First Things. After the Crucifixion. What is the gospel?

Filed on 16 April 2017 in Speeches category. Print This Page

First Things. After the Crucifixion.  What is the gospel?

What is it that God did at Easter?

Let’s tease it out. Go back to the beginning – for what were we created?  Eden was perfect and God walked there…

What went wrong?  Rebellion

What did the prophets of the OT do and say?  Preach; confront; deliver messages; condemn; foretell. Foretell what?  Deliverance; the kingdom is coming; the Branch; there will be a day…; the Messiah.   Isaiah 53 the suffering servant punished for our iniquities. Restoration; redemption; reconciliation; renewal; resurrection (remember the valley of dry bones Ezekiel 37:2).

They will be my people and I will be their God Jer 24:7; 31:33  Ezekiel 14:11  Ezekiel 37:27  Hebrews 8:10  Rev 21:1.

All things will become new.

There is the promise of heaven, “behold, I make all things new.”

You may remember that scene in The Passion where Mary the mother of Jesus gets through to him on the Calvary road and Jesus says “See, I make all things new.”

Thomas Howard in his book Christ the Tiger expounds on this theme of Christ speaking to us:

I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop.  I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak.  I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains.  I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek.  I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation.  For I announce to you redemption.  Behold I make all things new.  Behold I do what cannot be done.  I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten.  I restore the years which you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair.  I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder, and the identity lost to you because of calumny (lies) and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of.  And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.

What did John the Baptist do and say?  Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  It is very close. He is here.

What did Jesus do and say?

Mk1:15 Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

He sent them out 2 by 2 healing; urging people to repent; good news

Teaching what it meant to be good; how to be good (the good Samaritan; Love God; love your neighbour; greater love…); this is what the Kingdom of God was like; allow the little children…

And then He died. The dreams of the disciples were shattered.

But there’s more.  He rose from the dead.  So now He’s going to tell us why He allowed this to happen.

So when Jesus rose from the dead and came to His disciples, what He said on that very first occasion was going to be of immense importance.

Come with me to be with the 10 disciples as they huddle together in the room before Jesus comes in – remember Judas is missing and Thomas is missing.

What are the disciples feeling?  Be there with them if you like – what are you feeling?  Take 20 seconds…

Confusion – what went wrong?  The ball-game had changed so quickly from just 7 days earlier with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Fear of the religious rulers – what will happen next?

Grief and despair – their dreams of an earthly deliverance and kingdom were shattered.

Guilt and blaming – for falling asleep in the Garden; for not being there when Jesus really needed them; for denying Jesus.

Anger – that the religious rulers did what they did.  Maybe at people like Nicodemus who were unable or unwilling to prevent what they saw as a catastrophe.

Purposelessness – what do we do now?

Jesus comes into the room.  What does He say? John 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

First of all, Peace. Be at rest. All is well and shall be well.  Cease your blaming and self-blaming.  Fear not.  Trust Me.

Secondly, a sense of future and purpose – so I send you.  There is a task to be done – as the Father sent me, I send you.

Then He breathes on them.  I imagine a big, audible breath with an unfolding of the arms in a forward, expansive movement – receive the Holy Spirit. How powerful!  Not just a psychological manoeuvre (heaven forbid that we could even think that), but power incarnate from Jesus still in bodily form giving power from on high with the promise of more to come with the coming of the Counsellor.

And then – here’s the amazing thing – if you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

You have a purpose; I am giving you a much higher purpose than anything you could have imagined.  Do you remember how I pronounced forgiveness of sin and that this was so much more than healing people’s bodies?  Now I give you the same authority.  There is much more than earthly justice and revenge at stake here because of what happened to Me.  This is a new thing.  This is what you are now to do.

Peace.  I send you.  Receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive in My name.

We have to be careful with this passage and not be too dogmatic about its interpretation.  It tends to be glossed over as too difficult but think about it – here is Jesus, risen from the dead, dealing with first things, giving His first instruction to the shell-shocked disciples.  I find this astonishing – there are 10 million things He could have said and He says this!

Peace; so I send you; receive the Holy Spirit; forgive.

