I Saw

John the Apostle was a masterful writer. He employs a vocabulary suitable for an elementary school child, but a depth of thought to challenge any intellect. He presents truth in the simplest of terms but with the deepest of meanings. He paints pictures by using hours of the day, times of the day, weather conditions, and the location of miracles, and teaching. He places one incident in contrast with another to enhance and enlighten. He places individuals in juxtaposition to reveal subtle differences of importance. He was, as I said, a masterful writer.

Two groups that he places side by side are found in John 19. There is a group of four soldiers standing at the foot of the cross; there is a small band of four faithful women standing at the foot of that same cross. The four soldiers saw the Lord Jesus Christ; the four women saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Each looked with different eyes, through different lenses, and with different hearts. 
The four soldiers saw a condemned and forsaken Jew being crucified for claiming to be a king. As part of their “take,” they were permitted to divide up the remaining articles of clothing. The four garments were divided between the four; the seamless coat was gambled off to one of them. As they looked upon Christ, they saw merely another criminal and another opportunity to enrich themselves even if the booty was meager.

But four women looked on and saw the Lord. They saw something entirely different. A mother watched with a “sword piercing her heart.” The words of aged Simeon no doubt rang in her ears. It is untold, unimaginable grief for any mother to watch a son suffer. But this scene was beyond what was natural. Such was her grief that the Lord instructed John to remove her from the scene, taking her away so as not to view the intensity of His suffering.

His aunt was there, the mother of James and John. She has recently requested that her two sons sit by the side of the Lord in His kingdom. What must her thoughts have been as she saw the One destined for glory hanging in shame upon the cross? She had watched Him grow; no doubt there were visits between the sisters and their families. She knew sorrow but she also knew confusion and wonder. How could the One Who was to reign be here? At Calvary?

We know little or nothing about Mary the wife of Cleophas, but to her eternal credit and honor, she was there looking on as well. Then there is Mary Magdalene. We need not conjecture about her past and how the seven demons controlled her. What we do know is that something stronger, more beautiful, and more wonderful controlled her from the moment of conversion: it was love for her Savior. She is there looking on. Love kept its vigil even during the dark night of the soul’s experience. Nothing seemed to fit; nothing made “sense.” Yet here, as well as in the garden (John 20), love maintained its constancy. Many waters could not quench her love.

Four soldiers could tell their children and their grandchildren years later, about what “they saw” that day. Veterans of crucifixions, the manner in which the Lord dismissed His spirit, the supernatural darkness, the events surrounding his death all must have made some impression on them. 

Four women also would be able to say, “I saw.” But their eyes beheld what the eyes of soldiers never appreciated. They could look beyond what Rome had done, beyond what the nation had insisted upon, beyond the perfidy of Judas; they could look beyond it all and see a Savior Who gave Himself for us all.

They could see that above and beyond the machinations of evil men, the fury of Satan against the Son of God, the blindness of the nation, and the spineless capitulation of Pilate, above all of that: “God so loved the world that He gave His only 

They saw above the injustice done by men, and they also saw beyond what the soldiers saw. The soldiers saw a man whose life was being taken from Him and whose history was ending abruptly. The women ultimately saw beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, and beyond the heavens. They saw one Whom the heavens received and Who will return to reign in triumph and glory.

From that moment on, they would be able to view all of life’s events, its tragedies and perplexities, its dark tunnels, and its hidden valleys, with an understanding of what they saw that day at Calvary. They could say with the apostle, “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things” (Rom 8:32). Calvary answers every question, sheds its spotlight on every perplexity, and unravels every mystery. Its light has never been extinguished or lessened and still shines brightly for us in 2020.

J. M. Davies, a missionary to India of a bygone day, visited a brother who had been confined to bed for many years due to a stroke. He had been visited by some people from a sect which insists on keeping the Sabbath They suggested that he had suffered the stroke because he was not observing the Sabbath. He told them, “I do not read of the love of God in circumstances. God has erected one monument to His love. That was Calvary … That is enough for me.”

Hebrews 13

The final chapter of Hebrews has many practical truths that confront us. We are seen in many different lights. As believers, we are to be supportive (vv 1, 2), sympathetic (v 3) sanctified (v 4), satisfied (vv 5-7), steadfast (vv 9-10) and at least four or five more “s” words which you can work out.

