Alfred Place Baptist Church

15:15 The Flogging of Jesus

Mark 15:15 “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged.”

You often hear it said that this is the first time that the Lord Jesus shed his blood, but we have to be careful in making that claim. There are couple of facts that we have to bear in mind;

i] Jesus had been circumcised.

Eight days after his birth the little Lord Jesus had been circumcised (Lk. 2:21); his foreskin was cut off, and no doubt he cried in pain as his blood was shed. That event was the first hint of this fact that the Son of God had come into the world to fulfil the law. From his emergence from his mother’s womb Christ was born under the law. He came to keep it completely in all its exhaustive details, every single aspect of the law – moral, civil, and ceremonial. His circumcision as a child indicated that he had put himself under the obligations of the covenant which God made with his people: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” They were disobedient children, but God’s holy child Jesus came and he was obedient to all the law’s requirements.

Jesus did everything the law demanded, without the slightest exception; when he was weighed in the balances by the 10 commandments then the scales pointed to his absolute perfection. Ten out of ten. He loved God with all his heart and soul; he loved his neighbour as himself. He was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. Here was a man as perfect as God, the only man to be such. When he laid down his life then that sacrifice itself was perfect. Think of that. A parent may sacrifice for its child, or a wife may make many sacrifices for her husband, but bitterness and resentment can erupt from time to time – “I am doing all this for them! Do they appreciate my sacrifice?” It’s not a perfect sacrifice. When Christ made his sacrifice for us there wasn’t an atom of bitterness that he had to die, no resentment that the people for whom he died weren’t more thankful. When we stand before the cross we are like a child who is standing on the shore of a vast ocean who is picking up one pebble and staring at it. We simply don’t comprehend what he did for us, what he has saved us from, what he has saved us to, and the debt we owe to God the mighty Maker for dying for man the creature’s sin. As Robert Murray M’Cheyne sings,

“When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 1813-1843).

Christ’s sacrifice was perfect; he fervently loved even the chief of sinners whom the Father had given to him. He didn’t have a single atom of bitterness at having to shed his blood for such ungrateful rubbish. He also loved his Father whose justice demands that sin be condemned. So Christ’s sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice. From the moment baby Jesus came into the world he was on a divine mission to fulfil the righteousness of his people and bear their punishment.

So his blood was first shed on the eighth day of his life. Why was the eighth day chosen? It’s been suggested that this was typical of the new Sabbath which would come with Jesus our New Covenant mediator. The seventh day was the Old Covenant Sabbath. But it was on the eighth day that Jesus rose from the dead after he’d cut away sin and death forever. Today is the New Covenant Sabbath; this is the Lord’s Day, and on each Sunday all God’s people are summoned, “Come, meet with the risen Jesus Christ! Come to the perfect law keeper, to his blood and righteousness, as your Saviour.” So the first time the blood of Jesus was shed was when he was circumcised. Then we must also remember this, that

ii] Jesus was born in our low and fallen condition.

The Word was made flesh; the Son of God took a true body. If you are a Christian who holds such a conviction then that indicates that you’ve had a birth from God. “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (I Jn. 4:2). Your confession is that our Lord had a true body and a reasonable soul. In other words, he was subject to hunger and thirst. He slept and wept and spat and sweated and bled; he fell to the ground. He felt exhausted; he was flogged; he was nailed to a cross; a spear was thrust in his side and out flowed blood and water. In other words he had the same creatureliness as us, the same anatomy as ourselves, the same physiology, the same biochemistry, the same central nervous system and the same basic genetic code.

The last Adam wasn’t born in the Garden of Eden. He came into a fallen world and into a groaning creation. He came where accidents happen, where men hammer a thumb instead of a nail, and chisels slip, and axe-heads fly off handles. I am asking you have you been thinking that these things never happened in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Of course they happened to Jesus as well as to Joseph. Baby Jesus learned to walk, and he fell over as every baby does and there was bruising and bloodshed. He lost his first teeth, as every child does and a little blood was lost. And so I am saying that in our zeal to guard the perfection of the Lord Jesus let us ensure that we don’t make him a superman with skin like stainless steel. I can’t identify with such a person. He would be a cartoon man, but a man made in the likeness of sinful flesh is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. So in all the commonplace details of his life there were times when Jesus was pricked by a thorn, or a mosquito sucked his blood, or he was cut by a piece of broken pottery and our Lord bled. In the garden of Gethsemane his sweat was as it were drops of blood. Throughout his life, I am saying, Jesus had shed blood. However, when Pilate had Jesus flogged it was then, for the first time, that his blood was shed by the agency of sinful men in their enmity and contempt for him. That is the significance of the first shedding of Christ’s blood by scourging.

