(Reading time: Approximate 3 minutes.)
We have been on a wide-angle journey through the Scriptures and have taken little time to pause and take in the sights along the way. We have been like mountain climbers whose goal is to stand on the twenty tallest peaks in the state. At times we have had to pass by wondrous sights with barely a glance, otherwise we would never reach our goal and scale those momentous peaks.
Not long ago, we were at Jesus’ birth; a week later we stopped at his baptism. Today we stand beneath his cross. That means we have bypassed some glorious scenes: The calling of the apostles; the commissioning of the Twelve and the Seventy-two; the miracles; the transfiguration – we could go on and on. These things are like roses and rivers and mirror lakes at the base of great mountains. Any other time we would stop and gaze, admire their beauty and ponder their meaning.
But during this series we are surveying peaks, and today we come to the highest of them all. All prior history rose to this, like the Himalayas rise to Everest. All subsequent history, including our own, flows from this. It is the Great Divide, the watershed between heaven and earth.
But the mountain of revelation at which we have arrived is unscalable. Mysteries hide its summit, like a halo of clouds sitting on the head of some exalted peak. We will never dispel its mysteries, but we can take off our shoes and acknowledge that we are on holy ground. Our wide-angle journey has brought us to the cross of Christ.
It was the Old Testament that led us here. In the ruin of the Fall, God promised his damaged children that he would one day defeat evil, not in spite of them, but through them: the offspring of the woman, he said, would crush the head of the serpent.1 Later, on Mount Moriah, Abraham predicted that God himself would provide a sacrificial lamb. “He called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”2
A thousand years before Christ, the Psalmist seemed to see the cross through Jesus’ own eyes: “A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”3
The Old Testament led us here. Hundreds of years after the psalmist, but still centuries before Jesus was born, Isaiah the prophet wrote: “He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”4
“Pierced my hands and feet.” “Pierced for our transgressions.” Add Zechariah’s prophecy, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.”5 These and other ancient prophecies prove that the cross was no afterthought in the mind of God. The cross was part of the plan from the very beginning.
In coming to our text, we have climbed to the zenith not only of revelation, but of history. The prophets pointed to it, Jesus himself foretold it; and yet, all that being true, who could have imagined it?