I just wonder if you sit down and study through all of those introductions that you are going to make here on Wednesday night, my suggestion would be that the next book you write, you keep a track of all of these introductions; just make a book of those introductions. They are eloquent. They are beautiful. They are chaste. They are Elizabethan; they are Shakespearean; they are Periclean. They are inspired, I tell you. I would like for my monument to be a tombstone big enough on which all of these introductions could be engraved. I would make an impression on posterity, thereby.
Well, Dr. Eddleman, I have come to another conclusion that I hope that I can achieve. When we come to the spring I am hoping that I can also discuss on Wednesday night, having followed through “The Scarlet Thread through the Bible,” I would like to prepare a series in that context on the theology of atonement. And it may sound forbidding and foreboding, but actually for all of us who have been through these days and have been introduced to the biblical story of what God has done to save us from our sins, I think a study of the theology of the atonement – a systematic looking at, presentation of what God has done, not just what He has done, which is what we are doing now, but the theology of it, the meaning of it, a systematic study of it – I think it would be a marvelous, marvelous course. So the spring semester then, we will call “The Theology of the Atonement.” And I pray God will bless it as fully and richly as He has as we follow the line of it, the thread of it, through the Bible.
Now last Wednesday night we summarized the story of the atonement in the Old Testament: the scarlet thread through the Old [Testament]. Now we are coming to the New Testament, and the title of the lecture tonight is the thread of Redemption through the Life of Christ. And how very much in keeping with the season in which we are now enjoying that the first topic is the three announcements of the appearing of the world’s Redeemer.
There were three of them. The first one was made to Zacharias the priest in Luke chapter 1:8-. And in that announcement, the angelic speaker, the wonderful angel from heaven, Gabriel, he said that this son was to be a forerunner of the glorious promised Messiah of the Old Covenant. And he directly linked the son that was to be born to Zacharias the priest and Elizabeth his wife – both of them aged – he directly linked it to a prophecy that closes the Old Testament. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the… day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” [Malachi 4:5-6]. That closes the Old Testament.
So we are waiting for the glorious announcement of that Elijah who is to be the forerunner to go before the face of the Christ the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world [Malachi 4:5]. And that announcement is made by the angel to Zacharias the priest [Luke 1:17]. And it is interesting to know that in Malachi verse 1 of chapter 3 it says, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple” [Malachi 3:1].
Now, it is wonderfully interesting to see that this announcement that was made by Malachi, which closes the Old Testament, is fulfilled in a temple to a priest. “I will send My messenger, he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord Messiah Christ Redeemer, whom you seek, will come suddenly to His temple” [Malachi 3:1]. That is fulfilled in the temple, that prophecy in the announcement to a priest.
And also do you remember, I commented on the prophecy of Haggai in chapter 2 and verse 9? When the people who came back from the captivity were rebuilding the temple, the old men who looked at it wailed and lamented and cried because of the desolation and desecration and destruction all around them. It was such a hopeless and a helpless prospect. And in order to encourage the people to build the temple, a project that they had stopped because of discouragement, Haggai the prophet said that this latter temple shall be more glorious than the former one [Haggai 2:9]. Now that looked almost ridiculous in sound for the prophet Haggai to say such a thing as that, for the former temple was the Solomonic temple, built in all of its glory. And this temple was attempting to be raised out of a scene of debris and rubble, where the Babylonians had destroyed the whole world around them. And this little house of God, they were attempting to raise – a house about, oh, I’d say at the most, half as big as this auditorium – yet Haggai says that this temple that you are now building is going to be more glorious than the former one, the one built by Solomon. Then you remember my comment on it was that prophecy was fulfilled in the fact that it was Christ Himself who came and taught in that temple, the one that they were building in the days of Haggai. Which shows us that no matter what the promise of God, it may seem staggeringly ridiculous to us; how could such a thing come to pass? But we are not to stagger at the promises of the Lord. And I don’t think anybody in the earth who was in sympathy with the Lord Jesus would deny that the temple to which the Lord came was infinitely more precious to us than all of the glory of Solomon’s temple because Jesus taught there, visited there, came there.
