The Cross and the Crown

Isaiah

The Cross and the Crown

April 18th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM

Isaiah 53:10-12

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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THE CROSS AND THE CROWN

Dr. W.A. Criswell

Isaiah 53:7, 12

4-18-76     8:15 a.m.

 

On the radio you are listening with us to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor delivering the message entitled The Cross and the Crown.  All through the Word of God are those two together, the humiliation and the exaltation.  In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we are in the fifty-third chapter and it is very much in the fifty-third chapter. 

 

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet opened He not his mouth: He is brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so openeth He not his mouth.

Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.

 

A typical passage out of the prophets; I now refer to a typical passage in the apostles.  It is the incomparable, theological passage that you read this morning.  "He being in the morphes of God," of whatever that is.  What form does God have?  I do not know.  But whatever that form was, Christ was that.

 

He, being in the morphes, the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God:

But poured Himself out, and took on Him the form of a slave, and was made in the likeness of men.

Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore – and there it is again – Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, given Him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in things in earth, in things under the earth – that is in the netherworld – and in heaven.

That every tongue should confess He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:6-11]

 

And you will find it again and again in the Apocalypse.  In the first chapter,

 

He laid His right hand upon me as John lay at His feet as dead.  He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; and I, I have the keys of hell and of death.

[Revelation 1:17-18]

 

And a beautiful passage that we sing sometimes, "I beheld, and I heard the voice of angels round about the throne: and the number of them was ten thousands times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands."  The Greek word is murias, murias.  That is an uncounted number of thousands.

 

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

And every creature which was in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, heard I say, Blessing, and honour to the Lamb that sits upon the throne.

[Revelation 5:11-13]

 

The Cross and the Crown; our highest imagination cannot comprehend the heights of glory from whence He came.  Nor can we enter into the depths of the shame of the descent to which He lowered Himself down, and down, and down, and down from God’s throne down and down to the form of a man made out of dust, to a slave, poor among the poor, finally to death.  And that the most felonious and ignominious known to man, the death reserved for a criminal, for a felon, for a malefactor the death of the cross. 

Raised between the earth and the sky as though both had refused Him.  Despised of men and rejected of God, reviled and abused.  And as though abuse were not contentious enough, He was covered with spittle and though spittle were not insulting enough, they plucked out His beard.  And as though plucking out His beard was not brutal enough, they crowned Him with thorns.  And as though thorns did not pierce deeply enough, they drove in great nails.  And as though the nails were not sharp enough, they thrust Him through with an iron spear. 

At three o’clock in the afternoon on that Friday it was all over.  He bowed His head and dismissed His Spirit and the light of the world flickered out.  Tread softly around the cross, Jesus is dead.  And repeat the refrain in hush tones, the Lord of life is dead.  The lips that called Lazarus from the tomb are still in silent death.  The head that Mary of Bethany anointed is bowed with its crown of thorns.  The hands that blessed little children are nailed to the tree.  The feet that walked on the waters of Galilee are fastened to a cross.  The eyes that wept over Jerusalem are glazed in death.  And the heart that went out in love and compassion for the poor and the lost of the whole world now beats no longer.  It is broken.  Jesus is dead. 

The infuriated mob looks and repeats that sad refrain, "He’s dead."  And they gradually disperse.  The passers by who stood by to watch Him said, "He is dead," as they went on their way.  The Pharisee rubbing their hands in self-congratulation return to the city, "He is dead."  The Sadducees breathing sighs of relief return to their coffers in the temple, "He is dead."  The centurion made his official report to the Roman procurator, "He is dead."  And the quatrain of soldiers sent to dispatch them looked at the center cross and break not his legs, for He was so certainly dead. 

And Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus went to Pontius Pilate and begged for His body saying, "He is dead."  And Mary, His mother and the other women bowed their heads in sobs and in tears.  "He is dead."  And the eleven apostles like frightened sheep crawling into eleven shadows cried, "He is dead."  And the two on the road to Emmaus, walking in sadness said to the stranger who walked with them, "He is dead." 

