Golgotha, Matthew 27. 33

In our previous studies on “The Sufferings of Christ”, we have contemplated His anticipation in the Garden of Gethsemane of the Cup that He was to drink; we have considered Gabbatha’s judgment hall and its shameful Cruelty, and in this paper we ponder the strange mystery of Golgotha and its Curse. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him”, Isa. 53. 10.

Every true heart of faith must always be grateful for what it has come to learn and understand in the realm of the spiritual, to rejoice with holy confidence in:

  1. The assurance of sins forgiven and remembered no more, Heb. 10. 17, with its resulting rest of soul, Matt. 11. 28, 29.
  2. The peace of God that keeps and abides, the fellowship and communion of kindred hearts and minds, Phil. 4. 7-9. The unceasing provision of divine bounty, that is new every morning, surely causes the believer to cry with the psalmist, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places … I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel”, Psa. 16. 6, 7.
  3. The confident anchor granted by the knowledge that God holds and keeps all that is entrusted into the hands of the One in whom we have believed, 2 Tim. 1. 12.

Yet whether our progress in spiritual learning is great or small, it becomes increasingly obvious that we stand only upon the shore of a vast untapped sea of knowledge still to be unfolded to eye, ear and heart of the deep things of God. “God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out”, Job 36. 26; “great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend”, 37. 5; “how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out”, Rom. 11. 33; who can measure the eternal habitation of the “high and lofty One”?, Isa. 57. 15; who can embrace the fulness of divine love?, John 3. 16; who can stand before the awesome holiness of eternal light?, Rev. 4. 8. Before such power and glory, the heart of faith can only bow and cry, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord … glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”, Exod. 15. 11.

In our approach to Golgotha, we perceive one of the greatest of all mysteries, “it pleased the Lord to bruise him”, the strange and awful linking together in divine paradox of “pleased” and “bruised”. The verb “to bruise” occurs twice in Isaiah 53, and in its immediate context it reveals a fearful intensity of affliction and suffering breaking upon the Blessed Redeemer. In its total aspect it sets forth the dreadful weight and wrath that Christ bore under the rod of Jehovah’s judgment. The full embrace of “grinding, crushing, beating, pounding” is unfolded in the use of the word, as it appears in the context of verses 5 and 10. In verses 5, the holiness of God reveals the two-fold demand of heaven: (1) “he was wounded for our transgressions”, and (2) “he was bruised for our iniquities”.

1. “Wounded for our transgressions”

Man in his rebellion and rejection “transgressed”; that is “openly trampled underfoot and defied God’s holy law”. Therefore divine requirements demanded that the only One who perfectly kept the law should, in the awful display of His “open” wounding at Calvary, vindicate His Father’s Name, heal the breaches of broken law, and restore a way back for the transgressor: “then I restored that which I took not away”, Psa. 69. 4.

Previously we have contemplated the wounds of Gabbatha, the cruel scaling of His back and the smiting of His cheek. But now we bow in amazing wonder before the wounds of Golgotha, inflicted by creature man but allowed by Creator God, Acts 2. 23. The graphic account in Psalm 22 sets out with medical precision the awful agony: “they pierced my hands and my feet”, v.16; “Z may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me”, v.17. In the Greek Septuagint, the verbs in this verse are in the plural: “They counted, they observed, they looked”. The assembled rabble had a full view of the innocent Victim. With infernal malice and inhuman pleasure the “transgressor” looked and stared upon the Redeemer in His open agony and wounding, as suspended from the cross by the cruel nails and with His brow torn by the piercing thorns: “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men”, Isa. 52. 14. In this posture and pain, and by the position of the muscles, His bones could easily be numbered by the cruel sons of men, for whose “open” transgressions He must be “openly” wounded.

2. “Bruised for our iniquities”

Underneath the outward action of sins lies the root, the deep root of “iniquity” hidden in the unseen recesses of man’s heart. Such is the enormity of deep-rooted evil and its fearful judgment, that when the sinless blameless Redeemer was “made sin”, 2 Cor. 5. 21, God would not allow mortal eyes to gaze upon His beloved One under the enduring of the terrible rod of His bruising. Rather He covered all the earth with darkness. In their record of this event, Matt. 27. 45; Mark 15. 33, 34; Luke 23. 44, the Synoptic writers use the Hebrew reckoning of time, “from the sixth hour … unto the ninth hour”, from noon until 3 p.m. Thus for three awful hours the intensity of judgment was Christ’s alone; from this God’s face was turned and human eye could not see!

The mystery of Isaiah 53. 10 is deepened by the statement “It pleased the Lord to bruise him”. And this stands out even more when we consider the testimony of Scripture that the Father’s pleasure was ever found in His Son, namely

  1. In eternity: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way … I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”, Prov. 8. 22, 30. “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father”, John 1. 18, positionally (in the centre of devotion and affection) and directionally (face to face in unbroken communion and fellowship).
  2. In humanity: there is a twofold testimony of pleasure that returned to the eternal heart, (i) Universally to mankind, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, Matt. 3. 17, spoken also to the three apostles on the mount, 17. 5. (ii) Personally to Christ alone, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, Mark 1. 11; Luke 3. 22. The source of all such return is deeply seated in the One of whom it is written, “even Christ pleased not himself’, Rom. 15. 3.

In contemplating this unfolding of joy, delight and pleasure always found in the One who was the Fellow and Companion of God, how can the human heart reconcile the strange and deep blending of “pleasure” and “bruising”? The double inclusion of the word “pleasure” in Isaiah 53. 10 throws a shaft of illumination upon the great mystery: “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, namely:

  1. His future joy in the coming ages through the cross and its shame, Heb. 12. 2, for “the glory that should follow” was through the pathway of His suffering, 1 Pet. 1. 11.
  2. The gathering in of the fruit which is the full harvest of the Redeemer’s pain and passion, John 12. 24.
  3. The embracing unto Himself of a “glorious church”, which He loved and for which He gave Himself, Eph. 5. 25-27.
  4. To His ear and heart, the new song of eternity “Thou art worthy”, Rev. 5. 9.

The lines of Charles Wesley’s great hymn shed further light upon the record of Scripture:

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design!
In vain the first born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
Tis mercy all; let earth adore
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?

It is the heart of faith that cries these last two lines in adoring worship. Truly, “it pleased the Lord to bruise him”.


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