Posts Tagged ‘the cross’

Deuteronomy 15:19-23

Sacrificing Firstborn Male Animals

Back in 1970, my favorite college was looking to revitalize its brand as long-time Clemson football coach, Frank Howard (coach of the Tiger footballers from 1940-1969), retired and new coach, Hootie Ingram, was coming in. The school was looking for something that would make the Clemson Tigers distinctive from other teams named the Tigers and from all teams in general. The school enlisted the services of the Henderson Advertising Agency in Greenville, SC to come up with the design and complete the transition to a new logo. The owner of the company, James M. Henderson, was a 1944 Clemson graduate who took the job despite the understanding that compensation would be minimal. He and his vice president, Fred Walker, took the lead in making sure the situation was handled with the utmost care and urgency.


After discussing several options, it was decided that the Tiger Paw would be considered for the new logo. The agency turned the project over to creative designer and artist John Antonio in June of 1970 to begin the drafting process, which took several days. He contacted the Smithsonian Institute for a photo of a tiger’s paw and the National History Museum in Chicago, IL for a cast of a tiger paw. He used both items in forming his final version of the Clemson Tiger Paw. When he was finished, Antonio presented the completed project to a group of athletic department personnel, who were largely receptive to the Tiger Paw design. Apparently, the key to the presentation of the project was Antonio showing the Tiger Paw on a football helmet. Howard thought it looked sharp and he was on board with the overall idea. Then the Paw was successfully pitched to Dr. R.C. Edwards, who was president of Clemson at the time, and it was also presented to the Board of Trustees. Some of the intricacies of the Paw that contribute to its aura were implemented by design at the behest of Antonio. The 30-degree angle at which the official Paw sits is there to designate a 1:00 kickoff time for football games, which was a normal occurrence in those days. The indention at the bottom is due to a scar that the tiger who had been chosen as the subject for the logo had received before the cast was made.


Now, the Tiger Paw is synonymous with Clemson University not just the athletic programs. One of the quips used by Clemson students, faculty, and fans of the athletic teams is that “The Paw Says It All!” Whenever you see the tiger paw, you think of Clemson University. You do not have to see the words just the paw. The paw is unique in the landscape of logos out there and as any fan or graduate of the university will tell, there is “something in those hills” that makes the spirit of the university unique, just like its logo.


The symbols and logos of companies and universities that when you see them make you immediately think of the company or the university show how effective such things can be. Just think of a logo that makes you immediately think of the institution that it represents. A blue five point star with white and blue boundaries around it makes you immediately think of the Dallas Cowboys. A white lower-case “f” on a blue background makes you immediately think of Facebook, the social media giant. These are just a few examples of powerful nature of symbols that will just one look points you to something else. That idea of one thing pointing to another (as the Tiger Paw points to Clemson University) is what I thought of when I read the passage, Deuteronomy 15:19-23, this morning. Let’s read it together now:


19 Set apart for the Lord your God every firstborn male of your herds and flocks. Do not put the firstborn of your cows to work, and do not shear the firstborn of your sheep. 20 Each year you and your family are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose. 21 If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. 22 You are to eat it in your own towns. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it, as if it were gazelle or deer. 23 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.

God, as you can see here in this passage, gives special status to firsts. He commands that the firstfruits of our labors (our crops, our wages, etc.) be given to Him right off the top. He commanded that the firstborn male of each family be given a double portion of inheritance. Here, He commands that the firstborn of animals of our flocks be given to and dedicated to the Lord. The sanctity of the firstborn was meant, in part, to commemorate the deliverance God brought about for the people of Israel by taking the firstborn of Egypt (see Exodus 13:14-16). Note that the firstborn that are set aside to God are, specifically, “males that come from your heard and your flock”. This draws our attention to Jesus Christ, the firstborn Son of Mary, who was declared to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God said that this firstborn was to be “sanctified” (that is, set apart) “to the Lord your God”—just as was our Lord.


The firstborn of the flocks were to be set aside for a special purpose. They were not to be used for normal everyday purposes. Although they lived among their others of the flock that were used for the mundane every day uses of animals, they were set apart as unique. It is symbolic of the fact that Jesus was not of this world even though He lived among us as a man. It is symbolic of His unique nature and His unique missions that is set apart from all men. He is the Unique One – fully human and fully divine set apart for a holy purpose.


