The Cross and the Crown


The Cross and the Crown

April 8th, 1979 @ 8:15 AM

John 18:33-37

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Related Topics: Cross, Crown, Persecution, Suffering, 1979, John
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Cross, Crown, Persecution, Suffering, 1979, John

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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 18:33-37

4-8-79    8:15 a.m.



This service and the one at 10:50 is sponsored by our Bible Class division.  And the sermon that they have chosen is entitled The Cross and the Crown.

There was an inexplicable dilemma in the minds of all of the Old Testament prophets, and it concerned a message that the Lord gave to them simultaneous, in the same breath.  The prophet would raise his voice and describe the glory of the coming King Immanuel, high, exalted, and lifted up [Isaiah 52:7, 13-15].  In the same sentence, he would also describe His sufferings, His humiliation, His obedience to death [Isaiah 52:14, 53:1-12].  And how that could be reconciled was something that the prophets could not understand.  In 1 Peter, in the first chapter, the apostle speaks of those prophets who prophesied of the coming of the King, but the Spirit that was in them testified of His sufferings and of His glory [1 Peter 1:10-11].  Then in the next verse Simon Peter says even the angels could not understand it, and desired to look into it [1 Peter 1:12]; what things the prophet said would come to pass, and how incongruous and dilemmatic it was.

When I turn to the Old Testament, I see that dilemma, that double prophecy, all through the Word of the Lord.  It begins in Genesis, in the third chapter of Genesis, in the Protevangelium, when the Lord God says that between the seed of Satan and the Seed of the woman, God hath put enmity.  And the Seed of the woman shall prevail; but only after He has been bruised [Genesis 3:15].  In the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Israel, by prophetic insight, has turned to Judah, his fourth son, and he says, "A lawgiver shall not depart from Judah, he will be a people and a nation until Shiloh come," that Prince Immanuel, "and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be, great and glorious" [Genesis :10].  But the next sentence, "He washed His garments in blood" [Genesis :11].  Both of them side by side.  Turning to the Psalms, the second Psalm is Messianic, of all Psalms, "My King have I set upon My holy hill of Zion . . . I will give Him the nations for an inheritance . . . He shall rule them with a rod of iron . . . Serve Him with fear" [Psalm 2:6-11].  I turn to the twenty-second Psalm, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? [Psalm 22:1].  They pierced My hands and My feet.  I tell all My bones, they just look and stare at Me.  They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture" [Psalm 22:16-18] side by side, the great exalted King, and yet one of deepest travail and suffering.

In the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah, look at this first sentence: "My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and very high" [Isaiah 52:13].  Now the [next] sentence, "As many as were astonished at Thee; because His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" [Isaiah 52:14].  Exalted, extolled, very high, but marred more than any man; then followed of course the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah that describes God’s suffering Servant [Isaiah 53:1-12].

And that dilemma inexplicable extended into the pages of the New Testament.  When the parents bring the Child Jesus into the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord [Luke 2:21-24], there was an old prophet there named Simeon.  And God said to him he should not die till he had seen the salvation of the Lord [Luke 2:25-26].  And he took the Babe, and blessed God, "Now mine eyes have seen that promise.  This Child will be a light to lighten the Gentiles, the nations, and the glory of Thy people Israel" [Luke 2:27-32]; then the next sentence, turning to Mary the mother, he says, "Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also" [Luke 2:35]; this Child high and lifted up, the hope and salvation of the nations, and yet in the next breath a sword piercing the soul of the mother.

Then, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, as the two, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple, walk along returning to Emmaus, an unknown, undisclosed, unrecognized figure – actually the Lord Jesus raised from the dead – walks by their side [Luke 24:13-15].  And they say to Him the sorrow that had overwhelmed the disciples of this Prophet of Nazareth, "For we had thought it had been He that should have redeemed Israel" [Luke 24:21].  Now, the understanding:


Then the Lord said to them, O foolish ones, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, all of it, both of it, exalted and yet humiliated and suffering; ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into glory?  Then beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

[Luke 24:25-27]


And thereafter, in the Bible, you have both of them fully understood and marvelously presented.  In the passage we read together, "This Lord God, being in the morphos of God," whatever the morphos, the form of God is,


Thought it not something to be held onto; but poured Himself, emptied Himself, and became, was made in the morphos, in the likeness, in the form of a man.  And being in the morphos of a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient even unto the death of the cross.  Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, given Him a name above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, in earth, in the netherworld; and that every tongue should confess that He is Lord.

[Philippians 2:6-11]


First the cross, and then the crown – and without exception the Bible thereafter presents that glorious message.

In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, "Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame"; now the crown, "and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" [Hebrews 12:2].  And the fifth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, which is without doubt one of the most dramatic of all of the scenes in literature:


This Lamb as it had been slain. . .takes the book of redemption, the only One worthy to open it; and as He opens the book. . .they sing with a loud voice, ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands. . .Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and everything God created in heaven, on earth, in the other world. . .heard I saying, Blessing, honor, power, glory be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.

