Summary: Jesus… for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2.
THE SHAME OF THE CROSS
I want to speak to you today about the shame of the Cross. This is what we see in Hebrews 12:2, and which Paul elaborates elsewhere by saying that Christ took upon Himself the curse of the Tree that we might be redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13). The Cross represents the tree: the forbidden tree of the Garden from which Man ate (Genesis 3:6); the Pole on which the Serpent (representing the sins of Israel) was impaled (John 3:14); the Gallows on which Haman wished to make a display of his enmity to the godly Mordecai, only to be hanged high there himself (Esther 7:10).
We see this shame, too, in Psalm 70. There David is working out the principle of Psalm 1: separating the righteous from the ungodly. With some urgency he cries, “Make haste, O God” (Psalm 70:1; Psalm 70:5). It is as Jesus upon the Cross (cf. Psalm 22:1) that we make our own desperate appeals to the mercy of God, knowing Him as both “LORD” (Psalm 70:1) and “deliverer” (Psalm 70:5) - because that is who we have experienced Him to be.
There is a shame in the Cross, but nevertheless we undertake with Paul to ‘preach Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). This shame is manifested in one of two ways: either we must recognise our own guilt and shame which drove Jesus to the Cross and respond positively to the offer of the Gospel: or we must bear that shame ourselves. This is the meaning of the imprecations in the Bible - such as we find in Psalm 70:2-3.
Yet Jesus upon the Cross did not give full voice to these imprecations: He is not vindictive, as we have said before, but merciful. His prayer is, ‘Father forgive them, for they know what they do’ (Luke 23:34). The chief priests and scribes and elders mocked Him, and the criminals crucified with Him ‘cast the same in His teeth’ (Matthew 27:41-43). However, by the time the day was through Jesus had responded to the repentant thief on the cross, ‘this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43).
So yes, Lord, “Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek my life” (Psalm 70:2). Yes, “Let them be turned back”. Let them, Lord, not just be “appalled” (as in the Syriac translation) - but let them be “turned back” in repentance, for isn’t that what repentance means: turning away from our sins, and turning back to God?
The Psalmist even goes so far as to say, “Let them be turned back BECAUSE OF their shame” (Psalm 70:3). David says in the previous Psalm ‘the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me’ (Psalm 69:9); but Paul applies that to Jesus (Romans 15:3). We don’t have to bear our shame ourselves when Jesus has already borne it on the Cross!
There will always be those who will still be saying, “Aha, aha!” (Psalm 70:3) and shooting out the lip in ridicule (Psalm 22:7). However, Jesus’ prayer for those who seek God is for their ultimate joy; and for those who love His salvation that they will worship and magnify the LORD (Psalm 70:4). It is good for us to embrace His means of salvation, to take up OUR cross and to follow Him (Luke 9:23); then to return the praise to Him, who Alone made it possible.
In difficult times we might view ourselves as “poor and needy” (Psalm 70:5). However, when we know the One who is both our “help” and “deliverer”, we can fire our prayer darts in the full knowledge that He will respond. We can wait in confidence for Him in the full knowledge that, “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).
As for Jesus, His vindication came. The grave could not hold Him: He arose from the dead and is seated even now, His work completed, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). There He forever makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).