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Winter 2004 Newsletter: Jesus was Treated as We Deserve
Publish date: Aug 18, 2009
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And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:14–17).
Jesus was Sin for Us
When Jesus chose a figure of Himself for the Old Testament, He chose the figure of the uplifted serpent. You will remember how the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. In their unbelief they fell into murmuring against God, and forfeited the divine protection. Thousands were bitten by fiery serpents. They could do nothing to save themselves from certain death. But Numbers 21:8 tells us that Moses was commanded to uplift a likeness of one of those deadly snakes. The dying Hebrews were invited to find instant healing by looking upon the uplifted serpent.
The Bible uses many figures to portray Christ–Bridegroom, Shepherd, Vine, Door, Rose of Sharon–figures that naturally bespeak the winsome attractiveness of the Saviour. But Jesus Himself chooses the figure of a snake–an evil, venomous snake. How could this represent Jesus?
The apostle Paul gives the answer in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
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.
The One who sat on the throne of the universe in the likeness of the eternal Father was hung on the cross in the likeness of sinful people. He was made in our likeness and took our place in order that we might be made in His likeness and take His place in the closest fellowship with the eternal God.
He did it for Love
Nothing could have induced Christ to leave His honor and majesty in heaven and come to a sinful world, to be neglected, despised, and rejected by those He came to save, and finally to suffer upon the cross, but eternal, redeeming love which will ever remain a mystery (Testimonies for the Church Volume 2, 207).
Just as there is no reason that can be given for sin, so there is no reason that can be given for the love of Jesus. Love is the only reason. For Him, heaven was not a place to be desired while we were without hope in the world (Philippians 2:6).
Thus he stepped down from the throne that He might take our place. For Him, there was no other way. His love called Him that way.
Love so amazing so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all!
Jesus was willing to exchange places with us. The apostle Paul faintly reflected that mysterious love when he said this:
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren (Romans 9:3).
If it could have saved his brothers, Paul would have willingly exchanged places with them. But even Paul’s love for his people could but faintly reflect the love that amazed the universe.
Jesus was Treated as we Deserve
This is the Gospel in its simplicity and power:
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves (The Desire of Ages, 25)
We cannot understand how dark the stain of sin is until we see what Jesus suffered. He suffered as we deserved. As we behold the treatment of God’s dear Son, we can come to understand what we deserve.
When Jesus was on earth, He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Jesus did not own a home. He possessed no earthly property. I own a home. God has cast my lot in pleasant places. But I do not deserve a home.
Looking to the Lord Jesus, I see this Man being treated as I deserve. He was driven out of cities, homeless, rejected, and poor. When He died, soldiers gambled over His only property – His cloak. He was laid in a borrowed tomb. Irrespective of what hardship, trial and imagined abuse we will ever experience in this life, we should never dare to voice the sentiment that we deserve something better.
Jesus was treated as we deserve.
To fully understand what we deserve, let us in our imagination follow the footsteps of the Master to the garden of Gethsemane. As He entered with the little band of disciples, He was overcome by a superhuman sorrow that the disciples could not understand. He began to groan aloud–to stagger beneath the crushing realization of humanity’s sin. His disciples supported Him from falling. The Sinless One was numbered with the transgressors.
Not wishing His disciples to see His supreme anguish, He said, “Stay here and pray for me.” He was always praying for them. For the past years He had breasted the storms of satanic fury, but now the Saviour feared that His human nature was too weak to bear the burden of humanity’s sins. Thus he pleaded, “Pray for me.”
Then as He stumbled on into the garden alone, and the reality of the weight of sin came before Him, He prayed to His Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” As if to say, “Father, is there no other way?”
Three times He uttered this prayer. “Father, it is too much! Is there no other way?”
But there was no other way. The price had to be paid for the human soul. The Desire of Ages says that there rose up before Him a vision of a perishing world. He saw the fall of humanity. Because He had chosen to become our everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6), He made the decision of a true Father: “let the guilt fall on me. It means death to them if they are left to bear it.”
Having chosen to save us at any cost to Himself, the Saviour fell dying to the ground. There He tasted death for every person. An angel came to the suffering Son of God, not to release Him from the anguish, but to strengthen His human body in order that He might have strength to drain the cup of suffering to the last drop.
The Judge became the Judged
The Son of God was indeed, by His position of Creator, the Judge of all. But, what a Judge! The Judge of all stooped down to become the “Judged” of all. Instead of judging sinful humanity, He steps down and invited the human race to judge Him. Calvary represents our judgment upon Him, for upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Saviour (Desire of Ages, 745).
We cried, “Away with Him! Let Him be crucified! He is not fit to live!”
