The Cross of Calvary # 1
Calvary and the Foreshadowed Cross
"Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world" (John 1:29)
"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him" (Luke 23:33).
The hour had come! The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world was now to be slain before the eyes of the world. "Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do "what had been "foreordained to come to pass."
By picture lessons and prophetic voices, for centuries before, God had been foretelling this dread hour; and He has been directing the world back to it for nearly two thousand years.
Calvary is the very pivot of the world's history. All prior things pointed forward to it; and all subsequent things point back to it. Even the future rests upon it, for the redeemed in heaven find it the center of heaven as they behold a Lamb in the midst of the throne, "standing as though it had been slain."
Seven hundred years before the Man Christ Jesus was led to the place called Calvary, a prophet inspired to God foreshadowed the Cross; and gave such a word-picture of the Saviour of the world, that none but blinded hearts could fail to recognize Him when He came to earth - God manifest in the flesh.
Through the prophet Isaiah the Spirit of God poured a flood of light upon Calvary; depicting the pathway to the Cross, its atoning sacrifice, its sufferings and its fruit; so that all who knew the Scripture of the prophets, were without excuse as they crucified the Lord of glory.
The prophecy of Isaiah makes it clear that Christ was "delivered up by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God", for God "forshewed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer", and when at Calvary", the rulers of Israel fulfilled the predictions of the prophets they read every sabbath day, condemning Him."
The Foreshadowed Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:1-4)
"He hath no form nor comeliness ..."
"No beauty that we should desire Him ..."
"He was despised and forsaken of men ..."
"A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief..."
"As One from whom men hide their face ..."
"Who hath believed that which we have heard?" and to "whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" cries the prophet, who was reporting that which he had heard from God. But the message, or report, was so beyond all human thought, so contrary to all human ideas, that he wonders to whom the revelation will be given. For it was revealed to the old time messengers of God that when they "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them", they were ministering to those who, in after years, should hear the message of the Cross; and the Apostle Peter writes that the Spirit of Christ Himself was in the prophets, testifying to the sufferings that would come to Him on earth.
Isaiah foresees the questionings which would fill the minds of men as they heard the marvelous story of that which was told him from God, seven hundred years before it came to pass. "Who hath believed?" and "to whom" is it revealed? he exclaims, as he describes the Christ growing up before the Father" as a tender plant; and as a root out of a dry ground". Very precious to God must have been the tender plant; the Branch that should "bear fruit". For the choice vine of Israel, the plant of His delight, had disappointed the heavenly Husbandman, and His cherished vineyard had become dry ground. But here was the shoot out of a stock in Israel that would bring forth the fruit the Father wanted, although to the eyes of men there would be "no form nor comeliness", no beauty to cause them to "desire Him."
He, Who was the precious tender plant to the Father, would be despised of men. He would be a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief", therefore they would reject and forsake Him, for suffering and sorrow are not attractive to men.
To Jehovah, His Righteous Servant would be "exalted and lifted up", even "very high", but to men He would be as One from Whom they would hide their faces with astonishment, for His face and His form would be marred" more than the sons of men."
How marred must have been the face of the Holy One of God from His crown of thorns! How lacerated the form of His sacred body from the scourging of the soldiers, for the scourges were made from hundreds of leathern thongs, each armed at the point with an angular bony hook, or a sharp sided cube.
"Look at yonder pillar, black with the blood of murderers and rebels ... Look at the rude and barbarous beings who busily surround their victim." See them "tear off His clothes, bind those hands - press His gracious visage firmly against the shameful pillar", binding Him, "with ropes in such a manner that He cannot move or stir". See! The scourging lasts a full quarter of an hour! The scourges cut ever deeper into the wounds already made, and penetrate almost to the marrow until "His whole back appears an enormous wound". A purple robe is then thrown over the form of the agonized Sufferer,and the twigs of a long-spiked thorn bush are twisted into a circle, and pressed upon His brow.
It was thus that His face was marred, and His form more than the sons of men. The prophet Isaiah had even foretold the words of the Man of sorrows, saying in His hour of agony, "I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help Me ... therefore have I set My face like a flint".
Men hid their faces from Him, but "He hid as it were His face from us" is the marginal reading of the R. V. Did the group who had seen His face shine as the sun on the Mount of Transfiguration, remember the hidden glory in that marred frame? Nay, even they "esteemed Him not" and forsook Him in His hour of shame.
The Divine and human estimation of the Man of sorrows in His pathway to the Cross, are thus fully foreshadowed by the prophet, and the Holy Spirit as plainly foretells the substitutionary object of His death.
The Purpose of the Cross (verses 4-6)
"He hath borne Our griefs ..."
"He hath carried Our sorrows ..."
"He was wounded for Our transgressions ..."
"He was bruised for Our iniquities ..."
"The chastisement of Our peace was upon Him."
The Holy Spirit leaves no room for doubt as to the purpose, and the cause of the sufferings of Christ. The word substitution is not actually used, but the language is unmistakably clear. This One with the marred face was bearing the "griefs" and "sorrows" of others. His wounds were for their transgressions, and the bruises upon His body were for their iniquities.
"All we like sheep have gone astray;we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath made to light on Him the iniquity of us all".
Beholding, as it were, the One thus wounded and stricken - Isaiah knows not actually how - the prophet becomes a spokesman for the whole human race as he cries.
We behold His sufferings, we esteem Him "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted". We, who have "gone astray!" We, who have turned "every one to his own way". But the Lord laid upon Him - the Holy Son of our God, our iniquity, the iniquity of us all.
Thus briefly we have portrayed for us the result of the Fall of man in Eden, and the cause and purpose the Cross.
Independence of God is the very essence of sin. To every man "his own way" ends in transgression and iniquity. The first ALL includes every human being brought into the world, and the second ALL proclaims the atoning sacrifice of Christ for every one under the curse of sin.
The Death of the Cross (verses 7-9)
Isaiah now depicts the obedience unto death of the suffering one. He sees Him as a sheep in the hands of the shearers, dumb and passive; as a lamb being led to the slaughter, innocent and powerless. He Who was equal with God, counted it not a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,and came in the likeness of men. As man He humbled Himself yet more, even unto death,consenting to be "led to the slaughter" as a victim in the hands of men. How literally the prophecy was fulfilled in every detail the gospels unfold.
The Christ standing before Pilate "when He was accused" "answered nothing", so that even the Governor marveled. From "oppression and judgment He was taken away" outside the city wall to the place called Calvary, and "as for His generation" - the people of His own nation and time - "who among them considered" the tragedy that was being enacted in their midst?
"Cut off out of the land of the living" in the very prime of life, how few realized that it was for the transgression of His people "to whom the stroke was due".
How many in Jerusalem during that awful time "considered", and pondered over, the Scriptures of the prophets, which gave them the portrait of the Man they crucified?
But the Man of sorrows knew! He said every step of His path must needs be "as it is written of Him". As He set His face to go on His last journey to Jerusalem it was with the words "All the things that are written through the prophets shall be accomplished unto the Son of man. For He shall be delivered up", and they shall scourge and kill Him".
He said, "It is written", when Judas betrayed Him,and when His disciples forsook Him, and again, after He was risen from the dead, He reminded them that when He was yet with them, He had sought to prepare them for His Cross, by telling them that "all things that must needs be fulfilled" which were written in "the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms", concerning Him.
(continued with # 2)