The Holy Mount — Place Which is Called Calvary: A Solemn Contrast

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"Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt. 17:55While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Matthew 17:5).
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matt. 27:45, 4645Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45‑46).
The time had come for His disciples to be plainly warned of all that was about to happen. So it is written, "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." Matt. 16:2121From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (Matthew 16:21). It is the cross, but the cross rather from man's side; for there is no mention here of those deeper sufferings in which atonement was wrought. The tide of human hate and rebellion against the Lord and against His Anointed was rising rapidly, and was about to culminate in the final rejection and crucifixion of the Son of God.
From every point of view it was an awful ending to such a path as His had been, so full of grace and blessing for sinful men—awful, I mean, for those who were the instruments of bringing it all about. For think of the amazing fact that the Son of God was here on earth. Not with outward pomp and splendor had He come; not in flaming fire such as attended the giving of the law on Sinai's solemn mount; not with hosts of mighty angels such as shall swell His train in the approaching day of judgment. He came not thus; for sin was here, and men were alienated from God, duped and blinded by their malignant foe; and He would free them from this hateful yoke. Therefore He came in the fashion of a lowly man, His deity enshrouded in a tabernacle of flesh and blood. He came, full of grace and truth.
No words like His had ever fallen on mortal ears, nor since the world began had deeds been seen such as were witnessed wherever the Savior went. Yet was He despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. They that sat in the gate spoke against Him, and He was the song of the drunkards. Nor would the heart of man, energized by Satan, be content till He had been apprehended like a thief, crowned in derision with a bramble crown, and crucified with malefactors for His companions. What an ending! and what an exhibition of humanity was there!
Behold Him then—the One who had given eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, tongues to the dumb, and life to the dead—who had cleansed the leper, wiped the tears from weeping eyes, bound up the broken heart, and whose words were words of eternal life—behold Him, I say, upon a common Roman cross, and that cross the only reward that man gave for all He had said and done!
But all this, so plainly foreseen and foretold by the Lord, is but the dark background of the picture, and serves to throw into bolder, brighter relief the lovely scene on the holy mount. Taking with Him Peter, James, and John, He went into a high mountain apart and was transfigured before them. They gaze upon Him, and, lo! His face shines as the sun, and His raiment is white as the light. And as they look, being eyewitnesses of His majesty, a cloud of glory overshadows them; and they fear, and fall on their faces. Then from out of that cloud a voice is heard; it is the voice of God the Father saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
It is thus that God the Father gave honor and glory to Jesus. Thus did He confess Him as His beloved Son, and the One in whom He found His good pleasure. Every thought, every word, every impulse of his heart, was, like incense pure and sweet, ever ascending to God the Father, and furnishing, so to speak, fresh motives for the Father's love.
But we must turn from "the holy mount," where the heart, captivated by its beauty, loves to linger, and betake ourselves to "the place which is called Calvary," where we shall see Jesus in other scenes. On the cross we behold Him now. Tread gently, O my soul, for thou art on holy ground. There is no overshadowing cloud of glory here, no voice from heaven, no Moses, no Elias, no angel such as ministered unto Him in dark Gethsemane. Instead of a face shining as the sun, we see the One who was marred more than any man. Gloom and darkness without, answered by greater gloom and darkness within, which at last found utterance in the piercing cry of "Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani?" Passing with rapidity of thought from Calvary to the mount of transfiguration, and from the mount of transfiguration back to Calvary, we can but exclaim, What a mighty revolution is here! On that mount honored and glorified, on this bruised and forsaken; there God the Father saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; here the Son crying, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Say, my soul, dost thou understand this great mystery?
How this utterly destroys the dishonoring thought that the cross to Christ was only a martyr's death! Who has ever heard of God's martyrs being abandoned, and obliged to confess in a loud voice, and in presence of their foes, that they were forsaken of God in the hour of their extremity? No; have they not gone boldly to the stake, and joyously welcomed the fagot and the flame? Sustained by the power and presence of God, they have sung songs of holy triumph while the devouring fire has been doing its deadly work, and their faces have shone like an angel's. But it was not so with Jesus, though none had served as He had served, or loved as He had loved.
We are not left to find a solution for all of this. In vain would be the task, did heaven throw no light upon the otherwise dark problem. One verse in Isa. 53 explains it all. Let me quote it: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD bath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." With that verse in view, the mystery which enshrouds the cross passes away; and we understand how "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."