The Christ of the Cross
November 27th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
THE CHRIST OF THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-27-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Christ of the Cross. And in our preaching through the life of Christ, we have come to the last part of the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. On the radio, you who listen and with this throng that fill our First Baptist Church in Dallas, turn to Matthew chapter 16. We shall begin reading at verse 21 and read to the end of the chapter. Share your Bible with your neighbor. And all of us read it out loud together, Matthew, the First Gospel, Matthew chapter 16, beginning at verse 21. Now if we have the place, may we all read it out loud together?
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.
But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works.
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Now, there is a purpose that lies back of all the consecutiveness, the continuity, that you find in the Gospels. That is the tremendous handicap and weakness of following a harmony which I am doing preaching through the life of Christ. For a harmony does not have in it the inspiration of the guiding Spirit of God. A harmony is a man-made collocation. They’ve taken everything that is known in the life of Christ and trying to place it in a chronology––some of it from one Gospel, another, another––trying to fill full the story of the whole life of the Lord.
But there is the guiding inspiring wisdom of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, in writing each one of the separate Gospels. John for example said:
There is so much that Jesus did, and so many things did He say,
that I suppose if all of it were written down,
the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
The hyperbole expresses the overwhelming abundance of the material from which John selected the twenty chapters and then the addendum that makes his Gospel. Now what is chosen and how it is put together is as much inspired as the substance itself. And when you break that up, why, you break that inspiration and the guiding wisdom of the Spirit. But when you follow it through a Gospel, you have what God has put together and the reason for it. Now that is especially true in this exposition that I pray that God will help me to deliver tonight.
Now it begins in Caesarea Philippi, this passage from which we read. It begins in Caesarea Philippi, when the Lord asks His disciples, “Whom do you think that I am?” And Simon Peter, answering for himself, and for the twelve, and for the churches of God in the earth, and for all Christendom for all ages, Simon Peter answers, “Thou art the Messiah, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Mathew 16:15-16]. Then after the Lord makes His tremendous avowal of the founding of His church on His deity––He is the Christ the Son of God—and pronounces it indestructible, impregnable before the onslaughts of death and the passing generations and centuries, then He says that He gives to the disciples those keys of the building up of that glorious institution in the earth and the opening of the doors of the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 16:17-19].
Now, having done that, having revealed Himself as the Ambassador from God, the Prince of Glory, the Messiah, the Christ, then He makes the astonishing announcement and revelation. Beginning that time and following, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must die, that He must be killed, that He must be buried, and a meaningless thing to them, be raised from the death [Matthew 16:21]. And when the Lord made that announcement, the Messiah of God promised through the ages, the centuries, the millennia of the Old Testament revelation, the Messiah should be killed, Peter in amazement took Him and rebuked Him. “Why, Master, no such thing is thinkable, is possible, is conceivable, the Messiah of God to die, to be killed,” and Peter took Him and rebuked Him saying, “Lord, not so, not so” [Matthew 16:22].
Now we’re going to start there. It is difficult for us to place ourselves two thousand years ago before the history of the Christian church. It is difficult for us to place ourselves in Judea at that time. But let’s try. Let’s try. Let’s go back those two thousand years and think with the thoughts of Simon Peter and with the thoughts of the whole Jewish nation.
No nation was ever as distinctly marked out as the Jewish nation, Israel. Nor was any nationality, nor was any man who belonged to a nation as singularly different as was the Jew. He was taught from birth that God had set him apart, that his family was a chosen family, that they were a different nation. And they lived that. And they acted that. And they were that in the earth. In the time of our Lord that national sensitivity and that national consciousness was a part of every Jew wherever he lived in the civilized earth.
For one thing, he expressed that distinctiveness, that persuasion that he belonged to the holy family of God. He expressed it in every custom of his life. He expressed it in his dress. He didn’t dress like other men. He put borders and tassels on the hems of his garments. And he put phylacteries, little containers made out of leather, and in them quotations from the law of Moses. He fastened phylacteries to his forehead there, and on his arms. And he did not eat as other nations ate. He made distinctions between clean foods and unclean foods. And his customs reached finally into the most distinctive of all. He observed a Sabbath day, one day out of seven. And wherever the Jew was in the earth, that distinction between clean and unclean, that way of dressing, and that observance of a seventh day was his national mark. All of that, all of that was expressive of his conviction that he belonged to a chosen family of God.
