Cries of Crucifixion
October 22nd, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
CRIES OF CRUCIFIXION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-22-72 7:30 p.m.
By listening to our music this evening, you would know beforehand that the message concerns the crucifixion of our Lord. On the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing and worshiping with us in the First Baptist Church. And the title of the sermon is Cries of Crucifixion. In our preaching through the Gospel of John we are in the nineteenth chapter, and we cordially invite you to open your Bible, you who are in this great auditorium and all of you who listen on radio; open your Bible and read the passage out loud with us. John chapter 19, we begin at verse 25 and read through verse 35; John chapter 19, verse 25 through 35, now all of us reading it out loud together:
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
It was the sovereign purpose of God that the crucifixion of our Lord should be open and public. Satan sought to slay the Savior when He was born in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16]. He sought to slay Him in Nazareth, when His own townspeople tried to cast Him headlong from the high cliff on which their city was built [Luke 4:28-29]. There are many who think that Satan tried to slay our Lord in Gethsemane [John 18:1-6]. But it was the purpose of God that He should be exposed openly, publicly, where the eyes of all could look upon Him. He was crucified outside the city gate on the main road and highway and entrance into Jerusalem [John 19:20-21; Hebrews 13:12], and He was crucified at the height of the Passover season [John 19:14]. The historian Flavius Josephus says that at that Passover season there were as many as three million pilgrims who came from the ends of the earth to be present for that sacred celebration. It was the purpose of God that He should be raised before the eyes of men: that He should die openly, exposed.
Again, it was the purpose of God that He should be crucified with transgressors. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, written more than five hundred years before the day of the cross, the prophet said, "And He was numbered with the transgressors" [Isaiah 53:12]. All four of the Gospels are very careful to point out that Jesus did not die alone. He was crucified with insurrectionists and seditionists and murderers. He was the central cross; and on either side was there a malefactor nailed to the tree by His side [Matthew 27:38].
Again, it was the purpose of God that He should die the most excruciating death that is known to human imagination. There is no torture, there is no agony, there is no execution that even begins to approach the horror of the agony and the moral disgrace of the Roman cross. It was devised by the merciless and ruthless and cruel Roman for slaves and for enemies of the government. No Roman citizen could be crucified. That was why Paul was beheaded. It was a disgrace reserved for felons, malefactors, criminals, seditionists, insurrectionists; those who would plot the overthrow of the Roman authority.
The agony of crucifixion is beyond what any of us have ever looked upon, much less experienced. The nails through hands and feet were festering, bleeding wounds that soon were covered with gangrene. The burning fever and the indescribable thirst would sometime last for several days; the awful torture of being hanged and immobile in a slow and exhausting and horrible, agonizing death. And the moral disgrace that was attendant to the cross was doubly so to the Jew. Their method of execution was by stoning. And in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, the great lawgiver wrote:
If a man hath committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance
And that passage in Deuteronomy, "For he that is hanged on a tree is accursed of God" [Deuteronomy 21:23], is the passage that is quoted by the apostle Paul in the third chapter of the Book of Galatians: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every man that is hanged on a tree" [Galatians 3:10]. The moral disgrace that accompanied the cross was as agonizing to the innocent, pure, spotless, unblemished soul of the Son of God as was the physical agony of the death itself.