1. THE SEQUENCE IN WHICH PILATE HAD JESUS WHIPPPED.

Mark tell us that Pilate “had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (v.15). If we had Mark’s record alone it would appear that the scourging and the crucifixion seem to come immediately the one after the other, but it does appear from the other gospel writers that what Pilate was doing here was to formally pass a sentence of crucifixion on Jesus. If we turn to John 19 we will find a gap between the flogging and the crucifixion. John 19 opens with the words, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged . . .” but it is not until verse 16 that we read, “Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” In those fifteen verses describing the time between the flogging and the crucifixion we read of Pilate’s final attempt to set Jesus free. So I’m saying that what Mark records in our text is not to be understood as the definitive, legally formulated and official sentencing of Jesus – case closed, books shut and everyone goes home! No. It is not that he went straight from the flogging to become the plaything of the squaddies and was soon despatched by them to the cross. Rather Pilate was indicating that after the scourging the next step in the condemnation of Jesus had to be the cross. The Roman governor was silently pleading, “See him now Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrin. Look at this bloodied man tottering on his feet with pain and the loss of blood; don’t you think enough is enough? Go home! I can withdraw my intention to have him crucified. Please think again!”

That is what we have in the long trial of Christ. It is Pilate’s last appeal to humanity, as he brings in the whipped Jesus who is looking like a carcase of beef, “Behold the man!” This true man, this eternal son of God become man, this proper man, God’s great definition of what a man is, the archetypal man – had become an object of horror and pity. But Caiaphas the chief priest, gazing at Jesus led back from the scourging, was unmoved – “crucify him!” You hear the echo of the revelation of the high priest’s heart of stone in some of the apostle’s words to the Hebrew Christians. There was a time of declension in the early church in which some of them were being drawn away from Christ and back to the temple, and to the fasts, and to the sacrifices and chief priests. The apostle says to them, “Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebs 4:14-16). “Some of you Hebrew Christians are considering turning back from such a wonderfully tender high priest to Caiaphas, of all people, to that monster! Please think again. Remember what Caiaphas was like with Jesus and the other Christians who have been stoned to death.”

2. THE NATURE OF JESUS’ FLOGGING.

So that is the background to the flogging of Christ. Let’s focus on this briefly. We must remember that scourging a person – just in itself not as a preliminary to crucifixion – constituted terrible suffer­ing. The Romans had prescribed flogging as the proper punishment for many breaches of law, but even they found the punishment so gruesome that Roman citizens were protected from flogging except in the most ex­traordinary cases. I don’t want to gaze at my Saviour being scourged. I don’t want any of you to look at it. It is utterly loathsome. I have a feeling that it is improper, even sinful to look at Jesus being whipped. I want to turn my eyes away. Would you look at your own daughter, or your wife, or your son being scourged? You would close your eyes and weep for them and try not to faint, but be praying that God will show mercy. Christ should not descend to such degradation, but heaven does not interfere; God does not prevent it, in fact, we are told that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Take place it did, and so we must offer some guarded words about it, God helping us.

We cannot be definite in saying that one particular way was the exact mode in which Jesus was flogged. The gospel writers don’t go into those details and that is salutary enough. We accept the fact that Jesus was not scourged in the Jewish manner, in which case the per­son being punished lay face forward upon the ground (Deuteronomy 25:2); the whipping would have been in the Roman way. “According to the descriptions given in numerous books, the scourged person was stripped down to the loins and was bound fast to a post or pillar in such a way that he had to stand with bent back and with his head bowed toward the ground. In that way the first stroke had to succeed in drawing blood. Accord­ingly, we can easily understand that in some descriptions of scourgings which took place, we read that the strokes of the whip sometimes tore the flesh so badly that the human skeleton became visible as a result. In order to aggravate the pain even more, barbs, pieces of bone, or knots were woven into the scourge, and in later periods, during the time of the persecutions of the Chris­tians, for instance, leaden bullets were fastened to the thongs. We don’t know to what extent these particulars held true of the scourging inflicted upon the Saviour. Scripture speaks very soberly of these things. (cp. Klaas Schilder. “Christ on Trial,” Baker, 1939, p. 510). We will not count the number of strokes poured out on him. We will not guess whether other executioners took over when the first and even second grew weary. We will not guess at the length of time it lasted. We know simply this, when the scourging was over his whole back appeared as an enormous wound. You remember what I say to you from time to time, that evangelical theology does not make the death of Christ horrible; history has made it horrible. The theology of the Bible is simply the inspired explanation of God bruising God.

