The Blood of the Cross
March 12th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS
W. A. Criswell
3-12-78 7:30 p.m.
Turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter 9; Hebrews chapter 9. We shall read out loud together beginning at verse 22 to the end of the chapter; Hebrews 9:22-28. As you can see both by the program and by the spirit of the hour, the service tonight was to culminate in a message of the pastor entitled The Old Time Religion. But our Lord’s Supper was changed from the first Sunday of the month to this second Sunday of the month. As you also know, the Broadman Press has asked me to preach sixteen sermons that are favorite to me through the fifty years that I have been preaching. And next Sunday night the title of the sermon is, The Blood of the Cross.
So in these last, say, two days or day and a half, I just felt that because of this holy and sacred memorial supper, that I ought to do as I always try to do, preach a sermon on the blood of Christ, the suffering of our Lord before we observe this holy memorial. So I have changed the sermon tonight to this one on The Blood of the Cross. And we shall read now, the outline, the text, the background in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, all of s together, beginning at verse 22 together:
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the Holy Place every year with the blood of others;
For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
The atonement of our Lord, the sacrifice for sins, the shedding of blood without which there is no remission; the world, secular, material is bold and blatant in its rejection of this gospel of atoning blood. They refuse and repudiate the whole message of redemption. And they state their opposition bluntly, and rudely, and crudely, and brutally.
They say, “If we have tractors to move mountains, we don’t need faith. If we have penicillin, we don’t need prayer. If we have positive thinking, we don’t need salvation. If we have the state, we don’t need the church. If we have manuals on science, we don’t need the Bible. And if we have an Edison or an Einstein, we don’t need Jesus.” They define terms and they define life altogether in secular and material nomenclature. But the gospel of the Son of God addresses itself to a far deeper need of humanity than penicillin or government or manuals of science could ever heal. The Christian faith addresses itself to the need for regeneration, for the forgiveness of sins, for a new life, a new heart, a new way, a new day [2 Corinthians 5:17].
The religion of Jesus Christ is one of deliverance and redemption from the judgment of sin [Ephesians 1:7]. You see that in the very definition and description of the faith itself. The Christian faith is not in the first place an ethic, although it is ethical. It is not in the first place a theology, although it is theological. It is not in the first place reformational, although it has social and cultural and political overtones. The religion of Jesus Christ is first and foremost and always redemptive.
“He was delivered for our offenses, and He was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25]. You see that in the aegis and the sign and symbol of the Christian religion. The sign of the Christian faith is not a burning bush [Exodus 3:2-3]. It is not two tables of stone carrying the Ten Commandments [Exodus 32:15-16]. It is not a seven-branched lampstand [Exodus 25:31-32]. It is not a halo above a submissive head. It is not even a golden crown.
But the sign and the aegis of the Christian faith is always a cross [Galatians 6:12-14]: a cross in all of its naked hideousness, as the Roman would have it; the cross in all of its philosophical irrationality, as the Greek would have it; but the cross in all of its saving power and efficacy, as Paul would have it. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Galatians 6:14]. This is the very epitome and summation of the redemptive message of Christ.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing flood?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace, and His blood?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[“Have You Been to Jesus for Cleansing Power?”, Elisha Albright Hoffman]
Our minds can hardly enter into the most significant and dramatic and meaningful of all of the events in human history, namely, the descent of our Lord from the highest glory to the lowest humiliation. The immeasurable distance between His throne in heaven and the ignominy of His cross in the earth; down and down and down and down and down did He descend until He was made in the likeness of a man [Philippians 2:7], the dust of the ground; a slave, poor even among the poor, and finally executed in a manner reserved for a criminal [Matthew 27:32-38]. Raised between heaven and earth as though refused by both; rejected by men and scorned by God [Isaiah 53:3], reviled and abused. And as though abuse was not vile enough, they covered Him with spittle [Matthew 27:30]. And as though spittle were not contemptuous enough, they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6]. And as though to pluck out His beard were not brutal enough, they crowned him with thorns [Matthew 27:29]. And as though the thorns were not sharp enough, they drove great nails through His hands and His feet [Matthew 27:35; Luke 24:39]. And as though the nails did not pierce deep enough, they thrust Him through with a Roman spear, and the red crimson of His life poured out [John 19:34]. Even the sun in the sky refused to look upon such shame and suffering [Matthew 27:45].
