Calvary III.

By Ray Foster

 

Sabbath before last 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.

Last Sabbath we went a step further along the road to Calvary and saw the women weeping for Jesus. We saw that emotional feelings of sympathy for Jesus was not in itself salvational. We saw that the thief on the cross on the right side of Jesus had compassion for Jesus. His compassion for Jesus did not save him. It was his confession of need and request for salvation that demonstrated a faith in Jesus that resulted in his salvation. We saw that we need compassion for others on the road to Calvary as Jesus had. We saw that faith that works by love and asks for salvation from the Savior is needed in addition to love or compassion for Jesus. We saw how Peter was offended by Christ in the garden. That led him to lose faith and forsake and deny his Lord. We noted that we are now in the shaking time when offenses will come. Offenses, overcome by the blood of the Lamb, strengthen us and increases our love and faith in Jesus. And finally we noted that Jesus did not struggle at the moment of crucifixion. Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in the garden that His life force was pressed out Him by the load of the sins of the world. It was in the garden Jesus prayed that thrice repeated prayer to His Father: "Not my will, but thine be done." We noted that the pathway to Calvary that we must all tread, has its struggles against self. Self must be put on the cross regardless of the struggle or the cost to self. Jesus’ will must be done in our lives. Self must be put on the cross and Jesus must be on the throne of our hearts.

This Sabbath we will look at one more view of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Jesus on the cross of Calvary and the plan of salvation will be our study throughout eternity. Praise God we can begin our study of this limitless theme now. It is by beholding, by thinking, by contemplating Jesus that we are changed into His likeness, even by the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord." This is the point of studying Jesus on the way of the cross.

Pilate then wrote an inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and placed it upon the cross, above the head of Jesus. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." That was the only charge against Christ placed on the cross on which He hung. This was the charge that brought about His death. Pilate wanted to free Jesus. Pilate had pronounced repeatedly that he found no fault in Jesus. To prevent Pilate from freeing Jesus, the chief priests had told Pilate that if he set Jesus free, that he would by this act show that he was an enemy to Caesar. This was the final argument that secured the death of Jesus. This is the final test for each of us. Will we have King Jesus rule over us or not? Jesus is the King of the Jews. Jesus is also King of the Samoans. Jesus is also King of the Irish, and French, and Italian, and the Indians, and the Americans. Jesus is your King. Will you acknowledge His kingship and let Him reign supremely in your heart and mind. That is the question of the cross. Satan had lied to Jesus and told Him that if He bowed down and worshiped him that he would give the world to him with no life-long struggle and without the cross. Jesus went to the cross because He would not bow down and worship Satan. Jesus could not deny Himself or His Father. Jesus is God. Jesus is my God and your God. The question is do we acknowledge and worship Him as God. Pilate saw the choice between himself, his position, his life and the life of Jesus and Pilate made his decision. Pilate would not humble himself as Jesus was doing. Pilate never again had peace or rest of mind again after signing the death warrant of Jesus. Pilate then wrote an inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and placed it upon the cross, above the head of Jesus: "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." Beloved if we turn our backs on Jesus, we will never have a peaceful day in our lives either. But that is not why we should give our lives to Jesus. Pilate and you and I should give our lives to Jesus because He gave His life for us. Ask God for love and gratitude to Jesus. We need it!

There is an interesting passage in the Spirit of Prophecy that tells us many ways that we can demonstrate and acknowledge or deny that Jesus is our King. It is found in Testimonies to the Church Volume 3:

"If you are careful to follow the example of our self-denying, self-sacrificing Redeemer, who was ever seeking to do good and to bless others, but not to find ease and pleasure and enjoyment for Himself, you will then bless others with your influence. In our mingling in society, in families or in whatever relations of life we are placed, either limited or extended, there are many ways wherein we may acknowledge our Lord and many ways wherein we may deny Him. We may deny Him in our words, by speaking evil of others, by foolish talking, jesting and joking, by idle or unkind words, or by prevaricating, speaking contrary to truth. In our words we may confess that Christ is not in us. In our character we may deny Him by loving our ease, by shunning the duties and burdens of life which someone must bear if we do not, and by loving sinful pleasure. We may also deny Christ by pride of dress and conformity to the world, or by uncourteous behavior. We may deny Him by loving our own opinions and by seeking to maintain and justify self. We may also deny Him in allowing the mind to run in the channel of lovesick sentimentalism and to brood over our supposed hard lot and trials." {3T 331.3}

