Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

This message was prepared for an occasion when the Year 6 children of St Paul's Lutheran Primary School and their parents participated in the worship service.

Requirements: 2 volunteers, a black robe and a white robe.

Text: Ephesians 2:1b, 4-5 (The Message)
You were stuck in that old stagnant life of sin. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

Why did Jesus die?

For a few minutes today I want to talk about Good Friday. I know it is still a few weeks away, but because holidays start at the end of this week and the Bible readings today focus on what Jesus did for us on Good Friday, I thought this would be an excellent time to focus on the question, "Why did Jesus have to die for us?"

I don’t want to go to great lengths describing what happened on Good Friday but simply say -
Jesus was arrested the night before;
a quick and unjust trial was held during the night;
the Roman governor is confused what all the fuss is about and can’t see why Jesus should be executed. He offers to free either the innocent Jesus or a criminal called Barabbas.
His plan backfires and the crowd wants only one thing – the death of Jesus.
Jesus is beaten, a crown of thorns placed on his head, mocked as a king;
he is taken to hill outside the city and there he is nailed to a cross and dies.

The Bible says, "He suffered and endured great pain for us" … "he was wounded and crushed because of our sins" (Isaiah 53:4,5).

Good Friday first of all shows us that God takes sin very seriously –
sin that we consider to be insignificant and harmless,
sin that demonstrates clearly that there is something seriously wrong with the way we speak and act,
sin that causes us to fail to act and speak up when we should have done something,
and sin that we think no one else knows about – our secret thoughts, desires.

No one likes to own up to many of these things but if we are really honest with ourselves we would have to admit that sin – wrong – ill will – bad thoughts – loose language – or whatever you like to call it – is very much a part of every day.

The Bible says, "He Jesus) was wounded and crushed because of our sins". He died in our place and took on himself all of our sin. He endured the suffering that we should endure because of the way we disobey God.

(Ask for 2 volunteers)

Imagine that N here is you and this black coat represents everything you have ever done said and thought that has been unkind, uncaring, paying no attention to God or the feelings and needs of others.
This is a big coat to emphasise the enormity of our sin,
it covers us completely from head to toe,
there is no part of our life that is not touched by sin,
and it’s black because sin leads to death and hell;
it represents our rejection of God's ways and God's love for us.

One thing is clear, in God's eyes our sin is far more serious and bigger than we can imagine. He made us to be perfect, to have a close relationship with him, to live in peace, harmony with God, other people, nature, animals – our sin reaches into every corner of our lives. I think you get the picture – our sin is serious – it separates us from God.

Over here is NN (with arms outstretched for a moment) representing Jesus. He is dying on the cross. (Take the black coat off first person and put it on the second). Can you see what has happened? As Jesus dies, all of our sin is transferred on to Jesus. Jesus takes with him on to the cross every bad thought, word and deed that you and I have ever done – and look at you and me over here (refer to the other person) – there is no burden, nothing separating us from God, we am free from guilt and judgement.

In fact, Jesus’ death has made us Omo bright as far as God is concerned. (Give to first child white robe). God says in the Bible, "I will wash you as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
God has made us his friends and invites us to pray to him and ask for anything,
promises to comfort and protect us,
helps us when it’s tough going,
and love us even when we are really grotty and hard to go on with.

This white coat is made of special cloth – woven into this coat is love, peace, joy, hope, self control, patience, kindness, discipleship, respecting God, obedience, caring for others and so on.

Listen to the way the Bible describes what happened when Jesus died on the cross for us.
(On screen) "
We were stuck in that old stagnant life of sin. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, with the greatest mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ."

Grab the immensity of this – he should have lost his temper with us – but instead he hugged us – embraced us because of his love for us. That’s what happened on Good Friday. This isn’t just about an innocent man being treated unfairly and dying a horrible death. It’s about God's love and he has lifted the load of our sin and put it on Jesus. On Good Friday we remember with sadness that God had do this, but we remember also with gladness that he did transfer all our sin on to Jesus as he died on the cross.

What Jesus did for us on the cross, he does for us everyday. Throughout the day we disappoint God and are covered in the black robe of sin and every day Jesus takes that black robe of sin from us and replaces it with the white robe of newness and rightness with God.

So why did Jesus die?

God loves each of us so much and longs to be in a relationship with us as a human parent longs to be in a relationship with each of their children.
It’s not just that Jesus died for everyone.
He died for you and for me; it is very personal.
If you had been the only person in the world, Jesus would have died for you. What happened on Good Friday is a very personal thing.
Jesus died for you. When that fact hits home, your lives will be changed.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

19th March, 2006

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