THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
1 Peter 2:24
2 Corinthians 5:21
Much help is needed in speaking of the sufferings of Christ, it is a holy and very affecting matter. Here is where we can all begin, that is, in relation to our sins. Peter says, “Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.” How much that statement means to all of us who are forgiven, that our sins were borne in Christ’s body on the tree!
That body was not a body like ours in which we have committed sins. Christ’s body was holy, inherently pure, there was nothing corrupt in it, it was never used for any other purpose than the will of God; it was unique. Every thing He did was for the divine will and pleasure, whether it be His feet treading the path of the will of God in a suffering way, accustomed to the hardships of human life into which He came; whether it be hands that ministered, hands lifted up to serve His God as no other hands had been lifted up. No hands like that had been lifted up in the temple in service to God before; they were holy hands. Then those hands ministered to humanity. He freely touched persons in their diseases and served them. No hands had ever ministered like that before. Priests like Moses and Aaron had employed hands, but never were hands employed in the relieving and blessing of people as were the hands of Jesus.
Then His lips never spoke an evil word and His eyes never rested on an unholy object. He came in contact with unholiness, but it never defiled Him; His eye never looked towards an unholy object. Alas, ours have! His voice was never used in an unholy purpose, but every word was sanctified, every word holy and pure.
What delight God had in that Person and in that body used sacrificially, devotedly, wholly for His pleasure, for His will, for His service, for His ministry to men! Yet in that body our sins were borne. The sufferings of Christ are not a myth; they are not an artificial subject, they are a real subject. Our sins were a real thing to Christ on the cross, in that ignominious position, and our sins were borne in His body. What means were required for removal of our sins! He bore them on the tree, every one of them! Think of all our sins borne in the body of Jesus on the tree! How lightly we think of forgiveness, how lightly we think of sins, how lightly we commit them! Yet every sin committed by believers was borne by Jesus.
Unbelievers’ sins were not borne in Christ’s body on the tree. Propitiation has been made for the sins of all, and on that basis God can offer forgiveness to all, but the sins of believers were borne by Christ on the tree – this is substitution. How astounding! How amazing!
What a dreadful thing our sins were, that such means should have to be resorted to in such a glorious and holy Person as Jesus, that they should be borne in His body on the tree in order that they might be removed and the judgement due to them exhausted! Every one of our sins Jesus felt, borne in His body on the tree. How it would make us loathe sins! How careful it would make us in the exercise of our own will!
How our affections would be drawn out to Christ! What cause there is to love Him – love Him much, like the woman in Luke 7! She was forgiven much and she loved much. She understood something of what it cost that forgiveness should come to her from God: in relation to her guilt and sins, the means that had to be resorted to in divine arrangement – that her sins should be borne in Christ’s body on the tree for their removal. What grace led Him to the cross!
We cannot enter into the holy shrinking of Jesus. Would that we understood Gethsemane a little more, and all He faced there as He approached that moment of Calvary’s woe and sufferings in which that transaction was about to take place; and how He could say, “Father, save Me from this hour” (John 12:27)!
He was to take on Himself the loathsome thing, sins, and yet He took them on and bore our sins in His body on the tree. We shall never have to bear them. We shall never have to come eternally under the weight, the judgement and the awfulness of our sins.
What it meant to Christ, that holy Person, in His body, in His feelings! Every sensibility He had was pure and holy. He shrank from sins, and yet He took my sins on, bore them in His body in order that they might be forgiven.
Now I refer to Isaiah, which links with this passage. I suppose the Spirit of God used Isaiah 53 in Peter’s epistle. We have another thing brought forward in Isaiah: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.”
What a multitude of ways are represented here! We had all taken our own way. He never took His own way; He was the only One Who had a right to take His own way because of Who He was in His Person, but in the dependence and subjection of manhood He went God’s way. He never went astray, never once in that life, whether early or advanced, whether in private life, home life or ministry. What a life that was for God! It was a life pure and blameless whatever the circumstances were – and they were never rosy, but were always hard and difficult and led through the way of suffering, yet He never went His own way. Alas, every one of us has gone his own way – “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.”