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man the creature’s sin.
[“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed,” Isaac Watts]
What is this, the crucifixion of the Son of God on the cross? What is that that happened on Golgotha [Matthew 27:33-35], on Calvary? [Luke 23:33]. What is this? Is this some dramatic play like the Agamemnon of Aeschylus? Like the tragedy of Shakespeare’s MacBeth or King Lear? Is it a tragedy like Eugene O’Neil’s The Strange Interlude? What is this that is happening on Calvary? Is it an historical tragedy like Socrates’ drinking the hemlock, or Julius Caesar murdered at the foot of the statue of Pompey? What is this that happened on Calvary? Is it like the assassination of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater? Or like the tragedy that brought a cloud over Dallas in the assassination of President John Kennedy on our very streets?
What is this that happened on Calvary? First, this is the fruit and the result of our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Who killed the Lord Jesus? Who executed the Prince of Glory? Who nailed Him to the cross where He suffered until He died? Whose fault is that? Who did that?
So many will answer, “Well, God. It was God’s fault.” Like Job’s wife said to him when he fell into abject suffering. She said to him, “Curse God and commit suicide” [Job 2:9]. It is God’s fault, He did it.”
There are others who would say it is His own fault. He should have been a better manager. Had He been smart and shrewd He wouldn’t have landed there, nailed to that tree. It’s His own fault!
There are those who say it is Judas’ fault. He sold Him for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. He betrayed Him. It is Judas’ fault. He did it. There are those who say to this day, it is the Jews’ fault. They delivered Him. They accused Him. They encompassed His execution [Mark 15:9-15]. It is their fault. They did it!
There are those who would say it is the Romans soldiers’ fault. They are guilty of the death of the Lord. They did it. Who drove those nails through His hands? They did it [Matthew 27:27-38]. Who thrust that spear into His side? [John 19:34]. They did it. Who raised Him up between the earth and the sky? The Roman soldiers did it. They did it. They killed him.
Isn’t it a remarkable thing, each one disavows it? When Pilate was recalled, he became a suicide, and they flung his body into Lake Lucerne. And that’s why just beyond the city of Lucerne, just right there, that great, tall, towering mountain is called Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Pilate. They say that in the mist and in the twilight of every evening, the peasants see Pontius Pilate rise from the depths of the sea and wash his hands in the clear blue water of Lake Lucerne. “I am guiltless of the blood of this just Man [Matthew 27:24]. I didn’t do it.”
Then the Jews did it. They are Christ’s killers. They crucified Him. And without exception the Jew cries, “Would you bring the blood of this Man upon us and upon our children? We didn’t do it.”
Then surely the Roman soldiers, they executed him. But the Roman solder would stand at attention before you and say, “We are men under authority. And we but carried out the mandates and the commandments and the orders of our Roman government. We are soldiers obeying orders. We are men under authority. We never did it.”
Then who did? Who was responsible for the crucifixion of the Son of God? Who ultimately must stand at the judgment bar, accused? It must be that we all had a part. My sins pressed upon His brow that crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29]. My sins drove through His hands those jagged nails [Matthew 27:35; Luke 24:39]. And my sins thrust that spear into His heart [John 19:34]. My sins nailed the Lord Jesus to the tree [2 Peter 2:24]. That’s the first meaning of the death of our Lord. It is the fruit and the judgment upon our sins. We did it. We did it.
Number two: what is the meaning of the death of our Lord? Number two: this is God’s redemption for our souls [1 Peter 1:18-19]. This is God’s way for our salvation. This is God’s answer to our sin [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. This is the Lord’s reply to Job when he cried, “I have sinned; O God, what shall I do?” [Job 7:20]. This is the answer to the cry of MacBeth, “Will all Neptune’s ocean wash the blood clean from my hand?” This is the reply of the ancient old-time hymn that our forefathers used to sing,
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]
What is the meaning of that cross? This is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. This is the blood of the Passover lamb, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7, 13]. This is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, “And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. This is the great redemption of the Lord God through all time and all history [Ephesians 1:7], and this is the pivotal moment in human story toward which all God’s sovereign efforts finally found their ultimate consummation [Acts 2:23].
