Rev. Almon Bartholomew
By the Reverend Almon Bartholomew, Queensbury, NY
Introduction: Have you been to Calvary lately? As Christians, we should return often and behold the scene once again. The scene is so awesome; we may feel as though we cannot look.
Have you ever witnessed a serious automobile accident? I have, and was subpoenaed to return from college in the court case that followed. When it happens you want to turn your head. You don’t want to see it. But somehow, something compels you to look. It happened to millions on 9/11 when the twin towers were struck. No one wanted to see what happened there; but the nation and the world were inescapably drawn to the scene.
Calvary affects us in the same way. It is the eternal magnetism of the Father’s love drawing humanity to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son. I urge you to look and linger for a while. Try to take it all in.
In one all embracing view, you see the world’s greatest tragedy and the world’s greatest triumph. Every hour of God’s Son upon earth was exceedingly precious, yet, we would not be wrong in saying, “THIS WAS HIS FINEST HOUR”. Love and grace have never exceeded the heights and depths achieved on Calvary’s hill.
“Near the cross, Oh Lamb of God, Bring it scenes before me. Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.
“In the cross, In the cross; be my glory ever, ‘til my raptured soul shall find, rest beyond the river”.
This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby, born physically blind, but she had 20/20 vision spiritually. In this song she prays concerning the cross, “bring its scenes before me”. Multitudes of Christians with 20/20 natural vision still have scales over their eyes when it comes to spiritual matters. They have a dim view of Calvary, what was involved, the intensity of the conflict, the importance of the outcome. I pray “God give us today sharp spiritual perception”. Let us view the cross through the eyes of God.
Scripture teaches us , without a vision people perish. This was never more true than when it came to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many people perish because they have no vision, no realization of the sufferings of Christ and no understanding of its purpose.
Crucifixions and other tormenting deaths were not uncommon in Jesus day, but this was the strangest of all. The outrage of torturing this most innocent man is incomprehensible. In spite of the brutal indignities, the horrible suffering, the fiendish callousness, the man on the center cross demonstrated a personal control and divine awareness unmatched in all the annals of human history.
The mood of the angry crowd changed dramatically from frenzied mockery to clammy awe in three short hours. It seemed as though all nature revolted as darkness settled over the scene by early afternoon. The earth quaked, rumbled, and chattered with uncontrollable convulsions. Thunderclaps echoed like the muted guns of heaven as God’s Son laid down His life. Jagged shocks of lightning etched glimpses of fear on the paled faces of the gathered mob.
As inadequate as the illustration may be, we have all seen the look of dread upon the face of a child who has been caught playing with matches after he has been sternly warned by an uncompromising parent. The world was caught red-handed; it had become guilty before Almighty God. All nature witnessed against sinning humanity. The most dastardly of all deeds had been committed, and all mankind was discovered entangled in the web of his sin.
Rembrandt painted a classic mosaic of the crucifixion. he painted his own face. He saw himself there as a part of sinning humanity. AND WE WERE THERE ALSO.
One of the most striking things the Lord has shown me at Calvary is the tremendous extremes. They are unequaled. You, without doubt, see them also. Behold, silently, tenderly, with grief, and yet with joy this pivotal event in history.
I. Contrast of LOVE AND HATE.
They are poles apart, so far removed from each other.
1. They delivered him for envy couldn’t stand to see his success with the masses.
2. It was a hate inspired priesthood.
a. Pharisees hated him and fought him all of the way because he exposed their hidden sins.
b. Sadducees hated him because he exercised supernatural power.
3. Hate leads to murder. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murdered John 3:15.
4. Parable of the landowner leasing his vineyard to unworthy and unscrupulous tenants. The tenants did not reverence the Son, but slew him. Destruction was promised. This raised the ire of his enemies.
1. Jesus taught “No greater love has man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
2. “God commended his love toward us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
• Jesus said that the “Good Shepherd” would lay down his life for the sheep. He did exactly that.
• Jesus prayed while on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.“Oh the love that drew Salvation’s plan,
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man.
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span, at Calvary.
Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty; at Calvary.”
• Just as the crucifixion was a deliberate and premeditated act of hate, so Jesus sacrifice was a deliberate and premeditated act of love. John 10:17-18 reads “Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life. That I may take it up again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father”.
• There, in that very hour, our Great High Priest was moved with the feelings of our infirmities.
• There, in that very place, God’s vulnerable heart of love was laid bare. There was no shield over his heart. My needs and my sins, and yours, found a place of compassion such as no one else could ever give!
