The Cross (3)

I do not think that anyone who has made a study of the Word of God, and who has found the knowledge of Him who is the Author of the blessed things that are therein, is likely to suppose that anything that has taken place in the whole creation was unforeseen by the Creator. He knows the end from the beginning, and all else that lies between these two extremes. When He called the worlds into existence everything that He eventually brought forth was as clearly before His mind as it shall be in the hour in which His purposes are completed.

And what a glorious hour that shall be when the last touch of the finger of Him who is infinite in wisdom, power and love shall be given to a spotless universe brilliant with the glory of redemption, and filled with the fullness of Him who is the Image of the Invisible. What unspeakable delight shall then fill the hearts of the many sons brought to glory; and what infinite satisfaction shall fill His vision, who shall see in those sons brought to glory the fruit of His sore travail, when He made His soul an offering for sin, and with what shouts of joy shall He be greeted, who bore for us the heavy burden of divine displeasure against our deeds, and to the very dregs drank that bitter cup, bitter on account of our wicked lawlessness.

And His spotless Bride, for whom He laid down His life, shall be there adorned for her husband, His fair and glorious companion unto the ages of the ages. For out of heaven a mighty voice shall be heard saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, their God, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis upon which all this marvellous display of glory rests. It is the eternal centre of that bright universe of blessing, and the glory of redemption shall illuminate the whole universe, for the glory of redemption is the love of God. With this, yea, with Himself, Jesus shall fill all things. Into the lower parts of the earth He descended, and from thence went up far above all heavens, in order that He might fill all things. All that God is in love came to light in the cross, and this will fill the eternal universe.

In the cross we see what man is in reference to God. No one can be hidden. The children of Jacob, who have been set in a certain relationship with the true God were there, and those of that people who were most unreasonably active in their hostility to Christ were the leaders of that people, and the men most zealous for the traditions of their religion. But the Pagan was also there, and carelessly carrying out the will of the hierarchy of the Jewish nation. Herod the Edomite also had a large share in the humiliation of the Christ. Pilate would have saved Jesus had be not been afraid of displeasing Caesar. Herod with his men of war had set Him at naught, Pilate crucified Christ and gave to the nation the man they desired—a robber and a murderer.

In the cross man’s rebellion and hatred against God were exhibited in all brutality, and this was the answer of the world to the unspeakable grace and love of a Saviour-God. And the reason of all this insane hatred was because in Jesus God had come out in manifestation. He had displayed Himself in the most infinite compassion. And as Jesus was the one in whom God came to light the reproaches of them that reproached God fell upon him.

There was nothing about Jesus that was admirable in the eyes of the fallen child of Adam. He had no form nor comeliness. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. They regarded Him as stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, but in a coming day those who so regarded Him shall learn that He was wounded for their transgressions, and for their iniquities was He bruised, and that it was by His stripes they were healed. What a day that will be for the Jewish nation! Lord hasten it.

Until that day comes they have got the man of their choice, the robber and murderer. They chose him, and they have had him with them in every part of the world; robbery and murder have pursued them. And deeper sorrows await them. The robber and the murderer will make one more effort to destroy them utterly. The troubles that await them are those that called forth from the heart of Christ the bitter lamentation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matt. 23:37).

The demand of the nation could not be mistaken. It was: “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” And as to Jesus, they all say: “Let Him be crucified.” Whatever Pilate might plead, and whatever he might advance on behalf of the Prisoner, nothing was of the least avail; their minds and hearts were bolted and barred against all compassion. He had healed their sick, He had fed their hungry, He had raised their dead, He had given sight to the blind—What had He not done to win their stubborn hearts? The answer to all this they will not for one moment consider. Their cry is: “Away with Him Crucify Him.” Pilate now surrenders Him to their will and they lead Him away to crucifixion.

They surround His cross: they mock, they taunt, they deride Him. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders are there; and they join with the brainless multitude exulting in His apparently helpless condition. They are glad to glut their eyes upon His suffering body: they look and stare upon Him. They know nothing of the woes that beat in upon His wounded soul, while He cries to God who has forsaken Him, nor of the floods of deep waters which overflow Him. Whether before king Herod, or the rulers of the Jews, or now as He hung upon the cross, rebellion and hatred against His holy person are ruthlessly exhibited. But at the same moment there the flood-tide of divine compassion is let loose, and a way of salvation is being opened for sinners who were doing their utmost to destroy both Him and themselves.

