This is an opinion article from a user of WikiChristian.

Sermon by Graham Llewellyn Grove, March 2008, Original copy

Over the last few weeks we've been looking at the events leading up to Easter at church

Tonight's Bible passage is about some of the events that occurred when Jesus was executed

This execution is one of the crucial events in Christianity, in fact, I'd say it's part of the central event of all human history

The Bible passage is Matthew, chapter 27, verses 15 to 26 and 45 to 51

You can find it on page ... of the church Bibles; the words will also be up projected onto the screen

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)
Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”
The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”
Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
.... At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split apart and tombs opened.

When I was uni, I was good friends with a guy from Iran F

He was a devout Muslim - he prayed 5 times a day, read the Quran and so on - we'd sometimes have conversations about our respective faiths

One of F's biggest problems with Christianity was the death of Jesus

Why on earth did Jesus, if he really was the Son of God, die?

What on earth was all that about?

These are good questions

I've asked them before

If you've ever thought about Christianity (and I'm guessing everyone here has because you are church!) then at some stage you're likely to have asked them too

In one sense, the answer is simple - Jesus died so that we could be forgiven and could have a personal relationship with God into eternity

But at a deeper level, the answer is incredibly complex - and it's never really going to make complete sense to us in this life-time

So tonight, I want us to look at just 2 aspects of the story, that help explain to our finite human minds a little bit about the meaning of the death of Jesus

And I want to start at the end of the Bible passage

The final line we read was

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split apart and tombs opened.

It doesn't say in this passage what Jesus shouted out just before he died, but it does in another part of the Bible

He shouted out: It is complete

Those are strange words

And then the curtain in Temple tore in two

That's a strange thing too

What was the curtain in the Temple?

What's the deal about it tearing?

The Temple in ancient city of Jerusalem was a really special building

It was where people came to worship God - in fact it was considered to be the home of God on earth - where God was actually present

Of course, the people then knew, just like we know, that God isn't bound by a human building, but that he's everywhere, but none-the-less, the Old Testament shows us that God did want the people to understand the Temple to be a place where they could come before him

So in the Temple, there was a special area called the "Holy of Holies" and this where a person could come and be in the presence of God

Now there was a very large curtain separating the "Holy of Holies" from the rest of the Temple

The only way to come to God was through this curtain, and the only person allowed to go through the curtain was the high priest

And the priest was only allowed to enter the "Holy of Holies" on one day of each year, on a special day called the "Day of Atonement"

On this day, once a year, the priest would sacrifice an animal, to represent that his sins and the sins of the people could be forgiven by God

All of this sounds like an odd arrangement to us today

But things were set up this way to act as a reminder to people about the differences between God and people

God is perfect and completely good; he's holy

People aren't

A couple of weeks ago, Frank spoke about sin - about how it is being indifferent to God and ignoring God

The thing about sin is, that we're all guilty of it

We do all sin - it turns up in different ways - we don't love people, sometimes we even hate each other; sometimes were jealous, sometimes greedy, we're cruel at times

These things are the opposite of what God is like

And this sinful nature in us stop us from coming to and meeting with God

That's what this set-up in the Temple would remind people - that they couldn't come and stand before a holy and perfect God because they were full of sin - and so, they needed to be forgiven

And so, on that one day of each year, the high priest would go past the curtain and come before God, to ask for forgiveness for everyone; and God would forgive his people

Although we don't have a temple, just like people back then, we also need to be forgiven - because we're full of sin, the same as they were

So when Jesus died on the cross and the temple curtain was torn in two, something really big was happening with how people can relate to God

The curtain that separated the "Holy of Holies" from the outside world was broken

Understand the symbolism - there is no longer anything that separates God from us

So we can now come to God ourselves, without the need for the priest to do it on our behalf, without need for another animal to be sacrificed

Jesus had died as that sacrifice - a sacrifice for every person, for all time

And so God is ready to accept each us now

It doesn't matter what we've done in the past, we can still come to be with God

Somehow Jesus' death accomplished this

It's a mystery how his death accomplished this, but somehow it did

Jesus has torn the curtain that separated us from God

There is no priest needed

There is no further sacrifice needed

Only Jesus is needed

Jesus was the sacrifice and we have been forgiven

And we can come to God, just as we are, and he will meet with us

The challenge now is for us to let this knowledge seep into us; for us to live in a way that shows that we know that it's real for us

If we really can come to God as we are, then we never have to think to ourselves that God won't accept us because of something we've done

And it doesn't matter where we are or what circumstances we're in, we can always come to God, and talk to him in prayer

