5 April 2020
As we observe “Good Friday”, I thought it meaningful to contemplate on the CROSS of CHRIST and to enter into a deeper worship of, and gratitude towards the triune God who has extended His wondrous love and bountiful grace towards us in bringing us into His kingdom and adopting us as His children.
Although the Apostles did share that the Lord Jesus died because of the wickedness of men, they also declared that it was also due to a divine purpose (Acts 2:23; 3:18;4:28). What sent Jesus to the cross was not ultimately the greed of Judas Iscariot, or the envy of the high priests, or the cowardice of Pontius Pilate, but it was our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgement and to put them away. It is not possible for us to face the CROSS with integrity and not feel ashamed of ourselves; for there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that He should bear it Himself in Christ. If we see this clearly, then we must realise that our sin is extremely horrible and God’s love is wonderful beyond comprehension. Because God loves us, He came after us in Christ; He pursued us even to the terrible anguish of the cross where He bore our sin, guilt, judgement and death. Such is the great love of God; such is the grace of God which is love to the undeserving.
The problem of forgiveness must be seen in the context of the collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as He is and us as we are. The obstacle to forgiveness is neither our sin alone, nor our guilt alone, but also the divine reaction in love and wrath towards guilty sinners. What happened is that at the cross, in holy love, God through Christ paid the full penalty of our disobedience Himself. He bore the judgement we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve.
So then, the cross of Christ is the event in which God makes known His holiness and His love at the same time. How can God express His holiness without consuming us, and His love without condoning our sins, we may ask?
The answer: He sacrificed – indeed substituted – Himself for us! God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct His own very self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. The judge and the Saviour are the same person!
God, in giving His Son (John 3:16), was giving Himself. It is the judge Himself who in holy love assumed the role of the innocent victim, for in and through the person of His Son, He Himself bore the penalty which He Himself afflicted. The mysterious unity of the Father and the Son made it possible for God at once to endure and inflict penal suffering. For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy Himself, God through Christ substituted Himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice! In other words, God in Christ has borne our sin and died our death to set us free from sin and death.
The death of Christ at the cross was voluntary; He laid down His life for us; He chose the Father’s will, not His own, although He knew the spiritual agony and anguish that awaited Him at the cross. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. For our sake, God actually made the sinless Christ to be sin with our sins. The God who refused to reckon our sins to us reckoned them to Christ instead. Indeed, Christ’s personal sinlessness uniquely qualified Him to bear our sins in our place. The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy.
Contemplating the cross should cause us to burst into tears, worship of and gratitude towards God who so loves us despite us being HIs enemies. The cross transforms everything, giving us a new, worshipping relationship to God, a new and balanced understanding of ourselves, a new incentive to give ourselves in mission, a new love for our enemies, and a new courage to face the perplexities of suffering. The cross stands at the core and centre of our faith and ministry – it is no wonder that Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him because He Himself went to the CROSS before us and for us!