Jesus, “the Conqueror of Death”, Buried – J. Calvin

The burial of Christ is now added, as an intermediate transition from the ignominy of the cross to the glory of the resurrection. True, indeed, God determined, for another reason that Christ should be buried, that it might be more fully attested that he suffered real death on our account.

But yet it ought to be regarded as the principal design, that in this manner the cursing which he had endured for a short time began to be removed; for his body was not thrown into a ditch in the ordinary way, but honorably laid in a hewn sepulchre.

Although at that time the weakness of the flesh was still visible and the divine power of the Spirit was not clearly seen before his resurrection; yet God determined by this, as a sort of preparation, to shadow out what he was shortly afterwards to do, that he might exalt gloriously above the heavens his Son, the conqueror of death.

JCalvin1Taken from John Calvin’s Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), XVII: 330-331.

Jesus and the Cup – F. Leahy

The apparently innocent cup offered to Christ had a sinister origin. Even as he tasted the sedative he recognized the hand of the Tempter. Mocked, scourged, worn out as he staggered to Golgotha beneath the burning sun, he craved a cool draught to quench his raging thirst. The Tempter said, ‘Drink! This will cool your tongue.’ Satan knew that the One about to be crucified was the Messiah.

…Christ saw the situation in a flash. He refused Satan’s cup. He was about to descend into even greater depths of suffering as he experienced the unmitigated wrath of a holy God against sin and as he grappled with the legions of darkness that were hurled against him. In that hell not so much as a drop of water may cool his tongue, nor relieve in the smallest degree his agony.

What if Christ had accepted that cup…? Then, with a befuddled brain, he could not have prayed for the soldiers who were waiting to nail him to the cross. Then those seven great sayings on the cross would not have been uttered. Then his disobedience would at last have been broken and all would have been lost. How much was at stake as they pushed the rim of that cup towards the Saviour’s lips! Everything! All of the divine decree, all of prophecy, all of redemption was at stake as that appealing cup was offered to the Suffering One again and again.

…The Great High Priest, offering the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, must know what he does, must in no way be insensible or inattentive. In this crucial encounter with Satan the Saviour must not be doped, nor must he allow the emphasis to shift from the realm of the spirit to that if the body. The body must serve the spirit, not vice versa. Viewed from every conceivable angle, this was Satan’s cup. His fingermarks were all over it. The fetid stench of his breath clung to it. Christ pushed it away. He spurned it with all his being. He drank only from the Father’s cup and now he hands to each one of his redeemed that precious cup that overflows with the sweet wine of his love, the cup of salvation.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 11, “Satan’s Cup Refused” (based on Mark 15:23) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), pp.64-66.

Hymns on the Passion and Death of Christ – A.Toplady

ATopladyFor our reflection on the sufferings and death of Christ today we post these two poems by Augustus M. Toplady, one set to music in a familiar hymn, the other perhaps not as well known but also edifying and comforting. Both of these are taken from the website

Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the Water and the Blood,
From thy riven Side which flow’d,
Be of Sin the double Cure,
Cleanse me from its Guilt and Pow’r.

Not the Labours of my Hands
Can fulfil thy Law’s demands:
Could my Zeal no respite know,
Could my Tears for ever flow,
All for Sin could not atone:
Thou must save, and Thou alone!

Nothing in my Hand I bring;
Simply to thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for Grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly:
Wash me, SAVIOUR, or I die!

Whilst I draw this fleeting Breath–
When my Eye-strings break in Death–
When I soar through tracts unknown–
See Thee on thy Judgment-Throne–
ROCK of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in THEE!

Fountain Of Never-Ceasing Grace

Fountain of never ceasing grace,
Thy saints’ exhaustless theme,
Great object of immortal praise,
Essentially supreme;
We bless Thee for the glorious fruits
Thine incarnation gives;
The righteousness which grace imputes,
And faith alone receives.

Whom heaven’s angelic host adores,
Was slaughtered for our sin;
The guilt, O Lord was wholly ours,
The punishment was Thine:
Our God in the flesh, to set us free,
Was manifested here;
And meekly bare our sins, that we
His righteousness might wear.

