Isaiah 53: 3-4
John 12: 32
This scripture in John’s gospel came to me this afternoon. You will gather from that that I do not have anything very formed to say about it, but it struck me that the sight of the Lord Jesus on the cross is, speaking carefully and reverently, compulsive viewing. That is, that there is to be no turning away from that sight, there is to be no ignoring it. In Isaiah, of course, we have a different thought: that is, that He is “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their faces; - despised, and we esteemed him not”. These two contrasting views of the Lord Jesus in His sufferings on the cross would be something for us to contemplate. On the one hand there was a degree of grief and sorrow which men could not bear, which we could not bear to look upon. The turning away of their faces, men hiding their faces from Him, was partly, as I understand it from this chapter, in shame; men do not wish to be associated with it, and do not wish to carry the guilt, the conscience of having had part in that, which morally we do. Men regard Him as cast aside even by God. Men would turn their faces from such a One. We would despise Him, esteem Him not, consider Him of no account. That would be the natural reaction to the view of the Lord Jesus on the cross, and we have all been there, and would still naturally take that view. It would not be the sort of pleasant sight that is suitable to the natural eye, but He is the One who “hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and we, we did regard him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”.
But He went that way for us. That is what we come to in John’s gospel, that the Lord Jesus having been lifted up there is a sight that cannot be ignored. “I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all to me”. Although the context is a little different, we get some sense of the reaction that could come, in John the Baptist’s view, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”, John 1: 29. There is a spontaneous reaction to the sight of One who was carrying [see note at end of article] the full weight and penalty of sin and sins and was about to become a sacrifice on the cross. He was lifted up out of the earth and He will draw all to Him. What compulsion there is in that. That is not something that can be ignored, it is not something that we can simply pass by. In Mark's gospel we have a reference to those who passed by the cross of the Lord Jesus, chap 15: 29. What a thing that would be, simply to pass by the cross. The prophet says in Lamentations 1: 12, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?”, but there is to be no passing by of the cross. “I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all to me”. That is, that we are drawn to Him as out of the earth, as I understand it. There is a different order of things that we are attracted to in seeing the Lord Jesus on the cross, the One who completed the work, the One who finished everything that God could give Him to do. “It is finished”, He says, John 19: 30.
The other thought that was going through my mind, and again I do not have anything very formed as to it - I leave it for contemplation - is the different views that God has of the Lord Jesus on the cross. On the one hand, what pleasure it must have given Him to see a perfect Man displaying the perfection of God in love, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34. What perfection there was in the Lord Jesus on the cross, and what love that must have called out on the part of the Father there. And yet there is the other side of it which was, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt 27: 46, Mark 15: 34, God hiding His face, speaking carefully and reverently, from His Son, in the awfulness of what was there. What a contemplation that is too, that the One who was the Sin-bearer, the One who enjoyed such communion with His God and Father, would have to say such things, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
These are profound matters and I do not feel I can say very much about them, but I offer them as having been struck by them, perhaps on the line of what we had in our hymn and the prayer that there may be some ray of heavenly light, so that there is this compulsive view of the Lord Jesus. And of course, publicly, we do not now see Him given the place that was due to Him, that place where He has the centre, the rightful place. “But we see not yet all things subjected to Him, but we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour” (Heb 2: 9). So that our view of Him is not a view of a rejected Man exactly, though there is that, but we see Him as One who has completed the work of God, who has been lifted up out of the earth. We see One who has, now, as much right, as much expectation that all men should draw their attention to Him, as He will have as the Centre of God’s universe. It is a righteous obligation placed upon all men.
Well, these are scattered thoughts but I commend them to the brethren in the Lord’s Name.
14st August 2007
We wish to clarify an expression used in this article, as to the Lord ‘carrying’ the burden of sin: the bearingof sin and sins by the Lord Jesus was only at the cross, "who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree", 1 Pet 2: 24 - Editors