Mt. Calvary: Mount of Atonement
March 28th, 1997 @ 12:00 PM
MT. CALVARY: THE MOUNT OF ATONEMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-97 12:00 p.m.
This is your lunch hour, remember; if you have to leave, you just go ahead and walk out. We will all understand, and it will be no hindrance to me at all.
As we speak of these great mountain peaks of the Bible, we have come to the last one of the five: Mt. Calvary: the Mt. of Atonement. And the background passage is from the twenty-seventh chapter of the First Gospel:
And when they had scourged Jesus, Pilate delivered Him to be crucified…
And when they came unto a place called Golgotha, which is to say, a Place of a Skull—
[Matthew 27:26, 32]
When you go there and look at it, it kind of looks like a skull—
There they crucified Him . . .
The chief priests, with the scribe and the elders, said,
He saved others; Himself He cannot save.
[Matthew 27:35, 41-42]
That’s a good gospel in itself.
If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross…
Now from the sixth hour—twelve o’clock at noon—there was darkness over the earth until the ninth hour—until three o’clock in the afternoon.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, [lama] sabachthani? My God, My God, lama sabachthani? Why hast Thou forsaken Me?
And Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
[Matthew 27:42-46, 50]
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top—
now look at that—
from the top to the bottom.
Had it been by man, it would have been from the bottom to the top. That shows that God’s hand did it.
The veil was rent from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks were rent;
And the graves were opened . . .
And when the centurion saw these things that were done, he feared greatly—
[Matthew 27:51-52, 54]
saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
So, on the cross that day, Jesus spoke seven last words. The first one, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34]. The second one: “Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43], that awful sinner. The third, to John His disciple and to His mother Mary, “Woman, behold thy son! And son, behold thy mother!” [John 19:26-27]. Isn’t that a preciousness in our Lord, dying, and before He closed His eyes in death He took care of His mother? “John, you take her. You take her. And sweet, Mother, you look upon him as your son.” That’s our Lord.
Then four: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. And number five: “I thirst” [John 19:28]. Number six: “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And the seventh: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” [Luke 23:46].
Now the one that is overwhelmingly inexplicable to me is the fourth one: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. Why this agonizing cry? Countless brave men have endured the agony of death with no cry of anguish whatsoever; facing it many times with indifferent disdain, with splendid composure. Women, even women, have arrived at death and smiled; and in the most hideous form they have carelessly, indifferently accepted it. It is unbelievable that in misfortune such as would issue in that tragedy they were absolutely unmoved. And even criminals have been unmoved by the prospect of a terrible death. I read about them all the time here in the paper, these men that face execution. Oh! not moved at all. Even one of the criminals there, one of them on the cross, undismayed by his torture, he poured contempt upon the Lord [Luke 23:39]. But this One in the center, that One crucified there, cries in agony, “Eli, My God, My God,” lama, “why,” sabachthani, “hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46].
That cry of anguish was not occasioned, did not occur by a mortal fear. It did not come out of the dread of our Lord as He was crucified. Thousands of His followers have found a death without such a cry. The cry of anguish emerges from the lips of Jesus; not them, but our Lord. Now why this cry of our Savior? Jesus was not dying the death of a martyr or of a hero: He was dying the death of a vicarious sacrifice for sin, for the sins of the whole world. John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” First Peter 2:24: “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” [Revelation 19:15]: “He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God against your sins.” Hebrews 2:9: “He by the grace of God tasted death for every man.”
So many of these things in the Bible, you know, I prayerfully, prayerfully think of them. Think of the number of people in the earth, billions of them, think of the death of all of them, and Christ died as though all of the sentences of death were centered in Him [Hebrews 2:9]. I just can’t enter into it. And, of course, in Isaiah 53: “God offered His soul an atonement for our sins” [Isaiah 53:10].
The amazing sacrifice of Christ is so moving. The hands stretched forth in blessing are now nailed to a tree. The feet so given to errands of mercy are now cruelly pierced. The brow upon which the grace and peace of God so beautifully rested is now filled with cruel thorns, crowned with that awful thing [Matthew 27:29]. The lips from which fell words of love, sweet as honey, now are parched, they are swollen, and He cries, “I thirst!” [John 19:28]. And the eyes that were filled with compassion, such as weeping over Jerusalem [Luke 19:41], are now glazed in death. He is dead! [John 19:30-34].
