“The centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity” by John Piper

“The hosts of heaven focus their worship not simply on the Lamb, but on the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9). And they are still singing this song in Revelation 15:3 (“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb”).

Therefore, we can infer that the centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity will be the display of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughtered Lamb.

Angels and all the redeemed will sing of the suffering of the Lamb forever and ever. The suffering of the Son of God will never be forgotten. The greatest suffering that ever was will be at the center of our worship and our wonder forever and ever. This is not an afterthought of God. This is the plan from before the foundation of the world.

Everything else is subordinate to this plan. Everything else is put in place by God’s providence for the sake of this plan.

The display of the glory of God’s grace, especially in the suffering of the Beloved, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed, is the goal of creation and the ultimate aim of all God’s works of providence.”

–John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 173–174.

“The apex of God’s grace” by John Piper

“The implication of Ephesians 1:4–6 is that the grace of God is the apex of His glory. His goal is not just ‘the praise of His glory.’ It is ‘the praise of the glory of His grace.’

That is, the constellation of excellencies that make up the glory of God reach their most beautiful overflow in the expression of grace for undeserving sinners like us. And what has now become clear in the enactment of the new covenant ‘in His blood’ is that the humble, willing, obedient suffering of Christ for sinners is the apex of God’s grace—the place where that grace is most beautifully on display.

So grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory, and Christ in His suffering is the consummate expression of grace. Three times in Ephesians 1:4–6 Paul clarifies that the aim of praising ‘the glory of God’s grace’ is achieved ‘through Jesus Christ’:

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

‘In Him.’ ‘Through Jesus Christ.’ ‘In the Beloved.’ We know that these phrases are references to Christ’s work on the cross because in the next verse Paul says, ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7).

Therefore, the ultimate goal of God in His saving providence— namely, the praise of the glory of His grace— was achieved through the suffering of the Son of God, who died to deliver us from eternal suffering (2 Thess. 1:9) and bring us into everlasting enjoyment of His glory (John 17:24).”

–John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 170–171.

“The shadow of His death is present already in the description of His birth” by Sinclair Ferguson

“The Lord was wrapped in swaddling bands. The one who can ‘bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion’ (Job 38:31) lies now in a manger.

His little body, only a few pounds in weight, is firmly bound with cloths because it was feared that otherwise His limbs would be in danger of malformation. The Creator becomes subject to the cultural practices of the first century.

The One who populated the forests with trees lies within the bark of one.

The One who has always been face to face with His Father now stares into the face of His teenage mother.

The One whom the heavens cannot contain is contained within a stable. He who cradles the universe is Himself cradled in an animal’s feeding trough.

Yes, this is the kind of Saviour who is suited to the needs of shepherds! Indeed, if He can save shepherds no one is beyond His ability to save. He has stooped to the lowest of the low in order to raise them up to ‘God in the highest.’ (Luke 2:14)

Possibly Luke’s first readers, living as they did in a culture where observation and a good memory were important, might have remembered the language he used here as they came towards the end of his Gospel.

He echoes it when he tells us that once again the Saviour is to be found wrapped in linen bands and lying on borrowed property.

The One who began His life wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the animals’ manger ends it laid in rich man’s rock-hewn tomb, now wrapped in linen bands for a shroud. (Luke 23:53)

The shadow of His death is present already in the description of the details of His birth.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 154-155.

“In the order of being, the sacrifice of Christ came first” by Donald Macleod

“The evidence that Jesus and His apostles understood the cross in terms of sacrifice is overwhelming. There is something deeper here, however, than the struggle of bewildered disciples to find concepts by which to explain the tragedy which had overtaken their master.

It was not human ingenuity that discovered in the Old Testament sacrifices an interpretative framework for the cross. On the contrary, God Himself had provided that framework.

In the order of knowing, the Levitical sacrifices came before the sacrifice of Calvary; but in the order of being, the sacrifice of Christ came first.

He was the Lamb ordained before the foundation of the world, and the Levitical system was but His shadow. We need to be careful here.

Christ was not a priest only metaphorically. He was the true priest, and His sacrifice the real sacrifice.

It was the Aaronic priesthood that was figurative, and its sacrifices that were metaphorical. Just as Jesus was ‘the Root of David’ (Rev. 5:5), so He was the root of the Passover, the sin offering and the scapegoat, all of which were divinely configured to prefigure Him.

The understanding of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice is not a human convention, but a divine revelation.”

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 65.

“Between two thieves” by Donald Macleod

“A second detail recorded by both Matthew and Mark is that Jesus was crucified between two other criminals, one on His right and one on His left. The same fact is recorded by Luke though with slightly different wording. All three accounts stress the word ‘with’; they were crucified along with Jesus.

The Scripture referred to is Isaiah 53:12, and this verse is certainly quoted by Jesus Himself just before He goes to Gethsemane: ‘It is written, ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in Me. Yes, what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment’ (Luke 22:37).

There is no doubt about the authenticity of this passage, nor about the authenticity of the original words of Isaiah, and we must take them with complete seriousness. The truth they point to, Jesus’ solidarity with sinners, did not begin at the cross; it had been a fact throughout His life.

He had made Himself notorious as the friend of tax collectors and sinners and repeatedly allowed Himself to be compromised by associating with people of dubious reputation. But here at the cross the solidarity climaxes.

