(I am, Lord willing, writing a book titled (as of now) “The Complex Nature Of God’s Heart For Lost People.” I don’t think that this chapter (or intro) “Consider His Death” is finished yet. It is highly likely that a lot of editting is yet to be done. This is what I have written, prior to editting. Please let me know if anything is confusing or needs clarifying. Also if you could tell me if there is anything you particularly like about it. Any comments or questions are appreciated!)
There is a fair amount of “gospel preaching,” that goes on today. The vast majority of it is being done in our churches, which is all together necessary because the gospel is not only for the unsaved, but for the saved as well. Yet, I long that much more gospel preaching would go forth from out of the church and on to the streets. Some people see the cross as only a stepping stone to move on to better and more glorious things. I pray that this is not how you learned Christ. I remember a time before I was saved when I would hear songs such as “Oh the wonderful cross, oh the wonderful cross, bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.” I remember thinking, what could possibly be wonderful about Jesus dying on a cross? I thought to myself that I better not utter such sentences because it would offend God. Wouldn’t singing those words to God tell him that I was happy that He came and died, and that I wanted Him to do so? Isn’t that wrong?
I could understand the part of another song that said “On a hill far away stood the old wooden cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.” But I could not come to grasp with Christians singing the part that states “But I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain.” What was there to love about a cross? What possible joy could be found in the most loving man in history being crucified?
I knew that Jesus died, and I knew also that He had the ability to forgive sin. Yet why He died and how he was able to forgive sin, I had no idea. When you don’t know that the wages of sin is death, than you cannot possibly understand why Jesus dying was necessary to pay for your sins. All I knew of the cross is what a spectator might have seen had they been passing through by Golgotha. For some reason, the people there hated Jesus even though He loved them and was kind to them. They must have been evil men, I would reason, for them to be able to nail his hands and beat his back, while all the while he spoke no words to defend himself, nor did He so much as resist them. Why didn’t he fight back? Why did he say “forgive them” and not “curse them.” I could see that His death was -to put it plainly-, very sad. Just like when a person I know dies, I could not see anything worthy to rejoice about. So why do people celebrate Easter? Why do Christians not go about mourning the death of their Lord? What does all of this mean?
It is only when God’s spirit stamped the death sentence upon my heart that the necessity and beauty of the cross began to become clear to me. In the early days of my redemption I wrote:
“Whose sin lay on his broken body?
Whose idolatry did need for his blood?
I see none but mine before my eyes
The magnitude of all my crimes
And there my Saviour on a hill
“Not my will…”
But God’s fulfilled.”
And again I wrote in another place:
“Forever I seek to see the face
Of Him who saved my soul by grace through faith,
That I would boast in none but Him
For my deeds are in vain, they can’t purge me of sin
Nor can the law offer robes of righteousness
But rather condemn me in all of my wickedness.
Surely I was conceived in sin!
Born in death until born again.”
Or in other words “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died (Romans 7:9).” When I began to realize more about God’s commandments, and His requirement for perfect obedience and submission, I became increasingly more aware that my own striving proved useless to earn me righteousness. I may have set out to do a good deed, or to avoid sinful temptations, but I found that no matter how I tried, I could not rid myself of the evil tendencies that lied within my very own heart. I became aware that though on the outside I may have looked alive and well, but inside was hidden a warped and deceptive nature that I would not want to ever be exposed. Yet I knew, most fearfully that “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13).”
So there was I beneath the crushing blow of condemnation
At first so sure that I could earn my own salvation
Broken and failing
Yet to my sin clinging
And from my God running
In this state, His enemy
Is when He came and bled for me.
See me on the crooked path
Suppressing the truth
Invoking God’s wrath
It’s then, in His good pleasure He poured
His blood out for me, my precious Lord
He paid for my sin
To cleanse me within
He drank my full measure
In pain and for pleasure
That I could behold Him
Could love Him, could own Him.
1Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
I find it to be both sobering and amazing how prior to salvation the cross had no sense of preciousness to me. It would seem in fact, that Jesus himself was not considered valuable to me. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:2-3). It would seem in fact, that Jesus himself had no sense of value to me. The cross? A symbol of shame? Yes. A picture of beauty that could forever pierce my very heart? No. I was blind, and I could make no sense of such a thing, nor did I desire to.
But it’s Him who chose me while I rejected Him. He took this dead stone heart and awakened it to the beauty of Jesus Christ, who came to die and lives to intercede for me. 2Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He has, and will continue to reveal Jesus Christ to me and infinitely valuable and beautiful. He has awakened me to see the day of His crucifixion as both the darkest day and the most blindingly bright.
I heard a new Christmas song by a band called “Down Here” who seems to have captured the beauty of Jesus Christ, the Glorious King, coming down here to suffer for sinners. The chorus sings “How many kings stepped down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart? How many Fathers gave up their sons for me?”
