“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33).
The last supper finished and Jesus took His disciples across the brook Kidron to the Garden of Gethsemane. The time had come for the greatest event in the history of the human race to occur. Four thousand years had passed and all that the prophets had foretold was about to be fulfilled.
Passover lambs were being prepared in the Temple as Christ our Passover waited in the shadow of olive trees on a moonlit night for soldiers to come and take Him for a cruel, unjust trial.
At the High Priest’s palace before daylight, and then before the Roman Governor, the trial took place. Jesus stood silent before his accusers in Herod’s palace, then back to the Governor where he was scourged and abused. The Governor declared him innocent but to no avail. He washed his hands of the case and handed him over to the mob to be crucified saying, “See ye to it!”
Outside the city, at Calvary, “they crucified Him” but before death relieved him of the agony imposed upon Him, at mid-day, the sun was darkened and the crowd that watched Him sat hushed for three long hours until the afternoon sunlight returned and Jesus cried out loudly, “I thirst”. A sponge dipped in vinegar was pressed against His lips and when He had tasted He cried, “It is finished!” Suddenly an earthquake shook Jerusalem. Buildings rattled, graves were flung open, and the great curtain that hid the Holy of holies in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. The mocking crowd fell dumb and the Roman centurion standing at the cross cried, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
What happened that day at Calvary? This was no normal crucifixion and the central figure was no ordinary man. The centurion was right; this was the Son of God and He was there that day in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament as the Lamb of God bearing the guilt of a sinful world. This was no martyr’s death. This was a substitutory sacrifice for all of humanity from Adam to the last child that would breath, and with His last breath Jesus dismissed His spirit saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Even in death Jesus was in total control. Long before, He had told the Jews: “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John10:17-18).
So just what did Jesus do that day?
The answer to that question is found in the prophecies given to holy men of God through the centuries. Isaiah the prophet, writing about 750 years beforehand had prophesied that one day a “virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” which means, “God with us”.
Jesus was not an ordinary man and the Roman centurion was right, “This man was the Son of God.”
For nearly three years Jesus had walked the roads of Israel performing miracles that no other man could do. He spoke words that no other man could speak and his life was unlike any other man – absolutely unblemished. No taint of sin was ever found in Him. He alone could honestly say, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46).
Other human beings are created at conception but Jesus came from heaven. He was sent by the Father to work the works of God and on the cross He “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1Tim.2:6).
Every human being, apart from Jesus Christ, has sinned. We are sinners by nature and practice. We have all come short of the glory of a Holy God and alas, we have no power to redeem ourselves. We all need a Saviour who in love and mercy can pardon our sin and cleanse our defiled soul. Only someone who has gone to heaven can take us there. Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of sinners; mighty to save and mighty to keep.
What was Jesus Christ doing at Calvary? He finished the work that the Father sent Him to do for
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him (Christ) should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John3:16).
Though we are sinners God loves us. He was willing to send His beloved Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, down to this evil world; to dwell as a man among men and to go to the cross, to shed His precious blood and make an atonement for our sin.
That’s why, after Jesus had endured the three hours of darkness on the cross as the “man Christ Jesus”, bearing the wrath of God for the sum total of human sin, He could triumphantly cry, “It is finished!”
Jesus had just drunk the vinegar offered to Him but more than that, He had drunk the wine of the wrath of God so that we who believe in Him, can have eternal life. Sin’s debt is paid in full and He gives His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts the moment we believe.
What happened at Calvary allows God to freely offer salvation: pardon for all our sin; power to live a new life, and a place in heaven. Jesus said:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).