“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
How shall we account for the sufferings of Christ, which were intense, and mysterious, if not on the ground of their vicarious character? Those sufferings were intense in the extreme. There was a severity in those who, if not required by Divine justice, would be perfectly unaccountable. Heaven, earth, and hell, all were in league against Him. Survey His eventful history- mark every step which He took from Bethlehem to Calvary; and what do we learn of His sufferings, but that they were of the most extraordinary and intense character.
His enemies, like dogs of war, were let loose upon Him. His professed followers themselves stood aghast at the scenes through which their Lord was passing- one betraying Him, another denying Him, and all, in the hour of His extremity, forsaking Him. Is it any wonder that, in the anguish of His soul, His suffering humanity should exclaim, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” In that awful moment, all the waves and billows of God’s wrath, due to the sins of His people, were passing over Him. The Father, the last resource of sympathy, veiled His face, and withdrew from Him His sensible presence; and on the cross, draining the cup of sorrow, He fulfilled the prophecy, which spoke of Him- “I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there were none with me.”
His sufferings, too, were mysterious. Why a holy, harmless being, whose whole life had been one act of unparalleled beneficence, should be doomed to persecution so severe, to sufferings so acute, and to a death so painful and ignominious, the denier of the atonement must be embarrassed to account. But the doctrine of a vicarious sacrifice explains it all, and presents the only key to the mystery. “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” All the mystery now is gone. He was “made sin for us.” He was “made a curse for us.”
He bore the sin, and consequently the penalty of sin. Had we been left, Christian reader, to bear our sins, we must inevitably have borne alone the punishment of our sins. But Jesus took upon Him our sins. For this, He became a party in the covenant of redemption; for this, He assumed our nature; for this, He sorrowed in Gethsemane; for this, the law of God exacted its utmost claim; and for this, the justice of God inflicted the utmost penalty.
Oh, what a truth is this! The Son of God offering Himself up a sacrifice for sin! He who knew no sin- who was holy, harmless, and undefiled- not one thought of evil in His heart, yet made sin, or a sin-offering! Oh the greatness of the thought! If God had not Himself declared it, we could not have believed it, though an angel’s tongue had announced it. God Himself must proclaim it; and because He has so proclaimed it, we believe it. And God alone can write it upon the heart.