Imputatively guilty then
Our substitute was made,
That we the blessings might obtain
For which His blood was shed:
Himself He offered on the cross,
Our sorrows to remove;
And all He suffered was for us,
And all He did was love.

In Him we have a righteousness,
By God Himself approved;
Our rock, our sure foundation this,
Which never can be moved.
Our ransom by His death He paid,
For all His people giv’n,
The law He perfectly obeyed,
That they might enter heav’n.

As all, when Adam sinned alone,
In his transgression died,
So by the righteousness of One,
Are sinners justified,
We to Thy merit, gracious Lord,
With humblest joy submit,
Again to Paradise restored,
In Thee alone complete.

Our souls His watchful love retrieves,
Nor lets them go astray,
His righteousness to us He gives,
And takes our sins away:
We claim salvation in His right,
Adopted and forgiv’n,
His merit is our robe of light,
His death the gate of heav’n.

Caiaphas and Christ: One for All!

Caiaphas has followed his declared policy – one for all. There is a strange irony here, for unwittingly the high priest was enunciating a principle that lay at the very heart of redemption. ‘The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28). The Apostle Paul elaborates on this principle. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Rom.5:19). One for all!

So another voice has spoken in Caiaphas’ court. That word was spoken in the eternal counsels of the Godhead, and Christ had accepted it on behalf of those whom the Father had given to him. One for all! Did he hear that voice again as he stood condemned by the Sanhedrin? He certainly had not forgotten it.

Ultimately two voices have spoken in that courtroom, the voice of God and the voice of Satan: both said, ‘one for all.’ But there is fundamental disagreement between them. God speaks in terms of redemptive substitution, substitutionary atonement; Caiaphas, who is Satan’s tool as much as Judas, speaks in terms of elimination. God would have his Son die for his people so that they might live; Caiaphas would have Christ die in order to be rid of him, and so he sticks by his policy that it was expedient that one man should die for the people rather than that the whole nation should perish.

Thus predestination and human responsibility meet as Christ is condemned. He was ‘delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,’ yet ‘crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). God’s eternal purpose was realized in the death of his Son. The one for the many!

So the believer can say, ‘Christ embraced me with all my sin and guilt that I might embrace him in all his righteousness.’ That is what Luther had in mind when he said, ‘He died for me; he made his righteousness mine and made my sin his own; and if he made my sin his own, then I do not have it, and I am free.’

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 7, “Sentenced to Death” (based on Matt.26:65,66) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), pp.41-42.

Jesus or Barabbas – Rev.M. De Vries

Image result for pontius pilate

From the pen of Rev. Michael De Vries comes these thoughts on the choice of the mob outside the Roman Praetorium, when Pontius Pilate asked the people whom they wished to be released, Jesus or Barabbas (cf. Matt.27:17-23), and the people chose Barabbas, crying for Jesus to be crucified.

These are Rev. DeVries’ closing thoughts on this answer of the crowd, which he calls a “self-condemning answer.” This is part of his meditation “Jesus or Barabbas” published in the March 15, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer.

This answer was self-condemning because the multitude clearly made known its will.  There is no excuse.  The fact that they were prompted by the chief priests doesn’t take away their responsibility.   Who could not see the stark contrast between Jesus and Barabbas?  Surely they knew that this choice was between One who was perfectly righteous and a notorious criminal.  When faced with the question,

“What think ye of the Christ?”, the multitude quite consciously prefers a murderer to Jesus!  The multitude should have rejected the shameful nomination made by Pilate.  But they have unconsciously recognized themselves in this murderer, and so they choose Barabbas and reveal their own hatred for God and His Christ.  The multitude was forced to reveal its desire for an earthly Messiah who would satisfy their carnal lusts.

This answer was self-condemning because this was the answer of the whole world.  Truly in this answer we see the condemnation of the world.  Christ said in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world;  now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”  Understand, when the multitude asked for Barabbas, the whole world asked for Barabbas!  When the multitude cried out, “Let him be crucified, the whole world cried out, “Let him be crucified!”  It was God’s sovereign purpose to condemn the world through its own testimony!  In giving this answer the world was exposed in its corruption, its hypocrisy, its worthiness of damnation.

