The Shadow of the Cross
November 5th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-5-67 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 from the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. It is entitled The Shadow of the Cross, or The Cup We Drink. John chapter 18, and we read out loud the first eleven verses. If on the radio you share with us this service, read the Bible with us out loud. John chapter 18, the first eighteen verses; now together, all of us reading together the first eleven verses of chapter 18, out loud together:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the Brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.
And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them.
As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus answered; I have told you that I am He; if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way.
That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none.
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?
And as He said in Matthew’s Gospel, "If I will, [twelve] legions of angels would come and stand by Me and war with Me; thousands and thousands of angels [Matthew 26:53]. But the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" [John 18:11]. And that refers of course to His atoning death; He gave Himself to die [John 17:27; Galatians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. Now the title of the sermon, The Shadow of the Cross.
One time I saw a picture of the Lord Jesus on canvas. He looked to be about nineteen years old, a young man, a young fellow, approaching manhood. He was in the carpenter’s shop; tradition says that He made ox yokes and that His yokes were the easiest to bear. And as He stood in the carpenter’s shop, in the way that He was standing, the shadow of the young Man fell against the wall behind Him, and the shadow from the way that the Lord was standing in the carpenter’s shop; the shadow formed the outline of a full and perfect cross. Behind the Lord Jesus always was that shadow of His sacrificial atoning, expiatory, death. And He never got away from it, nor was there any part of His life that was separated from it. In heaven and in earth, always just behind was that shadow of the cross; the cup that He was to drink [John 18:11].
He was referred to as the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8].
· In the Old Testament prophets, He was referred to as the One upon whom was laid the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6].
· In the enunciation at the time of His incarnation, the angel said, "Thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21].
· In His introduction to the world, John the Baptist, the forerunner said; "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29].
· As He began His public ministry, He said to Nicodemus, who came to see Him by night, "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" [John 3:14].
· As He began His great Galilean ministry, He began to teach His disciples that the Son of Man must be betrayed and must be killed; must suffer on the cross [Matthew 17:22-23]. On the mount of transfiguration, "there appeared Moses and Elijah; who spake unto Him about the death which He should accomplish in Jerusalem" [Luke 9:31].
· At the great feast of the Passover, there came Greeks seeking to see Jesus [John 12:20].
· And when those Gentiles inquired of Him, it brought to His mind the great ministry of the gospel to the world. And He said, "Except a corn of wheat, a grain of wheat, fall in the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This spake He" [John 12:24, 32,] says John, signifying by what death He should die [John 12:33].
· Before the Passion week, He was anointed by Mary of Bethany for His burying [John 12:1-7].
· And at the Lord’s Supper He blessed bread and brake it and said, "This is My body"; and He blessed the cup, and they all drank it, and He said, "This is My blood" [Matthew 26:26-28].
And finally the awesome and cruel day came, and they lay on the back of our Savior the cross. And He, bearing His cross, went forth to a place called Golgotha [John 19:16-17].
And when Jesus came to Golgotha,
They hanged Him on a tree.
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns;
Red were His wounds and deep.
For those were crude and cruel days
And human flesh was cheap.
["When Jesus Came to Our Town," G.A. Studdert-Kennedy]
And He died there on the cross [John 19:20, 34]. "The cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" [John 18:11]. The shadow of that cross has fallen over the whole earth and through all of the centuries of time. This earth shall never be the same again because Jesus died in it and gave His life for it. In the heart of the earth and in the center of history, Jesus has planted the cross; and we can never escape it or forget it.
The one great historical fact of all literature and of all history is this, that Jesus "died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And it is indelibly written on the heart and the memory of mankind. Whether one be a believer or an unbeliever, the cross of Christ is the great unforgettable experience in the story of mankind.
In eastern France, soon after the war, I saw a military cemetery where England had gathered together the men who had perished in that sector of the conflict; gathered together the men of the Royal Air Force who had been shot down and had died in eastern France. And as I walked among the graves of that military cemetery of those Royal Air Force airmen from England, I saw one on which the little head plate, on which there was a little wreath of flowers and a little word attached thereto. And I walked over and looked at it, and the writing on the little wreath of flowers was this; the name of the airman and underneath, "His wife and boys will never forget." We are like that with our Lord; in the shadow of the cross, the apostles and the missionaries and the evangelists of the earth took their stand to preach. One of them wrote, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. And every page of the New Testament they left behind has been stained by His blood and inspired by His suffering. And that cross has become the sign of God’s love for the whole world.
There are no frontiers, the arms of the cross are outstretched wide as the world is wide, wherever one stands as far as the east goes east, and the west goes west; the arms of the cross are outstretched. The poor, the sinful, the forgotten, the discouraged, the despairing, the rich, the poor, the noble, the ignoble, the famous, the infamous; to all men everywhere, the arms of the cross are outstretched. And it has become the symbol of our hope in God, and our promise of heaven. In how many places of this earth have I seen graves, many of them unmarked except at the head, a crude and rude cross? Somebody buried here, somebody who was loved, and the sign of their hope in God and in heaven is that rude and home fashioned cross.
