Why did it please God that His Son was brutalized? Why does a loving God allow us to hurt so deeply? What made Jesus' death any different from thousands who died just as He did?

Darkness covered the earth that day. The sun fled. From noon until three, the darkness of death hovered over the hill where the Son of God was dying. As Christians, we know the story well the nails ...

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The Darkness and the Dawn

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Why did it please God that His Son was brutalized? Why does a loving God allow us to hurt so deeply? What made Jesus' death any different from thousands who died just as He did?

Darkness covered the earth that day. The sun fled. From noon until three, the darkness of death hovered over the hill where the Son of God was dying. As Christians, we know the story well the nails in His hands, the thorns on His head, the gambling soldiers, the taunting thieves.

Charles Swindoll invites us to "return with me to those epochal days when our Lord walked into the awful darkness which He did not deserve only to arise into the sunlit dawn of triumph, providing us a victory from which we shall never know defeat." Go with him and you will find that, as only he can, Dr. Swindoll uncovers new meaning in the Cross and the Resurrection for those who face death and darkness today. His fresh perspectives on these core events of faith can help you see beyond the darkness to the new light of dawn.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781418556099
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/31/2006
  • Sold by: THOMAS NELSON
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 395,404
  • File size: 713 KB

Meet the Author

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as senior pastor to congregations in Texas, Massachusetts, and California. Since 1998, he has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

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Empowered by the Tragedy and Triumph of the Cross
By Charles R. Swindoll

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2001 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-1189-7

Chapter One

The Suffering Savior

No wound? no scar? Yet, as the Master shall the servant be, And, pierced are the feet that follow Me; But thine are whole: can he have followed far Who has no wound, no scar?" —Amy Carmichael

The Scottish essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle, used to say that the easy, somewhat superficial optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson maddened him. Carlyle believed it stemmed from Emerson's rather sheltered life, for no dark shadow had ever fallen across the man's path. To Carlyle, his contemporary over in America seemed like a man who, standing far back from even the spray of the sea, threw chatty observations on the beauty of nature to those dear souls battling for life with the huge waves beating against them, threatening to sweep them away.

Who knows? Perhaps Carlyle was right in his evaluation of Emerson; we cannot say for sure. But if my personal experience as an adult in the real world is at all reliable, I'm compelled to believe differently. Since he was merely a man and a part of our fallen race of humanity, even the brilliant and gifted Emerson must have had his share of sorrows and felt the sting of rough wind across his face.

The shadow of suffering falls across every path. Even the One who left heaven when He came to live among us was inseparably linked to that shadow. As one of His own followers later wrote, "He came to that which belonged to Him ... and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him" (John 1:11, The Amplified Bible).

No one knows what Christ looked like. But this has not deterred countless painters—among them some of the greatest artists of all time—from applying brush and paint to canvas to give their own creative version of His likeness. Two of the more memorable paintings I have seen bear the same title: "The Shadow of the Cross." Though originally painted by different artists, highlighting different scenes, both convey the same theme.

The first pictures a scene inside Joseph's carpenter shop, where Joseph is working alongside Jesus. Jesus, portrayed as a young teenager, has paused from His work to look out the shop window. He stands at full height, stretching His arms wide. In doing so, He is casting an ominous shadow across the wall behind Him. A shadow in the form of a cross.

The second painting depicts Jesus as a little lad, running with outstretched arms to His mother, the sun on His back. Cast upon the path before Him is the dark shadow of the cross.

Both paintings leave the indelible impression on the viewer that the cross was with Christ from the very beginning ... from His earliest days. We may not know what He looked like, but it is clear to all who examine the inspired record that He was intimately acquainted with suffering.

Certainly the cross was a looming reality throughout His life. Although Scripture does not tell us how, His young mind understood that the cross was ahead. His own words testify to this, even before He began His ministry, He sensed a compelling call to be about the things of His Father (Luke 2:49). Furthermore, while training His disciples, He was not hesitant to tell them about the suffering that lay ahead (Mark 8:31–33; Luke 9:44–45). Though such comments confused and even irritated His disciples, Jesus made it clear that each day brought Him closer to His hour of agony.

The Old Testament also gives us a stunning pen portrait of the shadow of the cross. Although writing about seven centuries before Jesus was born, Isaiah vividly foretells the Savior's suffering and death. As we examine this portrait, we see Christ from three perspectives: as men saw Him; as God saw Him; and as Christ saw Himself.

    It's All in How You Look at It

    Who has believed our message?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
    For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
    And like a root out of parched ground;
    He has no stately form or majesty
    That we should look upon Him,
    Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
    He was despised and forsaken of men,
    A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    And like one from whom men hide their face,
    He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    —Isaiah 53:1–3

What did Christ look like to the men, women, and children who met Him? To be completely honest about it, probably not much like the images we see in art museums, stained-glass windows, carvings and murals.

From the clues that Scripture gives us, it would seem that His physical appearance was not impressive. He wasn't tall, dark, and handsome. As the prophet foretold, the coming Anointed One had no "appearance that we should be attracted to Him." He didn't have pomp or flair—no stately form or majesty.

