Calvary II

By Ray Foster

 

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 50:5 "The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Isaiah 50:6 "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Isaiah 50:7 "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."

Last Sabbath we saw how Jesus could not carry His cross to Calvary. We saw that there were crowds that followed Jesus to Calvary, but there was only one man who carried the cross of Jesus. We heard that Jesus had said earlier: Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. We saw that taking up the cross and following Jesus to Calvary meant to daily deny our fallen self and do the will of God as revealed in the life and in the death of Jesus.

Today we will continue the walk to Calvary and notice first the women who followed Jesus to Calvary. In Desire of Ages, page 742 we read:

"Not a few women are in the crowd that follow the Uncondemned to His cruel death. Their attention is fixed upon Jesus. Some of them have seen Him before. Some have carried to Him their sick and suffering ones. Some have themselves been healed. The story of the scenes that have taken place is related. They wonder at the hatred of the crowd toward Him for whom their own hearts are melting and ready to break. And notwithstanding the action of the maddened throng, and the angry words of the priests and rulers, these women give expression to their sympathy. As Jesus falls fainting beneath the cross, they break forth into mournful wailing. {DA 742.4}

"This was the only thing that attracted Christ's attention. Although full of suffering, while bearing the sins of the world, He was not indifferent to the expression of grief. He looked upon these women with tender compassion. They were not believers in Him; He knew that they were not lamenting Him as one sent from God, but were moved by feelings of human pity. He did not despise their sympathy, but it awakened in His heart a deeper sympathy for them. Daughters of Jerusalem, He said, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. From the scene before Him, Christ looked forward to the time of Jerusalem's destruction. In that terrible scene, many of those who were now weeping for Him were to perish with their children." {DA 743.1}

This reveals that God is a God of compassion. That means that God wants to be revealed as compassionate in those who take up their cross and follow Jesus to Calvary. If I have no compassion in my heart for my fellow church members, my friends, my neighbors, I am devoid of the love and devoid of the spirit of God. Self-love is the only thing I am born with that is natural to my heart. That self-love must be put on the cross and crucified to make room for the love and the spirit of God in my heart.

Many of those women who wept in human compassion for Jesus on His way to Calvary died in Jerusalem. Women represent churches in Scripture. There are many church goers who feel compassion for Jesus on the way and on the cross of Calvary. They feel blessed and secure in their religious feelings. But it is not saving to weep in compassion for Jesus on the way to or on the cross of Calvary. Even being on a cross with Jesus is not saving in itself. You remember two were crucified with Jesus. One represents the lost of the world and one represents the saved of the world. What made the difference? One thief had no compassion for Jesus and railed on Him and lost His only hope of salvation. The other had compassion for Jesus. But the other thief did more than the women who followed Jesus and wept. The other thief had compassion but he also confessed faith in Jesus and asked to be remembered in the kingdom of God. So we see that compassion alone, even carrying our cross and following Jesus to Calvary in itself is not saving. The impenitent thief took up his cross. He followed Jesus to Calvary but he did not find salvation in Jesus, even though Jesus died on Calvary right next to him and for his sins and for the sins of the whole world. It takes more than being in the presence of Jesus. To be saved, our hearts must be knit in love to Jesus and more than that we must have faith that works by love and purifies our souls to be saved to the honor and glory of God.

After Jesus spoke to the weeping women who followed Him to the cross we are told that His mind went to the destruction of the world. Reading the next paragraph in Desire of Ages page 743:

"From the fall of Jerusalem the thoughts of Jesus passed to a wider judgment. In the destruction of the impenitent city He saw a symbol of the final destruction to come upon the world. He said, Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? By the green tree, Jesus represented Himself, the innocent Redeemer. God suffered His wrath against transgression to fall on His beloved Son. Jesus was to be crucified for the sins of men. What suffering, then, would the sinner bear who continued in sin? All the impenitent and unbelieving would know a sorrow and misery that language would fail to express." {DA 743.2}

