“Taking the Hit”

Palm Sunday--4 April 2004

Texts: Mark 11:7-11; 1 John 4:10;


Big Idea: Christ is our wrath-bearer.

Purpose: Explain propitiation.

Question: “What wondrous love is this?”


            To understand Easter we need to understand propitiation.  Propitiation comes from the verb propitiate (L. propiti-are) and it means to  render favorable, or to appease.  Jesus took the hit of God’s righteous wrath upon Himself so that it won’t fall on us.  God did this because things were not right in heaven or on earth.  And that, of course, is the problem both then and now.  Jesus was riding into Jerusalem to set things right, to settle a score.  Many of those who witnessed His triumphal entry had no idea what was happening.  Some really religious types wouldn’t have thought it necessary--they still don‘t.  Historically Jesus’ death on the cross was a matter of brute indifference to most.  To a few, the spiritually sensitive, Jesus’ Passion was a puzzle.  And among those few, of course, are the disciples.  If we have no understanding of what propitiation means, we cannot fully appreciate either the liberation of Easter, or the liberty in which we presently live.  We do not know the love of God.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) means that love, scripturally understood, is about what God has done in sending His Son to make things right


            It is one thing to witness the rude pageantry of that triumphal entry.  It is one thing to sing out: "HOSANNA! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Mark 11:10  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”  And it is quite another to enter into, and grasp what that procession means.  It means divine love manifest in a public drama!  Again, that love means propitiation, Jesus was riding into Jerusalem to lay down His life.  He also came to take up His life again.  Once the offense of sin had been addressed, the price paid, the hit endured, Jesus would rise again!. 


            The coming kingdom was no mere change of regime.  It was the beginning of a whole new day.  A day of spiritual power had dawned.  The day had come  in which spirit and truth had actually displaced “location, location.”  Remember Jesus had said,  Jesus said^ to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. (John 4:21)  And again, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24).


            To bring in that new day, Jesus came and absorb the wrath of God.  That is why, as Gibson aptly portrays, His treatment was so extreme.  Beloved, sin exists.  I fear we all tend to accommodate the fact of sin too easily.  Do we not accommodate ourselves to sin in our lives, and in the lives of those around us?  But, praise God, sin was not, and is not and can never be tolerable to God.  As it is written: Prov 6:16  There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Prov 6:17  Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, Prov 6:18  A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, Prov 6:19  A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.  It offends His majestic justice.  Sin stinks.  And God decided, before time and before even the necessity was apparent in human history, to act in the fullness of time against sin once for all, decisively:  Jesus’ death on the cross as the propitiation for our sins was and is that decisive action.  Isa 53:5  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

 Christ bore our sins.  Christ is the image bearer of our Father in heaven. Col 1:15  And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.  Christ is the love bearer. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)  And, today, I invite you to consider Him as your wrath-bearer.  In modern parlance, He took the hit for you.  The punishment you deserved for your sin, for your falling short and for your missing the mark, for your studied rejection of God and defiance of His ways, fell upon Jesus in your stead. 


            There are many, many ways to express that Jesus is our wrath-bearer--all wonderful.  Jesus was God’s love meeting the demands of perfect justice for your sake. . .all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom 3:24  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Rom 3:25  whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; Rom 3:26  for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  You may have preferred other things to God but Jesus stepped over that offense to take the hit for you.  Remember, beloved, it is never a matter of your sins being tiny.  No matter how insignificant you think your sin to be, the real issue is its offense against God‘s love, His perfection and His purity.  And whatever defames Him, dishonors Him within you so God hates sin.  His wrath is poured out against sin.


            It is not possible to please God through your efforts alone.  He must help you over the wall.  Again, it is not possible to keep all the things written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10).  Those who do not keep all the law perfectly live a cursed existence.  Again, Jesus took the hit to remove that curse, too.  He did this by hanging on the tree.  Jesus took on His own self, His own being the full impact of that divine wrath.  For love’s sake, He endured it all.  God turned from the cross completely vindicated, completely satisfied.


            It’s Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into town, royally seated upon a donkey. "HOSANNA! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” The mysterious calm, the unframable courage, the divine dignity He manifested changes everything.  It changes everything for everyone who embraces His death in love for what it is.  He didn’t come to die just any death, but He did come to die the death, the punishment for sin intended for us all!  He paid the debt.  You get to go free--absolved, pardoned, justified and released--love like that is without price, without precedent.


            Does it make any difference?  Beloved, it makes all the difference.

Rom 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Rom 8:3  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Rom 8:4  in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

The wrath of God is to those who are saved like the shell of a spent bomb.  It no longer poises a threat.  It did all it could to Him, the One who came to die.  He took upon Himself all that caused you to be lost, condemned and without favor.  He was the propitiation for our sins.  Ah, what wondrous love is this indeed?!