Jesus died so humanity had a pathway back to being His image bearers. It was the cross that secured our path back to Him.
April 13, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Romans 14:7-12
For those of you that are with us, maybe for the first time, thank you for spending your Resurrection Sunday with us.
If you have your Bibles, would you grab them. We’re going to be in the book of Matthew chapter 27. And then we’re going to be in the book of Romans chapter 14. We’ve been working systematically through the book of Romans. We like to study the Scriptures, just one verse at a time all the way through to see what’s in there. We’re going to stay in our Romans teaching this week. We’ve been in an incredibly appropriate Resurrection Sunday message about the judgment seat of Christ. That was a joke, by the way.
We’re going to kind of stay in that idea. But first, I want to just take a couple of minutes to draw our eyes to the cross. And you might say, hey, I thought Resurrection Sunday was about the empty tomb — it is.
But this whole last week, we’ve been considering and looking at different aspects of Scripture. We did an exercise as a team on Wednesday. We did seven stations of the cross with a guided prayer time. And during one of those stations, I felt like the Lord showed me something I had not ever seen before in the story of the cross.
Now I have been in church most of my life. There was an early part where I didn’t choose it. And then there’s a later part where I did. But I’m 50 now and I’ve been in church for 50 years. So I’ve always been in church. And so I don’t know that there’s a resurrection or an Easter message that I haven’t probably heard. But as I was reading it, I felt like the Lord just dropped something into my heart, and I want to share it with you before we jump into Romans.
Let me set the scene for where we’re at. We’re not going to read the entire story. We’re going to be in the crucifixion. And we’re going to be right toward the end of Jesus’s life. This is in the latter hours of His time on the cross. And so you can imagine, at this point, He’s already endured incredible suffering and incredible trauma. I don’t know if you know this, but when Jesus went to the cross, what was administered to Him — the punishment that was put upon Him — was different than the normal punishment that was put on a crucifixion candidate.
How many have ever heard the term “Pax Romana?” It deals with the concept of peace that Rome had. And the Roman government paid bonuses to their governors based on the peace level of the region. So if they could keep things on lockdown and keep things clean, they would get a higher bonus. So there was a fiscal incentive — how many have ever worked for a bonus? You work a little harder if you know it’s coming. There’s a financial incentive for them to keep the peace. And this Jesus character had created such a stir and such an uprising in the Jewish contingent that it was important for them to quell it.
And because there’d been such an outcry and there was so much unrest in the Jewish culture at that time because of Jesus, the Romans decided to administer a far greater-than-average crucifixion to make a point. So what Jesus has suffered — the pictures that we see — some of those we’re familiar with. The amount of abuse, the beating that He took, and the whips–that was abnormal for a crucifixion candidate.
It was regular for them to be maybe flogged and beaten up by the guards. But it was very rare for them to go through these multiple stages of abuse where they were made a spectacle of. That never happened. That would have been saved for a king that had been conquered and they were trying to make a spectacle of it.
So here we are, at the end of His life, He’s on the cross. He’s nearing death. He’s bloody and He’s disfigured. He’s already cried out, “My, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He’s already come to this point where He realized something: The Father left Me. He left Me alone in this condition.
So Matthew 27:50-54 says, “Then Jesus shouted out again, and He released His spirit. And at that moment, the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. And they said, truly this man was the Son of God.”
Would you pray with me?
Holy Spirit, we just ask for your wisdom and your guidance. You’re the guide and the teacher. We can read the text, and we can study it. But it’s you who has to bring revelation and illumination and show us the things that matter. Lord, we count this time a privilege. It’s an honor to be together as a family. Would you give us your wisdom and your insight? In Jesus’ name, amen.
Here’s what I saw that I can’t stop thinking about. He shouted. We see this right here in the text. Then Jesus shouted out again. He shouted, and something cosmic happened. The physical realm responded to His shout. I’ve read this over and over and over again. And I had never noticed that. What did He shout? Let’s take a look at what He shouted. Maybe what He said was what it responded to.
“Tetelestai” is what he shouts out. The word simply means to bring to fulfillment or completion, to be done. It bespeaks an action that is definitively complete and no longer in process. It was a term that was used often in banking at the end of a loan. They would stamp it and make a declaration. It’s over. It’s done. It’s paid. So it was a common word. It wasn’t a word that would have been new to them.
Here’s my thought. Have you ever noticed in life that how something is said is often more important than what is said? Let’s talk about the low-hanging fruit of marriage. Let me give you a for instance. Hey, babe, you good? Yeah, fine. How many know that she’s not fine? How many have ever asked that question and then immediately went uh-oh. Somewhere in the course of today, I did something. I don’t know what it is. And now I’ve got to figure out what it is.
