Posted by: lepages | January 18, 2010

I believe in….

Below are my notes from my preach yesterday morning. Controversial at times!! Feel free to respond! As well as my notes below the preach is now online, so you can have a listen and see how what I said compares with what I had in my notes!!

God bless you as you read/listen!

The Apostle’s Creed
“I believe in… Jesus Christ who suffered under Pilate,
was crucified,
dead and buried:
he descended into hell”

17/01/2010
Introduction
Good morning! I need you to put your brains in gear this morning, because we’re going to touch on some controversial areas today! There are times as a preacher, when you end up thinking, why ever did I agree to preach on that topic – in my case its even worse – why ever did I put myself down to preach on this topic? I’m sure someone else could bring a lot more theological know how to this subject… but you’ve got me… so we’re going to battle our way through some
tough concepts!

There are parts that for some of us with our Western mind sets, are a struggle, but it is important that we don’t gloss over the tough bits in Scripture, because other wise we don’t understand the enormity of what our God has done for us. As well as the tough bits for some of
us in our Western mind sets, there’s also some tough bits in terms of saying ‘Actually, what does scripture really say????’

At the start I want to say that it is okay to challenge and to question – its often the way in which we grow spiritually as God redirects us. Job in the Old Testament questioned God, but then God came and questioned him – so if things in this series, or in your life cause you to question God, or question me, go ahead and do so – the Psalms are full of people doing that – but if you do question God, be prepared to be questioned by God!

In our section of the Apostle’s Creed for today there are 5 descriptive words:-
– suffered
– crucified
– dead
– buried
– descended

These are truths on which the foundations of our faith are based. These are truths which we often sing about. These are truths which we reflect on as we take bread and wine, and will do a little later, but are they truths which we really understand and have entered into?

We’re going to work our way through step by step.. so are your brains ready to work???!!!

I believe as our brains get to work on this so God by his Spirit can move our spirits, to respond to what he has done for us in Christ…

Romans 10:17 World English Bible says:-
“.. faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

So lets expect God to speak through his Word today.

I believe in Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate

I think we have an idea of what Jesus suffered physically under Pilate. For some of us, this was brought home with fresh power through Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ where vividly displayed in graphic detail was the physical suffering that Jesus endured.

But it wasn’t just the physical suffering under Pilate. Last week we thought about how we acknowledge Jesus as Lord. We read from John 1 about how all things were created through him and how he is Lord of all.

Imagine the humiliation of the Lord of all creation, being questioned by a mock ruler who ruled under the pleasure of the Roman Caesar who saw himself as being Lord. Imagine the humiliation of being mocked as a king, when he was the King of all creation.

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, but when he suffered he knew he was not suffering under Pilate’s power.
In John 19:10,11 Pilate said to Jesus:-
“Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realise I have power to either to free you or to crucify you?”
To which Jesus replied:-
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

Jesus recognised that as he suffered under Pilate he was fulfilling his Father’s will.

Why would that be the Father’s will? For his only begotten Son to suffer in this way?

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate to fulfil God’s purposes.

I believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified..

Crucifixion is regarded as one of the cruellest death penalties that human beings have ever come up with.

Why was Jesus Christ crucified?

Pilate might have thought it was to avoid an awkward political situation – to calm down an annoying crowd, to get rid of a potential rabble rouser who would claim Lordship instead of Caesar, but Scripture tells us another reason – and this is where some of our Western minds may struggle.

1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us:-
“…Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Turn with me, if you would to 1 Peter 2:22-25
Writing of Jesus Christ, Peter says:-
READ 1 Peter 2:22-25

Sacrifice is not something that sits easily with Western mind sets. We prefer to focus on ‘our rights’, ‘our freedom’, but in Jesus we see all those things rescinded – he gave up his rights as God, as Lord of all creation, as King and submitted himself to the worst that we as human beings could bring.

Why?

He wasn’t just making a sacrifice – sometimes we will sacrifice something for the good of others – maybe go without something we are longing for, to be able to give aid to help the appeal for finance for Haiti for example – maybe sacrifice time to serve practically in some way to serve others – maybe even as a Pakistani Christian, Pervez Masih, did sacrifice his life by struggling with a suicide bomber to prevent as many others as possible from being killed.

The difference with Jesus was that he wasn’t making a sacrifice – he was the sacrifice.

In the verses we have just read we read these words “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) In 1 Corinthians 5:7 we read that “…Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

The Old Testament is full of sacrifices, sacrifices of grain, of oil, of birds, of goats and of lambs – all for different reasons – and what we sometimes fail to realise, is that these sacrifices were not just offered to God, but enjoyed by his people as they shared in a meal.
The Passover sacrifice in Egypt before the Hebrew people fled to freedom was a meaningful meal, but with some of the sacrifices there was a symbolic action of placing hands on the head of an animal as a symbol of placing the sins of the people on it – there is something powerful about the symbolism of things being taken away, dealt with.

