An excerpt from the book “The Gospel’s Power & Message” by Paul Washer: http://www.heritagebooks.org/the-gospels-power-and-message-recovering-the-gospel/
At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice,Mark 15:34
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” …And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.Luke 22:41-44
“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”John 19:30
Before us is the most important chapter in this book, or as most Christians would agree, “The most important chapter of human history.” This theme cannot be broken apart into smaller portions even for the convenience of the reader. This is the heart of the Gospel, and if we must labor through it, it is worthy labor indeed!
One of the greatest maladies of contemporary Gospel preaching is that the Cross of Christ is rarely explained. It is not enough to say that, “He died” – for all men die. It is not enough to say that, “He died a noble death” – for martyrs do the same. We must understand that we have not fully proclaimed the death of Christ with saving power until we have cleared away the confusion that surrounds it and expounded its true meaning to our hearers – He died bearing the transgressions of His people and suffering the divine penalty for their sins: He was forsaken of God and crushed under the wrath of God in their place.
Forsaken of God
One of the most disturbing, even haunting, passages in the Scriptures is Mark’s account of the Messiah’s great inquiry as He hangs upon the Roman Cross. In a loud voice He cried out:
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”1
In light of what we know about the impeccable nature of the Son of God and His perfect fellowship with the Father, the Messiah’s words are difficult to comprehend, yet in them, the meaning of the Cross is laid bare, and we find the reason for which He died. The fact that His words are also recorded in the original Hebrew tongue, tells us something of their great importance. The author did not want us to misunderstand or to miss a thing!
In these words, Christ is not only crying out to God, but as the consummate teacher, He is also directing His onlookers and all future readers to one of the most important Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament – Psalm 22. Though the entire Psalm abounds with detailed prophecies of the cross, we will concern ourselves with only the first six verses:
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.”
In Christ’s day, the Hebrew Scriptures were not laid out in numbered chapters and verses as they are today. Therefore, when a rabbi sought to direct his hearers to a certain Psalm or portion of Scripture, he would do so by reciting the first lines of the text. In this cry from the cross, Jesus directs us to Psalm 22 and reveals to us something of the character and purpose of His sufferings.
In the first and second verses, we hear the Messiah’s complaint – He considers Himself forsaken of God. Mark uses the Greek word egkataleípo, which means to forsake, abandon, or desert.2 The psalmist uses the Hebrew word azab, which means to leave, loose, or forsake.3 In both cases, the intention is clear. The Messiah Himself is aware that God has forsaken Him, and turned a deaf ear to His cry. This is not a symbolic or poetic forsakenness. It is real! If ever a person felt the forsakenness of God, it was the Son of God on the Cross of Calvary!
In the fourth and fifth verses of this Psalm, the anguished suffered by the Messiah becomes even more acute as He recalls the covenant faithfulness of God towards His people. He declares:
“In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.”
The apparent contradiction is clear. There had never been one instance in the history of God’s covenant people that a righteous man cried out to God and was not delivered. However, now the sinless Messiah hangs upon a tree utterly forsaken. What could be the reason for God’s withdrawal? Why did He turn away from His only begotten Son?
Woven into the Messiah’s complaint is found the answer to these disturbing questions. In verse three, He makes the unwavering declaration that God is holy, and then in verse six, He admits the unspeakable – He had become a worm and was no longer a man. Why would Christ direct such demeaning and derogatory language toward Himself? Did He see Himself as a worm because He had become “a reproach of men and despised by the people” or was there a greater and more awful reason for His self-deprecation?4 After all, He did not cry out, “My God, my God, why have the people forsaken me”, but rather He endeavored to know why God had done so! The answer can be found in one bitter truth alone – God had caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him, and like a worm, He was forsaken and crushed in our stead.5
A Serpent and a Scapegoat
This dark metaphor of the Messiah dying as worm is not alone in Scripture. There are others that take us even deeper into the heart of the Cross and lay open for us what “He must suffer” in order to accomplish the redemption of His people.6 If we shutter at the words of the psalmist, we will be further taken back to read that the Son of God is also likened to a serpent lifted up in the wilderness, and to two sin-bearing goats – one slaughtered and the other driven out.
