Sermon from March 26th, 2017

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“What's So Special about the Cross? #4 - Expiation”

1 John 1:7-9; Mark 1:35-45

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning! It’s the first Sunday of Spring and we’ve got water everywhere! If you’ve got water problems raise your hand. Let’s pray for these folks... This morning we look at another wonderful word pertaining to the cross. It’s the word “expiation”.

To ‘expiate’ means to blot out, remove, cleanse, escape – sort of like spring break only when we return from spring break, everything we left behind is still waiting for us. But when God expiates us, what he takes away is gone forever. Let me explain…

Let’s open our Bibles to Mark 1:40-42 “A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.  Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”  Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.” Mark 1:40-42

Leprosy was the most feared disease in the ancient world. It was only the advent of modern antibiotics less than 100 years ago that gave a person with leprosy any hope of recovery.

Leprosy was contagious, progressive, fatal, debilitating, disfiguring, shame producing, isolating. It was the curse of death.  It has no respect for a person’s class, wealth, education or piety. It brought everyone infected with the disease down to the same level.

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about who this guy was before he contracted leprosy. Was he rich, poor, respected, unknown? What we know is that after he got the disease, he was simply a leper. Even his name was gone. Leprosy was his only identity.

Everywhere he went he had to warn the people to stay away. He was required by law to shout, “Unclean, unclean.”  It’s hard to imagine the pain he endured - the shame, the isolation, the hopelessness, the humiliation. Somehow this man heard about a man named Jesus who might be able to help him and in his hopelessness, he went and found him.

He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”  Where did this his faith come from? Whether we are aware of it or not, faith is always a gift from God. As they say, when you’ve reached the bottom the only way to look is up. So this leper did.

Imagine for a moment, what this man must have looked and smelled like! Lepers were usually covered with stinky oozing sores, missing fingers, blind eyes. Would you touch a man like that? Jesus did. Remember, leprosy was highly contagious.
The man said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”  Jesus said, “I am.” And he reached out and touched the man. “Be clean!”  he said and the man was instantly healed. His flesh was restored. The leprosy was expiated, removed, from his body.

Sin is like leprosy of our soul. No matter how hard we try, we can’t scrub away the uncleanness, the guilt, the same, the stain, the stench of our sin. Like leprosy, the disease of sin is progressive and fatal. It deforms, it debilitates, it deadens our spiritual sensitivity. It hardens our heart. It imprisons us in shame. We can try to deny it, but that’s the reality.

I don’t know your story, but I know mine. And there are things in my life that are unclean, things that have stained my soul, things I am ashamed of. We aren’t here to compare sin stories and vote on which of us is the most depraved. Leprosy is leprosy. Once you’re infected, you’re infected regardless of how advanced the disease has become.
Consider for a moment the dirtiest job you ever had. I’ve had some jobs that were so filthy that when I finished, I didn’t even try to wash my clothes, I just threw them away. Man, it felt good after a job like that to get in the shower and scrub myself clean.  Sometimes the grime was so deep it took two or three showers to finally feel like I got it all out.

Expiation means to purge, cleanse, remove through sacrifice. In Romans 3 Paul writes, “Jesus Christ, who God put forward as the expiation by his blood…” Rom 3:25

The Greek word Paul uses refers to the removal of a barrier. The barrier between us and God is our sin, our uncleanness. But this uncleanness can’t be cleansed by scrubbing our skin with Lava hand soap or changing our clothes. Sin has left an indelible stain, a deep infection that we are powerless to remove. Let’s read that event in Mark again…

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.  Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”  Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.” Mark 1:40-42

One of my favorite memories from when my girls were babies was what they smelled like after their bath. I’d pull them out of that little plastic tub, dry them off, put a new diaper on. They were squeaky clean, shampooed, powdered and swaddled in a fresh towel. O what a nice smell! Sure beats the stench of a poopy diaper doesn’t it!

I think that’s what this leper smelled like after Jesus healed him of his leprosy. Here’s the point!  That’s what Jesus came to do in our hearts and souls.  Look at this promise!

“Come let us reason together” says the LORD, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isa 1:18

How amazing! God is saying “Let’s make a deal. You’ve got nothing to offer except your fatal disease. To be honest, you stink! Your sin has marked you with an indelible stain, a permanent tattoo that goes right through to the core of your being. Your sin is killing you and you can’t fix it...

…But I can make you clean. I can wash and remove the stain of your sin as if it had never been. But there is only one detergent in all creation capable of cleaning away the stains your sin and that’s the blood of my One and Only Son. Are you willing to trust him to cleanse you?”

But there’s more to this expiation thing.  “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins not more.” Isa 43:25

Because of Jesus work on the cross the record of your sin has been cleansed, blotted out, removed as it had never happened. Look at this verse from Jer. “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jer 31:34

Have you ever heard someone say, “I forgive, but I never forget”?  That’s not forgiveness is it? God would never say that. When God forgives, he forgets completely. We have a hard time forgetting the ways others have hurt us. We allow this un-forgiveness to turn to bitterness that becomes a kind of leprosy of our memories. Add to this our own shame over the mistakes we’ve made and it becomes a stinky mess we can’t wash away. But God can.

Micah says, “You (God) hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.’ Micah 7:19  Psalm 103 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has (God) removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

The blood of Jesus has the power to remove the stain and stench of our sin and make us clean, so that we smell just like that freshly washed baby. We can stand before God swaddled in the righteousness of Jesus. But this gift must be received by faith before it can be actualized in our life. And faith begins with repentance and confession.

Romans 3:22-25 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (expiation), through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

Let me say again: The expiation achieved for us on the cross means the record of our sin has been removed, blotted out. It is irretrievably gone. The leprosy of our sin has been cleansed to the very core of our being. We stand before God just as if we had never sinned.

But how can we know for sure that this is really true? Like the leper, it’s a gift we receive by faith and faith begins with coming to Jesus in confession and repentance.  The leper confessed his disease and his need for healing. He said to Jesus, “If you are willing you can heal me.” And Jesus responded, “I am willing, be clean!”

In Psalm 32 David writes, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; as in the heat of summer, “Then I acknowledge my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:3-5

1 John 1:7-9 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

The mistakes of our past, things we’ve done, things done to us can make us feel shunned, damaged, infected, isolated. “Stay away, I’m unclean, don’t touch.”  But no matter how untouchable we may feel Jesus is not afraid to touch us.  He came to wash us from the inside out. He came to heal and purify what sin has mutilated and contaminated.

The blood of Jesus shed on the cross is the only detergent that can expiate the stain and stench of our sin.  That happens when we humble ourselves, become like that little baby and let him wash us. It’s a personal transaction that happens between Jesus and you as you open your heart to him. Will you pray with me…

Lord Jesus, thank you for your blood shed on the cross for me. I believe that you can make me clean. I need that today and every day.  Walk through my mind and heart, remove resentment, remove shame, show me where I need to confess my sin, humble me, wash me, and then wrap me up in your righteousness. I ask in Your mighty name.


Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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