As we build up to Easter this year we will be starting a series called for God so loved. Looking at the wonderful miracle the Cross of Christ was. Just what is means and what went into it and the glory of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Today we will start off by looking at what went into the history of the Cross.
The reality is that “For God so Loved” that He prepared the way, so that the cross would make sense to us and would be a fulfilment of prophecy!
That is why I have titled the message this morning For God so loved; He prepared the way.
The reality is that the idea of the cross was established right from when God first called men to follow Him, and even before that, God was preparing man to understand and receive the salvation that had been planned by God before the foundation of the earth.
Let us just remember the Cross was not a “plan b” - it says in Revelation 13:8b
“…the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
So how did God prepare the way?
He prophesied it
The reality is that God prepared the world to hear, believe and understand the sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross.
There were over 360 prophecies foretold about the coming Jewish Messiah - hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Jesus fulfilled all 365 of these prophecies.
We have probably heard this before but have you ever stopped to think how absolutely impossible this fact actually is!
The “greatest” prophet of modern times is Nostradamus. He predicted thousands of predictions, and if you are liberal with your interpretation he has about a 5% hit rate, some argue for as little as a 1% hit rate.
Why is this important? What is the significance of all this? Well it shows us that this is not something that was simply made up, it was initiated and confirmed by the planning of God and the power of God.
In fact so accurate are the prophecies that it has been argued that Jesus simply followed the predictions about Him. (an impossible feat on its own) The story of Christ could not have been simply made up.
More than this this shows the preplanning of God in the preparation of the whole world for the salvation that He wanted to reveal to them!
Matthew in his gospel is blown away by how much of Scripture Jesus fulfils; lists approximately sixty-eight Old Testament references cited in the Gospel of Matthew. In addition, the technical expression, “it is written,” in the perfect tense (gegraptai), is found nine times Twelve times Matthew cites Old Testament prophecy in conjunction with the term “fulfilled,” together with such phrases as “that it might be fulfilled” or “was fulfilled,” “is fulfilled,” “should be fulfilled.
He saw the significance of a God who had been guiding His peoples history to this end, and in fact God had been guiding all history to this end.
The implications of this are too profound for us to grasp; if God has been guiding all history according to His plans and purposes it means that He is still guiding history, and He is, in fact, guiding my History! God is in control!
Nothing said was contradicted or ignored, everything was fulfilled! This is truly profound!
However, as we approach Easter we are in danger of falling into what C. S. Lewis calls the Horror of the same old thing.
He says in the Screwtape letters as the devils advice to his apprentice
“The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart–an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, an inconstancy in friendship.”
We can fall into this trap. We have heard the Easter story so many times and hear so many sermons that we lose the significance and awe that it should hold in our lives, for we so long for what’s new!
This Easter I want us to stop and remember; what happened 2000 years ago was the most important and significant event that has ever happened in history!
We know it to be truly significant because God went to so much trouble to ensure that we fully understood it, and were fully prepared to accept it!
The reams and reams of prophecies over the millennia prepared the hearts of the Jews and indeed all of mankind to hear and accept the cross of Christ!
For God so love us that He prepared the way in prophecy! Not only that but He also:
He Illustrated it
What do I mean by this? Well something that amazes me in scripture is the pictures of Christ that are given to us in the Old Testament! It is truly amazing how much detail is given to us about who Christ is in the Old Testament is uncanny and the description of Easter is profound!
God gave us a living illustration in the Old Testament to ensure that people could see the light that He was sending into the world.
I’m sure as I am saying this, images from the Old Testament are running through your head.
Images such as Psalm 22!
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Isaiah 53 is another startling description of who Christ is;
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
God not only gave us prophecies concerning the coming of His son and the salvation of the world through His sacrificial death upon the cross; He illustrated who Christ was, and what He would be like and in massive detail what the Cross event would look like.
These simply cannot be coincidence. The description is far too clear, the image of who Christ would be was far too descript to have been the work of men.
