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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

No Ordinary Man

The Cross of Calvary
A study from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy as compiled by Daniel Arwa
What is Calvary?

Noah Webster defines it as a place of skulls; particularly the place where Christ was crucified, on a small hill west of Jerusalem.

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:33, 34).

How Is Christ's crucifixion related to His task on earth?

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

“The cross of Calvary appeals in power, affording a reason why we should love Christ now, and why we should consider Him first, and best, and last, in everything. We should take our fitting place in humble penitence at the foot of the cross. We may learn the lessons of meekness and lowliness of mind as we go up to Mount Calvary, and, looking upon the cross, see our Saviour in agony, the Son of God dying, the Just for the unjust. . . . He gives Himself a sacrifice for sin. When reviled, He threatened not; when falsely accused, He opened not His mouth. He prays on the cross for His murderers. He is dying for them. He is paying an infinite price for every one of them. He would not lose one whom He has purchased at so great cost.”1

“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Of whom is the apostle Paul speaking? He is speaking of Christ, who became sin for us that we might receive His righteousness. Christ's righteousness was placed on our account and our sins were transferred to Him. This was a monumental transaction.

Did Christ sin?

No, He carried the sins of the whole world. The prophet Isaiah says, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord had laid on Him the iniquities of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6).

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. With His stripes we are healed.'” 2

In order for Christ to do this, He had to humble Himself and be obedient unto death and to be treated as the worst criminal of all ages by His own people.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8).

“Now, of the human: He was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.' He voluntarily assumed human nature. It was His own act, and by His own consent. He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but He did not appear as God. He veiled the demonstrations of Deity, which had commanded the homage, and called forth the admiration, of the universe of God. He was God while upon earth, but He divested Himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man. He walked the earth as a man. For our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He laid aside His glory and His majesty. He was God, but the glories of the form of God He for a while relinquished. . . . But He walked the earth unrecognized, unconfessed, with but few exceptions, by His creatures. The atmosphere was polluted with sin and curses, in place of the anthem of praise. His lot was poverty and humiliation. . . . He voluntarily laid down His life, that in so doing He might give life and bring immortality to light. He bore the sins of the world, and endured the penalty, which rolled like a mountain upon His divine soul. He yielded up His life a sacrifice, that man should not eternally die. He died, not through being compelled to die, but by His own free will. This was humility. The whole treasure of heaven was poured out in one gift to save fallen man. He brought into His human nature all the life-giving energies that human beings will need and must receive.” 3

God became man

“Wondrous combination of man and God! He might have helped His human nature to withstand the inroads of disease by pouring from His divine nature vitality and undecaying vigor to the human. But He humbled Himself to man's nature. He did this that the Scripture might be fulfilled; and the plan was entered into by the Son of God, knowing all the steps in His humiliation, that He must descend to make an expiation for the sins of a condemned, groaning world. What humility was this! It amazed angels. The tongue can never describe it; the imagination cannot take it in. The eternal Word consented to be made flesh! God became man! It was a wonderful humility.

“But He stepped still lower; the man must humble Himself as a man to bear insult, reproach, shameful accusations, and abuse. There seemed to be no safe place for Him in His own territory. He had to flee from place to place for His life. He was betrayed by one of His disciples; He was denied by one of His most zealous followers. He was mocked. He was crowned with a crown of thorns. He was scourged. He was forced to bear the burden of the cross. He was not insensible to this contempt and ignominy. He submitted, but, oh! He felt the bitterness as no other being could feel it. He was pure, holy, and undefiled, yet arraigned as a criminal! The adorable Redeemer stepped down from the highest exaltation. Step by step He humbled Himself to die—but what a death! It was the most shameful, the most cruel the death upon the cross as a malefactor. He did not die as a hero in the eyes of the world, loaded with honors, as men in battle. He died as a condemned criminal, suspended between the heavens and the earth—died a lingering death of shame, exposed to the tauntings and revilings of a debased, crime-loaded, profligate multitude! All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head' (Psalm 22:7). He was numbered with the transgressors.” 4

He died in our behalf

“[Christ] was to die as man's substitute. Man was a criminal under the sentence of death for transgression of the law of God, as a traitor, a rebel; hence a substitute for man must die as a malefactor, because He stood in the place of traitors, with all their treasured sins upon His divine soul. It was not enough that Jesus should die in order to fully meet the demands of a broken law, but he died a shameful death.” 5

Our usual attitude toward the scene of Calvary

Notwithstanding that Christ has done everything for us, how do we too often respond with regard to the cross? “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastics 7:29).

a. The case of Judas

“Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, what is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver to the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3–5).

“Judas saw that his entreaties were in vain, and he rushed from the hall exclaiming, it is too late! it is too late! He felt that he could not live to see Jesus crucified, and in despair went out and hanged himself.” 6

b. The case of Peter

“And after a while came unto [Peter] they that stood by, and said to [him], Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:73–75).

“Peter did not know his own danger. Self-confidence misled him. He thought himself able to withstand temptation; but in a few short hours the test came, and with cursing and swearing he denied his Lord.

