God’s Divine Cross-Centered Purpose
Despite being a large book with a vast history, the Bible tells one story. This, indeed, is what makes it such a miraculous book. Even though its pages comprise words and letters from 40 different authors, spanning approximately 1,500 years, the Bible has one note, one plot line: Christ crucified for sinners. The unending thread that runs throughout the tapestry of Scripture is God’s unfailing, unconditional grace. Each book tells this story and advances this narrative in some form or another. Go through all the stories of the Old Testament and the scenes of the New, and what you’ll find is portrait after portrait of God’s grace meeting us in failure, of his mercy coming to us even when we’re his enemies, even when we’re not seeking after it.
The wonderful part is God sovereignly decided to give us this story in a number of different forms and pictures. We’re given portraits of redemption in all kinds of literary styles and structures, all of which signify a God who glories in beauty and diversity. Diversity that’s meant to point us to our Deliverer.
You see, Christ is everywhere in your Bible, not only in the Gospels. Some mistakenly view the New Testament as the only place where you can find Jesus mentioned in Scripture. And though that may be explicitly true, the Messiah is promised and predicted all throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, the Old Testament is filled to the brim with redemptive words. The Bible is a book of cruciform language from beginning to end. This is nowhere better found than in Isaiah 53. Actually, I tend to think that Isaiah 53 is, perhaps, the most gospel-rich chapter in all of Scripture. It holds forth the glory and mystery of the cross in vivid relief, pointing us to the majesty of the Father’s deliverance of us. And it declares for us the deep depths to which the Son descended in order to accomplish all of this.
That’s what stands out to me upon a fresh study of this chapter — the absolute depths of our deliverance. Because as powerful as man’s sin is, it is nothing compared to the power of the grace of God. He is way better at saving than you ever thought of being at sinning. The depth of human depravity is no match for the reach of God’s deliverance.
The glorious truth of the matter is that Jesus Christ goes all the way in the mission of saving his own, even to the point of taking on their punishment. (Isa. 53:5–6) The perfect One stoops to imperfection and bears the weight of every human pain. (Isa. 53:4) He took our blemishes as his own. He becomes accustomed to sickness and sorrow. He becomes “a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.” (Isa. 53:3) He’s familiar with our oppression and our affliction. (Heb. 4:14–16) He’s unafraid of our filth, unmoved by our shamefulness. (Isa. 53:7) The sinless One stands in the sinner’s stead. (Isa. 53:4–9) The Redeemer is counted among rebels and the rebels are thereby redeemed. He is reckoned as the sinner so that we can be reckoned as righteous. (Isa. 53:9; 2 Cor. 5:21) He carried all our sins on his bloodied back and paid for every single one of them with his life. “Our dear Lord took the nasty load of the sins of many,” writes Samuel Crisp, “and carried them away into the land of forgetfulness.” (69) The justification of many is accomplished by the obedience of one. (Rom. 5:18–21) “He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.” (Isa. 53:12)
And in perhaps the most intriguing verse in all of Scripture, we’re told that the Heavenly Father “was pleased to crush him severely.” (Isa. 53:10) How is it that God is “pleased” at the suffering and misery of his Son? What kind of morose and sordid religion is this anyways? Well, it’s a religion of grace. Because in the Father’s satisfaction at his Son’s suffering, your salvation was being secured. God’s wrath for sin is appeased by Jesus’s substitution on that cursed tree, he becoming the curse for you. (Gal. 3:13) He has shouldered the brunt of the Father’s fury so that you and I might dance in his freedom. “All the revenge that sin deserves,” proclaims Tobias Crisp (Samuel’s father), “Christ hath taken away and hath borne it upon his own back.” (47) All the disgust God has for you was poured out in the brutal death of Jesus Christ on that cross.
Therefore, there’s no juking the brutality of Calvary’s mount. And why would you want to? There’s no better way. There’s no other way. The violence of the cross is the only way to get the peace of heaven. God cannot be satisfied by any other means than blood spilt on account of sin. Shame is undone here. The gore of Golgotha brings about the grace of God. You and I are washed and delivered in a crimson river of mercy streaming from the Savior’s side. Now there’s no cause for shame. No reason to hide behind your veneer of religiosity. All are welcome here. Because in the gospel, the Son of God takes the shame of men to make men the sons of God. The Creator comes running to his creatures, to prodigals, and kisses us in redeeming grace. And with that embrace, the law of guilt and shame is nullified. Rendered void. Erased. Annihilated by Jesus’s own death. Canceled forever by a cross. Nothing now stands in the way of your redemption.
There is nothing can bar one person more than another from entering into Christ as a way . . . Christ is a free way for a drunkard, for a who’re-master, for a harlot, an enemy to Christ; I say, Christ is as free a way for such a person to enter into him, as for the most godly person in the world. (T. Crisp, 54)
The truth of the cross must humble us to the dust. The visceral and violent scene on that “hill far away” ought to remind us of the significance and splendor of Christ’s actions and accomplishments on our behalf. We ought to be continually astonished and surprised by the fact that all of this was done for us! “After his anguish, he will see light and be satisfied. By his knowledge, my righteous servant will justify many, and he will carry their iniquities.” (Isa. 53:11)
This is the penultimate story. It’s the story of Scripture. It’s the refrain of redemption. A song that’s sung without end, whose melody is nothing but mercy. That’s what God’s covenant runs on. Nothing but mercy is our merit. Nothing but grace absolves our guilt. Nothing but the blood! There is no shame with Christ. He has done away with it. By God’s divine cross-centered purpose, we are pardoned. We are free.
Samuel Crisp, Christ Made Sin: Evinced from Scripture (London: John Bennett, 1832).
Tobias Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted: In the Perfection and Encouragements of the Saints, Notwithstanding Sins and Trials, Vol. 1, edited by John Gill (London: R. Noble, 1791).