But finally, this answer was self-condemning because this was our answer.  This answer of the multitude is our condemnation.  We by nature, apart from grace, belong with that profane, scorning, God-reviling multitude that heaped reproach upon Christ.  We must confess that we signed, as it were, our own condemnation before the terrible tribunal of God!

Yet we need not despair because of our self-condemning answer!   Ultimately our sovereign God had determined this answer.  He had divinely appointed Christ to walk this way of suffering to the cross.  He had ordained Christ to be the head of the Church.  He had required that the perfect sacrifice be made for the sins of the elect.

Don’t you see, this self-condemning answer was necessary for you and for me!  Only through the suffering and death of Christ could we be delivered from the bondage of sin!  Only through this answer could we, who are by nature enemies of God and His cause, once more be made friends.  The very blood that we demanded be shed was the very blood that washed away our sins!

Let us stand in awe at the mystery of Calvary!  For He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification,” (Romans 4:25).  For our sakes He bore this reproach!  He was despised, rejected of men that we might be accepted by God and never be forsaken by Him!  And now Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father.  He works by His Spirit and grace in our hearts so that we count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord!

“Art thou the Christ?” Christ Taking the Oath – F.Leahy

     Warfield reminds us that our Lord’s life of humiliation ‘was not his misfortune, but his achievement’ and that ‘He was never the victim but always the Master of circumstance.’ This must be borne in mind as we reflect on the Saviour obediently taking the oath. His response was clear; ‘You have said so’, meaning, ‘Yes, indeed; I am the Christ.’

…Christ was fully aware of the authority of the Sanhedrin and of his Messianic calling. He would be faithful to both. He took the oath. …Christ knew that his answer would lead to his death, but he made his noble confession and added, ‘I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ …He saw beyond the cross and the resurrection to his glorious return as Judge and he saw his enthronement at God’s right hand. In effect he was saying that when he returned the situation would be reversed. On that day his present judges would stand before his tribunal and he would be their Judge!

…All agreed that the Prisoner was guilty of blasphemy and that he should die. They refused to acknowledge his claims. ‘His own people received him not’ (John 1:11). In the full light of his character, teaching and deeds, they rejected him. The cry of their hearts was , ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). So answers the heart of fallen man when confronted with Christ and the challenge of his cross and his crown. Never had the members of the Sanhedrin heard a proclamation so majestic as that which fell on their ears when Christ declared his Messiahship and warned of his second advent. But unbelief and prejudice blinded them to the truth.

There is no more solemn moment than when one is confronted by the Christ of God. Is he a fraud and an imposter? or is he the world’s Saviour and the world’s Judge?

‘What think ye of Christ’ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him.

Christ’s solemn oath before Caiaphas echoes throughout the centuries. ‘Are you the Christ?’ ‘YES.’ There is the mighty rock that bears the faith of the people of God in all ages. Those who build on that foundation shall never be confounded; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it!

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 6, “Taking the Oath” (based on Matt.26:63-64) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.34-36.

Note to Self: Love

Note-to-self-Thorn     You must love God and your neighbor, but only one can give birth to the other. Do you recall that the command to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength was the command that drove Martin Luther to hate God?  It was a command that he could not meet, and the righteous standard of God nearly drove him mad. You are like Luther. Love is something beyond your ability as well, yet the command remains.

The reality is that you only love God because he loved you first. He loved you before you were born and chose you for himself. His love for you secured your salvation, and because you have experienced his life-redeeming love you love him in return.

But for love to continue and grow, and for you to love the unlovable, it is important that you meditate on the gospel. Get this – you only know what love really is by looking to your Savior. And we learn it from him continually, not just once. You must daily go to the cross and see your Savior’s love for the unlovable (that means you).

You must learn, relearn, and remember your Savior’s love and sacrifice for the wicked, the rebellious, the black-hearted – for people like you. And when you see the Holy One’s sacrificial love for you, you not only see what love looks like, but also you find strength and power to love like him.

Taken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), p.36.

