Mount Calvary: Mount of Atonement

Matthew

Mount Calvary: Mount of Atonement

April 4th, 1969 @ 12:00 PM

Matthew 27:33-35

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
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MOUNT CALVARY, THE MOUNT OF ATONEMENT

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 27: 33-35

4-4-69    12:00 p.m.

 

And today, the day our Lord was crucified, it is Mount Calvary, the Mount of Atonement.  In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Matthew: “And when they came unto a place called Golgotha, the place of a skull, Calvary . . . there they crucified Him” [Matthew 27:33-35].  And in the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22].

This gospel of atonement, of the washing away of our sins, is repudiated by the world.  To them, it is butcher shop religion.  It is gross superstition.  It is a holdover from animistic days.  The gospel of redemption, to the world, is superfluous.  And they say so brutally, rudely, and bluntly. “If we have tractors,” they say, “to remove mountains, we do not need faith.  If we have penicillin, we do not need prayer.  If we have positive thinking, we do not need salvation.  If we have the state, we do not need the church.  If we have manuals of science, we do not need the Bible.  And if we have an Einstein or an Edison, we do not need Jesus.”

As you follow their thought and reasoning, you can easily see that they define and interpret life in terms of materialities, secularism.  It is true that the Christian religion addresses itself to redemption, that is, the true faith and the true Christian message.  It has to do with the human heart.  It has to do with regeneration.  It has to do with the forgiveness of our sins.  And that is why materialities can never approach it.  What can penicillin or tractors or governmental agencies do in the forgiveness of sin and in the regeneration of the human heart?

The true faith, the true Christian religion is of all things first and foremost a gospel and a message of redemption; the changing of the human heart, the saving of the human soul.  The Christian faith is not first, an epic although it is an epochal.  It is not in the first place a theology, although it is theological.  Nor is it in the first place and primarily reformational, although it has cultural and social and political overtones.

But the Christian faith is first and foremost and above all else a message of salvation.  How can a man be changed?  You can see this pointedly in the sign of the Christian church.  The sign of the church, of the gospel, is not a burning bush.  Nor is it two tables of stone on which are written commandments.  Nor is it a shekinah fire.  Nor is it a seven-branched lampstand.  Nor is it a halo above a submissive head.  Nor is it even a golden crown.  But the sign of the Christian church and the Christian message is a cross: a rugged cross in all of its naked hideousness, as the Roman would have it; in all of its philosophical irrationality, as the Greek would have it; but in all of its power to save, as Paul would have it.

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

[From “Are You Washed in the Blood,” Elisha A. Hoffman]

The most meaningful, significant, and dramatic act in all human story is the descent of our Lord from heaven to die for the sins of the world.  “He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God; but poured Himself out, and was made in the likeness of men, and was subject to crucifixion and death” [Philippians 2:6-8].  Our imaginations cannot enter into the immeasurable height of His glory and the abysmal depths of His decent.  Down, and down, and down, and down He came from Godhead, from deity, to be made like a man out of the dust of the ground, in the form of a slave, of a servant, poorest among the poor, to be crucified, executed like a criminal; lifted between the earth and the sky as though both rejected Him, man and God; reviled and cursed [Hebrews 10:5-14].

And as though abuse was not vile enough, they covered Him with spittle [Matthew 27:30].  And as though spittle were not contemptuous enough, they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6].  And as though plucking out His beard were not brutal enough, they crowned Him with thorns [Matthew 27:29].  And as though the thorns were not sharp enough, they drove in great nails [Matthew 27:32-50].  And as though the nails did not pierce deep enough, they thrust Him through with a Roman spear, and the crimson of His life poured out [John 19:34-35].  The very sun in the sky refused to look upon such shame and suffering [Matthew 27:45].

Well might the sun in darkness hide

And shut His glories in,

When Christ the mighty Maker died

For man the creature’s sin.

[“At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]

What is this?  How could such a thing be?  That God in the flesh should be crucified, executed like a criminal?  What is it?  Is it a dramatic play like the Agamemnon” of Aeschylus?  Like Shakespeare’s King Lear or MacBeth?  Or Eugene O’Neal’s Strange Interlude?  What is this?  Is it a historical tragedy like Socrates drinking the hemlock?  Or Julius Caesar murdered at the statue of Pompey?  Or like Abraham Lincoln assassinated in Ford’s Theater?  What is this that happened on Golgotha?  Is it a failure and a defeat?

Albert Schweitzer, the great philanthropist and missionary doctor, was also a theologian, but a strange one to me.  In the days of his young manhood, he wrote one of the great theological books of the generation entitled, The Quest for the Historical Jesus.  And the thesis of the book is this: that the Lord expected the descent of the kingdom of heaven, and when it did not come, when it didn’t descend, that He died in frustration, and defeat, and disillusionment, and failure.  Is that correct?

What is this; the death of the Son of God on the cross?  The Bible answers.  It is first the judgment of God upon our sins [1 Peter 2:24].  What is sin like?  Its gross visage and its terrible repercussions can be found most dramatically and most poignantly in the death of the Son of God on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]: what sin is like and what sin does.

Who crucified the Lord Jesus?  Whose fault was it?  Well, it is His own fault; He should have been a better manager [Matthew 27:42].  It was Judas’ fault; he is the one that sold Him, betrayed Him [Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50].  It was Pontius Pilate’s fault; he was a weak and vacillating ruler, and he delivered Him to crucifixion [Matthew 27:26].  No, it was the Jews’ fault; they are the ones that accused Him and delivered Him up [Luke 23:13-24; John 18:12-13].  No, it was the Roman soldiers’ fault; they are the ones that drove in the nails and pierced His side [Matthew 27:35; John 19:34].

