Climb the Mountain to Calvary
- Supplement to Lesson 13
"And when they were come to the place,
which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him."
"That He might sanctify the people
with His own blood," Christ "suffered without the
gate." For transgression of the Law of God, Adam and Eve
were banished from Eden. Christ, our substitute, was to suffer
without the boundaries of Jerusalem. He died outside the gate,
where felons and murderers were executed.
Arriving at the place of execution, the
prisoners were bound to the instruments of torture. The two
thieves wrestled in the hands of those who placed them on the
cross; but Jesus made no resistance.
"Father, forgive them."
The Saviour made no murmur of complaint.
His face remained calm and serene, but great drops of sweat stood
upon His brow. There was no pitying hand to wipe the death dew
from His face, nor words of sympathy and unchanging fidelity to
stay His human heart. While the soldiers were doing their fearful
work, Jesus prayed for His enemies, "Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do." His mind passed from His
own suffering to the sin of His persecutors, and the terrible
retribution that would be theirs. No curses were called down upon
the soldiers who were handling Him so roughly. No vengeance was
invoked upon the priests and rulers, who were gloating over the
accomplishment of their purpose. Christ pitied them in their
ignorance and guilt. He breathed only a plea for their
forgiveness,--"for they know not what they do."
Had they known that they were putting to
torture One who had come to save the sinful race from eternal
ruin, they would have been seized with remorse and horror. But
their ignorance did not remove their guilt, for it was their
privilege to know and accept Jesus as their Saviour. Some of them
would yet see their sin, and repent, and be convert ed. Some by
their impenitence would make it an impossibility for the prayer
of Christ to be answered for them. Yet, just the same, God's
purpose was reaching its fulfillment. Jesus was earning the right
to become the advocate of men in the Father's presence.
That prayer of Christ for His enemies
embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or
should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time.
Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all,
forgiveness is freely offered. "Whosoever will" may
have peace with God, and inherit eternal life.
As soon as Jesus was nailed to the cross,
it was lifted by strong men, and with great violence thrust into
the place prepared for it. This caused the most intense agony to
the Son of God. Pilate then wrote an inscription in Hebrew,
Greek, and Latin, and placed it upon the cross, above the head of
Jesus. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the
Jews." A higher power than Pilate or the Jews had directed
the placing of that inscription above the head of Jesus. In the
providence of God it was to awaken thought, and investigation of
the Scriptures. The place where Christ was crucified was near to
the city. Thousands of people from all lands were then at
Jerusalem, and the inscription declaring Jesus of Nazareth the
Messiah would come to their notice. It was a living truth,
transcribed by a hand that God had guided.
Centuries of Prophecy
In the sufferings of Christ upon the cross
prophecy was fulfilled. Centuries before the crucifixion, the
Saviour had foretold the treatment He was to receive. He said,
"Dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have
enclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet. I may tell all My
bones: they look and stare upon Me. They part My garments among
them, and cast lots upon My vesture." Psalm 22:16-18. The
prophecy concerning His garments was carried out without counsel
or interference from the friends or the enemies of the Crucified
One. To the servants who had placed Him upon the cross, His
clothing was given. Christ heard the men's contention as they
parted the garments among them. His tunic was woven throughout
without seam, and they said, "Let us not rend it, but cast
lots for it, whose it shall be."
In another prophecy the Saviour declared,
"Reproach hath broken My heart; and I am full of heaviness:
and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for
comforters, but I found none. They gave Me also gall for My meat;
and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." Psalm
69:20-21. To those who suffered death by the cross, it was
permitted to give a stupefying potion, to deaden the sense of
pain. This was offered to Jesus; but when He had tasted it, He
refused it. He would receive nothing that could becloud His mind.
His faith must keep fast hold upon God. This was His only
strength. To becloud His senses would give Satan an advantage.
The enemies of Jesus vented their rage upon
Him as He hung upon the cross. Priests, rulers, and scribes
joined with the mob in mocking the dying Saviour. At the baptism
and at the transfiguration the voice of God had been heard
proclaiming Christ as His Son. Again, just before Christ's
betrayal, the Father had spoken, witnessing to His divinity. But
now the voice from heaven was silent. No testimony in Christ's
favor was heard. Alone He suffered abuse and mockery from wicked
Why He did not Come Down
"If Thou be the Son of God," they
said, "come down from the cross." "Let Him save
Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God." In the
wilderness of temptation Satan had declared, "If Thou be the
Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."
"If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down" from the
pinnacle of the temple. Matthew 4:3,6. And Satan with his angels,
in human form, was present at the cross. The arch-fiend and his
hosts were cooperating with the priests and rulers. The teachers
of the people had stimulated the ignorant mob to pronounce
judgment against One upon whom many of them had never looked,
until urged to bear testimony against Him. Priests, rulers,
Pharisees, and the hardened rabble were confederated together in
a satanic frenzy. Religious rulers united with Satan and his
angels. They were doing his bidding.
