The Shadow of the Cross
July 16th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-16-72 7:30 p.m.
All of you who share with us this service on the radio of the city of Dallas, turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, chapter 18. And with all of us who fill this great auditorium in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, read with the pastor John chapter 18, the first eleven verses; John 18:1-11.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Shadow of the Cross. And our text will be the eleventh verse, John chapter 18, verses 1 through 11; and all of us sharing our Bibles, all of us reading it out loud together, concluding at verse 11. Now together at the first verse:
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 the text which gives rise to the title of the sermon: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" What was happening? His betrayal and arrest, His trial and His soon crucifixion were all known to the Lord: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" [John 18:11].
All of His life, all of it, even His preexistent life, Christ lived in the shadow of the cross. There is a very famous painting. It is a picture of the Lord Jesus in the carpenter’s shop. He looks to be a young man, a lad about eighteen years of age. And the artist has so drawn Him as He stands in the carpenter’s shop doing a carpenter’s work. Tradition says that He made ox yokes. And they also say in tradition that they were the easiest to bear. In the carpenter’s shop, working, somehow His hands being extended in the labor of the day, there is a distinct shadow cast by the young man against the wall to His back, and the shadow is that of a Roman cross. In that cross, in its shadow, in its inevitable, inexorable coming, Christ lived all the days of His life.
There is a very famous book in theological literature called The Quest for the Historical Jesus. It was written by Albert Schweitzer, that famous philanthropist and physician of the French Cameroons in Africa. I would not take away from the fame and the sweet spirit of that doctor, Albert Schweitzer, who gave the latter part of his life to a ministry to the poor and the sick in West Africa. But as a theologian he was anything but what I would call a devout Christian. The thesis of that book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, is this: Albert Schweitzer wrote that Christ expected the apocalyptic descent of the kingdom of God from heaven, and when it did not come, there was no apocalyptic descension of the kingdom at all. And when it did not come, Albert Schweitzer wrote in that theological tome, that our Lord died in disappointment, in defeat, in frustration, and in personal loss and agony.
There is not a syllable of that thesis that I believe. And there is not a sentence of that book that reflects the presentation of the purpose of Christ in His coming in this world, much less the deep atoning significance of His death. For all of His life, our Lord lived under the shadow of the cross, and He came into this world to die for our sins according to the Scriptures [John 12:27; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. It is not by His beautiful life that we are saved. It is by His suffering and His death. "By His stripes," not by His perfect life, "we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24].
I have said that the whole existence of Christ, His pre-existence as well as the days of His flesh, all of His life was lived in the shadow of that cross. The tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews portrays a scene in heaven before the world was made. And in that scene, described in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the Lord, the Prince of Glory, the Christ of heaven, the pre-existent Jesus, says that a body has God prepared for Him.
For in the blood of bulls and of goats and of bullocks there is no remission of sin.
But a body hast Thou prepared for Me.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.
[Hebrews 10:4-5, 7]
Somewhere before the age of the ages, before the foundation of the world, before the creation itself, somewhere in heaven there was a scene in which the Prince of Glory volunteered to die for the creation that should fall into sin and judgment [Hebrews 10:4-14].
When the Lord was presented in the Old Testament prophecies, always there is that overtone of suffering. David in the twenty-second Psalm wrote as though he were standing and looking at the cross. "They pierced," he said in that psalm, "My hands and My feet" [Psalm 22:16]. David never experience that, but by prophecy he was describing the cross of Christ.
You would think that Isaiah was an evangelist; fully, deeply, spiritually accurate as Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. For when he describes the atoning work of our Savior, he speaks that upon Him all of our sins have been laid. He says, "God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6].
When the enunciation, when the announcement was made of the birth of the coming King, it was in those terms, "You are to call His name Iēsous, Savior: for He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]. When John the Baptist introduced Him at the beginning of His public ministry, it was in those same terms, in that same image, "Behold the Lamb of God, that shall take away the sin of the world" [John 1:29].
There was not a Jew who heard that but in the morning, knowing of the morning sacrifice, and in the evening, knowing of the evening sacrifice [Exodus 29:38-39] – a lamb that was slain for the expiation of the sins of the nation. There was no Jew but when he heard that announcement knew the great atoning purpose of the coming of Christ into the world, to bear away our sins [Psalm 40:6-8].
Then the following ministry of Christ always under that shadow of a cross; in His Galilean ministry He took His disciples aside and taught them that He must suffer, and die, and be raised from the dead [Matthew 17:22-23].
In His last public ministry in Jerusalem when the Greeks came to see Him, He said, "The grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto Me" [John 12:24, 32]. The coming of the Greeks [John 12:20-21] brought to His heart the mind and the memory that He should die for the sins of the world.
Even in that glorious Mount of Transfiguration, Elijah and Moses were speaking to Him about His death which – and this is the most unusual construction – which He should accomplish in Jerusalem [Luke 9:30-31]. Not His death that He should die there, but His death which He should accomplish in Jerusalem; that is, it had a significant atoning purpose beyond any other death by which any man ever died in the world.
