"Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:26).
Many are talking presently about this Holy matter. The news media and the general public are engaged in a debate about the passion of Christ. But this is not a matter for entertainment, but rather a cause for worship. We read in the Bible that Christ was crucified, that He died, that He was buried, that He rose from among the dead, that He ascended into heaven, that He sat down glorified, and that He is coming again. Let us look briefly at this Holy subject from the Scripture’s point of view.
Crucifixion is the end of man’s world, death is the end of man all together, and burial is the putting of man out of sight. While the gospels recount the trial of the Lord Jesus, the fact of the matter is that it was not the Lord Jesus who was on trial. It was actually the world that was on trial. When the Lord Jesus stood there before them, He was the manifestation of truth revealed from God. The question for the world was, "What is the world going to do with the truth as personified in Him?"
The answer to that was, "Crucify Him." The hymn writer said, "This world’s judgment stands recorded." In other words, in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, God brought to termination this world, this system of things which originated in Cain (the first man who went out from the presence of God) and all its full effect that was displayed on the cross. In 1 Cor. 2, Paul said that the princes of this age had rejected Christ, not wishing to have Him in any part of their system, and so, crucified the Lord of glory.
You and I will not make any progress in divine things until we understand the power of God that broke the power of death. At the cross, death was vanquished and "He, death by dying slew." There was a moment in the history of this world where the hatred of man and the sinfulness of sin went beyond anything ever done before. There was a moment in the history of this world when the power of darkness was darker than ever before. There was a moment when the power of Satan moved in a way it had never moved before. There was a moment when the wrath of God demonstrated its hatred of sin in a manner never done before and that will never be done again. At the cross, all these things expend their forces against one solitary man, the Christ of God. The more we think about the cross, the more we understand what took place there. There the love of God, which in Christ Jesus was seen to prevail over everything else, gave the blessed Jesus to die for you and me.
In John 12, the Lord Jesus said, "The hour is come." There are instances mentioned in Scripture that His hour had not yet come. There were times when they took up stones to stone Him, but His hour had not come, neither was stoning the prophesied mode of His death. There were times when they wanted to cast Him from the top of a hill, but again, His hour had not yet come. The Scripture speaks of crucifixion. Now the hour had come, and Jesus came forth bearing His cross. The hour was now come that the Son of Man was going to be glorified. He was going to glorify God and He was going to glorify man on the cross. He was going to display perfectly what man should be in relation to God. He was going to take the will of God in its completeness and carry it through to its absolute conclusion, and in so doing the Son of Man would be glorified. He did not walk that pathway in Godhead power, but He felt it as a man. There was a cause for coming to this hour. There was a divine necessity involved in the cross, a cause for His coming into manhood, a cause for His walking here for the glory of God, and a cause for His going into death. As we follow Him to the garden, we see that He went as was His custom: the cross did not surprise Him, and He did not adopt an attitude that was different to what was His custom. The Christ of God did not change. He was the same throughout His pathway, a man completely devoted to and dependent on His Father. He went as His custom to pray. We find Him praying in the Gospel of Luke more than seven times. Yet at this hour it is recorded that He prayed more earnestly. Perhaps that tells us the reason, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw."
It was not for man’s eye to see, neither is it for the corrupt man’s imagination to display it in a film.
In contemplation of the cup that His Father was handing Him and seeing what that cup involved, His Holy soul was exceedingly sorrowful. It wasn’t what man was going to do that made Him pray more earnestly and drew forth those drops of sweat like blood, but it was the sight of what a Holy and Righteous God was going to have to do to His soul when He offered Himself without spot to God. When God made His soul an offering for sin, that is what made Him pray more earnestly.
It is interesting to note that the first time sweat is mentioned is in the book of Genesis - found on the face of Adam as a direct result of his sin in disobeying God. The last time we read of sweat in Scripture it was on the face of the Lord Jesus as he contemplated what he was going to endure because of my sin and yours. When we read that an angel appeared to strengthen Him that must refer to physical agony. I could understand that it is possible for a soul going through such extreme anguish that the physical body might bow under that heavy load, but when it came to the matter of taking up this cup and drink in going to the cross, there was no angel. Alone He bears the cross, alone its grief sustains. There was the pathway that no one of Adam’s order ever could tread. And that was the way of the cross. Judas comes. What a traitor! His familiar friend sells Him for thirty pieces of silver; that was the value of the Lord Jesus to him. As Peter drew his sword and cut Malchus’ ear, we hear words of grace, "Suffer thus far," and His hand (which was soon to be pierced with a nail) was put forth to heal one of His enemies. The last miracle of the Lord Jesus before He went to the cross was to heal one of His enemies. That is divine love. That is grace. He said, "This is your hour and the authority of darkness." Here the Lord Jesus gets to the source of it all. His disciples forsook Him and fled, the priest accused Him falsely, and Pilate washes his hands in cowardice.
How touchingly Mr. Darby puts it:
The pride of careless greatness,
Could wash its hand of Thee.