As human beings, we cry out for justice. How often do we hear on the news of people who have lost someone as a result of murder or other tragedy, expressing a sense of resolution and ability to move on once justice is being seen to be done? We cry out for justice. We long, when there is stuff wrong in our lives for it to be sorted out, but we fear the process. I guess that is why sacrifice is such a part of world religion and belief.

A desire to do something to put things right and deal with what’s wrong. In Islam at the time of Eid, many animals are sacrificed around the world. Many tribal and animistic religions engage in
sacrifice – but so do many others – perhaps not blood sacrifices, but ‘if I could just do this, then it might make up for…’

Justice demands that someone pays. And we must justly pay for our sin and rebellion against God. For millennia people sought to do this through sacrifices and still do, but God’s word is quite clear, they can never be enough.

Turn with me if you would to Hebrews 10:1-10
READ Hebrews 10:1-4

But God doesn’t actually want sacrifices. So he makes a plan to make a sacrifice once for all to deal with the problem.
READ Hebrews 10:5-10

Jesus bore your sin, he bore my sin, in his body when he was crucified, so there doesn’t have to be sacrifice any longer to try and appease God or to ease our guilty minds.

I believe in Jesus Christ, dead

Jesus’ sacrifice was complete. It was done. He died. He cried out on the cross
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

And in v50 we read:-
And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

We might think, why is it important to state that he died in the creed – the truth is that if he didn’t the sacrifice wouldn’t have been completed… and through the centuries people have sought to
deny that Jesus died. The Gnostics said that he didn’t die, that someone else went in his place, and many Muslims today believe the same. I have heard Muslims argue that God would never allow one of his prophets to die in such a humiliating way, and say that he was replaced with Judas instead. This is all about wanting to make things comfortable in our own minds – but that’s not the way God works…

I believe in Jesus Christ, buried
Romans 6:3,4

Burial is a finishing time. Its a closing of the door on a life once lived. Its a time of saying goodbye to an old life. It can be a very hard time, because it is a very vivid saying goodbye to a life that is gone.
The burial of Jesus is important. It symbolises an old life finishing – and what we come to next week in the Apostle’s Creed symbolises a new life beginning.

Baptism follows that symbolism.

In a few weeks time, as we open the baptism pool in the middle of the floor here, as folk are baptised, as they go down into the water, its a symbol of their old life being buried with Christ, and of them being raised to a new life as they come up out of the water.

We come to the final descriptive word in this section….
I believe in Jesus Christ, he descended into hell

This is one of the most difficult expressions in the creed.

Whilst I grew up in a church which didn’t use the creed, I think I’ve always believed that Jesus went into hell when he died, because if he took the punishment that we deserve then surely he must have gone into hell. The problem is that as I’ve studied for today, its very difficult to find any scriptures which say this. There are some which are tenuously used from 1 Peter 3, and confusing as they are, you really have to stretch the interpretation to make it say that.

I’ve researched on the internet the writings of great reformed theologians, John Calvin and Martin Luther, and they both avowedly say that Christ descended into hell…. but strangely…. they provide no scriptural basis for their assertion…. in many ways, it seems a right thing to say, but in truth, unless someone can show me otherwise from scripture, it seems to me that we can’t honestly say that as truth, as we have no foundation for it .

Some more recent versions of the Apostle’s Creed used in mainstream churches have replaced the word ‘hell’ with ‘the grave’ – and I think this is important. We have said that Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and one might think why have this additional phrase then? But it is important! Why? Because its important to understand that Jesus wasn’t just crucified, dead and buried because of what others did to him. He gave himself. He gave himself to the guards who came seeking him, He gave himself to Pilate as he questioned him, He gave himself to be crucified, he gave himself to bear our sins when he struggled desperately at what lay before him as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he gave up his spirit. He gave himself all the way – out of love for his people, to put them back right with God.

Jesus’ sacrifice was to bear our sins, to take them on his body and have his Father turn his face away from him in horror at what he bore, in much the same way that we might turn away in horror if we were to see the most perverse crimes being portrayed before our eyes, he died in our place, so that we might be put back in right relationship with God and enjoy him, as he longs to enjoy being with us as his people.

I asked Brian & Jean to read from Romans 5 before I preached – thank you for doing that – I’d like to read it again as I conclude:-
READ Romans 5:6-11

“I believe in… Jesus Christ who suffered under Pilate,
was crucified,
dead and buried:
he descended into the grave”

Prayer

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