The first metaphor is found in the book of Numbers. Because of Israel’s near constant rebellion against the Lord and their rejection of His gracious provisions, God sent “fiery serpents” among the people and many died.7 However, as a result of the people’s repentance and Moses’ intercession, God once again made provision for their salvation. He commanded Moses to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard”. He then promised that “everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”
At first, it seems contrary to reason that “the cure was shaped in the likeness of that which wounded.”8 However, it provides a powerful picture of the Cross. The Israelites were dying from the venom of the fiery serpents. Men die from the venom of their own sin. Moses was commanded to place the cause of death high upon a pole. God placed the cause of our death upon His own Son as He hung high upon a cross. He had come “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” and was made to be sin on our behalf.9 The Israelite who believed God and looked upon the brazen serpent would live. The man who believes God’s testimony concerning His Son and looks upon Him with faith will be saved.10 As it is written:
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”11
The second metaphor is found in the priestly book of Leviticus. Since it was impossible for a single offering to fully typify or illustrate the Messiah’s atoning death, an offering involving two sacrificial goats was put before the people.12 The first goat was slain as a sin offering before the Lord and its blood was sprinkled on and in front of the Mercy Seat behind the veil in the Holy of Holies.13 It typified Christ who shed His blood on the cross to make atonement for the sins of His people. It is a wonderful illustration of Christ’s death as a propitiation – He shed His blood to satisfy the justice of God, appease His wrath, and bring peace. The second goat was presented before the Lord as the scapegoat.14 Upon the head of this animal, the High Priest laid “both of his hands and confessed over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins.”15 The scapegoat was then sent away into the wilderness bearing on itself all the iniquities of the people into a solitary land. There, it would wander alone, forsaken of God, and cut off from His people. It typified Christ who “bore our sins in His body on the cross,” and suffered and died alone “outside the camp.”16 It is a wonderful illustration of Christ’s death as an expiation – He our sin carried away. The psalmist wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, so far He removed our transgressions from us.”17
The Messiah is Made Sin
How can we not think it astounding that a worm, a venomous serpent, and a goat should be put forth as types of Christ? To identify the Son of God with such “loathsome things” would be blasphemous had they not come from the Old Testament Scriptures themselves, and had they not been confirmed by the authors of the New Testament who go even farther in their dark portrayal of His sacrificial death. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they tell us that Messiah who knew no sin, was “made sin” , and He who was the beloved of the Father “became a curse” before Him.18
All of us have heard these truths before, but have we ever given them enough consideration to actually understand them and be broken by them? On the Cross, the One declared “holy, holy, holy” by the Seraphim choir , was “made” to be sin.19 The journey into the meaning of this phrase seems almost too dangerous to take. We baulk even at the first step. What does it mean that He in whom “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” was made sin?20 We must not explain the truth away in an attempt to protect the reputation of the Son of God, and yet we must be careful not to speak terrible things against His impeccable and immutable character. How was it that He was made sin? From the Scriptures we draw that Christ was “made sin” in the same way that the believer “becomes the righteousness of God” in Him.21 In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes:
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”22
In this present life, the believer is the “righteousness of God” not because of some purifying work upon his character through which he becomes a perfectly righteous or sinless being, but rather as a result of imputation by which he is considered righteous before God through the work of Christ on his behalf. In the same way, Christ was “made sin” not because of some moral degeneration in His character through which He actually became corrupt or unrighteous, but as a result of imputation by which He was considered guilty before the judgment seat of God in our place. On the Cross, Christ did not become sinful, but rather our sins were imputed to Him, and God considered Him to be guilty of our crimes and treated Him with the judgment we deserved. He was not “made sin” by partaking of our corruption, but by bearing our guilt. We must not forget that even while He bore our sins, He remained the unblemished and spotless Lamb of God, and His sacrifice was a fragrant aroma to Him.23
We must be careful to understand that this truth does not diminish the horrifying nature of Christ being “made sin” on our behalf. Although it was an imputed guilt, it was real guilt, bringing unspeakable anguish to His soul. He truly stood in our place, bore our sin, carried our guilt, and experienced the full measure of the wrath of God due our sin.