I suppose that one of our concerns about the Mel Gibson film on the Passion of Christ was the graphic portrayal of the scourging, that the Roman Catholic actor and director went out of his way to put it in your face. People said that in that movie the scene of the scourging went on and on, whiplash after whiplash after whiplash, and the shots of the blood running down his back and onto the ground were extremely gory. Look at Mark’s reference to it; Pilate “had Jesus flogged” (v.15). One word, and that’s it! None of the gospel writers went into any detail at all. Of course I realise that one of the reasons for that is that scourging was common at their time. People knew only too well its horrors; they didn’t need to be told what were the implications of a burly Roman executioner whipping a man. The Bible does not expound the physical horror but it accentuates the majesty, and the love, and the willingness of the Christ of God to endure all of this. Think of it, this is the eternal Son of God, the one who was in the beginning with God and was God. He is enduring this, stroke after stroke on his bare back, out of love for the children of darkness! Scripture says, “Don’t look at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

“I sometimes think about the cross,
And shut my eyes, and try to see
The cruel nails and crown of thorns,
And Jesus crucified for me.

But even could I see Him die,
I could but see a little part
Of that great love, which like a fire
Is always burning in His heart.” (William W. How, 1823-97)

3. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST WERE MORE THAN THE SHEDDING OF HIS BLOOD.

We have a glimpse of the conflict Christ experienced during his hidden years when we are told that at 12 years old he got away for a couple of days from his parents. They were living in the one horse village of Nazareth, a community not on any main road going anywhere, located on the side of a hill reached by narrow paths twisting through scrub and thorn bushes. From that out-of-the-way place there was an occasion when the family had gone up to Jerusalem for one of the prescribed feasts and Jesus had slipped free remaining behind in the city, hanging around the temple courts, discussing the word of God with the men of God he met there. What longing it shows to break the chains that bound him for thirty years to a carpenter’s shop, and preach the kingdom of God to his own people. Yet he humbled himself to stay there through all the long years of childhood, and adolescence, and throughout all his twenties. That was part of the suffering of Christ. One thinks of the Bronte daughters living in the lonely vicarage on the edge of the moors in Haworth, Yorkshire, brilliant creative writers, meeting no one else on the literary scene, and writing their books and hymns. We have one of Ann Bronte’s hymns in our hymn book (759, Grace Hymns); she wrote these words in her twenties;

“Believe not those who say the upward path is smooth,
Lest thou shouldst stumble in the way and faint before the truth

It is the only road unto the realms of joy;
But he that seeks that blest abode must all his powers employ.”

(Ann Bronte, 1820-1849)

Now multiply by infinity, here is God the infinite, eternal and unchangeable one, incarnate in the flesh, employing all of his powers to live contentedly in total obscurity in a place never visited even by the ordinary people of Israel. There were no newspapers; a stranger entering the community once a month or a sheep giving birth to a lamb became news in that community. What patience Christ developed in the slow pace of life there. Luke tells us that Jesus went with his parent down to Nazareth following that break-out in Jerusalem “and was obedient to them” (Lk.2:51) for almost twenty more years, all through his teenage years and his twenties. How he magnified the fifth commandment, to honour his father and mother. I am saying that that was part of the suffering of Christ.

Then there was the conflict with the devil from the moment he began his public ministry. Of course our Lord wasn’t tempted by anything within himself. He wasn’t dragged away by his own evil desire and enticed as we are. He didn’t possess a law of sin in his members as we do. He had no inclination to sin as we have. There was no bias in his life that seduced him to love the world and the things of this world as we do. He had no affinity with sin at all. The prince of this world had no foot-hold on him.

What, then did the devil work on? Certainly our Lord did have sinless human weaknesses. He was tempted through hunger in the wilderness. He was tempted through fear of pain and through love for a friend. All these brought strong pressures to bear on him and he had to resist them. Jesus had holy affections and feelings and longings, and during the course of his work he had to say no to them. In Gethsemane there were things he wanted that were gloriously right – companionship with God, living fellowship with him, but he had to say no to them and accept that soon God would desert him. He would be crying, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” So our Lord prayed to resist temptation and he did so with loud shouts and weeping. That was the suffering of Christ.

