The Blood of Jesus
April 10th, 1998 @ 12:00 PM
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-10-98 12:00 p.m.
Here I am, can hardly talk. I have so meticulously prepared the sermon today and having prayed through it, lived through it, moved by God in it, I have a hard time speaking of it without being deeply, deeply moved.
Job cried, “I have sinned; what shall I do?” [Job 7:20]. And our Lord said, “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. So the Christian faith, our religion, is one of salvation and deliverance. 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. Nor is it, in the first place, philosophical; although it has to do with all of those problems that the Greeks wrestled with throughout their long history of scholastic achievement. But the Christian religion has to do with our souls, and with the problem of sin, and with the great judgment day of Almighty God.
This is seen in the symbol of the faith. The symbol of the Christian faith is not a burning bush. It is not two tables of stone. It is not a seven-branched lampstand. It is not a halo around a submissive head. It is not even a golden crown. But the symbol of the Christian faith is a cross, a naked, rugged cross, as the Romans would have it; a philosophical irreconcilability, as the Greeks would have it: but the outpouring of the saving grace of God as the Christian faith presents it.
It is hard for us to realize the vast, illimitable distance that the Lord in His soul felt as He descended from the glory of God in heaven to the depths of the suffering on the cross [Hebrews 10:4-14]. I cannot enter into it; the Lord in glory and the Lord on that terrible cross. Down and down and down and down and down and down He came; and finally was made in the likeness of a man, out of the dust of the ground [Philippians 2:7]. Then He was crucified as a criminal [Matthew 27:32-50]. Then He cried, being deserted by man and forsaken by God [Matthew 27:38-46]. I cannot think of it; it is beyond my highest or lowest thoughts.
Abuse was not vile enough: He was covered with spittle [Matthew 27:30]. Spittle was not contemptuous enough: they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6]. Plucking out His beard was not full of feeling enough, so they crowned Him with thorns [Matthew 27:29]. The thorns were not sharp enough, so they drove in nails [Matthew 27:35]. The nails did not pierce deep enough, so they thrust a spear into His heart and there flowed out the crimson of His life [John 19:34].
Who did this? Who was responsible for this? Who is guilty of this? The wife of Job said, “It is God. He did it. Curse God, and die!” [Job 2:9]. Others would say, “It’s His own fault. He should have been a better manager.” Satan would say, “This is my revenge!” having been cast out of paradise. Still others would say, “Pilate did it.” And others would say, “The Jews did it.” And others would say, “The Roman soldiers did it.” Pilate would answer, “Bring me a basin of water, that I may wash my hands; for I am not guilty of the blood of this innocent Man [Matthew 27:24]. I did not do it.” The Jews throughout the Book of Acts disclaim any responsibility for the suffering death of our Lord. And for the ages since and for the world of Jewry today, they disclaim any responsibility for such a spectacle as the cross. And dear me! The Roman soldier would say, “We are men under authority. We just carried out the commandments of our army.”
Who did that? Who is guilty of that? Sweet people, it must be we all had a part. We all did it. We all are guilty and stand before God condemned [Romans 3:19].
“I have sinned, what shall I do?” The blood of Jesus is on my hands; what shall I do? I think of Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Who shall wash this blood from my hands? Will all Neptune’s ocean? This hand steeped in blood; incarnadine, making the green one red.” Who can cleanse me? Who can forgive me? Who can save me? Who can deliver me? O God, what shall I do?
And this is the message of this day; this is the crimson of the cross; this is the wonderful gospel of salvation. See: that is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. Look: that is the blood of the Passover Lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7]. Look: that is the consummation of all of the sacrifices revealed to us in this Old Testament [Colossians 2:17]. Look: this is the preaching of the faith of salvation, given to the apostles and to those martyrs and first preachers [Acts 1:8]. This is the consummation of the purpose of God in revelation throughout the age and throughout the earth [Galatians 4:4].
When the Lord died, the blood came down to the ground. And the Lord said, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And the dust of the ground whispered to the grass, “It is finished.” And the grass whispered to the trees, “It is finished.” And the trees whispered to the birds, “It is finished.” And the birds whispered to the clouds, “It is finished.” And the clouds whispered to the angels in glory, “It is finished.” And the angels in glory gathered around the throne of love and grace, and said, “It is finished.”
Nothing could be added; nothing beside could be done. When the Lord died for our sins on the cross, He completed that reconciliation between us and God [Romans 5:10]. “I have sinned; what shall I do? Jesus, You did it for me” [1 Corinthians 15:3].
O God, what a message! And what a glory! And what a salvation, and what a deliverance in Thy blood and in Thy cross! [Ephesians 1:7]. So in the cross we have a message for the world.
Look and live, my brother, live
Look to Jesus Christ, and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
[“Look and Live,” William A. Ogden]
The arms of the cross are open wide: they extend in invitation to the ends of the earth, Come, come, come, the symbol of the cross is universal.
If in Flanders the poppies grow,
It will be between the crosses row on row.
[“In Flanders Fields,” John McCrae]
So as I close, I speak of my own soul and my own life. Soon, maybe real soon, I shall stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5]. And when I do, how shall I plead an entrance into heaven? Shall I do it with my good works? “Lord, look at me. For over seventy-three years, Lord, I have been a pastor. For those years, Lord, I have preached thousands of sermons. Lord, in those years so many funerals have I conducted, I cannot count them. Lord, in the years of my life, how many souls have I won? O God, in the years of my life, how many have I pointed to Jesus? And how much good have I done? Lord, I know I deserve heaven. My good works exclaim my worth and present my credentials as I enter the pearly gates, and walk those golden streets. My works, Lord, commend me.”
Then as I stand there in the presence of the great God of judgment, I recall: by good works you cannot be delivered. Good works, things that we seek to do that are right, cannot deliver us from our sins. Only God in His love and grace can save us [Ephesians 2:7-9]. In the grace and mercy of God, we are delivered; not by works of righteousness and goodness are we saved, but by the love and sacrifice and death of Jesus my Lord [Titus 3:5].
So I say when I stand soon in the presence of the great God of heaven and the Judge of all the earth, I’ll not plead my good works; I will not refer to the life I’ve tried to live or the ministry I have sought to dedicate to Him. When I stand there, I will plead the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus [Titus 3:5]: His blood shed for me [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 9:22], His grace extended to me [Ephesians 2:8]. “Just in the love of Jesus, Lord, receive me.”
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O gracious 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]
When I stand therefore in the presence of the great King and Judge of all the earth, not one syllable of my thought will think of me; but I will give glory and praise and thanksgiving to Jesus, who died in my stead [2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:20], whose blood washes my sins away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], and whose loving arms shall receive me into glory [John 14:1-3].