But in any event, the first announcement of the coming of the world’s Redeemer was made to Zacharias the prophet as the one time in a lifetime the lot fell for him to go into the Holy Place and there to burn frankincense on the golden altar before the veil while the people prayed outside [Luke 1:8-10]. And the announcement was made to him that he in his age, and Elizabeth in her age, would have a son, and he would go before the face of the promised Redeemer [Luke 1:13-17].
Now the second announcement is made to Mary of the house of David, in Luke 1:26-38. And in that glorious announcement of the angel Gabriel, also there was fulfilled the promise, the prophecy, in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 that David would have a son who would sit upon his throne forever.
And the third announcement is made to Joseph, the foster father, in Matthew 1:21-23. And in that announcement the glorious prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled: “A virgin shall bear a Son and call His name Im-man-u-el,” with us is God. And this, “God-with-us,” shall have a human name, Jesus, Joshua, which means “the Lord Is Salvation.” And we would call it, in our language, “Savior.” Call His name, Savior; in Greek, Iesous; in Hebrew, Joshua. So the Savior is born into the world, and now He is introduced by the great forerunner. How does John introduce the Lord Jesus? What would you have done? What would you have said? In keeping with our study of the Word of God, that the scarlet thread of redemption runs all through it, this is the introduction of the great forerunner. John 1:29 “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” The great forerunner did not say “Behold your King,” or “Behold the promised Messiah,” or “Behold the Son of God,” or “Behold the Prophet who shall teach us the true and right way.” He could have said any of those things and all of them would have been true. What he did say was in keeping with the great theme and substance of the holy revelation, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.”
John spoke in terms of the altar and of the cross. Can you imagine what that announcement meant to a Jew? As far back as his forefathers could remember they were commanded in the morning sacrifice and in the evening sacrifice to offer up a lamb before God [Exodus 29:38-44]. Think of what that meant to the ear of a Jew who all of his life had been taught that on that altar, morning and evening, there was to be sacrificed a lamb in expiation of the sins of the nation. And when John said, “Look at the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world,” think of what that meant to the ear of a Jew. As the Jews, by the thousands, walked up the roads to Jerusalem with their sacrifices, so all the roads of biblical truth converge on the cross, all of them.
Take the Bible anywhere in it, and if you expound it correctly and interpret it spiritually and according to the mind of God, you will find yourself coming to the cross. Golgotha, Calvary, will forever be of all times, the turning point; of all love, the highest point; of all salvation, the starting point; and of all worship, the central point.
It was by inspiration, I think, that the sign and the aegis of the church is – now you guess it? Would you say it’s two tables of stone written by the finger of God?[Exodus 31:18]. Would you say it was a burning bush? [Exodus 3:2]. Would you say that it was a seven branched lampstand? [Exodus 25:31-40]. Would you say it was a halo around a submissive head? Or would you say it’s a rugged, crude, cruel cross? [John 19:17]. What would you say? If you study the Bible and if you follow its redemptive thread through the pages, you would say the heart of the whole message is the altar, the cross. And the sign of the church of Christ and the sign of the faith of our Lord is always a cross. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14], so said the greatest of the apostles. Thus was our Lord introduced to the world as the Lamb of God [John 1:29].
Now we’re going to look at the cross in the early days of our Lord’s public ministry. The Gospels are three and one: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called synoptic Gospels, synoptic. That is, they look at it alike. Those three tell the story very much alike. They are synoptic Gospels. But the Johannine Gospel is just altogether different and in another world. And the Gospel of John, in chapters 2, 3, and 4, introduces a segment in our Lord’s life that you would never guess existed. It is not even broached; it is not even mentioned by Matthew, Mark, or Luke. It’s what the harmony calls the early Judean ministry, the first Judean ministry.
You might guess that there was something like that, that could have happened, when in reading the synoptic Gospels we’re told that when Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Peter, James, and John and called them to go and forsake all, following Him. Well, it would be unusual if they did that upon their first introduction to the Lord. No. In the Gospel of John we learn that those disciples of John the Baptist, who followed then the Lord Jesus, had been with Him in His early Judean ministry. So when the Lord went up there to Galilee, and there those brothers were with their partners in the fishing business, He called them. And they immediately forsook everything that they had and followed the Lord. They had already been with Him, having been introduced to Him by John the Baptist; all of them were disciples of John the Baptist. In order for an apostle to be an apostle, he had first to be baptized by John the Baptist. And then, of course, be a witness, a personal witness of the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. So when in the synoptic Gospels I read that Jesus, passing by, called those men, and they immediately forsook everything that they had and followed Him, I would suppose that there were some kind of a previous introduction to the Lord Jesus on their part.