How many understand that if you ask the same question, “Hey babe, you good?” and the answer is, “Yeah, I’m fine,” it means something completely different, does it not? You’re like, alright, the world is good.
See, how something is said is often as important or more important than what is said. Then if we consider the syntax of the original Greek, how Jesus makes this statement gives us an understanding of what it means. It says, “Then He had cried again with a loud voice.” Now there are four Greek words that make up this phrase.
The word “to cry out,” it’s to cry out as a raven. How many have ever heard a raven cry? I have a Yorkie, a little eight-pound dog supposed to weigh six pounds. So she would make an incredible meal for some of the birds of prey in our region. And I’ve noticed that she has this kind of tick when she goes to the backyard. She seems to go to the bathroom with a lot of concern. Like when the ravens squawk or cry, she does this thing, no matter what process she’s in, she just stops and looks. Because that cry means something. It’s a pierce. The idea of this is it’s a piercing cry. It’s not something quiet.
It says, “He cried out again.” The word in Greek here means that He did it an additional time for emphasis with great volume and intensity in making words. So He said something that was intelligible. And He said it with great energy. Okay, why is that important?
I want to draw our eyes to the fact that He’s almost dead at this moment. How many know what crucifixion death was? How did they die?
Asphyxiation. A crucified person didn’t die from the pain administered to him. He died because he couldn’t breathe. And they didn’t stop breathing because they got tired. The way they were crucified, they were stretched intentionally tight. Stretched physically to where their legs were bent just to touch. And the only way they could draw breath was to push against the nail that went through the ankles to pull against the nail on the wrist long enough to draw breath. As you can imagine, most of those breaths were short and quick. They weren’t long, deep breaths.
When you go to yell or shout, what do you need? You need a long, deep breath. So for him to shout at this point, for Him to emit this incredibly loud, intelligible phrase, would have taken incredible focus and would have been absolutely out of the norm for one being crucified.
He shouted and something cosmic happened. I missed this most of my life. He shouted and graves opened. He shouted and rocks split apart. Now I’m not a scientist. I just think about Star Wars.
And when the Death Star hits a planet, there’s this sonic boom that happens. Depending on how good your sound system is, you get the effect of it. But there’s something supernatural that has to happen for a rock to split apart. How many have ever split a rock by yelling? Wouldn’t it be funny if inside of our homes we could do that? Then you could drive by somebody’s house and tell if they’ve been shouting at each other a lot because all their landscape rocks would be split.
Rocks don’t just split apart. That takes a force of energy that is outside the norm. It says the moment that He shouted, the earth began to shake. The one that gets me is the veil in the temple. How many have ever heard that the veil was torn? How many know what that veil was like? 60 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and four inches thick. It was changed every year which was part of the process. So it didn’t get old and deteriorate. Whatever happened at that moment took a four-inch thick piece of fabric and split it in half immediately. That’s like two and a half phone books thick. How many remember phone books?
Whatever happened was a supernatural force. Dead people, when He shouted, came out of the grave and came back to life. Can you imagine being in downtown Fort Collins on Mountain Avenue, walking by the Rio? When you see somebody you went to their funeral 15 years ago, you buried them, you mourned for them, you cried over them, and all of a sudden they’re walking at you? You’re like, what happened? I don’t know, the earth just spit me out.
In military expeditions, there are two specific kinds of shouts that almost every military in the world has something they say. If I say, “hoorah,” who says that? Yeah, it’s the United States Marines. It’s called a battle cry. That’s the thing they say when they’re rallying each other. If you study it through history, almost every civilization and almost every great military have had something they said going into battle. That’s a battle cry. It’s a war cry.
There’s also a victory cry. How many have ever watched UFC? How many are tired because you watched it last night? How many have ever watched an athlete when they win a match or a bout? What’s almost the first thing they do? There’s just this shout, a yell for victory.
I would love to suggest that in this moment on the cross, what the created order was responding to, this cosmic event, they were responding to their King’s victory cry.
Why would creation respond? Because I think at that moment, creation knew something that humanity hadn’t figured out yet. Creation knew at that victory cry–that moment that He shouted and gave up His last–something was accomplished at that moment. At that moment, creation was restored to her King. And she responded because of it.
I’d love to suggest a second idea. This response was intended to be a sign of grace to humanity. How? Because at this moment, the created order and the cosmos were both joining in the victory yell and stamping something that we were to pay attention to in humanity.
