JESUS CHRIST – the SUFFERING, SIN-BEARING ‘LAMB of GOD’
October 16 Bible Reading: Matthew Chapters 25-28
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt 27:45-46)
Of all the four Gospels, the Gospel of Matthew gives the briefest description of how our Lord Jesus Christ had suffered on the cross before His death. In fact, Matthew wanted to show how all the others around Jesus acted in those final hours during His mock trials, punishment and crucifixion, thereby depicting the total rejection of the Messiah. In the narrative leading to the death of Jesus in this Gospel, we can visualize Jesus being rejected by everyone He knew and loved: His chosen disciple Judas Iscariot betrayed Him with a kiss (26:47-49); His own disciples “forsook Him and fled” at the hour of trial (26:56), and His chief disciple Peter denied Him three times (26:69-75).
The sufferings of Jesus did not end there: He was spat upon His face (26:67a), physically assaulted by the high priest, scribes and elders (26:57, 67b-68), scourged by Roman soldiers (27:26) who later stripped Him naked, twisted a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, spat on Him, and struck Him on the head with a reed, and made to carry His cross to Golgotha to be crucified on a wooden cross (27:27-31). Jesus was "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12), and His death by crucifixion prophesied by Zechariah (Zech. 12:10) was the ‘worst’ kind of punishment imaginable reserved only for someone committing a sin that deserved a death penalty (see Deut. 21:22-23).
All the sufferings and indignities which Jesus bore at the hands of men were minor compared to what He now faced hanging on the cross. The last three hours (from noon until three in the afternoon) that Jesus suffered was at the hand of God His Father in total darkness. The eternal transaction between the Son and the Father for the sins of the world was too sacred for any human being to watch. It was during that time that He bore the indescribable curse of our sins. In those three hours were compressed the hell which we deserved, and the wrath of God against all our transgressions. We only know that in those three hours He paid the price, settled the debt, and finished the work necessary for the redemption of humankind.
However, towards the end of these agonizing final hours, Jesus could not bear it any longer and cried out with a loud voice asking why He was forsaken by God (27:46), the words of which reflected Psalm 22:1. Being just and righteous, God had to punish the sins of humankind that His Son Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ took upon Himself. Being holy, God withdrew from His only begotten Son of His eternal love. It was this separation that wrung from the heart of Jesus, and caused Him to cry out. In those dark hours of intense agony, God’s judgment of the sins of the entire world was placed upon Jesus in isolation. Jesus became accursed of God as our sin-bearer (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13), and suffered the agony of spiritual death for our sakes.
Let us understand that our Lord Jesus had to endure this horrific experience so that we can have a ‘free access’ to God through Him (John 14:6). Let us examine our own lives today: are we as indifferent as Pilate, as scheming as Caiaphas the high priest, as callous as the Roman soldiers, as ruthless as the Jewish mob or as cowardly as the disciples of Jesus? Jesus died so that our sins could be washed away, and we could get reconciled to God, our eternal Creator. Can we take a moment and sincerely thank Jesus for bearing our sins and suffering for us on the cross?
"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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)