“And He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2
Holy Week is all about an answer. The problem concerns our sins and what we are to do about them. John wrote that Jesus is the expiation for our sins. Other translations have propitiation. You likely have not used either of those words in your lifetime. Suffice it to say that on the cross Jesus secured our forgiveness. That is the answer to the most basic problem you face this week.
What will we do with that answer? Mostly, we try to sidestep the question. Sins are uncomfortable, and we are endlessly creative at avoiding the discussion.
Historically, various groups have tried to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. That’s a convenient way of avoiding culpability. Blame another ethnic group. But actually it’s not even accurate on the surface. The Romans executed Jesus, so I suppose we should all be mad at the Italians.
Personally, we dodge the question by either redefining sin out of existence, or trying to numb it by entertaining ourselves to death, or skipping the Jesus answer and going straight to self-forgiveness. The last option is a clean way of avoiding that messy cross.
Theologically, people often decide that God is simply too nice to worry about sin. The crucifixion, if it really happened, was just a big, unnecessary misunderstanding.
Whatever you make of the Bible, you cannot ignore the fact that human sin is described or assumed on every page. The major theme of the Bible is how God makes right that which has gone so wrong in us. Clearly God’s answer is the cross. By ignoring the answer we multiply and magnify the problem.
Holy Week is about culpability. John’s words indicate Jesus died for every race, nationality, group, and sub-group; anyone who has drawn a breath. That means that Jesus died for my sins, Terry Ellis’ sins. I cannot begin to celebrate the resurrection until I admit, without reservation, my sins and my role in Jesus’ death.
Everything else about the Christian life involves continual effort, and frankly we are entitled to accept progress. I am still a work in progress. God is refining me and bringing me to completion. I live in God’s grace by accepting the fact that I am imperfect but growing. That is fine.
But on this initial decision, we cannot accept progress. Until you accept the fact that you are dead in your sins and powerless to make your life right, then you really cannot move on to the grace and glory of forgiveness and resurrection. Hold anything in reserve, allow any evasion from a full confession and you impose a limit on yourself.
A Dennis the Menace cartoon depicts Dennis kneeling in prayer beside his bed. His words: “I’m here to turn myself in.”
The glory of the gospel is that surrendering to God brings not defeat, but victory. Clinging to sin, justifying bad behavior, ignoring consequences is soul-sapping, life-stealing, and joy-crushing. Holy Week is a time to turn yourself in. Go ahead. Bow and confess. God has the answer.
Dr. Terry Ellis
April 13, 2014