Death of the Cross: No. 1

Psalm 22:1  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Who can describe the suffering of the Son of God when He poured out His soul unto death? when His sorrowing heart gave forth that bitter cry, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" One apostle had betrayed Him, another had denied Him, and all His disciples had forsaken Him and fled, and now God turned away from Him. Man had been mocking, deriding, spitting upon Him and scourging Him, and had degraded Him to be numbered with malefactors; darkness had covered the whole land for three hours, and now the spotless, perfect Man, Christ Jesus, is forsaken of God, so that He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There never was such a cry heard before, and never will be again. No one now who could truly say, my God, is ever forsaken of Him; and by-and-by, when the lost are forever forsaken, cast out from the presence of God, no one there will be able truthfully to say, my God. The marvel in this cry on Calvary is, that the One who could say, in the perfectness of faith, and love, and truth, u My God," was forsaken by Him. But so it was, and Spirit-taught souls learn the precious lessons of divine grace which it teaches, bringing present peace, and hope of eternal glory, to all who believe on His name.
As man, He could always say to Jehovah, "Thou art my God" Though equal with God, the only-begotten Son, one with the Father, yet, being found in fashion as a Man, He took a servants form, and, as the perfect Servant, it was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work. In life, He so abode in communion with the Father, that He could say, "Father.... I knew that thou hearest me always;" but in the death of the cross it was, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
David wrote this cry by the Holy Ghost, and thus predicted, a thousand years before its fulfillment, that Messiah in His suffering would say these words; and we find in the gospels they were the very utterance of the Savior when hanging on the cross. Nor does the psalm contemplate them as the expression of any other than He who bare our sins in His own body on the tree. He said of Himself, what none other could say, " I was cast upon thee from the womb, thou art my God from my mother's belly." "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts."' Of what other babe than He could such be said, who was born in Bethlehem, of whom the angel Gabriel had said to Mary, "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God?" (Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35).) Besides, as One who was specially connected with Israel, He said, "Our Fathers trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.... but I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Thus He felt He had not the common privileges that those among the nation of Israel had been accustomed to have, for He cried, and was heard not. He was forsaken of God.
The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father "before the world was, when the fullness of time came, was sent forth, made of a woman; "He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.... that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." He came to save, to redeem, and therefore to die for the ungodly. He glorified the Father on the earth. He finished the work which the Father gave Him to do. His death as a sacrifice for sin was for the glory of God. The good Shepherd, laying down His life for the sheep, was so infinitely perfect, that it was another motive for the Father loving Him; hence He said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again.....This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17, 1817Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18No 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 of my Father. (John 10:17‑18).)
The death of the cross stands perfectly alone. It never can be repeated, and, because of its eternal efficacy, will never need to be repeated. No creature can utter the sorrows, or describe the suffering of Golgotha, when Christ "bare the sins of many." In that dreadful hour His soul was "full of troubles" His strength was dried up like a potsherd. His tongue clave to His jaws; all His bones were out of joint, and His heart was like wax melted in the midst of His bowels. But oh! the deep sorrow of that unutterable agony when God, who sent His own Son, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the suffering One cried out, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? Ο my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent." When reproach had broken His loving heart, and the Holy One had been smitten and scourged, His hands and feet pierced; when there was no angel sent to strengthen, no lover or friend to cheer; when the sun was forbidden to light up the scene; when man was mocking and deriding, and Jehovah bruising, putting Him to grief, and forsaking Him; still, it was in the perfectness of faith—"My God, my God." He also justifies Jehovah, and worships, saying, "But thou art holy, Ο thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." (Psalm 22:33But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3).)
The Son only could thus glorify God. No one but the Man that is the Fellow of Jehovah of hosts could thus sheath in His own heart the uplifted sword of divine vengeance. No one but He who had infinite capacities could drink to the very dregs the cup of God's just judgment of sin. No one but the Rock of ages could endure such waves and billows. Only the Holy One of God could be made sin and a curse for us. The spotless Son of man only could be our " Surety." None but the Good Shepherd could die for the sheep. None but Jesus, the Son of God, could or would save us. And what a sacrifice! What infinite, what eternal blessedness must flow from the accomplished work of the Son of God, "who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our evil Father." (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4).) Well hath it been said -
"Jesus, braised and put to shame,
Tells me all Jehovah's name:
God is love, I surely know,
By the Savior's depths of woe."