There that day, on Mt. Calvary, on Golgotha, seemingly the whole world in representation was gathered. All of us were there, all of us: there is the reviling crowd, the passers-by, the mockers, and the rejectors, and the scorners, and the scoffers, and the blasphemers. And some of them were saying, "Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it again in three days, come down from the cross, and we will believe Thee." There were others who cried, and said, "He saved others; but Himself He cannot save" [Matthew 27:40-42]. And there was the quaternion of soldiers who were under Pontius Pilate’s mandate to nail Him to the cross. They gambled at the foot of the cross for the fifth garment. There were five pieces of clothing that the Lord possessed, apparently all that He owned in the world: His sandals, the leathern girdle, the outward garment, the hat, the turban, the headpiece, and the fifth, an inward garment, made without seam. One soldier took one piece, one soldier took another, one took a third, one chose a fourth; but the fifth piece, rather than divide it, they cast lots for it at the foot of the cross, absolutely impervious, unmoved, indifferent to the agonizing of the Son of God who was dying [John 19:23-24]. And it was then, before the reviling crowd and the soldiers gambling at the foot of the cross, that the Lord said, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do" [Luke 23:34]. They do not realize the depths of depravity of which this is a part and piece and parcel. All of us were there that day that He died.
There were there at the cross the two who were nailed to the tree on either side. One of them, reflecting the blasphemous scoffing crowd, said, "You on that center cross, if You be the Son of God, save Thyself and us. Let’s see You do it" [Luke 23:39]. But the other on the other side, said, "Oh! How could you say words like that? We are dying justly, the due reward of our deeds," insurrectionists, seditionists, murderers, felons, malefactors, "We are under a just condemnation: but this Man hath done nothing amiss" [Luke 23:40-41]. And somehow God gave him the gift of intuitive faith, and turning to the Man dying on the central cross, he said, "When Thou comest into Thy kingdom," kingdom? That forlorn, despised, and crucified Man should have a kingdom? Intuitively by faith God placed in his heart that gift of trust and salvation: "When Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember me" [Luke 23:42]. And the Lord replied, "Today, verily, truly, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23: 43]. And when the Lord ascended into glory that day, He carried with Him, by His side, arm in arm, a lost, redeemed sinner.
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother." And when He saw His mother leaning on the arm of the apostle John, He said to His mother, "Behold thy son!" And He said to the apostle John, "Behold thy mother! And from that hour, from that hour the apostle John took her to his own home" [John 19:25-27], that is, that she might not witness the last agonizing convulsions of death.
Where were Mary’s sons? Where were the Lord’s brethren? John is careful to point out, that, "Neither did His brethren believe on Him" [John 7:5]. They were not there. In unbelief and rejection they never bothered to identify with that forsaken and despised Man. But the mother was there, and lest she look upon the awesome agony of those final hours, John the beloved disciple took her away.
At high noon, at twelve o’clock, and for the next three hours, until three in the afternoon, the earth was covered in midnight blackness [Matthew 27:45].
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man in his sin.
[adapted from "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed," Isaac Watts]
And in the darkness of that hour, the Lord cried, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? [Matthew 27:46]. My God, Eloi, Eloi, My God, why, lama sabachthani, hast Thou forsaken Me?" [Mark 15:34]. Written in Hebrew, but Mark writes it in Aramaic. And as the Jews, the Hellenists, being somewhat unfamiliar with Hebrew, they thought He was crying for Elijah [Mark 15:35], for every Jew believes, and so this day, that the coming of the Messiah shall be preceded by Elijah. And when they observe the Passover, always there is there a vacant seat for that promised coming prophet. And they thought, misunderstanding His word for God, they thought that He cried for Elijah. Someone took a sedative, placed it on a hyssop, on a little reed, and lifted it up to His mouth. But others standing by, said, "No, no, let it be. Let us see if Elijah will come to deliver Him" [Mark 15:36].
And as the darkness continued in that awesome hour, burning with fever, He cried, "I thirst!" [John 19:28]. Then as the moments passed, He cried, "It is finished!" [John 19:30]. And then at three in the afternoon He bowed His head and dismissed His spirit, saying, "Father, into Thy hands I commend and commit My soul, My spirit" [Luke 23:46]. And when He died, the earth shook; the very foundations of the planet moved out of their places. And Christ the Son of God, nailed to a tree, limp, and lifeless, and dead. So certainly dead that when the soldiers under mandate from Pilate came, that they might be immediately dispatched, lest their bodies hanging on the tree should pollute the land on the Sabbath day – took heavy mallets and brake the bones of the first, that he might die immediately; crushed the bones of the other that he might die immediately; but when coming to the central cross, seeing His eyes glazed in death and His head bowed, limp and lifeless, they brake not His bones. But one of the cruel soldiers, with his Roman spear, thrust the iron into His heart. And when he pulled it out, the shaft was followed by blood and water that fell down to stain the ground [John 19:31-34].