No, God was preparing the world to see His son. He was showing the world in ever increasing detail what His Son would be like and what would be required for His Son to go through in order than we might be saved.
The Old Testament is full of Christ archetypes. People who emulate who Christ would be and what He would look like.
Adam is the father of all men according to the flesh; Jesus Christ is the spiritual Father of the faithful, for through Him alone do they receive life. Through Adam, sin and death came to all men; through Jesus Christ, we have received grace and eternal life. Sin and misery came into the world by Adam’s disobedience; but our redemption has been wrought by Jesus Christ, who became obedient even unto the death of the Cross.
Melchisedech’s name signifies the king of justice, and he was king of Salem, which name means peace: Jesus Christ is in a far higher sense King of justice, and the Prince of peace who bought for us everlasting peace. Melchisedech was not only a king, but also a priest; Jesus Christ is our sovereign king and priest. Melchisedech offered bread and wine to God as an unbloody sacrifice; Jesus Christ offered Himself to His Eternal Father at the Last Supper, under the form of bread and wine, and continues to do so in the Holy Mass.
The birth of Isaac was promised repeatedly; so was the coming of Jesus Christ. Isaac was the only and dearly beloved son of his father; Jesus Christ is the only-begotten and beloved Son of God, in whom His Father is well pleased. Isaac was obedient to his father, and was willing, out of obedience, to give up his life, letting himself be bound, and waiting patiently for his death-stroke; Jesus Christ was obedient to His Heavenly Father, unto death, even unto the death of the Cross. “As a sheep He was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb without a voice before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth.” Isaac himself carried up the mountain the wood on which he was to be slaughtered; Jesus Christ carried up to Calvary the Cross on which He was to die.
David not only foretold the sufferings and glory of the Redeemer, but was himself a type of Him. He was born at Bethlehem; he led a hidden life during his youth, and conquered Goliath with a contemptible weapon (Jesus overcame Satan by means of the despised Cross). He was persecuted by Saul, to whom he had done nothing but good; he was patient and full of love towards his enemies. He was both prophet and king; he ascended the Mount of Olives, crossing the brook Cedron, bowed down with grief; and returned triumphantly to Jerusalem (the type of the Ascension), having gained the victory over his enemies (“sitteth at the right hand of God”).
These are only a few examples. The reality is the Bible is full of pictures of Christ. These are not coincidence, these are there to show that it is God alone who has the plan and He was making sure that men knew what was coming: Jesus; Saviour of the world!
Not only did God prophesy and illustrate He also
He ensured it
God orchestrated and guided all of history to the point where He would reveal His Son to the world, and where His son would be set up to die for the sins of the world.
We must take into account how God moved the history of Israel and the entire world for the coming of Christ and His death upon the cross.
The Jews alone compromised his calling on their nation many times and yet he still secured them and Christ still came.
The other nations of the world waged war on this insignificant nation over and over, and still God secured them and Christ still came.
The Roman empire overthrew the entire know world and put imperial rule over the nation of Israel, yet God secured their history and Christ still came.
Satan Tempted Christ, yet He endured.
The Jews conspired against Him yet He endured, the Romans gave Him up, Yet God used this to His plan.
Christ’s own follows were scattered and deserted Him yet the cross endured.
In all things God ensured the Cross! He prepared the world for it.
And the cross has become the fulcrum of history itself.
So as we could find salvation through His sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Easter is not just another calendar event it is the centre of all that we believe, it is the panicle of History, it is at the centre of the ultimate plan of God.
God so loved that He prepared a way…
So what is our response?
With our Love
God did this so that we could be with Him, so that we could glorify Him forever, the simple response of this is to love Him!
He does not need our love, but He does deserve our love and our devotion.
We also respond
With our Lives
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
The only response we have to offer God is our lives, every aspect of them, to be lived out in loving appreciation for what he has done!
For every part of our lives to reflect our love for Him and our appreciation for His amazing love and grace upon us.