And He [Jesus], bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. (John 19:17–18 NKJV)
Golgotha, that notorious place just outside the wall of Jerusalem, was a name everybody recognized – and one that instilled terror in the hearts of those who had witnessed what went on there. Calling it “the place of a skull” probably had something to do with the topography of the area, but it had nothing to do with Jesus being crucified on a hill. The fact is that nothing is mentioned anywhere in the Gospel accounts about the crucifixion taking place on a hill or any other remote or out of the way place. Authorities wanted the torture and death that Roman justice often represented to play out where as many people as possible would be exposed to it. They also wanted the crucifixion crosses to be easily accessible in case some passerby might be inclined to add more abuse to the pain and humiliation already being inflicted on the victims hanging there. The place of the skull was more likely located at an intersection of roads frequently traveled in and out of Jerusalem.
Called to Golgotha ~
The worst news anyone in those days could imagine was that their last steps would end at Golgotha. But regardless of its reputation then, God continues to call each of us to come to a Golgotha meeting. As it was in Jesus’ day, it’s still a place where justice is applied, but it’s also a place where a gracious exchange is possible that shifts justice in a different direction. As strange as it may sound, an effective way to grasp what that means is to think seriously about, well … “nothing”.
The first time I ever thought about nothing as a concept was in a science class in high school. The subject of outer space had come up and the teacher was having a spasm gushing over how fascinating it was that outer space consisted mostly of nothing—a total vacuum. She was going on and on about how amazing it was that the immense expanse was for the most part, totally void of anything. She couldn’t get over all that emptiness and how appropriate it was that they called it “space”. Some of us were thinking deeply scientific thoughts like, “Well… Duh. If they didn’t call it “space”, what would we call spaceships?
“Nothing” Was Challenging ~
The notion of “nothing” is commonplace in our world. We rarely ever think about it, but it wasn’t always that way. People debated about different ways to understand it and define it, especially when it came to quantifying things and representing them numerically. Expressing nothing in mathematical symbolism was a challenge, and it wasn’t until around the fifth century A.D. that the handy invention of the “zero” came along. The ubiquitous little circle has eventually adapted itself to lots of roles, but its primary purpose is to indicate the total absence of any content or value in the category to which it is applied.
The idea of nothing is important to God, too, and He took care to mention it repeatedly in reference to different things. For instance, Jesus said that His followers were the salt of the earth and went on to say this:
… but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13 NKJV)
Jesus also used the term in explaining their relationship using the metaphor of a grapevine. He said that apart from an abiding relationship with Him, His followers would be like a vine separated from the branch that sustains it. Jesus summarized their capacity to retain life and produce fruit with this simple declaration:
Without Me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NKJV)
Before arriving at Golgotha, Jesus made an interesting statement to His disciples about Himself that also used the term. He said,
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (John 14:30 NKJV)
Jesus’ mention of the ruler of this world was in reference to Satan, who was coming after Him, intent on finding or creating anything in the Son of God that he could claim as his own. Jesus announced that his efforts would be futile. The devil would find “nothing”. No other human being in history had been, or ever would be, able to say that truthfully. Satan unleashed every force at his disposal to unveil any hint of a transgression and found “none”. Announcing the conclusion of the brutal examination that Jesus was subjected to, Pilate said simply,
Nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. (Luke 23:15 NKJV)
We have also been subjected to an examination. It was by a different source and with a different objective, but the end result was the same. God examined those He created in His image looking for the qualities that were like Him and He found none. Instead of reflecting righteousness, justice, selfless love, and lives marked by joy and peace, we displayed the opposite. We were found to be more like the image of His deceitful enemy. To some degree all of us proved to be selfish, disobedient, dishonest, lustful, rebellious, deceitful, obstinate, violent, and destructive. God looked for good and found evil. A search of the entire race for righteousness that would meet His standard produced nothing.
An Incredible Offer ~
That mockery of a trial preceding Golgotha took the One whose entire life produced no transgression of any kind, and certainly nothing worthy of death, and stood Him before a crowd just like you and me. He was judged and condemned by fearful, angry, selfish people laden with sins and who had nothing in them worthy of life. In response to it all, the God who demands justice, but who loves like no other, basically said, “Let’s meet at Golgotha. I have a trade to offer you.”
Jesus emptied a life with no flaws or transgressions and allowed Himself to become every vile, shameful, disgusting thing we ever did, or wanted to do. All that “nothing good” means, was poured into the sinless Lamb of God. The death that sin demands and all the dark agony it holds was imputed to Him, and the debt was paid in full on Golgotha’s cross. Because of that, God is able to transfer Jesus’ record of “nothing sinful” and “nothing less than pleasing to God” to all who are willing to repent of their sins and trust Him as Savior. That’s what the Golgotha exchange is all about . . . Jesus takes our nothing and gives us His. We come with nothing but justly applied condemnation, and He comes with nothing but unselfish love. Those who choose Him leave Golgotha with a place in the Father’s house and a love relationship with Him and each other like the one Jesus demonstrated.
The Ultimate Conclusion Awaits ~
But the story doesn’t end at Golgotha. Three days later, all those who accept the exchange God offers get to join Jesus in leaving death and the tomb behind forever. Those who decline His offer walk away from their last and only hope of forgiveness and life. There is no redeemer left and no advocate to intercede. All the suffering, all the hopelessness, and all the dark despair that eternal death represents are theirs to face . . . alone.
May this Easter Sunday morning find our souls flooded with the Light and the Life that Jesus brought out of that tomb. And may the Love He brought to Golgotha explode in us with endless and inexpressible joy.
. . . And, oh, if anyone asks what we did to contribute to this incredible gift or what we did to deserve or earn it, there’s one simple answer… Nothing!
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Jesus emptied a life with no flaws or transgressions and allowed Himself to become every vile, shameful, disgusting thing we ever did, or wanted to do. All that “nothing good” means, was poured into the sinless Lamb of God.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God can transfer Jesus’ record of nothing sinful & nothing less than pleasing to God to all who are willing to repent of their sins and trust Him as Savior. That’s what the Golgotha exchange is about. Jesus takes our nothing and gives us His.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We come with nothing but justly applied condemnation, and Jesus comes w/nothing but unselfish love. Those who choose Jesus leave Golgotha with a place in the Father’s house and a love relationship with Him and each other like the one Jesus demonstrated.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “All those who accept the exchange God offers get to join Jesus in leaving death and the tomb behind forever. Those who decline His offer walk away from their last – and only – hope of forgiveness and life.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “There is no redeemer left and no advocate to intercede for those who decline the exchange God offers. All the suffering, all the hopelessness, and all the dark despair that eternal death represents are theirs to face . . . alone.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
The Kindle e-version is just $1.99. No Kindle device is needed. E-book readers are included on most computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you don’t have one, the free Kindle app can be easily downloaded directly from the Amazon site on almost any device.
Click here for a “Look Inside” preview at Amazon.
© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.