Summary: Reconciliation. It’s what Easter is all about. In our Scripture passage today, Paul explains the true meaning of Christ’s life and death in no uncertain terms: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself; that is, in Christ, God was
Why did Jesus Have to Die?
For the past five weeks, we’ve been looking at the story of the Passion or Jesus’ road to the cross. We’ve looked at different people Jesus encountered on the way to the cross, how they contributed to his death and the lessons we learned from each. The first was Caiaphas who served as High Priest over the Temple and leader of the Temple’s ruling body, the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas like so many other Jews had been looking forward to, praying about and anticipating the coming Messiah. But despite all of this, when Jesus did come, most of the Jews and the Sanhedrin didn’t see it and couldn’t accept Jesus for who he said he was, despite all of the miracles, the teachings and even his resurrection. Why? Because Jesus growing popularity and influence among the Jewish people threatened Caiaphas. And so in orchestrating the execution Jesus, he tried to protect his own turf and preserve his power.
Second was Pilate who was the appointed governor of Judea. Because of the stubborn resistance by the Jews toward their Roman captors, there was constant rebellion and unrest. Jesus is brought to Pilate because the Jews could no longer execute capital punishment. Pilate tries to stay out of this quarrel by having the people decide Jesus’ fate. And even though he says that an injustice is being done against Jesus, he refuses to act on his behalf. In his interrogation of Jesus, Pilate asks a question: “What is truth?” Jesus, who said “I am The Way, the Truth and the Life” is the Truth and stands right before Pilate but Pilate misses the moment of opportunity.
Third was Judas, a disciple of Jesus who betrayed Jesus by selling him out to the Jewish leadership. The Gospel of John says it was greed. Other scholars have thought that Judas was frustrated Jesus didn’t act to overthrow Rome and gain Israel’s freedom. Judas may thought that Jesus’ arrest was just what was needed to give him a little encouragement to use his power. When Jesus condemned to deathm, Judas immediately regretted his actions. He went back to the High Priest and said three of the hardest words anyone can say, “I have sinned.” Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Judas went out and hung himself in despair and guilt, failing to wait and see what God could through his failure and betrayal.
Lastly was Peter. He was passionate about his faith. He gave all of himself to whatever he was doing. Yet it was that same zealous, “dive in head first without looking” attitude which often got Peter in trouble. So when Jesus predicted that one of the disciples would betray him, it was Peter who creid out first and loudest, “Surely not I!” But deny Jesus he did, three times that night, contradicting his faith, his pronouncement and the last three years of his life.
Caiaphas. Pilate. Judas. Peter. Each had an agenda and each had a role in Jesus’ crucifixion. They had the opportunity to draw closer to God and the Truth but they’re actions or sins only drove them further away from God. Though none are guilty of Jesus’ crucifixion, they were all in need of reconciliation.
Reconciliation. It’s what Easter is all about. In our Scripture passage today, Paul explains the true meaning of Christ’s life and death in no uncertain terms: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses (sins) against them.” Our Scripture today reveals some magnificent truths about reconciliation. First, it reminds us we have all been separated from God through sin. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and thus we need to be reconciled with God. The very nature of reconciliation implies there is a brokenness in relationship, an emotional and spiritual divide which separates two people. That brokenness occurs when sin enters a relationship. In our relationship to God, it is we who have sinned against God by choosing our will over His and our way of life over His way of life. We have all sinned and we cannot begin to repair a relationship without first acknowledging our sin. The Biblical record reminds us that’s easier said that done. Last week in our sermon, “Lessons from Judas”, we learned that the words, “I have sinned” are spoken only 19 times in Scripture. In the story of humanity which spans centuries and is recorded on more than 1700 pages through 774,746 words, “I have sinned” is only spoken 19 times. The reason is that it’s hard to admit who you are and who you are not, let alone to speak that out loud. And yet that is the very beginning of reconciliation, admitting our sin.