One of my favorite poets is William L. Stidger, and I want to begin this message with one
of his poems-
I SAW GOD WASH THE WORLD
I saw God wash the world last night
With his sweet showers on high,
And then, when morning came, I saw
Him hang it out to dry.
He washed each tiny blade of grass
And every trembling tree;
He flung his showers against the hill,And swept the billowing sea.
The white rose is a cleaner white,
The red rose is more red,
Since God washed every fragrant face
And put them all to bed.
There's not a bird, there's not a bee
That wings along the way
But is a cleaner bird and bee
Than it was yesterday.
I saw God wash the world last night.
Ah, would He had washed me
As clean of all my dust and dirt
As that old white birch tree.
We know it was not dust and dirt that he longed to have cleaned, for he did
not need God’s help to wash that off. He could have taken a bath or a shower, or even
jumped into a lake to achieve that goal. What he is longing for is the universal desire to be
forgiven and cleansed from the dirt of the soul so that he could be free from all guilt for his
sins. The good news is that God has made this possible. He did not do it last night, and He did
not do it by means of rain. He did it at Calvary by means of the sacrifice of His Son. We
used to sing the old hymns that went-What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of
Jesus, and Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. I have written what Stidger could have
I saw God wash the world that day
When His Son died on the cross.
His Son Jesus had hell to pay
To spare us eternal loss.
He shed His blood for all sinners,
Now all can be forgiven.
In Him we all can be winners,
Living forever in heaven.
It was the greatest sacrifice
That any had ever made.
For cleansing sin it did suffice
All our debt has now been paid.
I saw God wash the world that day
When He gave His Son to die.
He washed all of our sin away,
And from guilt did purify. That is what Heb. 1:3 is saying by the phrase, “After He had provided
purification for sins….” That is when He ascended and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in
heaven. Jesus accomplished His goal for coming to earth when He died for the sins of the
world, and by that sacrifice made it possible for any who put their trust in Him to be
cleansed and made fit to join Him in the presence of God forever. There has never been a
sacrifice that achieved so much for so many. History is filled with sacrifices that have
saved the earthly lives of many people, but never has their been another sacrifice that
cleansed from sin and saved people for all eternity. Jesus has no competition in this area,
for there are none who even claim that they have been able to make it possible for all sin
to be forgiven by their sacrifice. Jesus is the greatest in every area where He competes,
but in this area there are no competitors, and so His is the greatest sacrifice in the
If you study the word sacrifice in the New Testament you will discover that the book of
Hebrews uses the word more than all the rest of the New Testament together. The
Hebrew Christians it is written to have grown up all their lives going to the temple and
depending upon the sacrifice of animals and the ministry of the priests and high priest. It
is the only sacrifice they knew, and they needed to be educated in understanding the once
for all sacrifice of Jesus that did away with all that was basic to their Old Testament faith.
Once they could grasp how superior this sacrifice was they could let go of the old without
fear and anxiety that they were forsaking the plan of God.
Hebrews does recognize that the old system was God’s plan at the time, but that in
Christ there is a better and complete plan. In Heb. 9:23 we read, “It was necessary, then,
for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly
things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” Then he goes on to say in verse 26,
“But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the
sacrifice of himself.” In 10:10 we read, “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The in 10:11-12 we read, “Day after day every
priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same
sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time
one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews is making it clear
that the once for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was greater than all the billions of
animals that have been sacrificed for atoning for sin. All of them together did not cleanse
from a single sin, but His once for all sacrifice made it possible for every sin to be
cleansed. It was, without a doubt, the greatest sacrifice ever.
The author of Hebrews is trying to prevent the Hebrew Christians from going back to
their old trust in the temples sacrifices. They are suffering for becoming Christians and
there is a temptation to go back to what was safe and escape the persecution they had to
endure by becoming Christians. He is trying to make the point that it is better to suffer in
following Christ and being loyal to Him than to go back to what will not cleanse from sin
and make them acceptable to God. Change has been hard on them, and costly, but it is
worth any price they have to pay to gain the eternal benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus.
They have to suffer by their choice to be loyal to Jesus, but it is still better than
continuing in the old system that does not work, for that is fatal. No number of animal
sacrifices will make them acceptable to God. An ideal example of what their conflict was all
about is the agony of defeat video seen by millions on “The Wide World of Sports” program.
The skier is coming down the jump when all of a sudden he falls off the side and goes smashing
against the rail and tumbles down the hill. It looks like he will spend the rest of his life in a wheel
chair if he survives this terrible accident. But the fact is, it was his choice to make that painful fall.
