WHAT SHALL I DO WITH JESUS WHICH IS CALLED CHRIST?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-15-76 12:00 p.m.
Oh, you all move my heart! How precious it is to share this hour with you. And among those who have come from afar is the head of the greatest religious publishing company in the world, the Zondervan Publishing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Pat, who owns it, is right there in front of me. Welcome, Pat, and all the rest of you, who are this day in God’s beautiful house. This is a busy lunch hour for many of you, and if you have to leave in the middle of a sentence, feel free to do so. We will all understand. You will not bother me. Stay as long as you can, and when you must, be at liberty to go, and then we will come back for the last day on the morrow.
The title of the series of messages this week has been “The Christ of the Cross”: on Monday, The Shadow of the Cross; on Tuesday, The Witnesses Against Him; on Wednesday, Can Christ Make Good His Claims? is He what He said He was, and can He do what He said He could do; tomorrow, the lament, My God, Why? and today, “What Shall I Do With Jesus Which is Called Christ?” It is the cry of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, who was faced with the decision concerning what to do with Jesus. And in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, the twenty-second verse, is that question: “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22].
There are in the pages of the Bible some tremendous questions. Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Genesis 4:9]. Moses asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26]. Job cried, “If a man die, shall he live again?” [Job 14:14]. David asked, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” [Psalm 8:4]. Malachi asked, “Will a man rob God?” [Malachi 3:8]. The Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. Hebrews 2:3 asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” And the cry in the Revelation, “For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:17]. But out of all of the questions that are raised in the Bible, there is none more pertinent for us than the cry of Pontius Pilate, faced with a decision that he could not escape, “What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22].
What shall I do with His words? “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. He said, “He that believeth on Me is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:18]. And again He said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. He said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” [Luke 13:3]. What shall we do with His words? “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46].
What shall we do with His life? Was there ever a life reaching out toward us like the life of our Lord? He said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” [Luke 19:10]; and I am lost in sin [Romans 3:23], facing inevitable death [Ezekiel 18:4]; and His hands, in mercy and grace reach out toward me. What shall I do with His life?
What shall I do with His death, an atoning death for me? [Romans 5:11]. The Roman centurion who presided over His execution said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God” [Mark 15:39]. And He said, our Lord said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. What shall I do with His death?
And what shall I do with His glorified, and resurrected, and immortalized, and transfigured life? He that was dead is now alive forevermore, and He has the keys of Hell and of Death [Revelation 1:18]. Thomas said, “Except I see the print of the nails in His hands, and except I thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe” [John 20:25]. And Jesus appeared suddenly, and turning to Thomas said, “Reach hither thy hand, and behold the print of the nails; and thrust thy hand into My side” [John 20:27]. And Thomas said, “My Lord and my God” [John 20: 28]. What shall I do with His resurrected and glorified life?
“What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22]. There are five evasions of Pilate, when he faced that inevitable and destiny determining question. First: he reasoned about it. “I find in Him,” he said to the maddened leaders, “no fault at all” [John 18:38]. And they replied, “Were He not a malefactor we would not have brought Him unto thee” [John 18:30]. And Pontius Pilate said, “You take Him, and you treat Him and try Him according to your law.” And they said, “By our law He ought to die; but capital punishment is not in our hands; therefore we have brought Him to thee” [John 18:31].
And Pilate, having scourged Him, and the soldiers having buffeted Him, and mistreated Him [John 19:1-3], and spat upon Him [Matthew 27:30], and plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6], Pilate brought Him forth, and seeking to excite the pity of that infuriated mob, he said, “Ecce Homo, Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. And they cried out the more, “Crucify Him, crucify Him. Away with Him [John 19:15]. It’s not fit that He should live in the earth.”
When you reason with Satan, you have a lost cause. There’s no man yet ever able intellectually, emotionally, in his own ableness to reason with Satan. He’ll win every time. “But, preacher, I look at it like this, and I think of it like that.” It’s not a question of what I think, or how I reason. The question is, “What shall I do with Jesus, called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22].
Pilate sought to turn Him over to someone else. Having heard that He was from Galilee, under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, he sent Him to Herod. And Herod, the buffoon that he was, thought that a miracle worker would entertain him for an idle moment. And in disgust, Herod sent Him back to Pilate [Luke 23:6-11], still on Pilate’s hands; “What shall I do with Him?” That question always will return to us, however we may try to place the decision in the hands of somebody else—“What shall I do with Jesus, called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22].
I’ll let my wife decide, or I’ll let my friend decide, or I’ll let my boss decide, or whatever they do, I will do. No, there are some places and there are some times in our lives when we stand alone and naked before God. And this is one of them. There are times when a man ought to take into his counsel all who are concerned; his business, his family, his destiny. There are times when a man ought to take into his confidence just his family. There are times when a man ought to discuss the problem he faces with just his wife. But there are times when a man has to face a question alone, and decide it by himself, and this is one. Someday I shall die for myself; no man can die for me. Someday I shall be judged for myself; no man can be judged for me. And the decision I make about Christ is deeply and everlastingly single and purposeful. “What shall I do with Christ?” [Matthew 27:22].
