Death of the Cross: No. 2

Luke 23:34  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
That Jesus would make " intercession for the transgressors," was prophesied by Isaiah seven hundred years before its actual fulfillment; as also that He would be so despised and rejected as to be "'numbered with the transgressors/' when He " poured out his soul unto death." His perfect patience and unfailing meekness were also foretold; for of Him, on whom Jehovah had laid the iniquity of us all, it was said, " He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." Nor was the prophetic testimony silent as to His trial at the judgment-seat of Pilate, His death, and burial; for it is written, " He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." Men who preferred a robber, like Barabbas, to Jesus, so that they all cried out, " Not this man, but Barabbas," treated the Son of God as if He were a wicked man in crucifying Him between two thieves, and taking Him down from the cross, and burying Him that day, putting Him into " his grave with the wicked;" yet the body of Jesus was laid in the sepulcher of " a rich man," Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counselor, and a good man and a just.
Not only was it foretold that the Son of man should be crucified, that His hands and His feet should be pierced, but it was also declared that not one of His bones should be broken; though He would say, "all my bones are out of joint." (Psalm 22:1414I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. (Psalm 22:14).) And so exactly did the fulfillment agree with the prophetic word, that, though the legs of the thieves were broken according to the customary mode, they did it not to Jesus. When they came to Him they found that He was dead already; and this was the reason assigned for not breaking His legs. But God was above all. His purpose must be exactly carried out. His word had gone forth fifteen hundred years before that it should not be, and it was not; though men have no idea that in what they did, or in what they did not, the word of God was being fulfilled. When God declared His mind by Moses about the paschal lamb, which we know was a striking type of the Lamb of God, He said, "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof." (Exod. 12:4646In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. (Exodus 12:46); Numb. 9:1212They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it. (Numbers 9:12).) Therefore it could not be, for the scripture cannot be broken. The exact fulfillment is thus recorded in John's gospel. The Jews "besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.... For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken; and again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced." (Chap. 19:31-37.)
Moses also wrote concerning His burial, and that He would be taken down from the tree on the same day as His crucifixion. Having been made a curse for us, " for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree/' it was ordered that the body should be buried that same day; which we know was in the case of our Lord literally fulfilled: though the reason assigned for so doing was the preparation of the sabbath, and that sabbath being an high day. The prophet said, " If a man.... be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day." (Deut. 21:22, 2322And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:22‑23).) John, in his gospel, referring to this, says, "The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate.... After this Joseph of Arimathea.... besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore and took the body of Jesus.....Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day." (John 19:31-4231The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. 37And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. 38And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. (John 19:31‑42).)
It would be most interesting and profitable, did our limits admit of it, to trace in scripture the prophecies concerning our Lord's person—the Virgin's Child, Immanuel; His birth at Bethlehem; His life of sorrow and grief; His miracles; His rejection—the Stone which the builders refused; His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver by one who had eaten bread with Him; His death by crucifixion, with transgressors, but He as an offering for sin; His burial the same day, and laid in a rich man's grave; His resurrection on the first day of the week, "the morrow after the sabbath;" His glorification and session on the right hand of Jehovah; His priestly service; His coming again in judgment, to restore Israel as His own nation, and His reigning on David's throne, when u the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isa. 11:99They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9).) A consideration of scripture on these points certainly shows how much it abounds with instruction concerning Christ; and the observation of the accuracy with which much has been already fulfilled, warrants us to expect that what remains will have its accomplishment with equal accuracy.
In reference, however, to what is now more immediately before us, " the death of the cross," we shall find that the more we search the written word prayerfully, and in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Ghost, the more we shall be struck with the minute details it gives us. For instance, in Psalm 22, it was predicted that the people, who would treat Messiah with scorn and mockery when hanging on the tree, would say, " He trusted on Jehovah that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him." (Ver. 8.) And in the narration in the gospel of the facts which occurred a thousand years after, we read that those who were beholding Him on the cross, and mocked Him said, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him, for he said, I am the Son of God." (Matt, 27: 43.) How truly scripture is divine truth!
It is well to notice how the perfect fulfillment of what had been written concerning Jesus occupied His heart, notwithstanding all the intensity of the suffering and sorrow of the death of the cross. A verse in Psalm 69 remained to have its accomplishment. We read therefore, " After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth." This seems to complete the accomplishment of what had been written concerning Him, for we are then told, " When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:28-3028After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:28‑30).)
Again, as we have before observed, He who was "numbered with the transgressors," and bare the sins of many, was to make " intercession for the transgressors." Turning then to the gospel by Luke, we read, "and when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!" (Chap, 23:33, 34.) No doubt this was partly answered in the gospel being used for the saving of so many Jews at Pentecost, and afterward; but we look for its full answer when "Israel [as a nation] shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." (Isa. 27:66He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6).)
In the death of the cross, the love of God was manifested. Types had faintly foreshadowed this love; prophets had alluded to it; Jesus Himself had preached it; but, in the death of the cross, divine love to us came out in all its profound reality. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9, 109In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9‑10),) God's love to the world was thus manifested. He was no longer confining His dealing with the people of Israel, but bringing in that which would have a world-wide significance; and in virtue of the work of propitiation, enable God to proclaim it to everyone and to save anyone through grace who has availed himself of the Savior's death as the ground of being reconciled. The love of Christ to the church was also manifested in all its suitability and perfectness; for "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Divine love thus came out; so that now "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).) Happy indeed are those who have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
How strange that any one, in the face of such a marvelous work as the death of the cross, should contend for doing something of his own to make peace with God. How sad, too, notwithstanding the clear testimony of the word of God to the infinite value of Christ's sin-atoning work, that men should imagine that they must add their own duties and religiousness to what Christ has done, in order to make their salvation more secure! If any of our readers talk of doing for salvation, we can only say, that good works are the fruits of saving faith, and bring before them the word of God's truth—" By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8, 98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8‑9).)
" You've naught to do, for all is done,
That work's complete which Christ begun
Only on it depend.
You've naught to pay, for all is paid;
Without your help salvation's made,
God is no debtor to your aid,
Christ's work you cannot mend;.
Believe on Him your sins were laid,
Then doubt and fear will end."