Did ever man appear so hopelessly lost, so completely put to naught, so utterly defeated as our Lord in the hour of his suffering and agony on Calvary? His enemies had triumphed over him. He was forsaken by his own, condemned by the Church, sentenced by the worldly judge. There was no one to defend his cause. He had been mocked at and filled with reproach, beaten and buffeted and spit upon, scourged and crowned with a crown of thorns. And finally he had been led to the place of the Skull. And there “they crucified him, and two other with him, and Jesus in the midst.” John 19:18. He is numbered with the transgressor, exposed as a criminal, in fact, as the chief of them, as public enemy number one! And even so, his enemies know not pity. And all that are present and watch this dreadful spectacle, as well as those that pass by—the chief priests and the people, the soldiers and even the malefactor that were crucified with him—mock and jeer and taunt him, sarcastically challenging him to deliver himself and come down from the cross, thus contributing to and bringing out in bolder relief the picture of utter helplessness and defeat he presents. And does not God himself set his seal of approval upon this execution of judgment by men? For darkness envelops the cross, and soon from the darkness the terrible cry of utter amazement is heard: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Was ever man so utterly forsaken by God and men, as this man Jesus as he is hanging on the accursed tree?
But hark! The crucified one speaks once more! He complains of thirst, but the note of amazement that was in his voice a moment ago is gone. And again he cries out. And is there not this time a note of triumph in his voice? Is not this next to the last cross utterance an announcement of victory? “It is finished!” he shouts. And in the consciousness of having finished all, he now beckons death to take his earthly frame, and commends his spirit into the hands of the Father. Surely, this is not the death of a defeated man. He appears to be in perfect control even of the moment of his own death. And in the hour of what seems to be his utter defeat he announces the victory: “It is finished!” And while men slink away from Golgotha smiting their breasts and admitting defeat, God from heaven corroborates with signs and wonders the shout of triumph by his Son on the cross. Indeed, the moment of Christ’s utter defeat is the beginning of his glorious victory! He is victorious even in his defeat!
*This section was taken from the beginning of Chapter 7: Victorious Defeat in the book When I Survey by Herman Hoeksema.