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A Love Stronger Than Death
In the contest between Christ and Satan, during the Savior's earthly ministry, the character of the great deceiver was unmasked. Nothing could so effectually have uprooted Satan from the affections of the heavenly angels and the whole loyal universe as did his cruel warfare upon the world's Redeemer. The unsleeping malice that hunted Him from place to place, inspiring the hearts of priests and people to reject His love, and at the last to cry, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" excited the amazement and indignation of the universe. The prince of evil exerted all his power and cunning to destroy Jesus: he saw that the Savior's mercy and love, His compassion and pitying tenderness, were representing to the world the character of God. The pent-up fires of envy and malice, hatred and revenge. burst forth on Calvary against the Son of God, while all heaven gazed upon the scene in silent horror.
"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him."
A vast multitude followed Jesus from the judgment hall to Calvary. 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. The hammer and the nails were brought, and the spikes were driven through the tender flesh.
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.
The enemies of Jesus vented their rage upon Him as He hung upon the cross. "If thou be the Son of God," they said, "come down from the cross." Matt. 27:40. Priests, rulers, Pharisees, and the hardened rabble were confederated together in a Satanic frenzy.
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.
To Jesus in His agony on the cross there come one gleam of comfort. It was the prayer of the penitent thief. While even His disciples doubt His divinity, the poor thief sees in Jesus, bruised, mocked. and hanging upon the cross, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Hope is mingled with anguish in His voice as He cries, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." Quickly the answer came, "Thou shalt be with Me in paradise."
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, but they cannot rob Him of His power to forgive sins, it is His royal right to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.
And now the Lord of glory was dying, a ransom for the race. Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. The guilt of every descendent of Adam was pressing upon His heart. With the terrible weight of guilt He bore, He could not see the Father's reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Savior 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.
Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Savior 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. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father's wrath upon Him as man's s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter and broke the heart of the Son of God.
The Final Hours
With amazement angels witnessed the Savior's despairing agony. The hosts of heaven veiled their faces from that fearful sight. 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. In that thick darkness God's presence was hidden. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with the Son. Yet His presence was not revealed.
Then "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Mark 15:34.
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. And all that He endured—the blood drops that flowed 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 the burden of the guilt; for thee He spoils the domain of death, and opens the gates of Paradise.
Suddenly the gloom lifted from the cross, and in clear, trumpet-like 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 Savior shone with a glory like the sun. He then bowed His head upon His breast and died.
The great sacrifice has been made. The way into the holiest is laid open. A new and living way is prepared for all. Henceforth the Savior was to officiate as priest and advocate in the heaven of heavens. He had accomplished the work which He came to do. The battle had been won, and all heaven triumphed in the Savior's victory. Satan was defeated and knew that his kingdom was lost.
In that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father's presence. He trod the winepress alone. In the thick darkness, God veiled the last human agony of His Son.
Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the angels or to the unfallen worlds. The arch-apostate had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings had not understood his principles. They had not clearly seen the nature of his rebellion.
Now it was seen that for the salvation of a fallen and sinful race, the Ruler of the universe had made the greatest sacrifice which love could make. It was seen, also, that while Lucifer had opened the door for the entrance of sin by his desire for honor and supremacy, Christ had, in order to destroy sin, humbled Himself and become obedient unto death.
The fact that it was necessary for Christ to give His life for the fallen race proves that the law of God will not release the sinner from its claims upon him. It is demonstrated that the wages of sin is death. God's law is unchangeable. Could its claims have been set aside, then the Son of God need not have yielded up His life to atone for its transgression. The death of Christ proves it immutable.
The very fact that Christ bore the penalty of man's transgression is a mighty argument to all created intelligences that the law is changeless; that God is righteous, merciful, and self-denying; and that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God.
True, in himself, fallen man cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to earth as a man, lived a holy life and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past. More than this. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ.
When Christ died, the destruction of Satan was made certain. The great controversy which had been so long in progress was then decided, and the final eradication of evil was made certain. The Son of God passed through the portals of the tomb, that "through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Heb. 2:14. God declares: "I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth, . . . and never shalt thou be any more." Ezek. 28:18, 19.
At last Jesus was at rest. The long day of shame and torture was ended. The Son of God lay in quiet stillness in Joseph's tomb, His work completed.
The priests did all they could to keep Christ's body where it had been laid. A great stone had been placed before the opening. Across this stone they placed cords, securing the ends to the solid rock, and sealing them with the Roman seal. A guard of one hundred soldiers was then stationed around the sepulcher to prevent it from being tampered with.
And there were unseen watchers. Hosts of evil angels were gathered about the place. Had it been possible, the prince of darkness with his apostate army would have kept forever sealed the tomb that held the Son of God.
"And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven." This messenger is he who fills the position from which Satan fell. The earth trembles at his approach, and the hosts of darkness flee. He rolls away the stone, and cries, "Son of God, come forth; Thy Father calls Thee."
As Jesus comes forth from the grave, amid the reeling of the earth, the flashing of lightning, and the roaring of thunder, He proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life." He who vanquished death and the grave came forth from the tomb a conqueror.
"0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Cor. 15:55.
"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." John 3:16.
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Created: 8/1/01 Updated: 1/14/04