“My God, My God, Why?”
by Evangelist Robert L. Sumner
“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
– Mark 15:33, 34
Here is an insight into the tremendous depths of the personal suffering which the Lord Jesus endured on the cross of Calvary. This is what He prophetically referred to when the two brothers, James and John, came to Him, as recorded in the tenth chapter of this same Gospel, asking for the privileged seats on His right hand and on His left in the coming kingdom. The Lord Jesus told them, “Ye know not what ye ask; can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Vs. 38). The cup, of course, referred to His inward sufferings; the baptism to the outward.
They foolishly said, “We can.”
Then the Lord replied, in effect, “Well, all right, you can. You, too, will die a violent death at the hands of men.”
One of the brothers, James, was the first of the apostles to die a violent death, and John, the other brother, was the last. But when Jesus asked, “Can you drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with,” He was in reality referring to the agonies, the sufferings at Calvary that He was to endure in our place and stead.
Of the depth of the drinking of that cup and the awfulness of that baptism, I don’t suppose any individual can ever know or will ever fully, truly understand. In order to comprehend the intense sufferings of Christ, in order to understand this cry, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” one would have to go to Hell and taste the agonies of Hell itself.
But even to go to Hell would not be sufficient. We would need to go to Hell as a sinless one, as one who had never committed any iniquity of our own, one never guilty of any personal sin. Yet even that would not be sufficient.
In order to understand the agonies of the suffering He endured it would be necessary to go to Hell as the sinless Son of God. Only He, God the Son – the only one who was sinless in Himself – could understand fully all that was involved when He died on the cross and cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
It was said that the great reformer, Martin Luther, sat for hours in one position in his study studying this cry from the cross. After considerable meditation he was seen to rise from his seat and heard to exclaim in amazement, “God forsaken by God! Who can understand that?”
Who can understand that? God forsaken by God! When we arrive in Glory and know as we are known, I dare say we will not even then fully comprehend all the sufferings and all the implications behind the agony of Jesus Christ when He was forsaken by the Father. And let me emphasize, too, that He was forsaken on the cross, that the Father did turn His back upon Him at Calvary.
One time I was talking with a fellow minister of the gospel who was passing through a particularly grievous situation. His boy had gotten into trouble out in the West; word had come to the father and mother about his awful sin, and they were heartbroken. I talked with them a bit and prayed with them; then, as I got ready to go, the man’s wife said to me, “Brother Sumner, I don‘t see how I can stand it sometimes. It seems in this that God has forgotten all about us. It is like the heavens are brass. It just seems that the heavens have clouded over and hidden God’s presence, and God doesn’t even know or care about the circumstances we are passing through.”
When she said that, the husband interrupted with an emphatic, “No, no!” And turning to me, he said, “Robert, it’s just as I’ve tried to tell her and help her to see: Our situation is like that of the Savior on the cross. His agony was so great and His suffering so intense that when He died, He cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ But the Father hadn’t forsaken His Son. It was just that in agony of the hour He imagined His Father had forsaken Him.”
That was neither the time nor the place for a theological controversy – and he was old enough to be my grandfather, say nothing of my father – so I remained silent, but as I left the house that day, I said in my heart, “No, that is not right; Jesus Christ was never mistaken about one single thing, ever, not on one single occasion. He was never deceived about any matter whatsoever! It was not merely that He thought He was forsaken by the Father, but He actually had been forsaken, and there was a real reason for it.”
There are several reasons, for that matter, but note first that the word forsaken in itself is a composite of three different words – “to leave,” “down,” and “in.” It means literally to leave in the lurch, to leave destitute, to leave helpless, to forsake, to quit. And the total meaning is that of leaving someone helpless in a terrible situation – when everything looks hopeless – in a circumstance of despair and apparent defeat. That is exactly the meaning of the word, and that is exactly what happened on the cross of Calvary when the Father turned His back, and when the Son cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why …?”
Surely you will acknowledge that the reasons compelling the Father to turn His back upon the Son must have been tremendous! So much so that the earth trembled and shook beneath the load and the sun blushingly refused to look upon the scene, dressing itself instead in a black mourning robe for three solid hours – from 12:00 o’clock noon until 3:00 o’clock that afternoon. Tradition says that Diogenes – the man literature portrays with a lantern going about looking for an honest man – observed in Egypt the solar darkness that covered the earth and said to his companions, “Either Deity suffers at this hour or sympathizes with one who does.”
