The Price That He Paid
November 15th, 1981 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-15-81 7:30 p.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor, bringing the message entitled The Price That He Paid. We have the Lord’s Supper tonight. I wish you could be here who are listening on radio, in order to break bread with us. The message is in preparation for this most beautiful and meaningful of all the ordinances God has given us, the recurring ordinance in the church; The Price That He Paid.
Now we’re going to read out loud together Luke 23, beginning at verse 32 through verse 43. Luke 23, all of us. Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third Gospel – Luke 23, beginning at verse 32, and concluding at verse 43. Now all of us reading out loud, together:
And there were also two others, malefactors, led with Him to be put to death.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots.
And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God.
And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar,
And saying, If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself.
And a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man has done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
One of the vivid descriptions out of four of the suffering of our Lord on the cross: "Golgotha" in the Hebrew language; "Calvary" in the Latin language; the "Place of the Skull" in the English language.
It is almost unthinkable, unbelievable, that the Christ should have been so offered the world and the glory that is in it [Matthew 4:8-9], and chose rather to die, as we’ve just read in this account of Dr. Luke. In the first temptation, the Lord was offered the indulgence of His appetites and He refused [Matthew 4:3-4]. In the second temptation, He was offered egotistic grandeur: "Cast Yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The angels will care for You, lest You dash Your foot against a stone. And think of the awe and the wonder as the people see You float graciously down without harm" [Matthew 4:5-7].
The third temptation was to ambitious conquest. Satan showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and that included America. In a moment, it passed before the eyes of our Lord, and Satan said: "All this will I give You, king of the world, if You will bow down and worship me. No cross. No suffering. No death. No agony. No price to pay. Just receive it," said the god of this world, "from my hands" [Matthew 4:8-10].
And in all three temptations, the Lord turned His face to Calvary, refusing the grandeur, and the plaudits, and the awe, and the amazement, and all of the admiration and riches of this world, and chose rather to suffer and to die [John 5:27; Hebrews 10:5-14].
The choice that our Savior made in that moment is almost beyond anything that I can think for. He was rejected by His own people. As John begins his Gospel: "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" [John 1:11].
And how they did it! Some of them slapped Him with their hand saying, "Tell me my name. Who am I?" and smote Him again [Matthew 26:67-68; Luke 22:63-64]. Others plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6]. Others spit in His face. Others planted a crown of thorns and pressed it upon His brow [Matthew 27:29-30]. And all of them mocked Him and jeered Him, "This is the Son of God?"
And then, they led Him away and nailed Him to a cross [Matthew 27:31-35]. So horrible was the death by crucifixion that, by Roman law, no citizen of the empire could ever be nailed to a tree. Cicero describes, in his eloquent way, the suffering of that awesome death. And he says, "It is reserved only for criminals, malefactors, seditionists, insurrectionists. The very shape of the cross is a dagger raised high, pointed toward the heart of the one who suffers thereon."
Where did the death of Christ arise? Who did it? Whose fault is that? Who crucified Jesus, the Son of God? Another one of the strange things of all Christian history; every creed, every one of them, will read like this: "… crucified under Pontius Pilate." He did it. Yet, I don’t know of anything that is more untrue, both spiritually and actually, than to say Pontius Pilate did it. Somehow, in the providences of God, in the judgment of God, somehow we all had a part.
I was reading this week of a soldier who had fought through the First World War, where, for so many years, there was a no man’s land in France. And he said that, in keeping with a custom of the French people – that I’ve seen all over the nation of erecting shrines, there will be a place by the side of the highway, you’ve seen them, and there will be a place to pray – there’ll be a presentation out of the Christian faith.
Well, this one in France was a raised cross at a crucifix: Jesus carved out of wood and nailed to the cross. As one of the campaigns of the Allied soldiers was sweeping through France, they captured that portion of no man’s land. And this soldier said that, "I came in the rush of the conquest and the advance. I came to that shrine by the side of the road. He was there, carved in wood, nailed to the cross." But, for so long the shrine had been in no man’s land, that the image of Christ was greatly mutilated. His right leg was blown off below the knee, one of His hands was gone, His face was terribly scarred, and the whole body showed the signs of shrapnel. And he said, "I just stood there and looked at that sorrowful and melancholy face as, seemingly, it looked over the battle lines." And the soldier said, "It just seemed to me that I did it."
And we did it. And we all did it! We pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns. And we drove through His hands and His feet those harsh and cruel nails.
You drove the nails through His quivering feet
And I pierced each tender hand.
And we carelessly lifted the cross on high,
Too blind to understand.
You gave Him the gall and vinegar
And I thrust the lance in His side,
Yet they say it was years and years ago
That the Savior was crucified.
Who did it? We did it. Our sins nailed Him to the tree. And this is the gospel of redemption, and salvation, that out of so great suffering should come our hope for heaven. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" [Hebrews 9:22], and the crimson of His life was poured out for us.
You have no more poignant an illustration of that doctrine of substitution and salvation and redemption in the death of our Lord than in that unusual passage that we read together just now. All of the evangelists, all four of them, are very careful to state that our Lord was not crucified alone. On either side there was raised another cross. Malefactors. Seditionists. Murderers. And He was in the center cross [Matthew 27:38], as though He were the most vile of them all. And those three crosses somehow represent all the story of humanity in this world and in the world that is yet to come.
All three of those crosses faced in the same direction. They faced eternity. And the arms of our Lord are outstretched on either side, wide as the world is wide: mercy, and truth, and love, and sacrifice in Jesus our Lord.