And in the cross of Christ, all earthly distinctions disappear. There are no rich, there are no poor, there are no black, there are no white, there are no brown, there are no yellow, there are no far away, there are no close by; we are all the same when we stand in the presence of the cross, human distinctions disappear.
I was in the airport, Idlewild it was called then, and I stumbled into the governor of Maryland. He was the man who made the nominating speech for General Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Republican Convention when he was nominated for president of the United States. This illustrious governor of Maryland made that address, many, many of us heard it and remember it; a dedicated, a gifted and an eloquent man. He was there because his daughter was on her way to Europe for a summer vacation, and while they were waiting for the plane, I stood by him and visited with him a long while.
Finding out that I was a minister, and a pastor of this dear church, he began to talk to me about his religious life, then he began to talk to me about his mother. He was a Methodist and she was one of those old-fashioned Methodist members. And as you know in the Methodist church, as in the Anglican Church, many of them – when they take the Lord’s Supper – they come down to the front and kneel, and they take the Lord’s Supper on their knees. "Well," he said, "you know my old Methodist mother, when she came to take the Lord’s Supper, and knelt there at the altar, she had a habit; she took off all of her jewelry and put it away, and so knelt for the Lord’s table." And He said, "You know, I can’t tell you why, but when I come in my church and take the Lord’s Supper I do the same thing; I take off all of my jewelry. I take off my rings and I take off my watch, and I lay it aside." And he said, "Preacher, do you know that last Sunday, when I went down to take the Lord’s Supper, my boy happened to kneel by my side. And," he said, "I saw him take off all of his jewelry."
Well, I suppose in God’s sight we sort of feel that way; Lord, these things, these materialities, they sort of dissolve into indistinctness. Are some of us rich? In man’s sight, yes. Are some of us poor? In man’s sight, yes. Are some of exalted and some of us debased? In man’s sight, yes. But in God’s sight our souls are naked and unadorned. All distinctions are indistinct; they are taken away before the cross.
I don’t know of a more beautiful story in English history than this one. The Iron Duke of Wellington was a hero beyond any who ever lived in English history. He saved England and Europe from the ravages of the Napoleonic wars, the Duke of Wellington. As I have read and studied, it would be almost impossible to describe the depth of reverence that the Englishman felt for the Duke of Wellington. Well, he was an Anglican, that’s where the Methodists got their habit of kneeling there, they once were a part of the Anglican Church, and in the Anglican Church they kneel at the altar and receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper. So the iron Duke of Wellington came and knelt to receive from the officiating minister the bread and the wine. And when he knelt so, there came a ragged poor man off the street. And not knowing who the great Duke was kneeling there, knelt also by his side. And the officiating minister, seeing it, walked over to the poor man and said, "You move over, you move over; don’t you see this is the great Duke of Wellington by your side? You move over." And of course the Duke heard it, and looking up from his knees into the eyes of the officiating minister said, "Leave him alone, leave him alone; we’re all equal here before the Lord."
How very true. We are all equal before the Lord. There is no great and there’s no small. There are no far and no nigh. There are no colored, there are no white. There are no male, there is no female. We’re all alike, just born souls who need the grace and love of Jesus.
And finally, this is the open to view of the throne of God, Himself. It is through the torn veil of His flesh that we see our vista and find our entrance into heaven [Matthew 27:50-51]. How beautiful and how eloquent this twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews; contrasting Sinai and Calvary. "For," said this eloquent preacher who wrote the Book of Hebrews, "Ye are not come unto Mount Sinai that burned with fire, to darkness and to tempest and to thunder" [Hebrews 12:18]. The mount that might not be touched, and if so much as an animal touched it, he was to be stoned or thrust through with a dart [Hebrews 12:20], "to the sound of the trumpet and to the voice that spoke, and so awesome was that sight that even Moses said, I do exceedingly fear and quake" [Hebrews 12:21]; Sinai with its judgments, and its Ten Commandments, and its laws, and its death penalties, and its fire, and its fury, its flame, and its darkness. "Ye are not come to Sinai but," and listen to him,
Ye are come unto Mount Zion, Mount Zion; and to the heavenly city of God, the New Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
And to the church and general assembly of the firstborn whose name are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all the earth, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, the new promise, and to the sprinkling of the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Oh what a contrast! Fire, and fury, and brimstone, and death, and judgment, and commandments; and the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven; our names written in heaven, and to an innumerable company of angels, whom our human eyes cannot see, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, these who have gone on before us, and to Jesus, the Mediator, the great emissary whose brought to us a more precious promise, and to the blood of a new covenant, that speaks better things than that of Abel [Hebrews 12:22-24].
Come, ye sinners,
wrote the old-time hymnist –
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy. . .
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till your better,
You will never come at all.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
["Come Ye Sinners," Joseph Hart]
Come, come, come. I’ll be standing on this side of our table of remembrance and communion. To give your heart to Jesus, come and stand by me. A family you, to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, come and stand by me. A couple you, or one somebody you; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now, on the first note of the first stanza, decide now. And in a moment, when we stand to sing, stand up coming. Do it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.