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  • Writer's pictureGiles Lindley

Why? Because He Loves Us

Thank you Will. Thank you, band. I want to read from Romans the fifth chapter. Pick up with the sixth verse. 

You see, at just the right time. While we were still powerless, christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though For a good person someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates His own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, christ died for us, and since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we save from God's wrath through Him? For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life? Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. 

Well, it's good to be back with you again. I don't often get to do this twice in a row, so this has been fun. I'm going to pick up on a few of those things I talked about last week, about Jesus' humanity and what that means to us. But don't worry, if you weren't here, you don't have to know that to pick up on it, but they are going to connect. 

But I need to start by telling you what I've been up to lately. 

When I retired from full-time ministry about five and a half years ago, I started teaching full-time at Mississippi State University in the communication department and I've been doing that for a while and I planned to fully retire this year in December. I was going to give it up and go home and play with my grandchildren and do all those things that retired people do. 

But I had this really, really great class, some of whom managed to get here today. That just touches me so much. And after a really great day with this fun class, the department head came and asked me could you possibly come back in the fall? So I'm going to come back in the fall. It's your fault, but I did take this spring off to go visit my grandchildren and go to some ball games, go somewhere to play games and just do some traveling. 

And then I found out I was bored. 

I was bored stiff, I just missed them and it was just not the same. So it turned out that, as we were having some turnover here at Starkville First United Methodist, that we had lost our youth director and they needed some help. So I took on the Teenage Boys Small Group, which that is an adventure. If you can get them to put down their phones there they will talk, but it takes a while. And I also took on the youth Sunday school class which I just finished teaching. 

Now I don't expect applause for that, but most of y'all were youth at some point in time and y'all were probably not the very best Sunday school students when you were youth. Now, some of you were, but Bailey was, but the rest of y'all were not. And it's tough and you ought to take a moment to appreciate those people who were your Sunday school teachers when you were that age and they were brave enough to come into this bunch of teens and pre-teens armed only with the Bible and a little Sunday school pamphlet. It is, as they say, an adventure. 

Now I have experience teaching Sunday. I've been teaching, I just added up, 49 years, so I've been teaching Sunday school a lot and I have a few tricks up my sleeve. And my favorite thing to do is come in on the first day of class and give them a bunch of cards and have them to write down questions, and I just research their questions and then we spend the time answering those questions and by the time I finished answering all their questions about theology or Methodism or the Bible or life in general, either they're tired of me and send me on or they come up with a whole bunch of more questions. 

So I did this with the youth class a few weeks ago when I started teaching them and got some really good questions. Going to read a few of them. When do angles come from? Now, I am perfectly capable I'm an educated person, I'm perfectly capable of answering basic geometry questions. But I'm pretty sure this young man was asking where do angels come from? And I explained to him where angels came from and surprised him. He did not know that angels are not dead people. But that's a whole other lesson. 

This one was my favorite. I did this last week. If someone was like a serial killer but was Christian, would they still go to heaven Like he killed people? And we had this extensive discussion last week about the power of God's grace and the power of penance. There are power of forgiveness. Now we did talk about the fact that even forgiven sins have consequences and just because you're forgiven doesn't mean that all the effects, all the aftermath of your sins can be taken away that easily. And then we basically said it's up to God to decide who is sincere and who is not. 

Got one I hadn't dealt with yet, because it's going to be a hard one why did God allow Satan to ruin Job's life? Now, that is one of the most discussed Bible questions of all time and I'm going to work on that one. They make me earn my pay in that class. 

But the one that got me thinking about the sermon for today was this: why did Jesus beg in such a human way in Gethsemane when he knew he would resurrect and ascend? 

She was asking about this story from Matthew 25, right before Jesus was crucified. 

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and he said to them sit here while I go over there and pray. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. And then he said to them my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going on a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed my Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not as I will, but as you will. 

“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Couldn't you keep watch with me for one hour? He asked watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away a second time and prayed my Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. And when he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.”

Of course, the important part of the story is that Jesus did say yes, thy will be done. He's clearly going along with God's plan, which is good for us. But, as my young friend noted, Jesus seems very human here. He does not want to go through this. I think it's not unfair to say he was begging. He asked three different times and I think the key to understanding this is the point that my student made, and it's the same point that we emphasized. We talked about the stories of temptation last week for Jesus. Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of man. 

And Jesus, at least during his 30 or so years here on earth, was fully human. 

When he was a baby, He was a baby. We don't know what was going on in his mind at the time, but physically he was a baby. He got hungry, he cried, he could not do anything for himself. He had to be fed, he had to be changed, he had to be carried. He grew up, but again, again we don't know exactly at what point he understood what things about himself and about his relationship with God, but he grew physically from a baby to a boy, to a teenager. Trying to remember thinking about Jesus as a teenager, ugh, you know, his brothers and sisters must have just really not enjoyed that. Oh, mom likes you best. 

Then he became a man and as a man he could feel the things that we feel. He could be happy, he could be sad, he could be tired, he could be thirsty, as we talked about last week, he could be hungry, he could hurt, which, at least, is part of why Jesus, even though he knows where all of this is going, it's going to have a happy ending. At the very least, he is not overly excited about going through it. What he knows is about to come to pass the next day and that's always an important part of reading this story. Jesus is the only person who knows what's going to happen. No one else does. Not the disciples, not the Jewish leaders, not the Romans, not Judas. No one else knows exactly what's going to happen except Jesus. 