[Revelation 5:6-13]


This is the gospel; the two, the cross and the crown, the humiliation and the exaltation.  And what happened to the prophets was, as they spoke, maybe thousands of years before the event, as they spoke and prophesied, it looked to them that those two great mountain peaks were side by side, the cross and the crown, the humiliation and the exaltation.  But as we came to the event, we learned that the mountain peaks were separated; there’s a deep, long valley in between; and the first mountain peak, the cross, the suffering; and the second mountain peak, the crown, the exaltation.  This is also a pattern for the Christian life.  It is a paragon of our experience; first the cross, and then the crown.

Sometimes, maybe oft times, we somehow fall into the persuasion that, now that I am a Christian, everything has found an easy way and a perfect life.  I’ve been saved.  I’ve been born again.  I’ve been regenerated.  I’m a child of the King.  I’m a Christian, and all of these things that afflict other people will not afflict me; and my life will be full of health and strength and ease and affluence, and the labor of my hands will be very fruitful, and there won’t be toil and sacrifice.  Then after we become a Christian, and after we begin living the Christian life, we find just the opposite.  For one thing, we are tried and tempted as never before.  Satan had no problem with the people out in the world.  Why try them?  Why tempt them?  They already are in the way of destruction and damnation.  So he just lets them go.  There they live their lives of compromise and worldliness and sin and degradation, and apparently enjoy it.  But not a Christian; Satan tries the Christian, and tempts him, and assails him, and harasses him.  And he fights on two fronts: he fights the carnality of his own nature, and he fights the powers of the spiritual world.  And the Christian learns that when he became a child of God he just enrolled in an army to fight.  And sometimes he’s overwhelmed.  Then he learns also that along the pilgrimage of this life, the assails, and the troubles, and the trials, and the illnesses that afflict the whole race of mankind afflict him.  He also can be weak, and he also can be sick, and he also can be troubled, and he also can be frustrated.  And then he finds that when he seeks to do work for God, his work is hard, and laborious; it does not come easy.  There’s a price to pay, there’s a sacrifice to make, and when we toil for God sometimes we toil in rowing.

Now, this, the prophetic life of our Lord, is also the prophetic paragon of our own lives.  We also face a like dilemma: there is a cross that every one of us is called to bear; and that always is first.  In our pilgrimage through the days of our lives, we also know what it is to be sick, and to be discouraged, and to be frustrated, and to be assailed, and to toil, and to sacrifice for some precious and holy end.  It is not easy for any one of us.  There is a common denominator in human living that is known to all of us who breathe this air and who walk down this earthly road.  But there is an infinite difference between those who have found refuge in Christ and those who don’t know the blessing of the experience of having Jesus walk by their sides.  As we go through the pilgrimage of this life with all of the distresses, and all of the illnesses, and all of the hurts, and all the sorrows and frustrations, and all of the toil and sacrifice, as we go through the pilgrimage of this life, there accompanies us, look: here are the twin sisters of joy and peace that precede us; and look, here are the twin angel forms of goodness and mercy that follow us all the days of our lives; and look, here, shadowing us is the form of the Son of God, a guide and a counselor.  He walks with us, and He talks with us, and He strengthens us, and He guides us, He comforts us.  He is our friend and companion, and life has such a different turn and such a different meaning when it is walked in the way of the Lord.

And, of course, the result and the reward of having found grace in the presence of Jesus, and knowing His blessing upon the work of our hands, the reward, the crown, is infinitely dear and incomparably precious.  For God always has some better thing for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].

Life is a burden, we bear it.

Life is a duty, we dare it.

Life is a thorn crown, we wear it.

Though it break your heart in twain,

though the burden crush you down

Close your lips and hide your pain,

first the cross and then the crown

["A Thought," J. Ryan Abram]


In Yarinacocha, a Wycliffe jungle camp in Peru, I was spending several weeks with those Wycliffe missionaries.  And while I was there, the little amphibian plane brought in out of the jungle two girls, two young women.  When I looked at them when they got off the plane, they were covered, every part of their body that I could see, they were covered from head to foot with sores.  There are billions and billions of insects down there; they have no wintertime so they never die, the insects just multiply.  And those girls, those two young women out in the jungle, had been so bitten by bugs, insects, that they had become infected, and all over their physical frames, everywhere, were sores.  And after they’d been out in the jungle for a period of time, they come back to the jungle camp; and there the physician ministers to them and they get well, and then they go back in the little amphibian plane and are let off there in the jungle, working with that Stone Age Indian tribe.  Well, when those two young women got off the plane, there also climbed out of the plane with them two children; one was a little boy about eleven and one was a little girl about ten.  They were brother and sister, and they belonged to the large, large family of the Indian tribe.  The children had never been out of the jungle.  And that night when we sat down to eat supper, why, those two youngsters had never been in a house like that before. 