He realized half way down the ramp that he was going too fast and that if he completed the
jump he would land on level ground, and this could be fatal. He had to abort the jump
and take that awful tumble. We see it as the agony of defeat, but he may have saved his
life by doing it. He suffered only minor injuries by that fall, but may have ended his life
by continuing. Those Hebrews who continued to trust in the sacrifice of animals for their
sins were risking their lives, but those who took the tumble of suffering to trust in Jesus
alone, and His once for all sacrifice, were paying a small price for such an ultimate
success. It was preventative suffering, just as it was for that skier. In essence Hebrews is
saying to take the fall for Jesus. Sticking with the old is fatal, but trusting Jesus is only
painful for a time. It may look like the agony of defeat, but it is the way of the greatest
wisdom and the greatest success.
The reason that the sacrifice of Jesus was the greatest ever is because it is the only
sacrifice that ever worked. All the animal sacrifices just pointed to the need for blood to
be shed and life paid for cleansing from sin. God’s justice demands that when His law is
violated there is a penalty that has to be paid. The wages of sin is death, and so that is the
penalty that must be paid if the guilty are to be set free. Death came upon all, for all have
sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only hope would be a substitute who
could die in our place so the penalty would be paid, and we could be free from it, and not
have to pay it with our own lives. Jesus became that substitute and took on himself the
guilt of the whole world. As the perfect Lamb of God he died for the sins of the world. It
is beyond our comprehension why He would do so. We know He is a God of love and
compassion, but it is still hard to comprehend why He would take our place and suffer
the penalty that is rightfully ours. We need earthly illustrations to help us grasp the
wonder of this great sacrifice. We get a taste of what God did in this true story that I read
“After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church's preacher slowly stood up,
walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced
a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the preacher told
the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he
wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be
appropriate for the service. With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to
"A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast," he began,
"When a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to the shore. The waves
were so high, that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the
boat upright and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized." The old man
hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time
since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story. The aged minister
continued with his story, "Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating
decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the life line.
He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian and
he also knew that his son's friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by
the torrent of waves. "As the father yelled out, 'I love you, son!' he threw out the life line to
his son's friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his
son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never
“ By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for
the next words to come out of the old minister's mouth. "The father," he continued, "knew
his son would step into eternity with Jesus and he could not bear the thought of his son's
friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the
son's friend. How great is the love of God that he should do the same for us. Our heavenly
father sacrificed his only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept his offer
to rescue you and take a hold of the life line he is throwing out to you in this service." With
that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The
preacher again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at
the end. However, no one responded to the appeal.
“Within minutes after the service ended, the two teenagers were at the old man's side.
"That was a nice story," politely stated one of the boys, "but I don't think it was very
realistic for a father to give up his only son's life in hopes that the other boy would become a
Christian." "Well, you've got a point there," the old man replied, glancing down at his worn
bible. A big smile broadened his narrow face, he once again looked up at the boys and said,
"It sure isn't very realistic, is it? But I'm standing here today to tell you that story gives me
a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up his son for me. You see --- I was
that father and your preacher is my son's friend."
J. Allen Peterson gives this simple illustration: “I read about a small boy who was
consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be
home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met
him at the door and said nothing.
At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of
water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained
silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took
the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes,
put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All
my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”
Another illustration is in the story of a one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of
Virginia where it was nearly impossible to get a teacher to stay because of the roughness
of the boys. No teacher had been able to handle them. The teller of this story goes on,
“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher
had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school
the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the
rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the
teacher asked, 'What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?'
"'Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,' came the response.
"A day or so later, . . . the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. 'The thief was
located-a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.'
"As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. 'Take your coat
off,' the teacher said. 'You helped make the rules!'
"The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the
teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy's
"'Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all
agreed?' the teacher asked.
"After five strokes across Tom's back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. 'Little Jim had
reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. "Tom, I'm sorry that I stole
your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for
me! Yes, I will love you forever!'"
This is to be our response to the sacrifice of Jesus in taking our place in paying the
penalty for sin. By so doing he provided purification for sin, or as some versions have it, “He
made an expiation for the sins of men.” Others have it, “He had effected our cleansing from
sin,” or, “He had brought about the purgation of sins.” The bottom line is that His sacrifice
made it possible for us to escape the penalty of sin, which is our justification; the power of
sin, which is our sanctification, and the presence of sin, which is our glorification. Our
complete salvation was purchased by the greatest sacrifice in the universe, and how can our
response be less than that of the little boy who said, “I will love you forever?”
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
And because we believe it, we will praise Him forever for this great salvation. He paid an
enormous price that we might have everlasting peace.
He was betrayed by Judas.
He was denied by Peter.
He was abandoned by the disciples.
He was persecuted by the scribes.
He was railroaded by the Pharisees.
He was mocked by the priests.
He was hated by the chief priest.
He was spat upon and condemned by the crowd.
He was scourged and betrayed by Pilate.
He was crucified by the Romans.
