THE TWO ASPECTS OF THE LORD’S CROSS
Here is a question. The Lord died on the cross, but what is the significance of His death? Who sent Him to the cross? Everyone who reads the Gospels knows that the Jews sent Him to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles crucified Him on the cross. If I remember correctly, Pilate was a Spaniard. How can we say that the Lord Jesus died to bear our sins? He was clearly crucified by man. In Acts 2:23 Peter told the Jews that they had nailed Jesus to the cross through the hand of lawless men. Here it says that it was the Jews who nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross. But what did the Lord Jesus do on the cross? Before He went to the cross, He was praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Was His prayer, accompanied with sweat like drops of blood, caused by man’s persecution and opposition? Was it because Judas was bringing men to arrest Him? Or was it because He had to go to the cross to redeem us from sin? Was it not because God made the sinless One to become sin for us and laid the sins of the whole world upon Him, so that He would bear our sins upon the tree? There He prayed, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me" (Luke 22:42).
If the cross was something out of man’s hand, if it was just the tool for some evil men to kill Him, and if there was only the human aspect to the Lord Jesus, then I would not like to listen to this prayer of the Lord. I would not like to hear Jesus of Nazareth kneeling there praying to the Father to remove the cup from Him if possible. For the past two thousand years, many martyrs and disciples of the Lord had a much stronger voice than He did when they were about to die. Many martyrs, when locked inside cells and dungeons, prayed that the Father would glorify them, that they would rather die for the Son, and that they would rather testify to the Lord’s Word with their blood. If it had not been God who had commenced to place the burden of sins on the Lord at Gethsemane, and if it had not been God who had laid the burden of bearing our sins on the Lord Jesus, we would have to say that the Lord Jesus did not even have as much courage as those who believed in Him. Hence, the problem is that the cross has the aspect of man and the aspect of God. Man crucified the Lord Jesus on the cross. But the Lord said that no man takes His life away; He gave it up by Himself (John 10:17-18). Man could crucify the Lord a thousand times or ten thousand times, but unless He Himself gave His life away, nothing could have been done to Him. Man considers that He was crucified by man. We consider Him to be crucified by God to redeem sins on our behalf.
We have to find out from the Bible what God did on the cross. First, let us read Isaiah 53:5-10: "But He was pierced because of our transgressions; / He was crushed because of our iniquities; / The chastening for our peace was upon Him, / And by His stripes we have been healed. / We all like sheep have gone astray; / Each of us has turned to his own way, / And Jehovah has caused the iniquity of us all / To fall on Him. / He was oppressed, and it was He who was afflicted, / Yet He did not open His mouth; / Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter / And like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, / So He did not open His mouth. / By oppression and by judgment He was taken away; / And as for His generation, who among them had the thought / That He was cut off out of the land of the living / For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? / And they assigned His grave with the wicked, / But with a rich man in His death, / Although He had done no violence, / Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. / But Jehovah was pleased to crush Him, to afflict Him with grief. / If You make His soul a trespass offering, / He will see a seed, He will extend His days, / And the pleasure of Jehovah will prosper in His hand." The apostles quote Isaiah 53 many times in the New Testament. The One spoken of in this passage of the Scriptures is the Lord Jesus. What did the prophet say when he wrote this portion of the Scripture? The last sentence in verse 4 says, "We ourselves esteemed Him stricken, / Smitten of God and afflicted." At the beginning, the prophet thought that He was smitten and stricken by God, that He was punished for His own sins and smitten by God for His transgressions. But in verse 5, there is a turn. God showed him a revelation by means of the word but. We think that He was merely suffering from punishment and smiting. But He was not suffering from punishment and smiting. "But He was pierced because of our transgressions; / He was crushed because of our iniquities; / The chastening for our peace was upon Him, / And by His stripes we have been healed. / We all like sheep have gone astray; / Each of us has turned to his own way" (vv. 5-6). The next sentence is very precious, "And Jehovah has caused the iniquity of us all / To fall on Him" (v. 6). This is what the Lord has done. We can see that there is the aspect of man to the cross and there is the aspect of God. Although it was the hands of man that nailed the Lord Jesus up, manifesting man’s hatred for God, it was also God who had laid all of our sins upon Him and crucified Him. The cross was God’s doing; it was something that Jehovah accomplished.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)