As Easter approaches, my mind starts thinking about the importance of the cross. About just how important the death and resurrection of Jesus really is. I think about all the scriptures that point to a God who stepped out of Heaven, walked a perfect life, and gave his life in our place. It’s our debt he paid. Our debt was forgiven, washed away, cast as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered again. He paid the price with his own body and his own blood. That whoever loves him enough to believe, trust, and obey, will not perish but have everlasting life.
Abraham believed, trusted, and obeyed and it was counted to him as righteousness. God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:2-3 ESV).
Abraham did not delay. He went at once. If you have read the Bible you know what happened. Abraham did just as the Lord instructed. He took his son to the top of mount Moriah, bound him, laid him on the alter of sacrifice, and drew his knife. God called to him, and praised him for not withholding his only son. God blessed him and it was counted to him as righteousness. God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and provided a ram that was stuck in the thicket. Abraham called this mountain, “The LORD will provide.”
Isaiah tells of another sacrifice, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely: he shall be high and lifted up and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations” (Isaiah 52:13-15 ESV). “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one for whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV).
Isaiah prophesies of another father who would sacrifice his son on this very mountain range. Fast forward nearly 1800 years from Abrahams near sacrifice of this son. The mountain is still there, it just goes by a different name now. Golgotha in Jerusalem.
It is the day of preparation for the Passover feast. The day the priest would slaughter the Passover lamb. There is another lamb. He stands before a leader of the land, a Roman ruler and is silent, “like a lamb before the slaughter.” He is the very Son of God himself. Just like the required sacrifice, this Lamb of God is perfect, spotless, and blameless. Just like the Passover Lamb would spill all of its blood to make atonement, this Son would do the same. To satisfy the wrath of his Father. To bring the people back to their God. Jesus would give it all.
The innocent lamb stands before the crowd. He has done all his crying. He has called out to his father to save him from what is to come. But its not his will he came to fulfill. He came to do the will of the father and redeem the people. The Roman leader speaks to the crowd. At this time every year he releases a prisoner for the people. He asks, “who would you rather me release, an innocent man who has done nothing that you can prove, or a murderer, a robber, a man who leads revolts?” They choose the sinner and ask that the innocent Lamb be slaughtered. The murder goes free. The innocent Lamb now takes the place of the guilty. We, like Barabbas are guilty of multiple sins, but the spotless lamb stands in our place. To take our punishment upon himself.
Unlike a Passover Lamb that is unaware the knife is coming for its neck; this perfect Lamb of God knows what is going to happen. He knows every ounce of blood in his body will be poured out for the people. He knows that his body will be ruined. Isaiah said, “beyond human semblance, or unrecognizable as a man.” Not only is he the sacrificial Lamb, He is the servant, the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief. He knows he will be pierced and crushed. He knows our transgressions will be placed upon him. He is willing to pay it all. Give it all. The Father is going to sacrifice his son and He willingly goes.
The Roman leader sets the guilty man free, and has the Lamb scourged. This is the moment of bloodshed; this is the moment the slaughtering of the Lamb begins. The pouring out of the Lambs blood for the forgiveness of sins, starts at this moment. A Roman scourging is a brutal sight. It’s not a beating with whips that sting. It’s not a beating with whips that slice skin. It is a beating that brutalizes the body. The Lamb is tied to a post two feet off the ground. He is stripped naked and laid out flat. They want as much skin as they can get. Two men using whips with bone, glass, metal, and every other sharp object they can find on the end; they begin to take turns sinking their whips into the flesh of the Lambs body. With each bite of the whip the pieces on the whip’s end sink in to flesh, not like a scalpel, more like fish hooks. The soldiers are good at this. They laugh as they pull back as hard as they can and rip skin, muscle, and flesh from the body of the innocent Lamb. Their whips wrap around the front and sides of his body. It is a gruesome scene. When they are done, there is nothing but a pool of blood, skin fragments thrown about, and a body so brutalized it doesn’t look human.
The story doesn’t end here. This Lamb that is broken and bleeding must now carry the instrument of his death, the cross, up a hill. There is undoubtably a trail of blood leading to the place of the skull, Golgotha, on Mount Moriah. The lamb is bleeding out as he expends what little energy he has left walking up this mountain.
When he arrives at the place of his death, he is then nailed to the tree he carried; through his hands and feet. The cross is then dropped into a hole in the ground and they wait for the Lamb to die. People mock him. Officers gamble for his clothes. Jesus can only bleed out, struggle to breathe, and wait for death.
Experts say your body weight fights against you on the cross. The only way to breath is to push your body up with nail pierced hands and feet, long enough to get a breath and then collapse back down. The Lamb is slowly drowning in the fluid around his heart and lungs. As the crucified push up and fall down the weight of the body plays another roll. It begins to pull joints out of socket, making the torture that much more painful.
Jesus is almost out of breath, nearly out of blood, he is fading fast. He cries out with his dying breath, “It is finished!” Having paid our debt in full, he commits his spirit to the Father and finally drowns in his own fluid. The payment made; the wrath of God satisfied. The perfect and spotless Lamb poured out his blood that we might be free.
On the mountain that Abraham called “the LORD will provide,” the Father provided a way for his people to once again walk with him. The I AM, the spotless Lamb paid our debt in full. The cages were opened, the veil was torn, people set free; there is now a way back to the Father. We no longer have to travel near and far to Jerusalem. We can have this relationship right where we are. The way it was intended. Walking with God in the cool of the day, just like Adam and Eve. The Lamb paid it all. Worthy is the Lamb. “Man of sorrows what a name, for the Lamb of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah, what a Savior” (Psalter Hymnal, Gray 1987).
The good news is the grave is not the end. Our Savior still lives! Seated at the right hand of power. He did it all for the joy set before him. You are that joy! He is waiting. Waiting for you to come back. He has paid the price. Now you choose. Will you obey, trust, and love him like Abraham? The choice is yours. He calls to you, with nail pierced hands, “come follow me.”