For us to feel the compassion and love for those who know not Jesus is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. For this we should daily pray. We do not have love for others in and of ourselves. It is love for others only that can give us influence with others. Why are our numbers in this church so small? There may be many reasons. The answer is not a different worship format. The answer is not a bigger or better sign or better chairs or freshly painted walls. All those things have their place and are important and should be done. What brings people into fellowship with Jesus is love in the hearts of those who are truly in fellowship with Jesus. The great sin of the church of the last generation is having the form of godliness but denying the power. All the externals contribute to the form of Godliness. It is the love of God in the heart and mind that is the power of Godliness when accompanied with righteousness, which is doing the will of God motivated by faith that works by love. There is only one way and only one source of the love of God. God has told us to ask and we shall receive. He has told us to knock and it will be opened. He has told us to seek and we shall find. Let us ask and seek and knock at the heart of Jesus that we may find and receive and be opened to have the love of God flow into our souls in such abundance that it will flow out to all with whom we come in contact. When that takes place, this church will be full of people who have been drawn by the love of God like bees are drawn to a pot of honey in the sunshine. And as the gospel song says:

"Tis love that makes us happy.

Tis love that smooths the way.

It makes us mind.

It makes us kind

To others every day."

Let’s sing that together.

Some followed Jesus on the way to Calvary at a distance. His disciples – some of them – followed Jesus at a distance. When Jesus was proclaimed king with palm branches waving the Sunday before the crucifixion, the disciples pressed close to the side of Jesus and followed Him with a spring in their step and with an expectant glow of their faces. They had visions of glory in their heads. When Jesus wept as the triumphant crowd waited on the top of Olivet, they did not understand and were impatient to get the procession moving. But now on the way to Calvary, the words of Jesus were fulfilled: Matt. 26:31 "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." On the way to Calvary some of the disciples were not even in the crowd. Some of the disciples hung back in the crowd. Why? They were offended. Some are not with us coming regularly to worship with us any more. Why? They are offended.

How can a person be offended by Jesus? You remember when Jesus told His disciples that all would forsake Him that Peter had said: "Though all [men] shall be offended because of thee, [yet] will I never be offended." You remember what Jesus told Peter: "Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." What happened to Peter? How was Peter, who was so sure that he would never be offended, how was Peter offended?

When the mob came to get Jesus, Peter was ready. True to his word, Peter stood with Jesus when the mob came. Peter swung his sword in defense of Jesus and cut off an ear.

Matt. 26:52 "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Matt. 26:53 "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Matt. 26:54 "But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"

Have you ever been motivated by love and in the zeal of love done something for someone you love only to be repulsed? It was love for Jesus that moved Peter to swing his sword. And then for Jesus to rebuke him for it! That offended Peter! Peter switched from being a zealot on fire for Jesus to a cold, offended disciple in a moment of time. That is the nature of humanity. We can blow hot and cold seconds apart. Peter had his best efforts for Jesus rebuked and this offended him. Some of us have had our best efforts for Jesus rebuked. This is offensive to us. Jesus spoke to His offended disciple and asked him the same question three times: "Peter, do you love me?" It was love that moved Peter to draw his sword. Why was Jesus asking if Peter loved Him? What Jesus was asking was: "Peter, do you still love me?" Do you still love Jesus after He has shattered your life-long dreams and visions of grandeur of a great kingdom on earth. Do you still love Jesus after He has publicly rebuked you? The question is, did the rebuke of Jesus deepen and strengthen your love for Jesus or do you cherish and cling to your offense? We have all been rebuked and hurt by the rebuke. It is in love that Jesus sends us rebukes. The rebuke allowed by God should strengthen and deepen our love for Jesus. It is in love that Jesus allows offenses to come into our lives. Peter was purified by prayer and weeping in the garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was being tried for His life. And Jesus prays for us even as He prayed for Peter. And Jesus looks on us with a look of compassion, even as He looked on Peter with a look of compassion. We need to pray with Jesus in the garden. Peter would not have denied his Lord and Peter would not have been offended had he prayed instead of sleeping in the garden before the mob came. But Peter had the chance to go back to the garden and pray and weep afterwards. And thank the Lord, we still have opportunity to pray and weep before Jesus and receive His spirit and His love and His re-enstatement to be part of His work and to be part of His end-time kingdom. May we daily pray: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." This is our day of salvation. This is our day of probation. May we make the best use of the time to God’s honor and glory. We are in the shaking time of our church. Let us pray to God that we will not be offended by the shaking. May we pray for grace to still love God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves. Let us press together in the love of Jesus and not draw back in the coldness of being offended.