Priests that should plead for weakness,
Must Thine accusers be!
Man’s boasting love disowned Thee,
Thine own thy danger flee.
A Judas only owns Thee
That Thou may’st captive be.
Men with wicked hearts took Him, bound Him, and brought false witness against Him. They scourged Him, they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. They mocked Him, they spit upon Him, and they plaited a crown of thorns on His blessed head. That thorn was what the ground brought forth as the result of the curse that Adam’s sin brought to the earth. Yes, He bore it on His sacred brow!
Oh Head once full of bruises,
So full of pain and scorn,
’Mid other sore abuses
Mocked with a crown of thorn;
O Head! e’en now surrounded,
With brightest majesty,
In death once bow’d and wounded
On the accursed tree.
Thou countenance transcendent!
Thou life-creating Sun!
To worlds on Thee dependent-
Yet bruised and spit upon:
O Lord! what thee tormented
Was our sins heavy load,
We had the debt augmented
Which thou didst pay in blood.
And they came to a place called Golgotha, the place of the skull. Remember how the apostle Paul said the princes of this world did not have the wisdom that comes from God? Because they only had the wisdom of this world, they crucified the Lord of glory. How significant the meaning of Golgotha, the place of the skull. There they tried to give Him gall to numb Him, but He would not take it. The full weight of the cross, the full venom of man’s hatred, the full pain of crucifixion, He would feel it all. I believe that when we realize what man did to the Son of God physically it shows their true violence and hatred toward God. It was not customary to nail men to a cross; that was not the usual Roman crucifixion. Rather, it was normal to tie a man’s arms to the cross which then forced them to a position where they were suspended by their arms. Over the length of time this caused breathing to become difficult and the man being crucified would normally die of suffocation. The lungs cease to function, causing excruciating pain. But that was not sufficient for them to do to the Son of God. They suspended Him by driving nails in His hands and feet. I believe He was the only one nailed to a cross; every other person crucified had his arms and legs tied with a rope. Even in regard to crucifixion, they went beyond what was normal. But let us remember that His suffering from the hand of man could not take my sins away.
God intervened during the three hours of darkness. God dealt with Him in regard not only to sin, but God laid on Him my sins. Let us never forget that He paid the price that I could never pay. He took and bore my sins before God because He knew if I bore them it would mean eternal damnation.
Our sins, our guilt in love divine,
Confessed and born by Thee;
The gall, the curse, the wrath were thine,
To set thy ransomed free.
And God covered this scene in darkness. It was not for mortal eye or for creation to see - the brazen altar was five cubits high, too high for any man to see into. There He stood in the divine court of justice as my substitute, to answer the question of sin. There He received God’s holy wrath and righteous punishment for my sins; there God poured His fire of judgment on Him. There is little, if any, one can say about those three hours of darkness, but please read Ps. 22, Ps. 69, and Isa. 53.
And at the end of these hours of darkness came the cry, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?" Though we can not see what took place in these dark hours, how wonderful that at the end of it we can hear His triumphant cry, "It is finished."
The transaction has taken place and was completed once and for all; the atoning work is done and the full price of redemption is paid. The Throne of God is vindicated; the holy righteous demands of God against sin were satisfied; the fire of the judgment of God that consumed every sacrifice was indeed consumed by His sacrifice; and "all my sins, so great, so many, in His Blood are washed away." Then, in complete control of the situation, He bowed His head and as King, dismissed His spirit!
These are holy things, dear reader. They are not for film makers to make money on. We must not add honey onto the sacrifice. Let us remember that these spiritual things are to be understood by spiritual means - that is how they are to be appreciated and enjoyed. It is not for film makers to portray the Son of God that they might gain their thirty or thirty million pieces of silver. Let us not be deceived: Christianity is built on the principle of faith, not of sight, for "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The Lord said, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Believers do not need sight to help their faith, and unbelievers have the Bible, the word of God. The Lord said, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).
Yet the fact remains that the death of Christ affects every department of creation. The Scriptures state that the veil of the Temple was rent - that is the religious sphere. Now we believers have access to the very presence of God. We also read that the earth did quake and the rocks were rent - that is the material sphere. In the day to come, that material creation will enjoy liberty from what sin brought in. We further read that many bodies of saints arose and after His resurrection came out of the graves and went into Jerusalem - that is the spiritual sphere. Yes, the dead in Christ and those asleep in Jesus will experience that by death he destroyed the power of death. Lastly, the death of Christ affects the moral sphere: the centurion that stood there and witnessed it said, "Truly, this was the Son of God." How the practical lives of many have changed in response to that confession that He is the Eternal Son of God
The death of Christ affects the whole universe. How wonderful that God has fully answered the death of Christ (Phil. 2). In the glorious display of our blessed Saviour He will publicly receive that answer when every knee shall bow - heavenly, earthly, and infernal - and every tongue will own Him "Lord, to God the Fathers’ glory."