THE SHAME OF THE CROSS
Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The sorrow of Christ consisted of his manifold temptations, especially in the wilderness, in Gethsemane and on the Cross. Intellectual and spiritual loneliness brought him sadness and great grief. Judas’ betrayed and Peter’s denial were exceeding painful. He appeared to be forsaken by all on the cross, even by his Heavenly Father. The humiliation of the Incarnation itself, which forced him to constantly come into contact with sin, made for a life of heartache. Bearing the curse of sin and being regarded as a sinner was a terrible shame. No wonder God the Father faltered by such intolerable humiliation as he observed from Heaven. When two persons are forever bound together by the bond of love, when one suffers the other is bound to be pained.
No man was more hated and distrusted than Jesus, which was another source of his grief. Jesus said, “They hated me without a cause (John 15:25).” This animosity was especially troubling because it came from his own people: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not (John 1:11).” The Jews were ashamed of their own Messiah, whom they had expected to lead them out of Roman rule, much as Moses delivered the people from the Egyptian tyranny. They turned away from the one who would set them free from the bondage of sin and the fear of death.
Thomas W. Jenkyn wrote, “Aversion from sufferings is an affection essential to every living being. Such an affection is in itself innocent and sinless; without it, man would not be the subject of hope or fear, and consequently, not a fit subject of moral government. Had the blessed Mediator been without such aversion to pain, he would not have appeared so great a sufferer. Sufferings were, therefore, introduced into the atonement, because they supplied the greatest number of motives to deter from sin, afforded the greatest amount of reasons for returning to allegiance, the soundest grounds of assurance of a cordial reception and pardon, and laid the most numerous and pressing bonds of obligations on the offenders.”
Despite being a man of sorrows, Jesus was able to focus on his ultimate joy. Paul wrote, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)”
The joy of Christ in his sacrifice is the joy of God in the redemption and the recovery of his beloved creation, mankind. His sufferings prepared him for an access to human hearts. His final joy consisted of winning men through empathy with their lost condition: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:17-18).”
Christ’s sufferings were not penal. He was not being punished by God by taking the place of men in punishment. His sufferings were sympathetic for identifying with men and demonstrating great compassion for their lost condition.
WAS THE FATHER ANGRY WITH HIS SON?
Isaiah 53:4: “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
The evangelist, Matthew, reports that Jesus healed Peter’s fevered mother-in-law. And afterwards that he cast devils out of many and healed all that were sick. Matthew ties in these deliverances and healings with Isaiah’s words, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses (Matt 8:17).” Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10:38).”
The grief which Jesus bore would include physical pains and infirmities and sicknesses; the sorrows would include the mental infirmities and anguishes of men. When Jesus healed a demon possessed blind and dumb man, the Pharisees accused him of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Jesus answered them saying, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you (Matt 12:28).” Jesus mission was to restore the kingdom that Adam had turned over to the devil.
Jesus bore much grief and sorrow directed his way from the religious leaders for his deliverances and healings, especially when he healed people on the Sabbath. He was falsely accused of being a blasphemer, when in fact his accusers were the blasphemers. Self-centered men confused Jesus’ compassion with blasphemy.
Wicked men considered Jesus to be getting his just deserts when he suffered many things from the chief priests and the elders and then was delivered up to death. Such ignorance still is promoted today by theologians, who promote the penal substitution theory of the atonement. They claim that the Father poured out his entire wrath upon his Son and that Jesus was punished by God in our place. Some even have the audacity to teach that Jesus became a sinner on the cross and that God killed his own son.
“St. Paul’s statement that Jesus was made ‘sin for us,’ has led some to import into the sufferings of our Lord an infection of sin. . . They have supposed that He came near to the consciousness of being an embodiment of sin, near enough to a sense of guilt to stand before God as uttering the repentance of mankind. . . Had this been our Lord’s consciousness, instead of wonder that God had forsaken Him, there would have been the sense that this forsaking was His desert. The very contrary was the case. The anguish of the cry is in the surprise, and not only in the bitterness of the experience. The forsaking was unexpected, and it was met with the agonized wonder which only the integrity of perfect righteousness can know. No consciousness of His own, however momentary, can explain to Him the desertion of His Father. The only explanation is that death, the witness of wrath against sin, is here doing the worst against Him who stands for the guilty men (John Scott Lidgett, The Biblical Doctrine of the Atonement, 1897, p. 277).”
It should be noted that there is a true sense in which God’s wrath is appeased by the Atonement of Christ. Because God is loving and holy, he has a righteous indignation again the sinner. The atonement of Christ combined with the sinners repentance negates the necessity for God’s wrath against the penitent sinner.
The objective of the Father through the Atonement was to provide a wise, just and righteous means to pass over past sins and to provide another way of making man righteous than by punishing. Punishing may change a man’s behavior but it will not change a man’s heart.