II. Second contrasts: SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Sin was never more conspicuously evil and righteousness never more splendidly brilliant.
1. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can \know it? Jeremiah 17:9. September 11th and the slaughter of millions on every planet confirm this.
2. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things that defile a man” Matthew 15:19-20.
3. ‘Now the works of the flesh are these: hatred, variance, wrath, strife, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling” Galatians 5
4. The unregenerate heart is capable of anything, even putting the Son of God to death!
5. At Calvary, the stopper on the flagon of human corruption was uncorked and its vile flow was vented upon Jesus Christ. What stench this must have been in the nostrils of God. The human heart, putrefied by sin, and its cancerous venom, broke through its barriers at Calvary. The hearts of these men were whitened sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. The depth of this moral rot spilled out upon our Lord. Sin never looked more hideous.
• What a contrast! At last a perfect, holy, sinless sacrifice without spot or blemish was being offered. What a contrast to that rabble mob filled with every evil vice!
• “Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World”. Take a good look at Him. He said “the prince of this world comes and finds nothing in me”. No beachhead of sin sullied his soul. There was no foothold, no likeness, no similarity, no kinship, nothing for the arch enemy to take advantage of. Not one finger of judgment for human failure could be justly raised against him. Here is God’s righteous One. He became my sin offering and yours.
• Third contrast: High carnival and intense suffering.
• High carnival
1. Satan’s mob was having a field day.
a. Mocked and jeered Him
b. Gambled for his garments
c. Joked about his thirst and offered him vinegar to drink.
B. The tormenting suffering of Jesus was real.
1. Gabriel, the director of Heavenly choirs led the anthems at Jesus birth. Now, the musicians wore black arm bands, were silent in holy awe.
2. Michael, Captain of the Heavenly bodyguard is poised and stands ready with an twelve legions of angels. At the slightest request from Jesus they would swoop down, scorch the earth in fiery judgment and rescue Jesus from the cross. But, not one thought was telegraphed from the Son of God. Jesus was going all the way through, paying for our debt of sin in full.
3. Isaiah 53: 3-9 details that pain filled ordeal.
4. Behold what he suffered there for us.
5. Listen to his cry, “My God. My God, why have you forsaken me”? The word forsaken is one of the loneliest in our language. He plunged himself into outer darkness. He had known the adoration of angels in eternity past. Now, he utters the cry of an orphan, separated from his Father, with whom he had never known a moment of difference. He went to the land of God forsakenness for you and me so that we would not have to go there. He paid our debt in full.
6. No one will ever know the depth of what Jesus felt being forsaken. One who is totally free from the taint personal sin would have to go to Hell to understand, and none of us will ever take that trip.
7. The Celestial Traveler began at Heaven’s throne and traveled all the way to retrieve mankind from the pit of Hell.“But none of the ransomed ever knew,
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through,
E’er He found the sheep that was lost.”
8. Satan’s brood of pests vented their spleen upon Him; frustration, sorrow, disappointment, cruelties, despair, and then, a brassy heaven.
9. Why?, why? We are the most unworthy of his favor. We may not know why, but we know for whom it was done; it was for each of us and for all of us.
IV. The fourth contrast: Stunning victory and stinging defeat. There are many other contrasts; Wrath and mercy, Life and death; light and darkness, Reception and rejection, Bound and set free.
• The stinging defeat.
1. From all appearances it looked as though Jesus was defeated. They said He saved others, himself he could not save“. It looked like an eternal tragedy.
2. Satan did not reckon with the resurrection. By it, Satan was the defeated for. Jesus conquered the final enemy which was death!
B. Consummate victory
1. Christ is the victor! Angels attested the miracle, He is not here he is risen, just as he said”!
2. As was promised in Genesis, “He bruised the serpent’s head, a mortal wound.
3. Read Colossians 2:13-15!“Death could not keep its prey, Jesus my Savior,
He tore the bars away; Jesus my Lord,
Up from the grave he arose; With a mighty victory o’er his foes. He arose the victor from the dark domain; And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose; He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose.”
With great victory, joy and determination we will passionately stand up, stand up for Jesus.
To reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the most maddening of follies. God’s judgment is measured by a rich man in Hell begging for a drop of water, while holds the waters of the oceans in the palm of his hand. Christ endured God’s wrath for us in full so that we don’t have to join that rich man in his begging.
On the cross, the soldiers offered him vinegar to drink. Today, what do you offer him? In the light of his suffering in your behalf, I trust it will be your heart, your life, your all. Give it up to God now, right now. Let your life be a living contrast to the Christ rejecters in this world.