A third evasion of Pilate was to compromise it. “I’ll scourge Him,” he said, “and let Him go” [Luke 23:16]. How many times do we find that when a man wrestles about giving his heart to Jesus?
“I tell you, pastor, I’ll not accept Him as my Savior, nor will I follow Him in discipleship, but I tell you what I’ll do, I’ll give up my drinking, or I’ll give up my whoremongering, or I’ll give up my cursing, or I’ll give up my shady deals. I’ll compromise with you. I’ll not accept Him. I’ll not reject Him. I’ll say yea, I’ll say nay, I’ll say neither. But I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll live a better life, I’ll try to be a better man”; compromising that inevitable and significant pressing question, “What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22]. But the question comes back, however I compromise it. I may give up a thousand evils, and I may reform every other day, and I may resolve to live a perfect life from this moment onward; but the question repeatedly is pressed on my heart, I haven’t dealt yet with Him. “What shall I do with Jesus?” [Matthew 27:22].
A fourth evasion was Pilate’s attempt to substitute somebody else. “Let’s take Barabbas, let’s leave Jesus alone. And let’s decide about Barabbas. Shall it be Barabbas?” [Matthew 27:17-21]. And it was that attempt at substitution that pressed the question so earnestly to his heart. When they said, “Barabbas, we choose Barabbas,” then he cried, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? [Matthew 27:22]. What shall I do with Him?”
So often a commonality in life is this attempt to substitute something else for the faith that saves and the Christ that can deliver, and always the ensuing result is tragic and sorrowful in the extreme–there is one name by which we’re saved [Acts 4:12]; there’s one way by which a man can enter the gates of glory; there is only one life that God has poured out into the earth for us, and that is the saving life of Jesus Christ [John 14:6]—to substitute some other way.
In one of my little country churches, there was a farmer who developed a sore; he was a chain-smoker, and he developed a sore on his lip, and it was diagnosed as cancerous. So he was advised by the doctor in the little county seat town to go to such-and-such city and to have that cancer removed.
Well, he had a farmer friend, and the neighbor who was farming the land next to him said, “Why take all of the time, and travel, and expense, and money to go to this doctor in the city and to the hospital in the city and have that treated? I have a little vial of medicine at home that will heal it for you, and it’ll save you all of that much trouble.”
So the neighbor brought him the little vial of medicine, and he put it on the sore. And the days passed, and the months passed, and when finally he came to the surgeon, it was too late. And he died with a cancer that had literally eaten away his face. Substitutes may be well in some areas, but they’re not permissible when a man faces life and death. And how little else is a man able to accept a substitute when he faces the judgment and the eternity?
“Lord, I can make a mistake in a thousand ways; but I can’t make a mistake here. My soul is in the balance, and my eternal destiny is in the offing. What must I do to be saved? Jesus, if it is Thee, this is my heart. No other will do” [Acts 4:12, 16:30-31].
And the last and the fifth evasion: Pilate crying in frustration, “What shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22]. Pilate said to a slave, “Bring me a basin of water and a towel.” And a slave brought him a basin of water, and another slave brought him a towel. And before the infuriated and maddened throng, Pilate washed his hands, and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man” [Matthew 27:24]. He washed his hands, but he delivered Him to execution [Matthew 27:26]. And Jesus died under the executive mandate of the Roman procurator whose name was Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:26-50].
I was in Lucerne, Switzerland, many, many years ago. And the mountain right there they said was Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Pilate. And I said to the friend, “Well, that’s an unusual thing that that Swiss mountain here in the heart of the Alps should be called Mt. Pilate.” Well, he said, “It’s named after Pilate the Roman procurator.” And then, I remembered. Pontius Pilate fell into the Caesar’s disfavor, and was recalled, and soon committed suicide. And they threw his body into that lake. And those peasants, to this day, say, that in the mists of the early morning they have seen the body of Pontius Pilate rise from the depths of the lake and wash his hands in the clear blue water.
A man can’t wash his hands of Christ! And a man can’t wash his hands of death. And a man can’t wash his hands of the judgment. And a man can’t wash his hands of God! It is an inevitable question that every soul shall face for himself, and not another. “What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:22]. Crown Him or crucify Him? And there’ll not be a one who goes out this door today but that shall have decided in his heart the one or the other.
“I refuse Him. I reject Him. I say no to Him. I say crown Him with thorns, drive nails in His hands, thrust through in His side, kill Him, crucify Him. I’ll have none of Him.” Or we’ll go out that door, saying, ”O blessed, Lord, blessed Lord, what it means to me that You died in my stead [1 Corinthians 15:3], that I have found forgiveness in Thy blood [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], and hope for heaven in Thy grace [Ephesians 2:8]. Lord, for me, I shall crown Thee, and love Thee, and serve Thee, and offer Thee my life as long as breath shall last; and please, Lord, someday, see Thy face and live” [Revelation 22:3-4]. So bless in faith the great throng who this day look in love, in praise, in prayer, to the blessed Jesus. Amen [Galatians 3:11].