Jesus, suffering and dying, heard every
word as the priests declared, "He saved others; Himself He
cannot save Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the
cross, that we may see and believe." Christ could have come
down from the cross. But it is because He would not save Himself
that the sinner has hope of pardon and favor with God.
In their mockery of the Saviour, the men
who professed to be the expounders of prophecy were repeating the
very words which Inspiration had foretold they would utter upon
this occasion. Yet in their blindness they did not see that they
were fulfilling the prophecy. Those who in derision uttered the
words, "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He
will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God," little
thought that their testimony would sound down the ages. But
although spoken in mockery, these words led men to search the
Scriptures as they had never done before. Wise men heard,
searched, pondered, and prayed. There were those who never rested
until, by comparing scripture with scripture, they saw the
meaning of Christ's mission. Never before was there such a
general knowledge of Jesus as when He hung upon the cross. Into
the hearts of many who beheld the crucifixion scene, and who
heard Christ's words, the light of truth was shining.
The Prayer of the Thief
To Jesus in His agony on the cross there
came one gleam of comfort. It was the prayer of the penitent
thief Both the men who were crucified with Jesus had at first
railed upon Him; and one under his suffering only became more
desperate and defiant. But not so with his companion. This man
was not a hardened criminal; he had been led astray by evil
associations, but he was less guilty than many of those who stood
beside the cross reviling the Saviour. He had seen and heard
Jesus, and had been convicted by His teaching, but he had been
turned away from Him by the priests and rulers. Seeking to stifle
conviction, he had plunged deeper and deeper into sin, until he
was arrested, tried as a criminal, and condemned to die on the
cross. In the judgement hall and on the way to Calvary he had
been in company with Jesus. He had heard Pilate declare, "I
find no fault in Him." John 19:4. He had marked His godlike
bearing, and His pitying forgiveness of his tormentors. On the
cross he sees the many great religionists shoot out the tongue
with scorn, and ridicule the Lord Jesus. He sees the wagging
heads. He hears the upbraiding speeches taken up by his companion
in guilt: "If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us."
Among the passers-by he hears many defending Jesus. He hears them
repeat His words, and tell of His works. The conviction comes
back to him that this is the Christ. Turning to his fellow
criminal he says, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art
in the same condemnation?" The dying thieves have no longer
anything to fear from man. But upon one of them presses the
conviction that there is a God to fear, a future to cause him to
tremble. And now, all sin-polluted as it is, his life history is
about to close. "And we indeed justly," he moans;
"for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man
hath done nothing amiss."
There is no question now. There are no
doubts, no reproaches. When condemned for his crime, the thief
had become hopeless and despairing; but strange, tender thoughts
now spring up. He calls to mind all he has heard of Jesus, how He
has healed the sick and pardoned sin. He had heard the words of
those who believed in Jesus and followed Him weeping. He has seen
and read the title about the Saviour's head, He has heard the
passers-by repeat it, some with grieved, quivering lips, others
with jesting and mockery. The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind,
and little by little the chain of evidence is joined together. In
Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he sees the
Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Hope is
mingled with anguish in his voice as the helpless, dying soul
casts himself upon a dying Saviour. "Lord, remember me,
"he cries, "when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."
"Thou Shalt be with Me"
Quickly the answer came. Soft and melodious
the tone, full of love, compassion, and power the words:
"Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in
For long hours of agony, reviling and
mockery have fallen upon the ears of Jesus. As He hangs upon the
cross, there floats up to Him still the sound of jeers and
curses. With longing heart He has listened for some expression of
faith from His disciples. He has heard only the mournful words,
"We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed
Israel." How grateful then to the Saviour was the utterance
of faith and love from the dying thief! While the leading Jews
deny Him, and even the disciples doubt His divinity, the poor
thief, upon the brink of eternity, calls Jesus Lord. Many were
ready to call Him Lord when He wrought miracles, and after He had
risen from the grave; but none acknowledged Him as He hung dying
upon the cross save the penitent thief who was saved at the
The bystanders caught the words as the
thief called Jesus Lord. The tone of the repentant man arrested
their attention. Those who at the foot of the cross had been
quarreling over Christ's garments, and casting lots upon His
vesture, stopped to listen. Their angry tones were hushed. With
bated breath they looked upon Christ, and waited for the response
from those dying lips.
Power to Save all who Come
As He spoke the words of promise, the dark
cloud that seemed to enshroud the cross was pierced by a bright
and living light. To the penitent thief came the perfect peace of
acceptance with God. Christ in His humiliation was glorified. He
who in all other eyes appeared to be conquered was a Conqueror.