Wherever the disciples gathered in upper rooms behind closed doors, on lonely roads, in hidden places they repeated that sad refrain.  "He is dead.  He’s in a sealed tomb, and there’s a guard set at the entrance to the sepulcher.  He is dead."  We can hardly enter into the hopelessness of their abysmal despair.  Peter the rock is a rock no longer.  Jesus is dead.  James and John the sons of Boanerges are sons of thunder no longer.  The Lord is dead.  And Simon the Zealot is a Zealot no longer.  The Lord of life is dead.

Then, then, then men stood in their tracks for a message is leaping like liquid fire from heart to heart and mouth to mouth.  An angel says, "He is alive."  Mary Magdalene says, "I have seen Him."  And Cleopas of Emmaus says, "He was made known to us in the breaking of bread."  And Simon Peter, the rock that he was is filling Jerusalem with a bold announcement, "He has been raised from the dead."  Up and down the highways and byways of Judea, and along the shores of blue Galilee, and around the coast of the great Mediterranean, and on the roads to Athens and to Rome, the glorious Gospel of the risen Son of God is proclaimed, "He is alive!  He is alive!  And He is come back to rule the hearts of men."

His humiliation and His exaltation were thus so close together.  "Lift up your heads ye sorrowing ones and be ye glad of heart.  For earth’s saddest day and earth’s gladdest day, Mount Calvary’s day, and Easter day were just one day apart; The Cross and the Crown.

And the cross now glorifies our Lord and magnifies our risen Savior.  Every point of the crown of thorns is a diadem, a diamond in His diadem.  Every drop of blood, the crimson of His life now stains in purple the royal robe that He wears.  The very iron of the nails and of the spear have been welded into the rod and the scepter by which He shall rule the nations of the world.  The very wood of the cross is His identification with humanity.  The mount on which He was crucified is the most sacred spot in this earth.  And the sign of the cross is the aegis of our Christian faith.  He is alive. He is alive.  He is alive.

If the Lord is alive then where is He now?  And for these two thousand years, what evidence have we that He lives?  Ah, how conclusive and how corroborated are the providences we know in life that witness to the living presence of our living Lord.  Had every man in the Roman Empire seen Him raised from the grave; had every officer in Caesar’s legions seen the Lord walk from that tomb; had Josephus, and Tacitus, and Suetonius recorded it in their historical annals, it would not be as conclusive and corroborative as the facts we know in our human experience that Jesus is alive.  What facts, Pastor and what proof?  Listen.  Listen. 

Number one, I know Him and I see His hand in healing power.  I may not be enthusiastic about professional faith healers who live off of the miseries of the people.  And I may not believe in divine healers but there is no other healing but divine healing.  The surgeon may cut and with a sharpened scalpel make wounds in our body.  It is only God who heals.  And I have seen world without end the healing presence and the healing hand of the Lord with our sick and our afflicted. 

Where is the living Lord today?  I know Him and have felt Him along with thousands and thousands of others in answered prayer.  Bow down sometimes with fears and sobs and tell Him all about it.  And He who was tried in all points as we are who Himself knew what it was to weep bows down His ear to hear His children when they pray.  And the conscious presence of the living Lord has been felt by those who look in trust to Him all the days of our lives. 

How do you know that He lives?  I know that He lives in the salvation experience by which we came to know Him as our own Savior.  Ah, has He not a record of saving men?  From the days of Simon Peter to the publican Matthew to little Zacchaeus, to Herod Antipas, to the glorious Ignatius and Polycarp, to John Chrysostom, the golden mouth, and to Savonarola, and to John Wesley, and to Jonathan Edwards, and to George W. Truett, and to Spurgeon, and to Scarborough, and to Carol, and to you, and to me.  Through the years and the years finding in Him a wonderful and a glorious Savior; He is alive.  He lives.

I know that He lives in the convocation and gathering together of His people in the church.  John said in the opening chapter of the Apocalypse, "I saw seven lampstands; And in the midst of the seven golden lampstands one like unto the Son of God" [Revelation 1:12-13].   Walking in the midst of His churches and in the convocation of our people in this sacred place do I sense and do I feel the living presence of the living Lord.