One of the things out of a thousand things – and I haven’t time to describe it all – one of the things that amazed the children was curtains on the window.  Any time that any little piece of cloth had ever come into their hands, it was preciously used for some kind of clothing.  And to see curtains on the windows astonished those children.  And as they sat down at the supper, why, the meal was unfamiliar to them; and using a knife and a fork and a plate and serving and all, they were much frustrated.  So the next day, the next day, when we sat down to eat, why, what they did, they spread a little cloth over in the corner on the floor, and the rest of us sat at the table and ate at the table with knife and fork and spoon and plate and all, and the children ate on the floor, the two of them over there by themselves where they would be more comfortable and more at home.

So we sat down to eat.  And as we sat down to eat, why, I heard the little boy talking.  So I turned around, and looked over there in the corner to see what the little fellow was saying.  Well, what was happening was their food was spread out on that little piece of cloth on the floor, and on one side of it sat the little girl, and on this side of it sat the little boy, and both of them had their hands clasped like this.  And as they knelt there on the floor before the food, and the little boy was asking a blessing – and it was not a brief blessing – he prayed a long time, there on the floor before the food, and before he and his little sister ate together. 

Now, I was seated right here by the side of those two girls.  And I got to looking at those two young women, so eaten up with bugs and insects and infected sores all over their bodies.  I got to looking at those two girls, and then at those two little children.  You see the tribe to which those two young women had been sent was a headhunting tribe, and the chief of the tribe had thirty-five heads he had taken off and shrunk.  And those two young women, knowing not what might happen, they were taken there in an amphibian plane and left.  And they entered that jungle, and entered that tribe, not knowing what might await, just by the grace of God, trusting Jesus.  And the tribal chief later said, "Had they been two men I would have cut them to pieces."  But two girls, two girls, they came into the village, came to the hut of the chief, and they made themselves in their mission known.  And they worked and they translated into their language the Word of God.  And they won that chieftain to the Lord.  And they won that tribe to the Lord; those two young women.

I was going over there to see that chieftain when the plane that I was in fell down in the jungle.  So they brought him here.  And you heard him.  His name is Tariri, and he spoke here in this pulpit.  And by his side stood one of those girls; she was his interpreter.  And those two young women, taking their lives in their hands, offering themselves in the grace of God for whatever purpose the Lord might destine, went into that savage tribe, won them to Jesus, come out, are healed, and then taken back.  And as I sat there at the table looking at the girls and looking at those two little children praying so beautifully before the Lord, I was reminded once again of the paragon of the Christian life which we found first in our Lord: the cross, the toil, the sacrifice, the effort, the dedication, the love for Jesus, the outreach of the praying heart, the seeking soul, the offered hands, the dedicated life; first the cross, and then the reward.  Look, look, those two darling children, Stone Age Indian children, praying long prayer before breaking bread.  Eating over there on the floor, uncomfortable in all of the culture and civilization that we know; but Christians, saved, loving Jesus, and back of them their father, the tribal chief, a former headhunter, and the whole tribe – how marvelous, and how wonderful, and how precious, and how blessed, and how incomparably glorious.

So, many times, in our pilgrimage, we often wonder, is it worth the price?  It costs so much, it takes so much, then we remember that blessed Scripture: "Our Lord Jesus. . .who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and now," the crown, "is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" [Hebrews 12:2].  And this is our life and our dedication, beautiful and precious.

Lord, Lord, to have a part in Thy kingdom, at any cost, and to serve God in humility, in frustration sometimes, but always with our eyes upon Jesus and what God is able to do with the effort and the labor of our hands.


Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for every one,

And there’s a cross for me.


The consecrated cross I’ll bear

Till death shall set me free;

And then go home my crown to wear,

For there’s a crown for me.


O precious cross!  O glorious crown!

O resurrection day!

Ye angels from the stars come down,

And bears my soul away.

[adapted from "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone," Thomas Shepherd]


Now, I want you to sing the first and the last stanza of that consecrated hymn with me.  We’re going first to sing the first stanza, "Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?"  We’re going to sing the first stanza.  Then when we come to the second stanza, if in this moment, you love the Lord, and you would like just once again to renew your vow of consecration to Him, when we come to the second stanza, when I raise my hand, I want you to raise your hand and sing the last stanza with me.  Now let’s sing together the first stanza:

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for every one,

And there’s a cross for me.


Now, if you’d just like to say to the Lord Jesus, "Lord, just once again, loving Thee, I dedicate and consecrate my life to Thee," singing that last stanza with the pastor, would you raise your hand and keep it raised while you sing it?

O precious cross!  O glorious crown!

O resurrection day!

Ye angels from the stars come down,

And bear my soul away.

[adapted from "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone," Thomas Shepherd]


First the cross, the cost, the sacrifice [Matthew 16:24, Luke 24:29]; and then the crown, God having prepared some beautiful and precious thing for us [1 Corinthians 2:9].

Now we stand and sing our invitation hymn.  And as we sing it, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the church, to answer God’s call, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  And God be with you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.