He was forsaken by His Father.
The book of Hebrews is written to warn believers not to add to the suffering of Jesus by
trampling under foot the blood of Christ by ignoring and forsaking such a great salvation.
What Jesus did for us demands a lifetime commitment of love and loyalty. Nothing is to
come between us and our Savior. We are to be faithful unto death, for no sacrifice can
compare with the sacrifice he made for us. He made the whole universe by merely speaking
the Word, and He sustains the universe by omnipotent power that does not exhaust Him at
all. But the work of atonement for sin was hard beyond our comprehension. As the Son of
God Jesus never had to work so hard, but as the Son of Man He had to work harder than
any man has ever had to work. He had to resist all temptation and overcome all evil, and
then lay down His perfect life in sacrifice for all who yield to temptation and submit to all
evil. This called for physical, mental and spiritual labor harder than any other being has ever
had to endure. No wonder that His one act of sacrifice was greater than all other sacrifices
put together. All others never cleansed one sin, but His cleansed for all sin.
This hymn called the Akathist Hymn to the Divine Passion of Christ should be a prayer
from the heart of every Christian.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
Creator of Heaven and earth, Savior of the world,
Behold I who am unworthy and of all men most sinful,
humbly bow the knee of my heart before
the glory of Thy majesty and praise Thy Cross and Passion,
and offer thanksgiving to Thee, the King and God of all,
that Thou wast pleased to bear as man all labours and hardships,
all temptations and tortures,
that Thou mightest be our Fellow-sufferer and Helper,
and a Saviour to all of us in all our sorrows, needs, and sufferings.
I know, O all-powerful Lord, that all these things
were not necessary for Thee,
but for us men and for our salvation Thou didst endure Thy Cross and Passion
that Thou mightest redeem us from all cruel bondage to the enemy.
What, then, shall I give in return to Thee, O Lover of mankind,
for all that Thou hast suffered for me, a sinner?
I cannot say, for soul and body and all blessings come from Thee,
and all that I have is Thine, and I am Thine.
Yet I know that love is repaid only by love.
Teach me, then, to love and praise Thee.
Trusting solely in Thine infinite compassion and mercy, O Lord,
I praise Thine unspeakable patience,
I magnify Thine unutterable exhaustion,
I glorify Thy boundless mercy,
I adore Thy purest Passion,
and most lovingly kissing Thy wounds, I cry:
Have mercy on me a sinner,
and cause that Thy holy Cross may not be fruitless in me, that I may participate here with faith in Thy sufferings
and be vouchsafed to behold also the glory of Thy Kingdom in Heaven.
The act of atoning for the sins of the world is so significant that it is put in a list of the
greatest things that can be listed. Jesus is the heir of all things, and He is the Creator of all,
and He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being, and he
sustains the whole universe, and sits at the right hand of God. This is the most impressive list
you will find anywhere in the Bible, and in that list is added this one, that He provided
purification for sins. What Jesus did on the cross for us is right up there with the greatest
truths in the universe. It is so big and important that it makes the headlines in the greatest
newspaper of the universe. Call it The Trinity Tribune, The Gospel Gazette, or the Heavenly
Herald. It is the paper read by all in heaven, and in bold letters taking up a full page is the
story of the angelic reporter who was assigned to cover the crucifixion. It is titled I
WATCHED GOD WASH THE WORLD LAST NIGHT. That is what God did at Calvary,
for the shed blood of Jesus made atonement for the sins of the world. The more we know
God, the more we will recognize how important it was in His plan to provide purification for
Saphir writes with eloquence of what Jesus did by His sacrifice. "Why has this wonderful
and glorious Being, in whom all things are summed up, and who is before all things the
Father’s delight and the Father’s glory; why has this infinite light, this infinite power, this
infinite majesty come down to our poor earth? For what purpose? To shine? To show forth
the splendor of His majesty? To teach heavenly wisdom? To rule with just and holy right?
No. He came to purge our sins. What height of glory! what depths of abasement! Infinite in
His majesty, and infinite in His self-humiliation, and in the depths of His love. What a
glorious Lord! And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins by
Himself"! It is no wonders that Boreham could not speak too highly of the cross even when
he spoke of it as “the climax of immensities, the center of infinities, and the conflux of
eternities.” You cannot exaggerate the wonder of and the importance of the sacrifice of Jesus
by which he made possible the cleansing of sin.
It is in ignoring this greatest of truths about Jesus that the world goes astray. He was God
in human flesh dying as a substitute for man that man might be forgiven and cleansed from
sin and all its consequences. There are so many willing to acknowledge Jesus as a great
teacher, and even the greatest teacher to ever live. This sounds good, but the fact is, to stop
there is to be a fool, for if Jesus was not much more than that, and even God and the Savior
of the world, then he was not a great teacher at all. One of the most often read quotes on this
issue is that of C. S. Lewis. Let me share it again, for it gets to the point that is crucial.