Deity was suffering at that hour! Eternal fellowship was being broken between Deity – Father and Son. But why? What was the reason; what was the cause? Was it necessary? Did it have to be? There are three answers that I want to impress upon you now, any one of which is alone sufficient to prove it was necessary for the Son to be forsaken.
The First Answer I present to You is:
I. BECAUSE OF HIS POSITION:
Bearing Our Sin!
The first reason the Father forsook the Son was because of His position – He was bearing our sin. Please keep in mind that God has always, eternally, as long as iniquity has existed, hated sin with a holy passion. You need only to pick up the pages of this sacred Book and begin to read its story until you are impressed over and over and over again with the intensity of the hatred of God against iniquity, against unrighteousness, against sin.
For example, when you commence reading this Book, in only the third chapter of Genesis you will find an earthly pair – Adam and Eve – who lost an earthly paradise because of a single sin. It tells of the curse of God upon the man, the curse of God upon the woman, the curse of God upon Satan, and the curse of God upon the ground because of one single act of disobedience. Just one sin caused them to lose that wonderful paradise! Just one sin and the wrath and the judgment and the curse of God came upon them. Just one sin expelled them from the beautiful Garden of Eden. Just one sin – but the awful curse and wrath of God was poured out upon them because of it.
A few chapters on in the Word of God you will find where, because of the sin of man and because of God’s holy hatred of that iniquity, God broke up the fountains of the deep and opened wide the windows of Heaven – water boiled up from beneath and water flooded down from above – and a mighty torrent of water which continued for forty days and forty nights blotted out all life, destroying every single human being upon the earth with the exception of the eight righteous souls who were in the ark that had been prepared under the instruction and supervision of Almighty God. An entire human race save eight souls was wiped out in a moment’s time because of God’s holy hatred of sin!
You read on in the book of Genesis a few more chapters and you will learn how the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot, because of the stench of their sin and the wickedness of their actions, were destroyed as “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Genesis 19:24). Yes, from God, from Heaven, came the mighty judgment of the Almighty upon the Sodomites because of their homosexual sin. God does hate sin with a holy hatred!
You read on in the Bible and you will discover, in the tenth chapter of Leviticus, where the sons of a High Priest – Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu – offered strange fire which God had not commanded at the altar of the Lord. Verse 2 tells us, “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” because they had offered the strange fire. Strange fire, and the judgment of God came! The iniquity of a priest in his service for God, but doing that which God had not commanded – or contrary to what God had commanded – brought the judgment of God immediately upon them. Yes, God hates sin.
You can read in Joshua 7 how an entire nation was defeated in battle, stymied in their forward advance into the Promised Land, because of the one sin of one man, Achan. Because of God’s wrath over that single sin, the entire nation was blighted and held back in defeat until it had been judged and put away; then the nation rode on again to victory and triumph with the blessing of God.
You will read in the New Testament the same story of God’s hatred of sin. Just one illustration: Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead – both of them smitten by the judgment of God about three hours apart – because they broke their vow and lied to the Holy Spirit.
Yes, all the way through this Book – Old and New Testament alike – every place you turn you will find the curse, the wrath, the blight, the judgment of Almighty God upon sin. God hates sin!
Everything in the world about you reminds you of His hatred of sin. The toiling laborer who earns his bread by the sweat of his face is a reminder of God’s hatred of sin. The laboring, travailing woman who goes down into the valley of the shadow of death in childbirth to bring back life – the sorrow, the agony of that pain is a mark, an evidence of His hatred against sin. The thistles, thorns, briars and kindred results of God’s curse upon the ground are evidences, reminders of the Divine hatred of sin. Sickness, sorrow, death, blindness, deafness, lameness, – all are evidences of the fact that God hates sin with a holy hatred.
Even in such things as beautiful roses – with all their fragrance and loveliness – God has attached the piercing thorns to remind the admirers of the rose and the lovers of beauty, fragrance and sweetness that He hates sin, and that His curse because of sin is upon this earthly creation. Yes, wherever you turn you find the evidence, the fruit, the proof that God hates sin.
Then remember that when Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary, He was dying according to I Peter 2:24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree …” He was bearing our sins on the cross of Calvary.
It says in II Corinthians 5:21 “He [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” When Jesus Christ hung on that wooden cross on that skull-shaped hill of Golgotha, he was bearing your sin, my sin, and the sin of all the world. God had made Him to be sin for us!
The word translated sin here is a word that means – and is translated thus in other places – a sin offering. He made Him to be a sin offering for us and the Father placed all of the sin of all ages on Him there. John 1:29 describes it with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
We sometimes talk about this sin offering in abstract terms. We speak of how Jesus died for the sin of all mankind, how all the sin of all men of all ages was upon Him at the cross of Calvary; yet our weak finite minds comprehend very little of the magnitude of that load of sin.
Take the sin of lying for example. People are born liars, and continue to lie throughout their lifetimes. “They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies,” the Scripture tells us (Psalm 58:3). Think of the lies that were spoken just today, this one day in this nice religious college town of Wheaton [where this message was preached]. Then add to that the lies of Dupage County, plus all the lies told in neighboring Cook County’s Chicago, plus all the lies told throughout the State of Illinois, plus all the lies told today throughout the entire United States of America. Then add to that all the lies of the Kremlin and the rest of Russia, England, France, Spain, Portugal and the remainder of Europe; all the lies of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and the islands of the sea.
Then add to the lies told around the world just this one day, the lies of all the days, years and millenniums past from the time that Satan first began speaking lies and fathering them in the hearts of all who would permit him. Then visualize the lies that will be told tomorrow and all the tomorrows until the end of time when Satan is hurled into the lake of fire forever, all sin is put down, and righteousness rules and reigns without interruption. If your mind could grasp the immensity of this you would have a picture of just the guilt, the curse, the condemnation, the stigma of this one sin of lying which He bore “in his own body on the tree!”
Then multiply by that the sins of murder, adultery, stealing, gossip, slander, unbelief, sorcery, envy, drunkenness, hatred, murmuring, homosexuality, and all of the thousand-and-one different sins of all people of all times of all ages – past, present and future! Then realize that the awful guilt and condemnation of them all was placed upon Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary. What an awful sight it must have been for the One whom Habakkuk 1:13 tells us “is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.”
When all the sin of all ages was placed upon the Lord Jesus, the Father – because of His personality, because of His nature, because of His hatred of sin – was compelled to turn His back. The Son cried out in anguish of that hour, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The fact that He was taking our place, bearing our guilt, receiving our condemnation forced that forsaking by the Father of the Son.
I tell you, it was an awful thing when He died. Can you imagine, not just the physical agony of the crown of thorns, the spear, the nails in His hands and feet, the Roman cat-o-nine-tails upon His back, but the spiritual and the mental agony that the holy, sinless Son of God endured as the weight and woe and guilt of the sin of the world was placed upon Him?
Voltaire, the infidel historian, tells us that when King Charles IX of France died, his death was “of a most unusual order.” He died in such agony that the blood actually forced its way out through the pores of his skin. We know that this wicked king died in such anguish because of the terrible crime he committed in the heinous murder of the Huguenots, when he had them viciously and helplessly slaughtered. Before he died he said to his physician, “Doctor, for months I have been in a fever, physically, spiritually. If only I had spared the innocent, the weak-minded, the crippled, the women and children!” The awfulness of that sin as it weighed upon his mind literally drove King Charles IX of France insane! One sin! And remember, too, that one sin was committed at the desire, instigation and compulsion of another: wicked, vengeful Catherine de’ Medici. Yet that lone sin drove him mad.
Then, when you realize the Son of God had not just one sin upon Him, but all and every sin of every sinner of all ages, you can well imagine the awfulness of the mental anguish He suffered on the cross of Calvary.
They crowned Him with thorns,
He was beaten with stripes,
He was smitten and nailed to the tree;
But the pain in His heart
Was the hardest to bear,
The heart that was broken for me.
But let’s make it personal. It wasn’t just the sin of the whole world. It wasn’t just the sin of all ages. It was my sin, it was your sin that caused Him to suffer on the cross to such an extent – being forsaken by the Father!
In talking about Barabbas, one author let his imagination run wild in considering his reaction after the jailer came, opened his cell, and roughly dragged him out. He expected, of course, to be led to the place of crucifixion; after all, he was scheduled to die that very day. He was under condemnation with a just sentence of death by crucifixion. He was expecting to die a cruel, painful death on a cross. Then, imagine his joyous surprise when he was told that he was free; that as a result of the pleading of the people and the decision of the Roman governor, Pilate, he had been chosen as the one to be given freedom that Passover season!
This writer continued his flight of fancy as he portrayed Barabbas meeting his cronies, going from tavern to tavern, drinking the cheap wine of the day and gradually becoming intoxicated. Then, the writer visualized, about noon or a little before, Barabbas staggered out of one tavern, was hurled or jostled along with the crowd out toward that hill named Golgotha. There he saw the three rugged crosses planted on the brow of the hill, not an unusual sight for that particular day and time, perhaps. The writer then imagines that as Barabbas turned to one of his cronies to make a jesting remark about the agony of those on the crosses, suddenly his eyes met the eyes of the One in the middle and something more powerful than wine sobered his heart and mind. The grin was wiped from his face as he cried out in exclamation, “Jehovah God! That’s my cross He’s dying on!”
That is simply the imagination of one Christian author about what might have happened to Barabbas. What really did happen we have no way of knowing, but you listen to me about this! One thing is certain: this business of Heaven, this matter of soul salvation will never be obtained by any individual until he comes to the place of realization about the death of Jesus Christ: “Jehovah God! That’s my cross He is dying upon! That’s my place He’s taking! He is dying in my stead, in my room, on my behalf!”
As the prophet Isaiah tells us, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This is a personal matter, an individual matter. Jesus Christ died for my sin. Jesus Christ died in my place. Jesus Christ died in my behalf. Yes,
Down from, His glory and splendor He came,
Into a world of woe;
Took on Himself all MY sin and MY shame,
Why should He love me so!
But because He did,
How can I help but love Him,
When He loved me so;
How can I help but love Him,
When He loved me so.
Yes, “My God, my God, why …?” Because of His position – He was bearing our sin.
You have just read the first part of Dr. Sumner’s message. Part Two will be here soon.
This message first published in The Biblical Evangelist. Used by permission.
II. BECAUSE OF HIS PERSON:
Becoming our Sacrifice!
Hear me again. Not only because of His position, but because of His person the Father was forced to forsake Him; He was becoming our sacrifice. John 1:29 says, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the whole world.” First John 2:2 tells us, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world.” The Lord Jesus Christ was taking our place at the cross of Calvary. He was becoming our sacrifice. He was God’s sacrificial lamb being offered to take away our sin.
Read the Old Testament. Every sacrifice in the Old Testament that had to do with atoning for sin was consumed, or cut off, or completely destroyed in some way. For example, there was the whole burnt-offering which burned all night long on the altar of fire that never went out. And even then, the next morning, the ashes were taken without the camp and cast away.
It was the same with the sin offering. It was first slain and the blood sprinkled seven times before the veil of the sanctuary, then on the horns of the altar of sweet incense and poured out at the altar of burnt-offering. The fat was burned on the same altar and then what remained was burned without the camp.
It was the same with the trespass-offering. It, too, was slain and the blood sprinkled at the side and bottom of the altar, a memorial portion was burned, and the remainder was consumed by the priest.
The same was true on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest selected two kids of the goats for sacrifice. One of them was slain, the blood was caught in a basin, and the High Priest with incense burning before him to hide from his view the mercy seat in the holy of holies that he die not, entered the secret place to sprinkle the blood upon that mercy seat. He then came forth and took the other goat, the one called the scapegoat, placed his hands upon its head and confessed the sins of the children of Israel. Then that scapegoat was consumed; that is, it was taken outside the camp and driven into the wilderness never to return again. Yes, all the Old Testament sacrifices that had to do with judgment against sin were cast off; they were consumed; they were destroyed!
The Lord Jesus Christ was our sacrifice, our offering for sin. As Isaiah 53:10 tells us, “His soul shall be made an offering for sin.” Since He was our offering for sin it was necessary for Him to be consumed; He needed to be cast off. And it tells us in Hebrews 2:9, He “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
Notice that statement: “That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Death here, of course, as always in the Scripture when used in the spiritual sense, simply refers to that separation which takes place between the individual and God.
Death is separation! That is why the Bible tells us that the person who is not saved is dead in his trespasses and sins. That is, he is separated from God. He is cut off from God. He has no connection, no union with God. The Bible goes on to tell us that if the individual continues in that separation of death, when he dies physically and stands before God in judgment, he will be cast into the lake of fire. This, we are told in the Bible, is the second death; that is, it is the second separation, the eternal final separation of the sinner from Almighty God.
Therefore, when Hebrews 2:9 tells us that the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary was tasting death for every man, it simply means He was tasting that separation from God which our sins had earned and deserved. As another has said, “My Hell, your Hell, and all the fires of all the Hells of all guilty sinners were burning themselves out upon Him when He died at Calvary.” And so they were! He was tasting death and paying the price of spiritual separation from the Father in your behalf, in my behalf, and in the behalf of every single sinner of all ages.
Oh, what a wonderful story we have to tell of this Savior who came to take our place, the Lord of Glory who came to die in our stead! I could not pay for my own sins. I could not give a sacrifice of my own that would be sufficient to atone for my sins. So He came and took my place. He paid the price. He met all the requirements at the cross of Calvary.
The wrath of God that was my due
Upon the Lamb was laid;
And by the shedding of His blood,
My debt was fully paid.
Yes, so it was! My debt, and the debt of every sinner who will put his faith and trust in Him, was paid at Calvary. Someone may say, “But I don’t understand how the death of just one could take care of all the sins of all mankind. How could this suffering separation by one atone for the sins of all who put their faith and trust in Him?”
It all depends, of course, upon the sacrifice. It is conditioned upon the merit of the one who pays the price. And the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, because of who He was as God the Son, paid completely the price of sin for all sinners.
Here is an illustration of how this principle works. Back in the Old Testament, in II Samuel 18, David was talking to his people about going out to war to regain the kingdom his son had stolen. He said in verse 2, “I will surely go forth with you myself also.” He said, in effect, “I will personally lead you into battle.” The people responded, “Thou shalt not go forth; for if we flee away, they will not care for u; neither if half of us die, will they care for us; but now thou art worth ten thousand of us therefore now it is better that thou succor us out of the city.”
Notice that they said about David, “It would be better for ten thousand of us to die than for you to die.” In other words, “You alone – because of who you are as the king of the people – are worth ten thousand of us.” If David had been slain, it might have been the end of that young kingdom. It surely would have thrown all the people into confusion and turmoil with the result, no doubt, of a terrible slaughter among the Israelites. So they said, “No, no; you are worth ten thousand of us!” And in that sense he was.
So, because of who He was, the Son of God was worth, as far as the scales and balances of eternity were concerned, more than all of the world with all its individuals of all ages. His death could and did pay the penalty of all sin, of all sinners, past, present and future who would receive Him as their personal Lord and Savior. “My God, my God, why …?” – because of His person; He was becoming our sacrifice.
III. BECAUSE OF HIS PURPOSE:
Buying Our Salvation!
Let me give you one other reason: not only was He forsaken because of His position in bearing our sins, not only because of His person in becoming our sacrifice, but because of His purpose: He was buying our salvation.
He said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Mark 10:45 declares, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” It says in I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Jesus Christ came to earth for one reason and that was to save sinners, to give His life a ransom for many, to purchase the salvation of everyone who would accept it as a gift from Him. He said in Hebrews 10:7, “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will O God.” He said, in effect, ‘The whole book tells about Me and bears witness to the fact that I have come to do the Father’s will.’ He came to fulfill the will of God in buying salvation for sinners who would trust Him.
The Bible tells us about those who have already accepted His salvation, “ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20, emphasis added). Yes, we “are bought with a price,” purchased with the very blood of Jesus Christ poured out at Calvary. He said to the redeemed in I Peter 1:18, 19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” We are blood-bought! Our salvation was purchased at Calvary when the Son was forsaken by the Father. Gerhard Ter Steegen, the Swedish poet wrote about it:
“Still, O Soul! the sign and wonder
Of all ages see –
Christ, thy God, the King of glory,
On the cross for thee;
From the Father’s bosom come,
Wandering soul, to bring thee home.
“Wouldest thou know if Jesus loves thee?
If He loves thee well?
See Him suffer, broken-hearted,
All the pains of Hell –
Smitten, bearing in thy room
All thy guilt, and all thy doom.
“See Him of His God forsaken,
Hear His bitter cries
Rise unanswered through the darkness
Of the silent skies –
See the fountain of the blood
Shed to bring thee back to God.
“Mine the sin, O mighty Saviour,
Laid by God on Thee—
Mine eternal condemnation
In Thy cross I see –
In Thine agony divine
See the curse that else were mine.
“See the conquest and the triumph
Thou for me hast won;
Justice satisfied for ever,
All God’s pleasure done.
Thus, O Smitten Rock! from Thee,
Life eternal flows to me.
“Unto me, the base, the guilty,
Flows that living flood;
I, Thine enemy, am ransomed
By Thy precious blood.
Silent at Thy feet I lie,
Lost in love’s immensity.”
I wonder what that love means to you today? It was this great love that brought the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, down from the glories of Heaven to the tasting of the Hell of Calvary for sinners such as you and me.
The story is told that Kazainak, the robber chieftain of Greenland, came to a missionary’s hut one day as he was translating the Scripture into the native language. He stood and silently watched the minister a moment, then inquired as to what he was doing. The missionary said, “I’m taking these letters and with the letters I am making words. With these words this Book is able to talk to us.”
The robber chieftain said, “Would it talk to me?”
“I’d like to hear it talk to me.”
The missionary turned to the story of the crucifixion and began to read of the sufferings and the humiliation of the Son of God. The robber chieftain listened very carefully and when the missionary paused in the reading he interrupted to question, “Why? What’s this man done? Has He killed someone? Has He stolen another man’s wife? Has He robbed? What has He done?”
The missionary said, “No, He hasn’t killed. He hasn’t robbed. He hasn’t stolen another man’s wife. He has done nothing of that nature. This man never once sinned.”
And the amazed robber chieftain asked, “Then tell me why they are doing that to Him? Why are they treating Him so?”
The missionary then explained to him some of the wonders of the atonement and told him the story of His taking Kazainak’s place on the cross of Calvary. As he told him about Christ’s dying in his stead, that robber chieftain, whose hands were stained with his own brother’s blood, stood and wept like a baby at the wonderfully sweet love story of the One who had paid that kind of a price to buy him an eternal salvation.
I wonder about you. Have you heard it too much? Has this story of the cross become so commonplace, so general run-of-the-mill variety that it no longer stirs your heart in loving appreciation for what He has done?
When I was a boy my father used to tell us fascinating stories. As a matter of fact, the folks could get us to go to bed at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon if Dad would tell a story. He had stories about Jimmy Chipmunk; stories about Robert the Rabbit; stories about Harold the Snake – every kind of story you could think of. Some were made-up animal stories and some were true-life human stories. I didn’t always know when he was telling true stories or when he was making them up to please us.
But I remember one story he told me time and again that broke my heart every time I heard it. After I came to years I learned it really was a true story and that he got it from one of Dr. Rueben Archer Torrey’s sermons. Dr. Torrey, the successor to Dwight Lyman Moody at the Chicago church, insisted that it had been verified by a professor at the University, where the incident took place. of North Carolina
My dad used to put me up on his knee and tell me about this husband and wife – a fine farm couple – and their only son. They solemnly vowed when the baby was born that he was going to have a chance in life and not be handicapped as they were by a lack of formal education.
They stayed true to their word. When he graduated from high school they gathered together what they had saved for his tuition and sent him off to college. He was going to become a medical doctor and they figured it would be at least seven long years before they saw him again, since he would need to work summers in the city to stay in school.
After about two years, the father said to the mother, “I just can’t stand it any longer. I will have to make the long journey to visit our boy.”
He went out and hitched the horse to the buggy and started off. It took him several days to get there but he didn’t mind the journey for the joy in his heart. They were in very poor circumstances; every penny they had been able to set aside had been used to help their boy through school. The daddy’s clothes weren’t so good; the buggy was pretty much out of date; and the bones on the old horse were sticking out. When he hit that college town, my, the laughter! Everyone who saw him said, “Look at that old man! Look at that old horse!” So they joked. But he didn’t mind; he was looking for his boy.
As he drove along across that campus looking and searching, way off down the street his old eyes recognized his son and another boy coming toward him. But what he didn’t know was that the boy walking with his son had looked up and said, “Hey, would you look at that! Look at this old fool coming down the road with that old horse and that old buggy!” And so they laughed together.
When the father got almost to the young men, he dropped the reins, bounced over the side of that buggy, ran full speed down the sidewalk, threw his arms open to the boy and shouted, “Son! I’m so glad to see you!”
But the boy quickly sidestepped and said, “Sir, you must have made a mistake. You’re not my father. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before in my life, so far as I know.” The ungrateful son turned on his heels and walked off, leaving his brokenhearted daddy standing there in open-mouthed amazement.
When my father would tell me this story and remind me of the sacrifices those loving parents had made for their son in sending him to school, I would weep like a baby. I could never understand why the boy would treat his daddy so contemptuously, even though he didn’t have good clothes and the horse and buggy weren’t much. Even if everyone else were laughing and mocking, I couldn’t understand why the boy wouldn’t boldly step out, throw his arms around his daddy, claim him as his own, and return a portion of the sacrificial love his father had made for him!
My father said that the old man got back in the buggy, went back home, unhitched the horse, fed him, watered him, went into the house, sat down in his rocking chair, and died of a broken heart. I say, I’ve never been able to understand that story. I couldn’t when I was a boy; I cannot now.
But I tell you truly that the story of the ungrateful son is dead easy to understand – it is the height of simplicity to comprehend – in comparison with the story that God Himself left Heaven’s glory; took upon Himself the form of a servant; went all the way to the cross of Calvary; was spit upon; had His beard pulled out by the roots from His face; had His back beaten with the lashes of the dreaded cat-of-nine-tails had the Roman nails driven through His hands and feet; had the crown of thorns jammed upon His brow; was jeered at, laughed at; was blindfolded and smitten in the face; was mockingly invited to prophesy; was challenged to come down from the cross; was weighted with all the sins of the world upon Him; tasted all the physical, mental and spiritual agony that He did in order to buy salvation for sinners; then to have a sinner meet Him and say, “I won’t have You. I won’t let You come into my heart. I won’t receive You. I won’t let You save me. I won’t let you take me to Heaven. I want my own way. I prefer my own sin. I want my own life,” and turn away from Him. I tell you, it is far easier to understand the attitude of the boy who turned down his daddy than it is to understand the attitude of a sinner who turns down such a Savior as this!
Can you reject such matchless love?
Can you His claim disown?
Come give your all in gratitude,
Nor leave Him thus alone.
Why not right now, this moment, let this lovely, wonderful Savior come into your heart and save you forever? He will! He said in Romans 10:13, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is God’s Word and all of Heaven stands behind it. The sinner who will trust Him and will call upon His name shall be, shall be, shall be saved, according to God’s own Word! Will you trust Him?
Decision for Christ
If you are willing to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior right now, simply ask Him, in the light of the above Scripture, to forgive your sin and become your Lord and Savior. Then, let us know of your decision. Either write us a letter in your own words, or use the following decision form to let us know and rejoice.
Dr. Robert L. Sumner
5717 Pine Drive
Dear Dr. Sumner: I have read your sermon about the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary and can no longer remain indifferent or ungrateful. Right now, this very moment, I am receiving Him as my Lord and Savior, trusting Him to forgive my sins and change my life. In humble, earnest gratitude, I want to love Him and serve Him the rest of my life.
Kindly send me some information about how to live for Him and honor Him as a Christian.
State _______________ Zip _____
This two-part message first appeared in Dr. R0bert L. Sumner’s publication, The Biblical Evangelist. Used by permission.