What He was Made,
The Blood of Jesus Christ
Three Great Messages
ROBERT G. LEE
Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee Author, Pickings, Proximities of Calvary, etc.
I Corinthians 15:3: “Christ died!”
Luke 23:33: “And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him.”
Christ died for our sins!
So saith the Scriptures.
And crucifixion on Calvary!
For that reason, greatly above and beyond all mountains stands Calvary.
Great is Sinai, sublime in solitude, robed in clouds, shrouded in smoke, illuminated with fire, where, with heaven’s earthquake thunders rumbling amid the crags and gorges – where, with the lightnings blazing in zigzag paths across the dark clouds, the law was given – commandments which are not the ghostly whispers of a dead century, but commandments as authoritative today as when their proclamation broke the age-long silence of the desert.
Grand is old Horeb where the bush, aflame with the glory of descendent Deity, defied the laws of conflagration (Exodus 3:3).
And Hor, where, his spirit ready to wing its flight to realms of day, Aaron transferred his priestly robes to his son, and died (Num. 33:38-39).
And Pisgah, from whose lofty height Moses saw the land which God “sware unto Abraham” (Deut. 34:4).
And Ebal and Gerezim, from whose neighboring sides the blessings and the curses were pronounced (Deut. 11:26).
And Carmel where God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from heaven (I Kings 18:38).
And Tabor, in whose shadow and on whose slopes the stars in their courses fought with Barak and his ten thousand men to overthrow Sisera and his hosts (Judges 5:20).
And Moriah where, under the leadership of Solomon, one hundred and sixty thousand men toiled seven and one-half years to build the holy and beautiful Temple.
And triple-peak Hermon where Jesus was transfigured, his countenance brighter than the sun, his garments whiter than snow.
And Olivet, Olivet of sweet farewell memories, where, with the clouds as his chariot and the winds as his steeds, he went back to God.
But above and beyond all mountains as a skyscraper is above a dugout in height, as a tree is beyond a twig in fruit bearing, as a cannon is beyond a popgun in far-reaching power, is Calvary.
For there, God in bloody garments dressed, courted our love.
There, at the interlocking of the ages, Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, redeeming man from death unto life, canceling man’s debt of judicial obligation by an equivalent which afforded legal satisfaction – voluntarily passing under death’s dreadful shadow, though owing the law no debt.
There, with power to smite his enemies with a thunderbolt, he elected to die on a cross.
There, God’s eternal attributes emptied their vials of burning wrath upon the sinless Sacrifice in agony enough to make the earth shudder, the sun in darkness hide, the spheres go wailing along their eternal circuits.
There God, the father of the clouds (Job 38:28), permitted him to thirst who came to remove the moral thirst of mankind.
There God, who clothes the valleys with corn (Psalms 65:13), and feeds the young ravens when they cry, left him naked under the darkening sky and answered not his cry.
No wonder the heavens went black and the sun withdrew its light and the earth reeled in its steady course, as in astonishment that love so sweet, so vast, should meet a doom so fearful.
No wonder that all the people came together to that sight, beholding the things that were done – beholding Love incarnate rejected, crucified, tortured – beholding the way in which men treat the embodied perfection of virtue, and then there smote their breast and returned sorrowing (Luke 23:48).
No wonder the rocks rent – the rocks less hard than men’s hearts that day – as though shattered that so great a love could find so ungrateful a return.
Earth has no darker sin, history no blacker page, humanity no fouler spot, than that of the Savior’s crucifixion.
Irreproachable Christ’s life.
Matchless Christ’s teaching.
Astonishing Christ’s miracles.
Marvelous Christ’s example.
But all of these would have availed nothing for our salvation had they not found consummation in the Cross.
Incidental and collateral all these to the one purpose for which he came – to die, that man born once and born dead might be bora again and born alive.
Not by his sinless life was Jesus man’s substitute.
Not by his miracles did he honor the law, satisfy justice, meet the demands of divine holiness.
Not by his teachings did he take away humanity’s despairing woe and God’s judgment upon the human race.
Not by his beautiful example did he take our place under the law.
Not by his preaching did he open a fountain for all uncleanness.
Not by his character did he repair the insulted dignity of God’s nature by a reparation equal in merits to the character of the insulted dignity itself.
Only by suffering the death which was expiatory with reference to God, which was punishment with reference to men, did he adequately compensate God’s government by an equivalent for man’s offense – offer a boundless mercy in terms consistent with the integrity of the moral law.
In death divine purpose of his life is revealed. He was made “lower than the angels” in order to die for all. The aim of his life was his death.
In death, he paid our debt.
“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 3:6).
“The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
The Bible contains the saddest story of man and the saddest story of God. Together they make the saddest story of the ages.
