Buying Back What Was His

Billy Graham’s wife Ruth grew up as the daughter of a medical missionary in China.

One day, a servant took the father aside, and asked him how such a lovely family could have a painting of a crucified man placed prominently in their home. They tried to explain why they honoured him.

There is a lot going on surrounding the Cross of Christ.

There is the revelation of Rome’s judicial failure, where Pilate, as part of his disastrous 10 year governorship, abandons the widely respected principles of Roman justice for a decision based on a baying mob’s jeering.

Pilate announces Jesus is innocent some three times… but kills him anyway.

The Jewish legal system also failed. Its laws had become dulled by the insecurities of the high priests, who rightly see in Jesus a threat to their cosy arrangements with the Roman occupiers.

He was also betrayed by an apprentice disciple and abandoned by all but John.

The Cross exposes not only human failure, sin an inadequacy, but also the passionate heartbeat of God’s love for you, me and all humanity.

The Cross

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Him. The victim of rebellious humanity became the vanquisher.

He is a Redeemer. He deals with our disorder in the same way we have to, in our human relationships.

If a husband and wife have a falling out, its not enough to just gloss over the problem and just head off to dinner and a movie. They have to revisit the source of the conflict and resolve rather than repress.

Christ visits our souls and invites us to enjoy reconciliation and forgiveness through our Redeemer.

Let’s jump forward eighteen centuries. One day a young man was out walking when he came across a slave market. He was provoked to anger by the utter indignity of seeing naked human beings of all ages being treated like cattle. It roused in him the kind of anger seen in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. He resolved to act, if ever it were in his power to make a difference.

And that time came to pass, and was a major factor in plunging the US into civil war.

The South were warned but ignored the threat, and the battle began. The Holy Trinity did the same on our behalf.

Unlike the slaves that Lincoln saw, we were under a different kind of bondage; a self-imposed one. We were slaves to sin, and sin aims to kill God, to crucify Him.

Abraham Lincoln

But Christ became our Redeemer. He looked at our sorry plight and as He walked past said, ‘I’ll take him, I’ll take her, I’ll take them all. They are mine now.’

He didn’t only take us, he adopted us. We didn’t just share a household, he adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters. And that is the message of God on Good Friday, where every pathway in the New Testament and every vision of hope in the Old Testament intersect in the God who says, ‘You are mine.’

We are all represented on the Cross, everyone. Even the soldiers gambling for Christ’s garment at the foot of it.

The penalty was not paid to the devil, but to the holiness of his Father which we had ignored.

One day, some young lads decided to play a prank on a Roman Catholic priest. They went to see him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, formerly known as Confession. They jokingly said they wanted to confess their sins and wanted absolution from him.

‘Okay,’ the priest said, ‘But first you must do something. Go over to the crucifix above the altar and say to him, “I do not care less about your dying on the Cross for me.”’

The boys fled from the church, weeping in distress.

Note the amazing proximity of Pilate to the proceedings of Jesus. He is consulted at least four times. Clearly Pilate’s palace was not built next to the crucifixion site. He was probably close to the events because of the mysterious nature of the person he was condemning. He had a special interest, so he stayed around.

No-one except Christ had any idea what was going on beyond the obvious.

Some of you are going through your own distresses that you can’t make sense of. Life has served you up a crisis and you are waiting to come through it all, as am I.

As a lad at my gym said on Wednesday, ‘So you are still around?’ and I join him in that affirmation though my doctors are seldom a source of hope. The Lord continues to give me day after day as a gift that I receive with thanks.

It’s like the old adage: where there’s life there’s hope. But we say: where there is the Lord there’s hope (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, so slow down and climb Calvary to the tomb. Calvary comes from the Latin meaning Skull, so as we ascend Calvary remember that the tomb was not opened to let Christ out, but to let people in to see what had happened.

Some of you will remember reading to children or grand-children the adventures of a toy boat swept away from its child owner. A few days later the child noticed the little boat in the window of a secondhand shop. He got his parents to go into the shop and buy back the boat.

Toy Boat

They bought back what was theirs, and this is what Christ did for you.

By George Robert Iles.

Easter, 2009.