It doesn't matter what day it is, we don't have to wait until Sunday and we've come to church to be with God; we can always talk to him, pray to him

Because of Jesus, we can always, and should always be living in a way that acknowledges God is open to being with us

When I was about 9 years old, I had a crush on a girl in my class called Tara H

Now I was friends with a guy called Jonathan who had a dirt lane behind his back yard, and we used to love to explore lanes around his house

I was generally a pretty good kid, but I guess I had my criminal moments like most other people

And so one day when we found some charcoal in the back-lane, I decided to scrawl in huge letters across some-one's backyard fence: "I love Tara H"

Now about 6 months later, we were having show-and-tell

A boy in my class called Tim stood up and announced to the whole class that he visited Jonathan's house on the weekend

And then with a nasty smile and well timed pause he said: And guess what was written on a wall near his house! "I love Tara H"

I buried my head into my hands and waited for the full truth to come out

But Tim didn't say anything else; he simply sat down as the whole class roared in laughter

For the rest of the week, everyone was laughing and making fun of Jonathan

Jonathan had kept my secret and hadn't said that it was actually me who was responsible for the graffiti

It should have been me that had to endure the laughter and teasing, but instead Jonathan endured it for days on my behalf!

I, the guilty one, went free

Jonathan, the innocent one, got the punishment

In the passage from Matthew, the guilty man Barabbas walked free and the innocent man, Jesus was punished

It's an incredible thing really, that a violent criminal was released instead of punished, and an innocent man of peace received one the most horrible physical punishments possible

But what's even more amazing is that Jesus actually embraced this punishment - he knew it was coming long before it did, and he accepted it as necessary and crucial for his purpose

In the talk at church 2 weeks ago, the theme was broadly speaking: Sin

In the talk last week, one of the themes was: The incredible love of of Jesus

This week, sin and love meet

In a literal sense, Barabbas and Jesus met

And in a literal sense, the sinner walked free and the man of love died

But you know what, it could have just as easily been me instead of Barabbas, because I'm a sinner too

It could have just as easily been you

In a spiritual sense, I walked free and Jesus died

We walked free and Jesus died instead

Now Barabbas avoiding death was only a temporary thing - Barabbas would have eventually died

But you and me walking free is different matter - it's not a temporary thing in this life

We walk free into eternal life in heaven with God

In the Book of Romans in the Bible, there's a passage on sin that say "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus"

Hundreds of years before Jesus was crucified, the Book of Isaiah of written and compiled

If you have your Bibles with you, take a look at Isaiah 53, verse 3 to 6

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
It was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. 
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

I don't how it all works, I don't know exactly how the punishment on Jesus meant that we could healed and forgiven and receive life in eternity

But that is what God has revealed

He's telling us that just like Barabbas faced punishment and death, we face punishment and death

And just like Barabbas walked free, we can walk free

Jesus died instead of me, instead of us

It doesn't matter how many times you've heard it, it's always worth reflecting on again isn't it?

Knowing that we're guilty and yet have gone free is a life-transforming piece of knowledge

For it a start, the simple fact that we acknowledge our guilt, means that we can't claim to be better or superior to anyone else

There's nothing inherently in me that makes me better or less guilty than any other person, and so how can I have an judgemental attitude towards other people?

It's not our place to sit in judgement of others - if we're not judged, then we shouldn't judge others

And in fact, if we can be forgiven, then shouldn't we be able to forgive?

Forgiving others is something that may not always be easy, but it is something that we should be drawn to do because we know that we've been forgiven

Two commands that Jesus actually gave to his followers were these

Don't judge, so that you won't be judged
And Forgive others their sins

So it was a cold Thursday night, almost 2,000 year ago when a man, Jesus was arrested

The Roman governor, had the power to release prisoners, but the crowd didn't want Jesus released, and instead called for another man to be released, a dangerous criminal called Barabbas, or was the person called Graham, or Nicole or Paul?

And so this person was freed and Jesus was led up to a hill top and nails were driven through his hands and feet into a wooden cross

As the hours passed, the life in Jesus began to fade; he bowed his head, his breathing stopped

The temple shook as an earthquake strengthened and a large curtain hanging up in the temple ripped - tearing into two pieces - opening up the way for Barabbas, and for Graham, Nicole, and Paul to come directly into God's presence

Knowing we can come to God has to effect us

Knowing we've been forgiven has to change us

Let's allow what Jesus has done work in our hearts

Let's be changed because of it

Return to Christianity -> Bible -> New Testament -> Gospel of Matthew -> Matthew 27

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.