He was acknowledged as the Sin Bearer. Men may exercise power
over His human body. They may pierce the holy temples with the
crown of thorns. They may strip from Him His raiment, and quarrel
over its division. But they cannot rob Him of His power to
forgive sins. In dying He bears testimony to His own divinity and
to the glory of the Father. His ear is not heavy that it cannot
hear, neither His arm shortened that it cannot save. It is His
royal right to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by
I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with
Me in Paradise. Christ did not promise that the thief should be
with Him in Paradise that day. He Himself did not go that day to
Paradise. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the
resurrection He said, "I am not yet ascended to My
Father." John 20:17. But on the day of the crucifixion, the
day of apparent defeat and darkness, the promise was given.
"Today" while dying upon the cross as a malfactor,
Christ assures the poor sinner, "Thou shalt be with Me in
"In the Midst"
The thieves crucified with Jesus were
placed "on either side one, and Jesus in the midst."
This was done by the direction of the priests and rulers.
Christ's position between the thieves was to indicate that He was
the greatest criminal of the three. Thus was fulfilled the
scripture, "He was numbered with the transgressors."
Isaiah 53:12. But the full meaning of their act the priests did
not see. As Jesus, crucified with the thieves, was placed
"in the midst," so His cross was placed in the midst of
a world lying in sin. And the words of pardon spoken to the
penitent thief kindled a light that will shine to the earth
With amazement the angels behold the
infinite love of Jesus, who, suffering the most intense agony of
mind and body, thought only of others, and encouraged the
penitent soul to believe. In His humiliation He as a prophet had
addressed the daughters of Jerusalem; as priest and advocate He
had pleaded with the Father to forgive His murderers; as a loving
Saviour He had forgiven the sins of the penitent thief.
Our Ransom was Dying
And now the Lord of glory was dying, a
ransom for the race. In yielding up His precious life, Christ was
not upheld by triumphant joy. All was oppressive gloom. It was
not the dread of death that weighed upon Him. It was not the pain
and ignominy of the cross that caused His inexpressible agony.
Christ was the prince of sufferers; but His suffering was from a
sense of the malignity of sin, a knowledge that through
familiarity with evil, man had become blinded to its enormity.
Christ saw how deep is the hold of sin upon the human heart, how
few would be willing to break from its power. He knew that
without help from God, humanity must perish, and He saw
multitudes perishing within reach of abundant help.
Upon Christ as our substitute and surety
was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor,
that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law. The
guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart.
The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His
displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with
consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a
fallen world the good news of the Father's mercy and pardoning
love. Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now
with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the
Father's reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine
countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish
pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully
understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain
was hardly felt.
The Fear of Eternal Separation
Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the
heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of
the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the
grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the
sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their
separation was to be eternal Christ felt the anguish which the
sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty
race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father's wrath upon
Him as man's substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter,
and broke the heart of the Son of God.
With amazement angels witnessed the
Saviour's despairing agony. The hosts of heaven veiled their
faces from the fearful sight. Inanimate nature expressed sympathy
with its insulted and dying Author. The sun refused to look upon
the awful scene. Its full, bright rays were illuminating the
earth at midday, when suddenly it seemed to be blotted out.
Complete darkness, like a funeral pall, enveloped the cross.
"There was darkness over all the land unto the ninth
hour." There was no eclipse or other natural cause for this
darkness, which was as deep as midnight without moon or stars. It
was a miraculous testimony given by God that the faith of after
generations might be confirmed.
In that thick darkness God's presence was
hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory
from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross.
The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed.
Had His glory flashed forth from the clouds every human beholder
could have been destroyed. Anal in that dreadful hour Christ was
not to be comforted with the Father's presence. He trod the
winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Him.
Sufferings as of Death
In the thick darkness, God veiled the last
human agony of His Son. All who had seen Christ in His suffering
had been convicted of His divinity. That face, once beheld by
humanity, was never forgotten.
The silence of the grave seemed to have
fallen upon Calvary. A nameless terror held the throng that was
gathered about the cross. The cursing and reviling ceased in the
midst of half-uttered sentences. Men, women, and children fell
prostrated upon the earth. Vivid lightnings occasionally flashed
forth from the cloud, and revealed the cross and the crucified
Redeemer. Priests, rulers, scribes, executioners, and the mob,
all thought that their time of retribution had come. After a
while some whispered that Jesus would now come down from the
cross. Some attempted to grope their way back to the city,
beating their breasts and wailing in fear.
