27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 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 hast thou forsaken me?
35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.
37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. –Mark 15:27-35
The Gospel of Mark tells what happened at Calvary from a human perspective. A man who was perceived to be an enemy of Rome was taken and crucified without mercy between two thieves. “And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors” (Mark 15:28).
While some mocked Jesus in His hour of agony, others, such as the centurion in charge of the gruesome ordeal, knew that a grave injustice was being done, for he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
From a human point of view, a Jewish rabbi was being put to death.
Many in Israel thought the man in the middle of the two thieves, on the hill of Golgotha, might have been the Messiah, but surely that could not be possible.
“The real Messiah would never allow Himself to be hung on a tree,” they thought. “Did not the Law of Moses teach, ‘he that hanged is accursed of God’ (Deut. 21:23)?” So the people passed by waged their heads in disbelief, shame, and mockery.
Jesus died the death of the wicked. He died in shame. He died having suffering beyond the endurance of most humans, for His body has been broken by a whip. His brow had been crushed by a crown of thorns.
He had been punched, spit upon, and humiliated by countless hands.
Then, Jesus cried out, and gave up the ghost (Mark 15:39). Jesus dismissed His spirit.
The days of His humiliation were almost over, for He had to be buried among the dead. That was done by Joseph of Arimathea who took the body of Jesus, and placed it in a tomb, after having it wrapped in a burial cloth.
What those who were at Calvary that day, some in hatred, others with love in their hearts, did not comprehend was that, from a Divine perspective, the Battle of the Ages was being waged in the spiritual world, for Jesus was making an atonement for sin.
Those who were not spiritually minded did not perceive this, for the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit, for he is not spiritually discerning. The natural man only saw a young Rabbi cut down in the prime of life. A Good Man, to be sure, but that was all He was in the end.
It was only after the resurrection of Jesus that individuals would begin to fully comprehend who Jesus was, and what He had done at Calvary. It was only after the Holy Spirit came to indwell individuals and illuminate their hearts and minds, that people would learn about the work of redemption, and how Jesus saves.
No doubt you have heard that Jesus saves, have you not? That idea has been immortalized in a lovely song by Priscilla J. Owens (1882).
“We have heard the joyful sound:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves;
Onward! —’tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
Perhaps you would like to know how Jesus saves? If that is the case, then you will need to learn some Biblical words and theological truths.
First, Jesus saves by making an atonement. The word atonement in the Hebrew is kaphar, and means “to cover, cancel.”
At Calvary Jesus covered the sins of His people with His own blood, thereby canceling the wrath of God which demanded such a payment for sin. Your sin, and mine, offends the righteousness of God.
If we are to have fellowship with Him, an atonement for sin must first be made. You and I cannot adequately atone for what we have done, but Jesus, the Righteous one, can. So, the blood of Jesus was shed, and Calvary covers it all.
“Calvary covers it all,
My past with its sin and stain;
My guilt and despair,
Jesus took on Him there,
And Calvary covers it all.”
Ethelwyn Robinson Taylor
Second, Jesus saves by His work of expiation. Expiation means to purge out. The sacrificial death of Christ was expiatory, in that Jesus purged sinners from the pollution of sin. Jesus suffered vicariously the punishment that you and I should have suffered.
“O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!”
Philip Doddridge (1702 – 1751)
Third, Jesus saves by His work of propitiation. To propitiate means to satisfy. The wages of sin is death. There is a physical death. There is a spiritual death. Death means separation from God. When Adam sinned, he began to die physically, but he immediately died spiritually. The full and complete fellowship he had with God in the cool of evening each day was broken. In order for fellowship to be restored, the wrath of God against sin had to be propitiated. This was done in the Old Testament economy through an animal sacrifice, which became a type of the Lamb of God which would one day take away the sin of the world. That day came at Calvary. Darkness covered the land while Jesus engaged in the work of propitiation. 1 John 2:2 explains what happened once the midnight darkness was removed. Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
A word of caution is in order in understanding propitiation, and 1 John 2. To say that Jesus Christ, the Righteous Advocate, is the propitiation for the whole world, cannot mean that Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God for all sins, of all men without exception, for that would lead to a doctrine of Universalism.
What is logical, and consistent with Biblical theology, is that Jesus Christ, the Righteous advocate, is the propitiation for all men in the world without distinction, Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, not all men without exception. On the night of His birth, the angels told Joseph that Mary would bring forth a son. “And thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
How Jesus saves His people is by satisfying the wrath of God. In 1926, Baylus Benjamin Mckinney (1926) wrote a lovely song that addressees this issue.
“I am satisfied with Jesus,
He has done so much for me:
He has suffered to redeem me,
He has died to set me free.
I am satisfied, I am satisfied,
I am satisfied with Jesus,
But the question comes to me,
As I think of Calvary,
Is my Master satisfied with me?”
Because of the work of propitiation of Jesus at Calvary, there is Divine satisfaction with any person who confesses sin, repents, and embraces Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Fourth, Jesus saves by His work of imputation. Imputation means to charge to one’s account. The righteousness of Christ is imputed, or charged to the account of the believer. In Romans 4:3 we read that Abraham believed God and it was counted, or imputed to him for righteousness. Augustus Toplady (1776) also believed in Christ. He understood the doctrine of an imputed righteousness, an alien righteousness, not his own, and wrote an immortal song.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
How does Jesus save? Jesus saves by His work of atonement, expiation, propitiation, and imputation. The result is that sinners can be justified, or declared righteous. Hallelujah! !hat a Savior!