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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Behold The Man Who Takes Away Sin

Second Sunday in Lent


He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.


But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”


Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:31-38


Why do people go to church? Why do you go to church? To worship your Lord, singing praises to His name? To socialize with friends? To receive strength and comfort from fellow Christians? To give strength and comfort to fellow Christians? To hear God’s Word and learn more of Him? To give thanks to Jesus for what He’s done for you? To receive your marching orders for the coming week’s battles? All of the above? I hope it isn’t none of the above!


When one man was asked why he went to church, he answered, “To get rid of my sins.” That’s a pretty good answer. Not that going to church gets rid of our sins, but this is certainly where we meet, talk to, and hear from the One who does take away our sins!!


And that person, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. Behold the man who takes away sin!


Some people thought it was the Baptist who came to do that. But John made it clear that he was not the Messiah. It would be another one who would come after him. And so, one day when John was preaching on the banks of the Jordan River, he saw Jesus coming toward him. So he pointed to Jesus and said to the people, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”


In this season of Lent, as we think about Jesus heading toward Jerusalem and the cross, we know He came to do a number of things. One of the things He came to do was to restore a right relationship between God and His children. John the Baptist knew it right off. “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”


We can see Him restoring the relationship between God and His children all through the Gospels. Jesus was announcing and granting God’s forgiveness long before He got to the cross.


In Capernaum a crippled man was let down through the roof to where Jesus was preaching. Jesus said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven… Take up your bed and go home.”


A woman was about to be stoned to death for committing adultery. Jesus stopped the crowd and said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”


Nicodemus came to see Jesus late in the night. And Jesus said to him, “You must be born again.”


In all of these incidents, and in so many more, we see Jesus calling people away from their sins. But He isn’t telling them to work it out for themselves. The whole point of the New Testament is that Jesus came to do for us what none of us can do for ourselves. He came to take away the sin of the world. Let’s look at some things involved in what Jesus came to do.


First of all, Jesus came to reveal a forgiving God. That’s the nature of God – He forgives! It’s so basic in the New Testament: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s basic to our understanding of what God is like. It’s why John referred to Jesus as being the Lamb of God. The lamb was always sacrificed for the sins of the people. And now God had brought His Lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of all the world.


Jesus came to reveal a forgiving God. He came to help us know what God is like, that He loves His children so much that He was willing to give His own Son in order to save them from their sins.


Everything Jesus said and did points to this truth. We see it in His words, His attitudes, His deeds, and His actions. We see it being demonstrated ultimately in the cross as He gives up His own life for the sin of the world. This is how we know that God forgives, not because of any sacrifice we make, but because of the sacrifice Jesus made.


We all need this, because we know that none of us can handle the way we are by ourselves. We need the forgiveness of God. We need it because we like to go our own way and follow our own will instead of God’s. We tend to put ourselves in God’s place, thinking the world revolves around us and our own little wants and wishes. We know we need a forgiving God!


When I was 9 years old, my parents gave me my first football. I think it was my only football. Anyway, I loved it and I loved to kick it. But I was only to kick it in the field across the street – never next to the house! That was no problem until one day when supper would be ready too soon for me to go across the street, and not soon enough for me to just do nothing. So I just stood next to our house and threw it up in the air and caught it. That got boring so I just kicked it a little bit, straight up in the air so I could catch it. I got good at that, so I could kick it a little higher and higher and higher. And then I gave it a good boot and it sailed back over my head, right through the next door neighbor’s window. Right onto their kitchen table. Right in the middle of the supper they were eating. Football and glass! Where could I run to? Where was I going to live? I was never going to be ten years old!


But much to my surprise, the family whose window and supper I’d destroyed forgave me! And so did my parents, who came running out of our house at the sound of breaking glass! I’ve never forgotten that. What an amazing capacity to forgive!


That’s the way God is. And Jesus came to reveal a forgiving God.

And He also came to create a transforming friendship. You see, something happens when God forgives.


The next day after John pointed to Jesus, John was with two of his disciples. Again he saw Jesus, and again he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” When the two disciples heard this, “they followed Jesus.” Jesus turned around and saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” and they said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” That was the beginning of the band of disciples Jesus formed. They wanted to be with Him, and He wanted them to follow Him. Later on, toward the end, Jesus would say to all of them, “I no longer call you servants. Now I call you my friends.”


The friendship they shared reshaped the lives of the disciples. They had been rough men, weathered fishermen, shrewd businessmen, common men, sinners every one. But the friendship of Jesus transformed them. And finally, when He went to the cross, they understood His words, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.”


The forgiveness of God they saw in the cross, and the friendship they had with Jesus transformed them, made them no longer just sinners, but sinners who became saints. There was a power in the friendship they shared with Jesus. That power made them want to be more like Him. He took the sin away from them and replaced it with forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy and commitment, so much so that those who followed Him even bore his name and were called “Christians.” Jesus had told them, “Be imitators of me.” The became like Him.


That’s a transforming friendship we still need today. Life will work right only one way, and that’s the way of Jesus. That’s why the church is still important today. It holds before us the way of Jesus, and involves us in a transforming fellowship with Him. The church has been called “The Fellowship of the Forgiven.” I like that! “The Fellowship of the Forgiven.”


Benjamin West, the painter, said that when he was a small child his mother left him with his sister Sally while she went to the store. While she was gone he found some paint and decided to paint a picture of Sally. He made a terrible mess with the paint. But when his mother came in she didn’t say anything about the mess. She looked at the painting of his sister and said, “Why, it’s Sally.” And then she kissed him. He said, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”


And Jesus loved His disciples into being something they had never even imagined. He does the same for us through His transforming friendship.


And finally, think of this: Jesus came to offer an exciting adventure. It’s true. Because when God forgives and we enter into a transforming friendship, all of life takes a new direction.


Jesus gave those two disciples an invitation. They wanted to know where Jesus was going. They asked, “Where are you staying?” and Jesus answered, “Come and see.” He always calls us to “come and see,” to join Him at the “come and see” place, the place that’s unknown to us, but always full of adventure.


He redirects our thinking. He gives us a new perspective on everything.


He takes a band of sinners and makes them His church. He sends them out with the Gospel message to believe it, live it, and share it.


He leads them to places they’ve never been, and calls on them to do more than they ever dreamed was in them.


He takes away sin by being the sinner’s friend. Then, by dying for them, He turns them into messengers of the Good News, and sends them out on a truly exciting adventure. And they bring the whole world under the influence of Jesus Christ.


But the whole world doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ, including the world around us here today. So Jesus still calls us to share in His exciting adventure and take the Gospel message and believe it, live it, and share it!


On a Sunday morning, early in 1945, a German pastor was preparing to preach when Nazi soldiers came and arrested him and put him in prison. He knew he might not come out of that prison alive.


They put him in a cell, and then he heard someone in another cell whistling the hymn, “Oh For A Thousand Tongues To Sing.” He whistled back a line, and they began to whistle that hymn together. He knew that he wasn’t alone there in that prison. And he knew that Jesus was there with them to uphold them. And with that knowledge he could endure.


In that same faith we will know that we’re in the hands of a forgiving God, held up by a transforming friendship, and led forth on an exciting adventure. All because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the man who takes away sin!


Amen

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