The Mount of Propitiation

Bible Book: Luke  22 : 33
Subject: Blood of Jesus; Cross; Propitiation


Perhaps the first thing that we need to do is define propitiation. The word means "the act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person." In theology it has to do with the atonement or atoning sacrifice offered to God to satisfy His wrath and render Him merciful to sinners. And there is a mount where this propitiation took place. The Bible says “and when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him.”

The great crowds which had followed the procession from the governor's palace were shouting in chants as they came to Calvary. They called it Golgotha. If seen in a silhouette in the fleeting twilight hours, it suggested a human skull. It was a place to be avoided. It was where two great highways converged upon the city of Jerusalem. And down in the valley below a place of stench, a place of horror; an ugly place where refuse always burned and the evil smelling smoke curled up and was wafted over the brow of Golgotha. That was the place of public execution.

There the procession stopped. Only as the nails were driven into the hands of Jesus did the shouting and the chanting stop. There was a hush because most of them were stunned and horrified... even the hardest of them were silenced. It is not pleasant to watch nails being driven through human flesh. After this horrifying experience, the cross upon which Jesus had been stretched was erected and was dropped with a sickening thud into the pit they had dug for it. The Nazarene had mounted His last pulpit. There you have it - Calvary - the skull shaped hill bearing Jesus on the cross.

I. The Man of the Cross

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there? Have you ever gone to the foot of Calvary and watched that infamously tragic drama played out to its crucial, horrendous finale? Have you seen the suffering Savior upon the crimson cross? Were you there at Calvary?

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who had first come to Jesus by night, was there at Calvary. This suggested by John in his gospel record.

There was standing before Golgotha certain women who had followed Jesus from Galilee. Among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and also the mother of Zebedee’s children.

There was Simon of Cyrene who had been compelled to carry the cross of Jesus up the steep incline to the summit of the hill. There was Joseph of Arimathea whose heart had been strangely warmed by the stranger of Galilee.

There were at the foot of the cross men who had been blind and now through habit carried sticks, and who strangely enough were blind again. But this time they were blinded by tears.

There was a thief on another cross who looked at this Jesus who wore the ridiculous crown on his head, twisted from a branch of the long-thorned briar that had lacerated his scalp and caused the blood to mingle with the sweat. And because this thief looked in faith and trust at this man on the middle cross, he was granted eternal life.

In the book, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas, we're told that a Roman soldier who feared the part he was commanded to play in this crucifixion was at the cross. He looked deeply into the eyes of Jesus as he hung there between heaven and earth. And Jesus looked at the centurion, and the eyes of these two met. What was it that made Jesus smile that slow sad smile that seemed to say so much to this centurion that seemed to calm his wildly beating heart? This is what Lloyd C. Douglas writes, "The look that passed between them the centurion never forgot as long as he lived, for no man can ever look at Jesus and remain the same."

Have you been to Calvary? Have you been to the foot of the cross to look into the eyes of that loving, dying Savior? Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Have you looked at this One who is “the brightness of God's glory, the express image of God's person, and upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3).

Have you looked at this One who "in all points (was) tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15)?

Have you looked at this One "who is set down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Hebrews 8:1)?

Have you looked at this One who is “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)?

Have you looked at this One who is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8)?

Have you looked at this One who is the Lamb of God "without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19)?

Have you looked at this One "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15)?

Have you looked at this One who "is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18)?

0, tonight I want us to look at this One once again, this Christ who is the outstanding miracle of all the ages. He is literature's loftiest ideal. He is philosophy's highest personality. He is criticism's supremest problem. He is theology's fundamental doctrine. He is spiritual religion's cardinal necessity.

I have an idea that many of you have been through the Easter season and you know the significance of Good Friday, but somehow you have really not experienced the Christ of God. A minister in Seattle during the second World War held a phone in his hand and asked the sergeant on the other end of the line, "Are you ready?"

A nervous, distant voice answered, "Yes, sir."

Then the minister began reading familiar words, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God and in the face of this company to join together this man and this woman...."