Sometimes seated in this chair I cannot keep back the overflowing tears I feel His presence so near and so dear, the living Lord with His people.  Why, "where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them" [Matthew 18:20], and how much poignantly, deeply, more sensitively so when we’re gathered together by the hundreds and here by the thousands. 

How do I know that He lives?  I know that He lives in the victory He has brought to us over death, that last and bitterest enemy.  He says, "Do not be afraid for I have the keys of death and of the grave in My hand" [Revelation 1:17-18].   And He avowed that for us lest we might think that some other hand possessed them.  I shall not die until He wills it.  Nor flame, nor sword, nor pestilence, nor plague, nor any other attacking providence shall take my life until He wills it.  The key of life, and of death, and of the grave is in His hand. 

And when my past is done and the work is finished it will be His hand that opens the door, and it will be His hands that provides that beautiful way when earth recedes and heaven opens.  I shall not die a death in a cold dark and Christless grave for to the Christian now there is no death.  In the lair of that last enemy did our Lord seize him and conquer him, the last enemy; death.  And he arose victorious over the grave and death now to the Christian is just our translation into heaven.  "Do not be afraid.  I have the keys of death and of the grave."

In our Sunday school one of our little girls lay dying, and as the end approached the little child cried to her mother saying, "Oh, Mother, it is getting dark.  It is getting dark and I am afraid, Mother.  Come closer.  Come closer."  And the mother gathered the little girl in her arms and said, "Sweet child, Christ is with us in the dark just as He is with us in the light.  Don’t be afraid."

"I have the keys of the grave and of death, be not afraid."

Our death ought to be our greatest triumph.  That moment is our finest hour.  It is our glorious translation to the heavenly kingdom into which our Lord has gone; first the cross then the crown. 

 

O, precious cross! O, glorious crown!

O, resurrection day!

Ye angels, from the stars come down. 

And bear my soul away.

 

I thought maybe you could sing with me those two stanzas, the first and the last.

 

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for everyone,

And there’s a cross for me.

 

O, precious cross! O, glorious crown!

O, resurrection day!

Ye angels, from the stars come down. 

And bear my soul away.

 

Would you sing it with me?

 

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for everyone,

And there’s a cross for me.

 

O, precious cross! O, glorious crown!

O, resurrection day!

Ye angels, from the stars come down. 

And bear my soul away.

["Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone", Thomas Shepherd, 1693]

 

First the cross, and then the crown, "Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him.  Be not afraid.  I have the keys of death and of the grave."  Oh blessed Easter, oh glorious Gospel, oh quiet and heavenly assurance. 

We sing now our hymn of appeal and while we sing it, a family you come, a couple you come, just one somebody you, come.  Down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, "Today I open my heart to the blessed Jesus," or, "Today we’re coming into the fellowship and communion of this dear church."  As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now.  Decide now.  Come now.  May angels attend you in the way, those resurrection angels who stood at the tomb of our Lord, may they go before you as you come while we stand and while we sing.

THE CROSS AND THE CROWN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 53:10-12

4-18-76

 

I.          Humiliation and exaltation

A.  Found in writing of prophets and apostles (Isaiah 53:7, 12, Philippians 2:7-11, Revelation 1:17-18, 5:12-13)

B.  We cannot comprehend the height or the depth

 

II.         Raised between heaven and earth

A. "He is dead."

B.  The mob disperses

C.  Mary and the women bowed in tears

D.  Apostles hide in shadows

 

III.        Then suddenly – a message like liquid fire

A.  He is alive!

B.  Seen by the women and His disciples

 

IV.       How close together the cross and the crown

A.  Bitter seed brought forth beautiful flower

B.  Cross itself a symbol of faith and hope

 

V.        Proof He is alive today

A.  Healing grace and saving power

B.  He walks in grace and blessing among His churches (Revelation 1:13)

C.  Victory over death (Revelation 1:18, Psalm 23:4)