Again his knowledge that he was the Son of God though no one else believed it was made a temptation to him by the devil. “Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple and immediately angels will dive to catch you and lower you to the ground safely. You’ll suffer no injury and what an impact it will make on the thousands standing around the temple. How impressed they will be; they will all follow you, and you’ll get such reassurance that you are doing God’s will.” Temptations came to him to use his personal power and authority to lighten the pain of being despised and rejected – I am talking about Jesus’ protracted resistance to temptation, right through the years of his ministry – saying that there wasn’t a day when he wasn’t tempted, and each one he resisted. Think of that. We yield easily but he didn’t, he fought against each temptation, sometimes with blood, sweat and tears. He was not an easy prey and so the devil used all his wiles and stratagems and resources to pull Christ down. Jesus had to endure the full force and ferocity of Satan’s temptations until hell slunk away defeated and exhausted. That was the suffering of Christ. With ourselves it only takes a little bit of temptation and down we go, but against Christ Satan had to push himself to the limits. Resisting temptation was also the suffering of Christ.

But let’s think again of the sufferings of Christ in the Garden, “that final, full-scale assault, where the full implications of the cup finally dawned on Jesus. Soon, he would be sin. Soon, he would be in the far country. Soon, he would face that unimaginable moment when the Father would not be there. He would cry and God would not answer. In Gethsemane, there was still time to turn back, and the arguments for such a course were strong and plausible. How could Love face the loss of Love? Should Love face the loss of Love, even choose it? He was despondent, close to despair, afraid and almost overwhelmed. But he stood. He took the cup, confirming and re-enacting his decision to be nothing. He rose, with invincible resolution (Mk. 14:42), to face damnation and anathema” (D. Macleod, The Person of Christ, IVP, 1998, p.227).

I am saying that the sufferings of Christ were more than the blood he shed, and yet always there are preachers who talk exclusively about the blood shed, about the ‘dear and precious blood.’ All the temptations and sufferings of Christ which I’ve been reminding you about those preachers of the blood can dismiss as mere ‘memory aids’ – that’s the phrase used – to Bible knowledge and theology – as though they had no bearing on what Christ did for us. I am saying, no, that in everything he did, throughout his whole life, he was sacrificing himself for us because he loved us.

Let me use this illustration; I think of my parents sacrificing themselves for me. I grew up during the Second World War and they sacrificed themselves, giving up the best food that I who was a puny fussy child with my eating might have nourishing food. They ate margarine and I had butter; they used saccharines to sweeten the tea and I had sugar; they had powdered milk and powdered eggs and I ate and drank the real thing; they ate liver and I had meat. They would have laid down their lives for me their beloved only child if it had been necessary. They would have shed their blood, literally, for me because they loved me, but they were never called upon to make the supreme sacrifice.

I am saying that there were people whom Jesus loved; they had been entrusted to him by the Father; he came into the world to save these beloved people; he was denying himself for them at every stage; he was by the Spirit mortifying himself and his longings and desires so that I might be saved; he was fulfilling all righteousness for me. In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith and this righteousness is the life of Christ that I have been speaking to you about. Behold the man! He is an obedient Saviour who did not speak in his own defence and so he was whipped half to death. He kept the law and paid the penalty of the law on our behalf.

4. HE SHED HIS BLOOD TO SAVE US FROM OUR SIN.

If his whole life were a journey of self-sacrificing for us then let us never underestimate the climax of it all in which he laid down his life for us as the Lamb of God. The preceding life of sacrifice was the framework in which the final sacrifice was made. The earlier years were a preparation for once-and-for-all event that took place in its horror and gore and darkness on the last day of his life. If you read the Old Testament you will meet the idea of sacrifice in every chapter. Genesis begins with the time of probation of our first parents in the Garden of Eden and their rebellion and fall. “The day you defy my word you will die,” says God, and they did defy, taking the fruit which they were told to leave alone. They were thrown out of the Garden forbidden to return, in fact prevented from returning to the Tree of Life. From then on it was a guarded tree, off limits to them in their sin, but that was not the judgment of death. The man struggled with thorns and thistles and sweated at his daily labour for the rest of his life, but that was not the judgment of death. The woman laboured in pain giving birth to children, but that was not the judgment of death. Adam and Eve lived many years and then they breathed their last; they both physically died, but that was not the judgment of death; that occurs after we die. There will be another divine sentence pronounced by a sin-hating God – a second death.

