Execution or Once and for all Sacrifice?

Today we mark the entrance of Jesus into the Holy City. Palm Sunday moves us closer in time and proximity to the Passion of the Lord. For those in the Jerusalem, the Gospel was unfolding before their very eyes. There are many things about the Gospel that we take for granted. We live on the New Covenant side of the cross. In fact, we are living in an era some two millennia after Jesus walked the earth. So, ideas like the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ (fully divine and fully human), even the existence of the Bible are just assumed. More to the point of this meditation, we often take for granted the crucifixion of Jesus. For most of us, there is no issue whatsoever believing that Jesus died, was buried and rose again on the third day. This is a basic idea of the Christian faith. But have you ever considered just what made the crucifixion of Jesus a “sacrifice”? Our Scriptures for today reveal that Jesus was nailed to a Roman execution device called the cross. Yet, who of us thinks of Jesus as having been executed. We believe He was sacrificed. For us, it is quite easy to see!

What would we have seen if we had walked by the cross during the hour that Jesus died? Most people of that day would have assumed that another unfortunate Jew was experiencing the horrors of capital punishment. There was nothing in that gruesome event that would have convinced the casual passerby that this was anything more than a criminal being put to death.

So, why is it a sacrifice instead of a brutal form of execution? What makes the cross into “the once and for all sacrifice”. Over the next few days we will consider what the Scriptures have to say in answer to this question. In our study will see that Hebrew sacrifices had to have four things: A sacrificial victim – a spotless lamb, a priest to perform the sacrifice, it had to be at the Temple, and it had to be part of a liturgy.

Read John 19:16-18, Hebrews 10:10-14, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – Executing the Sacrifice

A cursory glance at the spectacle does not readily reveal that Jesus’ death is anything but an execution. From the natural perspective, Jesus is a man, not a lamb. Jesus is a carpenter’s son and a Judean, not a Levite, much less a priest. Calvary was not at the Temple. In fact, it was outside the city gates. And finally, there was not a liturgy taking place. There was no service of worship going on when Jesus was killed. On the face of it, this looks just like the carrying out of a Roman death sentence.

What we know to be true is that the cross is the centerpiece of human history. In Jesus’ perfect act of self-disclosure, He repairs what was lost in the Garden of Eden, fulfills Covenant Promises offered to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22, and to David in 2 Samuel 7. And, Jesus is the typological fulfillment for the Old Testament drama of Salvation History (including connections to the Exodus). Further, the cross is the place of atonement (“At one-ment”), where the sinfulness of man meets God’s gracious provision. BUT, all of this hinges on the cross of Jesus being a SACRIFICE. How can the cross be a sacrifice? We will begin to find out in tomorrow’s meditation as we continue down the Pathway to the Passion.

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