And the two responses: one of them cursed Him, reviled Him, and mocked Him. "If You be the Christ, You deceiver – if You are what You say You are, save Yourself and us" [Luke 23:39]. But the other malefactor, speaking beyond the One on the center cross to the one on the other side, rebuked him, and avowed his own faith in the blessed Jesus and asked to be remembered in the kingdom [Luke 23:40-42].
When I read that story, I think of something in my own life. I don’t know why, but a thousand times, a thousand times since it happened, I wish I could go back to that day and to that hour and do something different from what I did.
We were in London; and on Sunday Hyde Park is filled with thousands of people. They gather in clusters and in groups and in crowds listening to everything under the sun, most of it far out, as far out as philosophy or economics or politics can imagine. Denouncing the government, denouncing the whole fabric of society, you can hear everything in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon.
In this particular group, in this crowd, there was a sweet, humble pastor. As I listened to him and looked at him, he looked to me to be a saint of God. And sweetly and humbly and preciously he was standing there in Hyde Park with that crowd around him, and he was pleading the cause of Christ just as it is in the Bible.
By his side stood a dear layman, those two. They were mocked and heckled as they spoke sweet words about the Lord Jesus. And one man came out of the crowd, and walked over there in front of that humble pastor, and went into a blasphemous diatribe against Christ that I had never heard in my life. He cursed Jesus, and he said, "If He were alive today, we’d crucify Him again. My own hands," he said, "would break His neck, and this fist would hit Him in the face."
"Well, preacher, why do you want to go back?"
I don’t know why I didn’t, for I was moved in my heart to do it. And I wish I could go back to that moment in that day and do it! Why didn’t I just walk out into the middle of the circle and stand there in front of that preacher and that layman by his side, and do one of two things? Why didn’t I say, "This day I am ashamed of my race, and this day I am ashamed of my language that is capable of such blasphemy?" Or at least, why didn’t I just walk out in the middle of the circle and put my hand on the shoulder of the pastor and say, "I’m a foreigner from across the sea, but I too love and praise the Lord Jesus." Why didn’t I do that? I don’t know. I wish I could go back and do either the one or the other.
But that’s what this malefactor did. Nailed to the tree with just moments to live, he rebuked the blasphemy of the one on the other side. And then, in precious faith and humility – how he could have been thus persuaded, I don’t know – but that One on the center cross, he felt, one day, would enter into a divine and heavenly and glorious kingdom. Think of that! Crucified like a malefactor, but one day to be triumphant over the earth, and then humbly said, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" [Luke 23:42]. Not "if," but "when."
And the Lord replied in a promise: "Verily, truly, I say unto you, semeron." Hēmera is the word for "day." Semeron is the word for "this day," not some other day, not some other era, not some other consummating age, but this day – today, this day. Semeron – "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43].
I know one sinner for certain who is in heaven. Jesus said it to that dying thief on the cross: "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
That’s a picture of the whole world. Some reject, some mock, some are unbelieving, some scorn and ridicule, some pass Him by; but always, there are some whose hearts the Holy Spirit of God does touch, and in loving expectancy they bow at the feet of our blessed Lord: "When You come into Your kingdom, Lord, remember me" [Luke 23:42].
And that’s our prayer for you, for us, this solemn and sacred evening. "Lord, Lord, write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:15]. When the roll is called up yonder, may I answer, ‘Here.’ Number me, Lord, in the family of God. Include my name among those who love our Lord Jesus." God grant it for you, for us, even semeron – today. May we stand?
Our Lord, as You look down upon us from the cross, infinite love, infinite grace, love and mercy met that day in Thee. No less, Lord, in compassion, look down upon us from heaven, and may Thy Holy Spirit in the presence of the congregation this evening make appeal beyond what we are able to verbalize. In words that I can’t even pronounce, Holy Spirit, do Thy office work now, and convict, and woo, and invite, and encourage, and may these tonight that God hath chosen come forward. Openly, unashamedly, statedly, committedly, yieldedly, surrenderedly, lovingly, tenderly may they come forward tonight, "I’ve decided for Christ, and here I stand."
In a moment, on that side, on your right, I’ll be standing by our table of the broken bread, and a family you, or a couple you, or a one somebody you, down a stairway, out of the balcony, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, tonight, I give my life to Christ." Or, "I’m putting my life in the circle of this dear church." Or, "I’m answering a call from heaven." Do it now, today, semeron.
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet and precious harvest you will give us now, in Thy saving, wonderful name, amen.
I will be standing right there, and while we sing our hymn, you, a family, a couple you, make the decision now in your heart. And as we pray and wait and sing, come. God bless you, angels attend you in the way, and welcome.
THE PRICE THAT HE PAID
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. What He might have chosen (Luke 4:1-13)
A. First temptation – indulgence of His appetites
B. Second temptation – egotistic grandeur
C. Third temptation – ambition, rule, glory of the world
II. The way of the cross
A. Repudiation by the nation (John 1:11)
B. Unspeakable suffering
1. Compelled to carry His cross, until physical exhaustion
2. Horror to the ancient world
III. The doctrine of the cross
B. Paid the price for our salvation (Hebrews 9:22)
C. Graphically seen in the three crucified
1. He was not crucified alone, but between malefactors
2. Three crosses faced in the same direction toward eternity
3. Arms of mercy reached alike toward each – one as near forgiveness as the other
4. One rejected; one accepted
5. "Today you will be with Me in Paradise"