Sunday – December 10, 2017 – 1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
There is a greater authority in my house that sometimes sends me out on tasks. Maybe it’s to pick up lunch or supper. Maybe a good dose of medicine or ice cream is needed (sometimes they are the same thing). Either way, if my wife sends me on a task, I go. Do I do it because I have to? I could probably say “no” or kindly suggest she do it herself but, to be honest, that doesn’t really sound like a good idea. The reality is that I’m willing to do pretty much whatever she asks because I love her. It’s that simple. It offers me an opportunity to show her that love in a tangible way.
Jesus was sent into this world by the Father on a special mission: to save the world. It wasn’t an easy task – it involved him paying the debt we owed for our sin. He came to die on the cross that we might live through Him. It must have taken a lot of love to go on such a mission. At least when I head off to get ice cream for my wife, I get to have ice cream, too! Why would Jesus choose to go on such a mission? I’ll tell you why, it’s because of a crazy little thing called “Love.”
This Advent season we’ve been looking at many of the scriptures that talk about why God sent Jesus as we focus on what Jesus means when he says, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” This morning we read where John said that God “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” A verse later he says he “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
In Romans 5:6-8 Paul says, “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
John says something similar to these verses from Romans when he refers to Jesus as an “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” He means that Christ died on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins. This is a concept with deep roots in the Old Testament. We could start much earlier but, for the sake of brevity, we will start in Exodus 25:17-22 where God says to Moses: 17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”
Israel still celebrates Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, initiated in Leviticus 16. There it was Aaron, the High Priest, who took two goats and cast lots to choose one to be a scapegoat and one to be sacrificed as a sin offering. The blood of the sacrificed goat is mixed with the bull’s blood, from an earlier sacrifice, and sprinkled seven times on the horns of the altar (previously sprinkled on the atonement cover of the ark). The remaining goat, the scapegoat, has the sins of the people conferred upon its head and is then released into the wilderness to carry those sins. The process of this yearly event is fascinating and meaningful right down to the complete and utter removal of sin from their midst as all sin is removed from the camp and all involved must wash their clothes and bathe before coming back into the camp. Our verse in 1 John, along with others like Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2, name Jesus as the sacrifice that atones for our sin – completely and utterly.
There are two reasons that Jesus was sent: that we might live through him and that He would be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Really they are the same reason. But, throughout our passage, the reason given for the sending ultimately comes down to God’s love for us. Why did God send his Son to be a sacrifice and give us life through Him? He did it to show his love. So this act of love towards us, from God, is to completely remove our sins through the death of Jesus, thus paying the penalty of our sin, which is death, so that we may have life. This, then, is the reason God sent His only Son.
In the beginning I asked why Jesus would choose to go on such a mission, one that involved his death on the Cross? “It’s because of a crazy little thing called love,” I said. Jesus said “yes” to the Father because of Love and a singular Godly will. The Father sent the Son because God is love. We know why God sent Jesus but do you know why we say “yes” to Jesus when He sends us to continue His mission in this world? We say “yes” because we love Him. It’s a love that exists inside of us because God lives inside of us and we live through Him.