Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cry of the Suffering Christ by W. J. Hocking (Part 6)

The Fathers Delivered, but Christ Abandoned

In verse 4 the Spirit of Christ still speaks. The Lord upon the cross contrasts Himself with pious men of olden days. “Our fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and others) trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded.” Was it not, therefore, contrary to God's past dealings that the Lord Jesus should be forsaken by God in His sufferings, and His cries for deliverance disregarded? Abraham was not perfect in his piety, yet his prayers were heard. Job was noted for his patience in suffering, but showed much impatience with his “friends,” and confessed to Jehovah, “Behold, I am vile.” Job, too, was heard and delivered.

But when the Messiah in His agony cried out to God, there was silence in the heavens. No arm of Jehovah was outstretched to save Him in that hour. What the will of God had given Him to do, He must do by Himself, enduring all alone, unaided. And in His soul was the bitter sense that in His extremity, God was not helping Him as He had helped the fathers in Israel. Why was this change? Because He, Son of man, Who knew no sin, had been “made sin” to make expiation for sin. Then and then only, for this and for this only, did God forsake His obedient Servant that the glory of “the death of the cross” might shine undimmed throughout the ages of eternity.

But the patience and lowliness of our Lord comes into view in that dark hour. As the forsaken One, He says, “But I am a worm and no man.” He accepts a place of nothingness among the sons of men. He obliterates self entirely. Now as always, “Christ pleased not Himself.” As a “worm and no man,” He surrendered every claim upon divine deliverance. This is the crowning evidence of that Blessed One's perfect humility and self-abnegation. The worm is the symbol of utter weakness, and the Lord Who was “crucified in weakness applied the figure to Himself to justify the seeming neglect of His God.

On the cross, the Lord is not oblivious to the thoughts and words of the bystanders. They add to His sorrow's and sufferings. He is reproached and despised of the people. They taunt Him because no deliverance comes to Him from God in Whom it was well known that He trusted. But, unperceived by onlookers, Christ in the midst of His crucifixion maintains unbroken confidence in His God (vers. 9-11). As in Bethlehem and Nazareth, in Capernaum and Chorazin, in Bethany and Jerusalem, so at Calvary, Jesus was “the leader and completer of faith” (Heb. 12:2). Despising the shame of the cross, He abode steadfastly in the will of God according to His own word, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” Man mocked, Christ suffered, God was glorified.

At the commencement of His ministry when our Lord was tempted of Satan, He was in the wilderness with the wild beasts (Mark 1:13). When upon the cross, He sees men around Him behaving towards Him like the cruel and shameless beasts that perish. He is beset by “strong bulls of Bashan” and by the “ravening and roaring lion.” Unclean and destructive “dogs” have compassed Him about. Nailed to the tree in the midst of them, He is helpless. He is poured out like water. His strength is dried up like a potsherd. All His bones are out of joint.

Such is the confessed weakness of Christ crucified as the assembly of evil-doers surround Him and work their wicked will on Him Whose hands and feet they have pierced. They strip Him of His raiment and gamble for His vesture. They gloat upon His nakedness as a sight for their wicked hearts to enjoy amid the solemnities of the paschal feast!

In these verses (12-18), Christ by the prophetic Spirit is describing His sufferings from man as they were multiplied and concentrated at the cross. But throughout, Messiah expresses His unwavering dependence on Jehovah. He says, “Thou art My God . . . Thou art He that took Me out of the womb . . . Thou art My God . . . Be not far from Me” (vers. 9-11). Thus the Christ spreads out before His God the story of His sorrow and suffering from man led on by the prince of this world. All that the power of darkness brought Him in that hour He received as the will of God for Him. As the self-emptied Son of God, He was obedient even down to the death of the cross. And in this lowest depth of humiliation to which He had come, He owns the supreme purpose of God that brought Him there: “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” (ver. 15).

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