The Roman soldier’s response should be a clue for us. Because he got the point. Something supernatural, something cosmic had just happened. These Roman soldiers weren’t just any old Joe. At the time, this is the most elite military in the world. No one had expanded further and faster than the Romans. They were known as hardened, vicious military guys. And this guy says something. He was declaring an incredible statement. And I think his words are to become a living testimony for those who would listen: Truly, this is the Son of God.
Now, it’s interesting if we know the Roman culture. This phrase, “Son of God” was reserved for one person. Who knows who it was reserved for? Caesar. On their coins were inscribed, “Son of God.” “Divi filius” was the phrase that they would inscribe on the coins. It was the phrase they would use. They believed that the Caesars were a gift from Heaven to the earth and they had supreme authority on the earth.
So his statement, what he’s stating, as a military guy, under the authority of Caesar, is really dangerous for him. It would be akin to treason. Because what he’s declaring is, “you’re actually the king.” I think the Roman soldier wasn’t declaring something out of endearment. What he was declaring was an authority reality. What he was saying kind of went like this: uh oh, this Jesus Christ is the true King of the universe. We just killed the King.
So let me take us back to our study in Romans. If you have your Bible, let’s go to chapter 14.
I want to pick us up in verse seven. “For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. For Christ died and rose again for this very purpose so that He might be the Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died. Why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God, for the Scriptures say, ‘as surely as I live,’ says, The Lord, ‘every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’ Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.”
What the Roman soldier declares about Jesus being truly the Son of God is summed up here in what Paul teaches in this passage. And Paul’s teaching this for a very clear reason. He’s trying to communicate to a young culture of believers the magnanimity of the one they believe in. How big is this one you believe in? And I want to take these few verses and just look at them for a second.
This first phrase, “so whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Paul’s communicating the reality of His authority. Our belief in Him does not enthrone Him, His identity does. He’s not the king of those who believe in Him, He is the king.
We make a grave mistake if we assume that He’s only the king if we believe in Him. He’s only to be followed and adhered to if I believe in Him. The truth is, and what Paul’s teaching here, is we belong to Him, whether we believe it or not. He’s the king of the universe. And what we see in this Matthew 27 passage we just looked at is the created order stamping that moment of His death. Trying to communicate to humanity, hey, pay attention to who this is.
Paul goes on and says Christ died and rose again for this very purpose to be the Lord of both living in the dead. There was a purpose in His death and resurrection. Do you know that in the book of Genesis it says that humanity was created in the image of God? We were image bearers. The original intention of God was that we would carry His image and when sin entered humanity, we lost that image-bearing ability.
How many are at least honest enough to say, “Yep, my nature’s not God?” How many like me have a sinful nature? What we inherited at that moment was something far more difficult and grave to deal with. We lost it, but in His death and resurrection, Jesus secured an opportunity for humanity to once again have the ability to carry the image of God. To carry the nature of God. We can say it this way, He secured a path back for us through the cross.
Paul will go on and say remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. To this young Roman culture, Paul will promise judgment is coming. And we don’t like judgment. We’re like, I don’t like that word. Come on. It’s Resurrection Sunday, let’s talk about something much nicer.
Humanity will stand before God. We will stand before God. And the question that will be issued there will be the question of choosing His image or living our own. What did we do with the opportunity that Jesus restored? And what did we do with our old nature? Because Paul will make a statement in chapter 13 that we are to lay aside our old nature and instead put on the nature of Christ.
Paul’s statement of this young Roman culture is look, the way has been paved, all you have to do is step into it. And he restates it one more time. We must see in the Scriptures when things are stated twice in close proximity. It’s done for emphasis. He says, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.” And with that, Paul is answering the question of eternity. Because just like in our day, in that Roman day, in that Greek day with all the philosophers, there was a bunch of people saying, there is no life after death. There is no God. Hell’s not real. Heaven’s, not real. You just live once and then you die. So do what you want in your lifetime.
This is not a new story. This is an old story. And Paul restates this to the young Roman culture because they’re at the epicenter of the world at this time. It’s the most important city in the world at this moment. And so they were high on philosophy. Some of the greatest scholars of the day were coming out of this area. And Paul just says, timeout, yes, you need to hear me. Each of you will give a personal account to God.
My question is, at which moment will you acknowledge and surrender to Jesus as your King in your authority? Because in verse 11, Paul says, let me quote you what God says, as surely as I live, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess allegiance to God. The confession of allegiance is an identifier saying yep, you are the king.
Paul’s question to the young Roman culture is, when will you bow your knee? Will you bow it now? And let go of your old nature and embrace His nature? Or will you be one of those that waits until that judgment day and bow your knee because you have to?