The sadness of the story of man began in surroundings that were perfect.
Man himself, perfect, robed in garments of righteousness, drinking from a life-giving stream, eating from the fruit of the trees of the garden, breathing the breath of the Almighty, was endowed with the power of choice.
In Eden man fell. This began the saddest story of man.
Its tragic color is seen in the blood of righteous Abel.
Its sadness is seen in the shame of a drunken Noah.
Its confusion is seen in the plain of a babbling Shinar.
Its oppression is seen in the servitude of Egypt’s bondage.
Its bitterness is testified to in the sting of the serpents in the wilderness.
Its manifold tragedies are seen in the captivity of Babylon, in the Bin of David, in the vanity of Solomon, in the betrayal and crucifixion of the Nasarene.
And – in many other things.
But no man can know the fullness of the sadness of the fall unless he fathom the bottom of the bottomless pit, unless he grope in the outer darkness, unless he weep and wail in hell where race and foam forever the waves of quenchless fire.
If there is no fall, no hell, there is no salvation to preach.
The saddest story of God is Calvary.
Taking its rise in God’s love, conceived in the councils of eternity, from age to age, receiving ever new fulfillment, Calvary’s history goes.
A far cry it is from the garden of Eden to Calvary, but they have very intimate relations. The tragedy of one is the reason for the tragedy of the other. In Eden we see the beginning of the tragedy which is to end on Calvary, and the agony of atonement for sin which we see on Calvary has to do with the tragedy of sin which we learn in the garden of Eden.
Calvary casts its shadow and blessed radiance from Golgotha through the stormy chasm of human history to the foundation of the world!
And from Golgotha, the place of a skull, to Pilate’s court, where, with scourge, they seamed his quivering flesh until it started np in red scars.
And on to Gethsemane’s garden, where the roots of his divine emotion put forth their crimson tears.
And on to the upper room, where he changed wine into the perpetual symbol of his blood.
And on to the Mount of Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah talked of his coming death (Matt. 17:3).
Reaching to the Jordan, where his burial in baptism foreshadowed his death.
Reaching to Nazareth, where by the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow, in the carpenter shop, he sanctified all labor.
Reaching to Bethlehem, “where that glorious form wherewith he wont at heaven’s high council table to sit the midst of Tribal Unity he laid aside.”
And from Bethlehem, where heaven put out its brightest star to mark his birthplace, across four dumb centuries, and beyond, die Cross throws its shadows and immortal radiance – to Solomon’s temple!
And over the victim, whether lamb, or bollock, or turtle dove, on the altar of the Tabernacle.
And over the blood-stained lintels of the Passover night, where the keynote of the Cross sounded forth in the depths of remote antiquity and foreshadowed a deliverance far greater.
And beyond that to the withered garden where Despair pitched his pavilions upon the sterile and blasted fields of man’s lost estate. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
That promise, dropped as a sun into man’s sunless firmament, was the center, prospectively, of all these constellations which were to succeed each other in the darkness and illuminate that long way unbroken from Eden to Calvary – Calvary, the abyss of the world’s greatest sorrow, the summit of the world’s highest hopes.
And our text is a sublime paraphrase of the Genesis verse, substituting the language of fulfillment for the language of prediction.
His death, prearranged, prophesied, provided by God (Gen. 22: 8), was no afterthought.
Jesus was born with the shadow of the Cross upon him.
With the shadow of the Cross upon his heart he learned to walk, he learned to talk, he learned to work. From his earliest moment upon this earth it was his burden by day, his pallet by night.
Shadow of the Cross upon the Bethlehem swaddling clothes.
Shadow of the Cross upon the road over which Joseph and Mary, warned by an angel, and in fear of King Herod, fled to Egypt.
Shadow of the Cross upon the waters of Lake Galilee – waters placid in the quiet of a peaceful day, or turbulent under the lash of a tempest.
Shadow of the Cross on the well curb at Sychar, on the door of the Temple, on sunrise, on sunset.
Shadow of the Cross upon Gethsemane’s garden.
The Cross was with him when they came with lanterns and torches to arrest the Light of the world.
The Cross was with him when Judas, one of the twelve, betrayed him with a kiss which startled him like the kiss of an adder and burned his cheek like hot coals.
The Cross was with him when Annas asked him concerning his disciples and concerning his doctrine.
The Cross was with him when Caiaphas condemned him.
The Cross was with him when Herod mocked him.
He walked the streets dishonored by its shame.
He climbed Olivet oppressed by its weight.
He rose from the dead glorified by its sacrifice.
