Before Jesus was crucified He said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32) In those times, to be "lifted up" was understood to mean crucifixion, for people said to Christ in return, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'?" On two other occasions Jesus also said He would be lifted up. In John 3:14 He said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." In John 8:28 He said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He." From this we gather that to be "lifted up" meant to be crucified. However, Christ's sacrifice has turned this cruel instrument of torture into a symbol of salvation. And His prophecy that He would draw all peoples to Himself is now fulfilled.
Jesus' words, "If I be lifted up" has a deeper spiritual significance. It calls for us to emphasize His deity. If we place Him on a par with the great men of the earth, He would lose His drawing power. We must lift Him up from the earth as the Son of God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. The deity of Christ is the prime emphasis of the gospel.
1) The last time we studied some of the prophecies of Isaiah 53, can we continue studying this chapter today?
Answer: Yes. Let us first review an important verse: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Isa. 53:5
The actual sufferings of Christ are recorded in the four Gospels. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the "Synoptic" Gospels, because their contents are largely similar. The Gospel of John was written later, so avoids repeating most of the events related in the other Gospels, and adds many details omitted by them. Below let us read a passage from Luke regarding Christ being judged by King Herod. Please read Luke 23:4-11.
2) "Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no fault in this Man.' But they were the more fierce, saying, 'He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.' When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate."
Comment: Herod ordered some disabled people to be brought in, and told Jesus to perform a miracle to prove His claims "Men say that you can heal the sick," said Herod, "I am anxious to see that your fame is not false." Jesus did not respond. Christ's mission was not to gratify idle curiosity. He came to heal the brokenhearted and the bruises of sin-sick souls.
Herod was guilty of the blood of John the Baptist, who had rebuked his sins. So Jesus had nothing to say to this man who had trampled the truth underfoot and slain God's prophet. Moreover, being the Son of man, He must do as man must do in like circumstances. He would not work a miracle to save Himself from suffering which man must endure when placed in a similar position. Please read on.
3) "Pilate . . . went out again to the Jews, and said to them, 'I find no fault in Him at all. But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?' Then they all cried again, saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas!' Now Barabbas was a robber." John 18:38-40.
Comment: Here Pilate violated a judicial principle. He had just said that he could find no fault in Jesus, so he should have released Him unconditionally, instead of offering to release Him as a prisoner to please the Jews on a feast day. By this Pilate denied his own words. Now please read John 19:1-16.
4) "So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him, and the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. They said, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, 'Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.' Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, 'Behold the Man!'"
Comment: Here Pilate again violated principle. He had just said that he had found no fault in Jesus, yet he ordered Him to be scourged. After the soldiers had mocked Him, Pilate again brought Him out to declare that he had found no fault in Him. This showed that he was a weak, vacillating judge with no sense of justice. To yield to the demands of the mob, he was ready to compromise justice, thus placed himself in a shaky position. The mob took advantage of this weakness. If he had stood for principle from the start, refusing to condemn the guiltless, he could have broken the chain that was to bind him in remorse and guilt as long as he lived. Christ would have been put to death, but the guilt would not have rested on Pilate. He now found himself almost helpless in the hands of the priests and rulers. Please read on.
5) "When the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him!' Pilate said to them, 'You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.' The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and according to our law, He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.' Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, 'Where are You from?' But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, 'Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You and power to release You?' Jesus answered, 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.'"
Comment: These words point to Caiaphas, who as high priest stood for the Jewish nation, which had enjoyed abundant light with regard to prophecies pointing to Christ, His teachings and miracles. The Jewish judges had had positive evidence that the One they had condemned came from heaven. They will be judged according to the light bestowed. The heaviest responsibility rested on those who occupied the highest positions in their nation. For they had seriously betrayed their sacred trust, while Pilate was relatively ignorant.
6) "From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, 'If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.' When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat . . .and said to them, 'Shall I crucify your king?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar!'
Comment: Caesar is the emperor of Rome. These hypocritical Jews had fallen to the state of professing allegiance to a ruler they had always hated! In order to destroy Jesus, they stifled their racial pride and turned into willing knaves of the Roman despot!