And you say, you know what, I chose my nature, not yours. I was such a fan of myself that I couldn’t choose you. I liked my nature. So I was unwilling to lay it aside.
Paul’s question is this, will you accept the kindness of Heaven towards you? I want to consider that for just a second because at His death we see the created order respond in such a way that tells us the King had won. He had completed what the Father gave Him to do. He broke death. He transcended decay and He purchased all of humanity back to the Father. Please sit on that statement for a second. At that moment, Jesus Christ reconciled all of humanity once and for all time.
Wrap your minds around this. Whether humanity believes in Him or not, He is actually their King. Whether you and I believe in Him or not, He’s still our King. The question is not “Is He the king?” The question is whether or not you and I will walk aligned with His authority, or are we going to be those that stand in abject rebellion, refusing our King because of some entitled sense of freedom?
We find a lot of ways to say it. But in the end, we’re all saying the same thing when we refuse Him. “I don’t want You,” or “I don’t need You. I got this.” What I see Paul teaching here is a really big idea. Humanity is not free. We’re either bound to the authority of our sinful nature or we’re bound and surrendered to the authority of the one who defeated it.
Have you ever thought about that? This idea that I just get to do me is an illusion. We are under the authority of the King, some willingly and some unwillingly. And Paul’s statement about this last day, saying each of us will give a personal account to God, needs to be what it is. What it’s intended to be. It needs to be concerning for us enough to say, “I don’t want that day for my story to be I was too proud. I was too insecure. I was too arrogant. I was too stubborn.”
I love this part of the Resurrection Story. Jesus beat death. He beat sin. When He breathed His last and yelled Tetelestai, it was over. What He said was it’s done. Humanity is purchased back. I have freed them from death, they’re mine now.
Surrender and adherence to His way brings certain promises and incredible opportunities for those who trust Him. It brings spiritual freedom. It brings authority. My favorite is it brings friendship opportunities with the King. You can transcend having a distant God and move into having an intimate friend.
But refusal brings something as well. And this is Paul’s message in Romans 14. It was the created order’s message in Matthew 27. And it was the revelation of the Roman soldier: He is the King. So choose Him now. Don’t wait to bend your knee for the first time on that final day.
Whatever it is in your life, maybe you’re young, you’re like, “I’m not sure I’m ready.” Maybe you’re old and you’re like, “I think I’ve gone too far.” All those answers are just dumb excuses that we come up with.
I’ve shared with you before, my friend Linfield Crowder. He’s passed now. He used to stand in front of crowds of people and just ask this question: Eternity, eternity, where will you spend eternity? And what will you do with Jesus?
I want to lead us into bread and cup today. In Corinthians, Paul will talk about the bread and the cup and Jesus says to “do this in remembrance of Me. As often as you eat it and drink it. Do it in remembrance of Me.” And He says, “Let a man examine himself.” What is the examination to be? Have I chosen to choose Him and His righteousness?
If you’re like, yeah, but I screw up all the time. That’s my favorite thing about the Kingdom. Screwing up is part of it and we get to repent. There is no perfection index from our King. He is not one that would say, all right now that you’ve come in, you better live clean. His heart is so different. His heart is hey, I want to partner with you and show you how to live. We sang it earlier. “You came from Heaven to earth to show the way.” It’s not just the way back to salvation. It’s not just the way back to His nature. It’s the way He wants us to live. How He’s called us to live. How He’s built us to live.
I promise you this. With Him, you will find your best life. This is not a pep talk. It’s a reality. I don’t know about you. But if I look at my life without Him, it was very clear where the run rate was going.
I want to invite the prayer teams to come forward. Would you stand with me, please? If you’re here and you’re like, you know what, I’ve never really just bowed my knee and said, “Jesus, I’m in.” I’d love to invite you to come to meet with one of these team members and just let them pray for you. Maybe you’re like, hey, I don’t do that. Great.
Romans chapter 10, verses 9-10 say, “If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.” It’s really what it’s about. So as you take the bread and the cup and take the elements, maybe for the first time you say, Jesus, I don’t know what this is going to look like. But I want Your nature. And I’m saying yes.” I’d love it. If you do that, just find one of us. Just tell us.
Jesus, we love You and we honor You. Lord, I don’t know how I missed all these years that the created order absolutely stamped when You died. We honor You. We sang it, “All hail King Jesus.” We honor You, the rightful King of Glory. Thank You so much for the cross. Thank You so much for the empty grave. Thank You for Your kindness and Your grace and Your love. As we take the bread and we take the cup, we do this today in remembrance of You. Honoring Your sacrifice, declaring it again, and stating that we are Yours. We love You. We honor You.
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