Instead, "He grew up ... like a tender shoot." Not a tall, stately reed; just a little, tender shoot. Fully human, a man with very real emotions, skin with delicate nerve endings, and tear ducts that were activated by sadness and grief. No untouchable giant of a man, He found Himself moved with compassion and stung by sharp words. Though undiminished Deity, He lived among us in true humanity ... like a tender shoot.

Isaiah also says that He appeared "like a root out of parched ground." This "parched ground" may refer to the land of Israel, which was nothing more than dust under a Roman boot when Christ came to earth. The world hated the Jews then as much of the world does now. Rome ruled over what they called Palestine with a rod of iron. And in the midst of that, Jesus must have seemed like a tender, fragile, vulnerable shoot making its way out of hard parched ground.

He had "no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him." Or, as The Living Bible puts it, there was "nothing to make us want Him." Men looked upon Him and they didn't want Him. John, who did see Christ in the flesh, says the same thing: "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). They didn't want Him. There was no apparent reason "that we should be attracted to Him."

"Aha!" you say. "What about the message we occasionally hear today that Jesus Christ swept into the Middle East and the first-century world was amazed at His presence and followed Him by the droves? That's not true, at least not for long. The majority of the people ultimately hated Him! They didn't want Him around. He wasn't the most sought-after celebrity of the day. He would never have made Time's cover, at least not the first-century edition, as "Man of the Year." Israel didn't want Him as their Savior. Oh, they wanted a savior—a man on a white horse to deliver them from their oppressors. But they did not want the Savior, because Jesus was not what they expected, not what they desired; so they despised Him.

"He was despised and forsaken." The Hebrew word that is translated "despised" is a term that means "to regard as negligible or worthless." In other words, Isaiah tells us that when people viewed Jesus, they would say, "He's worthless." This Hebrew term also means "to deplore and to give scorn to someone." They scorned Him. They deplored Him. He wasn't what they expected. Clearly, they despised Him.

The shadow darkens. He was not only despised; he was also "forsaken of men." Here the original language literally means "wanting in men." He didn't have a band of followers that would impress the public. No groupies. No hangers-on. No fans who would be a draw for others to associate with Him. He was "wanting in men."

In the eyes of men, He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He was a person "from whom men hide their face." Being despised, Jesus was seen as One the people "did not esteem." He was not considered valuable, and so they turned away or ignored Him.

Psychologists sometimes use the word "discount" to describe this kind of treatment. To discount someone is to nullify any of his or her significance—to ignore him ... to treat her as nothing. Criticism is not the greatest insult; neither is gossip or an outburst of anger. The greatest insult is to ignore a person—to act as if that person doesn't count, doesn't matter, doesn't even exist. That's what Isaiah describes here. The people personified the ultimate discount: They just didn't care if He was around.

Early in His ministry, Jesus knew what it meant to be wounded by the behavior of others. Such treatment was severely demonstrated, which surely scarred His tender spirit. Such scars within are not visible, but they are real wounds and are terribly painful.

Amy Carmichael describes the importance of our recognition of Christ's wounds in her poem, No Scar?

    Hast thou no scar?
    No hidden scar on foot or side or hand?
    I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
    I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
    Hast thou no scar?
    Hast thou no wound?

    Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent.
    Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
    By ravening beasts, they compassed Me, I swooned;
    Hast thou no wound?
    No wound? No scar?

    Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
    And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
    But thine are whole: can he have followed far
    Who has no wound, no scar?"

This is where some believers go astray. They become disturbed when followers of Christ are dismissed as extremist or oddball by the media and other critics—when they are unpopular in Hollywood, in sophisticated circles in New York, and within the beltway of Washington D.C. They forget that being a follower of Christ has never been a popular thing to be—that it has never been easy. Though written long ago, Amy Carmichael's question remains relevant: "Hast thou no wound, no scar?"

Now, we've seen how men and women perceived Jesus, and how even His own people, the Jews, viewed Him. But what was God's perspective of His own Son? Isaiah describes it this way:

    Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
      And our sorrows He carried;
      Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
      Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
      He was crushed for our iniquities;
      The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
      And by His scourging we are healed.
    All of us like sheep have gone astray,
      Each of us has turned to his own way;
      But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
      To fall on Him.
    —Isaiah 53:4–6

And then, later in the same narrative, this bold, categorical statement appears: "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief" (53:10a).

God saw Jesus as our substitute. God also saw His Son's suffering as a part of His sovereign will. The Savior's suffering, therefore, pleased Him. Yet the Father was not unconcerned about His Son when He went to Calvary. The people of Jesus' day may have dismissed Him as insignificant, but certainly not the Father! He describes the sufferings of His Son in vivid terms: "Griefs." "Sorrows." "Stricken." "Smitten." "Afflicted." "Pierced through." "Crushed." "Chastening." "Scourging." God had placed on His Son all of our iniquity, and He gives us a clear picture of what that meant to Him, God the Father.

