Matthew 27:33-34; Mark 15:22-23; Luke 23:32-34; John 19:16-18
The Cross as the Measure of God’s Grace
Jesus and Simon of Cyrene finally make it to Golgotha, or “the Place of the Skull.” Of course, everyone else arrives there to behold the spectacle as well, not the least of which are the Roman soldiers. We also learn that two robbers are crucified with him, fulfilling Isaiah 53:12 that “he was numbered with the transgressors.” Is it not fitting that the Lamb of God who takes away our sins should die between two sinners! Not one of the gospels goes into detail about the process of crucifixion but only say, “there they crucified him,” which I think agrees with my reference to Leon Morris on Saturday that the gospel writers desire not to play on our emotions but instead strive to help us understand what God is doing through His Son in our reconciliation. Let us note two things:
First, Luke records Jesus’ first words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In the Scriptures, redemption (our being bought back, or ransomed) is tied to the forgiveness of sins, and there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). This is precisely what the Old Testament foreshadowed in the sacrifices as the blood of the animal was substituted for the blood of the man who watched (in horror, we hope) as the poor beast was slaughtered on his behalf for his sins. So Jesus is fittingly called the “Lamb of God.” And it is Jesus who declares our forgiveness from the throne of the cross. He can do that; as the Son of Man who was slain for us, he has the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). Always remember, sin is no trifle, and because it isn’t, Christianity is a deadly serious religion.
Second, Matthew and Mark record that the soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with gall or myrrh. We are told that this quite possibly was given to the crucified as an act of Roman mercy (believe it or not) since the mixture had a numbing effect. But Jesus wouldn’t have it. Why not? Surely he had suffered enough, and there was much more suffering to come! Jesus didn’t go to the cross to camouflage the heinousness of our sin, our rebellion, our hatred for God and His Law. Sin must be exposed and atoned for, not covered up. If the Father required that Jesus drink that cup, then Jesus would drink it to the dregs. The salvation that our Lord purchased for us was not at a discount; indeed, no higher price could be paid than the blood of the Son of God. Which tells us this: God’s grace is greater even than our sin (Romans 5:20). I said the other day that the cross is the measure for our sin; but it is even a greater measure of God’s love for His people.