"Jesus told people that their sins were forgiven.
This only makes sense if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love
is wounded in every sin. I am trying here to prevent the really foolish
thing that people often say about Him: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as
a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is
the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man who said
the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He
would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a
poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him
up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can
fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any
patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has
not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
The words of Jesus are not just the teachings of a great man - on par with other great
human teachers of history - they are the words of God Himself. When we read them, we are
hearing God! Even more than that, when we get to know Jesus, we are getting to know God,
Himself. Anything short of seeing Jesus as God is what some call Jesus lite. It is taking
something true of Jesus but not the whole truth. Hebrews gives us the whole load of who
Jesus is, and Jesus lite is worthless in the light of the full story. He did far more than teach
great truths, for He did something by His sacrifice that is the greatest truth. He washed us
white as snow by the shedding of His blood. We do not really know who Jesus is, or for that
matter, who God is, until we see what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The poet has
captured this truth.
“Where is God?” inquired the mind:
“To His presence I am blind. . . .
I have scanned each star and sun,
Traced the certain course they run;
I have weighed them in my scale,
And can tell when each will fail;
From the caverns of the night
I have brought new worlds to light;
I have measured earth and sky
Read each zone with steady eye;
But no sight of God appears
In the glory of the spheres.”
But the heart spoke wistfully,
“Have you looked at Calvary?” Thomas C. Clark
Jesus sat down at the Father’s right hand because He finished the work of atonement,
which made it possible for John to write in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful
and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” No sin has to
be paid for again, for Jesus paid the price so all sin could be forgiven and cleansed.
The finished work of Christ does not mean that there is no more for Him to do. The blood has to
be applied, and so there is no end to the follow up of the work done on the cross. If the blood
was not applied to the doorpost when the angel of the Lord passed over Egypt the firstborn
would die. The blood had to be applied then, and the blood of Jesus has to be applied today,
and all through history. We apply it by confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness through
our interceding Savior who will plead His blood before the throne of God. Jesus ever lives to
intercede on our behalf, and so He is ever busy in a world where sin is so common. The lost
sinner can do nothing to save himself, for Jesus has done it all, but he still must come to
Jesus and ask for the salvation he purchased and will freely give.
An Englishman by the name of Ebenezer Wooten had just concluded a preaching service
in the village square. The crowd had dispersed, and he was busily engaged in loading the
equipment. A young man approached him and asked, “Mr. Wooten, what must I do to be
saved?” Sensing that the fellow was trusting his own righteousness, Wooten answered in a
rather unconcerned way, “It’s too late!” The inquirer was startled. “Oh don’t say that, sir!”
But the evangelist insisted, “It’s too late!” Then, looking the young man in the eye, he
continued, “You want to know what you must DO to be saved. I tell you it’s too late now or
any other time. The work of salvation is done, completed, finished! It was finished on the
cross.” Then he explained that our part is simply to acknowledge our sin and receive by faith
the gift of forgiveness. Jesus is the one he must go to and ask for this forgiveness. It is free,
but it still has to be asked for, and this is the continuing work of Jesus as follow up of His
Jesus now administers the plan of salvation that he purchased by His sacrifice. It is like
there is an insurance company for all His saints and sinner who desire to become saints. All
the premiums are paid up for life, but there is still the need for applications to be submitted
and for the transfer of merit to cover the cost. We make application for coverage when we
confess our sins to Him, and then he intercedes and pleads His blood as sufficient payment
for them, and then God wipes them from the record leaving it clean. Jesus is ever busy in
making what He did on the cross practical in the lives of believers. By His Spirit He
empowers them to overcome sin and bring them through their trials and tribulations. He is
ever helping them to overcome all the enemies of their faith. He dispatches angels to
minister to them, and gives them the gifts of the Spirit to enable them to serve the kingdom
of God with power and purpose.
Peter said on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:33, “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has
received from the Father the promised Hold Spirit and has poured out what you now see and
hear.” Peter said again in Acts 5:31, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and
Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sin to Israel.” Jesus administers the
work of the Holy Spirit and the vast work involved in forgiveness of sin. What He did on the
cross was once for all, but the administration of His cleansing blood is a never ending task.
The heavenly work of Jesus will never be complete until every possible sinner is cleansed by
His sacrificial blood and made fit to dwell with him in heaven. That is why the author of
Hebrews can write in 10:19-22, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the
Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the
curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw
near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to
cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our goodies washed with pure water.”
Jesus paid it all, and He want to apply His blood to cleanse all who will come to Him and confess.
The greatest folly in the world is to ignore and neglect what we have available in Jesus
because of the greatest sacrifice in the universe.