That is responsibility; you cannot evade it, I cannot evade it. “We have turned every one to his own way;” the element of responsibility is in that verse and no-one can exclude themselves from it. Yet He never went His own way. He said, “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
Every morning He received the divine word as to the way He should go, yet, in His Person, being God. What a mystery that He was God here in the form of a Man, and, as a Man, was in the way of dependence, waiting on God for guidance in the way He should go!
Yet “we have turned every one to his own way.”
What has happened? “Jehovah hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” What a load! Can any of us tell how many times we went astray? It is a characteristic thing for us to go astray, to love our own will, to do what we like and love to do, and refuse to do what God wills. Yet we have Jesus, Who always did what God willed and brought His way in absolute submission to the will of God and the guidance of God. What a load He bore! What strength of endurance, what might there was in Jesus to bear the iniquity of us all! What grace, what submission, what love to God’s will that He should be there to do that, to bear the iniquity of us all! What we owe to Christ! What we owe to God for giving Christ, but what we owe to Christ for what He has done!
Let us never belittle what He has done. It is never out of place, wherever it is spoken of, to speak of what Christ has done. We should have liberty to speak about it anywhere, to speak about it in the service of God. What submission there was with Him as He accepted it from God! What He has done for us, dear brethren! Do we not love Him? Do not our hearts surge up in love to Christ at this very moment, as the Spirit of God bears in on our consciences and hearts what Christ has done for us? He bore our sins in His own body, a body in which no ill or sin or iniquity was ever taken on save on the cross, and yet He took our sins on His body.
“Jehovah hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” What power, what might in the Saviour to sustain it! Could anyone else in the universe sustain it? No-one – not angelic beings with their might and strength – but the power was there in Christ to bear our iniquity that God laid upon Him. All the enormity of the iniquity was laid upon Jesus. He was there for you and me; otherwise He would not have been there at all. There was nothing in Himself to take Him there, but He was there for you and me.
“Jehovah hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” – all the host of the redeemed – think of the magnitude of it! His work is as inscrutable as His Person, blessed be His name! Our hearts rise in thanksgiving at this very time for what He has done for us.
In Ezekiel and in the passage in 2 Corinthians we get Christ as made sin. This was far more than just the bearing of our sins. Ezekiel is the nearest type, or picture, that we have in the Old Testament to Christ in His vicarious sufferings. There are other types of Christ personally, such as David, and in the inauguration of things we have Moses in relation to authority; but Ezekiel is a type of Christ in His vicarious work.
He lies on his side 390 days and then turns over and lies on his other side 40 days. It is so far beyond human endurance! To lie 390 days on one side and not move, for God had put bands on him, and to eat his bread by measure, drink his water by measure, and bake his bread with the dung of cattle! It means that Christ appropriated my sinful condition when He was made sin by God on the cross. Can we think what that means, as we think of that holy One, Jesus?
Never did an unholy thought enter His mind; there were no unholy motives with Him, He shrank from sin. He loved what was good and hated what was evil – the only One Who did. If we do, it is because we are of His order and because of the Spirit’s work in us, but He inherently loved what was good and hated what was evil; He hated sin, it was abhorrent to Him. Yet on the cross He appropriated our sinful condition.
We cannot understand it. It is as inscrutable as His Person! May the sufferings of Christ in their immensity penetrate into our souls! They were awful because He was under the judgement of God! They could never have been more awful than they were to Him, because of what He was in His Person and what He was as Man in His intrinsic holiness and purity. Yet on the cross sin was dealt with to the divine satisfaction and glory.
Christ appropriated what I was, my sinfulness – my every aspiration sinful, every movement of my body and mind and motive and soul inherently sinful as of the flesh. Yet He appropriated it! What it meant to Him! Well might He say, “Thou art holy, Thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3). Why? Because at that time He was appropriating what I was, making it His own, shrinking from it as absolutely abhorrent to Him, yet appropriating it or I would never be blessed.
