Isn’t Jesus supposed to fix everything? Only if you’re looking at the right problem. And if you are, a tragic day like Good Friday, when Jesus hung dead on the cross, becomes a day of enormous celebration!
How can that be? He told the Jews He was their king. They thought He was going to topple the Roman government and rule here on earth. They put their hope in Him. They believed Him, and as far as they knew, when He breathed His last breath, their hope was snuffed out with Him. He didn’t do what they thought He would. Why continue to believe? Just grieve and move on.
Honestly, and sadly, lot of people are confused about Jesus. Like one friend who wanted me to pray for her. As we talked, I learned she had never put her faith in Jesus Christ and entered into a personal relationship with Him because she and her husband had once been very sick, and when they prayed, God didn’t do what they asked. He disappointed them, so they stopped believing.
Many share her experience and sentiments. I hear things like, “I read my Bible and nothing changed.” Or, “I prayed, and God didn’t do what I asked, so what’s the point?” Or, “I trusted Him and He didn’t do .” Just fill in the blank. Or maybe someone’s gone to church, done all the right things, and then something tragic happens and they think God did to them or should have stopped it and the deal’s off.
So why Jesus? What’s the problem He fixed? When we understand the reason Jesus came at all, we discover a reason to believe and hope and put our faith in Him even if He never changes anything of our circumstances here on earth.
The answer is in the trail of blood that starts in the Garden of Eden and leads to the cross. The first drop spilled when the Lord killed an animal and used its skin as a covering for Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame after they sinned against Him by eating the fruit of the one forbidden tree in the Garden. Let’s pick it up again in the Old Testament book of Exodus.
Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites are at Mount Sinai and God gives them the Ten Commandments. He establishes laws for every aspect of their lives and relationships with Him and each other. Israel enters into covenant with the Lord, and the Lord gives Moses the specifications to build a sanctuary for Him, that He would dwell among them. Anyone who did not obey the commandments of the Lord perfectly all the time, whether they knew they were breaking God’s law or not, was guilty “and shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 5:17).
The penalty for sin always has been and always will be the shedding of blood, and in Leviticus, God instructs Moses in the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests and details the sacrifices and offerings He requires. Every time I read about it I thank God for Jesus! There’s not land expansive enough to hold the flocks and herds it would take to keep this girl’s slate clean. If I had to slaughter the family livestock in order make atonement for my sins, it would be a bloodbath!
Some sacrifices and offerings covered their iniquity, others their trespasses, and still others their sin. Why the distinction? Why separate iniquity from transgression from sin, for the Lord Himself proclaims:
The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation (Exodus 34:6-9, emphasis mine).
Intrigued, I researched the Hebrew roots for each word (references for Strong’s and the Hebrew definitions all come from www.blueletterbible.org).
- Iniquity is ‘avon (Strong’s H5771), which is perversity, depravity, and a condition of guilt. It is the state of our heart and/or the moral corruption into which we are born: our flesh. I think Encarta’s definition of perversity perfectly captures the essence of flesh: “stubborn unreasonableness, especially willfully persisting in actions that seem contrary to good sense or your own best interests.” The root of ‘avon is ‘avah (Strong’s H5753), which appropriately encompasses the idea of something being twisted, crooked, amiss or distorted, or doing perversely. This describes the state of being all of us are born into rather than a choice that we consciously make.
- Transgression is pesha’ (Strong’s H6588), which deals with our rebellion and guilt as we recognize it, as God addresses it, and as He forgives. It is the expression of our intrinsically corrupt condition as rebelliousness. Its root, pasha’ (Strong’s H6586), means to rebel, transgress, or revolt. As a result of our corrupt condition from birth, we naturally revolt against God until He transforms our hearts and turns us to Christ. Only then are we able to recognize our guilt, receive forgiveness, and address wrong attitudes and behaviors.
- Sin has many roots. Chatta’ath (Strong’s H2403 for) comes from the root chata’ (Strong’s H2398) and refers to the condition and guilt of sin. It is the way we miss the mark and go wrong from the path of what’s right and what is our duty. These are actions by which we incur guilt.
Isaiah 59:2 tells us: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
That my friends is the problem:
The condition into which we are born (iniquity), separates us from God and results in an innate hardness of heart and rebellion against God (transgression), which causes us to err and miss the mark in what we do (sin). While there is some overlap between certain meanings for each term, making them interchangeable at times, the specific differences are at the heart of the gospel.
And Jesus, my friends, is the solution:
Jesus “ was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Healed in the Greek refers to being made whole, “free from errors and sins, to bring about one’s salvation” (www.blueletterbible.com, G2390, iaomai). By Jesus’ stripes, we are saved from our iniquity, transgression, and sins!
When we see that Jesus fixes the problem of our innate sin condition – and He’s the only one who can – We don’t put our faith in Jesus because He can make our lives better or because we want something from Him. We don’t seek salvation to experience a certain emotional state, like peace or joy, or to manipulate a particular outcome, like healing, financial prosperity, or better whatever.
Salvation isn’t the ticket to the good life; it’s the ticket to eternal life.
We are taken from a hopeless state of corruption to one acceptable before God by faith in Christ Jesus, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood” (Romans 3:25). Used two other times in the New Testament (I John 2:2 and 4:10), the word propitiation refers to Jesus’ blood appeasing God, satisfying the penalty our sins deserve and atoning for our wrongdoing. The same Greek root is used in Hebrews 9:5, but in English it refers to the mercy seat, which in the Old Testament was “the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated)” (Strong’s G2435, hilastērion).
The high priest had to follow God’s exact instructions, for if he passed behind the veil of God’s temple into the holy place any other time or any other way, he would die.
After a detailed process of purification, the high priest sprinkled the blood of his own sin offering before the mercy seat to atone for himself, his family, and the Holy Place “because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness” (Leviticus 16:16). He then repeated the process for the altar of sacrifice.
Next, he would he take from the Israelites two kids of goats as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. Casting lots for the goats, one would be sacrificed and the other would be “presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:10). He would “lay both hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22).
Not only is Jesus the final sacrifice for our sin, satisfying the requirements of the law, He is our scapegoat! Our sin was put upon Him on the cross, and like the scapegoat, Jesus took it all away (I John 3:5).
There is no way to earn this salvation! Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
No matter how good a person we are or how great the things we do,
our sin condition exists at birth.
We can’t save ourselves.
Only God can,
and He chose to do it through Jesus.
And THAT is why we need Him.
So the trail of blood ends at foot of the cross: Jesus’ crucifixion, this day, thousands of years ago. His death in our place. How will you respond?
Without Jesus there is only death. But on the other side of crucifixion is resurrection and new life in Christ.
Oh Lord, there isn’t even a way to thank You enough!