The Horror of Great Darkness
At the ninth hour the darkness lifted from
the people, but still enclosed the Saviour. It was a symbol of
the agony and horror that weighed upon His heart. No eye could
pierce the gloom that surrounded the cross, and none could
penetrate the deeper gloom that enshroded the suffering soul of
Christ. The angry lightnings seemed to be hurled at Him as He
hung upon the cross. Then "Jesus cried with a loud voice,
saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, My God,
why hast Thou forsaken Me?" As the outer gloom settled about
the Saviour, many voices exclaimed: The vengeance of heaven is
upon Him. The
bolts Of God's wrath are hurled at him because He claimed to be
the Son of God. Many who believed on Him heard His despairing
cry. Hope left them. If God had forsaken Jesus, in what could His
Our Sacrifice and Sin Bearer
The spotless Son of God hung upon the
cross, His flesh lacerated with stripes; those hands so often
reached out in blessing, nailed to the wooden bars; those feet so
tireless on ministries of love, spiked to the tree; that royal
head pierced by the crown of thorns; those quivering lips shaped
to the cry of woe. And all that He endured--the blood drops that
flowing from His head, His hands, His feet, the agony that racked
His frame, and the unutterable anguish that filled His soul at
the hiding of His Father's face--speaks to each child of
humanity, declaring, It is for thee that the Son of God consents
to bear this burden of guilt; for thee He spoils the domain of
death, and opens the gates of Paradise. He who stilled the angry
waves and walked the foam-capped billows, who made devils tremble
and disease flee, who opened blind eyes and called forth the dead
to life,--offers Himself upon the cross as a sacrifice, and this
from love to thee. He, the Sin Bearer, endures the wrath of
divine justice, and for thy sake becomes sin itself.
In silence the beholders watched for the
end of the fearful scene. The sun shone forth; but the cross was
still enveloped in darkness. Priests and rulers looked toward
Jerusalem; and lo, the dense cloud had settled over the city and
the plains of Judea. The Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the
world, was withdrawing His beams from the once favored city of
Jerusalem. The fierce lightnings of God's wrath were directed
against the fated city.
God's Son Died for You
Suddenly the gloom lifted from the cross,
and in clear, trumpetlike tones that seemed to resound throughout
creation, Jesus cried, "It is finished." "Father,
into Thy hands I commend My spirit." A light encircled the
cross, and the face of the Saviour shone with a glory like the
sun. He then bowed His head upon His breast, and died.
Amid the awful darkness, apparently
forsaken of God, Christ had drained the last dregs in the cup of
human woe. In those dreadful hours He had relied upon the
evidence of His Father's acceptance heretofore given Him, He was acquainted with the character of His Father; He understood
His justice, His mercy, and His great love. By faith He rested in
Him whom it had ever been His joy to obey. And as in submission
He committed Himself to God, the sense of the loss of His
Father's favor was withdrawn. By faith, Christ was victor.
Never before had the earth witnessed such a
scene. The multitude stood paralyzed, and with bated breath gazed
upon the Saviour. Again darkness settled upon the earth, and a
hoarse rumbling, like heavy thunder, was heard. There was a
violent earthquake. The people were shaken together in heaps. The
wildest confusion and consternation ensued. In the surrounding
mountains, rocks were rent asunder, and went crashing down into
the plains. Sepulchers were broken open, and the dead were cast
out of their tombs. Creation seemed to be shivering to atoms.
Priests, rulers, soldiers, executioners, and people, mute with
terror, lay prostrate upon the ground.
The Lamb that Escaped
When the loud cry, "It is
finished," came from the lips of Christ, the priests were
officiating in the temple. It was the hour of the evening
sacrifice. The lamb representing Christ had been brought to be
slain. Clothed in his significant and beautiful dress, the priest
stood with lifted knife, as did Abraham when he was about to slay
his son. With intense interest the people were looking on. But
the earth trembles and quakes; for the Lord Himself draws near.
With a rending noise the inner veil of the temple is torn from
top to bottom by an unseen hand, throwing open to the gaze of the
multitude a place once filled with the presence of God. In this
place the Shekinah had dwelt. Here God had manifested His glory
above the mercy seat. No one but the high priest ever lifted the
veil separating this apartment from the rest of the temple. He
entered in once a year to make an atonement for the sins of the
people. But lo, this veil is rent in twain. The most holy place
of the earthly sanctuary is no longer sacred.
The New and Living Way
All is terror and confusion. The priest is
about to slay the victim; but the knife drops from his nerveless
hand, and the lamb escapes. Type has met antitype in the death of
God's Son. The great sacrifice has been made. The way into the
holiest is laid open. A new and living way is prepared for all.
No longer need sinful, sorrowing humanity await the coming of the
high priest. Henceforth the Saviour was to officiate as priest
and advocate in the heaven of heavens. It was as if a living
voice had spoken to the worshipers: There is now an end to all
sacrifices and offerings for sin. The Son of God is come
according to His word, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the
Book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God." "By
His own blood" He entereth "in once into the holy
place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hebrews
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