How wonderful, that the Son, by whom the worlds were made, should bear our sins in His own body on the tree; that the " Prince of life" should be "killed;" that the " Just One" should be "numbered with the transgressors," and yet make " intercession for the transgressors;" that "the Son of the Highest" should go " into the lower parts of the earth;" that " the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father" should be "taken by wicked hands, crucified, and slain;" that" the Lord of glory" should be found here on earth "nailed to a tree;" that Jehovah's righteous Servant, his elect, in whom his soul delighted, should be so abandoned in the extremity of bitterest anguish as to cause Him to cry out," My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" What infinite perfections are clustered together here! What profound lessons of grace, holiness, righteousness, truth, and peace are here given for our learning!
What distress, what pain, what ignominy, what woe, did our adorable Emmanuel pass through, when He suffered for our sins under the righteous judgment of God! What man, or angel, could grasp or utter the full meaning of such unsearchable sorrow and suffering! No line is long enough to sound its depths! No created space could hold the deep waters that came into His soul. No thought can reach what He must have passed through to satisfy forever divine justice as to our sins. We are told that " He bare our sins/' "suffered for sins," and " died for our sins according to the scriptures;" but what was involved in this sin-atoning work, we believe no creature ever will be able fully to enter into, any more than what is finite can comprehend what is infinite. But we know for our comfort that the cup of full, unmingled judgment due to sin was then drunk; and if the anticipation of it caused Him to " sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," what must have been His grief and suffering when " it pleased Jehovah to bruise him," and to " make his soul an offering for sin"? Again, we may inquire, what must have been the magnitude of the work of the cross, when we contemplate some of the results? Did He not love the church, and give Himself for it? Did He not, as Israel's King, die for that nation? Will not creation itself have all its groanings hushed, and be brought into the liberty of the glory of the children of God in virtue of His death on the cross? Did He not make peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven? And will not the new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness will dwell, be the everlasting witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God who bore away the sin of the world?
The death of the cross not only stands alone in its eternal efficacy, but it is matchless in the sorrow and love which met there. No comforters to soothe are in attendance, no hand stretched out to assuage His bitter grief, none to sympathize; and, as He said, "none to help." Not a drop of mercy is mingled with the cup of God's just judgment of sin. No compassionate friend relieved His sufferings. He knew all that should come upon Him. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. His whole heart's desire was that the Father might be glorified; for He loved the Father, and He also loved us. Wondrous love, yet unutterable sorrow! The stern sword of the Lord of hosts was lifted up with inflexible justice, and must be bathed in blood! The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the floodgates of heaven were opened; deep called unto deep: the thunders of Sinai roared; and all the foaming waves of offended justice, all the righteous demands due to sin rolled over the meek, and loving, and obedient Jesus. He is forsaken of God. He dies for the ungodly. The Lamb without spot is slain, to "perfect forever them that are sanctified."
And why was all this suffering? Because Jesus was the Sin-bearer. The glory of God demanded that our sins should be judged. Yes, God must judge sin. He has no other way of dealing with it; nor could He save us unless our sins were judged, for God is just. The righteous God loveth righteousness. Jesus only could bear our sins, because He was perfect man, and without sin. God sent Him to save us, and He willingly came, saying, "Lo, I come to do thy will, Ο God." Having glorified God as man on the earth for more than thirty years, the time came for Him, according to the counsels and grace of God, to be a sacrifice for sin; so God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. Therefore "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities," that by His stripes we might be healed. This is why the perfect, loving Savior was forsaken of God, and this is why He died; for the wages of sin is death, and He died for our sins according to the scriptures. But God raised Him from among the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, where He now is, crowned with glory and honor.
How the contemplation of this unutterable suffering melts our souls! We think of the love, the sorrow, the pain, the shame, the bruising and forsaking, until the language of our hearts is -
"In His spotless soul's distress,
I perceive my guiltiness;
Ο how vile my lost estate,
Since my ransom was so great!'
Dear reader, Is all this tale of unparalleled love and sorrow nothing to you? Is such grace to sinners of no moment? Does the dolorous cry of the sinner-loving Jesus, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" fail to melt your heart? What! Can you read and hear of such matchless love, and be unmoved? Do you not know, that if you refuse this precious Savior, and His atoning work upon the cross, you will have to be forever forsaken of God, forever banished from His blessed presence, forever under the wrath of God? Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die? for He died to save sinners. He lives in glory, and receives and saves sinners. God waiteth to be gracious. He delighteth in mercy; and, in virtue of the blood of His Son, can righteously save; and every soul that comes to God by Him He will save. Dear reader, why not come now, for He is a just God and a Savior?