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Summary: On Maundy Thursday, we remember that Jesus gave up his life to death, but it was a death that causes us to live.

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Life-Giving Death

John 12:20-33

March 24, 2005

My wife has a friend whose name is Alex. Alex is 10 years old. She first met him when he was eight and began to attend her church with his parents and grandparents. One day, Alex told his mom and dad that he wanted to be baptized. So they came to talk to Toni about it. She spent some time with them so that they all understood the magnitude of this step. Finally the day came. Alex came forward during the worship service and stood under the flood of God’s grace.

Flood takes on a new meaning with my wife. She has a well deserved reputation of using a lot of water…a whole lot of water…when she baptizes. She says that she wants people to know that they have been baptized when she is through with them. She says that one of the more important lessons she has learned since seminary is that she needs to have a towel handy, especially when she baptizes bald-headed men!

So the appointed day arrived and young Alex came forward, after hearing all about the soaking he was about to receive. He came walking proudly down the aisle…in goggles!

At least she had the foresight to WARN him ahead of time so that he could be prepared.

Have you ever noticed how many warning signs there are all over the place? Everywhere you go, there are signs:

• Deer crossing

• Ice on bridge

• Curve

• Slow, children

• Falling rocks

• Bump ahead

• Work zone

• Railroad crossing

• Church…

Wait a minute. Church? What in the world, you wonder, does the church need a warning sign for? As I think about it, I would offer to you that there is something terribly wrong if the church doesn’t have a warning sign out front. Let me tell you what I mean by that.

We have gathered here on this very solemn night to remember the last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples. This is the night when he took the bread and wine, gave thanks, and instituted a new Sacrament. We are told to remember him every time we participate in it.

This is the night when he would be betrayed into the hands of the officials and handed over by a kangaroo court to be put to death for crimes he did not commit. This is a night that is full of power and passion. This is a night that changed the world forever.

This is the night that Jesus CHOSE. He CHOSE to walk the lonesome valley. He CHOSE to give up his life. He CHOSE to submit himself to the executioner’s cross. He CHOSE this path freely and confidently.

There are at least three different understandings of his death and resurrection. There is the ransom theory in which he paid the ransom for the human race being held hostage by Satan and death. There is the substitutionary theory in which we see his death as the substitute for our own. And finally there is the moral influence theory in which his death is seen as a model of moral behavior because through it, he reveals to humanity how much God loves us.

Which ever one of those to which you subscribe…and I think that our personal theologies are a mixture of all three…the fact of the matter is that Jesus CHOSE this path, and because of that, we will live.

Because of his choice, we have been offered the possibility and privilege of eternal life. Because of his choice, we have all been changed. Because of his choice, we have become new creatures. Because of his choice, things are no longer the same. They have been changed forever.

It is because of his choice that the church needs to have warning signs up in the front lawn because you can never confront Christ as be the same. The signs ought to say something like:

CAUTION! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK BECAUSE AFTER YOU COME HERE, THINGS ARE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT!

WARNING! COME ON IN AT YOUR OWN RISK BECAUSE JESUS IS GOING TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!

NOTICE! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK BECAUSE WHEN YOU COME HERE, YOU WILL BECOME A NEW AND DIFFERENT CREATURE!

We ought to have warning signs up tonight because things are not as they seem. Tonight is a night when we have death on our mind because our Lord is about to be handed over to those who will hang him on the cross. But there is more than physical death here. In Christ, we find death to our old ways of living, death to our old passions, death to our old wants and desires, and death to our old priorities. But this death is the way to true life.

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