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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Crime of the Ages

               I have always been intrigued with the Crime of the Ages. What is this crime, you ask? Is it Hitler’s diabolical attempt to exterminate the Jewish race? Or perhaps it is the slaughter of so many innocent victims at the hands of Genghis Khan? Or it may have been the intentional killing of some ten million Baptists at the hand of Stalin? Or is it the wanton abortion of the unborn?

None of these is the Crime of the Ages. Although any one of these would easily qualify as a (dis)honorable mention. In actuality, the crime I’m referring to is mentioned in the Bible. You see, Jesus claimed to be God. This is a horrible claim for Jesus to make only if he cannot back it up. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 33, the Jewish religious leaders are incensed by Jesus’ claim to be God, stating, “We are stoning you for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Ah! There you have it. Jesus has done it now. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had someone boldly declare to me that Jesus never claimed to be God. Such foolish assertions merely point out the person’s ignorance of Holy Scripture. Jesus’ claim to be God is what finally brought about his crucifixion. There are numerous verses where Jesus makes this claim for himself. As C. S. Lewis so eloquently stated it in his book, Mere Christianity, “You must accept Jesus for who he claimed to be. He does not leave you any other choice. You cannot just assign him to being a great man, a man ahead of his time, a deeply spiritual man. He has not given you that option. He never intended to.”

The icing on the cake, if you will, was when the religious leaders heard him use the holy name of God for himself. That name is Yahweh, or what we call Jehovah. The name of God was considered to be so holy as to be unutterable. Out of respect for God, and out of fear of mispronouncing God’s name, the ancients would not even speak the name. Devout Jews today will not speak his name, nor will they write it out completely, such as, G_d, or L_rd. The ancients would instead whisper the name of God. This is the holy name for God which he used when he spoke to Moses from the burning bush. And it is the name Jesus used when he was confronted by the Jewish religious leaders. The name is, “I AM.” Looking at this name it is readily apparent that God is ever present. That’s what “I AM” implies. God does not reside in the past. And he’s not at the whim of the future. He is always and forever in the living present.

When Jesus had the temerity to claim this name, “I AM” for himself, it brought down the curtain on his earthly ministry. If only his enemies had known that by crucifying him they brought about the completion of God’s Plan for the Ages. Jesus died for sinners. That’s you and me. Had he not died on that cross, there would be no forgiveness of sin, no salvation, no hope for the human race. But because he died on that cross, we are lifted up by the promises of God, who takes his promises very seriously.

Was Jesus guilty as charged for claiming to be God? Yes! And he knew exactly what he was doing. So the next question must be, “Did Jesus prove he was God?” Yes, again. His miracles were sufficient evidence to convince people that he was something unique and special. But would the crowds who followed him everywhere be quick to believe in him? No. Despite being firsthand witnesses to Jesus causing the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk; despite his raising different folks from the dead, cleansing the lepers, and feeding thousands by multiplying a few fish and loaves, when it came right down to it, the people would not commit. Sadly, Jesus did not fit the mold. You could say with all candor that Jesus is one-of-a-kind. No one else could perform the miracles Jesus performed unless he was, and is, the Son of God.

So you see, it was the Crime of the Ages that completed the Plan of the Ages.

This week, go to church and give thanks to God for the incredible sacrificial gift of his Son. You’ll be blessed. And take a friend with you.