Christ, The Sacrifice Of God
April 5th, 1985 @ 12:00 PM
Atonement, Christ, Crucifixion, Sacrifice, John's Witness to Jesus Christ (Pre-Easter '85), 1985, John
CHRIST THE SACRIFICE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-85 12:00 p.m.
The theme for the messages this week is John’s witness to Jesus the Christ: “The Deity of Our Lord.” On Monday: Jesus, The Word Of God. On Tuesday: Jesus, The Power Of God. On Wednesday: Jesus, The Love And Grace Of God. On Thursday, yesterday: Jesus, The Way To God. And today, on Friday, the day He was crucified: Jesus, The Atonement Of God, The Sacrifice Of God.
Reading the first verses in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of John:
Then Pilate took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head.
They put on Him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.
And Pilate saith unto them, Idou ho anthropos!
Or, in Latin, Ecce homo! Or, in English, “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. And, whether it is in Greek or whether it is in Latin or whether it is in English and the modern languages of the world, the exclamation has captured the imagination of mankind.
All through the galleries of the earth will you find Ecce Homos—Jesus standing, crowned with thorns, a castoff purple robe over His shoulders, a reed for a scepter in His hand, and Pilate, before the bloodthirsty mob, pointing to that unresisting and suffering figure, with the explanation, “Idou ho anthropos! Ecce homo, behold the Man!” [John 19:5]. In my study at home, on the left wall I have a large painting by [Ciseri], a painting of Pilate looking down from his balcony on that maddening crowd and with his hand pointing to Jesus. “Ecce homo! Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
The purpose of Pilate, of course, was to excite—if he could—the sympathy of that bloodthirsty throng. He had scourged Jesus [John 19:1], and a Roman scourging sometimes resulted in death as surely as the crucifixion. Then he turned Him over to the soldiers to be crucified [John 19:16]. And they in their disdain and dislike for the Jew, they mocked Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, put that scepter—that stick—in His hand, and found somewhere in the palace a castoff, dirty, worn out, used purple robe. And they draped that around His shoulders and bowed down in mockery and said, “Hail, King of the Jews” [Matthew 27:28-29].
Pilate happened to be passing by at that moment. And when he saw that pathetic, unresisting, innocent figure, it came to his mind that maybe, if he presented Him thus, the crowd might in pity have mercy upon Him. So Pilate brought Him to the front of the balcony of his judgment hall, overlooking the throng below, and made that world famous exclamation: “Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
And we shall do so today. We shall look at Him first as He was in His preexistent deity. Think of the glory of our Lord before the world was. John had written, “In the beginning was Christ, the Word of God, and He was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” [John 1:1-3].
Paul affirmed that same celestial deity of Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God . . . and by Him all things were created, whether in heaven or earth or under the earth, and He is before all things, that in Him all things consist” [Colossians 1:15-17]. Just imagine the glory of the preexistent Lord, before whom the vast hosts of angels bowed in adoration and worship. And now look at Him, crowned with thorns, mocked, and scourged [Matthew 27:26-29; John 19:1-3]. The difference staggers the imagination!
Look at Him also when He was born in Bethlehem; the sweetest story ever told; Christmas, coming down from God out of heaven, incarnate in human flesh [Philippians 2:5-7]—and the angels sang [Luke 2:13-14], and the shepherds came [Luke 2:8-16], and the wise men brought their gifts [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11]. What a beautiful story!
Now look at Him—crowned with thorns, scourged, covered with blood, mocked and despised [John 19:1-5]. The gift of God to us in Bethlehem [John 3:16], is handed back to the same Lord God on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:16-34].
Think of Him just once again; the sweet and lowly, loving Lord Jesus, gentle and precious, preaching the gospel of hope to the poor [Matthew 11:5], opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-29], cleansing the leper [Matthew 8:2-3], healing the sick [Luke 4:38-40]; God’s sweet gift to suffering humanity.