The agony which Christ experienced in being “made sin” is further revealed in the great contrast between what He truly was and what He was “made” to be. It is a dreadful experience for the sinner to come face to face with his own sin and feel the weight of his own guilt. It is quite another thing for the “One who knew no sin” to bear a filth that was totally foreign to Him and to feel the guilt of a countless multitude of sinners. It is an unspeakable terror for the sinner to be treated as guilty before the bar of God, but it is quite another thing for One who is “innocent, undefiled, and separated from sinners” to be so treated.24 It is one thing for the sinner to be condemned by a God with whom he has no relations and toward whom he possesses no affections. It is quite another thing for the beloved Son of God to be judged and condemned by His own Father with whom He had shared the most intimate communion throughout eternity and toward whom He possessed a love beyond definition and measure.
The Christ Becomes a Curse
That Christ was “made sin,” is a truth as terrible as it is incomprehensible, and yet, just when we think that no darker words can be uttered against Him, the Apostle Paul lights a lamp and takes us further down into the abyss of Christ’s humiliation and forsakenness. We enter the deepest cavern to find the Son of God hanging from the Cross and bearing His most infamous title – Accursed of God!
The Scriptures declare that all humankind lay under the curse of God for having violated the precepts of divine Law. As the apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia:
“Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law, to perform them.”25
The word “cursed” comes from the Greek word katára which denotes an execration, imprecation, or malediction. In the New Testament, it refers to the state of being under divine disapproval or reprobation leading to judgment and condemnation. The divine curse is the antonym of divine blessing, therefore, by using the Beatitudes as our standard, we can learn something of what it means to come under the curse of God.
The blessed are granted the kingdom of heaven.
The cursed are refused entrance.
The blessed are recipients of divine comfort.
The cursed are objects of divine wrath.
The blessed inherit the land.
The cursed are cut off from it.
The blessed are satisfied.
The cursed are miserable and wretched.
The blessed receive mercy.
The cursed are condemned without pity.
The blessed shall see God.
The cursed are cut off from His presence.
The blessed are sons and daughters of God.
The cursed are disowned in disgrace.26
From heaven’s perspective, those who break God’s Law are vile and worthy of all loathing. They are a wretched lot, justly exposed to divine vengeance, and rightly devoted to eternal destruction. It is not an exaggeration to say that the last thing that the accursed sinner should and will hear when he takes his first step into hell is all of creation standing to its feet and applauding God because He has rid the earth of him. Such is the vileness of those who break God’s law, and such is the disdain of the holy towards the unholy.
Such language is a gross offense to the world and to much of the contemporary evangelical community. Nevertheless, it is biblical language and it must be said. If for etiquette’s sake we refuse to explain and illustrate the “dark sayings” of Scripture, then God will not be held as holy, men will not understand their dreadful predicament, and the price paid by Christ will never be calculated or appreciated. Unless we comprehend what it means for man to be under the divine curse we will never comprehend what it meant for Christ to “become a curse for us.” We will never fully understand the horror and beauty of what was done for us on that tree!
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”27
The truth conveyed in this text is what made Jesus Christ and His Gospel such a scandal to the Jews of the first century. They were all familiar with the terrifying truth of Scripture that “He who is hanged is accursed of God.”28 How then could the Messiah be the Deliverer and King of Israel and yet die in such a degrading and accused fashion? To entertain such an idea was more than scandalous, it was outright blasphemy! Yet the Jews failed to see that it was an “exchanged curse,” and that it was necessary for the Christ to become what they were in order to redeem them from what they deserved.29 He became a worm and no man, the serpent lifted up in the wilderness, the scapegoat driven outside the camp, the bearer of sin, and the One upon whom the curse of God did fall. And He did it all in the place of His people!
