“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46)
God is Holy, therefore he will not look upon sin. God is just, therefore he judges sin wherever it is found. But God delights in mercy, and therefore infinite wisdom devised a way whereby Justice might be satisfied and mercy left free to flow out to guilty sinners. This way was the way of Substitution, the Just suffering for the unjust. The Son of God himself (because he was without sin) was the One selected to be the Substitute, for none other could qualify. Only Jesus could bear the curse and yet rise a victor above it. One only could suffer his heel to be bruised by Satan and yet in that bruising destroy him that had the power of death. God laid hold upon One that was mighty, One who was no less than the Fellow of Jehovah, the Radiance of God’s glory, the exact Impress of his person. Thus we see that boundless love, inflexible justice and omnipotent power all combined to make possible the salvation of those who believe.
All our iniquities were laid upon Jesus at the Cross. Therefore Divine judgment fell upon him. There was no way of transferring sin without also transferring its penalty. Both sin and its punishment was transferred to the Lord Jesus. On the Cross Jesus was making propitiation, an act that is solely Godwards. It was a question of meeting the claims of God’s holiness; it was a matter of satisfying the demands of his Justice. Christ’s blood was shed for us, but it was also shed for God: he “hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Ephesians 5:2). Thus it was foreshadowed on the memorable night of the Passover in Egypt: the lamb’s blood must be where God’s eye could see it – “When I see the blood, I will pass over you!”.
The death of Jesus on the Cross was a death of Curse: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). The “Curse” is alienation from God. The curse is exile from the presence and glory of God. This explains the meaning of a number of Old Testament types. The bullock which was slain on the annual Day of Atonement, after its blood had been sprinkled upon and before the mercy-seat, was removed to a place outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27) and its entire carcass was burned. It was in the center of the Camp that God had his dwelling-place, and exclusion from the camp was banishment from the presence of God. Here also is the anti-type of the “brazen serpent”. God instructed Moses to set a “serpent” on a pole and have the Israelites who had been bitten by the poisonous serpents look upon it. Imagine a serpent as a type of Christ the Holy One of God! Yes, but it represented him as “made a curse for us”, for the serpent was the reminder of the curse. On the Cross then Jesus was fulfilling these Old Testament foreshadowings, he was “outside the Camp”, separated from the presence of God. He was made sin for us. He was as the “brazen serpent” – made a curse for us. Here too, the deep meaning of the Crown of Thorns, to show he was bearing the Curse for us.
The three hours of supernatural darkness gives meaning to the bitter cry of our Lord, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” God is light and the darkness is the natural sign of his turning away. The Redeemer was left alone with the sinner’s sin. He suffered the outpoured wrath of God and also the withdrawal of God’s presence and fellowship.
Here then is the basis of our Salvation. Our sins have been borne by Jesus. God’s claims against us have been fully met. Jesus was forsaken of God for a season that we might enjoy his presence forever. He entered the awful darkness that we might walk in the Light.