I can hear the cry of Pontius Pilate to this day as he washed His hands in water, “I am innocent from the blood of this just Man: see you to it” [Matthew 27:24]. I can hear the cry of the Jew for two thousand years of anti-Semitism, “It is not our fault.  We did it not.”  I can hear the Roman soldiers respond, “We are but men under authority; we didn’t do it.”

It must have been we all had a part.  It must have been that our sins nailed Him to the tree, and our sins pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns:

Was it for crimes that I had done

That He groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown

And love beyond degree.

[From “At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]

It is not only a portrayal of sin [Colossians 2:14], but the cross of Christ is also God’s atoning grace and mercy that we might be forgiven [Ephesians 1:7, 2:8].  It is the answer to the cry of Job: “I have sinned; what shall I do?” [Job 7:20].  It is the answer to the cry of MacBeth: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?  No rather this my hand will the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”  It is the answer of the great Christian hymn:

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

O precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow.

No other fount I know.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

[from “Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]

This is the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8].  This is the Passover Lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7].  This is the suffering Servant of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1-12].  This is the blood of the covenant shed for the remission of sins [Matthew 26:26-28].  This is God’s atoning mercy worked out through the ages [Titus 3:5].  And this is the consummation toward which all time and history do move.

            Jesus bowed His head and cried, saying, “It is finished; it is finished” [John 19:30].  And the blood that fell on the dust around the cross cried to the grass, “It is finished.”  And the grass around the cross cried to the herbs, “It is finished.”  And the herbs cried to the trees, “It is finished.” And the trees cried to the birds in the branches, “It is finished.”  And the birds, spiraling upward, cried to the clouds, “It is finished.” And the clouds cried to the stars, “It is finished.”  And the stars cried to the angels in heaven, “It is finished.”  And the angels in glory went up and down the streets of the New Jerusalem crying, “It is finished”; God’s atoning grace, worked out in history for the forgiveness of our sins [Romans 5:6].

And that cross, that Golgotha, that Calvary is the sign of our hope and our salvation; a cross with its arms outstretched wide as the world is wide.  As far as the east goes east, and the west goes west, so the arms of God’s love and mercy are outstretched.  And it includes even me.

There is room at the cross for me.

Though millions have come.

There is still room for one.

There is room at the cross for me.

[from “Room at the Cross,” Ira F. Stanphill]

And that cross is the sign of our eternal hope and assurance in Christ Jesus. “If in Flanders’ fields the poppies grow, it will be between the crosses, row on row. A sign of the hope we have in God; there could be no other way.

Could my tears forever flow?

Could my zeal no languor know?

These for sin could not atone.

Thou must save and Thou alone.

In my hand no price I bring.

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

[from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady]

And it is enough.  God says it is enough.  “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7, 13].  “These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14].

Ever since by faith I saw the stream

Thy flowing wounds supply,

Redeeming grace has been my theme

And shall be until I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song

I’ll sing Thy power to save

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave.

[from “There Is a Fountain,” William Cowper]

This shall be the song of our praise to Jesus forever and ever.  “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be honor and power and glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen,” and amen [Revelation 1:5-6].

And our Lord, in deepest humility, bowing at the foot of the cross, with all of the love and adoration of our hearts, we thank God this day, this Friday’s day.  This day of the cross and the crucifixion, we thank God for the love and grace that brought such salvation and forgiveness to our souls [Ephesians 1:7, 2:8].  Make us new.  Make us Christian [2 Corinthians 5:17].  Make us God’s true servants as we face the assignments that remain to us in our pilgrimage, that we might honor our Lord as our Lord honored Thee, giving His life unto death that we might be saved [Isaiah 53:12]; in praise, in thanksgiving, in His holy name, amen.

MOUNT CALVARY:  THE MOUNT OF ATONEMENT

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 27:33, Hebrews 9:22

4-4-69

I.          Introduction

A.  Modern denial for the need of such a gospel

1. Define the world in terms of materialistic and secular values

B. Message of the gospel address itself to a far deeper human need

C.  Christian faith is essentially a message of redemption(Romans 4:25)

1.  Fundamental purpose to deliver us from the bondage of sin

2.  Sign and symbol of the faith is a rugged cross

D.  The descent from heaven and the sufferings of Christ(Philippians 2:6-8, Matthew 27:28-37, John 19:34)

E. What is the meaning of the death of Christ?

1.  A dramatic play?Historical tragedy?Abysmal failure?

II.         The judgment of God upon our sins

A.  Who killed Jesus?(Job 2:9, Matthew 27:24)

B.  We all had a part

III.        The atonement of God for our sin

A.  The answer to Job’s agonizing cry (Job 7:20)

1.  The answer to Macbeth’s tragic queries

2.  The answer to the hymn, “Nothing But the Blood”

B.  The Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world(Revelation 13:8, Exodus 12:13, Isaiah 53:5, 11, Matthew 26:28, John 19:30)

IV.       The message of hope and salvation to the world(Galatians 6:14)

A.  For all mankind – as far as the east goes east and the west goes west, so wide are the arms of the cross

B. The emblem of our hope

C.  All-sufficient(Exodus 12:13, Revelation 7:14, Revelation 1:5-6)