And we read that introduction in the first chapters of John. And in those first chapters of John, which describe the beginning ministry of our Lord, you will find prominently the great purpose of our Lord’s coming into the world, displayed. He came to die for our sins [Matthew 1:21].
All right, you look at it. In John 2:19, “The Lord says, you destroyed this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews of course thought He talked about Herod’s temple. But John, in chapter 2 verse 21, is careful to explain that the Lord was talking about the temple of His body. So the first thing that we see in the ministry of our Lord as He first begins: He is thinking about and talking about His death and His resurrection; His ministry starts off with that. It is not a development of later days, nor is it something that just dawned on the Lord at a later time, but from the beginning of His ministry He starts talking about His coming death and His glorious resurrection.
All right, look at it again in John 1 and 4. That’s not correct though it’s there in my notes. It’s John 2:4. It’s John 2:4. The Lord says something here that is very unusual. The mother of Jesus, Mary, comes to the Lord Jesus and says, “They have no wine here at this marriage feast in Cana of Galilee” And “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” That is a strange kind of talking, isn’t it? They have no wine and the Lord says at this marriage, “Mine hour is not yet come.” What could such a strange thing be? Well, the only answer to that would be for us to see what the Lord refers to when He talks about “when My hour comes.” What is that hour that He is talking about, that is inevitably going to come? Well, when we turn to John chapter 12, verse 23, John 12:23, we read when the Greeks came to see Jesus, Philip, Philip, Andrew, and Andrew and Philip tell Jesus, now 23:
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come…
Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say?
Father save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Then look again in John 17 and , in John 17:1: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.” This was His prayer just as He came to the garden of Gethsemane.
Well, what is that hour that is to come, when Jesus refers to “Mine hour”? [John 2:4]. It hasn’t come, and then the hour has come. What is that hour? That hour, of course, is the crucifixion of our Lord. He uses the word “the glorifying of the Son of God”, the crucifixion of the Son of God. Well, why is it that the Lord thinks of that at this beginning of His ministry in Cana of Galilee? Why is it that in the second chapter of John, in this beginning ministry, at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, He starts talking about “Mine hour that is not yet come” [John 2:4], and then later on, “Mine hour has come” [John 12:23], and He is ready to die? Well, why at a wedding? The reason is that the bride and the bridegroom brought to mind the symbolism, the parable, the type, the meaning of what He was going to do for His bride.
In John 3:28-29 the great forerunner says, “I am not the Christ… He that has the bride is the bridegroom: and the friend of the bridegroom stands and rejoices in the bridegroom’s voice.” The Bridegroom is Jesus, and the bride is His church. And as Ephesians chapter 5 describes for us, “as the bride Eve was taken out of the body of our Lord, so the bride, the church, is taken out of the body of our Lord” [Ephesians 5:30; Genesis 2:23]. We were born in the blood, and the tears, and the sacrifice, and the sobs, and the cries of the cross. That’s one reason why we ought never to think that fire, and fury, and persecution, and imprisonment, and execution, and death would ever be able, ultimately, to destroy the church. My brother we were born in the fire, and the fury, and the blood, and the persecution, and the heartache, and the tears, and the sobs, and the blood, and the death of the cross. That’s where we came from.
And that is why at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, at the beginning of His ministry, He spoke of His “hour” [John 2:4]. “The hour of our Lord” is the hour that He died, that He was crucified. And out of that death was born the church. Out of that riven side, opened by a Roman spear [John 19:34], is the birth of the bride of our Lord. Remember what Paul said in Ephesians 5, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and His church” [Ephesians 5:32]. When the Scriptures from Genesis are quoted, “We are bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh. We are members of His body” [Ephesians 5:30]. Now we’re talking about the fact that in the beginning ministry of our Lord, the Lord is speaking about and thinking about His death.
Now when you turn to the third chapter of John, it is no less the same. In John chapter [3:3-4], He is talking to Nicodemus, “How is one born again?” God never says, “Get yourself born again.” We can’t do that. We can’t “born” ourselves. You couldn’t do it the first time, you certainly cannot the second time. And it would be ludicrous for the Bible to tell us to get ourselves born again. You couldn’t do it. “Yet no man can enter the kingdom of God without being born again,” anothen, from above [John 3:3].