And now, look at Him: despised, flagellated, covered in blood, finally crucified [John 19:1-34]. I try to think how a blind man whose eyes He opened felt when he looked at the glazed eyes of our Lord closed in death.
Or these that He had healed, and some He had raised from the dead, as they watched the suffering and crucified Lord Jesus. Surely, surely, this is the greatest tragedy in human history! There is nothing comparable in literature or in human life.
What is this? Is this a dramatic play like in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus or like Shakespeare’s King Lear or Hamlet? Or like Eugene O’Neill, The Strange Interlude.
What is this? Is this an historical tragedy like Socrates drinking the hemlock? Or like Julius Caesar assassinated at the foot of the statue of Pompey. Or like Abraham Lincoln, slain in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.?
What is this? And, above all, who did it? Who brought it to pass? Who is guilty of so indescribable a wrong? There is a cacophony of voices that would reply, “Who did that? Who brought that shame and suffering and death on the living Lord?”
There are some who would say, “God did it. He did it. He is responsible. Is He not sovereign? Does He not rule and control this whole universe? God did it. He is the One that allows sin and suffering and death. Who did that? God did it.”
There are those who would say, “He did it. He is responsible, the Lord Himself. He should have been a better manager. He should have made peace with the Sadducees and the priests and the governors of the people. He brought Himself to that strange, tragic come-to-pass that destroyed His life. It is His fault. He did it.”
One of the great scholars in the theological world of this last generation was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He wrote a very famous theological tome entitled The Quest For The Historical Jesus. And the theme of that book is this; that Jesus expected in His lifetime the messianic kingdom of God to come down from heaven to earth. And when it didn’t happen, He died in despair and disillusionment and discouragement. He did it. It’s His fault.
There are those who would say, “Pilate did it. He is responsible. He was the procurator and governor of the state. It was his responsibility. Pilate did it. It’s his fault.”
There are those who would say, “The Jews did it. They hated Him and despised Him and delivered Him to be crucified [John 19:14-16]. It’s the fault of the Jews. They did it.”
There are those who would say, “It’s the fault of Judas. Judas is the one who betrayed Him and sold Him for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. It was Judas who brought the soldiers and the temple guard to seize Him and arrest Him [Matthew 26:47-50]. It’s Judas’s fault. He did it.”
And there are those, of course, who would say, “It’s the soldier’s fault. Didn’t they crucify Him? Who drove the nails through His hands and feet? [Matthew 27:27-35]. And who pierced His heart with a Roman spear? [John 19:34]. They did it. The soldiers did it. It was the power of the Roman Empire that did it. They invented crucifixion. And they’re the ones that lifted Him up between the earth and the sky.”
When you look at it carefully, each one of these would deny the guilt. If you’ve ever been in Lucerne, the great mountain there by the little city is called Mount Pilatus, Mount Pilate.
And if you ask, “How is it this mountain is named for Pilate?” They will explain to you that in history Pilate later committed suicide. And one version is that he came, out of despair, to Switzerland, and, from that high mountain, plunged in suicide into the sea.
And they will say at dusk he will rise from the bottom of those clear waters and wash his hands, saying, “I am guiltless of the blood of this just Man. I didn’t do it. I am not responsible,” says Pilate.
The Jews cry and do today: “Would you bring this Man’s blood upon us and upon our children? We did not do it. It is not our responsibility.”
And if you were to rise with the dead and ask those Roman soldiers, “Did you do it? Is it your responsible?” And they would answer, “We were men under authority. We were just carrying out the orders of the Roman government. We are not guilty.”
Who did that? Who drove those nails in His hands and feet? Who wove that crown of thorns and pressed it upon His brow?
It must have been [that] we all did it. It must have been that our sins nailed Him to the cross [Romans 4:25]. It is our iniquities that bruised His face and His side and brought blood streaming down from the wounds in His hands and His feet. We did it. We all did it.
