It’s a bad thing to be cut off.
In the week since Hurricane Harvey brought extreme weather to the gulf coast of Texas, we’ve seen heroic rescues of people cut off by flood waters. Families have been lifted out of these deep waters by helicopters, boat and monster trucks. Many owe their lives to the sacrifices of National Guard members, local police and fire personnel, the “Cajun Navy” and countless other volunteers.
It is a serious thing to be cut off. The situation is dire. You may not survive without interventions like these from outside the situation.
I want to talk about what it means to be “cut off.”
I attend a Torah study with some Jewish friends. Recently we were studying Numbers 9, where you can find the 2nd Passover in history. (The first Passover occurred in Egypt, on the night before the Exodus began.) This was a year later. Passover is mandatory for the Jewish people. Unless you were unclean (Numbers 9 cites several men who were unclean and couldn’t participate in this Passover because they had just buried a friend), or on a journey, you were expected to celebrate the Passover. And if you could, but failed to, observe the Passover, you were to be “cut off” from your people. “…that person shall be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the Lord at is appointed time. That man will bear his sin.” (Numbers 9:13, NASB)
I asked the Rabbi, “What if a young man rebelled and sowed his wild oats for a few years, and later felt the emptiness of his choices, could he return?”
The Rabbi said, “No,” he would remain cut off from his people. I remember a brief silence following. I wondered if any of my Jewish friends in the room had ever missed a Passover. I know the Rabbi’s answer jarred me – it was very bad news to hear someone say you are “cut off.” It’s a permanent thing.
Interestingly, the scripture applies this term to the Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah described a person who, like a Passover lamb, was led to slaughter and “cut off from the land of the living” for the sin of His people. (Isaiah 53:8)
The prophet Daniel foresaw that before the Messiah would reign in victory, he would be “cut off and have nothing.” Interestingly, Daniel saw that a short while later the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. (Daniel 9:26)
The Messiah was “cut off.” But it was in our place.
Jesus is that Messiah who rescues all those who have been “cut off.”
The gospel of Matthew cites another prophecy of Isaiah that is fulfilled by Jesus. “The people who were sitting in darkness [cut off] have seen a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and the shadow of death [i.e., cut off], upon them a light dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
All who are cut off can now be restored and brought near again. They can be grafted back into the olive tree, adopted back into the family, welcomed back in the household, the garden of God.
I was once cut off but no longer. I received this mercy. And I did not deserve any of it.
You do not have to remain cut off. Rescue is available. That is why we say that the Messiah is also our Savior.
There is nothing quite so glorious as a rescue. Snatched from an impossible situation and placed on firm footing.
That is the glory of the Cross of Jesus.