Well, how is a man born again? Now that’s what Nicodemus wanted to know. And the Lord said to Nicodemus, “It is a miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit, using the cross to effect it.” We are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, using the cross of Jesus Christ as the instrument of our regeneration, our rebirth, the forgiveness of our sins, the redemption of our souls. And that’s why, in John 3:14-15, the Lord says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life – eternal life.” This is the answer to Nicodemus, “How is it that a man can be born again?” [John 3:4,9]. And here again in the early ministry of our Lord, He is talking about His lifting up, He is talking about His cross.
Now we come to another segment of the lecture, the disciples of Jesus brought into an increasing awareness of the cross; as the Lord continued on and as He spoke to His apostles, more and more, He began to talk to them about His death, His crucifixion. In Matthew chapter 16, verse , the Lord said to the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am? And they answered Him. And then He said, but whom do you say that I am? And Simon Peter says, “Thou art the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:15-16]. Then it says, thereafter, the Lord began to teach the disciples that He should be crucified, should suffer[Matthew 16:21]. And Simon Peter objected, “Lord that be far from Thee” [Matthew 16:22].
And that is always the objection of the world to the redemptive message of the Christian faith. The cross is a stumbling block today, just as much as it ever was. As 1 Corinthians 1:23 says, to the Jew it is a skandalon, a stumbling block. And to the Greek it is a philosophic idiocy; it is moronic ridiculousness. But to us who are saved, whether Jew or Greek, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God [1 Corinthians 1:24].
How is it that God forgives our sins? To the philosophical world, that God does it through the death of Christ is idiocy; it is inanity. And I read it all the time. How is it that one can persuade himself that one man could die for the sins of another man? How is it that one could persuade himself that one man could die for the sins of the whole world? All of Christendom that holds up the cross as just a moral example, it’s called the moral influence theory of the atonement. How is it that in the blood of Christ, our sins are washed away? The world objects to a gospel like that and a message like that.
But that is the gospel message, and that is the way God forgives our sins. So the Lord begins to teach them, in the sixteenth chapter of the Matthew, that He was to suffer and to die [Matthew 16:21].
Then in Mark 10:32, the Lord speaks to them again about His coming death. In Mark 10:32:
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto Him,
Saying, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles:
And they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and spit upon Him, and kill Him: and the third day He shall rise again.
Did Jesus have to do that? No! He could have gone to Spain or He could have gone to Athens. Jesus could have bypassed the cross. He could have let us die in our sins. And had He bypassed the cross, we would have died in our sins.
But our Lord willingly laid down His life for us, as He said in the tenth chapter of John, “I lay down My life for the sheep… No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:17-18]. Now you look at this doctrinal point: had the Lord been taken to the cross by force and had He died by coercion, we would still have been in our sins. The voluntariness of the gift of the life of our Lord, the pouring out of His blood unto death, the atonement, the efficacy lies in His voluntariness, that He did it of Himself, He chose to do it for us. Had somebody forced His death, it would not have been an atonement for us.
And the Lord in the tenth chapter here of Mark tells the apostles what He is going to do: “up to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying for our sins.” Now in John 8:58you have a remarkable, remarkable word. “Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am” [Exodus 3:14].
And when He said that, the Jews took up stones to kill Him [John 8:59]. And in the providence of God, because His hour had not yet come, He hid Himself and escaped. Now you look at the twenty-eighth verse of the eighth chapter of John, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am” [John 8:28] – do you have a Bible there? Do you notice the ‘He’ is in italics? The ‘He’ is in italics. That means that it’s not in the original. Somebody just put that in, making an interpretation – “Then Jesus said unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I Am.” And then in that fifty-eighth verse, “Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I Am” [John 8:58].
