The Free Obedience of Christ
"The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." – Isaiah 50:5-7
Isaiah 53:10-12 describes the death of our Lord Jesus Christ as that which God the Father did to his Son when he made him to be sin for us. Isaiah 50:5-7 describes our Lord’s sacrificial obedience unto death, even the death of the cross as our voluntary Surety and Substitute.
Like all the law of God given to Israel, the law regarding the bond slave in Exodus 21:1-6 was a messianic, prophetic law. It portrayed the work of our Lord Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s righteous Servant. In the covenant of grace, before the worlds were made, the Son of God, our Savior, became Jehovah’s voluntary Servant that he might redeem and save his people by his free obedience to God as our Substitute. This is what Isaiah describes in Isaiah 50:5-7.
The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the most wonderful, astounding, magnificent event in the history of the universe. Nothing that is, has been, or shall hereafter be can be compared to it. Yet, as he was suffering the wrath of God, bearing the sins of his people, dying as the voluntary Substitute for guilty, hell-deserving, hell-bent sinners such as we are, we hear the Son of God expressing the most woeful, unexplainable lamentation imaginable. "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger" (Lam. 1:12).
When I hear those words falling from the lips of the Son of God as he hangs upon the cursed tree, I simply cannot avoid asking, “Of whom does the bleeding Lamb of God speak these words? To whom is the death of Christ meaningless and insignificant?”
Nothing in all the universe is more wonderful and magnificent in the eyes of God than the death of his dear Son. The Savior himself declares, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life!” The angels of heaven, like the cherubs facing the mercy-seat, ever look into the mystery and wonder of redemption by the blood of Christ with astonishment. God’s servants, faithful gospel preachers, are so overwhelmed with the wonders of redemption and the glory of the Redeemer that they never cease to study, glory in, and preach the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Isa. 6:1-6; Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 2:2). Redeemed sinners on the earth cherish nothing, delight in nothing, marvel at nothing, like we do the death of our Lord Jesus Christ for us (Gal 2:20; 1 John 3:16; 4:10). The ransomed in glory appear to think of nothing and speak of nothing except the dying love of the Lamb in the midst of the throne (Rev. 5:9-12). Hell itself looks upon the death of Christ as a wonderful, unexplainable, mysterious thing. I am certain that this is one thing that Satan himself did not understand - That Christ would triumph over him and crush his head by his death upon the cross. Else he would never have put it into the heart of Judas to betray the Master.
Yet, astonishing as it is to imagine, there are some to whom our darling Savior speaks, as it were with astonishment, to whom his death is meaningless, insignificant, nothing. Who are these people to whom the death of Christ is nothing? Who is it that thinks little of the sin-atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ? Our Lord is here addressing himself to everyone who passes by him, passes by his sacrifice, passes by his death as the sinners’ Substitute. O unbelieving, Christless soul, it is you! O cold, calculating, heartless, preacher, you who pass by the crucified Christ and take to your lips meaningless, insignificant things (politics, social issues, denominational squabbles, religious history, traditions, etc.), it is you! Christ crucified is mundane, meaningless and insignificant only to unregenerate, unbelieving souls.
It is my heart’s prayer that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ will be made the most important thing in all the world to you who read these lines. I pray that you and I may become totally consumed with the crucified Christ, that our hearts, our lives, every fiber of our souls may be constantly dominated by the death of Christ as our sin-atoning Savior.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is written, “grace is poured into thy lips,” declares plainly that his death at Calvary was the free, voluntary act of his own obedience to his Father’s will, by which he won his Father’s love as a man, as our Mediator and Surety. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18).
The Father’s Commandment
In John 10, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of himself not as God the eternal Son, but as the Good Shepherd, the Mediator, the Surety of his people. He says, “This commandment have I received of my Father.” With those words he declares that his death as our Substitute was arranged by God before the world began (Ps. 40:7; Heb. 10:7-10). The death of Christ was not accomplished by the arrangement of men, or by the arrangement of hell, but by the arrangement of the Triune God (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-20). The death of Christ at Calvary was accomplished by the arrangement of infinite love, through an eternal covenant, by the work of Divine providence (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8; Heb. 10:5-14).
The Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life voluntarily, as an act of free obedience to his Father. No man forced him to die. God the Father did not compel him to die, or take his life from him. Oh, No! Our Savior died voluntarily, by his own will. His death was accomplished by his own will. “He poured out his soul unto death.” It is true, as we have seen, “it pleased the Father to bruise him.” The Father cried, “Awake, O sword, against One that is my fellow. Smite the Shepherd.” But Christ took the cup of wrath in his own hands. The Son of God fell willingly upon the sword of justice. Our Savior died by his own will. The Lord Jesus laid down his life for the satisfaction of justice. Our Savior laid down his life as the Substitute for chosen sinners. The Son of God laid down his life for the glory of his Father. Our blessed Redeemer laid down his life because of his love for us. The Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life that he might take it again (Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:5-11).
The Father’s Love for the Son
Our Savior says, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life.” I know of nothing in heaven or earth so sweet to meditate upon and so impossible to explain as the Father’s love for his darling, dying Son. The Father loved him for the loveliness of his Godhead. The Father loved him for the beauty of his holy humanity. The Father loved him because he laid down his life for us. The Father loved him as the glorious, saving, effectual Mediator of his people.
God himself never saw anything in all the world so lovely, so infinitely worthy of his love, admiration, and honor, as the death of his dear Son upon the cursed tree for his people. “Herein is love!” Because of this great act of love, because of this great act of Christ’s free obedience to the Father as our Surety, the Father has given his Son everything (Isa. 53:4-12; John 3:35; 17:2).
Let us learn from the words and example of our Lord and Savior that though God’s child may suffer greatly in this world, may often have to carry a heavy cross, and may often have the Father’s face hidden from him, yet he is the darling object of his Father’s love. Never did the Father more fully love his Son than when he was heaping upon him the fury of his wrath.
God honors those who honor his Son. The only way a sinner can honor the Son of God is to trust him. The only way of access to God is Christ. Our only worthiness of the Father’s love and approval is Christ (John 17:22-26). Yet, in Christ, because of Christ, for Christ’s sake, God loves us. God the Father gave his Son to die for us. God the Son laid down his life for us. God the Spirit now sprinkles us with the blood of Christ and declares us “Redeemed.” "Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”