Jesus was sacrificed on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. He was the completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The offering up of unblemished firstborn animals was a symbol to us of the atoning sacrifice that was Jesus Christ. The Old Testament sacrificial system was practice for the real thing, the permanent, for all time, sacrificial system ending sacrifice in Jesus. Jesus was without sin just as the animals were unblemished. The family of the animal shared in the food of the sacrifice and so benefited and became one with the animal that was sacrificed. It is symbolic of the union that we have in Christ when we accept His sacrifice on the cross as the saving grace for our sins. We become united with Christ through His sacrifice. He imputes His perfection upon and we benefit from His sacrifice on our behalf.


So, one thing points to the other. Just like a logo points to an organization that it represents. The Old Testament sacrificial system using unblemished, firstborn animals was a type of logo, a symbol, for what was to come in Jesus Christ. Just as the cross itself is the logo of Christianity, the sacrificial system was pointing to the cross. The cross now symbolizes Jesus’ church because that is the message of the church, its logo, the cross. It points to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. It is symbolic of His taking on our punishment for our sins that we deserve so as to redeem us and make us right with God. The symbol of the cross now takes away the original horrid meaning of death that the cross symbolized in the Roman Empire and has replaced it the fact that it now represents the gateway to our eternal life in heaven. It is the most recognizable logo in the world, the Christian cross. It points us to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who offers grace and redemption to all those who will recognize what the cross means.

See the cross. Think of Jesus Christ. Think of what He has done for you even before you were born. Think of your sin. Think of the redemption that came at great cost at the cross. Ask Jesus to be your Savior. You know what the cross stands for. Now live in the benefits of the cross. The greatest symbol. The greatest logo of all time.


Amen and Amen.

Luke 23:13-25 — Barabbas, who was he? From the book of Mark, we know that he was a prisoner of Rome during the time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion for having murdered a Roman soldier and for having stirred up a small but fleeting rebellion against the Roman occupying forces. Although to the many of the Jews, he may have been a hero. His arrest and incarceration were completely justified. He did the crime and was doing the time. But do we really know who he is other than what he did? Other than his rebellion and capital crime, he is mentioned nowhere else in the sequence of the gospel story nor is he mentioned in the subsequent books of the New Testament. Even his name is non-descriptive. Bar-abbas. It means son of daddy. That does not give us any help! Never in any mention of Barabbas in the gospels do they identify who his father was as was done so often in Hebrew literature, including the Bible. For example, Peter before his name was changed was often referred to as Simon, son of John. Barabbas, I guess, then was not connected to his family in any way. He was a rebel to the core. Since he was not identified with his father, he must have been a loner. He must have chosen to go his own way. In these ways, Barabbas is so symbolic of who we are before we encounter Jesus Christ.

Barabbas, not tied to his family in any way. He must have been an angry man searching for meaning in his life. Not tied to his family in any way could mean two things. He had dishonored his family in some way and was sent away to never return to his family. Or, he could have had a horrible home life that caused him to run away and never return. Many Barabbas had to strike out on his own because his father died and there was no uncles to step in and take care of his mom and the rest of his family. Either way, Barabbas was out there on his own. This is a very real possibility for who Barabbas was. Family was of extreme importance in Jewish society. Sons always honored their fathers by saying that they were son of… We know of no such references about Barabbas that would have led the writers of the gospels to mention this fact when writing of Barabbas. So, maybe Barabbas was just a young punk in the streets of Jerusalem that had to grow up hard. Maybe, he was just angry at the world because of all that. Many of us today may hate our government for what it has become but we do not murder government officials or members of the military because of it. It would have been true in Barabbas’ day too. Many Jews detested the presence of their Roman occupiers in their country. Yet, most did not try to lead rebellions and kill people. Barabbas was an angry man. Without a connection to his father in how he was publicly address, it means that he had nothing to lose in his mind. His life was full of anger to the point of lashing out against Rome. That’s pretty serious stuff. The Romans often dealt harshly with citizens of occupied lands who rebelled against Rome. Crucifixion had been perfected by the Romans as the most humiliating and painful way to die. It was very public and very painful. Imagine being so angry at the world that you lash out against the military of the most powerful nation on the planet. He was in complete rebellion. He was out of control. In his mind, it was OK to murder and create mayhem. His life has been so rough that he deserved to take it out on the Romans. Barabbas is so like you and me before we meet Jesus Christ. We are in rebellion against God. We shake our fist at him. We go against his Word and revel in our sins. We are searching for meaning in things of this world. We think that we deserve the pleasures of this life and seek after them and justify why we deserve them. We are Barabbas.