And so we come to Calvary. Luke 23:33 "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him". The two thieves struggled desperately to resist crucifixion. Jesus did not resist. It would have been impossible to crucify Jesus had He resisted. Jesus said: John 10:17 "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." Why did the two thieves resist crucifixion? It was not their will; it was not their choice to be crucified. Jesus did not resist because it was His will to be crucified for you and for me. This was part of the plan – the covenant He and His Father agreed on as the solution to the sin problem. Christ in the garden of Gethsemane had again surrendered to His Father in agreeing to the plan – "He will save man at any cost to Himself" DA 693. Christ struggled against being separated from His Father by the sins of the world. Jesus did not want to be separated from His Father. He asked if there was any other way to save mankind. There was no other way. Jesus struggled and sweat drops of blood in the garden. Jesus had read the prophecy of Himself at this time:

Isaiah 50:5 "The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Isaiah 50:6 "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Isaiah 50:7 "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."

There is also a struggle for you and me that will test our determination to take up the cross and follow Jesus. All of our natural self rises up to resist crucifixion of self in the same way the two thieves struggled at the point of crucifixion and as Jesus struggled in prayer in the garden. This is part of the daily battle and a march for the Christian. Jesus did not resist crucifixion at the point of being put on the cross but that is where we usually do like the two thieves. We need to understand that this is part of the Christian life for us and to ask Jesus for strength and for the desire to endure the struggle against self and day by day be willing to yield our wills to God and do God’s will and not our own. The idea that we can accept Jesus as our personal savior with no struggle and no battle is false. It is a false Christ, an imposture, the antichrist that can be accepted with no struggle with self. The role that this struggle plays in the Christian life is to strengthen our decision and to strengthen our love for Jesus. Jacob struggled with Jesus at the river Jabbok. Jacob did not know it was Jesus with whom he was wrestling. We see things that we struggle against and with. It is really ourselves that is the enemy. It is our pride that makes us offended. It is our pride, our self, that must die. The death to self is the narrow gate, beyond which is a wideness without limit. The more we pray in secret as Jesus did in the garden, the closer we will come to not resisting at the point of application of the cross and follow the example of Jesus in no resistance.

"Said Christ, Strive--agonize--to enter in. . . . We must feel our continual dependence upon God and the great weakness of our own wisdom and our own judgment and strength, and then depend wholly upon Him who has conquered the foe in our behalf, because He pitied our weakness and knew we should be overcome and perish if He did not come to our help. . . . Think not that by any easy or common effort you can win the eternal reward. You have a wily foe upon your track. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev. 3:21). Here is the battle to overcome as Christ has overcome. His life of temptation, of trial, of toil and conflict, is before us for us to imitate. We may make efforts in our own strength, but not succeed. But when we fall all helpless and suffering and needy upon the Rock of Christ, feeling in our inmost soul that our victory depends upon His merits, that all our efforts of themselves without the special help of the great Conqueror will be without avail, then Christ would send every angel out of glory to rescue us from the power of the enemy rather than that we should fall." {TMK 304.3}

"We need to see that the way is narrow, and the gate strait. But as we pass through the strait gate, the wideness is without limit." {TMK 304.4} Just as Gabriel was sent by the Father to strengthen Jesus in the garden, so Jesus will send us help to strengthen us in our resolve to overcome sin and honor and glorify God, recognizing our helplessness and His merits. God has promised to give us the victory, even as Jesus overcame and is sat down on the right hand of the Father in His throne. The wideness of God’s power knows no limits. We cannot conceive the full glory of the purpose God has for us both now and for eternity, if we will only commit ourselves to Him fully and follow Him completely.