Last week something happened to Florence Reeves of Leigh-on Sea in Essex. She was 111 years of age and the oldest person in Britain. What happened to her? She died. Last week something happened to Hendrijke van Andel-Schipper in Holland. He was 115 and believed to be the oldest person in the world. What happened to him? He died. Though we live until we are over a hundred years of age we are not going to avoid physical death are we? But that is not the punishment of death. That is going to occur at the end of the world from the Day of Judgment onwards in a great separation of mankind and the judgment of hell. Between our sinning and the divine condemnation surely coming upon us for our sins there lies the valley of the shadow of death. That valley is simply the route that takes unbelieving men and women to the second death. The valley is merely death’s shadow; what lies after it is not at all shadowy it is death itself, a fire, darkness, gnashing of teeth, an undying worm, the devil and his angels – the reality of hell.

Jesus was not whipped with a play whip that children use to keep a top spinning; it was not a prop; it was not a shadow of a whip. He was scourged, and if they had scourged him for much longer they’d have killed him. His blood was not out of a bottle from the props department, not theatrical blood; it was his own haemoglobin that flowed out of his punctured veins, arteries and many blood vessels.

I am saying that between Adam’s death and Adam’s condemnation there would be human history lasting thousands of years. Your story and my story fit in here, and it’s during this epoch that God’s grace would be preached and God’s grace would be experienced in type and shadow during the Old Covenant dispensation and then in the reality after the coming of Christ because then God’s grace had become incarnate in his Son. It is for the ugly events of this history – my history and yours – that God would provide a way of deliverance from the second death. He would do so by sacrifice.

There is a dark stream of blood that flows from Genesis to Malachi. It starts to trickle straight away, when Adam’s son Abel makes a sacrificial offering to the Lord – see the spring bubbling out – and then how it flows, on each side of the road along which Israel had to walk, the ditches of Israel were full of it. They flowed with gore. Not a day went by without lambs being slain; there were festivals when thousands of them were sacrificed on the same day. All this animal blood was teaching the people their need of a perfect substitute to shed blood in their place, in other words the lambs were pointing to Christ. They were the signs pointing forward to his coming and his violent sacrificial death. The blood of the Son of God must be shed, for without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness. That is how God is! The very nature of God requires it! All the lambs pointed forward to his coming. All the goats pointed to Christ’s coming. All the bullocks and doves pointed to his coming. Every levitical sacrifice pointed to one day when the seed of the woman would appear and he would deal with the problem of human sin by his own bloodshed.

The blood of beasts cannot atone for the sin of a man made in the image of God. A man must die. But all men are sinners whose personal sins need atonement, so this man must be without sin. But only one is without sin and that is Jesus Christ. But the perfection of a human substitute can only cover the sin of one other man. Christ is not only perfect man he is also God the Son, infinite, eternal and unchangeable. His righteousness is infinite, eternal and unchangeable, and the power of his blood to cleanse from sin is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. Behold the Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world.

Do you understand what the Bible is saying? The only God there is demands that the soul that sins shall surely die. Holy sin-hating God requires a life laid down, a lamb to be sacrificed to atone for the guilt; God himself provided the Lamb to atone for the guilt; God the Son became the Lamb whose blood would make atonement for man’s guilt. It was God himself who determined his Son would die this death. It was God himself who bruised him. He put him to shame that we might never be put to shame. The strokes fell on him; none shall fall on us!

“Jehovah lifted up his rod:
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me” (Anne R. Cousin, 1824-1906)

Christ’s blood had to be shed, for, the Scripture says, the soul is in the blood. Go back to Genesis: God made the first Adam from the dust of the ground. At first it was the perfectly shaped figure of a man but as lifeless as a statue. Not until the breath of God breathed into Adam did blood course through his veins as the heart began to beat and then Adam became a living soul. The life is in the blood. Should that blood drain away then the life goes and man dies.

The last Adam came to die. He came, he told us this clearly, to give his life a ransom for many. He came to sacrifice himself that we might be spared the second death of the judgment of God. Through his blood we are forgiven because he died as our substitute. That is the central message of the New Testament. Yes it is! That is why there are forty-three references to the blood of Christ in the New Testament. It is in his whipping, and in his crown of thorns, and in his crucifixion, and in the spear thrust he received, and in his death that the eternal God was enduring our second death. Man’s future without God’s mercy has been seen on this planet in the past, not just in the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the death of Israel in the wilderness but here, in the scourging of Christ and his crucifixion. The message of the church to vain modern man is, “Come back with us to your future.” What had Jesus said to his disciples the night before in the Passover meal in the upper room? “This is my blood . . . which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:27&28). The guilt of your sins will either be dealt with by yourself in the second death in the future or in the past death of the Lamb of God.