The irony of this scene is that Barabbas is standing there on one side and Jesus on the other. Each is accused of leading a rebellion. For one it is true. Barabbas had rebelled against Rome and wanted to lead others in doing so. For the other it is a lie fabricated by religious officials trying to preserve their way of life. Barabbas was guilty. There was no doubt about that fact. Other Roman soldiers had seen him commit the crime. Roman soldiers had witnesses him stirring up the crowds into an assault on soldiers in Jerusalem. Of his guilt, there was no doubt. He was convicted by the evidence of his sins against Rome. On the other hand, Jesus was not guilty. He was a sinless man who had committed no crime other than speak the truth to men who did not want to hear the truth. Jesus was pure and spotless and had done no such thing as lead a rebellion against Rome. But Barabbas was released even though he was a criminal against Rome. He was to face certain death without his release. In effect, Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. We are Barabbas at this moment when we meet Jesus.

Barabbas new what his crime was and probably was aware of what happens to criminals against Rome. They are sentenced to death, a death of painful proportions that seems to take forever. Many who were crucified took several days to die. Most on the cross wished for an immediate death that would not come. It was slow, excruciating and painful beyond belief. Imagine his relief and utter joy when his death sentence was lifted. Who knows what happened to Barabbas after this moment? But we can imagine his utter joy at being released from a sentence of certain but slow death. We are the same way when we meet Jesus Christ. We come before Him knowing that our sins separate us from God. We know that one sin is all it takes but yet we have committed so many. We know, finally, for the first time in our lives that we do not deserve heaven. We finally realize that no matter the amount of good that we do in this lifetime we do not deserve heaven because of the ever increasing pile of sins that convict us to hell. Hell is like crucifixion but just eternal. Crucifixion may have seemed like an eternity to a person on the cross. But hell is basically eternal crucifixion. Hell is real. Jesus spoke of it often. When we realize that we truly deserve the eternal pain and suffering of hell, that is when we meet Jesus.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, Jesus dies in our place. He takes the punishment for that which we deserve. We are set free from the penalty of eternal damnation that we deserve. We are Barabbas. We are set free from the crime for which there is incontrovertible evidence to convict us and send us to hell. One sin will send us there not to mention the hundreds that we commit each day, each week, each year of our lives. We are career criminals in that regard. But, yet, we are set free by the Innocent One who had no sin but was sent to the cross on our behalf. He took on the full punishment of God for us. We are set free by Jesus’ death sentence which he did not deserve. We are Barabbas. We run joyfully away from the judgement seat. That is the joy of our salvation that lives in our hearts. We as Christ followers know what we deserve and the joy that we have or should have in our lives is knowing that Jesus set us free from the penalty of and punishment of hell. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our sentence is lifted. We are pardoned. If you do not have basic inner joy because of that, then, you do not understand salvation. We have seen the eternal crucifixion of hell that we deserve and we have been pulled back from the brink. Thank you Jesus. Thank you! Thank you!

The most amazing thing here is that Jesus took the punishment that Barabbas deserved and we do not know what Barabbas did with it. The most amazing thing is that Jesus died on the cross in Barabbas’ place and in our place. He did this because He loves you and me and wants us to be reunited with God. He did this before you and I were born. He did this while we were yet sinners in open rebellion against Him. He did this knowing full well we might reject Him. But all we have to do to accept the reward of his death on the cross is to ask Him to come into our hearts and change us forever. When we do that, the sentence that we deserve is commuted. No matter how much we have rebelled. No matter what we have done. When we accept His gift, we are made innocent in His death on the cross. When we ask Him to take away our sins against God and change us from the inside out, we are set free. We are set free. Are you Barabbas today? Do you want to be set free from the hell that you deserve? Come to the cross. Accept what Jesus has done in your place there. Accept what He has done for what you deserve. Ask Him to be your Savior. He has already done the work for you. Ask Him into your heart and make you a criminal against God no more. No more rebellion. Change. Permanent change. We have seen where we belong but we have been set free. Join your brothers and sisters in Christ! Amen and Amen.

