Americans are rugged individualist and have a generally low view of the church. Why do I need the church when I have my Bible? Why do I need the church when I can talk to God any time anywhere? Why do I need the church when I can have my own personal relationship with Jesus? Something else that starting in the 1950’s has undercut American’s view of the church and that is the rise of para-church organizations. Many of them have done great things but you have heard of the law of unintended consequences. Para-church organizations have always said they exist to help the church but they have actually eroded American’s commitment to church. Para-church organizations have drawn people and resources away from the church. The low view of the church today is traced by some back to the reformation. The reformation produced one of the greatest schisms in the church in history. The Roman Catholic Church maintained that she was the only true church and that submission to the pope was required. They said that the Reformers were throwing off the church by breaking from Rome. The Reformers had to work hard to show that the opposite was the case. They had a very high view of the church and because of their high view that was why they desired so strongly to reform the church, to return the church to her former apostolic and Biblical authority. The Reformed creeds and confessions gave much attention to this important doctrine of the church. It’s worth noting that ten out of the thirty-seven article of the Belgic Confession are devoted to the Reformed view of the church. From article 27 to 36 we will be considering the great doctrines concerning the church of Jesus Christ. As far back as the Nicene Creed Christians have been summing up their teaching on the church through four attributes: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Let’s consider these four classic attributes of the Church of Jesus Christ. The glory of the church is that she is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
If you want to start an interesting conversation sometime ask, “What’s the most important event in human history?” You will hear an amazing variety of answers. The beginning of civilization, the invention of writing, the codification of law, the rise of the Roman Empire and western civilization, the invention of the printing press, the Renaissance, the discovery of electricity, penicillin, the atomic bomb, landing on the moon, tearing down the Berlin Wall, 9/11. And on and on. It’s a bit unsettling that for Christians our most important event in human history is a torture and execution on a Roman cross. But the fact is the cross is central to the Gospel of Jesus, central to the Christian faith, and central to the whole of human history. This is the dividing moment, the crossing of the Rubicon, the point of no return, the laying down of the gauntlet, the continental divide. Everything flows from this event. Everything before anticipated and pointed to this event; everything after looks back to this event. This is God’s answer to the question, what’s the most important event in human history. Of the tens of thousands of crucifixions that have taken place in history, this one towers above all the rest in significance. This is our focus this morning, the cross of Jesus.
“What then shall I do with this one called Jesus?” That’s the question, that’s the question that divides history, the question that divides nations, and divides rulers and divides families. That’s the question that determines destinies. What then shall you and I do with this one called Jesus? Mark 15:1-5 We know what the Jewish leaders intended to do with Jesus. Mark’s opening words remind us that the Sanhedrin had been meeting in the night against their own rules for a fair trial. Now at daybreak they hold a quick mockery of a trail making a mockery of justice. And the mockery isn’t over. They bound Jesus like a common criminal, maybe for extra effect, and delivered Him over to the Roman’s since they had no power to put anyone to death. Their charge against Jesus was a charge of blasphemy. But that charge created a problem. No Roman official would recognize a charge of blasphemy. That was nothing to them, they couldn’t care one wit whether someone spoke against their temple or their God. The Jews changed the charge into a charge of treason, saying that this Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. That was a different matter, that was sedition, that could be the beginnings of a coup, an insurrection and Rome would quickly deal with something like that.