The Cross and the Crown
October 15th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-15-72 7:30 p.m.
We invite you who are sharing this service with us on radio, the radio of the city of Dallas, to turn in your Bible to the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. And we shall read two sections of the Gospel of John. First, in chapter 18—chapter 18, verses 33 through 37—John chapter 18, beginning at verse 33 and reading through verse 37 [John 18:33-37]. And you who share the service on radio, get your Bible if you can, and turn with us to the passage, and let us all of us read it out loud together, John 18:33-37. Now together:
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews?
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.
Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.
We turn now to chapter 19, chapter 19. And we shall begin reading at verse 14 and read through verse 22 [John 19:14-22]. The title of the sermon is The Cross and the Crown; King Jesus, dying on the cross. Our passage now, John 19, beginning in verse 14, reading through verse 22 [John 19:14-22]; now all of us together:
And it was the Preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
And they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Pilate answered, gegrapha, gegrapha—”What I have written I have written” [John 19:22]. The cross and the crown—the superscription that Pilate wrote above the cross of Christ: JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS [John 19:19]. And he was so determined that all should read it that he wrote it in the language of all the people who might have been gathered there at that far-famed, much-attended Passover festival. He wrote it in Hebrew, and he wrote it in Greek, and he wrote it in Latin [John 19:20]. And when it was suggested to Pilate that he change the writing, Pilate said in determination and in final decision: “What I have written I have written” [John 19:22].
And there it stands, the cross of our Lord and the superscription above it in those three languages: “This is Jesus, a King” [John 19:19]. Today there would be no cause and no reason to write that superscription in any language, for the language of the cross is universal. Just to see it is immediately to recognize it as the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Acts 20:24].
One time I was in Oberammergau, seated there with thousands of other people, looking at the famous Passion Play. There were many, many thousands there who could not understand German. There were people there present from the ends of the earth, so many of them unable to understand German. But everyone present knew the language of the cross. In a thousand tongues that story is told: this dying Savior is a King.
And Pilate wrote it in Hebrew [John 19:19-20]. That is the language of religion. And the faith of Christ, the Christian faith, separates itself from all other religions in the earth. The one unique, distinctive, separating characteristic and feature of the Christian religion is this: that it has Christ. The heart of it is Christ. The substance of it is Christ. The gospel is Christ. It is not about Him. It is not an ethic about Him; it is not a philosophy about Him; it is not anything except Him. The faith is Jesus the Christ. It was written in Hebrew [John 19:20]. This is Jesus the King, the King and Lord of the human heart, of the human soul, of all judgment and of the universe.
Jesus is the great dissimilar and the great unlike. When I see a book and on the front of the book there are pictures of the religious leaders of the earth, there will be a picture of Mohammed, and there will be a picture of Zoroaster, and there will be a picture of Confucius, and there will be a picture of Mahavira, and there will be a picture of Lao-tse. And there will be a picture of all these other religious leaders of the earth, and then also there will be a picture of the Lord Jesus. And the book purports to give the story of the religious founders of the great faiths of time and of the present. And when I see a thing like that, I have a feeling on the inside of my heart that it is far more a violation of good taste than it is of spiritual judgment. Jesus is just not to be placed in the same category as a philosopher like Socrates or a founder of religion like Mohammed. The difference between a Mohammed and the Lord Jesus is the difference between night and day, between heaven and hell, between up and down, between the East and the West. It was written in Hebrew [John 19:20], the language of faith and religion: This is Jesus, a King.
It was written in Greek [John 19:19-20], the language of culture and of art. Oh, how much, how very much the faith of our Lord has entered into the very framework, and substance, and foundation, and superstructure of Western civilization! If you take Jesus out of modern civilized life, Western civilized life, it is a shambles; it is nothing. The great foundational truths upon which Western civilization has been built, those truths are found in the faith of Jesus Christ. That is true in art. That is true in poetry. That is true in song. That is true in literature. It is true in every expression of Western civilization.