What is the demonstration, the substantiation, of the avowal of our Lord that “before Abraham was, I Am”? [John 8:58]. The substantiation of it is, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know that I Am” [John 8:28]. The great fundamental foundation stone underneath the claim of the Christ that He is Jehovah God is His cross. Jesus ascended the cross as a throne to rule the world. And isn’t that something? Would you have ever thought of anything like that? Listen. Human mind and ten-thousand, million generations of philosophers were never in the earth have come up with a gospel like that. When you think of a man ruling, don’t you think of a man with an army, or a man with a great scepter, or a man of vast wealth and possessions, or the man controlling the destiny of an empire? When you think of a man ruling, don’t you think of a Charlemagne or a Caesar, an Alexander the Great or a Napoleon Bonaparte. Isn’t that what the world thinks?
And yet here we are told in the Bible that the great foundation substantiating the claim of Christ to be the Lord Jehovah God of the world is the cross! That is His scepter, and His throne, and His right to power, and His right to rule. You have that so marvelously demonstrated in the Apocalypse in the fifth chapter:
And I cried much; I wept much, because there was none found in earth or in heaven worthy to open the book, to break the seals.
And an elder put his hand on me and said, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, hath prevailed.
He is worthy; and then they sang the song of infinite adoration: Worthy, worthy is the Lamb – the what? – Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and justice, and power, and dominion, and glory.[Revelation 5:4-5, 12]
That’s why in the story of that thirtieth anniversary night – that story and song – that was the one that I picked out in Handel’s Messiah for them to sing. It so moved my heart the first time I ever heard it; it still does. This is the wisdom of God: for when in the wisdom of the world, the wisdom by the world, through the world, knew not God, to the Jewish stumbling block, to the Greek’s foolishness; unto us who were saved, Christ crucified, the wisdom of God, the hope of God, the love of God, the salvation of God, the redemption of God; this is something that God did [1 Corinthians 1:21-25] and a man would never on the earth have thought of it – that One would ascend the cross in order to ascend a throne.
It’s like Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul was a Jew, and as a Jew in the third chapter of that Book he wrote, “Cursed – quoting Deuteronomy [21:23] – cursed is every man that is hanged on a tree” [Galatians 3:13]. Now that’s Paul the Jew; he was taught that, “Cursed is every man that is hanged on a tree.” And as a Roman, Paul would know that the cross was for felons, and malefactors, and seditionists, and traitors, and murderers, and for thieves, and for men of great criminal background.
And yet Paul is the one who as a Roman citizen and as a Jew says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14]. My dear people, you just can’t believe these things that you read in the Book. How could such a thing come to pass? How could it be? How is it that God wrought something like that, that we are saved in the cross?
That’s why studying these things, I thought next semester we would just look at the theology of atonement – something of the meaning that God had in His mind when He chose to save us in the way that He did, by lifting up on a cruel cross the Son of God.
Now we’re talking about – and we continue, and we must hurry – we’re talking about the teaching of the Lord Jesus of the apostles that He should die [Mark 10:32-34]. Now in Luke 9:31 we have the story of the transfiguration. Now I want you to look at that 9:31, Luke 9:31. Luke there writes that Moses and Elijah spake with Jesus about His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Now that’s a little word that is peculiar to Luke. It’s not in Matthew; it’s not in Mark. And look how he frames it. Luke 9:31; he uses words there that you just don’t ordinarily look for. Luke 9:31, “Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” – the word “decease” is exodus; hodos is the word “way, exit out of,” exodus – “an exited departure which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” – pleroo, pleroo is the Greek word to perform fully, in fulfilling a prophecy, to complete, to perfect.
In Acts 2:23-24, the apostle Peter speaking says, “Him, being delivered by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God, you with wicked hands have taken and slain.” Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration are talking to Jesus about His exodus – that’s the Greek word – which He should pleroo, which He should fully perform in fulfilling prophecy in Jerusalem.
Well, why do you suppose they were talking to Him about it? I would just have to speculate it as you would. But I would suppose that they were talking to Jesus about how it is necessary for Him to die. I could imagine that Moses would say, “Lord Jesus, I am here in glory on the basis of Your promise to die for me.” And I can imagine Elijah on the other side saying, “Lord Jesus, I am in glory on the basis of the promise that You would die for me.”
They were talking to Him about His exodus, His decease, His transition, His departure from this world which He should perform, which He should accomplish, in Jerusalem. What the Lord is doing is something that He volunteered to do before the foundations of the world, and which God is bringing to pass when He formed a body that the Lord could offer for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14].