In the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth chapters of Deuteronomy, God divided the nation of Israel into two separate camps and placed one on Mount Gerizim and the other on Mount Ebal. Those on Mount Gerizim were to pronounce the blessings which would come upon all who diligently obey the Lord their God.30 Those on Mount Ebal were to pronounce the curses which would fall upon all who refused such obedience.31 Though Christ had every right to the blessings of Gerizim, it was from Mount Ebal that His own Father thundered against Him as He hung from Calvary’s tree. From behind the closed doors of heaven the Father crushed His only Son with every terror that should befall those for whom He died. When He raised His eyes to heaven to find God’s countenance, His Father turned away. When He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’ His Father replied, “The Lord, the Lord your God, damns you.”32
The Lord sends upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly…33
“The Lord smites you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness… with none to save you.”34
“The Lord delights over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land.”35
“Cursed shall you be in the city, and curse shall you be in the field…”36
“Cursed shall you be when you come in and cursed shall you be when you go out…”37
“The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron.”38
“You shall be a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people.” 39
“Let all these curses come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.”40
As Christ bore our sin upon Calvary, He was cursed as man who makes an idol and sets it up in secret.41 He was cursed as one who dishonors his father or mother, who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark, or misleads a blind person on the road.42 He was cursed as one who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.43 He was cursed as one who is guilty of every manner of immorality and perversion, who wounds his neighbor in secret, or accepts a bribe to strike down the innocent.44 He was cursed as one who does not confirm the words of the Law by doing them.45 The sage of Proverbs wrote:
“Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, So a curse without cause does not alight.”46
However the curse did alight upon the Branch, not because of some flaw in His character or error in His deeds, but because He bore the sins of His people and carried their iniquity before the judgment bar of God.47 There He stood uncovered, unprotected, and vulnerable to every recourse of divine judgment. The psalmist David cried out,
“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!”48
Yet on the Cross, the sin imputed to Christ was exposed before God and the host of heavens. He was placarded before men and made a spectacle to angels and devils alike.49 The transgressions He bore were not forgiven Him, and the sins He carried were not covered. If a man is counted blessed because iniquity is not imputed to Him, then Christ was cursed beyond measure because the iniquity of us all fell upon Him.50 For this reason, He was treated as the covenant breaker spoken of at the renewal of the Mosaic covenant in Moab.
“The anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.”51
At Calvary, the Messiah was “singled out” for adversity and “every curse” written in the book of the Law fell upon Him. In this “Seed of Abraham” all the families of the earth are blessed, but only because He was cursed more than any man who ever walked upon the earth.52 In book of Numbers is found one of the most beautiful promises of blessing that has ever been given by God to man. It is referred to as the Priestly or Aaronic blessing:
“The LORD bless you,
and keep you;
“The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”53
Though beautiful and gracious, this blessing presents us with a great theological and moral problem. How can a righteous God grant such blessing to a sinful people without compromising His righteousness. The answer again is found in the Cross. The sinner can be blessed only because the Holy and Righteous One was cursed.54 Any and every blessing from God that has ever been granted or ever will be granted to His people is only because, on the Tree, Christ became the very anti-type of this Priestly or Aaronic Blessing.55 To us, it is said, “The Lord bless you,” only because to Him it was said:
“The Lord curse you, and give you over to destruction;
“The Lord take the light of His presence from you, and condemn you;
“The Lord turn His face from you,
and fill you with misery.”
The Psalmist describes “the blessed” as those who are made joyful with gladness in God’s presence, who know the joyful sound of the festal shout, and who walk in the light of His countenance.56 For our sakes, Christ was made sorrowful with the absence of His Father’s presence, He came to know the terrifying sound of judgment’s trumpet, and He hung in the darkness of God’s unbearable frowning countenance. Because of Adam’s fateful choice, the entire creation groaned under the curse and was enslaved to corruption and futility.57 To liberate creation, the Last Adam took upon Himself the sins of His people and groaned under the dreadful yoke.
