It is Easter Week and a crowd gathers to look in disbelief and horror; some fall to their knees and weep; others see the picture of ruin before them and its too much to take, and so turn away.
You may think the above words refer to those looking at Jesus as he hung on a cross that first Good Friday. However, this was not the reaction Jesus got from the crowd. Matthew's gospel tells us that rather than be horrified at what Jesus was suffering, the crowd that day mocked and scorned: “He saved others, but he can't save himself! He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him”, Matthew 27:42.
The words at the start actually refer to the reaction of people looking on at Notre Dame cathedral being engulfed by flames on the 15th April 2019. The crowd's reaction to a burning building was not the crowd's reaction to a broken Saviour, which says a lot about our world and its people.
Two nights ago at Bishopbriggs Free Church we studied what the Bible says about the sufferings of Christ on the cross, which interestingly we get more insight into in parts of the Old Testament than the New Testament. New Testament gospel writers do of course record the events of the death of Jesus, but they dont say much about His emotional and psychological state. We read something like “and they crucified Him”, then the writer quickly moves to the next detail in the story. If asked where in the Bible I think we get the clearest understanding of what Jesus went through that first Good Friday, His emotions and His agony, I would say the book of Psalms.
Psalm 22 begins with words we know Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”. So in Psalm 22, although king David speaks of tests and trials he himself really did go through, prophetically David also speaks of and predicts “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow”.
Lets look what else David teaches in Psalm 22 about the sufferings of Christ:
in verse 12 he is surrounded and encircled by “strong bulls of Bashan”. Bulls of Bashan could weigh anything up to a tonne, and David says there were “many”. Anyone encircled and pressed upon by such huge beasts would feel their life was being crushed out of them. This is what the Lord Jesus felt on Good Friday.
In v13 huge bulls are now likened to lions “tearing their prey and opening their mouths wide against me”. The picture is one where the strong close in on the weak; many come against the one. At this moment Jesus felt all alone, brought out in v11, “trouble is near me and there is no-one to help”.
Verses14-15 provide a photograph of Jesus' agony:
in v14 the imagery is all connected to liquid: “I am poured out like water”;
“my heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me”, and “all my bones are out of joint”. David is revealing that Jesus was utterly spent and poured out till there was nothing left.
In v15 liquid imagery turns to dryness and drought: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. In other words Jesus became like a broken piece of pottery left out in the sun: He was dried up and shrivelled.
What irony here, that He who has quenched the thirst of all who have come to Him now thirsts to death on a cross.
Although Jesus went through such terrible physical pain; although bashed and torn by those likened to bulls and lions, physical pain wasn't the greatest aspect of His suffering. The greatest suffering Jesus endured on the cross was the wrath of God unleashed against Him as He became an offering for sin. The apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians, “God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us”.
Think of weight of sin upon Jesus – the weight of the sin of all His people. The hymn writer Stuart Townend speaks of Him “taking the blame and bearing the wrath”.
In v15 David writes, “You lay me in the dust of death”, which reveal although all Jesus went through was at hands of men who will bear responsibility for their evil actions, ultimately the pain, suffering and humiliation He endured was God's plan and purpose being brought to pass. Good Friday was no accident. Rather, this was God's plan from eternity taking place. The prophet Isaiah says it was “the Lord who laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6); Isaiah goes on to say, “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” (Isa 53:10).
God the Father was laying the body of God the Son in the dust of death, and Jesus knew it. He knew He had come to be a sin offering for the many. He knew if the curse brought by Adam was to be broken and if God was to have a people for Himself then He would have to hang on a cross bearing the punishment that sin deserves.
As Psalm 22 goes on so too do Christ's sufferings: v16 speaks of “a band of evil men encircling me” who were like dogs.
Here we have man, created in God's image, whose duty in life is to glorify God, yet they surround God the Son, baying for His blood.
More than anywhere else it is at the cross we see the ugliness of the sin Christ was dying for, and it was our sin that “pierced His hands and feet”, v16.
One hymn writer puts it, “it was my sin that held Him there”.
Jesus was hanging there because of and for us; He died because of and for us!
Any who refuse to acknowledge this are looked upon in the Bible as God's enemies, who in v17 consider what Jesus went through, but they only “stare and gloat”.
v18 reveals something of the terrible humiliation Jesus went through on the cross: “they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing”. Someone said on this, “the first Adam made us all naked, therefore the second Adam becomes naked in order that He might clothe our naked souls”.
Whoever may be reading this, I pray this Easter you would see something of the sufferings of Jesus Christ FOR YOU. That you would understand that Jesus the Son of God thirsted so that you might be satisfied; that Jesus the Son of God was condemned so that you might be justified; that Jesus the Son of God was cut off from the land of the living and laid in the dust so that you might have eternal life.