It is not alone at the foot of the cross of Calvary, that we acknowledge or deny that Jesus is the King of the Jews and our King. We all every day in our lives tell the world and the universe that Jesus is our king or that we ourselves are king of our lives – or trying to be. Every child tries to be king of their lives. That is what childishness is. And some people never grow up. They attempt to be king of their lives all of their lives. In working with your children it is not uplifting or helpful to them to go along with their attempts to run themselves or you or the family. Childhood is the relatively painless time to learn obedience. The older we get the more painful the lesson of obedience is. Jesus learned the lesson of obedience to His Father’s will as a child. That is why the King of the Jews was on the cross of Calvary. Jesus went to the cross in obedience to His Father’s will. That is also the Father’s will for you and for me. The price of being like Jesus is the price of the cross. Self must go to the cross in order for Jesus to come onto the throne of our hearts.

Continuing in the chapter Calvary in the book Desire of Ages: "Jesus, suffering and dying, heard every word as the priests declared, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Christ could have come down from the cross. But it is because He would not save Himself that the sinner has hope of pardon and favor with God." {DA 749.1}

This was one of the last temptations of Jesus. He was challenged to come down from the cross to demonstrate His power. He could have come down from the cross. What would demonstrate the power of God more – to come down or to stay on the cross? Had Jesus come down from the cross, there would be no everlasting gospel. There would be no plan of salvation for you or me. Here is one of the continual temptations we have in life. We are continually tempted to take things into our own hands. And we can take things into our own hands. Every time I take things into my own hands, I make a great mess of things. I wish I had stayed home that day. What is your experience? It takes a combination of faith and patience to leave everything in the hands of God. There is another aspect to this temptation. Sometimes we leave to God what God would have us take into our own hands. What we should do ourselves and what we should leave to God to do takes wisdom to know. I love this quotation:

"We are not to be the servants of circumstances, but to control circumstances by an inwrought principle learned of the greatest Teacher the world ever knew. The solemn position in which we stand today toward the world, the solemn responsibilities and duties enjoined upon us by our Lord, are not to be ignored until our will and our circumstances are adjusted. The principle of self-denial and self-sacrifice, as revealed in the example of Christ, of John the Baptist, of Daniel and the three worthies, is to pass like a plowshare through hereditary and cultivated habits, through all circumstances and surroundings." {SpTA09 56.2}

Here is another favorite quotation:

"God does not bid the youth to be less aspiring. The elements of character that make a man successful and honored among men,--the irrepressible desire for some greater good, the indomitable will, the strenuous exertion, the untiring perseverance,--are not to be crushed out. By the grace of God they are to be directed to objects as much higher than mere selfish and temporal interests as the heavens are higher than the earth." PP602

God has promised to give wisdom to those who ask. It takes wisdom to know what to leave with God and what to do ourselves with energy and vigor. Let self-denial and self-sacrifice pass like a plowshare through hereditary and cultivated habits. God will give wisdom to know when to let go and let God and when to exercise the indomitable will, the strenuous exertion, the untiring perseverance.

"To Jesus in His agony on the cross there came one gleam of comfort. It was the prayer of the penitent thief. Both the men who were crucified with Jesus had at first railed upon Him; and one under his suffering only became more desperate and defiant. But not so with his companion. This man was not a hardened criminal; he had been led astray by evil associations, but he was less guilty than many of those who stood beside the cross reviling the Saviour. He had seen and heard Jesus, and had been convicted by His teaching, but he had been turned away from Him by the priests and rulers. Seeking to stifle conviction, he had plunged deeper and deeper into sin, until he was arrested, tried as a criminal, and condemned to die on the cross. In the judgment hall and on the way to Calvary he had been in company with Jesus. He had heard Pilate declare, "I find no fault in Him." John 19:4. He had marked His godlike bearing, and His pitying forgiveness of His tormentors. On the cross he sees the many great religionists shoot out the tongue with scorn, and ridicule the Lord Jesus. He sees the wagging heads. He hears the upbraiding speeches taken up by his companion in guilt: "If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us." Among the passers-by he hears many defending Jesus. He hears them repeat His words, and tell of His works. The conviction comes back to him that this is the Christ. Turning to his fellow criminal he says, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?" The dying thieves have no longer anything to fear from man. But upon one of them presses the conviction that there is a God to fear, a future to cause him to tremble. And now, all sin-polluted as it is, his life history is about to close. "And we indeed justly," he moans; "for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss." {DA 749.3}