He is a King. Not only in Hebrew, in the faith, not only in Greek, in civilization, in art, in literature. But it was written in Latin [John 19: 19-20]. The Lord is a King in the language of statutes and government. The Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], the high ethical content preached by the Lord Jesus, is the model of every fine, dedicated child of God in the earth. It is sublimity itself. And our Lord on the cross, in Latin, in Greek, and in Hebrew [John 19:20], is raised up as a King. This is Jesus the King of the Jews [John 19:19].
Now that is the prelude to the glorious, incomparable, marvelous exaltation of our Lord. Truly there is nothing in theology that shall ever go beyond the marvelous, kinetic passage of the apostle Paul written in the second chapter of the Book of Philippians:. . . being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven—the hosts in glory—and things in earth—the whole creation of mankind—and things under the earth—in another world, down beneath us—
. . . to the praise and glory of God.
Jesus is forever and universally the King.
In the second verse of the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author says that our Lord, “The author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before Him”—for the great reward that God gave Him—”endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” [Hebrews 12:2]. This is King Jesus—dying on the cross, exalted to the right hand of God, and the universal King of all creation [Revelation 19:11-13].
Now the truth of that message, in the cross, the kingship of our Lord Jesus—in the truth of that message, the ages and the centuries do confirm its mighty grace and its glorious power. The cross and the crown: a King, crucified, raised and exalted [Acts 2:36, 4:10]. It was written in Latin, the language of government [John 19:20]. In the cross of Christ, in the obedience and suffering of our Lord, we find the great key to universal government and to universal peace [Romans 13:1].
I can remember so well the First World War. And it left the nation of Germany in a shambles. It would be hard for us to realize the depths of humiliation, the destruction, the awesome burden of payment, and of neglect, and of despicable contemptuous attitude that the civilized world developed toward the German people. And it generated in the German people, in the national life, a bitterness toward the entire world. And that bitterness can be symbolized in a statue, a stone statue that the German people erected on the Polish frontier. It was a woman, brooding in determination, facing the Polish nation. And underneath that brooding woman were these words inscribed: “Never forget, Germans, of what blind hatred has robbed you. Bide the hour that shall expiate the shame of this bleeding frontier.” Then below was listed the names of the towns that once belonged to Prussia, the eastern German province and that then and now belong to Poland. And in that bitterness, and in that hatred, and in that malice, placed there in brooding stone there arose the seedbed in which the spirit of Hitler grew and grew until finally, it possessed the entire soul of the Germanic nation. And there followed after the indescribable atrocities and bloodshed and maelstrom of war and fury and death of the Second World War.
Contrary, some of you have flown over the great Andes Mountains that separate Chile from Argentina. And on the main air route over the Andes the pilot will be careful to point out to you the “Christ of the Andes.” On one of the great high mountains in that marvelous supernal range, there is a vast, vast statue of the living Christ and the cross. And after years and years and years of warfare between Argentina and Chile, on the borderline between those two nations, the commonwealth of both countries built that cross and that statue of Christ. And this is the inscription on the base of that statue: “Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust, than Argentina and Chile shall break the peace they have pledged at the foot of Christ our Redeemer.” It was written in Latin, the language of government: “This is Jesus the King” [John 19:19-20]. And all true government is based upon that spirit of sacrifice, and love, and pouring out of life.
