The men who stood there to watch said among themselves "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One" (Lk 23:35). Similarly, close to two thousand years later, having not seen the suffering and death of our Lord on that roman crucifix, we are tempted to make light of the matter. It is great folly, for any generation, to have the death of Christ lose meaning in our sight. It is a sign of our perishing.
The Apostle Paul made known to us that his purpose in life was to preach Christ and him crucified. The work of Christ to heal and raise, no matter how astounding, remained incomplete until there on the cross he gave his life. To the seeker of the sign, this is a stumbling block, and to the seeker of wisdom, this is foolishness; but to those who are called, it is the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). If we are to boast in anything, it is only in the death of Christ.
Though most of the contemporaries of Christ and those of the apostles failed to perceive the great significance of Christ dying on an object of shame in the middle of two thieves, the prophet Isaiah had nicely told it 700 hundred years before it actually happened.
The prophet begins by calling us to attentively consider this message. He points us to have a welcoming posture to the message of the death of Christ. "Who has believed our message?" (Isaiah 53:1) is more of an exclamation than a question. Here we are reminded of the great privilege to be partakers of the revelation of God's saving power, "to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (v1). How grateful ought we be, for the privilege of hearing the gospel? We have heard about the death of Christ so often, at least every Easter, yet our response even now should be "Blessed be God that he has granted that we hear it again." On this, I need not labour more than the prophet has done. But what is the significance?
It is great folly, for any generation,
to have the death of Christ lose meaning in our sight.
It is a sign of our perishing.
The sacrifice for our atonement
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray"(v6). Yes, all of us have sinned against God. The wrath of God is set upon all of Adam's offspring. The wages of sin is death, For what are we to expect from sinning against God who made us and the universe except for destruction. Yet in Christ's death, the Lord has laid on him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.(v6)
He was the sacrifice that quenched God's wrath on those who believe. A suitable sacrifice since he had done no violence nor was there any deceit in his mouth (v9). Being sinless he was the perfect fit to be the acceptable lamb of atonement. The death he died was on our stead,
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
Did he object to it as unfair? Not at all, as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth (v7). This is no act of coincidence. Jesus did not come that perchance he may die. There was no plan B. He came to die. No peradventure, chance or contingency. "This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you … put him to death by nailing him to the cross"(Acts 2:23). Oh, not only his own will but also that of the Father. In the Godhead, there was no other plan to save us except in the death of Christ. It pleased the Father to do this for"… It was the will of the Lord to crush him and cause him to suffer… the Lord makes his life offering for sin" (v10). Even as we see many goats and animals killed before Christ, we are being clearly reminded this was not an emergency reaction or made up as they went, but pre-planned in love rooted in God's eternal will to fully atone for our sins.
The death of Christ is complete for its purpose in salvation. All and any other work to save today are indeed futile. Piety, charity, abundance, deprivation or lack do not add anything to our salvation. Surely, through his death, he took our pain and bore our suffering (v4). The work was complete, in need of no additions. For anyone who truly believes on Christ today God is angry at him no more. He has been eternally reconciled to God and his full pardon effected. For there is no other name by which men are to be saved (Acts 4:12).
This cannot be violated by poverty, disease, suffering or physical defect. For these are not evidence of pleasure or displeasure on God's part. There is no more comfort for those in health than for those in sickness except in the plan of the death of Christ. When a charge is brought against God's people, no works shall suffice, but there is only one sure comfort for all who believe, regardless of their current estate:
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him
and by his wounds, we are healed (v5).
In Christ's death, there is the assurance of complete pardon. To repeat this at this point is certainly flogging a dead horse.
In addition to this assurance, following the work of God that has led us here, namely the plan of salvation, then Christ must receive the full reward of his death. God planned for this in eternity past, foretold by the prophets, foreshadowed in the days of the law. God fulfilled the plan in time on Calvary. Shall we then doubt his ability to bring the redeemed to glory? In this death, lies assurance for salvation and that of being kept. In the due time, those who have believed will meet the one who paid their ransom. Though the Lord makes his life an offering, he will see his offspring (v10). And this for us is great hope.
Christ will receive the full reward of death. We, the saints, shall surely gather before our redeemer and raise praise unto him. It is an appropriate response of reflecting on the death of Christ, to believe that God will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:12). Christ will surely be triumphant. For the glory of the Godhead. So now and forever, his praise shall not depart from the lips of the saints.
Warning and Intercession
Christ death stands as a warning to those who hear it. For it was the will of the Lord to crush him, that is Christ (v10). In like manner, it shall be God's pleasure to put out his wrath upon those who die outside of Christ.
"by his knowledge, my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities" (v11)
For those who believe, the righteousness of Christ is imputed upon them, and on the day of judgement they shall stand. Not so for the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous (Psalm 1:4-5).Do not neglect this salvation given in the death of Christ, for it is to choose to be punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted (v4)
But for those who come to him, Christ has made intercession for their transgressions. Christ is the guarantor of a better covenant… he holds his priesthood permanently… he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw to him (Heb 7:23-25).
What is the befitting response to this?
Christian, be filled with joy. The death of Christ calls us to rejoice, for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The full debt was paid. Since in that death we know, we will not perish, but will share in eternity with God, so in rejoicing let us defeat fear and anxiety, prayerfully, as we wait for the sure hope of glorification at the revelation of Christ.
Secondly we should consider how we live. To see the plan of God in sacrificing His Son for our sake and persist in our iniquity is to think lightly of the death of Christ. We must not persist in the shallowness of earthly pleasure or in the fleeting glory of earthly pursuits but in all things to reckon ourselves dead with Christ. To shun what is evil and consider my old self to have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.