It is our iniquities, it is our sins that brought His suffering and His death [1 Peter 3:18]. And that leads us to this appeal of this passage in John: “Idou ho anthropos! Ecce homo! Behold the Man!” [John 19:5].
Look at Him. And if you do, there are two things that will ensue. One is this: “How could I have wrought such a wrong and such an injustice and pass Him by without a thought, just going my way? How could I do that?
How could I be so involved in the things of this world that never a thought or a pause or remembrance of what I had done to my Lord? How could I do that?
As you know, for ten years I was a country pastor. I was single. I lived with the people, came to know them so intimately.
And, in one of those little rural, country, open, country churches, there was a wonderful family; several men, who were godly men. And, being in their home so often, one day I asked the eldest brother, “How is it that you all became Christians?”
“Well,” he said, “it was like this.” And I’m talking about a thing a century ago.
He said, “It was like this. Every Saturday night, all of us boys in the house, we’d get a gun and put it in one pocket and a flask of whiskey and put it in the other pocket. And we’d ride off to a dance on Saturday night and a big party. One of the men”—who was there in that church later—”one of the men, one of our young friends, got in a fight with his best friend and killed him, shot him, and fled from the law; a refugee.”
“And my godly mother,” he said, “prayed lest a like tragedy would overwhelm one of her boys. So she asked us not to go to these parties any longer, not to attend these dances anymore, not to take our flasks and our guns. And we just laughed and scoffed at her.”
Then she said, “Sons, I’m going to stay on my knees from the moment you boys leave until the moment you come back. I’m going to be praying for you.”
And he said, “We just laughed at her. Ride off with our gun and with our flasks, come back in the wee hours of the morning, and there in her room, the lamp would be lit, and she’s down on her knees praying for us.”
He said to me, “You know, after a while, it got to the place where it took all of the courage that I could command just to get on the horse and ride away, knowing that my mother was down on her knees, praying for me until I came back safely. Finally,” he said, “on one of those nights, I went to the room where my mother had the lamp lighted and she on her knees. And I said, ‘Mother, I can stand it no longer. No more will I ride away on a Saturday night with a gun and with a flask of whiskey. Mother, what do you want me to do?’
And the mother said, “Son, I want you to give your heart to Christ and to be a Christian and to love Jesus.” And he said, “That night, by her side, I knelt and gave my whole life to the Lord Jesus. And my brothers did the same. And we’re today in this church, serving God.”
That’s what a vision of Jesus will do for us. To pass Him by, to forget is unthinkable. To love the Lord and to serve Him with all the strength of our days is the sweetest privilege God could ever set before us or bestow upon us.
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree.
But drops of grief could never repay
The debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
`Tis all that I can do.
[“At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
So, take us, Lord. Bless us, Lord. Use us, Lord, and make us worthy and profitable servants in Thy kingdom, in Thy dear church, and for Thy namesake. And our Lord coming to the end of the sixty-ninth year of pre-Easter services, we do so with hearts overflowing in love and gratitude for the love and grace of God in the Lord Jesus. And now as we prepare to celebrate, to rejoice in His glorious resurrection, may it be from the depths of our souls and the deepest meaning of our lives that we offer to Thee in humble service our hearts and our hands, in Thy dear and worthy name, amen.
THE SACRIFICE OF GOD
Scene captured imagination of great artists of the world
B. The purpose of
Pilate (Matthew 27:28-29)
II. Look at our Lord
In glory before the creation of the world (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17,
In the manger of the first Christmas (Luke 2:35)
His saving ministry
III. Who is guilty?
A. God’s fault
B. His own fault
C. Pilate’s fault
D. The Jews’ fault
E. Judas’ fault
F. Soldiers’ fault
G. Each would claim
innocence (Matthew 27:24, Acts 5:28)
H. We all had a part
IV. Our response
A. How could I pass Him
1. Mother praying
for her sons