He is not merely among His two co-accused. He is together with them; and He is together with them specifically in their character as transgressors and criminals.

The full force of this is brought out in the original wording of Isaiah: He was numbered with the transgressors ‘for he bore the sins of many.’ It is not a matter of mere association or even, ultimately, of mere solidarity, as if He were just taking the position of a sinless one forced to endure the company of sinners.

He identifies completely. He lets Himself be reckoned as a sinner, and dealt with as a sinner; and not only by men, but by God. He has come to redeem sinners, but the way He will redeem them is by taking their sins as His own and becoming accursed in their place (Gal. 3:13).

By hanging Him in the middle, wrote Calvin, ‘they gave Him first place as though He were the thieves’ leader.’ Luther, ever more graphic, put it even more strongly: ‘He bore the person of a sinner and of a thief– and not of one but of all sinners and thieves… And all the prophets saw this, that Christ was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, etc., that has ever been anywhere in the world.’

Here, on the cross, He not only bears, but is (2 Cor. 5:21) the sin of the world; and so here, in solemn divine equity, the sword falls.”

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 38-39.

“Here, human justice condemns itself” by Donald Macleod

“Jesus was acquitted by the same lips as condemned Him: ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man,’ (Luke 23:4).

Here, human justice condemns itself. The criminal is on the bench, not in the dock, just as in the person of Caiaphas the blasphemer is the one at the altar, not the One on the cross.

The judge acquits the prisoner, and then sentences Him to be flogged and crucified.”

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 32.

“Slow motion” by Donald Macleod

“When it comes to Good Friday the Gospels go into slow motion. They have passed over in silence whole decades of Jesus’ life, and even when they pick up the threads of the public ministry there are weeks and months of which they say nothing.

But when it comes to the crucifixion we have the sequence frame by frame; almost, indeed, an hourly bulletin. The crucifixion narrative goes into slow motion.

It is the pivot on which the world’s redemption turns, and it involves such a sequence of separate events that we assume, instinctively, that they must have occupied several days. Instead we find to our astonishment that they all occurred on one day; and the events of that one single day are reported in meticulous detail.

Our printed Bibles do not, unfortunately, highlight the significance of Mark 14:17, where the evangelist introduces his account of the Last Supper with the words, ‘when evening came’. Unpretentious though they sound, they are momentous.

The Jewish day began with the sunset, and this ‘evening’ marks the beginning of Good Friday. Fifteen hours later, Jesus would be crucified, but these intervening hours would themselves be crammed with drama: the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the betrayal, the arrest and the trial; then the crucifixion, followed by the entombment.

From the Last Supper to His burial, a mere twenty-four hours; and so detailed is the account of His last few hours that we know exactly what happened at 9 o’clock in the morning (the third hour), at midday (the sixth hour) and at 3 o’clock (the ninth hour).

Against the background of the previous indifference to chronology, such detail is remarkable, and serves to underline once again the evangelists’ concentration on Jesus’ death.”

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 22-23.

“He interposed Himself” by Jonathan Edwards

“Consider the example of your glorious Lord and Master. There was a number of the souls of men committed by the Father into His hands, that He might take care for their salvation.

And after what manner did He execute His office?

How did He lay out Himself for the salvation of those souls?

What great things did He do?

And what great things did He suffer?

How hard was the labor He went through?

And how greatly did He deny Himself?

How did this great Shepherd of the sheep behave Himself when He saw the wolf coming to destroy the sheep?

He did not flee to save His own life, and so leave the sheep to become a prey; but from pity and love to the sheep, interposed Himself between them and their enemy, stood between them and harm, and encountered the wolf, and in the conflict gave His own life to save theirs (John 10:11–15).

We read of Christ’s travailing for souls, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied’ (Isaiah 53:10–11).

And how did He travail for this seed of His?

Look into the garden of Gethsemane, and there behold Him lying on the earth, with His body covered over with clotted blood, falling down in lumps to the ground, with His soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and offering up strong crying and tears together with His blood.

And look to the cross, where He endured yet far more extreme agonies, and drank up the bitter cup of God’s wrath, and shed the remainder of His blood, lingeringly drained out through His tortured hands and feet, and extravasated out of His broken heart into His bowels, and there turned into blood and water, through the vehement fermentation occasioned by the weight of grief and extremity of agony of soul, under which He cried out with that loud and lamentable and repeated cry.

Thus He travailed in birth with His seed; thus He labored and suffered for the salvation of those souls that the Father had committed to Him.

This is the example of the great Shepherd.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The Great Concern Of A Watchman For Souls,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 25. Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 72. This sermon on Hebrews 13:17 (“They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.”) was preached on June 8, 1743, at the ordination of Jonathan Judd.

“Christ crucified” by Stephen Charnock

“Christ crucified is the sum of the Gospel, and contains all the riches of it. Paul was so much taken with Christ, that nothing sweeter than Jesus could drop from his pen and lips. It is observed that he hath the word ‘Jesus’ five hundred times in his Epistles.”

–Stephen Charnock, “The Knowledge of Christ Crucified,” in The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1684/1865), 495.

“What an utterly profound privilege” by D.A. Carson

“There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be reconciled to Him by the crucified Messiah.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 52.