“He redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…”58
It is the greatest travesty that the true meaning of the Christ’s “cry from the cross” has often been lost in romantic cliché. It is not uncommon to hear a preacher declare that the Father turned away from His Son because He could no longer bear to witness the suffering inflicted upon Him by the hands of wicked men. As we have learned, such interpretations are a complete distortion of the text and of what actually transpired on the Cross. The Father did not turn away from His Son because He lacked the fortitude to witness His sufferings, but because “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”59 He laid our sins upon Him and turned away, for His eyes are too pure to approve evil and He cannot look upon wickedness with favor.60
It is not without good cause that many Gospel tracts picture an infinite abyss or separation between a holy God and sinful man. With such an illustration, the Scriptures fully agree. As the prophet Isaiah cried out:
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save, nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you God and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”61
According to this text, and countless others, all men should live and die separated from the favorable presence of God and under divine wrath. For this reason, the Son of God stood in our place, bore our sin, and died “forsaken of God.” For the breach to be closed and fellowship restored, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things?”62
Christ Suffers the Wrath of God
To obtain the salvation of His people, Christ suffered the terrifying abandonment of God, drank down the bitter cup of God’s wrath, and died a bloody death in the place of His people. Only then could divine justice be satisfied, the wrath of God be appeased, and reconciliation be made possible.
In the garden, Christ prayed three times for “the cup” to be removed from Him, but each time His will gave into that of His Father’s.63 We must ask ourselves, what was in the cup that caused Him to pray so fervently? What terrible thing did it contain to caused Him such anguish that His sweat was mingled with blood?64
It is often said that the cup represented the cruel Roman cross and the physical torture that awaited Him. That Christ foresaw the cat of nine tails coming down across His back, the crown of thorns piercing His brow, and the primitive nails driven through His hands and feet. However those who believe these things to be the source of His anguish do not understand the Cross, nor what happened there. Although the tortures heaped upon Him by the hands of men were all part of God’s redemptive plan, there was something much more ominous that evoked His cry for deliverance.
In the first centuries of the primitive church, thousands of Christians died on crosses. It is said that Nero crucified them upside down, covered them with tar, and set them aflame to provide streetlights for the city of Rome. Throughout the ages since then, a countless stream of Christians have been led off to the most unspeakable tortures, and yet it is the testimony of friend and foe alike that many of them went to their death with great boldness. Are we to believe that the followers of the Messiah met such cruel physical death with joy unspeakable, while the Captain of their Salvation cowered in a garden, fearing the same torture?65 Did the Christ of God dread whips and thorns, crosses and spears, or did the cup represent a terror infinitely beyond the greatest cruelty of men?
To understand the ominous contents of the cup, we must refer to the Scriptures. There are two passages in particular that we must consider – one from the Psalms and the other from the Prophets:
“For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”66
“For thus the LORD, the God of Israel says to me, ‘Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. They will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.’”67
As a result of the unceasing rebellion of the wicked, the justice of God had decreed judgment against them. He would rightly pour forth His indignation upon the nations. He would put the cup of the wine of His wrath to their mouth and force them to drink it down to the dregs.68 The mere thought of such a fate awaiting the world is absolutely terrifying, yet this would have been the fate of all, except that the mercy of God sought for the salvation of a people, and the wisdom of God devised a plan of redemption even before the foundation of the world.69 The Son of God would become a man and walk upon the earth in perfect obedience to the Law of God. He would be like us in all things, and tempted in all ways like us, but without sin.70 He would live a perfectly righteous life for the glory of God and for the benefit of His people. Then in the appoint time, He would be crucified by the hands of wicked men, and on that Cross, He would bear His people’s guilt, and suffer the wrath of God against them. The perfect Son of God and a true Son of Adam together in one glorious person would take the bitter cup of wrath from the very hand of God and drink it down to the dregs. He would drink until it was finished, and the justice of God was fully satisfied.71 The divine wrath that should have been ours would be exhausted upon the Son, and by Him, it would be extinguished.
Imagine an immense dam that is filled to the brim and straining against the weight behind it. All at once, the protective wall is pulled away and the massive destructive power of the deluge is unleashed. As certain destruction races towards a small village in the nearby valley, the ground suddenly opens up before it and drinks down that which would have carried it away. In similar fashion, the judgment of God was rightly racing toward every man. Escape could not be found on the highest hill or in the deepest abyss. The fleetest of foot could not outrun it, nor could the strongest swimmer endure its torrents. The dam was breached and nothing could repair its ruin. But when every human hope was exhausted, at the appointed time, the Son of God interposed. He stood between divine justice and His people. He drank down the wrath that we ourselves had kindled and the punishment we deserved. When He died, not one drop of the former deluge remained. He drank it all on our behalf!
