The Shadow of the Cross
January 8th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-8-89 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor, so full of the presence of God, I can hardly speak. The title of the sermon is The Shadow of the Cross. In preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, last Sunday we finished, the Sunday before last we finished preaching, expounding the high priestly prayer, the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel [John 17:1-26]. We now, at the eighteenth chapter, enter the last days of our Lord. And in the eleventh verse of this eighteenth chapter, when the enemies of our Savior were surrounding Him to arrest Him and lead Him into death, Simon Peter sought to defend Him and drew out his sword. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” [John 18:11]. And that led me to speak of that shadow—the cup, the shadow of the cross under which Jesus lived all of His ministry—both in heaven and in earth.
I am sure that you have seen one of the most beautiful and effective paintings in Christendom. It is a depiction of our Lord when He was an older teenager; looks to be eighteen or nineteen years of age. And He is standing in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He is holding a beam of wood in his hands, in His arms, and from the light that shines into the shop, there is a shadow cast on the wall behind Him, and it is the shadow of a cross. They say that Jesus made yokes, and that His yokes were the easiest to bear. But working in that shop and handling that heavy wood, the shadow of the cross was cast on the wall behind Him. And under that shadow, I say, all of His ministry, whether it be in the eternity before or in the eternity that follows, in the shadow of that cross, Jesus lived all the days of His life.
In heaven, the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse says, He is “the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world” [Revelation 13:8]. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author says of our Lord, “Wherefore when He cometh into the world [Hebrews 10:5], He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me…Then said I, Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:5-7]. In heaven, before the earth was cast out into space [Revelation 13:8], He was the Lamb of God, ordained to take away the sin of the world [John 1:29]. All of the sacrifices that were offered on this planet are harbingers and types of Him. He is the great antitype of the whole sacrificial system [Colossians 2:16-17].
Whether it be the lamb offered unto God by Abel (Genesis 4:4], whether it be the ram caught in the thicket for Abraham to offer in the stead of Isaac his son [Genesis 22:10-13], or whether it be the sacrificial system of the Mosaic legislation [Leviticus 1:1-7:38], every sacrifice that was ever offered unto God is a preview, an earnest, a harbinger, a type, a picture of the expiation of our sins in the atoning grace of Jesus, our Lord [Hebrews 10:1]; the shadow of the cross. And the great theme of prophecy is the sufferings of our Savior. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]; the shadow of the cross.
Before He was born, in the first chapter of the First Gospel, Matthew, an angel from heaven says to the holy couple, “You are to call His name Iēsous, Jesus, Savior: for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21]. “Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22]; under the shadow of the cross. And in the second chapter of the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, when they brought the Child to be dedicated to God in the temple, Simeon, ancient, old Simeon, took the Babe in his arms [Luke 2:27-28]. And as he held the Child, Simeon said, “This Child . . . will be for a sign spoken against” [Luke 2:34]. Then turning to the mother he said, “And you, a sword should pierce through thine own soul also” [Luke 2:35].
The same story says Mary pondered these things in her heart [Luke 2:19]. And I have often thought, as she turned over in her mind and memory what ancient Simeon said, “A sword should pierce through thine own soul also” [Luke 2:35], when she stood by the cross on Golgotha and looked at that Son nailed to a tree [John 19:25], she understood what Simeon meant; under the shadow of the cross.
When John the Baptist introduced Him to the world, he did so with this sentence, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]; under the shadow of the cross. In His first public ministry in Jerusalem, there came to see Him by night a Sanhedrist, a Pharisee. His name was Nicodemus. And when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He said to him, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14]; the shadow of the cross.
In His great Galilean ministry, time, and yet time and again, did the Lord seek to teach His disciples that the Son of Man must be handed over to the Gentiles and He is to be crucified in Jerusalem [Luke 18:31-33]. When the Lord was transfigured [Luke 9:28-29]—one of the great, holy, heavenly, moments that a person could ever experience—when He was transfigured on that holy mountain, there spake with Him Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets [Luke 9:30]. And what did they speak about? They spoke to Him about His death, which He should accomplish in Jerusalem [Luke 9:31]; the shadow of the cross.
In His last ministry in Jerusalem before He died, there came Greeks from afar who had heard of Him, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus” [John 12:21]. And Jesus replied, “If the Son of Man be lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him” [John 12:32]; the shadow of the cross. When Mary, sweet Mary of Bethany, anointed our Lord, broke that alabaster box of precious ointment of spikenard, and they criticized her saying, “Why this waste? It could have been sold for a year’s salary and given to the poor.” Our Lord replied, “Let her alone, let her alone, she has anointed Me for My burial” [John 12:3-7, Mark 14:3-8]; the shadow of the cross.
And in the upper room, that evening that He was betrayed, before the morning that He was crucified, our Lord took bread and broke it and said, “This is My body, given for you” [Luke 22:19]. And He took the crushed crimson through the vine and said, “This is My blood which is shed for you” [Luke 22:20]; the shadow of the cross.
