The book of Romans can be broadly divided into two parts. The first part speaks of justification by faith alone through the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, while the second part speaks of the work of God and our sanctification.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are justified legally, penally, and freely by His grace, since the wrath of God was poured out upon His only begotten Son in our stead (see Romans 3:19-24). As the redeemed of God, we are called to this Remembrance Feast to celebrate, worship, and adore the One Who took the punishment of our sins upon Himself – our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
What did this punishment look like? We will never know the full extent of it (at least not this side of eternity), but we know Jesus Christ became a symbol of mockery and shame, enduring the cruellest of all human sufferings at the hands of sinful men. He was flogged, beaten, spit upon, reviled, and suffered every type of pain and wound known to man: physical, mental, and spiritual – culminating to being crucified on a cross He, Himself, had to bear.
Pilate put Him on display, mocking the children of Israel’s hope for a Messiah with his words, “Behold your King!” (John 19:14). Perhaps he was hoping to escape the responsibility of putting an innocent man to death by presenting a pathetic, weak Jesus before the ones who took offense at Him. Of course, his plan did not work; instead, this cowardly governor went ahead and fulfilled the wishes of the masses, crucifying the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Pilate viewed Christ as a mere man, acknowledged He was without fault, and presented Him as a sad excuse for a King to the Jews. The Jewish mob viewed Him falsely as a blasphemer and an insurrectionist. John the Baptist declared Him for Who He truly is, the dear “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ calls Him “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”. One hymn writer presents Christ as the Man of Calvary:
That Man of Calvary Has won my heart from me, And died to set me free, Blest Man of Calvary!
The horrific suffering at Calvary of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, where He was marred more than any man beyond even human recognition, speaks volumes about God’s wrath. It was as if God, in essence, was saying, ‘Look at what My wrath is like!’ Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the Great Divide is cast: we are either sinners, sadly, remaining in our sin, who will experience God’s wrath as punishment, or we are sinners saved by grace, who are, mercifully, spared God’s wrath, since it was satisfied in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who bore it all for us.
Our God is both just and the justifier of those who place their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even as God did not allow Adam and Eve to be justified and then remain in their sin after making sacrificial provision for them, so also, God does not only justify us through Christ’s sacrifice, but makes us new in Him that we might be dead to sin and alive to righteousness (see Romans 6)!
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21-24)
Though words are not enough to capture the joy and gratitude that should fill our hearts, may we still praise Him for our justification and sanctification upon every remembrance of Christ: “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2)