Shadow of the Cross
April 12th, 1976 @ 12:00 PM
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
4-12-76 12:00 p.m.
Downtown on the street of Dallas this morning, there was a young fellow at a corner who was giving out these invitations. And there are several of our R.A. boys who are on the city streets inviting the people to come to this noonday service. What a gracious, precious thing for our boys to do.
A man down there said, “I could only come and stay at the most for fifteen minutes; that would disturb the service, and certainly disturb you.” I said, “Not at all. You come and welcome.” This is a busy noonday hour, and if you can come and stay just a moment, do so. You will not disturb us. We will all understand. Least of all, would you disturb me. So anytime you have to leave, you feel free to do so.
The theme of our services this year is “Around the Christ of the Cross”: tomorrow, The Witnesses Against Him; Wednesday, Can Christ Make Good His Claims? for He said, “I am the Son of God” [John 10:36]; Thursday, What Shall I do with Jesus? and Friday, Eli Lama Sabachthani, My God, Wh?; and today, The Shadow of the Cross.
There is a very famous painting. It is of the Lord Jesus as a youth. He looks to be, in the picture, something like eighteen years of age. He is in the carpenter’s shop. He is making yokes. Tradition has it that the easiest yokes to bear were those that were fashioned by the hands of our Lord. And in this picture as He stands a youth of eighteen years, working in the carpenter’s shop, in the way that He works, and in the way that He stands, over and beyond and behind Him there is a shadow cast on the wall; and it is the shadow of the cross. All the days of the life of our Lord did He live in that shadow of suffering and execution.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord has just said to Simon Peter that “on this rock” He would build His church [Matthew 16:18]. Then from that time forth, He began to show His disciples how He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things, and be killed [Matthew 16:21]. It was then that Simon Peter took Him and rebuked Him, saying, “Lord, such a thing could not happen to Thee.” But He turned and said to Simon Peter, “Simon, you are an instrument of Satan now, get behind Me: thou art an offense unto Me: thou savorest not the things that be of God, but of men” [Matthew 16:22-23].
I turn the page to the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and after the glorious transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-9], the Lord, identifying John the Baptist as Elijah who had already come and to whom “they had done whatsoever they listed,” He says, “Likewise also shall the Son of Man suffer of them” [Matthew 17:10-12]. I turn the page to the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and beginning at verse 17:
Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart . . . and said unto them,
We go up to Jerusalem; and there the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death,
And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise from the dead.
I have chosen those passages in the center of the ministry of our Lord, turning those pages so few in number, just to present how much the suffering death of our Lord was in His heart and before His face. He lived His life in the shadow of the cross. He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth [Revelation 13:8].
The great prophecies of the Old Testament, such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, by prophecy depict the sufferings of our Lord. When He was introduced to the world by John the Baptist, it was with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. When He spoke to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14]. When He was anointed by Mary in the supper at Bethany, the Lord said, “This is an anointing for My burial” [Matthew 26:12].
When the Greeks came to see Him from afar [John 12:20-21], He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall unto the ground and die, it abideth alone; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto Me. This spake He signifying by what death He should glorify God” [John 12:24, 32-33]. When He observed the Passover, He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “This is My body, broken for you; this is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. And in Gethsemane, He agonized before the cup that God had given Him to drink [Matthew 26:38-39]. And finally, the day of the cross came; cruel, and harsh, and awesome [Matthew 27:32-50]. Alone did He tread the winepress of the wrath and fierceness of Almighty God for our sins [Isaiah 63:1-5], and rich red blood poured out.
When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree.
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
[from “Indifference,” by G. A. Studdart-Kennedy]
The shadow of that cross not only overshadowed the life of our Lord in all of His ministry, but the shadow of the cross has fallen across this world and the centuries of time. In the center of the world, and in the heart of time, our Lord has planted His cross. And the world can never be the same again because He lived here and died here.
These scientists speak of worlds that are beyond, and search to find if there might be life and other living creatures and maybe human races on other planets and in other spheres. I do not think so but however the discovery may be made, there will never be another planet or another sphere like this because this is the world in which Christ died, and this is the earth that drank up His atoning blood. Nor can we ever be the same again because Christ lived here, and died here, and gave His life for us here.
Going through the heart of France one time, I stopped and walked through a British military cemetery. This was soon after the Second World War. And as I walked through that British cemetery, there was a grave of an RAF pilot, a Royal Air Force pilot, who had been shot down over France. And evidently his wife had made a visit to the grave of her husband, from England, and she had laid on the mound a little bouquet of straw flowers, and had written in the wreath these words, and I read them, “To,” and called her husband’s name, and then added, “Your wife and boys will never forget.” What a wonderful and a precious sentiment. But how infinitely elevated when it’s addressed to God; we shall never forget. Out of all of the things in the life of our Lord, it was this that He asked for us to remember: “This do,” when we break bread and drink the cup, “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25].