"If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." This remark touched Pilate's sensitive spot. At this time the Roman government was investigating him. He knew that if this blot was added to his record, that would be his end. He knew that if the Jews failed to reach their end, they would turn their wrath against him. He knew too that they were unscrupulous and vicious in acts of vengeance.
The high priest was the spokesman for his nation. When he said, "We have no king but Caesar", he thereby affirmed that they had relinquished their position as God's chosen people, in fulfillment of Christ's sentence pronounced in Matthew 21:43, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." In rejecting their King, and publicly acknowledging Caesar as king, they lost their high spiritual standing. Please read Matthew 27:24-26.
7) "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.' And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and our children!' Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified."
Comment: The Jews had made their choice, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas." Barabbas the murderer was a representative of Satan. Christ represented God. Barabbaas they had chosen, so Barabbas they were to have. From now on Satan became their leader, to the end of time. Their solemn vow, "His blood be on us and our children", was realized in the destruction of Jerusalem. Terribly has it been manifested in the condition of the Jewish nation for 2000 years. Terribly will that prayer be fulfilled in the great judgment day, when Christ shall come again not as a prisoner bound in fetters, but in the clouds as King of kings and Lord of lords, in the glory of His Father and His angels. Then "every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him." (Rev. 1:7) Please read John 19:17; Matt. 27:32-66.
8) "And He, bearing His cross, went out . . " "Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross."
Comment: As Jesus came out of the judgment hall, they placed on His bleeding shoulders the cross originally prepared for Barabbas. In His weakened, suffering condition, the load was too heavy. For since His supper with the disciples the night before, He had neither eaten food or drunken water, but had suffered ill treatment, from one humiliation to another. Through the night He had been tried four times and scourged twice. So after the second flogging, as the cross was placed on Him, His strength gave way, and He fainted under the burden. At this time Simon the Cyrenian passed by, and expressed sympathy for Christ, so the Roman soldiers grabbed him and forced him to bear the cross. Please read on.
9) "And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, . . . Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, 'You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.' Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, "I am the Son of God".'"
Comment: This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 22:6-18, which said, "I am . . . a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 'He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!' . . . For dogs have surrounded me, the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; . . . they look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them. And for My clothing they cast lots." Psalm 69:21 says, "They also gave Me gall for My food, and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink."
Luke 23:34 says that as the Roman soldiers drove the nails into His hands and feet, Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do." This fulfilled the prophecy of Isa, 53:12, "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for transgressors." Thus Christ practiced what He preached, "Love your enemies, . . . pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44) Please read on.
10) "Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' . . . one of them ran and took a sponge , filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. . . . . And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God.!' . . . Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus, This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock, and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. . . . On the next day, . . . the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first.' Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard."
Comment: Of all the miraculous signs, the most significant one was the rending of the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy in the temple. It was a God-given sign that the sacrificial system that had been observed for many years was now ended. Christ the true Sacrifice, whom they foreshadowed, had been offered. Please read on.
11) "Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.' . . . Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, "His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept." And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.' So they took the money and did as they were instructed, and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
Comment: The murderers of Jesus challenged Him to come down from the cross, and they would believe in Him. Now He has risen from the tomb, why would they not believe, but instead, bribe the soldiers to hide the truth? What impresses us most is Christ's patience and magnanimity. According to men's thinking, the risen Christ should appear before His murderers, frighten them with His glory and wreak vengeance to His satisfaction. But no. Christ says, "The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." Luke 9:56. He still wished to save His enemies.
At His resurrection, the frightened soldiers did not repent, because fear does not cause true repentance. Only the Holy Spirit can draw people with the love of Christ and lead them to repent. For this reason, Christ commanded His disciples, "I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." Luke 24:49. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8.
Though the chief criminal never repented, yet the Bible records that "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." Acts 6:7. The love of Christ finally bore abundant fruit.
What God desires of us is loving obedience. May every one of you our friends come to the foot of the cross of Jesus and submit yourselves to Him willingly and lovingly!