So Jesus bowed His head on the cross and cried, “It is finished. It is finished” [John 19:30]. And the drops of blood that poured out from the cross to the dust of the ground [John 19:34] whispered to the grass saying, “It is finished.” And the grass whispered to the herbs, “It is finished.” And the herbs whispered to the trees, “It is finished.” And the trees whispered to the birds in the branches, “It is finished.” And the birds spiraling upward to the clouds cried, “It is finished.” And the clouds spoke to the stars in the sky, “It is finished.” And the stars in the sky cried to the angels in heaven, “It is finished.” And the angels in glory went up and down the streets of the heavenly city echoing that glad refrain, “It is finished. It is finished”: God’s redemption for the sin of the world.
Third: this is not only the death of our Lord. This is not only the result and the judgment upon our sin [Ephesians 1:7], it is not only God’s redemptive plan for the ages [Romans 5:6], but last, that cross is the symbol of our hope in glory [Colossians 1:27]. My brother, if “In Flanders poppies grow, It will be between the crosses row on row” [“In Flanders Fields,” John McCrae].
Wherever men have fallen in the faith, there will you see a cross raised up. It is a sign of our hope; of our promised heaven in the world to come. And the arms of that cross are extended wide, wide as the world is wide. As far as the west goes west, as far as the east goes east, just so far are the arms of the cross extended. And in their embrace, all of us can find refuge, and forgiveness, and salvation, and hope [1 John 2:2]. This hath God done for us.
You know, things that happened years ago in the beginning of my pastoral ministry made such indelible impressions on me. Thus, my first funeral. In my little country church, was a poor tenant couple. Like you are, they were young people. They had been married just a little while. And they had their first little baby, a little boy. And they sent for me, “Our baby is so tragically ill.”
So I went to the poor shack of a house. This was in the days of the Depression. So poor. And there in the middle of the room lay a little baby in convulsions. It tore my heart to see that little baby fall into horrible convulsions. And as I watched, the baby died. Oh, such sorrow! Tears.
We had the memorial service. And after the service, and I had done the best I could to comfort the sweet couple, grieving there before me, they took the little casket and put it on the bed of the truck. They couldn’t afford any kind of a service. They put the little casket on a truck, and in my little car, a little one-seated car, next to me, I had that little mother and then on the other side the young father.
And as we were driving down the country road, following that truck and the little casket on the bed of the truck, the mother, that young wife, began to cry inconsolably. He put his arm around her, her young husband. And holding her as near and dear as he could, he said, “There, there, sweetheart, don’t cry. Jesus has our little boy. And He will take care of him for us. And some day, He will give him back to us again.” And at the cemetery, with a barbed wire fence around it and a little grave, we buried the casket. And guess what we placed at the head of that little mound? We made a cross and drove it into the ground; a sign of our hope, and a sign of our faith, and a sign of our commitment to Jesus.
Every word that He said, what He promised, will He faithfully keep; and every promise that He made will He faithfully give to us. No word of our Lord will fall to the ground [Isaiah 55:11]. He is able and mighty to save [Hebrews 7:25].
And that is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, who died for our offenses, and was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. With what infinite gladness, and gratitude, and praise, and thanksgiving does the Christian lift up his head in the name of the Lord who died for us; who is able to save us [Hebrews 7:25]. And some day will present us before the throne of His glory without spot or without blemish [Ephesians 5:27]; washed clean and white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5].
And that is our invitation to you this blessed evening; to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church; to stand by our sides in the great judgment day when He comes [Romans 14:10]; to be numbered with God’s redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Tonight, would you make that decision for our Lord? “I believe in God, and I am coming. I accept the proffered mercies of Jesus [Titus 3:5], and here I am. I want to be enrolled, not only in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], but I want to be counted among God’s people in earth, and I’m coming.”
In the balcony round, on this lower floor, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you; I will be standing here to this side of our communion table, and as I stand there waiting, and as our people prayerfully sing the song of appeal, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, would you make it now? “I’m coming now. I have decided for God, and I am on the way” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. God bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.