Forsaken, Abandoned, Alone

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

“...His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond likeness.” (Isaiah 52:14)

Our freedom did not come easy, it was paid for. The Lamb of God (Jesus) laid down His life for humanity (you and me) so that we may attain eternal life – the God-kind of life – which is never-ending. He had to face stiff opposition, crass cruelty, mocking, beatings, shame and humiliation in order to set us free from the consequences of sin. “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4b)

Jesus had warned His disciples that when the push comes to shove none of them would be around Him, all of them would desert Him. “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written; ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” (Matthew 26:31)

Unfortunately, they did not take Him at His word. Yet, that was exactly what happened. All of them, starting with Peter, who had boasted they would stick with Him through thick and thin fled for their lives. To the revelation, “Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth, Jesus answered, “this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:33-34)

But on that fateful day, they all deserted Him, except for the apostle John. Apostle Peter observed from a distance. Our Lord was alone to face the full violence of hatred from His critics, the Pharisees and the Scribes-- the religious leaders of the day. What was the charge? What had He done wrong? He was accused of prophesying that He would destroy the temple that took forty-six years to build, and rebuild it in three days. 

As His popularity soared, the authorities of the day became uneasy and saw our Lord Jesus as an impostor, a rebel and an upstart. He had on many occasions ridiculed, embarrassed and humiliated His opponents before the crowds and in the temple when they challenged His authority and they sought all means possible to have theirs back.

At the height of His arrest, humiliation and suffering our Lord Jesus was obliged to go it alone. As was predicted, the head disciple Peter denied Him three times. Alone the Messiah stood before his enemies who judged and found Him guilty at a hearing summoned at night. Alone He faced Pilate. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as sheep before her shearers is silent, He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Even when the band of Pharisees and Scribes had stirred up the mob against Him, He remained silent.

The solitary road

At the cross, where He hung as the penalty of the world’s sins what was unknown to the onlookers who jeered was that He bore the sins of the world. His human nature decried the fact that He had been left alone to face it all. Not even His Father would look at Him. He could not help but cry out; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) There was no help in sight, none at this critical stage to turn to; He had to bear it all. Besides, there was no need for any help. He had to drink from that cup for prophecy to be fulfilled.

To the very end

How many people can withstand such punishment for sins they did not commit? How many people would willingly go through such gruelling pain to pay the penalty for sin committed by others for their salvation? The hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander wrote, “He died that we might be forgiven. He died to make us good. That we might go at last to heaven saved by His precious blood. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” (Methodist Hymn Book 180)

The sacrificial lamb in Old Testament times was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God – our Lord Jesus -- that God would lay on the altar for our redemption. It was in fulfilment of the utterances of John the Baptist when He first met our Lord Jesus and declared; “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

A full self-sacrifice

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:10)

“... my righteous servant will justify many and He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11b)

Our Lord’s singular accomplishment is best understood in the light of His own words; “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) Out of this unselfish sacrifice, millions will receive salvation and many others will come to the knowledge of the truth.

As He hung on the cross and died, not only did our Lord and Saviour receive the full punishment for the liberation of humankind all on His own but He also by that solo act purged humanity of its sins and reconciled God with man. Man has ceased to be the accused to become the ‘justified by faith.’

Our Lord Jesus walked that path alone from the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary Hill to take on the full weight of sin so that we will not have to carry them ourselves. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) If He didn’t where would we have been? It had to be that way for the Scriptures to be fulfilled.

He bore it all.