Luke 19:28-40 — The first thing that comes to mind here when you read through it when you try to compare it to something you know today is the Tiger Walk on fall Saturdays at Clemson University. The football team walks from Jervey Athletic Center across to Death Valley. All Clemson fans that are tailgating stop what they are doing and form two lines on either side as the team passes through. It is a celebration of the team. It is pretty cool. You get to high five with the players as they pass buy and you get to see them in their suits and ties for a moment rather than hidden behind a football uniform and helmet. It is a celebration of Tiger spirit. At that moment, the game has not yet been played and the air is full of hope. The game is still to come. Everyone is “all-in” at this moment. The question then becomes, if Clemson loses the game played out on the gridiron within the confines of Clemson Memorial Stadium, are you still full of Tiger spirit then? Are you still “all-in”? Before the game, it takes no great effort to be part of the crowd that is cheering on the Tigers as they pass. After a tough loss, that’s when you know who the true Tigers are. These are the ones who greet the players and hug them and tell them that we still support you guys no matter what. There are those of us who simply love the school win, lose, or draw. These are the true members of Tiger Nation. I think today, there is a similarity between the illustration. At this point, on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday, we are in the pregame festivities of Passion Week. It is easy to be a Jesus fan on this end of Passion Week. When we get to crunch time, when the game is played out in Jerusalem, everyone’s true character will be revealed. Is Jesus the true Messiah, the suffering servant? Is Jesus the conquering political figure? Is Jesus the threat to traditional power? In our day today, we must decide whether or not we are “all-in” with Jesus or not.

The first thing that I think we should notice here is that Jesus is no longer trying to conceal that He is the Messiah. In many of his miracles, He asked that the healed person be quiet about what was done because He did not want His message to be overshadowed by the miracles. In each miracle, He always checked on a person’s spiritual health first before providing the physical miracle, so that was the real point was the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation with God. That was the message. In Matthew 16:20, after Peter reveals his belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, The Messiah, Jesus ordered them to keep quiet about it. It was not yet time to publicly proclaim it. But, here we are, as Rafiki says to Simba in the Lion King at his coronation ceremony, “It is time!” It is now the time, according to God’s plan for Jesus to publicly embrace the mantle of the Messiah. There no mistaking to Jesus and to any Jewish person that was there why Jesus chose to ride a donkey the remainder of the way to Jerusalem. In Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, he says:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus is publicly and intentionally annoucing to the world that He is the Messiah. No longer is He trying to keep it concealed. All of the angling toward Jerusalem that Luke starts each new passage with is now about to be completed. He is almost to Jerusalem now. It is time to reveal who He really is to the world. It is during this week that the people had to make a choice as to whether they were true fans of this Jesus. He would proclaim that He is the Messiah. He would proclaim that He is God in the flesh. The gloves are off. This is the week that choices are made. Passion Week is what separates us today between believers and non-believers. The non-believers just as most of Jerusalem will fall away and many do today when Jesus proclaims He is God. This riding of the donkey is the pregame festivities to the hard work of the coming week in Jerusalem. Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that He was the scriptural Messiah? Do you believe that He died for your sins on a cross outside the city?

