Summary: God’s love and God’s justice come together in the cross. That is how we are forgiven
It seems like everyone in the south is kind, even the Policemen. Tearing out of Spring Hill, TN in my little Saturn, I saw the blue and red lights flashing behind me. The officer was very polite. He gently asked me that dreaded question which has no good answer: “Sir, do you realize how fast you were going?” And then he told me, very politely, that I had been going 47 in a 35. “Oh,” I said innocently, “I was simply accelerating to meet that 45 mph speed sign just ahead of us. When can you begin to accelerate to the 45 mph speed limit, when you see the sign or when you pass the sign?” “That’s a very good question, sir” he responded politely, “You will have to ask his Honor when you see him. Have a good day.” And he handed me a ticket.
You see, he was awful polite, almost too polite, but he still had to administer justice. It would have been kind for him to let me go because I didn’t really understand the law, but it wouldn’t have been right.
There are some things in life that would be kind, but they wouldn’t be right. If Harvard admitted a high school drop-out that might be kind, but it wouldn’t be right. If the Green Bay Packers allowed me to play for a quarter sometime, that might be kind, but it wouldn’t be right. There are certain things that might be kind, but they certainly wouldn’t be right.
And this is never more true when it comes to God. If the perfect God were to allow imperfect, rebellious, cantankerous people into the holy halls of heaven, it might be kind, but it wouldn’t be right. Yes, it might be kind for God to let us in, covered in the crud of our failures, but it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be right for him to admit our cruel words, our selfish deeds and our wayward ways.
But God really wants you in heaven. He really wants to greet you at the gates of his eternal gardens. He really wants to embrace you in the avenues of the golden city. He really wants to be with you, because he’s more than kind. He’s loved you since before the world was made.
The death of Jesus makes that very clear. You may just see a sorry son of a carpenter hanging on a wooden beam. You may just see a failed ministry and another martyr, but God saw so much more that day. It was the day when God’s kindness and justice came together. Let’s see that through our lesson today.
Matthew 27:54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" (NIV)
Jesus’ death brought fear
Matthew tells us that the world was covered in darkness and the enormous temple curtain tore in half when Jesus died. The earth shook and the rocks split. Dead people came out of their tombs.
Those watching began to realize that something was wrong, terribly wrong. They hadn’t just crucified another common criminal, another rapist or insurrectionist. All creation convulsed when this fellow died. That’s why they were terrified. Suddenly, they realized how furious God was. He was so furious that he had tortured his own Son to death. And they began to realize that if he hadn’t done it to his Son, he would have done it to them.
At the cross, you get an inkling how much the just God hates our sins. And it’s terrifying. We have a tendency to blow off some of our wrongdoings as though they mattered very little. “Aw, it was just a little messing around with my girlfriend; it was just a little too much fun with the bottle; it was just a little gum-flapping about the ne’r-do-wells in our town; it was just a little cursing.” There’s no “little” sin at the foot of this cross where God is literally beating the hell out of his Son. His fury is fired by the failures we belittle. That’s why Jesus’ death brought so much terror. God was getting justice for our failures. But Jesus’ death also brought amazement.
Jesus’ death brought amazement
The Greeks and Romans believed that the gods had many sons. Hercules was one example. Zeus came down from heaven, impregnated a beautiful human woman, and Hecules was the result. Hercules was considered the strongest man in the world. But no one had ever seen him. You see, there were a lot of sons of gods, but no one had ever seen these monsters. Now, the Centurion was convinced that he had actually found THE son of God, not some fairy tale.