What has happened? When we seek an explanation for such a tragedy, unspeakable, we find it that sin wrought this tragedy of suffering. The Passover lamb was chosen, and for four days it was set aside. It was penned up; and then it was slain for somebody else [Exodus 12:3-6].
So, sin is a triumph of Satan. He singled out the Lord to die. Satan did that. Satan sought to slay Jesus in Bethlehem, by the sword of Herod [Matthew 2:13-16]. Satan sought to destroy Him in the wilderness, in the three temptations [Matthew 4:1-11]. Satan sought to cast Him to death in Nazareth, down the slope of the mountain [Luke 4:28-29]. And Satan sought to murder Him in Gethsemane, in the agony in the garden [Luke 22:44]. He was finally slain and forsaken in this boundless opportunity in the day of the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. Satan that day entered Judas for money [Matthew 26:14-16]. Satan that day entered the chief priests, the leaders of the people [Matthew 27:41-42]. Satan that day moved the foolish mob to mock [Matthew 27:29-31]. And Satan that day entered the palace of the Roman procurator [Matthew 27:11-14], and Satan that day entered the barracks of the legionnaires [Matthew 27:27-31], all lest they be scorned and abused and called cowards by the people. What was given to us in the beautiful songs of the angels at Bethlehem [Luke 2:13-14], we returned to God on the point of a Roman spear, bathed in blood [John 19:34].
Well, that’s the way the world would look at it. But the ultimate explanation for the suffering and the crucifixion and the death of Christ lies in the heart of God Himself [John 3:16]. God did it. This is God’s way of dealing with our sin; washing it out with His own blood [Revelation 1:5]. God received the stroke Himself; God did it.
In Genesis 22, Isaac about to be offered up, says, “Father, here is the wood, and here is the fire, but where is the lamb?” [Genesis 22:7]. And Abraham replies, “Jehovah Jireh, God must provide it. God must provide it” [Genesis 22:8]. And God did it: it was His own Son [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8]. Isaac had a vicarious substitute: it was God’s own Son who was slain [Matthew 27:54]. He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth [Revelation 13:8].
All the types, all of them, and the rituals, and the sacrifices, and the prophecies of the Old Covenant, all of them point to Him. They are all fulfilled in Him [Matthew 5:17]. To take away our sins, our sins, He was incarnate in human flesh, and suffered and died on the cross for us [John 12:27; Hebrews 10:4-14]. The angel said, when He was born, “Call His name Iesous, Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21]. In the introduction of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God” [John 1:29]. In the transfiguration: “And, behold, there appeared unto Him Moses and Elijah, who spoke to Him about His death which He should accomplish in Jerusalem” [Luke 9:30-31]. The memorial Supper: “This is My body, this is My blood”; blood, shed for the remission of our sins [Matthew 26:26-28]. And the cry from the cross, “It is finished” [John 19:30]; the atoning death He had come to die [Hebrews 10:5-14], He was dead [John 19:33-34].
And the preaching of the apostles carried that same glorious announcement: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14]. And John: “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].
The song of the redeemed in heaven is like that: “Thou art worthy to receive honor and praise and glory, because Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us by Thy blood out of every kindred and people in the earth” [Revelation 5:9]. And the answer to the question raised in Revelation chapter 7:13, “Who are these arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” [Revelation 7:13], and the answer, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. That’s our answer and our rejoicing and our thanksgiving to God forever and forever.
And the question of the whole earth is that, and it has never changed: what do I do in the day I have sinned and am accountable for it before God? What shall I do?
I majored in English when I was in the university. And of course one of the things we studied was Shakespeare. And do you remember in that drama Macbeth, Duncan, king of Scotland, is a guest in the home of the duke. And egged on by his wife, Lady Macbeth, the husband takes the dagger and plunges it into the heart of the king, and he dies. But in that awful tragedy, the hand of Macbeth is covered with blood. And do you remember in the play, he looks upon it, covered with blood, and he cries:
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
[Clean] from my hand? No, rather, this my hand will
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
[Act 2, Scene 2]
How do we wash our souls of the sins of our lives? And that’s why we sing:
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[What Can Wash Away My Sin?”; Robert Lowry]