Imagine two giant millstones, one turning on top of the other. Imagine that caught between the two is a single grain of wheat that is pulled under the massive weigh. First, its hull is crushed beyond recognition, and then its inwards parts are poured out and ground into dust. There is no hope of retrieval or reconstruction. All is lost and beyond repair. Thus, in a similar fashion, it pleased the Lord to crush His only Son, and put Him to grief unspeakable . Thus, it pleased the Son to submit to such suffering that God might be glorified and a people might be redeemed.72
We should not think that God found some gleeful pleasure in the suffering of His beloved Son, but through His death, the will of God was accomplished. No other means had the power to put away sin, satisfy divine justice, and appease the wrath of God against us. Unless that divine grain of wheat had fallen to the ground and died, it would have abided alone without a people or a bride.73 The pleasure was not found in the suffering, but in all that such suffering would accomplish: God would be revealed in a glory yet unknown to men or angels, and a people would be brought into unhindered fellowship with their God.
The beloved Puritan writer John Flavel once wrote a dialogue between the Father and the Son regarding fallen humanity and great price that would be required to obtain our redemption. It beautifully illustrates the true agony of the Cross, and the love of the Father and the Son which moved them to embrace it. Flavel writes: “Here you may suppose the Father to say, when driving His bargain with Christ for you –
Father: My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls? And thus Christ returns.
Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe Thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shall thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer their wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.
Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.
Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it!”74
It is sometimes thought and even preached that the Father looked down from heaven and witnessed the suffering that was heaped upon His Son by the hands of men, and that He counted such affliction as payment for our sins. This is heresy of the worst kind. Christ satisfied divine justice not by merely enduring the affliction of men, but by enduring the wrath of God. It takes more than crosses, nails, crowns of thorns, and lances to pay for sin. The believer is saved, not simply because of what men did to Christ on the Cross, but because of what God did to Him – He crushed Him under the full force of His wrath against us.75 Rarely is this truth made clear enough in the abundance of all our Gospel preaching!
God Will Provide
In one of the most epic narratives in the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham is commanded to carry his son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and there, to offer him as a sacrifice to God.
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”76
What a burden was laid upon Abraham! We cannot even begin to imagine the sadness that filled the old man’s heart and tortured him every step of his journey. The Scriptures are careful to tell us that he was commanded to offer “his son, his only son, whom he loved.” The specificity of the language seems designed to catch our attention and make us think that there is more meaning hidden in these words than what first glance can tell; that this man and this boy are simply types or shadows of a greater Father, a greater Son, and a greater sacrifice!
On the third day, the two reached the appointed place, and the father bound his beloved son with his own hand. Finally, in submission to what must be done, he laid his hand upon his boy’s brow and “took the knife to slay him.”77 At that very moment, the mercy of God interposed, and the old man’s hand was stayed. God called out to him from heaven and said:
“Abraham, Abraham!” …Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”78
At the sound of the Lord’s voice, Abraham raised his eyes, and found a ram in the thicket that was caught by its horns. He took the ram, and offered it up in the place of his son.79 He then named that place YHWH-jireh or “The Lord will provide.” Thus, it is a faithful saying that remains until this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”80
As the curtains draw to a close on this epic moment in history, not only Abraham, but also everyone who has ever read this account, breathes a sigh of relief that the boy is spared. We think to ourselves what a beautiful ending to the story, but it was not an ending, it was a mere intermission!
