October 23, 2017

The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Scripture

“They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him …” (Mark 15:22-24, with references in Meditation to Genesis 22:1-18, Zechariah 13:1, Matthew 27:33-44, Mark 15:22-32, Luke 23:32-43, John 19:18-24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:20.)

Meditation

Abraham stood looking down into the face of his beloved son lashed to the altar on top of the mountain. His hand, stretched to heaven, held the knife intended for Isaac’s bloodletting. He stood frozen in that terrible moment. A voice deep inside stopped him. It was the same voice that three days prior commanded him to commit this unbearable act. Now, in the thicket behind him, he heard the bleating of the caught ram.

Had he not reassured his son that God himself would provide the lamb for their burnt offering? Yet sickness of soul overtook him as it came time for him to tie Isaac there on the altar. Desolation wrenched his heart as he prepared the wood for the destruction of the precious body whose blood would soon be poured out. Isaac, God’s promise to Abraham, the only one an old man and old woman would ever have, was about to die. With one last look into his son’s eyes, he raised his arm.

“Abraham!”

“Here I am.”

“Do not lay a hand on the boy.”

Could it possibly be true? Oh, it was indeed true. God was providing the lamb.

Afterward, as he and Isaac sat huddled under the stars, smelling the dwindling smoke of the sacrifice sent for them, revelation flooded the old man who had long ago been called out of Chaldea and who had walked through life following his strange and beautiful God. He looked at the son at his side and saw all the children who would come out of him. They were like the stars above him, too numerous to count. Among them, far in the future was the one who would bless all nations and make Abraham’s God, their God and Abraham’s Father, their Father.

Abraham saw forward in faith what some would witness in flesh and what a multitude of others would see looking backward. It was the center of time when God would once and for all slay the perfect Lamb and exact the permanent atonement.

The covenant was complete. Abraham’s true sacrifice had happened three days before the trip to Moriah when he got up from his bed to obey God. But God reached into the world and intervened. Through Isaac and his generations the promised one would come. God’s sacrifice had happened when he purposed it in his mind before time began. It was done in eternity for all to believe – forward, backward or face-to-agonized-face.

Now it is Christ’s face that everyone watches.  It is contorted with every sin and sorrow experienced and to be experienced in history. Still, he turns away from the wine and myrrh offered to deaden pain, not as a stoic but as one who must span the farthest borders of human suffering.

Crossbeam and post … crash. Nail and flesh … crash. Criminal and Righteous One … crash. God and sinful man … crash. Heaven and earth … crash. This Place of the Skull is a merging place, a crashing place. Two pieces of wood become the centerpiece of history. The heart of God and the weight of all sin crash at the cross.

Jesus has carried every sin and its guilt up the hill and experienced the deepest depth of human need – the complete void of emptiness, the complete surrender of divine power. What he embodies is utterly terrible, but perfection lies even in pain. In some circular mystery, perfection is perfection whether it is terrible or beautiful and the two unite in one terrible beauty.

Perhaps God’s hand paused for one desolate moment, but it did not stop. Jesus, his beloved, is nailed to the wood now, pierced through with the spikes that hold him still. This is the substitute, the promised provision, fulfillment in flesh of God’s covenant. This is Christ lashed to the altar of sacrifice, streaming the blood that is making a complete and eternal payment for the all the sins of his people. He is the perfect Lamb.

 

Action

I have been crucified with Christ. When I stand before God, he sees me in the Lamb. I am not justified before Him by observing the law because I have not, cannot and will never be able to fulfill it. It’s only in Christ that I am vindicated before God. I will approach His throne, not in terror, but in gratitude. It is a throne of grace and a God of grace sits there. He is not inspecting me for sin, but for a covering of his Son’s blood.

 

Prayer

Father, I stand in awe at what you have done for me, for your most wonderful and loving act. You did not hold back from doing what you exempted Abraham from doing – sacrificing your only begotten son. You prepared him in perfection and completed him in suffering and then you opened the fountain of his blood to be the cleansing for me and of me.

 

Jesus, you came to this earth on purpose for the cross. What, at first glance, seems only a hideous means of your death you have made a door. With each crash of nail upon flesh, the doorway to your Father is opened wider. You are the Way and I come to Him at your cross.

 

Holy Spirit, these things are mysteries that can’t be seen with human eyes or heard with human ears or discerned with human intellect. I ask you to search them out in the deep places of God and to reveal and manifest them as only you can do. You are the one with padlock and key to my spirit and I long for you to have your unhindered way.

 

Chorus

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.