Isn’t it a strange thing that beginning at the cross, the whole world flows out on either side? When you place the cross in this earth, all of the languages east of it read from the right to the left; and all of the languages west of it read from the left to the right. They all converge in the cross, the very center of the earth. And in the center of time, all the centuries before this day are BC, before His cross; and all of the centuries after His day are anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. In the very heart of the earth and in the very center of time, stands the cross of the Son of God. And in the shadow of that cross, every Christian apostle, and witness, and martyr, and preacher proclaims the glory of our grace and salvation found in His love and sobs and tears. In the shadow of the cross every apostle stood to preach. One of them declared, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14].
In the record of the New Testament they left behind, every word and every syllable is inspired by His sufferings and stained by His blood. And in the love and grace of the shadow of the cross that has fallen over the earth, it has blessed the hearts, and the homes, and the lives of the people for whom He gave His life and poured out the crimson of His blood. What a marvelous and wonderful thing!
The sin-sick soul, the despised and forgotten, those in sorrow and perplexity with insoluble problems to face and burdens that the heart can hardly bear, to them the message of the cross comes with hope and grace, heavenly remembrance, and eternal salvation. It has become a very sign of our hope of heaven. “If in Flanders Fields the poppies grow, it will be between crosses, row on row” [“In Flanders Field,” Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae]. Over the fallen form of these who have loved Jesus, is a little cross raised high: a sign of our hope in God.
And the shadow of that cross falling upon all mankind has made us in Him all equal and alike. There are no big and there are no little. There are no wise and unwise. There are no poor and rich. There are no far off and coming nigh, but all of us are alike, loved alike, cherished alike, accepted alike, received alike, saved alike in the shadow of the cross.
In the Anglican Church, as their habit of communion is, these who worship the Lord come forward and kneel to receive the elements of bread and the fruit of the cup. And in the great cathedral in London, there came forward the Iron Duke of Wellington; a hero in British eyes beyond what we could think for. This is the man that delivered England and the continent from the ravages of Napoleon. And England almost idolized the Iron Duke of Wellington. He came forward in the Anglican Church and knelt at the altar to receive the bread and the wine. As he knelt there before the officiating Anglican minister, a ragged, wretched, poor, flotsam, jetsam of a waif from the streets of London, unaware, came and knelt by his side. When the officiating minister saw it, he came to the unaware youth and touched him on the shoulder and said, “You must move away, for you are kneeling by the Iron Duke of Wellington.” And the great British commander overheard what the Anglican minister was saying, and looking up, said to him, “Sir, leave him alone. Leave him alone. We’re all the same before the Lord. The ground is level at the cross.” What a comfort that is to the poor and the lost of the world. We all alike are loved of God. The entry, the entrance before the majesty of His glorious and eternal presence is open alike, not just to an officiating priest, not just to a presiding minister, not just to the great and mighty of the earth, but to the least and the smallest amongst us.
When the Lord died, and bowed His head, and cried, “Lord, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” [Luke 23:46]; when the Lord died, there was a great shaking of the earth, and the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom [Matthew 27:51-52]. Not from the bottom to the top as though a man’s hand had done it, but from the top to the bottom as though God had done it; and the Holy of Holies was open for the first time to view [Hebrews 10:19-20].
The commonest man could see the sanctuary of God, and the foulest could walk into the very presence of the Lord God and call upon His name. What a marvelous thing God in Christ hath done for us! We all are welcome. As the eloquent author of the Book of Hebrews has said:
We are not come unto Mount Sinai, the mount that burned with fire and was shaken by the power of God.
So that even if a creature, an animal touched it he died,
And when the sound of the trumpet roared through the earth, Moses did say, I exceedingly quake and tremble.
“But we,” the author says, “are come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the New Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” [Hebrews 12:22]. They’re here, worshiping with us today; and they’re by your side when you kneel in prayer. “And to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven,” you, “and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaketh better things than that of Abel” [Hebrews 12: 23-24]. Come and kneel and pray, and lay before Him all of the problems and burdens of life; grace to help in time of need [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Come, and welcome.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto Me, and rest
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
[Horatius Bonar and John Bacchus Dykes]
Come, come, come.
And our Lord, kneeling at the cross, oh may the floodtides of grace poured out into the world reach even unto us. And in Thy remembrance, Lord, make us strong to do Thy will in the earth, and give us a greater heart to love Thee better, in Thy saving name, amen. And thank you.