They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Tonight we complete our tour of the Mountains of Faith. Tonight we come to that most famous, or might we say infamous, of all of the Mountains of the people of God, Mount Calvary. It was on this hill that Jesus died.
Mount Calvary is never found by that name in the Bible. It is a Latin name for the Hebrew word "Golgotha." "Golgotha" means "the place of the skull." It was probably so-called because of its shape, and the grisly use to which it was put, being the site of executions by crucifixion. "Calvary" means "bald," suggesting the bare skull of that forlorn outcropping of rock.
We come to this hill tonight to finish our series by marking the finish of plan of God for our salvation. It was on this hill that Jesus made the atonement for our sins. There was a great deal of symbolism in what was happening on that dark and foreboding day. The Lamb of God was being sacrificed. His blood was shed on the day before Passover. It was just like those poor lambs in Egypt. They died on the day before the beginning of the Passover. Their blood was shed so that it might be painted on the lintels and doorposts of the children of Israel so that the angel of death might pass over their homes and not claim the life of the first-born in each house of Israel.
Jesus' blood was poured out to mark each of us, that the angel of death, eternal death, might pass over us. That was why Jesus was called the Lamb of God. He was the chosen Lamb. All of the others, the thousands of lambs sacrificed each Passover for the observance of the great salvation from bondage in Egypt, were merely symbolic of Him. The rescue from slavery in Moses' time, was real enough for the children of Israel, but it was ultimately symbolic of the redemption from the slavery to sin which this, the real Lamb, was going to accomplish. Actually, the Passover Lamb was not the first lamb to foreshadow the Lamb of God. That honor goes to the lamb whose blood was shed by God in the garden of Eden to provide rudimentary clothing for Adam and Eve. It was that lamb which first pointed forward to this gruesome event. That lamb's blood was shed to cover their nakedness, which they suddenly realized as a result of their sin.
Good Friday also fulfilled the image of the Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the high priest of Israel would sacrifice the bull and the goat of the Day of Atonement. He would collect the blood of each animal offered as a sin offering and pour it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. It was above the Mercy Seat that God would appear to Moses to speak with him. So, when they poured the blood on the mercy seat it was as a symbol of covering the eyes of God and blinding Him to the sins committed. It was a ritual which God had prescribed.
The blood of Jesus Christ was poured out to cover our sins and blind the eyes of God to our guilt (in a manner of speaking) so that we might be forgiven. Jesus' blood was the blood shed for our atonement.
On the Day of Atonement, they also took a second goat, and the priest would lay both of his hands on the goat and confess the sins of the people of Israel over the goat, symbolically placing the sins of the people on the goat. In later years, with the temple, I have been told, they would also write their sins on little scrolls of paper and tie them to the goat's fur. Then they would drive the goat out into the wilderness to be killed by wild beasts. The goat symbolically carried the sins of the people away - we still use the word "remission", "to send away" - for forgiveness, to picture what forgiveness is and how it works for us. They called that goat the Scapegoat. So now you know where we got the word, and why it means the innocent one on whom the blame is laid. The Scapegoat ceremony symbolized the forgiveness of God. You know, Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Jesus is our Scapegoat. The guilt of our sins was laid upon Him. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
On the way to the Promised Land, the people of ancient Israel grumbled against God. They complained about the food and the privations of their journey, and wished they were back in Egypt. God sent fiery serpents among them to bite them, and if they were bitten they sickened and died. But Moses prayed for the people, and God instructed Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole, and promised that anyone who simply looked at the bronze serpent would recover. And, of course, it worked. Those who believed enough to just look with hope to be healed, were healed.
Jesus is like that serpent for us. as Jesus said, in John 3, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life."
What happened on that bloody hill was full of symbols and fulfilled many prophecies, but the crucifixion was not simply symbolic. On Calvary, Jesus was nailed to the cross. They drove the nails through his hands, through holes drilled in the center of wooden disks which had been placed on His palms. When the nail severed the median nerve in the palm of the hand, it cause the muscles to spasm and the hand to close in a death-grip on the disk, so the crucified held himself on the cross. We know this, because archeologists have found crucifixion victims with the disks still clutched in their hands.
We know, too, that crucifixion normally killed by suffocation, spreading the chest wall so that the crucified could not exhale, and would suffocate with lungs full of air. But before death came, there would be hours of pain and thirst and infection raging. The crucified would hang by the arms until he could no longer breathe. Then he would push up on the nail driven through the instep of one foot and the heel-bone of the other to allow the chest to collapse and to breathe until the agony in the feet became too severe, and then he would hang by his arms until nearly suffocating again. This could go on for days, until infection and thirst and unconsciousness weakened the crucified enough to simply hang until suffocated.
Jesus also bore the wrath of God against our sins. Simple pain and death was not the essence of what He endured. He bore the wrath of God in His soul, the agonies of Hell. He who is God was forsaken by God on the cross. He became a curse, for He Himself had spoken through the prophet that "anyone who dies hanging on a tree is accursed." We cannot imagine what He endured. And, thanks be to God, we who believe will never know first-hand. He suffered for us and in our place on the cross on Calvary.
And when He had done all that the Scriptures said He would do, and when He had suffered all that was prophesied that the Messiah would suffer, He spoke the most precious word in the history of man, tetevlsestai, which takes three words in English to translate, "It is finished!" With those words, Jesus tells us that the debt of sin has been paid in full and the burden of the guilt of all mankind has been lifted forever.
The resurrection on Easter morning announced to all mankind that the proclamation of Jesus was true. His suffering and death on the cross paid in full the price of our redemption. He paid in full the atonement for our sins. God raised Jesus because He was satisfied, the payment was enough for all sins of all people.
Sadly, men will go to hell with that payment for sins having been made fully. They do not go to hell for their sins, - their sins have been paid for in full - and God has accepted that payment.
"He who believes has passed out of death into life."
"He who believes is not judged."
"There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
But the one who has not heard, and the one who has heard but refuses that payment and will not believe must go to hell. He or she will not go to hell for their sins, but because they do not believe, and have refused the grace of God. Once in hell, however, God will reward them according to their deeds - and that reward will be eternal punishment.
We have come to this mountain for only one reason, to hear the good news that our sin is paid for. And that word is 'tetevlestai' - "It is finished." Without that good word, we see only a sorry and grisly place of torture and execution. But because Jesus paid there for our sins, we are happy to come, and we call that sad day in human conduct Good Friday, and we find a pleasant sounding name for old Golgotha, calling it instead Mt. Calvary.
It was on that hill that our salvation was purchased and won.
It was on that hill that what we need done in order to enter eternal life was accomplished.
It was on that Mountain of Faith, Mount Calvary, on the cross there, where the Son of God died for our sins - that we see the debt we owe to the justice of God paid in full.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
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