Unblemished sacrifice: Devotional Commentary for April 10-16
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
23:33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
After an evening of prayer, agonizing disquiet, and arduous process of derisive trial; Jesus and His executioners arrived at Calvary, the designated location for Jesus' crucifixion. The place is a hill outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha meaning the Skull. There they crucified Jesus with the two criminals they brought along, one on His right and the other on His left. Jesus hung in the middle of two justly condemned criminals as if He were the main offender.
23:34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
True to His nature as Savior, Jesus had compassion upon those who crucified Him. He prayed for those who inflicted excruciating pain and public humiliation upon Him. It probably included both the Roman soldiers who carried out the actual crucifixion, and, the Pharisees and the Elders who knew what the Scriptures had prophesied about the coming of the suffering Messiah, but rejected Jesus when He came to His own. Jesus sought His Father's mercy upon those who hated and crucified Him, but in their ignorance became the agents of God's judgment upon Jesus Christ, His Son.
While Jesus hung on the Cross suffering and interceding, the soldiers were watching Him and gambling for His garments. These were the spoils that came to those soldiers assigned to this grisly task. The soldiers rolled the dice to determine how they should divide Jesus' clothes among themselves as prophesied by the Psalmist. To these soldiers, the crucifixion of Jesus and the two convicts was normal. That was how the law treated convicted criminals.
35And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One."
36The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,
37and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!"
The people did not have much of anything to do. They just stood and watched Jesus as He agonized on the Cross. But the Jewish leaders and the soldiers became more vigorous in their taunting remarks.
While the Pharisees and some of the people jeered Jesus with sarcastic comments, the soldiers offered Him vinegar to drink—a highly fermented potion not suitable for quenching thirst. The crowd challenged Him to descend from the Cross and dared Him to prove Himself whether He was truly the Messiah. Some acknowledged that He had saved others and questioned why He would not save Himself. Others showed contempt for His deity by contesting His position as the Son of God and by daring Him to save Himself and prove His relationship to God the Father.
23:38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS."
In his Gospel, John tells us that Pilate wrote an inscription in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek stating that Jesus is the King of the Jews and posted it above Jesus' head on the cross. That made it possible for the public to observe the accusation leveled against Him by the Jewish leadership, as Jesus' crime punishable by death on the cross.
The Chief Priests and the Elders did not like what Pilate did. They suggested to Pilate to change his inscription to say that Jesus claimed He was the King of the Jews. Pilate refused to accommodate their protest and left everything as it was. His inscription was a genuine statement of Jesus' identity rather than a description of a punishable crime.
23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!"
Along with the Chief Priests and the Elders, one of the convicts hanging on a cross also began to taunt Jesus. The dying criminal challenged Jesus to display His power by saving Himself as well as both convicts from death, if He was indeed the Messiah. The convict never acknowledged the truth about himself, that he was guilty as charged and deserved his sentence. Nor did he care about Jesus' innocence. He just wanted to get down from the cross, taking advantage of what he thought Jesus can do.
40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?"
41"And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."
42And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
43And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
The other convict hanging on the other side of Jesus was fully aware of what was happening to himself, to Jesus, and to the other criminal. He rebuked the heckling convict, telling him to watch what he was saying. He reminded him to realize his own state of condemnation under the law. He scolded him for being unrestrained by the fear of God.
Even though he himself was in great suffering, the spiritually perceptive and remorseful convict openly reflected on the difference between Jesus and the two criminals. They had their day in court and were justly found guilty. But Jesus was innocent and did not deserve death on the cross.
There was something distinctly different about the criminal who rebuked his fellow convict for his depraved mockery of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God. He was not only aware and remorseful, but he was also penitent. After reproving the unrestrained heckler, the dying convict turned to Jesus and pleaded for mercy. He asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom.
This penitent convict knew Who Jesus is. What is more, he was aware of his own eternal destiny if he were not rescued from dying in his sin. This dying convict sought salvation from his dying Savior.
Jesus, the Lamb of God Who came to save the lost, instantly offered salvation to the repenting convict. Jesus promised him that he would be in paradise with Him that same day. Unlike the convict who harassed Jesus, the repenting criminal exhibited a divinely triggered awareness of the truth concerning Jesus and himself.
- He recognized his own wretchedness and Jesus' righteousness.
- He sought to have his wretchedness healed by Jesus' righteousness.
- He accepted his sinfulness and believed that Jesus could forgive him and include him in His Kingdom.
- He discerned that he had received what he deserved, but he asked for grace and mercy from his Redeemer.
- Men found him guilty, but his Savior set him free.
- He was dying on a Roman cross, but he would soon enjoy life eternal in the Kingdom of his Savior.