The Majesty of Christ’s Silence – F.Leahy

CrossHeBore-Leahy “And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace.” Matt.26:62, 63a

All too often Christ’s silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ’s silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative: it was his deed. The passivity of his suffering was real, but so was the activity of his obedience. Led as a lamb to the slaughter and like a sheep dumb before the shearers, he was active right up to and on the cross. He went as a king to die.

…Christ was quick to speak when his Messiahship was challenged (Matt.24:64). But he never spoke in obedience to man, always in obedience to his Father and in keeping with his mission. Because of his sublime and sovereign silence, he has earned the right to speak eternally. His silence was an act of mighty obedience to his Father’s will and a compliance with that wondrous mission entrusted to him in the counsels of eternity. Calvin says, ‘he is now our advocate before God, always having His mouth open.’ On Patmos John heard the voice of the risen Christ ‘like the sound of many waters.’ Hughes sees this as a reference to the ‘awe-inspiring majesty of his speaking.’ True; and yet his silence before the Sanhedrin was equally majestic, equally awe-inspiring.

At the very heart of his redemptive work there must be seen the infinite strength of the silent Saviour. In that ecclesiastical court Satan was tempting Christ with his own riddle, twisted though it was. By a single word he might have freed himself from his enemies. But our silent Priest continued majestically to his death. O blessed silence that lay at the heart of our redemption!

The Sanhedrin finally concluded its proceedings to its own satisfaction. This Holy Temple, the subject of the riddle, could now be broken down, to be raised in glory. Just as the first temple was erected without sound of hammer, or any iron tool ( 1 Kings 6:7), so this Temple of Christ’s body will be restored in a silence that nothing can profane.

Taken from chapter 5, “The Dumb Lamb” (based on Matt.26:62-63) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.28-29.

Christ in Gethsemane: The Covenant Bond

     While our Lord in Gethsemane received no answer to his repeated knocking on heaven’s door, he knew, from that profound silence, that he must drink the awful chalice that the Father had placed in his hands. Always he was fully aware of the covenant bond between the Father, representing the Trinity, and himself, representing his people – the covenant of grace. Again and again he addressed the Father, a word so often on his lips, as ‘my Father’ and ‘my God’. That is covenant language.

Christ knew that the Father smote him for the salvation of his people. Before going to Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that they would soon forsake him, quoting from Zechariah, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt.26:31). He willingly submitted to the rod. In Gethsemane he virtually said, ‘Here am I’. His obedience was covenant obedience. He was ever mindful of his eternal undertaking as the Surety and Mediator of his people, a thought that is dominant in his high priestly prayer (John 17). He never doubted that holy decree by which he came into the world to save sinners. And so the darker the night, the greater the storm and the fiercer the conflict, the more he reached out to his Father and rested in his sovereign will.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 3, “Strengthened to Suffer” (based on Luke 22:43) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.14.

Christ in Gethsemane – Man of Sorrows

     Gethsemane means ‘the oil press’. David could say, ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God’ (Psa.52:8). Israel in her long history could say the same. But the suffering Savior could say it best of all, for there in Gethsemane – the oil press – he was crushed and bruised without mercy. But how and why? How is the sudden and dramatic change of atmosphere between the upper room and Gethsemane to be explained, even in a measure? Christ knew all along the death that awaited him. He had grappled with Satan and his legions more than once. He had repeatedly spoken of his death to his disciples, telling them what that death would accomplish. He had prayed with the utmost confidence in his high priestly prayer (John 17).

Why, then, is there this sudden plunge into such awful agony, why this shuddering horror? Why is this fruit of the olive tree so severely crushed? Why does the divine record say that in Gethsemane our Lord BEGAN to be sorrowful, sorrowful in a new and terrible way? Was it not because God began forsaking him then? How else is this sorrow unto death to be understood?

‘Jesus wept’, but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, ‘Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? ‘THIS CUP’ – not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast (Matt.26:27,28) and was now actual: God was placing it in the Savior’s hands and it carried the stench of hell.

But stop! Schilder is right. ‘Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary of our faith’. Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes (pp.4-5).

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 1, “Man of Sorrows” (based on Matt.26:36,37) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996).