What I want to really bring before you are several which relate to the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Same (verse 8)

He does not change. As the eternal “I am,” He never “grows” or develops in His character. He never increases in His knowledge. But above all, He never vacillates in His love. The writer of Hebrews was writing to a people who were being persecuted. The thought might invade their minds that perhaps the Lord had forgotten them and was not with them in their trial. To drive any such thinking away, he reminds them that He will never forsake them (v 5) and that He never changes (v 8).

He is the Sacrifice and the Sanctifier (verse 12)

As the Sacrifice He has made us perfectly right in the sight of God. As the Sanctifier, He has placed us in a unique position of acceptance and favor with God. We have been set apart as God’s special treasure. As the sacrifice, He has dealt with the problem and penalty of our sins. As the sanctifier, He has assured our position before God.

He is the Shepherd (verse 20)

He is not only the Shepherd, but he is the Great Shepherd. In the context, there is probably a contrast intended with Moses (Isa 63:11). But we can also enjoy that He is the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep (John 10). He is the Chief Shepherd Who is going to come again (1 Pet 5). And He is the Great Shepherd Who is also our sympathetic High Priest above.

The great purpose of our lives ought to be occupation with the Lord Jesus and the worship that it causes to arise to our Father in heaven for the amazing grace that has saved and linked us with Him in all the sufficiency of His Person.

He is your Shepherd. Why not ask Him, as you open your Bible, to lead you into green pastures and to enable you to lie down by waters of rest and calm amidst the panic all around us?

Why?

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

Psalm 22:1

There were seven cries of the Lord Jesus from the cross, as recorded in the four Gospel records. The first three reveal the sympathy of the Lord’s heart as He prayed for His enemies, committed His mother to John, and assured the thief of His salvation. The last two tell of His satisfaction and confidence: “It is finished” and “Into Thy hands …”

But the middle two are the cries which give us some insight into His suffering. “I thirst” reveals His physical sufferings. In the words cited above, quoted from Psalm 22 and repeated in Matthew and Mark, we are afforded a window into His deepest sufferings. 

In these words, we see

An Intimacy that was Prized

There existed up until those six hours on the cross, the enjoyment of unbroken fellowship between the persons in the Godhead. Eternity, as well as thirty-some years of earthly sojourn, had not lessened that enjoyment. The Lord moved in the consciousness of the approval and pleasure He was bringing to His Father God; the heart of God found a continual feast in the life of His Son.

We who know so little of fellowship with divine persons cannot begin to measure what each moment of that fellowship meant to Him.  

An Interruption that was Painful

Since we cannot measure the heights of joy that were experienced between God in heaven and His Son on earth, we cannot plumb the depths of His sorrow when He was forsaken on the tree and there was an interruption, for the first time in all eternity, of the conscious enjoyment of fellowship between God in heaven and Christ on earth. The Spirit of God has attempted to give us some understanding in the vivid imagery of Psalms 22 and 69. At best, we gain a small appreciation. The interruption enjoyment of fellowship with God was far more important and painful than the shame and reproach, the nails and thorns, and the vulgar stares and ridicule of men. 

An Insight Provided

The words of the Lord Jesus were not a complaint. He went to the cross in complete agreement with the will of God and the necessity for the cross. When He broke the bread in the upper room, He was thanking God for the opportunity to give His body. It was not a question in the sense that He did not know the answer. He alone knew the reason, a reason that not even the disciples appreciated at the moment.

Why then the words from His lips? 

Who among us would have ever thought that sin is so heinous an entity that God would have to forsake His Son on the cross? Who would have ever dared think that anything could interrupt the enjoyment of that eternal fellowship if the Word of God had not told us? 

Perhaps we get some inkling of this in the types seen in the offerings, but the dreadful reality would likely have escaped us without Psalm 22, Matthew 27:46, and Mark 15:34.

It is in His words out of the darkness that we learn how great our guilt, how vast the ransom, and how deep the love.

Consider:

Notice the three occasions in Psalm 22 when the word “far” is used.