A nervous young lady stood beside the minister as he held the phone in his hand and performed the rites of matrimony for two people who were 5,000 miles apart. A young man stood beside the bride as proxy for his soldier brother on a distant Pacific island. They were getting married by remote control with none of the warmth of immediate nearness at hand.

In the church of Jesus Christ there are thousands whose religion is a proxy relationship with no immediate warmth of personal experience to traverse the distance between God and them.

The story is told of three couple from the deep south who stood in a long line before a marquee in New York City in hopes of getting tickets to a Broadway show. As they stepped up to the window they were told the discouraging news that no tickets were available.

Some enterprising young boys seeing their dilemma picked up canceled stubs and used programs, clipped them together and approached the disappointed couples with the proposition, “Why don’t you give us $5 for these canceled stubs and used programs and go back home and tell your friends you saw the show. They won’t know any difference and you’ll have a lot of fun making them believe you saw the real show.”

The boys were doing a brisk business in selling their worthless wares. Perhaps a reason for laughter if it were not a telling commentary on what is wrong with many people in the church. They’re content to buy canceled stubs to use them as proof that they have seen the show.

When approached about the real thing in glib conversation, they are quick to reply, “See, I’m a Christian…here’s the proof. I have been to church. I’ve sung the hymns. I’ve tipped God and said my prayers. See…here are the canceled stubs and the used programs…these are my proof.”

Used programs indeed, held by those who know but a mild faith; whose sporadic spurts of generosity are triggered only by super-charged appeals from the pulpit. But the question keeps coming up, have they seen the show? Have they ever gone to the foot of Calvary and watched that infamously tragic drama played out to its crucial, horrendous finale? Though singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” they honestly know that they were not. Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” Must be answered in embarrassing negation. I would tend to think that if you’ve ever really been to the foot of the cross; if you’ve ever really seriously thought about what Jesus Christ did for you there, like the centurion in the book, The Robe, you would have to say, “For no man can ever look at Jesus and remain the same.

II. The Meaning Of The Cross

What is the meaning of the cross? It is simple enough. Upon the cross Jesus cried out as if in a shout of victory, "It is finished." And with that cry the work of redemption was made complete.

United States history records the building of a great transcontinental railway line, which would unite the country by rail from the Atlantic to the Pacific. During the construction financial embarrassment overtook the promoters and with difficulty they secured the necessary funds. There was rejoicing when the work was continued. The day came when the last rail was to be laid on the borderline between Utah and Colorado. A great event was planned. A special order was sent to California for a laurel wood tie and two silver spikes which were to be driven into the laurel wood tie completing the work of construction, making a way of transportation from ocean to ocean and binding together the two states. As the governors drove the two silver spikes into the laurel wood tie, the great crowd applauded and a tapped telegraph wire bore the news with a flash out to the entire country and world. It was a great feat and a great accomplishment, truly a history-making moment.

But there was a day when there were spikes driven, not into a laurel wood tie, but into the cursed tree and through the hands of the Son of God. They were not spikes of silver, but of iron and steel. And they were driven while heaven, earth and hell looked on. When the last nail was driven and the last breath forced from the lungs of the Savior, a shout went up from all creation, the news flashed to the ends of the world, for a way of transportation from sin and its darkness had been completed. It was finished was the cry.

Now, as we think about the meaning of the cross, I want us to turn our attention to I John chapter 2, for here we discover that because of Calvary, Jesus became for us two things. First he became our propitiation, and then he became our paraclete. Notice that because of what happened on Calvary, Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (read verse 2).

Now listen, the picture in propitiation comes from sacrifice. The great aim of all religion is fellowship with God. The great aim of religion is to know God as friend and to enter with joy and not with fear into his presence. It therefore follows that the supreme problem of religion is sin. For it is sin that interrupts fellowship with God. It is sin, which makes it impossible to enter into the presence of God. Sacrifice is designed to meet the problem caused by sin. By sacrifice fellowship with God is restored. The Jews offered night and morning the sin offering in the temple. This offering was made so that fellowship with God could be maintained; so that the personal relationship with God might be cultivated.

Jesus was our sacrifice, our propitiation, our sin offering. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12).

