THE BEAUTY OF THE CROSS

Is.53:10 – Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

The most beautiful of all images in our world, ironically, is found in one that could be considered as the most grotesque. Roman crucifixion, it conjures pictures in our minds of the most intense suffering imaginable and vividly displays man’s inhumanity to man. Think about it; soldiers beating an innocent man with a Roman scourge to the brink of death. Then there is the taunting and mocking, spitting and cursing hurled at the Lord. Bloodied and humiliated, how can this picture be described as the most beautiful of all? My answer is this, the creator entered His-creation as a man with one thought in mind. He came to redeem us, to love us in our unlovely condition. He even loved His executioners as He prayed for their forgiveness. The ugliness of our sins were purged by the beauty of His blood. Christ died to save sinners. Here is Belden Lane describing the beauty of the cross from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

“For Edwards, the highest expression of God’s glory revealed in creation is witnessed in the God-become-Creature who died on Golgotha. In the humiliation of Christ we find the greatest consent of the creation to its Maker. The Creator becomes in this moment the lowest of all creatures on earth. The power of consent, the unity of being, the persuasiveness of the senses, the centrality of embodiment to the apprehension of God’s glory—all these are discovered here at the cross.

Edwards echoed Calvin and Augustine before him in affirming that God is beautiful, not only in the loveliness of the earth, but even “beautiful on the cross.” Obviously it is a long stretch, by any reach of the imagination, to discern beauty in the midst of pain. But once again it is the “new sense” imparted by God’s spirit that makes this discernment possible.”

So can you see it? Can you see the beauty of the cross? When the cross becomes personal, when its your sins dealt with at Calvary, all you can proclaim is “Beautiful, beautiful!”. The precious blood of Jesus is beautiful to me.

RICH MAN’S TOMB

RICH MAN’S TOMB

Is. 53:9
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

What an amazingly precise and accurate prophesy. This prophetic word was given by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Christ. In this passage he described various aspects of Christ’s death, here we see the strange observation describing His involvement with the wicked and the rich at His death. He was crucified as a criminal among criminals yet He was buried in a rich man’s tomb. Actually, one of the Pharisees, Joseph of Arimathea, acquired His body from Pilate and had Him buried in his own tomb. This wealthy Pharisee was actually a believer in Christ and made a public stand by taking care of the body of Jesus Christ. Albert Barnes spoke of this prophesy in his comments on this verse.

“The exact fulfillment of this may be seen in the account which is given of the manner of the burial of the Savior by Joseph of Arimathea (Mat 27:57-60. Joseph was a rich man. He took the body, and wound it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, a tomb hewn out of a rock – that is, a grave designed for himself; such as a rich man would use, and where it was designed that a rich man should be laid. He was buried with spices Joh 19:39-40; embalmed with a large quantity of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight, in the mode in which the rich were usually interred. How different this from the interment of malefactors! How different from the way in which he would have been buried if he had been interred with them as it had been designed! And how very striking and minutely accurate this prophecy in circumstances which could not possibly have been the result of conjecture! How could a pretended prophet, seven hundred years before the event occurred, conjecture of one who was to be executed as a malefactor, and with malefactors, and who would in the ordinary course of events be buried with malefactors, conjecture that he would be rescued from such an ignominious burial by the interposition of a rich man, and buried in a grave designed for a man of affluence, and in the manner in which the wealthy are buried?”

I am always amazed at the detail of the prophesies concerning Christ. The Lord goes to such measures to build our faith and to show how He is involved in every detail in life. I am certain that one of the reasons this word about a rich man’s tomb was to bring encouragement to Joseph himself. As a Pharisee, he was facing incredible pressure to reject Christ. Seeing himself in this scripture meant everything to him. This word could have given him the courage to make his stand. As we reflect on the death and RESURRECTION of Jesus remember, these are not just generic events, He had you specifically in mind at Calvary. After all, He bore your sins in His body on the cross and by His wounds you are healed.