Just a recounting of the death of the Son of God would make any soul quiet, would bring pause and prayer to any sensitive heart. What is this? How could such a tragedy ever crown the story of human life? How could it ever issue an end in such sorrow and tragedy as that? And the answer to that is the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. "He hath borne our sins in His own body on the tree," said Simon Peter in the second chapter of his first epistle [1 Peter 2:24]. "God hath made Him to be sin for us, He who knew no sin; that we might be the righteousness of God in Him," said the apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of His second Corinthian letter [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Or to say it even more simply and plainly, "This is the blood of the new covenant, of the new promise, for the remission of our sins" [Matthew 26:28]. This is the love, and the sobs, and the tears, and the sacrifice, and the blood, and the death that expiates, that atones, that washes away all of our sins.
And that’s why these songs that we sing, so moving; and they’re so many, and they’re so expressive.
There’s a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.
The stanza we left out, that we didn’t sing, is the stanza that is inscribed on the grave, the sepulcher, of Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming grace has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
["There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood," William Cowper]
This is the gospel of the grace and the love and the mercy of the Son of God.
Oh! I think of that story of the Indian in Oklahoma who said, "There came a white man, and he told us about the white man’s God, and we told him to leave. There came another man, and he said to us, ‘You must cut out your drinking, and your drunkenness, and your revelry, and your rioting, and your sinful living.’ And we told him to move out. Then one day there came a man who told us about the Son of God, who came down from heaven; and he described for us how He died for our sins on the tree." And the Indian said, "And somehow, I could never forget it."
And somehow, I cannot forget it. There is the power of God and the convicting, regenerating, moving Spirit of heaven in the preaching of the cross of the Son of God:
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
A flowing, healing stream,
From Calvary’s mountain.
["Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross," Fanny J. Crosby]
O Lord, bless that gospel to the saving of our souls, and to the forgiveness of our sins, and to our abounding entrance into heaven.
And that is our appeal tonight. While we sing our song of invitation, in that balcony round, you; the great throng on this lower floor, you; coming to the Lord in acceptance, in repentance, in love, in faith, in trust; do it now. Make the decision now. Or, putting your life in the comfort and circumference and fellowship of this wonderful church, come now. Or, as the Holy Spirit shall whisper any invitation to your heart, answer with your life. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down one of those stairways or walking into one of these aisles. Come now. Decide now. Choose now. And angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
CRIES OF CRUCIFIXION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The purpose of God that the death of His Son be open, public
B. The purpose of God that He was numbered with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12)
C. The purpose of God that He die by crucifixion
1. Physical agony and moral disgrace (Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13)
II. The whole world represented – the crowd at the cross
A. The reviling crowd (Mark 15:29-32, Matthew 27:42, John 19:23-24)
1. "Father forgive themâ€¦" (Luke 23:34)
B. The two criminals (Luke 23:39-41)
1. "Today thou shalt be with Meâ€¦" (Luke 23:42-43)
C. His mother
1. His word to Mary and to John (John 19:25-27, John 7:5)
III. The darkness
A. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34)
1. Written in Hebrew, but Mark writes it in Aramaic
2. Hellenists thought He cried for Elijah (Matthew 27:)
IV. In the agony of death
A. "I thirst." (John 19:28)
B. "It is finished." (John 19:30)
C. "Father, into Thy handsâ€¦" (Luke 23:46)
V. How could such a tragedy crown the story of human life?
A. The gospel of the grace of the Son of God (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Matthew 26:28)