As our world is feeling COVID-19 isolation and asked to pray the Lord’s Prayer, I wanted to continue working through Grandpa’s study on Easter sermons. The image with this blog is the cross stitch my Mom created in 1960 from Matthew 6: 9 – 13 and is hanging in our dining room.
Grandpa Whit’s message on the loneliness of the cross is drawn from Matthew 27:46,”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The words below are Grandpa’s and I haven’t changed anything except formatting.
Loneliness was an unlovely and a trying experience to which Jesus of Nazareth was not a stranger. It met him very early in his ministry and from then on seems to have come with frequency and severity. He had hardly gotten more than well launched in His career before members of His own family turned on Him.
Sometime later, His fellow townsmen of Nazareth followed suit. A little later on, we have the startling statement “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with him.”
As though hurt by their desertion, He turned to those who remained loyal and inquired, “Will you also go away?” At the close, one of his own circle abandoned Him and betrayed Him into the hands of His enemies. When the soldiers came to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane, His closest friends with one accord forsook Him and fled. Then while on the cross – that crude instrument of torture, as thou the last vesture of strength, support was gone, in despair – He cried, “My God, My God, why hast though forsaken me?”
As all the evidence concerning His love reached the climax when he went to the cross, so there too as a climax to all, His discomforting experiences came that which was the most trying, that of being forsaken, of being left alone.
Of a truth, He had to tread the wine press alone unattended, unsupported. If one ever knew what loneliness was like, surely Jesus, while on the cross, became acquainted with that in the superlative degree.
Often a man is robbed and left half dead, all become incensed that the injured is left unattended to follow the culprits. We become highly indignant of those who left the master. While we have given little attention to the painful wounds and suffering which Jesus must have experience as a result of his loneliness.
Who did He have in mind when He used the pronouns You? Those who stood by were uncertain as to the person or persons to whom Jesus referred when He claimed He had been forsaken. Those at the cross were not agreed.
Who was the “you” in this most difficult passage? Some claim the “you” referred to those about the cross. It is hard enough when your enemies will have nothing to do with you. Still harder is it when those you assisted turn on you; still it pierced deeper when friends forsake you. Others claim He referred to God. He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him up for us all.
It is hard enough when some of your friends have turned away from you. But to know that you have been left absolutely alone will break the spirit of the most determined mind. Jesus hung there on the cross, a convicted and doomed man, with no one at all, not even God, who seemed to care about Him. It was enough to take the heart out of any man and cause Him to cry out in despair.
As long as man has God with Him, hope lives. Take God away and no true estimate can be given of his hopeless, helpless, situation.
There was darkness over the earth; the veil of the temple was torn asunder. All this added to that deeper darkness which enveloped His soul.
Upon the cross Jesus was making atonement for the sins of the world, “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, for upon Him was laid the iniquity of us all.” He was closely identified with the race which He came to save, that he felt the burden of its sin, and cried as a representative of humanity, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
If Jesus was weighted down and all but crushed by the experience of loneliness when He hung upon the cross, what must be the degree of his anguish if we now forsake Him and leave Him alone?
Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows.
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord has laid him the iniquity of us all. He has poured out his soul unto death. He was numbered with the transgressors. He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
We shall ever wonder at the way in which the prophet so long before the days of the Lord in the flesh understood and revealed the inmost of our Christian faith. He brings us right into the presence of Calvary.
He grasps and portrays the one way of salvation through the transcendent sacrifice of God himself. All of this helps us to understand that the cross is a timeless thing, that the lamb of God was slain from the beginning for us, and that how in other ages than our own that men could find a way through the precious blood of the lamb and that Christ can minister; in a way that we know not of.
To contemplate the gospel of the Old Testament, we are told that the sufferings have power in them to avail for the expiation of our sins. He shall justify many. He shall bear their iniquities. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.
As long as man shall live, the cross which Isaiah places before us today shall represent to us the deepest facts upon which our redemption is built. It tells of eternal justice, for the Lord laid our transgressions on Him. There can be no love without justice. Otherwise, weakness. God must recognize and take an account of son.
His commandments are of his own righteousness. Righteous nature and he must enforce them. It is only a just God that we can trust. The cross will stand to us for eternal holiness. Surely sin must be a terrible thing to cause this infinitely affecting picture of the innocent, suffering, non-resisting servant brings to us as nothing else can the true depravity and degradation of sin.
When we think of the how the bearing of it racked him, when we think of Gethsemane’s cup and the awful cry from the cross and then realize it was for you and me, we can only cry out, “Lord be merciful unto me a sinner.” The cross will ever stand out as an emblem of love for us.
God commandeth his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
And when we reflect that it was for us that love incarnate bowed himself in all the bitterness of the passion, it cannot fail that answering love shall be awakened in us as deep answers unto deep.
I know no more exalted words in scripture than the prophet’s vision which for us has been born out in fact; “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”
He suffered a passion that no man can ever appraise, and in the midst of it he was glad. The message of the cross has reached its height:
I know not how that Calvary’s cross
A world from sin could free;
I only know its matchless love
Has brought God’s love to me.
–E. Stanley Dover – Christ and Human Suffering
A revelation of God – the cross. It tells as nothing else. What sin will do. It tells what God will do. Paul’s estimate of the cross. The power of God. The wisdom of God.
“At the Cross” is the song for this blog and comes from Hillsong. If you have recommendations of music for this blog, please add them in the comments section.