At the beautiful supper at Bethany when Mary anointed Him, and Judas and finally the other disciples found fault with the waste of the anointment, He said, "Leave her alone. As long as this gospel is preached this shall be spoken in memory of her, for she hath anointed My body for the burying" [Matthew 26:6-13]. He was to die, be placed in a sepulcher, and what Mary had done by prophetic faith was the anointing of His body for the tomb.
At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, "This is My body which is given for you,this is My blood which is shed for you" [Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24]. And then last of all, after the trial there was laid on Him a cross and He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called Golgotha, the "Place of the Skull" [John 19:17], and there they raised Him up beneath the sky and above the earth; and one crucified on one side of Him and one nailed to the tree on the other side [John 19:18]. And He died the central Man of all time and eternity; the great Savior, the God-Man, Christ Jesus [John 19:19-30].
The whole story of the whole Bible and the whole burden of the gospel is this: "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The shadow of that cross has fallen across the entire world. This world could never be the same again, because Christ has died in it. The soil of this planet has drunk the encrimsoned blood of the Son of God. The world can never be the same again, never. Nor could we ever forget it or escape it, what Christ has done.
There may be other worlds; the scientists sometimes speculate that there are. There may be other planets, there may be other races, there may be other people, but there are none like this because the coming of Christ and the death of our Lord have set aside and apart this planet, this earth, from any other of God’s creation in all the stellar universe. How could we forget that it was here that Jesus came, it was here that He died, it was here that His blood was spilled out upon the ground? We could never forget or escape it.
One time, soon after the Second World War in southern France, we stopped at a British military cemetery. And I walked through that cemetery looking at those airmen, the Royal Air Force, the RAF airmen who had lost their lives in that conflict and were buried there in southern France. And as I walked, I saw a wreath on a cross; and there was a writing on the wreath. I walked over there, looked at it, and these are the simple words that I read, "His wife and his sons will never forget." This soldier man, this British Air Force pilot, had lost his life in that dreadful conflict, and he was buried there. And on the cross somebody had hung that wreath, and on it the words that they at home could never forget.
We are like that in this earth. It could never be the same again because Christ lived here, and He died here, and it was here that He poured out His blood into this soil. This is surely and truly the great substance of the message of the Bible; it is the evangel itself. That’s what a man preaches when he preaches the gospel, that Christ died in our stead and for our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8; Isaiah 53:6-9].
The disciples, the apostles, stood under the shadow of the cross to proclaim the grace of the Son of God. And every sentence and every word that they left behind is stained by His blood.
The apostle Paul of whom I preached this morning said, "God forbid that I should glory, that I should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. And in the grace of God and in the preaching of the evangel, it has become the sign and the aegis of our hope for heaven.
If in Flanders fields the poppies grow,
It will be between the crosses row on row
["In Flanders Fields"; Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915]
If I were looking for a sign of hope, and of God, and of heaven, and of assurance, I would seek it in a cross. When I see it raised above a fallen form, I know that somebody there believed in the preciousness, and the goodness, and the mercy of Jesus our Lord. The cross of Christ is the sign of our salvation and of our hope of heaven.
It is last of all the incomparable invitation of God to the people of the whole world; for the arms of the cross are extended on either side, wide as the world is wide. Thus does God predict for us the mercy and grace of heaven that saves us. As far as the east goes east and as far as the west goes west are the arms of the cross extended. It includes us all. It reaches out to us all.
In the presence of the death of Christ, there are no distinctions. There are no rich and poor. There are no famous or infamous. There are no male and female. There are no bond and free. There are no black and white. We are all one in the presence of the death of the Son of God.
I never read a prettier story than this of the Iron Duke of Wellington, who was used of God to save England from the onslaught of Napoleon. And England literally worshiped the Iron Duke of Wellington. He is buried in St. Paul’s, the great national cathedral.
The story is told that, in keeping with the Episcopal way of worship, the great Duke of Wellington was kneeling at the altar to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper. And as he knelt there to receive from the hand of the officiating minister the elements of the Lord’s Supper, there was a ragged, dirty bum of a man who came and evidently not knowing who he was, knelt by his side. And the officiating minister looking at it said to the ragged bum, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Move away. Move away. This is the great Duke of Wellington; move away."
And the Duke, overhearing what the minister said, replied in these words, "Sir, leave him alone. Leave him alone. There are no distinctions here. The ground is level at the foot of the cross." There are no high and mighty. There are no low and outcast. There are no big and great. There are no despised and small. But in the arms of the cross all of us find an equal welcome.
