I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20, KJV)
When we think of crucifixion the picture is extreme suffering reserved for the vilest criminals, and then only if the evidence against them is so overwhelming that there is no doubt of their guilt. It shows the criminal cast out from the earth and cursed of God (see Gal. 3:13b, referring to the Old Testament law, “for it is written, Cursed is every o ne that hangeth on a tree” [Deut. 21:23]). Everything leading up to the act of crucifixion shows justice being carried out with a vengeance to rid the world of a depraved and dangerous person. It is a gruesome picture of suffering and shame. How can this be a picture of God’s love?
Adam had disobeyed his maker in Paradise by eating of the forbidden fruit, thereby earning the death penalty for himself and all his posterity. Every human being deserves death and has no right to expect anything different.
The price of sin must be paid either by ourselves or a substitute. The promise of a Savior was our only hope, because we could never have paid the price. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This displays the love of God described in 1 John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
However, this love is shown especially in Jesus’ resolve to finish the work his Father had given him to do: “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1; read also Isa. 50:7). This is love, but it was also a joy for him, as Hebrews 12:2 says: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The world cannot understand love like this. The world says, “Look around you. See all the happiness and joy. Come with us, and you shall be satisfied.” Seeing what our Savior endured, should we then continue filling our minds and hearts with the things of this world? What picture do you envision in your mind when reading or hearing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross? Is your question, “Was he there for me”? Life and death is very personal. No one can experience it for another. This makes Christ’s sufferings precious to me, because he accomplished for me what I could never have done. Eternity will be too short to praise, worship, and adore him!
Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?
Was it for sins that I have done he suffered on the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut his glories in, when Christ, the great Redeemer, died for man the creature’s sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears, dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe; here, Lord, I give myself away— tis all that I can do.
—Isaac Watts, “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” (1707)
Mr. Cornelius VanKempen known as Case, has been married to Susan for fifty-four blessed years. They attend and are members of Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, MI.