Here we see the heart of the fallen children of men manifested in all its terrible hatred against Him who was at the same moment meeting that hatred with unfathomable love. Here we witness in the one spot both the heart of heaven and the heart of hell. Here we have man displaying himself in the sight of the universe, not against man, but against the living God as manifest in Jesus. Could hell itself be guilty of a more dastard deed? Could a pandemonium of demons improve upon this spectacle? But it is man’s opportunity, and he must avail himself of it. Such an opportunity was never his before, not from the fall of Adam until this present moment, and no other shall ever be required. The Lord says to them: “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: BUT THIS IS YOUR HOUR, AND THE POWER OF DARKNESS” (Luke 22:53).

What more can be said? The heart of man, the heart of the work! the heart of the princes of this world, the heart of the educated, the refined, the wise, the prudent, the rulers, the elite; all banded together against Jehovah and His Anointed, the mad heart of a devil-deceived world laid open to the gaze of every intelligence in heaven and earth. What a cesspool of wickedness the human heart is! How terrible and loathsome is its exposure! Yet it had to be exposed if the sin that energised it was to be met by the fierce anger of a holy and righteous Judge. Sin that had reigned in the heart of fallen man from it entered this world must be allowed to declare itself in all its naked rebellion against God, and that in the sight of heaven, that its condemnation in the flesh, where it had its seat, might be understood and justified.

But the living God, the Creator, Upholder, and moral Governor of all creation has also come to light in His true character. Up till the time of the advent of Christ no one had seen God at any time, but now the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. Up to the cross all that Christ said and did was the declaration of the hitherto invisible God. He was Almighty to Abraham, Jehovah to Israel, but Father as revealed in the Son. By certain individuals He was believed on. By some secretly, and by others confessedly, but as to the world, viewed as such, He was rejected utterly. Those who received Him were those who were born of God.

But not merely in His attributes is God to be known. Those who have got the knowledge of God know Him in His nature. Such can say: “We have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). But to be known that love had to be revealed. And truly revealed it has been. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Just where man’s enmity against God was revealed in all its awful insanity, there the love of God was declared in all its greatness, splendour, and glory.

In the pathway of His beloved Son through this world, and in the midst of the most privileged nation on earth, persecution unceasingly dogged His footsteps, and that increasingly, until their hour came and the power of darkness ruled. Then the reins were thrown off the neck of the Jewish nation, the infernal powers were relieved of all restraint, and man was left to carry out his diabolic warfare against God, in the crucifixion of His only begotten Son. But however rebellious against God man might be, however abhorrent to all that He is, the divine purpose in sending His Son must be accomplished. God will not deal with man as he deserves, but will retire upon what He is in His own blessed being, and therefore He so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)

There was no other way for poor, lost, guilty man. It is all over with man after the flesh. That evil fleshly nature cannot be mended. It is always be rebellious, and will always hate God. What is to be done with him? He is not only a sinner, but a lost sinner. He must be forgiven his sins, but he must also be made anew. On what ground can God take him up in grace? He must act righteously. He cannot say to His holy angels, Sin is of no consequence. To say this He would also have to say, that the sacrifices offered in the past dispensations were without value, typical or efficacious. He cannot say that, for sin is of the utmost importance, and so He is pleased to show of what importance man is in giving His Son to suffer for our sins on the cross.

Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Him who knew no sin God has made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. On the cross He was made sin. He was the Sin-bearer, and there He bore the judgment due to the sinner. In the person of Christ on the cross God was dealing with sin, and as it was a cross lifted up between heaven and earth, it was in the sight of every intelligence, so that all could learn the awful nature of sin, that cursed thing that had defiled and brought ruin into God’s creation, and had dishonoured Him.

But His Son has borne the judgment, and has glorified God in bearing it. He has also laid a basis of righteousness upon which every counsel of God shall be fulfilled, and forgiveness preached to every sinner under heaven in the name of Jesus. To make all this possible for all, it cost the Christ more than the creature can ever know. But we know that He glorified God where we had dishonoured Him, He bore the curse that we might have the blessing, He suffered the hiding of the face of God that we might bask in the sunshine of it for all eternity. He took our place upon the cross that He might righteously give to us a place along with Himself in the Father’s house on High. Who shall separate us from His love? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD (Rom. 8:35-39).