And that is so poignantly true when we take the Book of Hebrews and follow the comparison of that God-inspired preacher [Hebrews 12:18-20] when he speaks of Mt. Sinai with its thunder and its lightening [Exodus 19:16]. Yea, so terrible was that sight that Moses said, "I do exceedingly fear and tremble" [Hebrews 12:21]. And God said, "If any creature should touch the mount, he should die" [Hebrews 12:20; Exodus 19:13]. It was an awesome sight: the God of judgment, giving the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. This do and thou shalt live [Deuteronomy 4:1],disobey, break these, and thou shalt surely die; the God of judgment and of fire and of wrath – Mt. Sinai.
But the author of Hebrews compares that with Mt. Calvary, "For we are not come," he says, "to the mount that if one touched it he died, that was filled with fire and fury and judgment. But," it says, "we are come to Mt. Zion, to Mt. Calvary, to the general assembly of the first born whose names are written in heaven, to the great convocation of angels who praise the blessed Jesus, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to the blood of the covenant that washes our sins away" [Hebrews 12:18, 22-24].
Anybody can come to Mt. Calvary. Anybody can kneel at the cross. Anybody can look up to Jesus. Anybody can importune His mercy, and His grace, and His forgiveness; that is the gospel of the Son of God. The arms of the cross reach out for us all.
No wonder you sing that incomparable song:
Down at the cross where the Savior died
Glory, glory to His name.
["Down at the Cross"; Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878]
Amen. Amen. Now tonight we are going to have a twofold invitation. You are going to say this is so strange. No, we’re just all loving Jesus and working for Jesus, whatever we do.
The first invitation is for all of you, our staff, our leaders, all of you who are going to work in our Vacation Bible School that begins in the morning. Our first invitation, if you will just love God all over again and dedicate yourself all anew to the Lord, in a moment I want you to come down here for a dedicatory prayer.
And then the second invitation will be to give your heart publicly to Jesus, to put your life in the circle and the circumference and fellowship of this dear church.
Now the first invitation: the staff, and all of our leaders, and sponsors, and directors, and helpers in Vacation Bible School, if you are going to be here in the morning and you are going to work with us and help us in our Vacation Bible School, I want you to get out of your seat right now – wherever you are – and immediately come down here and kneel for this prayer of consecration. All of you, all over the house; there will be a great group of you, a great group of you.
When you fill up the place here at our altar rail, why, fill up the front of the auditorium and fill up the aisles. And the Lord in heaven bless and sanctify and hallow this dedication of life, and endowment, and talent, and love, and God’s mercy. Just give it all to Jesus and ask the dear Lord to bless us as we take these children and seek to guide them into the fullness of God’s love and grace and mercy in our living Lord.
We have an incomparable opportunity in these days of teaching and training. It means so much to us, who seeking to reach the hearts and lives of these boys and girls, this is our greatest single opportunity, and we want to ask God’s blessings upon it.
Now, Lord, bowed before Thee are these scores of leaders and directors and helpers. And we pray the presence of Jesus shall be with them and us in the morning. We pray for the throngs of boys and girls who will be here. And as we learn to sing the songs about Thee, and as we learn why Jesus came into this world, and as we seek to present to the boys and girls, who in some instances, have never had an opportunity to accept Jesus as Savior; we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide these words of appeal and especially, Master, bless this pastor as he holds those evangelistic services with the older groups, and as he invites to come to Jesus in faith for salvation those who will place their trust in Him. And dear Lord, when the two weeks are done and the days of labor and ministry have passed, may we look back upon them and say these were the finest days in teaching and soulwinning that we have ever had in this dear church. We offer ourselves to Thee, Lord; bless, hallow. Use for Thee and for the good and the salvation of these boys and girls this effort that we dedicate in Thy dear name and for Thy dear sake, amen.
Thank you, sweet people; bless you in the work of the morning and of the week. Now, in a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal to you. A family you, or a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord, come and stand by me. "Pastor, this is my hand. I give it to you, a sign and a token that I have given my heart in faith to the blessed Jesus." A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; or a couple you, in the throng in this balcony round, the press of people on this lower floor; there is a stairway at the back and the front and on either side and there is time and to spare. If you are on the last row in the balcony, come. If the Spirit bids you here tonight, make it now. Decide now, and come. Into that aisle, down to the front, "Here I am, pastor. I am coming now." Do it, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Jesus lived His life in the shadow of the cross (Isaiah 53:5)
A. The volunteer in heaven (Hebrews 10:4-7)
B. The theme of prophecy (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53:6-11)
C. Before He was born (Matthew 1:21)
D. Introduction of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:29)
E. In His Galilean ministry
F. In His last public ministry to the Greeks (John 12:24, 32)
G. At the transfiguration (Luke 9:30-31)
H. The anointing of Mary (Matthew 26:6-13)
I. The institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24)
J. The cruel instrument of death laid upon His shoulder (1 Corinthians 13:3)
II. That shadow has fallen across the earth and the centuries of time
A. The world can never be the same because He suffered in it, died for it
B. In the shadow of that cross stood every apostle, martyr and witness (Galatians 6:14)
C. Sign of our salvation and our hope of heaven
D. No more man-made distinctions (Hebrews 12:18-24)