Two thousand years later, the curtain opens again. The background is dark and ominous. At center stage is the Son of God on Mount Calvary. He is bound by loving obedience to the will of His Father. He hangs there bearing the sin of His people. He is accursed – Betrayed by His creation and forsaken of God.81 Then, the silence is broken with the horrifying thunder of God’s wrath. The Father takes the knife, draws back His arm, and slays “His Son, His only Son, whom He loves.” And the words of Isaiah the prophet are fulfilled:
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed… But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”82
The curtain is drawn to a close on a slain Son and a crucified Messiah. Unlike the account of Isaac, there was no ram to die in His place. He was the Lamb who would die for the sins of the world.83 He is God’s provision for the redemption of His people. He the fulfillment of which Isaac and the ram were only shadows. In Him, that dreadful Mount called Golgotha is now renamed YHWH-jireh or “The Lord will provide.” And it is a faithful saying that remains until this day:
“In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”84
Calvary is the mount and salvation is the provision. God once called out to Abraham: “Abraham, Abraham… now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”85 Those of us who believe now cry out to God with a similar prose:
“God, my God, now I know that you love me since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son, whom You loved, from me.”
The curtains are drawn on a dead Messiah, but it is still not the end. One more scene remains… A resurrection is to follow and a great coronation is to be held!
- Mark 15:34
- Mark 15:34
- Psalm 22:1
- Psalm 22:6
- Isaiah 53:5-6
- Luke 24:26
- Numbers 21:5-9
- Matthew Henry Commentary, Vol.1, p.665
- Romans 8:3; II Corinthians 5:21
- I John 5:10-11
- Isaiah 45:22 (KJV)
- Leviticus 16:5-10
- Leviticus 16:9, 15, 20
- Leviticus 16:10
- Leviticus 16:21
- I Peter 2:24; Hebrews 13:11-12
- Psalm 103:12
- II Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13
- Isaiah 6:2-3
- Colossians 2:9
- I owe this thought to John Calvin and his commentary on II Corinthians.
- II Corinthians 5:21
- I Peter 1:19; Ephesians 5:2
- Hebrews 7:26
- Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26
- Matthew 5:3-12
- Galatians 3:13
- Deuteronomy 21:23
- Richard N. Longenecker, WBC, Galatians, p.122-123
- Deuteronomy 28:1
- Deuteronomy 28:15
- I owe this thought to R.C. Sproul and his sermon on Galatians 3:13 preached at the 2008 Together for the Gospel Conference.
- Deuteronomy 28:20
- Deuteronomy 28:28-29
- Deuteronomy 28:63
- Deuteronomy 28:16
- Deuteronomy 28:10
- Deuteronomy 28:23
- Deuteronomy 28:37
- Deuteronomy 28:45
- Deuteronomy 27:15
- Deuteronomy 27:16-18
- Deuteronomy 27:19
- Deuteronomy 27:20-25
- Deuteronomy 27:26
- Proverbs 26:2
- Isaiah 11:1
- Psalm 32:1-2
- Romans 3:25 – “displayed publicly.”
- Isaiah 53:6
- Deuteronomy 29:20-21
- Genesis 12:3
- Numbers 6:24-26
- Acts 3:14
- Numbers 6:22-27. I owe this thought to R.C. Sproul and his sermon on Galatians 3:13preached at the 2008 Together for the Gospel Conference.
- Psalm 21:6; 89:15
- Romans 8:20-22
- Galatians 3:13
- II Corinthians 5:21
- Isaiah 53:6; Habakkuk 1:13
- Isaiah 59:1
- Luke 24:26
- Luke 22:41-44
- Luke 22:44
- Hebrews 2:10
- Psalm 75:8
- Jeremiah 25:15-16
- The residue or sediment left at the bottom of the wine flask.
- Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4; I Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8
- Hebrews 2:17; 4:15
- John 19:30
- Isaiah 53:10
- John 12:24
- Works, Vol.1, p.61
- Isaiah 53:10
- Genesis 22:2
- Genesis 22:10
- Genesis 22:11-12
- Genesis 22:13
- Genesis 22:14
- John 1:11; Acts 3:14; Matthew 27:46
- Isaiah 53:4-5, 10
- John 1:29
- Genesis 22:14
- Genesis 22:11-12
Paul is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society and currently serves as its missions director. He also ministered as a missionary in Peru for ten years. He has preached hundreds of sermons and has authored a dozen published works. Paul lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife Charo and their four children: Ian, Evan, Rowan, and Bronwyn.More By Paul David Washer