Calvary’s cross was a reality, a tremendous thing to Christ, the greatest thing in the universe, that a Person Who is divine, and Who in manhood was intrinsically holy, should appropriate what I was in my sinfulness – what Scripture calls “sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3, AV). God hated it; Christ took on what God hated. Oh, what a Saviour He is! Does it not touch our hearts? Does this not have its repercussion in the service of God, in our testimony and in our lives practically as we meditate on it, the immensity of Christ’s appropriating – making His own – what I was?
It is said in Corinthians that Christ was made sin, but according to Ezekiel He appropriated it, what I was in my sinfulness, with no spark of goodness anywhere in me. Christ appropriated that and made it His own, and God dealt with what I was in Christ, as if He were dealing with me. What amazing grace of God and amazing grace of Christ that He should take that place vicariously, that He should remove what I was, the awful thing – sin – that this should be dealt with before God, His holy requirements met, His throne of majesty met! Instead of God’s judgement resting for ever on me in the lake of fire, God’s eternal favour rests on me.
For Ezekiel there was mitigation, but there was no mitigation for Jesus. He did not ask for it, for if there had been, the thing would not have been done in its totality. He went through the thing in all its awfulness, in all its unutterable woe. What it meant to His holy soul, what strength there was, what might there was in Him! He did not succumb. The whole matter was settled in three hours. What these three hours were of awful anguish, the awfulness of the forsaking to One Who had always known nearness and favour! Oh, the mystery of redemption, that One Whom God so loved, the anointed One, the supreme One, should be forsaken of God! Why? The great question of sin that had intruded in God’s universe – He was made that. Jesus was made that thing, “that we might become God’s righteousness in Him.”
How richly we are provided in the four Gospels with substance in relation to the death of Christ! John is unique in his presentation of Christ in His death. He does not tell us of the forsaking; he tells us of the glory of the Person and His advance into death. No-one ever advanced into death before. Death had taken everyone, but in John’s Gospel we have One Who advances to death. Death is abhorrent to God, because it is His judgement upon sin, and because it separates from Him. But here in John we see a glorious Person advancing to meet death. All the arrangements were in His hands; not in the hands of death, nor in the hands of the one that had the power of death, but in His own hands – He moves forward to meet death, but first He is thinking of His disciples, sheltering them from the storm which He was about to face, carefully allotting them to safety, then standing before Pilate in His personal dignity – what a sight! Will Pilate ever forget it? He never will; through all eternity it will haunt his soul that he had that blessed Man before him in all His loveliness and glory, the expression of the truth, and he never took advantage of it!
Here Christ is, conducting His own arrangements, carrying His cross. Oh, the might and glory of the Son of God, moving forward into death! Oh, the calm tranquillity of His holy mind and soul, giving His mother to John, arranging for her safety in the house of John, the disciple whom He loved; then giving up His spirit. No-one was taking His life from Him; He was laying it down of Himself (ch 10:17‑18).
The Prince of life and glory died on the cross. The soldier pierced His side and forthwith came blood and water. What blood that was! Well might Peter say it is precious (1 Pet 1:19)! Well might we say it is precious! It is blood to cleanse us who are vile, blood to cleanse the universe – what blood that was! Hebrews tells us that He went in “by His own blood” (Heb 9:12). That Person with His own blood has gone in to God. The whole moral universe rests on this basis, the precious blood of Christ. The foundation of our blessing was laid in the work of Christ; the foundation of God’s moral universe was laid in the work and blood-shedding of Christ.
Every thing has not come yet into the full value of that blood, but as believers we have. We can approach God as cleansed worshippers, to serve the living God. The basis of our entering the holiest is by the blood of Christ. Every time we approach God we are reminded of the efficacy and preciousness of the blood of Christ, and the whole moral universe will yet come into the application of the blood of Christ. There will be a cleansed universe, nothing unclean, no sin anywhere – all because of the wondrous work of this glorious Person! It is intended to affect our hearts, to attach us to Him; it is intended that we should shrink from sin and be kept pure and available to God in His will and service, and to serve Him in liberty and power, and to love our Saviour more day by day.
May it be so, for His name’s sake!
18 May 1959