Colossians 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Ashes on a sackcloth banner. Nail pins on the lapel. Refusing to sing Alleluias. Stripping of the altar.
There is a note of sobriety and somberness about the Lenten season. And that is as it should be. The liturgical silences and the somber worship of Lent serve to underscore the profound tragedy of our sin and the awesome penalty that sin exacted: the very death of God!
But the somberness of this season is tinged in victory. For the cross is not merely an emblem of suffering and shame, but the image of victory and triumph. The cross is not actually an emblem of defeat, but the sign of conquest.
The cross, in of itself, to be sure, wasn’t much. In fact, it wasn’t worth anything. And crucifixion victims were a dime a dozen to the Roman soldiers. Life was cheap to them and their commanding officers, and they could nail a man to a cross as easily as you or I squash a bug. So the cross itself was not all that extraordinary. And yet the cross of Jesus had tremendous power – but only because of the victim who hung there on it. Listen to what Scripture has to say about Him who hung there: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”
Did you catch that? All the “fullness” of God dwelled in Him. In other words, He is the One who made the stars and set the planets spinning in the first place – the One who called forth this infinite universe out of nothing at a single word. And yet, He allowed Himself to hang there, naked and despised, the victim of the sins of man. Can you get your heart around the infinite love of this God of ours who would stoop so low for us all?
And now, because of Jesus, the cross is a most powerful sign, indeed. And if you’ve ever wondered what God is really up to in your life, then take a look at the cross.
As trials and troubles tumble upon you from all sides, making your life difficult and discouraging, you can easily ask, “Where is God? Has He forgotten me?” As you stand beside the deathbed of your child, the thoughts effortlessly pour forth, “Has God turned His back on me?” As you witness all the misery, loneliness, destruction, and death in the world – and at times we Christians appear to receive a double portion of it all – you may freely cry out, “Does God care? Is He really there for me?”
“Where is God?” we ask. There He is – hanging dead on Calvary’s cross.
- If you have ever wondered what God’s will is for your life, then take a look at the cross.
- If you have ever wondered whether God is interested in you, or whether He actually loves you, then take a look at the cross.
- If you have ever questioned whether God cares about death, then take a look at the cross.
For through the cross of Jesus we come to know God and what He is truly like. For this is all we know of God and all we need to know: He is a God who dives right into the horror of our sin and death, taking it all upon Himself and bearing it all away, even though it means His own death.
Admit it, we don’t like to talk about sin. We prefer to cover up sin or excuse it or pretend it isn’t important. We will skip church, so we can hopefully skip over our sins. We gloss over the religious pictures and symbols in our home, so we can hopefully gloss over the misdeeds we commit in the home. We plead ignorance or accident to our principal or parent or spouse or employer, hoping that they buy it, and then hoping that God buys it, too.
There is only one way to deal with sin. It isn’t by covering it up, excusing it or pretending it doesn’t exist. The way to deal with sin is by killing it. God kills sin when He allows His Son to be killed on the cross.
- The cross is not just an emblem of God’s love that we hang on our wall at home.
- The cross is not just a token of forgiveness that we wear as jewelry around our neck.
- The cross is not just an image of sacrifice that we tattoo on our skin.
The cross is where Jesus tackled the real sin of our lives and purchased real forgiveness “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” And this peace, the Bible tells us, the world cannot give. A peace purchased with the blood of Jesus, backed up by His glorious resurrection, and presented now to you within His Church.
The peace of Christ’s body broken and given to you in pieces of bread in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus on the cross is even imprinted on the communion wafers we usually use. The peace of Christ’s blood shed and given to you in the portions of wine in the Lord’s Supper. The cross is even fixed to the chalice used as our common cup for communion.
Have you ever had to make a peace offering? Maybe you said something to a loved one that you really shouldn’t have said which caused some hurt feelings. Maybe a discussion with a coworker turned into a heated argument and things in the office were now strained and awkward. Unfortunately, our words and actions get us into trouble and we need to make things right again. So, the husband brings flowers home for his wife and the employee brings donuts into the office. These peace offerings seek to restore some semblance of peace and harmony to the damaged relationship.
For centuries sinful man has tried to make peace offerings with God, except that flowers and donuts don’t get us anywhere. We didn’t just damage our relationship with God—we destroyed it. Through sin we shattered our relationship with our heavenly Father and there is no hope for us to repair it—no way for us to reestablish harmony with God.
We needed a peace offering to give to God, but we were powerless to provide one. Paul reminds us that God provided the peace offering. How remarkable is that! He was wronged. He was hurt. He was the one who was betrayed and offended by our sinful behavior and yet he took steps to reconcile us to himself. He made the peace offering.
And what a peace offering it was! Infinitely more powerful than flowers or donuts, God’s peace offering lasts forever and it covers over a multitude of sins. Paul says that God reconciled us to himself through Jesus “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Flowers would not cut it. Good works were of no help. The only peace offering that could make us right with a holy God was the blood of his eternal, almighty Son, Jesus Christ.
It is the body and blood of Jesus, broken and shed on the cross, which Jesus offered to His disciples in the Upper Room on Thursday evening. Jesus became the Passover Lamb. The unleavened bread became His body. The fruit of the vine became His blood. This Feast of Victory replaced the Passover Meal. It is a meal of peace and unity at our heavenly Father’s table, dining with our Spirit-united brothers and sisters, with our Brother, Jesus Christ, who is both Host and Meal.
No matter what else is going on in your life right now; no matter what turmoil is boiling over at work; no matter what tension you feel at home – you can come to this meal and receive peace. Peace of forgiveness. Peace of reconciliation. Peace of unity. Peace with God. Peace through Christ.
It is this peace that causes us to sing – even when we may not feel like it – “It is well with my soul” (CWS: 760).
Donuts and flowers are good. But not for God. The only thing God accepts is His Son’s blood shed for humanity on Golgotha’s cross. So give thanks today for the only peace offering that you will ever need with God: a Savior who was willing to shed his blood so that you could be at peace with God. Give thanks today that you now have a new relationship with God. Jesus, our peace offering, has brought us back to God. He has wiped away our sins and given us new life. Enjoy the peace and harmony that you now have with God and look forward to the day when we will all enjoy perfect harmony in heaven.
All through the peace at the cross. Amen.