Now, in the days of the passage that you have read, in the days of Simon Peter, the Jew was a slave of the imperious Roman. And it is impossible for us to enter into the galling bitterness that entered the very souls of those people of God as they serve under a Roman yoke. In his land, the land that had been promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be his possession forever, an unconditional promise; “The land is Mine, and I give it to thee forever” [Leviticus 25:23]. In that land, the Roman legions stomped up and down like a king. And in that land was their holy temple and above that temple the Romans had erected the Tower of Antonio above it, so that the Roman could look down into the Holy Place of the Jewish faith and religion.
The Roman did that, of course, in order to be able to watch the people, to take care lest any mob form or any riot come. But that galled the Jew beyond any way that you could express it, to have a Roman fortress built higher than his temple in Jerusalem. And above all was the hated tax collector who wrenched from God’s chosen people all that they could get, all that they could seize, and devoted it to a heathen government devoted to idolatry. All these things entered into the bitterness in the soul of the patriotic and loyal Jew, the family of God.
You know about the only way that I could illustrate that in present history was what Germany did after the First World War; the eastern provinces of Germany, as you know, were wrenched away and given to Poland. And the nation of Poland was recreated there on the eastern boundary of Germany. And those German people erected a statue. I haven’t seen it with my eyes, but I saw pictures of it. They erected a statue facing those lost provinces given to Poland and that statue—oh, how expressive of bitterness and hatred! And the inscription at the base of that statue read, “Germany abides her time.” And as you know, when Hitler came to power in 1939, he cut Poland to shreds.
That kind of a thing was in the soul of Judea nineteen hundred and fifty years ago. There was one great consolation, encouragement, dream, assurance to that despised and hated Jew. The whole world looked upon him, down upon him, but he had one immeasurable consolation, and it was this: the prophetic age is drawing nigh. “We have a great Deliverer who is to come and His coming is surely soon. And He will deliver our people out of this servitude and this galling yoke. And Judea shall be the head of the nations of the Earth. And we will, under our great Conqueror, annihilate our enemies; and the time is at hand.”
And that was the intense expectation of the Jew two thousand years ago, waiting for that promised Messiah.
Can you imagine therefore, can you imagine the electric shock that went up and down that nation when there suddenly appeared in Judea and on the banks of the Jordan River a prophet? He looked like a prophet; he looked like Elijah the Tishbite. He suddenly appeared before the startled ears and eyes and gaze of the Jewish nation. And He announced on the banks of the Jordan River, “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye” [Matthew 3:1-2]. Get ready! It was like an earthquake to the national consciousness. And there poured out to John the Baptist, the prophet of God, Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about Jordan, listening to the electric earthquake announcement that the kingdom had come. The Lord’s Messiah was there in their midst. And to every Jew that meant victory over Rome, political prestige and glory, the vanquishing of their enemies, the exaltation of the Jew in the earth. And the Lord was announced, and Jesus appeared, and the Messiah was presented [Matthew 3:1-3].
And everything that He said, everything that He did, dashed their messianic hopes to the ground. Instead of taking up cudgels to fight against Rome and the galling yoke of the Roman Empire, He preached the forgiveness of enemies [Matthew 5:43-44], and the blessings of those that curse you [Matthew 5:44]. And instead of rising up in a tremendous nationalism, the message that He preached was confined to no boundaries of any kind. Why, He exalted the hated and despised Samaritan and used him as a paragon of love and kindness [Luke 10:25-37]. Every time you meet a Roman centurion in the New Testament, it is with honor and with grace and with admiration, every one of them [Matthew 8:5-13, 27:54; Acts 10:1].
As for a despised and hated tax collector, He called one of them to be an apostle—Matthew [Matthew 9:9-13]. And another one He called down out of the tree in order to be a guest in his house and his home [Luke 19:1-10]. There were no boundaries, no boundaries to His grace and His love. And as for treasures, instead of seeking to lay them up here in earth, He said, “Lay them up in heaven” [Matthew 6:19-21]. And instead of marching to some kind of a military, or political, or economic victory, what He did was, He marched to death, to suffering, and to execution [Matthew 27:32-50].