But right now, in this passage on this first of all Palm Sundays, it is easy to be a Jesus fan. Right now, instead of the Tiger Walk, we have the Jesus Ride, the disciples are high fiving people as they pass. The people are shouting praises of Jesus name. It is a big party and its easy to join in with the crowd. The crowd is shouting that He is king. The people who were praising God for giving them a Messiah (they recognized the significance of the donkey) King. But they had forgotten Scripture and they expected the Messiah not to be a suffering servant but rather a conquering hero. They expected Him to be a national leader who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. They were deaf to the words of the prophets and blind to the mission of Jesus. So, right now Jesus represented liberation from Roman rule. He represented not the reconciler of man to God through His suffering, but rather someone who would provide them immediate benefits. How quickly they would turn once they realized that Jesus was not going to lift them out from under Roman rule! They were fair weather Jesus fans. They wanted to be on the bandwagon. It is like those that become fans of a college team that has put together a string of successful seasons but those same fans will jump ship when the team has a losing season or a less than stellar season. The true fans of a school’s football team are those that love them through thick and thin, whether the team is 7-6 or 11-2, whether the team is 2-10 or 12-0. How are you about Jesus? Do you drift in and out of a relationship with Him? Do you cry out to him when you are in a jam and then forget about Him after the crisis has passed? Or do you celebrate Jesus’ influence in your life when times are good but throw Him to the curb when times are bad? Jesus calls us to be “all-in” all the time. He wants our allegiance every minute of every day whether it be good times or bad. Do you see Jesus as a vending machine to give you what you want or do you trust Him with your whole life all day every day?

Finally, we see the Pharisees trying to quell the noise of the crowd. They now see how wildly popular that Jesus is becoming. They didn’t want someone challenging their power and authority and they didn’t want a revolt against Rome that would bring Roman military might down on Jerusalem. They knew the significance of the donkey and they saw Jesus as wanting to usurp their power. They could not see the Messiah. They could embrace Jesus as what God had promised throughout Scripture. It is like a fan of one team always negatively referencing the capabilities of their arch-rival. They try to tear down the victories of the archrival and glorify the losses. It is also like traditional churches trying whatever they can to discredit a new fast growing non-traditional church. All of it represents a threat to that which we hold dear. Instead of embracing Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture they were more concerned with preserving their own team. When we get so self-involved with the things we hold dear we cannot see beyond ourselves. Jesus is OK as long as He doesn’t have to be a part of all of my life. There are things that I want to keep separate from Jesus. These are my own little thrones over here. You can have the rest Jesus, but not these things. Giving you my complete allegiance would mean that I have to change my lifestyle. Many of us want to dabble with Jesus but not give Him our whole life. We want to be on His bandwagon until it costs us something. Real life change. Real obedience to God’s Word. Accepting all of Scripture as requiring our obedience. Willingly submit control of our entire lives to the Messiah! Man, that’s too much of a threat to the things that I have grown accustomed to! Do you see Jesus as a threat to your lifestyle? Does He represent the threat of truth against the lies and twisted truth that you have constructed for your life?

Jesus proclaims that He is the Messiah. It is all out in the open now. How are you going to react? Are you all-in? Have you placed your faith in Him. From this point forward in the book of Luke there is no turning back. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and change the history of mankind forever. He will go there to die for our sins just as had been predicted in Scripture. Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Do you believe that He was just some great rabbi philosopher? Well, from here on in Luke, you have to get off the train. Everything else from here on in requires faith that Jesus was who He says He was. It is easy to be on the bandwagon when you can make Jesus out to be what you want Him to be. However, to be a true fan of Jesus, you must make the choice as to whether you believe He is the Messiah foretold in Scripture.

To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that He had to go to Jerusalem and die on the cross. To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that his death on the cross was more than an execution of a political threat. You must understand that it represents the once and final sacrifice for sin. You must understand that you are sinner no matter how good you true to be. You must understand that one sin is all it takes to separate us from God. You must understand that we cannot erase our nature and that because of that we are condemned to hell for our sins without this sacrifice on the cross. You must understand that Jesus on the cross took on all the sins of the world for all time that day. In that, you and I have a chance to reconcile ourselves to God and have eternal life. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins on the cross so that you may have eternal life. Are you all-in? Are you a true fan? Or is this where you jump off the bandwagon? If you are feeling the stirrings in your soul that you want to be a true fan of Jesus, call on his name now. He did all the work of the Passion Week already. Your sins are forgiven once you ask Him into your life! You become a member of the family of the Jesus team. We have our own logo like all good teams do. It is the cross. Come join our team! Jesus wants you to be all-in!