Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The King Condemned | Lent 2014

Leviticus 10:1-4

New International Version (NIV)

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

Leviticus 16

The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering[a] and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban.These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.[b]9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar.19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp;their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves[c] and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you—30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Matthew 27:11-26

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[a] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
All these words, hear them with your ears. But, receive them in your hearts.

The King Condemned

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch one of Ravi Zacharias’ lectures. Here is a picture of him. [Show book.] Ravi is a man who was born in India. For much of his early life he did not know where he stood. He was surrounded by a multitude of gods, which left him wondering whether or not there was any real God at all. This left an emptiness in his heart, he lost the meaning for his life, and he almost successfully committed suicide. After taking some pills, he had to have his stomach pumped, and found himself in a hospital recovery room. One of his friends had given him a Bible for his mother to read to him. And, he heard the words that Jesus Christ had said to Thomas, “Because I live you too shall live.”

This inspired him to cling to Christ. He eventually made his way over to Canada. And now he travels the world, telling people about Jesus Christ especially targeting universities. He realizes the importance of ministering and explaining what Christianity is in an often political or secularized realm. Even more-so, he emphasizes the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But, what really reminded me of the lecture from last week was the Question and Answer session. It was kind of funny. Ravi had been up on stage giving his lecture and moved over towards some chairs. Then, one of Ravi’s co-working defenders of the faith came out to help with the questions. As the questions came up either on twitter or from the audience, one of the two men who chose to answer the question would stand up. The question would be asked, and Ravi would say he could answer it, he’d stand up and speak. Or, a question would be asked, and Ravi’s friend thought he could handle it so he’d stand up and speak. They kept standing up and sitting down, standing up and sitting down, standing up and sitting down.

After a while it began to make sense. I kind of came to terms with the common idiom of “this is where I stand.” This is what I believe in. This is what I need to share with you so that you get a good understanding of what I am saying.

Jesus stood before Pilate.

And, Pilate asked him a question. He asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” The priests and the elders tore him down after he said that. But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

He had said enough. The audience would understand. But, we live in a different context. It helps us to go back to the question of what it means to be “the king of the Jews?”

Right now, as we’re reading through The Story, it would seem as if the Jews don’t have any kings at all. In fact, if anything, the Israelites had been running away from authorities. They had fled Egypt through the sea. They would have Judges, those leaders rose up to stop the people from being oppressed, but they did not become kings. It is not until later, in the first book of Samuel that the Israelites ask for a king of their own.

So, who is the king of the Jews? It is the same One who it has always been. Until God had anointed a man to be king for the the Jews lived in a Theocracy. God was their King. And, they were His people.

And, their King was a mighty king. The Leviticus reading from this evening begins after the death of Aaron’s sons. Do you remember what had happened to them? They had been burning incense and offering to God without his permission. Solely for misusing the presence of God, He consumed them with fire.

When Moses heard this he said it was to fulfill what the Lord had said, that He would show himself as holy in the sight of all people. His presence was to be unblemished.

And, Aaron just stood there, speechless.

Then, Aaron is told that he must make an atoning sacrifice to make up for his own sins, the sins of his sons, and the sins of Israel. This never seems to make much sense in our culture. We often think that the sons should have known better, they brought themselves to their own destruction, it’s what they deserved. So, why does Aaron have to pay?

I was talking with a fellow seminarian from Madagascar the other day. And, he was explaining to me that families there are a lot more connected than we tend to be here. The sins of one member of the family bring shame to the family as a whole. If the son were to kill a man, the whole family would be looked down upon.

It is the same here with Aaron. He is just as much to blame as his sons were. He should have led them up in the way that they should go. But, instead they misuse the presence of God. This makes Aaron sinful and the whole nation of Israel blemished before their glorious God.

Aaron stood condemned.

So, Aaron has to make things right again.

This costs him a bull that must be sacrificed for his sins and the sins of the people. Two goats had to be gathered with lots cast, one goat to be sacrificed for their sin and the other goat to bear the curse of their sins into the wilderness. After the lots were cast, the blood of the bull and the first goat would be sprinkled over the altar. While, the second goat would be handed off to a man to lead him into the wild. Aaron and the man who led the goat into the wilderness would then need to wash themselves. But, after such a horrendous affair, I imagine they probably still wouldn’t feel very clean.

This sounds bad enough. But, the Israelites would have to do it again and again, year after year. They would call this the Day of Atonement. The Day of making things right again.

That is until Jesus stood before Pilate.

Do you see how the tables have been turned?

The One sent on behalf of the Father, the One who should be seen as holy, the One who should be submitted to, the King of the Jews, He is on trial. Instead of judging, he is being judged. Instead of ruling, he is being ruled. Instead of showing an act of power, he is revealing his humility.

To stand before God in the Old Testament was to take your life in your hands.

But, here, Jesus Christ stood condemned.

Instead of speaking out against His accusers, he stood there, silent.

He had no sin. But, He had to make things right again for His people.

Standing before Pilate and next to Barabbas, he became one of two goats. But, the people had chosen to let the other goat go free. Barabbas had been released.

And, for Christ they shouted, “Crucify him!” “CRUCIFY HIM!”

“Let His blood be on us and our children!!!”

Although, Pilate did not understand all of this, he washed his hands. He had to be cleansed of this mess. But, I imagine he probably still felt dirty.

Now, here we stand.

We often relate to Pilate, the priests, or the crowd. We often put ourselves in the place of those who condemn. We sit in the seat of judgment over God, we give into the crowd, we are the ones who put Jesus on that cross. But, if we are the ones who are condemning, then why do we often feel as if we are the ones who are condemned?

We want to wash ourselves clean of this whole mess, but somehow we still feel dirty. We remember how we have fallen short, how we have given into the temptation that we so desperately try to avoid.

In the Confession this evening, we stated that we cannot run from God. He knows when we sit and rise, when we lay down, and wherever we are. He is in the heavens and in our thoughts. We cannot escape Him.

We can never hide. And, we are afraid to stand in His judgment.

But, Jesus Christ has come to make things right again. He became the bull and the goat offerings to the Lord, the sacrifice of life to make up for our sins. He became the scapegoat, laying aside his crown to bear the curse and save our souls. In a way he became all of the Old Testament atonement sacrifices. But, in the another way he was none of them. He fulfilled them. He completed the work to make things right again more securely and more permanently than it had ever been done before.

It was a sacrifice worth more than a bull and two goats. The sacrifice was the Son of God.

And, in the finality of this sacrifice, He atoned for our sins. [walking over to the Baptismal Font]—He washed us in a way that we could never wash ourselves. He cleansed us from all sin so that we no longer need to feel dirty. He purified us through His blood. And, he was raised for us so that we will live again.

We no longer need to fear God’s presence. But, instead we may take comfort in it. It is true that he knows us when we sit and rise, when we lay down, and when we get up again. He is in the heavens and in our thoughts. But, in all those places, His hand guides us.

He holds us up so that we can stand.

And, on that final day of Judgment, when we stand before the Lord, Jesus Christ, and see the face of the man who we had condemned, He will remind us that he has already saved us from all of our own condemnation. Nothing can separate us from His wondrous love. He had always been in control. The tables hadn’t really been turned after all. Amen.

Now, may the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus from this day forth. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment