Turn aside and see this great sight!
(Hugh Dunlop, "Altogether Lovely!" 1896)
"When all the people who had gathered to witness that sight saw what took place, they beat their bosoms and went away." Luke 23:48
There have been . . .
many wonderful sights upon the earth,
many sad and sorrowful sights,
many grand and awe-inspiring sights
— but never before or after in all the world's history, such a sight as was seen by the group that gathered around the cross. What a strange and motley group it was! How many kinds of sinners were represented there!
There were the hardened Roman soldiers who gambled for His clothes. There were the mockers, the revilers, the chief priests and scribes who hated Him — the rulers who derided Him — the people who wagged their heads saying, "If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!"
There were also the weeping women, the trembling disciples, and — best of all — the penitent thief who trusted in Him for salvation in that dread hour, and gave Him a sweet foretaste of the "joy that was set before Him," for which "He endured the cross, despising the shame."
Other spectators also, unseen by human eyes, were doubtless there — Satan and all his horrid hosts, the Victor's baffled foes, watching Him with malignant hate; the holy angels, too, looking on with silent awe; and God Himself, Who was about to "bruise Him and put Him to grief" and "make His soul an offering for sin" — Whose voice even then shook the deep, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd and against the Man who is My Fellow!"
As Moses took his shoes from off his feet, when he drew near to see the burning bush — let us also with reverence and adoring love, now turn aside and see this great sight!
That was a sight of WONDER. What do we see?
The Lord of glory — put to open shame!
The Creator of Heaven and earth — nailed to a cruel cross of wood!
The King of kings and Lord of lords — treated as the vilest malefactor!
The holy Son of God — crucified!
He who was the very Fountain of life, whose life was the light of men — dying!
That was a sight of SORROW. We live in a world of sorrow, a valley of tears. "Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble." "Man is born to trouble — as the sparks fly upward." "The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now."
But, of all men, Jesus was "a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief." He saw His Father's law broken, His Father's name dishonored, His Father's love despised. "Rivers of water run down My eyes — because they keep not Your law." How His soul must have turned with loathing, from the defilement in the midst of which He walked — while His heart was bursting with pity for the sinners whom He had come to save! Now was the culmination of His woe. His holy nature shrank from the slightest touch of sin — yet now "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree" — and what that meant, God alone can tell.
That was a sight of SIN! What is sin? Its very essence is revolt against the Most High God. And here we see the crowning manifestation of this revolt. God's law had been broken, His commandments disobeyed, His name dishonored by a rebellious world — but never was the enmity of the human heart so intensely shown as when they crucified His beloved Son!
Oh, the malignant hate with which sinners cried "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him, crucify Him!" The awful wickedness with which they closed around His cross, "breathing out cruelty!" The madness that cried, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" They mocked, they wagged their heads, they railed, they scoffed — and in their puny impotence, defied the God of Heaven!
That was a sight of WRATH. If the crucifixion of the Son of God was the most awful manifestation of the sin of man — so was the cross also the most terrible revelation of divine wrath — the righteous wrath of a holy God! Not all the woe of the lost — not the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, of which God in His compassion warns us in His Word — not all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth of those upon whose heads God's righteous judgments fall — can reveal to us, as does the cross of Christ, the attitude of God toward sin!
In the cross of Christ, we see the burning holiness of God, Who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and cannot look upon evil."
Here we see the inviolable righteousness of God, who "can by no means clear the guilty."
And here we see the terrible fierceness of His anger, the sword of His justice, the tempest of His wrath! "God is angry with the wicked every day" — but here the whole of His wrath against sin was gathered up and burst forth with relentless fury!
Against whom did God's anger burn?
Against whom did God's sword awake?
Upon whose head did God's storm of wrath burst?
Not upon the heads of the guilty sinners — but upon the sinless One, the Holy One, the spotless Lamb of God!
That was a sight of LOVE!
What pen can write,
what tongue can tell,
what heart can comprehend
— the infinite love of God? Behind the awful wrath and righteous judgment — was the eternal love. Back in the counsels of eternity "God so loved the world." Why, we cannot understand; only we have heard of "the great love with which He loved us" — and we know of the great redemption which He planned for us. Yes, it was out of the infinite depths of that deep, mysterious love for the souls whom He had made, that the cross of Christ grew!