Now we come to John 12 as He is speaking to His disciples about His coming death. John 12:20-33 is the story of the coming of the Greeks to see Jesus. And wouldn’t you think that He would have been complimented that these intellectual and philosophical Greeks are coming to see Him. Wouldn’t you think so? No. You turn to John chapter 12 and look at verse 27, and what you will find is that when the Greeks came, it brought a cry of anguish from our Lord. Look at verse 27, “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” [John 12:27]. Instead of rejoicing at the coming of the Greeks [John 12:21], He cries in great pain and His soul is troubled. But that is the reason, He says, that He came unto this hour. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me,” verse 32; this signifies the way He should die. That’s verse 33, “This He said, signifying by what death He should die”[John 12:32-33]. He should die the death of being lifted up.
Then in Luke 22:44 there is the story of the sweat of our Lord in Gethsemane as though it were great drops of blood. In Hebrews 5:7 it describes our Lord in Gethsemane as “praying unto Him with strong crying and tears.” There are three times in the New Testament, in the Gospels, that the tears of our Lord are mentioned. He cried at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35]; He wept over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41], and Hebrews 5 verse 7 says that here in Gethsemane He prayed to God with strong crying and tears.
Now there is a mystery here that I think is unfathomable. I don’t think anybody can enter into it. Why should the Lord, facing death, cry? And His sweat, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground? [Luke 22:44]. My brothers and sisters, just think, the martyrs of the church, world without number, have embraced death without a shadow of dread. From what I can read and re-read and read yet again, the great martyrs of the church went to the stakes singing songs, and when the flames leaped up and burned their suffering bodies, they cried with exaltation and glory to God. Yet when Jesus faced death, He did it with strong crying and tears, and the agony in the garden was as drops of blood falling to the ground.
Now I don’t think any man could ever enter into the deep mystery of that agony in Gethsemane, but I want to point out to you one or two things in the Bible about it. One: in Isaiah 53:10 it says, “God shall make His soul an offering for sin.” And in Isaiah 53:11, the next verse, “God shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” I think that the Lord made atonement for us, not only in the pouring out of the crimson of His life, not only in the suffering and agony on the cross, but I think the Lord also made atonement for us in the travail of His soul. I think He suffered for our sins inwardly just as much as He suffered for our sins outwardly.
I think, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” And the suffering and the agony of the pure Jesus was found when He was made sin for us. Or as Paul writes in Galatians 3:13, “Being made a curse for us.”
Everything vile and hated in the sight of God and everything that brings judgment from heaven upon our sins, all of it was made; Jesus, all of it; the vileness, the blasphemy, the hurt, the judgment, all of it Jesus bore. And I think in ways that we could never understand, the terror, and the horror, and the hurt, and the agony of all the sin of all the world was felt in the soul of our Lord as well as in His physical body. And that’s why the prophecy. “God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11].
Now as we continue and we must, oh hurry so much. And I want you to stay with me until I finish it. Teaching the disciples the meaning of His death, that He was to die – the next is in Matthew 26:26-30, which is the blood the new covenant shed for the remission of sins; and this we observe whenever we gather together for our Lord’s Supper – this is bread, broken, and this is the fruit of the vine, the crimson of His life.
Now we come to the actual crucifixion of our Lord, and then the cross, and the risen Christ, and then the lecture is done; the crimson of His life poured out. On the way to Gethsemane He began to be troubled. Look at Matthew 26, Matthew 26, verses 37 and 38. Matthew 26:37-38: “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,” that would be James and John, “and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” [Matthew 26:37-38]
Now we’re talking about the blood of Christ poured out. And the first blood that is spilled is in Gethsemane, Luke 22:44: “On the way being troubled in soul and in spirit, and then in Gethsemane, His sweat falling down like great drops of blood.” The second is in the Roman flagellation in Matthew 27:26, when they scourged the Lord; the victims were known to die under that awful scourging. And I’ve read many times that the scourging contributed as much to the death of the malefactor – of the one executed – as his being nailed to the cross.