FREE FROM SIN

FREE FROM SIN

2Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Is. 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

To think about the cross and it’s effect on our lives is quite amazing and frankly, quite humbling. To know that His love for me and my sinful condition is what brought about Calvary is the greatest of all revelations. That is the place life evermore begins. When Christ surrendered His will to the Father in Gethsemane, He was agreeing to more than just a horrible death. He was agreeing to become a sin offering, He was accepting the punishment for the sins of fallen man. As He agonized in prayer in the garden, He was given a glimpse of then horrible price involved in redeeming man. Christ surrendered to the plan to save us from eternal suffering. Spurgeon spoke of the beauty of redemption, check this out.

” Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in him; thou art in God’s sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our Righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man-thou hast the righteousness of God. O thou who art mourning by reason of inbred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins can condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned also to know that sin is not thine-it was laid upon Christ’s head. Thy standing is not in thyself-it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy Lord; thou art as much accepted of God to-day, with all thy sinfulness, as thou wilt be when thou standest before his throne, free from all corruption. O, I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art complete in him. With thy Saviour’s garment on, thou art holy as the Holy one. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Christian, let thy heart rejoice, for thou art accepted in the beloved-what hast thou to fear?”

What an amazing result of Christ’s death, we have not only been forgiven, but clothed with Christ. We were once enemies of God, children of disobedience, now we are sons, sons and daughters of Almighty God. He paid the ultimate price so that we could receive the ultimate gift, the righteousness of Christ counted to our account.
As we celebrate the Passion of Christ again this week, think about His suffering. Think about His love for us that brought about this suffering. He died so that we could live.

BY HIS STRIPES

BY HIS STRIPES

Is. 53:4-5
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

The suffering of Jesus is totally indescribable, the ugliness of man’s depravity was unleashed on our beloved Savior. I can never forget the scenes of the brutal beating depicted at the whipping post in the movie “The Passion of the Christ”, the brutality was quite disturbing. As I watched Jesus being stripped, beaten, and mocked, a range of emotions flooded my soul. I was horrified by the suffering Christ endured, the shocking reality of being flogged by a Roman whip was stunning. I was angered by the mocking brutality of the soldiers, it was hard to stay seated as the beating intensified. Finally, I was humbled at the revelation that hit me during this horrendous scene. It wasn’t the Roman soldiers or the Jewish elders who crucified the Lord, it was the sinfulness of my life that precipitated this beating. Christ died to save sinners, Christ died to save me. Charles Spurgeon brought out the horrors of this scene in his devotional, check out his words.

“Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of his flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over his poor stricken body.”

The sobering revelation, Christ endured this for me, changes everything. It was my sinfulness that invoked such suffering on my Lord. As we enter this passion week, it will do our souls well to reflect on the suffering of our Lord. Let’s take another trip to the whipping post, listen to the hostility and hatred vented toward our Lord. As the soldiers mocked and shouted profanities, our Savior breathed out, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. As they spit upon Him and pulled out His beard, He wept with tears of compassion for the souls of His executioners. As the whip tore the flesh from His body, He cried out prayers for you and for me. The suffering of Christ was not in vain, our souls were being purchased, our redemption was being secured.
As we draw near to Good Friday, we are reminded of His suffering, as we head toward Easter we remember His victory. Sin has been defeated, death has been overcome, our souls have been purchased, Christ has been enthroned. “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

TWICE BEGOTTEN

TWICE BEGOTTEN

Is. 53:8 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.

Augustine was amazed at the two generations of Jesus Christ—how Scripture reveals Christ as the eternal Son always in the state of being generated from the Father. He is the radiance of the Father’s Glory. He also was amazed at the miracle of the virgin birth. I wanted to give you an excerpt from one of Augustine’s Christmas sermons, and I have also included some of my thoughts and some scripture. Enjoy! You and your family have a blessed Christmas!
“Open my lips, O Lord, so that my voice may break out in praise!” (Ps.51:15). So the Psalmist has sung. He was saluting his Lord with a chain of seemingly incompatible attributes. And so, too, I sing this morning.
Augustine was overwhelmed with joy as he reflected on the birth of Christ. His message seems to be delivered as a “song”:
Almighty God, the Father I want to praise but, to my amazement, He’s the Infant Christ:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (I Timothy 3:16 NKJ)
Augustine is astounded at the beauty and mystery of the incarnation—God Himself as an infant in a manger:

The Lord has made all things, and yet He takes His stand among the very things He’s made.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
The creator God – Jesus Christ – enters into the very creation He has made. He became part of creation when he became a man.
He’s the Revealer of His Father, and at the same time He’s the Creator of His mother.

