Services of Prayer and Remembrance: Crucifixion
December 5th, 1971
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 24: 38-45
And especially to come after so beautiful a singing of that passage from The Messiah. As they were singing it, I could not help but think of the promise so definitely and triumphantly stated in the Bible that He shall reign until all enemies are placed under His feet [1 Corinthians 15:25]. "He will not fail, nor be discouraged until He hath set judgment in the earth" [Isaiah 42:4]. "For the government is upon His shoulder" [Isaiah 9:6], "and He shall reign forever and ever" [Revelation 11:15].
And as they were singing that beautiful, beautiful song of pathos, remembrance of the sufferings of our Lord, I could not help but think how true those blessed promises are in God’s Book. For, these songs that they sing today, the radio plays them for a moment, tire of them, get other like songs, sing them, they live for a day, then they are forgotten forever. The only time they’re ever resurrected is when somebody is putting on a program and goes back through the years and say, "This was the song that everybody was singing, and singing and playing back yonder." Other than that it is forgotten. You know how old that song is? It was written over three hundred years ago. And it is still as full of meaning and message to us today as it was when Handel wrote it over three hundred years ago; "For He must reign forever and ever."
The word of devotion, quiet, concerns something in the sacrifice of our Lord that I often remind myself. Why is it that the cross of Christ, and He was one out of untold hundreds of thousands who were crucified by the Roman government? They crucified slaves that ran away. They crucified their enemies. It was the instrument of execution for felons and thieves and malefactors. Christ was just one out of a throng multitude that had suffered like shame and execution.
It was so insignificant and trivial a thing, even in the life of the petty procurator, Pontius Pilate, that there’s no secular record of it in history. Nobody thought anything about it. Nobody paid any attention to it, not in the history books and not in the ongoing of the Roman Empire. It was hidden away and tucked away in a small corner of the earth, for the center of life was in the thriving teeming capital of the Greco-Roman world, it was in Rome. Well, how is it that the cross and the sufferings of that Somebody could make atonement for our sins?
Well, I’ll tell you why, and I’m going to do it in a different kind of a way. The last chapter of Luke, the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, describes the resurrection of our Lord [Luke 24:1-12], and His appearance to the apostles [Luke 24:36-48]. "It is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have." And He said, "Do you have anything here to eat? And He took from their hands a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He did eat before them" [Luke 24:39-43].
This Man, Christ Jesus, raised from the dead, the same Man who was crucified on the cross [Luke 23:26-46], with the scars in His hands and in His side [Luke 24:39-40]. Then He spoke to them, and He opened their hearts that they might understand the Scriptures [Luke 24:45]; commissioned them, took them up to the Mount of Olives.
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and ascended up into heaven.
And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
Is this not an axiomatic truth? The worship of anything other than God is idolatry. That’s what idolatry is. Only God is to be worshipped. No thing that God made is to be worshipped. That is idolatry; yet they worshipped Jesus. And He accepted that adulation, and adoration, and praise. "And they worshipped Him" [Luke 24:52]. Is that idolatry? And are we idolaters when we bow before the Lord God in heaven, Jesus, and call upon His name and look to Him for salvation, every blessed and heavenly hope, is that idolatry? Not to us; for to us, the Lord Jehovah is named Jesus; one and the same [Matthew 1:21-23; John 1:14].
His name is Jehovah, Yahweh in the Old Covenant. His name is Joshua, Jesus, Savior, in the New Covenant [Matthew 1:21]; and both of them are the same. There is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism, and one God and Father of us all [Ephesians 4:5]. And His name is Jehovah, Jesus [Matthew 1:21, 23].
Why then the efficacy of His sufferings and His cross? It is because they are the sufferings and the atoning cross of our Lord God. It’s not just a man who is dying. It’s not just a criminal who is executed. That Somebody Jesus, nailed to the cross is none other than God in the flesh, who hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows [Isaiah 53:4], in Whose stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:5], and in whose blood our sins are all washed away [Revelation 1:5]. The efficacy, the saving grace of that death lies in who He was. It is God in the flesh.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
And He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and shared it with His disciples [1 Corinthians 11:23-24].
Our Lord, as the disciples held in their very hands the body of our Savior, they touched Him. They put their arms around His feet. They kissed Him. "Behold My hands and My side, that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see" [Luke 24:39]. And as they, Lord, touched Thee, and found Thee so real, our Master, as I hold this bread in my hand, may it be thus no less so, that we touch our Savior. With eyes of faith we behold Him, and with hands of love and acceptance and belief we touch Thee. And bless us, Lord, as in symbol we partake of the manna that came down from heaven [John 6:48-51, 58], even the sacrifice of the body of our Lord, in whose dear name we pray, amen.
"This is My body which is broken for you: Take, eat, in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Then after the same manner, in the same way, He took the cup, He blessed it, and asked that they all drink of it [1 Corinthians 11:25; Matthew 26:27].
Our Lord, as we hold up this cup before Thee, bringing back to remembrance that awesome and fateful evening when the Lord in Gethsemane gave Himself in final and ultimate decision, to die for the sins of the whole world [Matthew 26:53-54; John 18:4-12], and God saw the travail of His soul, and was satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]. However the sufferings He endured, in the driving in of the nails and the pressing down of the crown of thorns and the agony of a crucified execution [Matthew 27:29-50], yet the sufferings of His heart and of His soul were infinitely greater; For the Lord made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And holding this cup in my hand brings back in poignant memory the sacrifice without which we could never be saved [Luke 22:19]. And we praise Thee, Lord, and thank Thee, Lord, thus for dying in our stead [Romans 5:8], washing us clean from our sins [Romans 1:5], and someday to make a home for us in heaven [John 14:2-3], in Thy holy and saving name, amen.
This cup is the new promise, the new contract, the new diatheke, the new testament, "the new covenant in My blood: this do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:25].
Before we sing our hymn of love and brotherhood and fellowship, could I say, the profound thanksgiving and gratitude of my soul for the great throng of you who are here this most inclement of all evenings. Your presence honors Christ, and encourages my heart. For in this church there are so many who humbly, devoutly, everlastingly love Jesus, and that’s enough, that we love the Lord and love one another. So may we sing our song?