As I told the Sunday School class in answering the question this morning, if you know that you're going to die and you know for a fact you are going to heaven, you still might prefer to die peacefully in your bed than to go through long and agonizing torture. That just makes sense. 

Now there are a lot of ways to go, and I know that there are people who sacrifice themselves, who have given their lives for good and sometimes not so wise reasons, but there are people who would do that. But there are a few worse ways to go than crucifixion.

It's been 20 years now since the movie the Passion of the Christ came out. If you were not 20 years of age or not of age 20 years ago, that's a better way of putting it you have probably not seen it. I'm not sure I can recommend it to you because it is difficult to watch. It portrays in excruciating detail the last hours of Jesus' life, including his death upon the cross. 

I have friends who are scholars of the Bible and scholars of biblical archeology and they love to argue about that movie. They argue about whether this Aramaic phrase was what someone would have actually said or whether this Roman weapon was appropriate for the time, and I just I have never gotten to those arguments with them. 

But I was bothered by something more about my own reaction to the movie. The cross scene is extended and it's hard, and I can imagine that it is as realistic in portraying how hard the cross was as anything. And my problem and it is my problem, this is my problem, was it was so hard that when Jesus finally dies on the cross I didn't feel sad, I felt relief, I felt, thank God, that's over, and I'm not sure that's the right way for me to feel. 

I bring this up not to say you need to watch this movie. I bring this up to remind us of why Jesus might have wondered if there was some other way to do this, if there was any other way to bring this about, because Jesus knew. 

Jesus knew, I do believe that when he was in human form he felt every bit of it, not just the nails and difficulty breathing. He felt the shame, the humiliation, the anger, the feeling of desertion. He felt it all. And no amount of happy ending, no amount of good cause can pretend that the pain was not real. 

That's why those stories we told last week about Jesus' temptation, Jesus' humanity matter. Jesus did not experience the cross as an invulnerable superhero. Jesus experienced the cross as a man. 

I quoted this scripture last week, but I want to come back to it just a few verses of it again, because it's so important. Here it's from Paul, who's talking about Jesus and said “who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, but rather he made himself nothing. By taking the very nature of a servant and being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Just as in the story of the temptation, Jesus did not use his godly powers to change stones to bread or to bring his own glory. Here on Good Friday, Jesus did not use his godly powers to call down an army of angels or lightning bolts or even take away his own pain, and that's why this gift is so great and so important and so powerful, so meaningful and so costly. 

Long before I was a preacher in high school, younger than most everybody here not a few of you I discovered my favorite passage of the Bible. It took me years to come to understand it and I still dig into it regularly, but even at 16 or 17 I knew this was important. It's the fifth chapter of Romans and we read it once, and I want to read just those couple of verses from it again. 

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

It's hard to become a Christian without hearing that Christ died for you, died for your sins. And while that's important, that's not exactly news, although it is certainly the good news. But what's important to see here in the fifth chapter of Romans is that Christ did not die for the religious people, he did not die for the good people, he did not die for the Jewish people. He did not die for the churchgoers Well, actually he did, because he died for everybody. 

But the point Paul is trying to make here is that Christ died for the ungodly, christ died for the sinners. 

He says it twice and, if size the point even more, he reminds the Romans that, yeah, there are some good people and there are some noble causes that someone might dare to die for. But no matter how noble the cause, the people Christ died for were the people who created the problem in the first place, people who sinned, people who turned their backs on God, the very people who killed it. 

And it wasn't because we changed, it wasn't because we had turned to God, because this was before we turned to God, before we repented, while we were still sinners, while we were still sinning to change the tense there, christ died for us. To me, that's what's so amazing about the grace God acted first, God acted out of love. 

There's an old hymn, old Methodist hymn. Charles Wesley wrote it and it's language is old and I don't think you can even try to turn it into a contemporary worship song. But it's hard to say it better than this old hymn says. 

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood. 

Died he for me, who caused His pain For me, whom he to death pursued? 

Amazing love, how can it be that thou, my God, should die for me? 

Amazing love, how can it be that thou, my God, should die for me? 

Jesus died for you. 

Jesus went to the cross for you Before you were born, before you committed your first sin, whatever it was; grabbing a candy bar, saying no or hitting your sister. Long before you repented, long before you even cared. 

Christ went to the cross for you. 

es, there is a happy ending to the story. Jesus is resurrected. Jesus is in heaven until he comes again, and we reap the benefits of that. But what he experienced here on earth was real. It hurt Him, it cost Him more than we could possibly comprehend, and so that's why this season is important. 

We have to take Good Friday and Easter together, because they really don't mean anything without each other. They are two parts of the same miracle, and that's why we want to do this season of Lent, however you choose to keep it, to get ready for those two holy days. We want to spend 40 days, considering both the amazing love and the unbearable cost that accomplished our salvation. I hope you'll take time to spend time thinking about those things, reflecting on things, enjoying the outcome, but realizing what it took to save our souls and to win our lives. May God bless you. 

Let us pray. Most gracious Heavenly Father, we do thank you for your Son and all that he has done for us. Help us to receive this gift, but help us to understand this gift. Help us to appreciate this gift. Help us to know that what is free to us was not free to you, not free to Him, but this gift comes at a cost, thank you, thank you. We pray in the name of your holy, precious Son, amen. 

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