Still following the theme of looking ‘behind the ranges’ for treasures that can be found in God, we come now to the smallest of these hills, and yet the highest –Mount Calvary.
Calvary follows on not so very many days after the revelation on the mountain of transfiguration. Obviously we have all found treasures at Calvary if we have found Christ as our Saviour, and it is a subject to meditate upon for the rest of our lives. There are just one or two aspects that I’ve felt to focus on for today.
As we think of Calvary, there is a sense of a darkness, not in a sinister way, but Calvary was dark: it grew very dark there physically. The hordes of darkness were there to try to obscure Christ. But His light could not be hidden. And there is a sense of entering the cloud of darkness there that I associate again and again with the revelation of God in the cloud that led His people through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. On the inside it was a fiery, cloudy pillar, but there were times it would just have seemed like a dark cloud. It was a thick darkness that Moses entered into on Sinai, but on the inside found the revelation of God in a very wonderful and very beautiful way. On the Mount of Transfiguration it was a bright cloud; it seems to me that the revelation of Christ was so strong that it was the brightness of His light that was shining. We come to Calvary, and we come there often, certainly to begin with, in our dark hours; we come in our need, and in our most lonely moments: Calvary is the place to go. And for Christ there must have been a darkness about it: the hour of suffering and the hour of sorrow. We read:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But 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 53:3–5)
There is a wealth of material to meditate on regarding Calvary and regarding Christ Himself. That is where the deepest treasure is: meditating upon Him. But I want today to look at the treasure that I suppose we first come upon and begin to find there at Calvary. We find Him as our Saviour, and in that discovery we find something of the love of God. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). That was the text on my calendar on Armistice Day, and it gave the example of an occasion when American troops were in Korea fighting an ongoing battle over many days. One day they recaptured their position on the hill where they were fighting and found the body of the major. A young soldier, moved by his death, said: ‘He didn’t belong on this hill, he didn’t have to be here, but he was, just the same.’ That makes us think of Calvary. He didn’t have to be there, but He was, just the same. Christ didn’t need to be there, but we needed Him to be there.
We come there and find many treasures, too many to cover in a short time. But one of the first treasures that we find and go on finding is forgiveness. Is ‘forgiveness’ not one of the most beautiful words in the world? Perhaps even sweeter than hearing someone say: ‘I forgive you’ is when someone who has wronged us says: ‘Please, will you forgive me?’ It takes a hard heart to say No. I do remember when I was a young person one of my sisters had offended me. She asked if I would forgive her, and I said: ‘Well, I might forgive but I won’t forget!’ I’m happy to say I have forgotten! But that’s not at all what God is like. His forgiveness is so deep.
I had cause for various reasons to be meditating this week on these words of Christ:
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:24)
They are easy words to accept until we are in a situation where there is someone that we find it hard to forgive, and we think of that prayer of Christ. Sometimes it’s because one of our friends has been wounded by another. I have a dear friend who is having a very difficult time just now, and being really persecuted by another (not by anyone in the church), and I thought: ‘Can I really say: ‘Father, forgive that person’? – because I know what I would really like to happen with that person! I would certainly like them to be stopped from their wounding behaviour. And yet God’s standard is so high. Christ is saying: Father, forgive them. What must it have been like for the Father to have to forgive those of us who have wounded His dear Son? And yet how rich, how deep that forgiveness is, how full it is. And how we sometimes stay away too long, and yet He is inviting us, saying: For the sake of My Son, the power of His blood and the efficacy of His Name, there is forgiveness.
Along with forgiveness there comes healing: by his stripes we are healed. Often when we come to God for forgiveness there are wounds of our own sinning that have to be healed. Sometimes when we have to come and ask Him for grace to forgive other people there are wounds that have been inflicted upon us, and the heart knows its own bitterness. There is only one place of healing, and it is that place called Calvary. And indeed don’t we sometimes find in a dark and lonely hour there is no other place to go, and we suddenly remember: I can go to Calvary, and Calvary always has an answer, showing to us healing.
He is called the place of repair of His people (Joel 3:16, KJV margin). In these modern days of the consumer society we tend to throw away things, but something we really treasure we like to get mended. Where it’s ourselves, whether our bodies, our spirits or our hearts, we can’t just throw them away. There is only one place of repair, but it is a tremendous place. From that hill called Calvary (dark, bitter, sore for Christ), to us there come, blown in the breezes by the Holy Spirit, a breath of sweetness, a breath of healing, a breath that wafts to us the very fragrance of heaven itself and of the Son of God. He didn’t belong on that hill, and yet in a way He does: it was foreordained from before the foundation of the world that He would lay down His life upon that hill and bring to us immeasurable sweetness. It says in the Song of Songs:
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. (Song of Songs 4:6)
What other mountain is that but Calvary? A place of death, associated with myrrh, and yet of healing ointments that sweep over our soul; a place of frankincense, gift given to a King, foreshadowing or foretelling the infinite sweetness, the healing spices that flow to us from that place called Calvary.
Wherever you are today and whatever state your being, your spirit, is in, it might be that you badly need forgiveness and have been too ashamed to come and ask God for it. Try Him. Try that fountain that never fails, that opened on Calvary’s hill. Try Christ. It may be that the wounds of life have stricken you, and you struggle to keep going. There is a place of repair, and it’s that place called Calvary, the place where Christ is always to be found. And the shadows become light for us as He emerges.
O Calvary, dark Calvary, the thorns, the nails, the spear,
’Twas there Thy love, my Jesus, in flowing wounds appeared.
O depth of love and mercy, to those dear wounds I flee;
I was a guilty sinner, but Jesus died for me.
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