It is hard for us to realize what a reversal, what a colossal unbelieveableness, when the Messiah from God appeared and this is the way He acted, and this is what He said, and this is what He did. That is why, here in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, it says, in the fifteenth verse, “And they came to take Jesus by force to make Him a king [John 6:15]. “If He will not willingly be our political economic military leader, we will take Him by force and make Him a king.” For the Messiah was to be the King of the Jews and to lead in the military political conquest of the world––that is what He was to do. And when the Lord refused to do it, may I point out to you what happened?
First of all, from that time, His disciples went back and walked no more with Him, all of them, all of them [John 6:66]. They all forsook Him, and left Him and Jesus turned to the twelve, and asked them, “Will ye also go away?” The throngs had forsaken Him; all had left Him, “Will ye also go away?” And Simon Peter answered, “Lord, we thought of it. Now we have considered it. This is such an unbelieveableness—it is just more than we can take, more than we can stand.” Then Simon Peter answered, “Lord, we have thought of it all right, but we do not know to whom to go. We do not know to whom to turn. Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we have decided, live or die, we are staying with You. We believe and are sure that Thou art that promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. And we are staying, Lord” [John 6:67-69].
All of the rest have gone. The nation has repudiated Him. The leaders have repudiated Him. The temple has repudiated Him, “But Lord, we are standing by You” [John 6:68-69]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Isn’t that an amazing thing?
And from that time Jesus began to show His disciples how that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the priests, and scribes, and elders, and be killed, and the third day be raised from the dead.
And having said that of Himself, then He announced the law of discipleship:
If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life must lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world—
and led his armies deployed over the face of the whole earth—
and lose his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his own soul?
The law of discipleship: the cross for Christ, who must die for our sins. And the cross for us: to deny ourselves, die on it, and follow the Lord.
What a reversal to everything we know in this life. For who are the great? Are they not the rich? Who are the great? Are they not the rulers of the earth? Who are the great? Are they not the successful as men shall judge them in the world of drama, in the world of music, in the world of athletics, in the world of politics, in the world of economics, in the world of education, in the world of science? Is there any world in which men do not excel by striving and by vainglory?
The emoluments of the world are real—there is no denying that; not to me, not to me—they are real. Money is real, and it has its rewards. Success in any area that you can name is real, and it has its rewards. But there is another reality and there are other rewards, and Jesus says that if any man is to come after Him then, “let him deny himself.” Let him die to himself on a self-made cross. Not one forced upon us—that’s no cross-bearing—but one that we ourselves die on. “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” [Matthew 16:24].
But there is something else. If it were just cross bearing, and self emollition, and dying, it would be a dreary prospect indeed. But there is something else. “For the Son of Man shall some day come again in glory.” There’s another chapter, there’s another word, there’s another paragraph, there’s another sentence, “For the Son of Man shall come in glory, with all the holy angels” [Matthew 16:27]. And then, not here, not now, but then shall He reward every man according to his dedication and according to his works [Matthew 16:27].
Now I want to look at that just a moment and then we are through. This amazing discipleship, this amazing interpretation of the messiahship, this amazing way of our Lord: to die, to live—the cross, the crown, the self emollition, the self crucifixion—then the glorious reward that is yet to come. I want to look at that.
As I told you this morning, I have been in these last several months now, intensively studying the Book of Daniel. And in the Book of Daniel, among others, there is a political military national hero: and he is named and his progress is vividly described. His name is Alexander of Macedon whom we know in history as Alexander the Great. In a strange coincidence Alexander the Great died when he was thirty-three years of age, and Jesus of Nazareth died when he was thirty-three years of age; both of them died when they were thirty-three years of age.
Now the Book of Daniel describes Alexander as a leopard with four wings [Daniel 7:6]: a fast-moving, swiftly-moving leopard. His work and his kingdom is likened to a leopard with four wings—his four great generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. And Alexander the Great moved in the civilized world as he conquered it as a leopard, swiftly! He never lost a battle, not one. He’s the only general who ever lived who never lost a battle, Alexander the Great.
He did something that no one in the earth had ever seen before: he divided his army into two parts. As you know, an army moves by the impedimenta that accompanies it. They have baggage, they have provisions, they have artillery, they have all kinds of weapons, and the army is slowed down by the impedimenta that he carries. There, Alexander the Great conceived the idea of dividing his army into two tremendous parts. One of them was the impedimenta; they carried all of the heavy provisions and the heavy luggage and all the other things that had to attend and accompany a great army. But the other he liberated.
