“Christ died for us” —Romans 5:8
By J Sidlow Baxter
from his book of daily readings—March 17
Here is a simple sentence of four words. The first two words state a historical fact: “Christ died”. The second two add the theological significance: “for us”. The full four form the crux of the Gospel: “Christ died for us”. Never did four short words hold a bigger or better message.
Isaac Watts in his immortal hymn, “When I survey the wondrous Cross”, could not have chosen a truer adjective than “wondrous”. From every aspect our Lord’s death on Calvary is “wondrous”. Most of all it is so in its intermingling of tragedy and sublimity, ugliness and loveliness. Think back just now to the historical act: “Christ died”.
Think again of the fact that He died. That in itself is a strange marvel. Remember He was God the Son. He had to become human in order to be even capable of death (Hebrews 2:9,14). It is a mysterious wonder that God the Son could die; still more that He should die; still more that He would die; and most of all that He did die.
Think again of the place where He died. We ourselves all hope to die in our homes surrounded by our loved ones; but our Lord was led out to Calvary, the very atmosphere of which was permeated with a gruesome eeriness. Many a crime-stained felon had been torturously done to death there, with foul language and wild shrieks and blasphemous oaths pouring from his lips. “And sitting down they watched Him there” (Matthew 27:36). Think of it: “HIM … there”!
Think again of the death that He died. He was crucified—the most lingering and torturously excruciating of all legally inflicted killings; and not only so, but the most shameful, exposed, humiliating, infamous and accursed of all executions. It was the lowest, hardest, and most degrading of all deaths. “There they crucified Him” (Luke 23:33).
Think again, now, with whom He died. It was not with a group of noble martyrs, giving themselves for a lofty cause, and bravely sealing their godly testimony with undishonoured blood. No, it was between two ruffians, two gangsters, two foul-mouthed murderers, who reviled Him. [They are not described as murderers in the Bible but “thieves” (Matt 27:38,44; Mark 15:27) and “evildoers” [malefactors] (Luke 22:32,33,39). The writer may have confused the description of Barabbas—cf. Mark 15:7.]
There He was, propped up between the two, as though worse than either! Suspended between earth and heaven, as though fit for neither!
Think again of the way He died. Although He had been treacherously betrayed, unjustly condemned, brutally bullied, whipped, mocked, and nailed there in agony, without one single crime that could be laid against Him, His first cry was, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do”! Even the sarcastic, gloating pharisees confessed, when once they had Him nailed up there, “He saved others …” (Mark 15: 31). To eyes that can really see things, His birth at Bethlehem was all the lovelier because it was in the rough stable; and His loveliness in death was all the more sublime because of the very ugliness which surrounded it on Calvary.
Yes think of it all again: “Christ died”. It really happened, on that stark hillock outside old Jerusalem: the most startling event of all the ages, the most incomprehensible mystery of the Godhead. He who built the pillars of the universe hung there, a disfigured corpse, on that wooden beam and transom! Must we not “pour contempt on all our pride”?