The Cross and the Resurrection
The work of the cross is everything. There Christ took up the question of sin between God and Himself. None but He could settle that question. You are a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. Now if you die for your own sin, you are simply overwhelmed by the consequences of your sin, and cannot rise out of them. Scripture says truly, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). That means the Lake of Fire. A man that gets in there can never get out of it.
That is why David said, “And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified” (Ps. 143:2). David says, If I go there, it is all over with me. If you do not believe that Christ is what He is, your future is serious, for He says, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Now if a man die in his sins, he is buried in them, and he will lie in them till the resurrection day. And what then? He will rise in them, and be judged in them. And what then? He passes into eternity, he and his sins together, under the exhaustless wrath and judgment of God.
There is only one Man who could go into judgment and come up out of it. That is the Man who is now crowned with glory at God’s right hand, whom I want you to know as your own Saviour. He has borne the judgment of God. Think of it—the judgment of God. Friend, you have thought very little of it. It has never troubled your soul much. Oh, no. But stop, see how it troubled Christ. Upon the cross He who knew no sin was made sin. And do you know what the effect was? God forsook Him. We read in the Gospels, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:45-46). Ah, beloved friend, were God to forsake you and me for eternity that would be only right. I believe the lost soul, in the pit of hell for eternity, with the conscious sense that he is forsaken of God, will justify Him in that act. But why was Christ forsaken?—the Son of the Father—the One who ever did His will? I tell you why. Because in voluntary grace He took the sinner’s place.
“He took the guilty culprit’s place,
He suffered in his stead, For man,
Oh miracle of grace,
For man the Saviour bled.”
Yes, He then took up the question of sin. He who knew no sin was made sin. He who had no sins bare sins upon the tree. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). He took my sins, blessed be His name. I say my sins just to illustrate it. And what more? The stripes my sins demanded He bare. And what flows from the Man who bare sins? With His stripes I am healed. If you see the atoning value of the death of Christ, your soul will slip into peace and gladness. On the cross God forsook Jesus. That was righteousness. Yet never, I believe, did God love Him more than at that moment. But God could not touch sin except to judge it. Sin and God never meet except for judgment. There are two places, and two only, where sin gets its definitive judgment. The cross, where the sinless Substitute took the full totality of God’s judgment against sin. It cost Him His life and the presence of God. God forsook Him. And where is the other place? The Lake of Fire, where the sinner will have to bear the judgment himself. The cross was the spot where He who had no sins, I know, bare every one of mine, and I am free. Job says, “If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand” (chap. 9:3). And if you cannot answer God about one of a thousand of your sins, what about the other 999? Your case is hopeless, you are hasting on to eternal judgment instead of, through reception of the gospel, being now in conscious salvation and blessing. I can tell you what Christ has done for me. He has answered for my 999 sins, and the odd one to boot. Everlasting glory to His blessed name!
And what is the result of His work, for all who trust Him? They are saved for eternity, and He will never hear the last of it. In heavenly glory we shall sing His worth and praise Him. Our harps will sweetly celebrate His glory, as, touched by our hands, we ring out the notes that suit Him. For ever and ever we will sing of His grace—that the sinless One became a Man and died to bring sinners into His Father’s house on high. He became a Man that He might die. You die because you are a man, and you have the seed of death in you. Not so Jesus. He was sinless. The devil knew very well He was sinless, for Christ says, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). Then it was that Satan came and put death before Him, and pressed on Him all that He must pass through if He were to carry out to the end His love to God and to His people. He looked into, and then, in the perfection of His holiness, shrank from that cup. Then in the blessed devotedness of His love, He took that cup of bitter, deep, awful judgment, and He drank it to the very last drop.
At that moment He could say, “Then I restored that which I took not away” (Ps. 69:4). He laid down on the treasury bench of heaven the price of the sinner’s redemption, His own life-blood and dying agonies of soul. The result of this is, that not only are sinners saved now, but a new heaven and a new earth are secured. And what is the basis of all this? The blood of atonement shed on Calvary’s tree. You and I can anticipate the blessing of that day of glory if we are simple. Get hold of this glorious fact that Jesus drained the cup of God’s judgment to the very dregs, that He might put the cup of blessing into our hands. It cost Him His life as He took the cup of judgment from God’s hand. But He puts into our hands the cup of blessing, which His love delights to minister to us, so that we might know God and be in the enjoyment of the love of God for eternity. His last words, as far as this work of atonement is concerned, were, “It is finished!” The substitutionary sufferings of that blessed Saviour were effectual, and He died.
Next they put His blessed body in the tomb. Love put Him in there. It was wickedness that nailed Him to the tree. Then it was righteousness which smote Him, when in grace He seized the occasion, and became the Substitute of His people. Thereafter love took Him down from that tree, and buried Him. Joseph begged His body, and Pilate gave it to him, and He was taken down and put in a new tomb, “wherein never man before was laid.” No old tombs for Christ. No second-hand tombs for Christ. And no second-hand hearts for Christ. He never takes a second place. Joseph had a grave prepared for himself, and then gave it up to Christ. Mary had a precious box of ointment, and she gave it to Christ. He wants your heart. He does not need your brains or your money, but He does want your heart. Mary’s heart was His; and Joseph’s heart was His; and Nicodemus’ heart was His: shall not yours be His also?
The Sabbath day rolled by, and the Saviour was in the grave all that day. And then what happened? The haters of Jesus, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, got an inkling about resurrection. He had told His disciples the Son of man would rise from the dead, but they did not take it in. After the Transfiguration He said to the disciples, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matt. 17:1). Resurrection was spoken of in the Old Testament, it is demonstrated in the New.
But if He rose from the dead, that was a sign of the devil’s defeat. The Sadducees, of course, were all against this, tooth and nail, so they go to Pilate and say, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the the first.” What does Pilate say? “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matt. 27:63-66). Do you know what they did? They put a seal, those brave men, upon the tomb, and set a lot of men round that tomb, with drawn swords, to keep a dead man in. That is the world! Brave men! But, my beloved friend, the resurrection took place. Forget it not. It is the backbone of the gospel. It is the witness of the absolute defeat of the devil, and the pledge of the perfect and complete deliverance of the sinner that trusts in a risen Christ.
And now the resurrection morning comes, and what do you find? The women go out to the tomb, and they find the stone rolled away. We read, “There had been a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (Matt. 28:2). And why was the stone rolled away? To let Jesus out? God forbid the thought. Oh no. Never. Why then? To let the sinner look in and see an empty tomb. And see what? The proof of Jesus’ victory. I see the grave-clothes folded together, and the bars of the tomb broken up. The sinner who believes in Him stands in His clearance. The Christian now stands in connection with Christ. The believer stands in association with Christ, and is in the good of all that Christ has accomplished. That is what the resurrection indicates. Christ has gone into the judgment for me, and He has come out of it, and I am out of it in Him. I am in all the clearance of Christ.
Now, dear reader, let me ask you how you stand in relation to Christ. Did you begin this year without Him? Do not so end it. Let His love win your heart. Give Him the confidence of your soul. He is truly worthy. Let not all you have heard and read of Him since 1903 dawned rise as a witness against you in the Day of the Lord. Be persuaded now to decide for the Lord, and if He spare you to see another yew, may it and all your future days be spent in His blessed service. If still undecided, let me give you one closing gospel word, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 326