And in my text, when they came to arrest Him in Gethsemane, Simon Peter drew out his sword to defend Him, and the Lord said, “Simon, put up your sword [John 18:10-11], if I will, I could ask My Father for twelve legions of angels to defend Me” [Matthew 26:53]. A legion is six thousand soldiers. Twelve legions would be seventy-two thousand angels. In the [thirty-seventh] chapter of Isaiah, one angel—one angel passed over the Assyrian army of Sennacherib, and the next morning they counted one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses [Isaiah 37:36]—one angel. “If I would, I could ask My Father, and He would send Me twelve legions of angels” [Matthew 26:53]—seventy-two thousand angels. “But then, how would it be, the Scriptures be fulfilled, that the Son of Man gives His life for the sins of the world?” [Matthew 26:54]; the shadow of the cross.
And finally, they laid upon Him that heavy, wooden beam. “And He bearing His cross went forth into a place of a skull called Golgotha” [John 19:17].
When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
[“When Jesus Came to Our Town,” G. A. Studdert-Kennedy]
Jesus died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That shadow of the cross has been flung across the world and across the centuries of time. This world can never be the same again because Jesus suffered in it and died for it [John 3:16]. In the center of time is the cross. And in the heart of the world is the cross; this side, it is BC, before Christ to the cross; this side, it is AD—anno Domini, “the year of our Lord” to the cross. He divides all time. And in the heart of the world is the cross of our Lord. One of the strangest things in human history; this side—from the side of the cross—this side all of the nations of the earth read from left to right, from left to right, from left to right. And beginning at the cross, all of the nations of the world on this side read from right to left, from right to left. The center of human history is the cross. And under that shadow, every apostle and every martyr and every witness took his stand to preach the saving gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Ephesians 2:8].
In the marvelous passage that we read together, Paul says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” [Galatians 6:14]. O God, to stand in the train of those apostles, and to speak the gospel of Jesus, and to preach the wonderful name, and to do it from that wonderful Book! In the New Testament, the apostles and prophets and martyrs left behind, every syllable and every sentence is inspired by His sufferings and stained by His blood; under the shadow of the cross.
And that shadow has become the sacred sign and symbol of God’s extended love and grace to all humanity [John 3:16]. There are no frontiers. As far as the east goes east, and as far as the west goes west, the arms of the love of God are extended [1 John 2:2, 4:10]. There are no boundaries. The shadow of that cross falls upon every battlefield of the world. “If in Flander’s Field, the poppies grow, it will be between the crosses row on row” [“In Flander’s Fields,” John McCrae].
Soon, very soon, after the close of the Second World War, I was in France. And there in some place, I have no idea where; some one, some wing of government, some group had gathered together the fallen bodies of those English pilots, the R. A. F. that had come across the channel to bomb the German army in France. They had been shot down and their bodies had been gathered together and placed in that unkempt cemetery. And as I walked through it, there on a cross, I saw something written. And I walked over to it and knelt down and read it. It was a note from his wife and the mother of his children and it said, “Your wife and your boys will never forget”—fastened to a cross, to a cross, to a cross. And that sign and insignia of God’s love and grace and compassionate loving remembrance falls upon every poor home and every broken heart and every disconsolate life; every sickbed, every hospital room—God’s presence—God’s love expressed in the grace and atoning death of His Son [John 3:16]. And under the shadow of that cross, all human man-made distinctions disappear. Nothing of separation is left.
There is a phrase that Paul uses, “breaking down the middle wall of partition.” I want you to notice that phrase when I read this passage from Ephesians chapter 2, beginning at verse 11:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in His flesh the enmity…
That He might reconcile us unto God…by the cross…
Do you see what he speaks of? That wall of separation? When Paul wrote those words—had you gone to the Holy City to call upon the name of the Lord, the first thing you would have met was a high stone wall. And having entered that wall, into the Court into the? Gentiles, you would have met a high stone wall that separated from the Court of Israel. And had you gone through that wall, you would have met another wall that separated the Court of Women. And had you gone through that wall, you would have met another wall separating the Court of the Priests [2 Chronicles 4:9]. And having gone through that wall, you would have met the temple itself; beyond which was the presence of God. But in Christ Jesus, every one of those walls is broken down [Ephesians 2:14]. Just walk into the presence of God; just stand and look upon the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:16]; nothing between, all of it taken away, broken down [Hebrews 10:20]—just come in and welcome [Hebrews 4:16].
There is another way they say it in that Holy Scripture. When the Lord died on the cross and He cried saying, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, and gave up His spirit” [John 19:30]; the Bible says at that moment, God took that curtain that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies—God took that curtain and He tore it asunder from top to bottom [Matthew 27:51]. Not from bottom to top, as though men had separated and torn it, but from top to bottom as though God had rended it asunder. And for the first time, the Holy of Holies was opened to view where God is, and any one welcomed to come in [Hebrews 10:19].
