Intro: Our world seems hopeless in many ways. Economically, politically, racially, stock market woes, natural disasters. From a purely worldly standpoint there seems to be no reason to hope.
The disciples of Jesus felt much the same way. Even though Jesus had told them again and again what would happen to Him they hunkered together after their hope died.
Mark 14:50 “Then they all deserted Him and ran away.”
Matthew 26:56 “But all this has happened so that the prophetic Scriptures would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away.”
John 20:19 “In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews.”
Listen to these passages where Jesus promised what would happen to Him.
John 2:18-19“So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign of authority will You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.”
Matthew 16:21 “From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Matthew 20:17-19 “While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately and said to them on the way: 18 “Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. 19 Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day.”
With all that Jesus told and revealed to His disciples, why on earth did they lose their hope when he was crucified? (A very honest part of scripture that points to its truthfulness and reliability)
We can get an idea from a young person interviewing for a job,
"When I applied for that job, the manager had the nerve to ask if my punctuation is good."
"What did you tell him?"
“I said I'd never been late for work in my life."
It seems that Jesus was saying this over and over as He did in Mark 8:21 after feeding the 5000, “do you still not understand.”
There are many opinions about why they didn’t get it. First and foremost they didn’t have the Holy Spirit that would reveal all truth. Second they were looking for something different than who Jesus was. They were looking for a political, economic, and national savior.
The disciples went away from the death of Jesus heartbroken, helpless and hopeless because they misunderstood the cross.
I. The cross misunderstood
We so often look at things in the short term that we can’t see the full scope of God’s plan. The disciples were short sighted. They were looking for relief now. Still they misunderstood the cross.
A) The cross reveals God’s character – righteousness (1:17)
God’s righteousness or justness means that he always does what is fair and right. When God does what is just and right He is simply being Himself. We often think of conduct when we talk about righteousness. God is not righteous because of what He does. God is always right.
However from a human perspective it may not appear that way. From our point of view Joseph being sold into slavery is completely wrong. From God’s point of view it saved an entire nation and the line from which the messiah would be born. Joseph admitted God was right.
B) The cross reveals Gods’ standard – perfection
Galatians 2:16 “know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
Romans 3:20 “For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law”
This is where hope dies. Martin Luther studied these passages and could only see the condemning righteousness of God. (I can’t measure up)
C) The cross reveals God’s wrath -- anger in action
1) God’s anger
How do we see God’s anger toward sin in this passage? To sinners that ignore God and suppress the truth of a need for a savior He turns them over to their degrading destructive desires.
2) God’s activity
Martin Luther originally saw God’s condemnation in this passage. He wrestled with it. Finally God opened His heart to the truth of what was being said. This is not just a display of God’s righteousness but a revelation of the righteousness that God offers to all who look to Jesus work on the cross.
What did Martin Luther find when God opened his eyes? That everything that was wrong, is wrong and will be wrong about us was carried by Jesus on the cross. God’s anger was poured on Jesus so that God’s righteousness could be poured on us!
Why did the disciples hope die? Because they could not see God was right! Why are people so hopeless today? Because they cannot see God is right about marriage, money, babies, senior citizens, etc.
As Oswald Chambers said...
There is nothing attractive about the Gospel to the natural man; the only man who finds the Gospel attractive is the man who is convicted of sin.
When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the righteousness of God it becomes the most beautiful thing we have ever seen. We then give God the authority to determine what is right and wrong in our life.
II. The cross and its message (1:17)
A) By Faith
Jesus didn’t simply pay our debt. He also provided an unlimited account of grace for us to draw from. (Ephesians tells us according to His riches) We begin our journey by faith and continue it by faith. It is God’s righteousness that he imputes (places on us by grace through faith) Jesus doesn’t give us righteousness to work with. He is our righteousness. When we trust Jesus He is our right standing with God.
B) Through faith
God separates us from the world for Himself as we obey Him daily. God changes our behavior from the inside out day by day.
Illustration: Man from Oklahoma homeless shelter.
Where does the problem come from where does hope die? When we ignore that God is right. When we ignore God’s truth about our decisions, desires, etc.
Romans 5 makes it clear. Romans 5:2-5 “We have also obtained access through Him by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
In the common Greek of the day the word for character was used to describe metals that have been tested and determined to be pure. When you go through trouble, tribulation, trials you get a sense of authenticity. This is where we say God is right!
Pressure is God’s classroom. When we hold up under the pressure of life and submit to God’s Spirit instead of our old nature we prove what we are made of. Pressures and problems are our opportunity to say God is right or yes God. We show our approval through His righteousness working in us.
III. The cross and its mission (the mission of the church is to carry the message to the world in word and deed)
Jesus used disciples that didn’t understand His mission or purpose. This reveals to us that the disciple’s success was a result of God’s work, not human achievement.
The cross is despised by the world but it is our rally point as Christians. We are given the mission by Jesus to share that all are accepted the cross of Jesus Christ.
Our mission is to communicate some powerful and hard truths. We must lift up the cross because it is the only message we have for what is wrong with the world. We can talk politics and get a new man in the white house but that will not change the hearts of people. All around us every day are people who are overwhelmed with the weight of sin on their hearts. You can see it in people’s eyes, hear it in their voice. They are burdened and don’t even know it is the weight of sin and separation from God.
This is why Paul gloried in the cross. What sin is keeping you from God today? Is it anger, is it lust, is it unbelief, is it drunkenness, uncontrollable temper, cheating, stealing, adultery, abortion, pride, greed, gossip?
The cross is God’s answer to the world’s greatest needs.
If you are part of the church your mission is to share the hope of the cross with those around you!