Let me illustrate it; do you remember when the Passover was first instituted in Egypt? It was the final judgment on Egypt for its persistent refusal to obey the Lord and let God’s people go? The last of the plagues of Egypt was the death of the first born in the whole land. But divine provision was made for deliverance from death, just as long as the people took an unblemished lamb and sacrificed it and sprinkled its blood on the door. That blood was a sign of obedience to God. By doing this the people of this house were saying, “We don’t think this is a foolish thing to do. We are putting our trust in the Lord’s message of mercy.” They were doing his will. Their hope was in the life laid down as God required. It was dead! Death had already taken place; the blameless lamb had died, and so death won’t occur again. The undefiled one has died; the defiled ones will live. The lamb is the divinely appointed substitute.

The Son of God comes with this mission into the world. He is God’s Lamb, but he is not dealing any longer just with Israel’s sins but with the whole Gentile world – all who put their trust in him. Behold the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world! The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses sinners everywhere from all sin.

It was a man in distant Scotland, thousands of miles from Jerusalem who wrote these words; his name was Horatius Bonar, and he wrote them 1900 years after Christ had come, but for him the scourging was like yesterday. He saw Christ dead for him: this was his confession of faith,

“I see the scourges tear his back,
I see the piercing crown,
And of that crowd who smite and mock,
I feel that I am one.

‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood,
I nailed him to the tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.

Yet not the less that blood avails,
To cleanse away my sin,
And not the less that cross prevails
To give me peace within” (Horatius Bonar, 1808-1989).

The apostle John has a sight of heaven in the book of Revelation. He sees a vast company of men and women and they are pure and holy enjoying the presence of God. They have all escaped the second death. While he is looking at them an elder comes to him, “‘These in white robes’ he asks, ‘who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'” (Rev. 7:13-14).

God in the fulness of time offered up his own Son as a perfect sacrifice. God, in the person of his Son, endured his own fierce wrath against sin. We really understand God’s love only when we know the fierceness of his hatred of that darkness which would extinguish all that the God of light is. He spared not his own Son. That is just how angry our sin makes God, but how awesome must be his love to absorb that wrath himself rather than destroy all sinners in hell. What horror and pain for God the Son to endure. “In this is love,” says the Bible, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NKJV). Our lake of fire extinguished by the blood of Christ; our outer darkness lit up by the Light of the World; our second death annihilated by his one complete death; our guilt covered by his righteousness; the sword of God’s wrath finds its sheath in his heart so that we are spared. There would have been no more escape for us than there has been for the rebelling angels if Christ had not died.

Jesus Christ is the lamb that God has provided. Jesus Christ is our substitute and sacrifice under the lash and on the cross. He has done what you could never do for yourself. I warn you that you will continue to carry your guilt until you are sick of it and hate it and long to be delivered from it while yet refusing to come to Christ. O fools and slow of heart not to believe what the Scriptures say about the Saviour of the world! If you don’t see the horror of your sin then you will never be parted from it. I am urging you to let Christ deal with it. You are facing a second death until you plead Christ’s death to be your deliverance. Trust in Christ! God justifies all who trust in Jesus’ blood plus nothing.

Your debt of sin is too great for you ever to receive eternal life, but redemption equals Jesus’ blood plus nothing. Forget about your inability to pay; the price of redemption has already been paid. It was expensive for Jesus, but it is free for you. Freedom and eternal life become yours by faith in God’s gift. If God’s wrath terrifies you, don’t forget: Propitiation equals Jesus’ blood plus nothing. When you trust Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins, you don’t need to be afraid of the second death. Jesus has already suffered it in your place. Forget your fear and look instead to the wonder of God’s love and the joy of heaven that awaits you. Justification equals Jesus’ blood plus nothing! Redemption equals Jesus blood plus nothing! Propitiation equals Jesus’ blood plus nothing! You and I can’t add anything to what Jesus has already done to make us right with God. We can only stand in awe before his scourging and his cross, believe in his blood. Receive with joy and gratitude the free gift of eternal life

4th September 2005. GEOFF THOMAS