During those dark hours of the Cross, Christ died for our sins, thus satisfying the divine justice of God: “The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 8. 5). This PASSION or zeal of Christ to offer himself as the sacrifice for our sins is testified by his own words, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18). John Calvin reveals this act of grace and victory when he wrote the following words in a letter just prior to his death in 1564: “having no other hope nor refuge except in his gratuitous adoption, upon which all my salvation founded; embracing the grace which he has given me in our Lord Jesus Christ, and accepting the merits of his death and passion, in order that by this means all my sins may be buried; and praying him so to wash and cleanse me by the blood of this great Redeemer, which has been shed for us poor sinners, that I may appear before his face, bearing as it were his image.”
Christ Jesus was nailed to the sinner’s tree, as a criminal who knew no crime. There were “two other malefactors, led with him to be put to death.” When they came to “the place called Calvary (Golgotha-the place of the skull), there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.” It was on that cross that Christ “triumphed over death as it were upon his own dunghill. He was crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross as it lay upon the ground, and it was then lifted up and fastened into the earth, or into some socket made to receive it. This was a painful and shameful death above any other. That he was crucified in the midst between two thieves, as if he had been the worst of the three. Thus he was not only treated as a transgressor, but numbered with them, the worst of them” (M. Henry) He looked at those who nailed him to the tree, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Truly, those who condemned him, and those who nailed his feet and arms to the cross, did not know what they were doing. For what was happening was of divine purpose. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, of the divine Godhead, who says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my Father’s hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
The “folly of fools” is always seen in deceit, and it is the fool who makes a mockery of sin (Proverbs 14:8-9). Ridicule and chicanery are the scepters of those who would rule in the place of righteousness. The priests and elders could only rely on lies to bring Pilate to say, “Let him be crucified.” Mocking could only twist that which was true. The people and the rulers stood before the crosses looking, but were blinded by their own hypocrisy; “deriding (Christ), saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ the chosen of God.” They heard with their ears that he claimed to be the Messiah. However, “They triumphed over him as if they had conquered him, whereas he was himself then more than a conqueror; they challenged him to save himself from the cross, when he was saving others by the cross” (M. Henry). The Messiah is he who has been chosen of God: “It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man; the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church” (Westminster Confession 8. 1); as we read in those precious words of the Godhead, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The soldiers joined in the mocking, “and offering him vinegar.” When Christ refused the vinegar, which was used to hasten one’s death, he “patiently bore his torments, so that the lingering pain did not lead him to desire that his death should be hastened; for even this was a part of his sacrifice and obedience, to endure to the very last the lingering exhaustion” (Calvin). Our Savior endured the sufferings of the Cross of Calvary for those whom the Father had adopted as his children, satisfying the justice of God that we on our own could not do. We are enabled by the Spirit to look unto Christ Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame; and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
Discussion: What is the true meaning of why Christ was crucified on the cross of Calvary?
The soldiers continued their mockery, saying, “If thou be the king of the Jews save thyself.” To further this contempt in their hearts “superscription also was written over him in letters of the Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” This mockery continues today as words spew forth from the mouths of those who hate any idea that there is a God, whether it be in showing contempt of the Bible truths that rejoice in life in womb, or in turning from the moral strength revealed in the Commandments of God as politicians pass bills that confirm the evil ways of man; i.e., evolution reigns against that of the Creator in state schools. However, they cannot get away from the truth of the presence of the Prince of kings in our nation as expressed by the Puritans as they set foot upon our shores: “a great hope and inward zeal of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing of the kingdom of Christ unto those remote parts of the world, yea, thought they should be but as stepping-stones unto others for performing so great a work.”
One of the criminals, while hanging on his cross, joined the crowd, “If thou be Christ save thyself and us.” The other criminal rebuked him, saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Turning to Jesus he asked, “Lord, remember me when thou camest into thy kingdom.” To which Christ replied, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with me in paradise.” We forget at times that it is ‘transgressors’ that Christ pardons and brings into his eternal paradise; which “magnifies the riches of free grace, that rebels and traitors shall not only be pardoned, but preferred, thus preferred” (M. Henry). For this purpose Christ is the true and only Mediator “of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). When Christ said to the Father, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” had claimed the victory over the sins of the Father’s chosen children, satisfying divine justice, and thereby ushered that transgressor from his cross to the household of God.
It was the sixth hour, noontime, when darkness came upon the earth, lasting until three in the afternoon. Christ’s words “Eli, Eli lama sabachthani?” reveal the ransom price he paid on our behalf, becoming the sinner for us: “My God, my God, what hast thou forsaken me?” In that darkness our Savior takes upon himself the sin and guilt of his people. His sorrow is illustrated in verses 14-19 of Psalm 22; part of which reads, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. … they pierced my hands and my feet. … they part my garments among them.”
Christ took upon himself what we deserved in order that we may receive, by grace, what we do not deserve. In that darkness He paid the ransom price for our sin and guilt. He took upon himself the wrath of God the Father on our behalf. We were baptized with Christ on that cross, our very own selves being identified with him by the Father, as if we ourselves were receiving that just punishment. He kept his promise he gave to the prophet: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (Hosea 13:14). Christ would not forget, nor turn from his promise to save his people. For he is our Mediator between the Father and us, “Who gave himself a ransom” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).
Discussion: How is the promise of eternal life shown in the death of Christ Jesus?
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