Isaiah 53 is a portrait of a crushed, chastened, scourged individual. I cannot overemphasize this. We need to revisit the scene in order to have a realistic image of the Savior of the Scriptures. Despite all of His power and His unquestioned majesty, we must not picture Him as some kind of Super-hero. He was, truly, the Suffering Savior. Crushed and broken and bleeding, He pursued His God-ordained mission when He went to the cross for us.

Recently we have seen renewed interest in World War II, in everything from Tom Brokaw's bestselling book, The Greatest Generation, to Tom Hanks' hit movie, Saving Private Ryan. But those of us who are old enough to remember that war and that era need no reminders. Although I was just a boy in elementary school during that turbulent time, I will never forget the news photographs that were released and printed when the war had ended and the gates of those chambers of horror at places like Dachau and Auschwitz were opened. Or the photos of torture from Corregidor. Concentration camp victims ... prisoners of war ... reduced to gaunt, bleeding human skeletons. Crushed and broken survivors. Brave men and women stumbling out into a new existence of freedom and the sunlight of new hope.

Such tragic images give us a glimpse of what the Savior must have looked like, what He must have experienced when He endured the agony of the cross.

The people dismissed His appearance and His significance. The Father saw Him as the Suffering Substitute. But how did Christ see Himself?

Perhaps the most vivid portrait of all is the one Christ paints of Himself through Isaiah's pen:

    He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
      Yet He did not open His mouth;
    Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
    And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
    So He did not open His mouth.
      By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
    And as for His generation, who considered
    That He was cut off out of the land of the living,
    For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?
    His grave was assigned with wicked men,
      Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
      Because He had done no violence,
      Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
        —Isaiah 53:7–9

As He carefully draws the picture, as He guides the strokes of Isaiah's stylus from one word to the next, Christ describes Himself as "oppressed" and "afflicted." Oppressed means "to be pressed hard, to be driven." It could even be taken to mean "to be plagued" or "hard-pressed." Afflicted means "to be bowed down, to be made low, to be forced into submission." Yet, in spite of and through all this, "like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth."

In a former pastorate I knew a man who had lived in the West, up in the high plains. He was familiar with sheep raising, and I've never forgotten one of his descriptions.

"When he shears the wool from the sheep, the shearer wants to take a full pelt, without cutting into it," he said. "But when you shear, you have a fight on your hands. You have to set the sheep on its haunches and then start with the belly and work around the sides. What you have on your hands is just one long wrestling match. It takes several people to get the job done.

"But you know something?" he added (and this was the amazing part to me), "When you lead a sheep to slaughter, he's just as silent and as passive as can be."

I think of that when I read Isaiah 53:7–8: "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth."

Peter, who saw the Savior tried and crucified, records Jesus' silence in similar terms:

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. —1 Peter 2:21–24

And here, once again, we find a reference to the wounds of the Suffering Savior. In the original, the word is "wound" (literally, "bruise"–singular), not "wounds" (plural). One writer has described Jesus' appearance after the awful torture and the brutal blows of scourging as "one massive bruise."

Isaiah refers to this in these terms: "His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Some commentators and translators have described it this way: "His appearance was marred more than that of a man," meaning that when you looked at Him, you didn't even see Him as a man because His face and body were so bruised, swollen, and bleeding.

As a climax to this important section of Isaiah 53, we come upon what has been called "a holy paradox."

    But the Lord was pleased
      To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
      If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
      He will see His offspring,
      He will prolong His days,
      And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
        —Isaiah 53:10

Jesus was not murdered. He gave up His life willingly. Furthermore, as we have already noted, the Father found satisfaction in the death of His Son. The crushing of His Son was planned by the Father. That massive wounding, those crushing blows, were all designed by a loving Father. A holy paradox indeed! The crucial question is "Why?" Why would it please the Father to allow His Son to be bruised?


Excerpted from THE DARKNESS AND THE DAWN by Charles R. Swindoll Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


1. The Suffering Savior....................1
2. The Cup of Sacrifice....................15
3. Midnight in the Garden....................29
4. Three O' Clock in the Morning....................43
5. The Six Trials of Jesus....................57
6. The Man Who Missed His Cross....................83
7. The Way of the Cross....................97
8. The Darkest of All Days....................113
9. "Father, Forgive Them"....................123
10. "Today You Shall Be with Me"....................137
11. "Behold, Your Son! Behold, Your Mother!"....................151
12. "Why Have You Forsaken Me?"....................165
13. "I Am Thirsty"....................177
14. "It Is Finished"....................191
15. "Father, into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit"....................203
16. Lessons in Obedience ... Taught Severely....................215
17. What Is Your Verdict?....................233
18. A Sunday Morning Miracle....................251
19. Curing the Plague of Death....................269
20. Breaking Death's Jaws....................287
21. Triumph for the Undeserving....................305
22. Hope for the Unforgiven....................323
A Chronology of Events....................340
The Trials of Jesus Christ....................341
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