wilson robbed the U.S. Mail Service, killing someone in the process. Wilson was arrested, brought to trial, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Some friends intervened on his behalf and were finally able to obtain a pardon from President Andrew Jackson. But when informed of this, George Wilson refused to accept the pardon! The sheriff was unwilling to enact the sentence—for how could he hang a pardoned man? An appeal was sent to President Jackson. The perplexed President turned to the United States Supreme Court to decide the case. Chief Justice Marshall ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends on its acceptance by the person implicated. It is hardly supposed that a person under the death sentence would refuse to accept a pardon, but if it is rejected, it is then not a pardon. George Wilson must be hanged. So, George Wilson was executed, although his pardon lay on the sheriff's desk. What will you do with the full pardon offered to you by the Chief Justice—the God of the Universe?
I want to end this story with a thought about what happened as the soldiers cast lots for Christ's clothes. Consider this. At the same time that Jesus was dying in agony for them, these men were indifferent. They were playing games and unconcerned about His suffering. It was just an ordinary day for them. They did not realize that their eternal destiny hung in the balance, that everything depended upon this act of selfless love by Jesus. This picture shows us the indifference of the world to Christ. They played a game as if it did not matter. Whatever you do with the matter of Christ's sacrifice, know that this does require a response. What will be your response to this gift, this sacrifice? Like George Wilson, will you leave it on the table?
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your great love and mercy expressed to us in the giving of Your Son to die in our place. Please forgive me and help me to never play games with such things as Your sacrificial death in my place. Cleanse me from sin and make me new. I turn my life over to you and desire to be free from the spiritual shackles that have bound me. Amen! Keith Thomas
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 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. Edited by Michael Green. Published by Baker Books. Page 317.