Then when his sacrifice is contrasted with those under the law, the record is "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works' to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14).

Sin stood between man and God. No fellowship was possible between us and him until Christ came along and removed that sin by the shedding of his blood. Now we come wholeheartedly into God's presence. We come boldly according to Hebrews 4:16 because Christ has made the way through his death for us. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Hebrews 10:19-20). It is through this "flesh slain way" that we come into the presence of God and enjoy his fellowship. He is our propitiation.

Then too, he is our paraclete. Notice verse one of I John chapter two. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not, and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The Greek word translated "advocate" is the word "paraclete." It is interesting to observe that this Greek word which is translated "advocate" here is translated "comforter" in John 14:16. In the one verse it speaks of the Holy Spirit. And in this verse before us it speaks of Jesus Christ. So we have not only an advocate who dwells within us to help us and to make intercession for us and give us victory, but we also have a helper at the right hand of God, an advocate or an attorney who is there to plead for us when we commit acts of sin.

Where John says, "These things write I unto you that ye sin not," he is saying according to the best literal translation, "These things write I unto you that ye do not commit a single act of sin." He is not dealing here with sin as a bad habit, but with single acts of sin. This is a high standard. And you may wonder if it is possible for a child of God to live by that high standard. But let me put it this way, "through faith Jesus not only saves us from the condemnation of sin, but there is a continuous faith whereby we are saved daily from the power of sin." We learn from Galatians 5:16 that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Here again is victory, and that through the Holy Spirit. It is understandable that God's standard for us is that we should not sin.

In the light of our experience however, this may well cause us to despair, for we realize that in spite of this high standard we do commit acts of sin. The next phrase in this remarkable verse in I John says, "but any man commits a single act of sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

When we do commit an act of sin and Satan would accuse us before the Father, there is no way Satan has of reaching us because we stand before God in the righteousness of Christ... "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference" (Romans 3:22). So then, Jesus has become our righteousness and he stands in the presence of God on our behalf.

Perhaps this can best be explained in the incident of the washing of the disciples' feet. In John's Gospel chapter 13 we're told how the Savior, after the supper was ended, laid aside his garments and took a towel, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel. Peter protested, but the Savior said to him, "If I thee not, thou hast no part with me."

Peter, realizing that he had said the wrong thing, but still not knowing what he was talking about said, 'Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my lead." The Lord answered him, that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." The spiritual truth is that the person who has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, from the guilt of sin, which is once for all, needs only a daily cleansing from the defilement of sin.

And so it is with us who fall into acts of sin and thus have our fellowship broken with God. We have an advocate, a paraclete, a helper, an attorney. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." "He appears in the presence of God for us." He is our propitiation and our paraclete. As our propitiation he cancels out our sin. But as our paraclete "he breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free." Herein we have the work of Christ outlined in a word relative to the meaning of the cross.

III. The Marvel Of The Cross

The marvel of the cross is that it is God's provision of redemption for the entire world - not just the Jew, not just the Gentile, not just the rich, not just the poor, not just the male, not just the female, not just for one race, but for all who believe on his only begotten Son. "And he is the propitiation for our sins. And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." God's mercy is as wide as the sins of the world. If men do not experience its benefits, the fault does not lie with God but with them. He has made the provision. Christ died for all men. No one is so great a sinner that Christ cannot save him.

It was years ago that I saw one of the most striking films on the life of Christ. Near the end of the picture the crucifixion was portrayed in all of its gruesome pageantry. Then Jesus' body was taken down from the cross and buried in Joseph's tomb. The mob, along with the soldiers and the disciples, left the scene of his death. Three rough-hewn crosses stood silently against the turbulent heavens when a lonely figure with sin and desperation written across his filthy countenance stealthily made his way to the center cross. Quivering with emotion of the experience, he flung himself at the foot of the cross. After a long, long while hesitantly he dared to look up to where Jesus once hung, sobbing out, “He died for me. He died for me.” Whether Barabbas ever realized it or not, Jesus Christ actually took his place at Calvary that day. And your name, and my name is Barabbas. Amen.