You see, humility doesn’t seem to be something the world promotes or aims for. It is an uncommon thing for a person to consider others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3). Yet, how beautiful is it for a man to lay His life down to protect the one he loves? Or for a King who would sacrifice Himself if it could save his kinsmen from an invading army?
But God, rich in mercy, is so much greater than any King dear friends. He created the stars and the planets; He reigns over the affairs of men, and is worshipped on high in Heaven by all the angels continuously. Consider these scriptures and all that Christ was willing to do in order to show us who God is, and to satisfy divine justice.
Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is your in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
2Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
I could point you to the virgin birth, or to the washing of his disciples feet. I could point you to His conversation with an adulterous Samaritan woman, or to His dining with prostitutes and tax collectors. All of these things beautifully show Christ’s humility. But I will quote Charles Spurgeon to show where I know his humility is shown best.
An excerpt from a sermon titled “An Awful Contrast” in which Charles Spurgeon considers Matthew 26:67 “Then they spit in his face,” in contrast with Revelations 20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.”
“There are two or three thoughts that come to my mind when I think that these wicked men did actually spit in Christ’s face,—in that face which is the light of heaven, the joy of angels, the bliss of saints, and the very brightness of the Father’s glory. This spitting shows us, first, how far sin will go. If we want proof of the depravity of the heart of man, I will not point you to the stews of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor will I take you to the places where blood is shed in streams by wretches like to Herod and men of that sort. No, the clearest proof that man is utterly fallen, and that the natural heart is enmity against God, is seen in the fact that they did spit in Christ’s face, did falsely accuse him, and condemn him, and lead him out as a malefactor, and hang him up as a felon that he might die upon the cross. Why, what evil had he done? What was there in his whole life that should give them occasion to spit in his face? Even at that moment, did his face flash with indignation against them? Did he look with contempt upon them? Not he; for he was all gentleness and tenderness even towards these his enemies, and their hearts must have been hard and brutal indeed that “then did they spit in his face.” He had healed their sick, he had fed their hungry, he had been among them a very fountain of blessing up and down Judaea and Samaria; and yet, “then did they spit in his face.” I say again, relate not to me the crimes of ancient nations, nor the horrible evils committed by uncivilized men, nor the more elaborate iniquities of our great cities; tell me not of the abominations of Greece or Rome;—this—this, in the sight of the angels of God, and in the eyes of the God of the angels, is the masterpiece of all iniquity: “Then did they spit in his face.” To enter into the King’s own palace, and draw near to his only-begotten Son, and to spit in his face,—this is the crime of crimes which reveals the infamous wickedness of men. Humanity stands condemned of the blackest iniquity now that it has gone as far as to spit in Christ’s face.
My meditation also turns towards the Well-beloved into whose face they spat; and my thought concerning him is this, how deep was the humiliation he had to endure! When he was made sin for us, though he himself knew no sin; when our Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself the iniquities of his people, and was burdened with the tremendous weight of their guilt, it became incumbent upon the justice of God to treat him as if he were actually a sinner. He was no sinner, and he could be none; he was perfect man and perfect God, yet he stood in the place of sinners, and the Lord caused to meet upon him the iniquity of all his people. Therefore, in the time of humiliation, he must not be treated as the Son of God, neither must he be held in honor as a righteous man; he must first be given up to shame and to contempt, and then to suffering and to death; and, consequently, he was not spared this last and most brutal of insults: “Then did they spit in his face.” O my Lord, to what terrible degradation art thou brought! Into what depths art thou dragged through my sin, and the sin of all the multitudes whose iniquities were made to meet upon thee! O my brothers, let us hate sin; O my sisters, let us loathe sin, not only because it pierced those blessed hands and feet of our dear Redeemer, but because it dared even to spit in his face! No one can ever know all the shame the Lord of glory suffered when they did spit in his face. These words glide over my tongue all too smoothly; perhaps even I do not feel them as they ought to be felt, though I would do so if I could. But could I feel as I ought to feel in sympathy with the terrible shame of Christ, and then could I interpret those feelings by any language known to mortal man, surely you would bow your heads and blush, and you would feel rising within your spirits a burning indignation against the sin that dared to put the Christ of God to such shame as this. I want to kiss his feet when I think that they did spit in his face.”
To whom can we compare Jesus? All analogies fall absurdly short of expressing the magnitude of what He has done. For see, a man may die to spare his beloved wife from death, but who among men lays down their life to save their most hurtful enemy? Romans 5:6-7 “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
There are so many skilled writers who can communicate much better than I both the anguish and the joy with which we behold the cross of Christ. Anguish, because of what He went through and because it was our sin that held him there, but joy because of what this death has accomplished for us. I’ll end this portion with the full lyrics from a hymn I quoted earlier titled “The Old Rugged Cross.”
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.