And Alexander the Great could take that liberated half of his army and swiftly dash anywhere with it. And by forced marches in the day and night, when a great army, such as one in Persia, would think Alexander was hundreds of miles away, he would suddenly appear there and with his phalanxes, cut it to pieces.
The world had never seen the conquest of an Alexander the Great. He did it rapidly, swiftly, as the Book of Daniel prophesied, “like a leopard” [Daniel 7:6]. And having conquered the world—having conquered the civilized world, the whole world was in his hands; restless—unhappy, miserable, finally gathered his war lords in the ancient city of Babylon, and with his generals, and with his soldiers and with his men, he drank, and drank, and drank. And one night, after another night, after another night, lived in wanton debauchery and died! Drunk, drunk, dissipated, wasted, debauched. “Whosoever will save his life must lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what shall it profit a man if He gain the whole world”—was He thinking about Alexander?—“and lose his own soul?” [Matthew 16:26].
The Lord, I guess He lost every battle He ever tried to fight. He failed with the Jewish nation. He failed with the Sadducees. He failed with the Pharisees. He failed with the scribes. He failed with all of the Sanhedrin. And when they had the discussion in the Sanhedrin over Nicodemus, his fellow Sanhedrins turned to him and said, “Have any of the elders believed on Him? [John 7:50-51]. Any of the Pharisees? Any of the Sadducees?” all of them alike repudiating Him. And finally, came to an ignominious end, and died like a criminal, like a malefactor, crucified, slain, dead [Matthew 27:32-50].
But, but, there is another chapter, and another story, and we are in it now. Alexander, conquering the world, all of it before him; it is his. He has won it; but miserable, and so miserable he drowned his misery in booze, and in alcohol, and in drunkenness. In dissipation and debauchery, died. And the Lord Jesus, giving Himself, pouring out His life, denying Himself, taking up His cross, and the third day raised again [Luke 9:22, 24:7]. “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father with His holy angels; and then shall He reward everyone as his work shall be” [Matthew 16:27].
If I live for this life, I shall lose it [Luke 9:24]. If I live for this world, I shall lose it. If I live for this moment, I shall lose it. If I live for pleasure, I shall lose it. If I live for myself, I shall lose it. But if I live for Jesus, I shall gain it [Philippians 3:8]. If I live for God, it will be mine forever. If I devote my life to the Lord, I shall keep it in this world and in the world that is yet to come [John 3:15-17, 10:27-30]. This is the Christ of the cross. This is the Messiah of the Book. This is the law of discipleship, and it is God’s call to your soul tonight.
Young man, will you turn and give your life to Jesus? Will you do it? Young woman, will you consecrate every day that lies in any tomorrow? Will you consecrate it to Jesus? Young family, will you put your home in the hands of God? Will you? Somebody you, will you say, “No,” to self, and say, “Yes,” to Jesus? And, “Here I am, and here I come, and here I take my stand. I decide for Jesus so help me dear Lord. Here I come.” Do it tonight. Do it tonight. And God bless you in the way.
In the balcony round on either side, one of these stairways at the front and the back, come, there is time and to spare. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come. Make it now, “Pastor, tonight I give my heart to Jesus. Tonight we are coming into the fellowship of His precious church. I shall not delay another day. I shall not debate it in my heart another moment. I shall begin now. And here I am, here I come.” Do it.
On the first note of this first stanza come, into the aisle, down here to the front, “Here I am.” Do it. As God shall call, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. Do it tonight while we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST OF THE CROSS
I. The kind of Messiah the Jewish nation
A. The Jewish estimate
of their nation
B. Galling yoke of
servitude was supposed to be removed by Messiah
C. The Jews’ secret consolation
– the prophetic age is drawing near
D. The mighty day comes
– John the Baptist appears, announcing Messiah
E. The reaction
1. Everything He
said and did dashed their messianic hopes
2. The multitudes
sought to force Him to be king (John 6:15)
a. When He refused,
they left Him(John 6:66)
3. Disciples bravely
commit to stay (John 6:68-69)
Yet they staggered at His announcement of the coming cross(Matthew 16:21-23)
He announced the law of discipleship(Matthew
II. The laws of cross-bearing, suffering
was extended to us
A. Pattern of the
Christian way of life
B. The way to the
crown, to glory, to heaven(Matthew 16:27-28)
C. Dying to this life
is not easy