In my estimation the next section of Matthew 27 records the second most important thing to ever happen in human history.
“On their way out of the city they met a man called Simon, a native of Cyrene in Africa, and they compelled him to carry Jesus’ cross. Then when they came to a place called Golgotha they offered him a drink of wine mixed with some bitter drug (or vinegar mixed with gall or myrrh in other versions of the New Testament), but when he had tasted it he refused to drink. And when they had nailed him to the cross they shared out his clothes by drawing lots. Then they sat down to keep guard over him. And over his head they put a placard with the charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Now two bandits were crucified with Jesus at the same time, one on either side of him. The passers-by nodded knowingly and called out to him, in mockery, “Hi, you who could pull down the Temple and build it up again in three days—why don’t you save yourself? If you are the Son of God, step down from the cross!” The chief priests also joined the scribes and elders in jeering at him, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! If this is the king of Israel, why doesn’t he come down from the cross now, and we’ll believe him! He trusted in God… let God rescue him if He will have anything to do with him! For he said, ‘I am God’s son’.” Even the bandits who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him. Then from midday until three o’clock darkness spread over the whole countryside, and then Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of those who were standing there heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic—Eli (or Eloi), Eli lama sabachthani?, and said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” And one of them ran off and fetched a sponge, soaked it in vinegar and put it on a long stick and held it up for him to drink. But the others said, “Let him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” But Jesus gave one more great cry, and died. And the sanctuary curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The ground shook, rocks split and graves were opened. (A number of bodies of holy men who were asleep in death rose again. They left their graves after Jesus’ resurrection and entered the holy city and appeared to many people.) When the centurion and his company who were keeping guard over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening they were terrified. “Indeed he was the son of God!” they said. There were many women at the scene watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to his needs. Among them was Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”
It is the second most important because without THE most important thing, the second doesn’t matter at all. Jesus was a good man. Many good men have died. Jesus was an innocent man. Many innocent men have died. Jesus died for a cause. Many men have died for a cause.
The second most important and miraculous thing Jesus did was die.
The upper most important miraculous thing Jesus did? Jesus rose from the dead. One act without the other makes both unspectacular. You can’t rise from the dead without dying first so the two events are inseparable.
Without Jesus dying, our sins are unforgiven. Without Jesus rising from the dead there is no power at work and he was just a nice guy who came to an unfortunate end.
He did die. He died not for his crimes or sins, he died for my sins, for our sins, for all sin for all time.
Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 –
In his letter to the Romans Paul says this, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
When Jesus died, he became our sin. His death wiped away all of it. When Jesus died he showed how much he loves us, how far he is willing to go to provide forgiveness for us. When Jesus died, he took our punishment away.
When Jesus rose from the grave he showed his great power and his defeat of death.
Jesus has defeated our two greatest enemies, sin and death and he has bridged the gap between us and God so that we can be welcomed back into God’s presence again.
It is all a conversation (some would say a prayer) away. God has arranged it all, we just need to accept and show up.
This morning I received an email with a confirmation of my travel to Dalian China for our company. It’s all paid for, I just have to show up at the gate and show my passport. This Jesus thing is like that. All paid for. Just show up.