The great author of Hebrews pictures it in another way in the twelfth chapter, beginning at verse 18, “For you are not come unto the mount”—Sinai, for if you touched it, if you touched it, you were stoned or thrust through with a dart [Exodus 19:12-13]:
A mount that burned with fire, and blackness, and darkness, and tempest…
And so terrible was the sight, that even Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:
But ye are come unto Mount Zion—unto Mount Calvary—unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,
Our First Baptist Church here in Dallas, the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven:
to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things then that of Abel.
Do not come to a mountain, that if you touched it you were slain, either by stoning, or by thrusting through with a dart [Exodus 19:12-13]. Mount Sinai, that burned with fire at the judgment of Almighty God. But you are come unto Mount Zion, to Mount Calvary…you are come to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn, to God’s people whose names are written in heaven [Hebrews 12:22-23]. And anyone can come, anyone can hear, anyone is welcome; anyone, anyone, without trepidation, without fear, just come.
One of the great heroes of England, as you know, was the Iron Duke of Wellington. He won the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon. He was idolized and lionized by all of the British Empire. According to the ritual of the Church of England, when they have the Lord’s Supper—the communion—they come and kneel and the prelate gives them the elements. And the Iron Duke of Wellington came forward at the service and he knelt down there at the altar, and prelate ministered to him with the bread and the cup. And by his side, there knelt a ragged poor man out of the gutter of the street. And when the prelate looked at that ragged man from the gutter, he touched him and said, “Sir, you move away. You move away. You move away. Don’t you know you are leaning by the side of the great Duke of Wellington? You move away.” And the Duke overheard what the prelate said. And the great hero of England said, “Sir, leave him be. Let him alone. We are all the same here.” And he added, “The ground is level at the cross.”
There are, as Paul would say, no great and no small; no bond and no free; no rich and no poor; no male and no female [Galatians 3:28]. We are all the same; loved of the Father, beloved of the Son, and welcomed into His presence [Hebrews 10:20]. Anybody can touch Jesus. Anybody can look up into His face. Anybody can kneel in His presence. Anybody can love and serve our blessed Lord [1 Corinthians 15:58]. O God, I am so glad that includes me—us, the children of the Lord, the general assembly and the church of the first-born [Hebrews 12:23]. Let’s thank Him together.
Our Lord in heaven, what a precious, sweet, and beautiful gospel You have placed in our hearts, on our lips, in the dear church that You love, Your bride [Ephesians 5:25]. And what a glory in expectation when we shall change our vile bodies made of dust, corrupting and dying, for a new and resurrected body [Philippians 3:21], in which we shall love and serve Thee for ever, and ever, and ever in our new home in glory in the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-2]. O Lord, how precious You are to us. And thank You Lord, for breaking down those middle walls of partition that separate us from God [Ephesians 2:14]. And thank You for making a way to heaven that is plain and simple; even a child will not misunderstand or be misled [Matthew 19:14]. And thank You Lord for reaching down, touching my heart, and opening the door for me. And precious Savior, we pray that this morning, this hour, this moment that God will give us others who will love Thee too, and serve Thee faithfully, lovingly, endearingly, in Thy precious name, amen, amen.
We’re going to stand now and sing us a hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or a couple you to give your heart and home and house to the Lord Jesus, or just one somebody you, “Pastor, today, I’ve made that decision to open my heart heavenward and God-ward and here I stand” [Romans 10:9-13]. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, make it now. And a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
SHADOW OF THE CROSS
I. Jesus lived His life in the shadow of
A. The volunteer in
heaven (Revelation 13:3, Hebrews 10:5-7)
B. The antitype of
every sacrificial victim from Abel to the Mosaic legislation
C. The theme of
prophecy (Isaiah 53:5)
1. Before He was
born (Matthew 1:21, Hebrews 9:22)
2. At His birth (Luke 2:34-35)
of John the Baptist (John 1:29)
D. In His ministry
1. Speaking to Nicodemus
2. Teaching in
Galilee (Matthew 16:21, 17:12, 20:19)
4. In His last
public ministry; the Greeks (John 12:21, 3:13,
5. Anointing of
Mary (John 12:7)
6. The Lord’s
Supper (Luke 22:19-20)
7. In Gethsemane (John 18:11, Matthew 26:53-54, Isaiah 37:36)
8. The cruel
instrument of death laid upon His shoulder (John
II. That shadow has fallen across the
earth and the centuries of time
A. The world can never
be the same because He suffered in it, died for it
B. In the shadow of
that cross stood every apostle, martyr and witness
1. Across the
pages of the New Testament (Galatians 6:14)
as the world is wide, sacred symbol of God’s love falls upon human hearts
No more separation (Ephesians 2:11-16, John 19:30,
Matthew 27:51, Hebrews 12:18-24)