“When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the words of Christ, surprised and shocked at what he had just done he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment Christ looked at Peter, and beneath that grieved look, in which compassion and love for him were blended, Peter understood himself. He went out and wept bitterly. That look of Christ's broke his heart. Peter had come to the turning point, and bitterly did he repent his sin. He was like the publican in his contrition and repentance, and like the publican he found mercy. The look of Christ assured him of pardon.” 7

“Jesus died to save His people from their sins, and redemption in Christ means to cease the transgression of the law of God and to be free from every sin; no heart that is stirred with enmity against the law of God is in harmony with Christ, who suffered on Calvary to vindicate and exalt the law before the universe. . . .

“Today sin is the same malignant thing that it was in the time of Adam. The gospel does not promise the favor of God to anyone who in impenitence breaks His law. The depravity of the human heart, the guilt of transgression, the ruin of sin, are all made plain by the cross where Christ has made for us a way of escape.” 8

“In consideration of this, can men have one particle of exaltation? As they trace down the life and sufferings and humiliation of Christ, can they lift their proud heads as though they were to bear no trials, no shame, no humiliation? I say to the followers of Christ, Look to Calvary, and blush for shame your self-important ideas. All this humiliation of the Majesty of heaven was for guilty, condemned man. He went lower and lower in his humiliation, until there were no lower depths that he could reach in order to lift man up from his moral defilement. All this was for you who are striving for the supremacy—striving for human praise, for human exaltation; you who are afraid you will not receive all that deference, that respect from human minds, that you think is your due. Is this Christlike?

“ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.' He died to make an atonement, and to become a pattern for every one who would be his disciple. Shall selfishness come into your hearts? And will those who set not before them the pattern, Jesus, extol your merits? You have none except as they come through Jesus Christ. Shall pride be harbored after you have seen Deity humbling himself, and then as man debasing himself, till there was no lower point to which he could descend? Be astonished, O ye heavens,' and be amazed, ye inhabitants of the earth, that such returns should be made to our Lord! What contempt! what wickedness! what formality! what pride! what efforts made to lift up man and glorify self, when the Lord of glory humbled himself, agonized, and died the shameful death upon the cross in our behalf!” 9

The cross triumphant

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corin-thians 2:2).

“The death of Christ upon the cross made sure the destruction of him who has the power of death, who was the originator of sin. When Satan is destroyed, there will be none to tempt to evil; the atonement will never need to be repeated; and there will be no danger of another rebellion in the universe of God. That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. . . . The death of Christ on the cross of Calvary is our only hope in this world, and it will be our theme in the world to come. . . . If men would contemplate the love of Christ, displayed in the cross, their faith would be strengthened to appropriate the merits of his shed blood, and they would be cleansed and saved from sin.” 10

“Without the cross, man could not have connection with the Father. On it hangs our every hope. In view of it the Christian may advance with the steps of a conqueror; for from it streams the light of the Saviour's love. When the sinner reaches the cross, and looks up to the one who died to save him, he may rejoice with fullness of joy; for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling at the cross, he has reached the highest place to which man can attain.... Through the cross we learn that our heavenly Father loves us with an infinite and everlasting love, and draws us to Him with more than a mother's yearning sympathy for wayward child. Can we wonder that Paul exclaimed, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is our privilege also to glory in the cross of Calvary, our privilege to give ourselves wholly to Him who gave Himself for us. Then with the light of love that shines from His face on ours, we shall go forth to reflect it to those in darkness.” 11

“Jesus placed the cross in line with the light coming from heaven, for it is there that it shall catch the eye of man. The cross is in direct line with the shining of divine countenances, so that by beholding the cross men my see and know God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.... In beholding the cross that view is extended to God, and His hatred of sin is discerned. But while we behold in the cross God's hatred of sin, we also behold His love for sinners, which is stronger than death. To the world the cross is the incontrovertible argument that God is truth and light and love.” 12

Conclusion

“Look, O look upon the cross of Calvary; behold the Royal victim suffering on your account!” 13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastics 12:13).

“The Son of God was rejected and despised for our sakes. Can you, in full view of the cross, beholding by the eye of faith the sufferings of Christ, tell your tale of woe, your trials? Can you nurse revenge of your enemies in your heart while the prayer of Christ comes from His pale and quivering lips for His revilers, His murderers, Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34)?” 14

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us (our) sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“It is high time we devoted the few remaining precious hours of our probation to washing our robes of character and making them white in the blood of the Lamb that we may be of that white-robed company who shall stand about the great white throne.” 15

“In the cross, In the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my ransomed soul shall find, Rest beyond the river.” 16

References
1 That I May Know Him, p. 65.
2 The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
3 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, pp. 1126, 1127.
4 Ibid., p.1127.
5 The Review and Herald, September 4, 1900.
6 The Desire of Ages, p. 722.
7 Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 152-154.
8 Faith and Works, pp. 95, 96.
9 The Review and Herald, July 5, 1887.
10 The Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889.
11 The Review and Herald, April 29, 1902.
12 The Signs of the Times, March 7, 1895.
13 That I May Know Him, p. 65.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Words of Fanny Crosby, 1869.