Thus the Judge gave Himself into our hands to be judged. The Judge of all submitted Himself into the hands of those whom He had created. He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:6). He was judged as One worthy only to be spat upon. He was crowned only with thorns. But His love for man was stronger than death. Amid His awful ordeal, His love grew stronger and stronger (Testimony for the Church Volume 2, 212). The more people judged, hated, and poured contempt upon Him as they were inspired with satanic madness, the more He loved them.
The Supreme Aguish
Yet His rejection by those He came to save was not Christ’s supreme anguish. On the cross He was suspended between heaven and earth. Not only had earth rejected Him; heaven also forsook Him. His greatest anguish was in the withdrawal of God’s presence, the sense of His Father’s frown against sin, and the separation from Him because of it.
He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me!” Heaven was silent. No answer came. He was in my place. Justice demanded that He be treated as I deserve. The law came in all its force and found my sin upon Him, and without mercy, it extracted from Him the full penalty.
The Son of God, the Saviour, reaches down His human arm to lay hold on the human race, and with His divine arm He lays hold on the throne of God.
In the mystery of the conflict, Satan tries to break His hold on either humanity or God. By filling humankind with ingratitude and hatred, he hopes to exhaust Christ’s loving hold on the human race. By whispering doubts about the Father’s love, he tried to break Christ’s steadfast hold on God. The angels watched the fearful struggle with intense interest, for not only the fate of humanity, but also the entire universe depended upon the outcome of the conflict. Jesus held fast to His children in a love that refused to let go.
He held fast to God and us until the fury of the conflict broke His heart. But not before He cried in holy triumph, "It is finished!”
The conflict was won! All heaven rejoiced. God and the fallen race had become one in Jesus Christ.
Was it for deeds that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace divine,
And love beyond degree
The Saving Light of the Cross
We have stood in the awful shadow of the cross. Now let us stand in its saving light.
Jesus was treated as we deserve in order that we might be treated as He deserves. Yes, I may be treated as He deserves, for my history–my shameful history–became His in order that the sinless life may grow in me.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He refused to receive honor until the Father gave Him the assurance that He would be restored to His position of Oneness with God on the throne of the universe to enjoy the fellowship of the inner circle of the Deity. But more than that:
He also had a request to prefer concerning His chosen ones upon earth. He wished to have the relation clearly defined that His redeemed should hereafter sustain heaven, and to His Father, His church must be justified and accepted before He could accept heavenly honor. He declared it to be His will that where He was, there His church should be; if He was to have glory, His people must share it with Him. They who suffer with Him on earth must finally reign with Him in His kingdom. In the most explicit manner Christ pleaded for His church, identifying His interest with theirs, and advocating, with love and constancy stronger than death, their rights and titles gained through Him. God’s answer to His appeal goes forth in the proclamation: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (SDA Bible Commentary, Volume 5, 1150).
Paul asks in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Some things? No, that will not satisfy Christ or His Father. All things! Jesus was treated as we deserve that we might be treated as He deserves. This is the Gospel. And the Father has accepted Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient to do all this for us consistent with perfect justice.
The Lord has accepted this sacrifice in our behalf, as our substitute and surety, on the condition that we receive Christ and believe on Him (Selected Messages Volume 1, 215).
Not only has God accepted this sacrifice, but He bows in reverence in recognition of its infinite value. It is on the basis of the value of this sacrifice that He proposes to treat us with no lesser blessing than He gives His own Son. Now God says to us, “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering?” 1 Samuel 2:29 (Selected Messages Volume 1, 298- 299).
Could it be that we could despise the sacrifice that amazed the universe? Could we kick the unspeakable sacrifice of Divine love? That is what we do when we fail to respond to the invitation of the One who died to save us.
The love of a holy God is an amazing principle, which can stir the universe in our behalf during the hours of our probation and trial. But after the season of our probation, if we are found transgressors of God’s law, the God of love will be found a minister of vengeance. God makes no compromise with sin. The disobedient will be punished. The wrath of God fell upon His beloved Son as Christ hung upon the cross of Calvary in the transgressor’s place. The love of God now reaches out to embrace the lowest, vilest sinner that will come to Christ with contrition. It reaches out to transform the sinner into an obedient faithful child of God; but not a soul can be saved if he continues in sin (Selected Messages Volume 1, 313).
If God spared not His own Son, He will not, cannot spare the one who continues in known sin. But by faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven, set free and empowered to live the victorious life (See John 1:12; Romans 8:31; 2 Peter 1:4).
The Lord would say to us, “See that magnificent sacrifice. I have accepted it. Now wherefore will ye kick at my sacrifice?”
May your walk with Jesus be one of absolute victory in Christ, for He has made every provision.
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