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:3, 18)
Augustine explores the mystery of Jesus Christ: He is the radiance of the Father’s Glory but created His mother before He was conceived in her womb.
He’s the Son of God born of the Father without a mother; and He’s the son of man born of a mother without a father.
“ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Is. 7:14)
The two generations of Christ, begotten of the Father as the eternal Son yet born as a human from a virgin mother. And now, the greatest of all miracles, He is actually born in our hearts. Just as the Ethiopian asked Phillip, so many years ago, “Who shall declare His generation?” Today, we discover this Christmas miracle. Christ is born in our hearts! What an incredible God!!!

RICH MAN’S GRAVE

RICH MAN’S GRAVE

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Isa.53:7-9

The Bible is quite an amazing book. This passage is one of the most loved prophecies about the death of our Lord. These words, written 700 years before Christ was born, are stunning in their incredibly precise detail, even including the burial of Christ in a rich man’s grave. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, a powerful leader in the nation of Israel. He had become a secret follower of Jesus, but the time had come for him to step forward. When Jesus had breathed His last, Joseph mustered up his courage and went to Pilate to ask for the body. Not everyone could get an instant audience with Pilate, Joseph must have been quite an influential man. These two actions, going to Pilate and giving his tomb to Jesus, were two great steps of faith. The first required courage, to face the man with the power of life and death in Israel. His second act, to give away his tomb, was an act of faith and generosity. Mark said that Joseph was a man, “waiting for the kingdom of God”. When this moment came, he gave this gift, a gift worth thousands of dollars (someone recently priced a cemetery plot at 38,000 thousand dollars). He was giving this gift in the hope of the resurrection. Actually all of us who are waiting for the kingdom of God give our gifts in anticipation of the resurrection. We have decided to live for the world to come, not for this temporary world that most people embrace. Those living for this world never think about resurrection or new life, those who have experienced it can think of little else.
What can we learn from this rich man’s offering? He purchased a place for dead things to come alive. That is what the church is all about. Many people today criticize the local church, I love His church. The church, like Joseph’s tomb is the place of resurrection. It is the place where dead things, actually dead people come alive. If you are waiting for the kingdom, like Joseph, make sure you take the advice of that rich man. Invest your time, talents, and finances in the only place in this life that experiences that resurrection life. When you look at the local church, at first glance it may not look like much, tombs are not very impressive. But take a second look, this might be the place where you experience life from the dead.

IT PLEASED THE LORD TO BRUISE HIM

IT PLEASED THE LORD TO BRUISE HIM

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
Isa.53:10

What a strange thing to say, “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him..”. Who was responsible for the death of Christ? Was it the Roman soldiers, or Pontius Pilate, or maybe we should lay the blame on Judas, or the Jewish elders? I will never forget the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. What an incredible array of emotions would flood your senses as you watched the incredible suffering of our Lord. That was the question that haunted my mind as I watched the movie. If I remember correctly, there was quite a stir from the Jewish community saying that Mel Gibson was placing the blame for Christ’s death upon them. But who was actually behind this incredible act of injustice, or was it justice itself that cried out for His death?
Today’s scripture verse describes the answer to these questions. Actually, mankind was alienated from God as the results of the sin of our first parents, man has labored for thousands of years under the results of our fall from relationship with our Creator. Somehow, we have been connected to Adam as the representative of our race for all these years. His sins and our sins cried out for justice to satisfy the righteous anger of our holy God. Jesus came to this earth as the last Adam, to also represent mankind. His death on the cross was the plan of God, the cross is God’s plan for justice to be served and for mercy to be offered to fallen man. That is why it pleased the Lord to make His soul an offering for sin. It wasn’t the Romans, the Jews, Judas, or Pilate that was ultimately responsible for the death of Christ, it was our sin. That is why it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, putting Him to death. He was rejoicing in the greatest of all mysteries, justice and mercy have met together. The cross displayed the place for mercy and justice to finally kiss.