Pastor Rick Warren on Sunday shared with his congregation at Saddleback Church about the significance of Jesus' fourth statement from the cross, which, the megachurch pastor said, carries His most shocking words among the seven greatest words of love He spoke.
The word "substitute" is often associated with what's not real, and therefore we are careful with anything that's called a substitute, Pastor Warren said as he began his message in his California church.
But there are exceptions, he added, and went on to talk about what preceded Jesus' death on the cross.
Jesus was on the cross for six hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., he said. In the first three hours, He spoke the first three statements: the word of forgiveness, the word of assurance and the word of love, the pastor said in his sermon, which was part of a series called "The Seven Greatest Words of Love."
At noon, everything got dark, although noon to 3 p.m. are the brightest and the hottest hours of the day, said.
"At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. At about three o'clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" the pastor quoted from Matthew 27:45-46.
This is the fourth word of love that Jesus says from the cross, Warren added. "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" is the most shocking word of all the things Jesus says on the cross, he said.
The word "forsake" in the text actually means, "You rejected Me," Warren explained, and said, "Nothing pains more than being rejected by someone." Jesus was rejected by Judas, and then also by His other disciples before being rejected by God, he added.
"Every time Jesus refers to God in the Bible, He always calls Him Father. This is the only time in the Bible where Jesus does not call God the Father, Father. He just calls Him My God, My God," Warren pointed out.
The relationship had been broken, as Jesus was carrying our sins on the cross, Warren explained. "Jesus became my substitute. At that point, Jesus became your substitute. … He said, 'I'll take your punishment,'" the pastor said, and quoted 1 John 2:2, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
The word "atonement" literally means payment for damage done, he explained, and said, "It satisfies justice."
"God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us!" Warren read 2 Corinthians 5:21.
The act of substitution shows three things: holiness of God, seriousness of sin and expensiveness of grace, Warren said.
God is holy, he stressed. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come," Revelation 4:8 says.
The many gods in Greek mythology have human frailties, the pastor noted. They got angry, they were lustful, jealous, and so on. "But the real God, the God who created the universe, is one hundred percent pure, one hundred percent just, one hundred percent unpolluted ... one hundred percent perfect. That is called holy."
Warren quoted Habakkuk 1:13, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong."
God looked away when Jesus bore our sins, the pastor said. "It's an act of love, but God is holy."
Sin is ugly, "but we live in the 21st century; we think sin is fun … and funny," Warren told the congregants, adding that most TV shows and movies use sin for humor. "And this is Satan's strategy, to get you to laugh at what put Jesus on the cross," he said.
Movies never show the damage done after or consequences that follow a sin.
Sin does three things, the pastor shared.
One, it alienates us from God, Warren said, based on Isaiah 59:2, "Your evil has separated you from your God and your sins have caused Him to turn away from you, so He does not hear you."
Two, sin distresses us, the pastor added. It takes an emotion toll, he said, quoting Psalm 38:4: "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."
Three, sin condemns us, Warren went on to say. "God is a righteous judge and always condemns the wicked," he quoted Psalm 7:11, and explained that righteous simply means always doing what is right. "He always does what is right for you."
Salvation is costly, Warren added. It is free, but Jesus paid for it with His death, he said. "God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us," he quoted Romans 3:25, adding, "That's substitution."
What should be our response?
"I turn from my sin and trust Jesus to save me. … I live in a state of gratitude. … When I'm tempted I remember what my sin cost Jesus. … Tell others the Good News," Warren suggested.