There is no question now. There are no doubts, no reproaches. When condemned for his crime, the thief had become hopeless and despairing; but strange, tender thoughts now spring up. He calls to mind all he has heard of Jesus, how He has healed the sick and pardoned sin. He has heard the words of those who believed in Jesus and followed Him weeping. He has seen and read the title above the Saviour's head. He has heard the passers-by repeat it, some with grieved, quivering lips, others with jesting and mockery. The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence is joined together. In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he sees the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Hope is mingled with anguish in his voice as the helpless, dying soul casts himself upon a dying Saviour. "Lord, remember me," he cries, "when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." {DA 750.1}

"Quickly the answer came. Soft and melodious the tone, full of love, compassion, and power the words: Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in paradise." {DA 750.2}

Today when I look most or least like a Savior – depending upon your viewpoint. Today, I am telling you that you will, in the future, be with Me in paradise. The view of Jesus hanging on the cross of Calvary destroyed the hopes and faith of the disciples. We can still hear the mournful phrase from the disciples on the road to Emmaus Sunday afternoon: "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel:". But while Jesus being on the cross of Calvary destroyed the faith of the disciples, it confirmed the faith of Nicodemus. When Nicodemus saw Jesus lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. And as all who looked at the uplifted serpent in the wilderness lived and did not die from the snake bite venom, even so Jesus was lifted up that all who look in faith at the world’s Redeemer will live as did the thief on the cross. To live, in this context, means to live without sin. This is where the text in 1 John 2:1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:" The end point of the everlasting gospel is to mature us to the place that by the grace of God we live without sinning. When God sees that His church has learned by and through His grace to be completely dead to self and alive to Him as evidenced by having completely overcome sin in our lives, then He will make the announcement recorded in Revelation 22:11 "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." The whole universe is waiting for that time to come. This is what is going to end this night of sin and sorrow and woe on earth. This is the answer to all wars, all sorrows, all death and all pain and sickness. Will we refuse to give our hearts fully to Jesus? Will we refuse the death of the cross of Calvary?

Jesus or Satan is being lifted up before the world in your life and in mine. If Jesus is being lifted up in my life, all will be drawn to Jesus. As we see Jesus being lifted up we are drawn to Him like the thief on the right of Jesus, or we are repulsed and offended by Him and rail on Him like the thief on the left of Jesus. In the two thieves, one on either side of Jesus, the whole world is represented and symbolized. Whether we agree or not, a cross is before each of us. It is our choice whether we are drawn to Jesus or repulsed by the sight of Him on the cross of Calvary. This is the point to which the whole world has come today. The cross of Jesus on Calvary is the central issue behind the climactic events that are going to end the world. What is my response? What is your response? It is not a one-time response. But each response sets and contributes to the set of the die into which our life is cast. Behold the man! Behold Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Your response to Jesus on the cross of Calvary is determining whether you will bring one gleam of comfort into the life of God or wound afresh the heart of God by rejecting Jesus and His self-sacrificing love. Count the cost. It takes all that you have and all that you are to buy the Pearl of Great Price. I appeal to you in the privacy of your own hearts and mind to look and live. Give your heart and your all to Jesus. Let Jesus be your King intellectually – in the Greek language. Let Jesus be your King emotionally – in the Hebrew language. And let Jesus be your King physically – in the Latin language. The sign on the cross was written in the three languages spoken in that day so all could read and understand. Let us understand and experience Jesus, our King today in every area of our lives – emotionally, intellectually, and physically.