And the shadow of that truth has fallen across the entire cultural and artistic world. He is declared a King in Greek [John 19:20]. And what a difference does the Spirit of Christ make in the art forms and in the literary and musical expressions of the world. For example, if ever you are in Florence, Italy, doubtless you will visit the Monastery of St. Mark. I wanted to go there mostly because Savonarola, the flaming, marvelous preacher, pre-Reformation messenger of God, Savonarola was a monk in St. Mark’s Monastery. And it was from the little cell in which he lived in that monastery that he made his way to the great Duomo, the cathedral; and there, a living flame of fire, preached the gospel of the power and the saving efficacy of the name of Christ our Lord. Well, going around St. Mark’s Monastery and looking in those what I would call little cells—the little places where the monks live, it is a marvel. It is unbelievable! I do not see how men could do what those monks have done in that monastery. The cells, their little rooms, are covered with heavenly pictures; beautiful pictures, marvelous pictures. Some of the finest demonstrations of art in the earth are on the wooden walls of those monastery rooms, those little cells. What does it mean? Why, it is patent. It is evident what it means. As the monk lived there in that cell, and as he prayed, and as he praised God, and as he read the Holy Scriptures, his mind and his soul was elevated, and elevated, and elevated, and upward, and upward. And being of an artistic temperament, he drew pictures of the dreams of his heart and of the visions of his soul. And you look at the pictures. The pictures are of angels, and of the celestial hosts, and of heaven, and of the glory of God. And as you walk around and look at those things, you can’t help but be impressed with the mind and the heart of those godly, consecrated men who dream such dreams, and who saw such visions, and who painted such marvelous forms of art.
That is true in music. Some of sublimest music in the earth, written by men who love God and worship Christ. Now take Christ out of that; take Him out of that. Take the influence of our Lord out of it, and look at the sordid art forms that we find today on the stage, in the movie house, in a thousand other ways. The salacious novels, the unspeakable modern trash and filth that passes for modern literature. It was written in Greek [John 19:19-20], in the language of art. And wherever there is kingship, and nobility, and exaltation, and heavenliness, there will you find it, the cross of Christ and the shadow of our Lord, King Jesus reigning over the art, and the literature, and the music of the earth.
And last, it was written in Hebrew [John 19:19-20]; the shadow of the true faith falling over the human heart and the human soul. Our Lord’s invitation to “Come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21], die to self that you might live unto God. O Lord! And in dying to self, there is a part that criticism plays in our lives; fine, fine. It shall temper us. It shall strengthen us. It shall give us courage in our souls. There is a part that criticism plays in the life that is crucified. Disappointment and frustration; fine. There is a part in the crucified life that frustration and disappointment shall play. Failure, fine; there is a place that failure shall place in our lives in the shadow of the cross.
Oh, dear! When I think of the life of Jesus, in how many ways and in how many times did He fail utterly, abjectly, completely, disastrously. He failed with the rich young ruler—didn’t reach him at all [Mark 10:17-22]. He failed with the leaders of His day [John 11:47, 53]. He failed with His own people in His own nation [John 1:11]. In fact, if one were sardonic and unbelieving, an infidel, he could point to the life of our Lord as an example of failure; the cross [Matthew 27:40-43]. But He is a King. In death, He is a King. In suffering, He is still a King. And in execution, He is a King. For that is the way that we live: first the cross, and then the crown [Hebrews 12:2].
Life is a burden; bear it;
Life is a duty; dare it;
Life is a thorn-crown; wear it,
Though it break your heart in twain;
Though the burden crush you down;
Close your lips, and hide your pain,
First the cross, and then the crown.
[“A Thought,” Father Ryan]
This is Jesus, a King [John 19:19]. And the shadow of that truth falls over all of human life. If we would reign with Him, we must suffer with Him [2 Timothy 2:12]. If we would live with Him, we must die with Him [Romans 6:8]. If we would inherit the kingdom with Him, we must be crucified with Him [Galatians 2:20]; the cross and then the crown [Hebrews 12:22]. This is Jesus, the King [John 19:19]. Why, when you think of these things, you want to announce. Let’s just—
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Let every tribe and every clan
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.
[“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet]
What do you got to sing today? Let’s sing that. No. Let’s sing: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Let’s sing that song. Let’s sing that song, whatever number it is. We don’t even need the number. We will just sing it out of the love our hearts: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”—King Jesus. And while we sing that appeal, in the balcony round, you; the press of people on this lower floor, you, loving the Lord, following Him [Romans 10:8-13]; the glory road from this earth to the world to come. Down a stairway, into an aisle, here to the front, “Pastor, I make it now. I am joining you and this dear church in the pilgrimage to glory, and here I am [Hebrews 10:24-25]. This is my family, my whole family. We are all coming.” Or just you, while we sing the hymn, make it now. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.