So following the pouring out of the blood of our Lord for us, first in Gethsemane when His blood drops fell to the ground; and then in the Roman praetorium when He was scourged, under which scourging many victims die; and the third, the pouring out of His blood, the crown of thorns, Matthew 27:29, that were woven and pressed into His brow; and then the fourth, the Via Dolorosa, John 19:16-17, Matthew 27:32. John says, “Jesus, bearing His cross, went forth; and then as He continued in exhaustion, He fell under it.” And Simon of Cyrene was impressed to bear it [Matthew 27:32]. And I can see the blood drops all down that pavement on the way to Golgotha, and finally on Calvary, on Golgotha. Golgotha is the Hebrew word for “the place of the skull”; Calvary is the Latin word for the “Place of the Skull” [Matthew 27:33].
In Luke 23:33 they crucified Him. And in John 19:31-37 the Roman spear that pierced His heart was followed by blood and water. And in John 19:30 He cried “It is finished” and gave up the ghost. And the blood of our Lord was poured out on the ground.
You know what? I think one of the most eloquent perorations I ever heard in my life is this one:
And the blood of the Lord was poured out on the ground.
And the Lord bowed His head and cried, “It is finished!”
And the drops of blood around the cross cried to the dust, “It is finished!”
And the dust cried to the grass, “It is finished.”
And the grass cried to the herbs, “It is finished!”
And the herbs cried to the trees, “It is finished!”
And the trees cried to the birds on the branches, “It is finished!”
And the birds souring upward cried to the clouds, “It is finished!”
And the clouds sailing high cried to the stars, “It is finished!”
And the stars cried to the angels in heaven, “It is finished!”
And the angels in heaven went up and down the streets of glory shouting, “It is finished! It is finished! It is finished!”
The scarlet thread through the Bible, that’s what the Bible is all about. That’s what the faith is all about. That’s why Paul will define the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, wherein you are saved, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
Our time is past. Bear with me just one moment more. The cross and the risen Christ, in Luke 24:39, He identified Himself by means of His cross. There are many false Christ’s. How do you know the true One? By the nail prints in His hands and in His feet: when they could not believe that it was He, He showed them His hands and His feet [Luke 24:40].
That reminds me of an interesting story of Napoleon. A man came to Napoleon one time and said, “Napoleon, I want to start a new religion, but I’m having a hard time getting people to believe me.” And Napoleon said, “Why, that’s no problem at all. Just get yourself crucified and buried and the third day rise from the dead and it’ll be simple. It’ll be very simple.”
He identified Himself by His scars in His hands and His feet. And in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of [John] when Thomas said, “I do not believe that He is raised from the dead, for dead men do not rise,” He said, “Thomas come and behold My hands and put your hand into My side” [John 20:27]. The Lord identifies Himself by means of His cross.
Now, in Luke 24:26-27 and in Luke 24:46-47 the meaning of the scarlet thread through the Bible is the gospel we preach: that there is redemption and remission of sins in His death for us. And in Luke 24:46-47, and in Galatians 2:20, and in Galatians 6:14, and in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and in Hebrews 2:14, this is the preaching of the gospel. This is the content of our message: that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3] and that He was raised for our justification to declare us righteous, we who are not righteous [Romans 4:25]; that we are justified; we are declared righteous; we are accepted as righteous; we are received as righteous through the blood of Christ, through the atonement God made for our sins.
Well, how do you thank God enough for that? How do you praise Him enough for it? We need an eternity to do it. And I suppose, don’t you, that that’s what heaven will be. It’ll just be forever praising God for His wonderful compassion and goodness to us in saving us from our sins.
O Lord, that we had the tongue of an angel, the eloquence of a Paul, the spirit of an Elijah to preach the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus. Well, sing it with me:
Let’s just praise the Lord,
Praise the Lord
Let’s just lift our hearts toward heaven
And praise the Lord.
Let’s just praise the Lord,
Praise the Lord,
Let’s just lift our hearts towards heaven
And praise the Lord.
[“Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” William J. Gaither, 1972]
With our heads bowed, in the silence of this holy hour, is there somebody you here tonight to give himself to Jesus; or to put his life in the fellowship of our precious church? If that somebody is you, would you hold up your hand? Is there anybody, somebody you, anyone here tonight?
Our Lord, for just the sweet privilege – holy and hallowed and heavenly – of speaking these words about the cross of our Christ, we humbly thank Thee. We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. Feeble, made of the dust of the ground, yet do we have these riches of God’s grace to speak of, to preach about, to believe, to accept, to find in it salvation for our souls, so bless us, Lord, with a life of rejoicing and praise. In Thy dear name, amen.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com