44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour,
45because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
46And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last.
Three hours into Jesus' suffering on the Cross, darkness fell on the whole earth. This unusual phenomenon occurred soon after the repenting convict received the promise for His salvation from the mouth of his dying Savior. It was about noon. This inexplicable phenomenon lingered for three hours until three o'clock in the afternoon. Utter darkness engulfed the entire world.
Such an unusual occurrence of total darkness during daytime hours reflects God's displeasure and, therefore, His judgment. God placed the burden of the sin of the whole world upon His Son and condemned Him for it. He Who knew no sin became sin for sinners. The terror of God's judgment relegated the whole earth to total darkness as God's awesomely terrifying wrath fell upon Jesus; The sacrificial Lamb.
As God judged His sinless Son for the sins of the world, the whole of creation slipped into a state of shock. Darkness prevailed in the middle of the day because the sun stopped shining, having been engulfed by the consuming darkness imposed upon it by God. The eternal God was fulfilling His purpose both in accomplishing redemption and in the execution of His judgment. The curtain separating the most holy place from the holy place in the temple split in two, exposing the holy of holies to open sight. God is now approachable through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
At about three in the afternoon, Jesus raised His voice in agony. Even though suffering the wrath of His Father against man's sin, He died in full confidence of the joy of obeying His Father to death on the Cross. In that confidence, He commended His spirit to His Father. He spoke in a loud voice, surrendering His spirit to His Father, and then He died. Jesus finally succumbed to death as He willingly and obediently laid down His life to deal with sin by being offered on Calvary, the eternal altar, as our sin offering.
Jesus' death was a mysterious revelation of God's Will and plan. His enemies believed that killing Jesus was their prerogative. Those who realized His innocence wondered why He should suffer and ultimately die for no punishable offense. Those who charged Him with blasphemy and treason were being jealous for God, convinced that they should defend God's name and reputation against the claim of someone who they believed to be a blasphemer. Those who recognized His innocence did not understand Jesus' willingness to turn Himself over to the hands of sinful men, only to be humiliated, tortured, and ultimately executed. Jesus' disciples could not understand why He would quietly surrender to the hateful will of His enemies. Even Pilate did not see any reason for killing Jesus.
Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial offer a unique reflection on God's Sovereignty, His Power, His Purpose, and His Will. By all accounts, it appears that God the Father completely abandoned His Son and left Him at the mercy of sinful and wicked men. His disciples abandoned Him, and even His most vocal defender, Peter, denied Him publicly.
It seemed that both the Jewish and the Roman authorities took complete control of the Son of the Sovereign God. It looked like the Master and the Lord of creation could do nothing to protect Himself or escape the hateful vengeance of His enemies. Even though the superior authority of the Roman leadership legally proclaimed Jesus' innocence, the hateful mob prevailed and had Jesus condemned to death.
In reality however, God did not abandoned His Son. Rather He moved each participant in Jesus' ordeal to act as agents of His Will. Because God Himself condemned His Son to death on the Cross, the Roman authority succumbed to the overwhelming demand of the people. Because Jesus unconditionally obeyed His Father's Will even to death on the Cross, every detail of the process occurred exactly as planned.
What Jesus experienced is an immeasurable anguish. However, He obeyed His Father to the end, enduring the Cross and despising the shame for the joy that was set before Him. Jesus lived in His Father's Will by looking forward to the glory that He has with His Father from eternity to eternity.
It is this Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the God of glory Who came down from heaven, and, lived among men in righteousness and became the sacrificial Lamb to fulfill the Law and to pay the penalty for sin. That is the mystery of the divine Will. God found within Himself the only holy and righteous way and means to appease His holy Law which is offended by sin. Jesus Christ paid with His life man's debt to the Law, by bearing the full fury of God's judgment on the Cross at Calvary, to satisfy the demands of His Law.
This is beyond our comprehension, because, never in the history of man has the innocent been condemned to please the offended and set the guilty free. But God, Who is fully satisfied by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, worked through His grace to redeem a people for Himself by saving the lost from His own judgment through the sacrifice of His Son.
That is why Christ suffered for our sake in obedience to His Father's Will:
- He died so we might live.
- He suffered so we might have Peace.
- He took away our burden and He filled our heart with Peace.
- He made the unholy righteous and loved the unlovable.
- He made us the children of Grace and took away our shame and disgrace.
- The Righteous One suffered judgment so that the sinner might be declared righteous.
- He gave His life for us on the Cross so we might receive life from the Giver of life, God our Father.
That is why Jesus died for us and took our place under God's judgment, to reconcile us with God our Father and our Creator.