OK, what does it mean?  Interpreted simply and directly from what we already understand in scripture it looks from this passage of scripture as if at we also have a divine commission to proclaim forgiveness as Jesus did.  As the Father sent me (to proclaim forgiveness) so I send you (to proclaim forgiveness). Jesus sends us to proclaim the good news of God’s forgiveness to all who will believe and accept it.  This is the heart of the gospel.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and for us to be reconciled to God.

So interpreted simply, this is huge!  It is both a privilege and a responsibility.

When we proclaim forgiveness in the right way and at the right time this is an extremely powerful thing to do.  To the troubled mind – particularly to the repentant who has sought peace and not found it – you are forgiven; God our Father has forgiven you through Jesus His Son; be at peace. 

Am I suggesting that we can personally forgive sins?  No, heaven forbid!  This is a proclamation.  That through Jesus there is forgiveness of sins.  What the Law could not do, Jesus has done.

This is not of us.  This is not us being our own gods.  This is of God and to be treated with the reverence and awe that it deserves.  Be careful in its proclamation.

So, what do we do?  Stop the person in the street and say “Your sins are forgiven”.  What reaction do you think you might get?

To help us in this let’s look at a little closer at what Jesus did in His ministry?  What exactly did Jesus say?

Did He say “I forgive you”?  No, He made a statement “your sins are forgiven”.  He was making a pronouncement although in fact He did have the authority to forgive (“…the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Matt 9:6).  He made that pronouncement in select circumstances and clearly knew the need of the person to whom it was given.  He made it to the paralytic man.  He did not make it to the religious rulers!

What about His plea from the cross?  You know it well:

Luke 22:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Did He proclaim forgiveness? No.  He said “Father, forgive them”, not “your sins are forgiven”.  There was a big difference – when they become aware of what they have done, forgive them.  And we read on the Day of Pentecost how many were cut to the quick with guilt but were then saved from their sin.

On a personal level this authority to proclaim forgiveness must be treated with great caution and with the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  On a wider scale it can be preached with great authority as Paul did in Antioch

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”  Acts 13:38,39

Acceptance of the proclamation of forgiveness is necessary. 

This in a sense is at the heart of the Gospel.  The paralytic man clearly would have accepted the forgiveness that Jesus pronounced.  The Pharisees would not have accepted and instead would have got angry.  We have a choice and we must make a decision.  If we accept the forgiveness of God we are also acknowledging our sin and that we need forgiveness.  Those who with self-righteous attitude say I don’t need forgiveness are refusing to acknowledge that they have (at the very least) sinned against God (if not their neighbour); refusing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God; refusing to believe that He came to die for their sin; refusing to believe that this drastic act was necessary for their sin to be atoned for; and refusing the heart of the gospel message.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).  We accept with humble thanks or we reject.

Putting it simply we can say to people:

  • Good news!
  • God wants you to be reconciled to Him
  • God loves you and Jesus came and died for you.
  • Accept this truth and you have forgiveness.
  • That’s it!

Sticking points:

  • Repent – of what?  No, I don’t see any need to and I won’t
  • Jesus dies for me?  How silly is that!  No, I won’t come to God on those terms.

Regret is not enough.  Repentance is needed.  John the Baptist preached repentance and those who accepted their need of that were baptised.  Peter preached (Acts 3:19) “turn away from your sin and turn to God.”

To those of you who are burdened and troubled now with a sense of sin from however long ago and you have sought freedom before God from that burden and you are here now in God’s house, I say to you, we can say to you, on the authority of the Lord Jesus, your sins are forgiven – be free!  On behalf of Him who said “Come unto Me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”, I say you are free.  Be before Him – Jesus – in wonder and adoration and praise.  Weep if you need, shout with joy if you want. Yes! Wonder at the greatness of this Son of God who came to earth in weakness and now sits at the right hand of God.

This is the Gospel.  This is the Good News.  Forgiveness is available to all who truly seek it.

Proclaim forgiveness to all who seek it and are willing to receive it.  This is what we have been given authority to do.

Lachlan Dunjey. Morley Baptist Church, April 2010.

Share |