As the mind existed before mental philosophy, as stars existed before Newton wrote his Principia, as this continent lay behind the setting sun long before Columbus thought of a nearer passage to India, as electricity was in the universe long before Edison, so the Cross, not an episode but an eternal mood in God’s heart, not an incident of Christ’s life, not an accident in his career, not a device to meet an emergency, not merely a moral spectacle to exhibit God’s love, but a transaction grounded in deep necessity, was in heaven before it was on Calvary.
A sword pierced the heart of the Father long before it entered the heart of Mary.
Before Time commenced its solemn march did divine Love consider man’s ruined condition and resolve not to spare the greatest gift which either time could know or eternity produce.
A love it was that stretched not only over the long centuries of time, but through the aeons of eternity – a love anticipating the vast need before it had arisen.
Thus, in the Cross, the supreme interpretation of God, we see that the agony of God over human sin is eternal – a focus in time and space of that travail which God bears from the foundation of the world.
“Him being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God… crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
“Eternal life,… promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
“We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (I Cor. 2:7).
Knowing the end from the beginning (Psalms 46:10),
“His holy fingers formed the bough
Where grew the thorns that crowned his brow,
The nails that pierced the hands were mined
In secret places he designed.
Knowing that he was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8),
“He made the forests whence there sprung
The tree on which his holy body hung,
He died upon a cross of wood
Yet made the hill upon which it stood.
Acquainted with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
“The sun which hid from him its face
By his decree was poised in space.
The sky which darkened o’er his head
By him above the earth was spread.
Foreordained before the foundation of the world,
“The spear that spilt his precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which his form was laid
Was hewn in rocks his hands had made.”
We utterly despair of ever finding any words adequate to express so large a fact.
But Christ’s face was set toward Calvary before aught of creation from the womb of nothingness came.
The centuries from Adam to Christ were crimson with the blood of innocent victims killed as types of the slain Lamb of God.
The diversified, systematic sacrifices of the Jews, like finger posts along the highway of time, pointed worshipers to a sacrificial Savior.
Significant shadows of redemptive entity still ahead, adumbrations of a substance yet to come, by the blood of a thousand altars, these sacrifices, elemental, preparatory, preliminary, rudimental, introductory, pointed to Christ, the propellent center to which the faith of mankind before and since gravitated.
There is a theology that counts such truth too vulgar to be attributed to divine ordinances, but to be viewed as belonging to the grosser mind of man in his unrefined stages of development.
But men libel God and label the Bible a lie by believing anything contrary to the truth, or by preaching or by teaching anything contrary to the truth that the blood stream was ordained of God.
The promise to fallen man in Eden means Christ.
All the ceremonies of Judaism mean Christ.
The music of Israel’s sweetest harps means Christ.
The light that burns in prophecy means Christ.
And – nowhere do we find hope, nowhere find a road to victory over evil in the hearts of men, until we come to
“… A green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified
Who died to save us all.”
“Christ died for our sins.”
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”
“He was buried.”
“He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
This is the ground of our hope.
This is our gospel.
This gospel, simply and sublimely stated, is our only watch cry of spiritual triumphs in this day when everything for which apostles, martyrs, and reformers lived and died is being whittled away, when there is hardly enough fire in men’s hearts to melt the lead in their feet.
This message, which our forefathers preached with rattle of chains amid the heat of the martyr’s stake and in the dark of the dungeons, is our message! – the message written in the blood of Christ and fastened with the nails of the Cross.
So we must proclaim the Cross – that which seemed to be Christ’s shame, glorying in what seemed to be the hour of his collapse, emphasizing what seemed to be his defeat.
Preach it, not submit it for subdued discussion in the academic grove!
Preach it, not with piping voice, but with trumpet tones.
Not as epicures in philosophies.
Not as feeders of inflamed popular appetite for amusement.
Not as administrators of laughing gas for the painless extraction of sin.
Not as dainty tasters of intellectual subtleties.
Not as experts in speculative cleverness dealing in the airy abstractions of an “up-to-date” gospel.
Not as dealers in fine-spun metaphysical disquisitions.
But with wooing urgency that lifts up the crucified Christ and warns men of the “wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Else our churches will be lighthouses without water, barren fig trees, sleeping watchmen, silent trumpets, dumb witnesses, messengers without tidings, a comfort to infidels, a hot bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, an offense to God.
By his Cross, not by the disquisitions of philosophers, not by the exhortations of moralists, regenerate health comes.
The great salient is that Jesus died!
Yes, Jesus died an initial death, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! Jesus died an official death, as God- selected substitute! Jesus died a judicial death, a judgment death for others! Jesus died a sacrificial death, the just for the unjust (I Peter 3:18).
And with his dying, the colossal system of Judaism passed away.
Its bloody altars drifted into oblivion.
Its priestly vestments were flung aside.
The ceremonial law, with its mystic rites and interposed barriers was abrogated.
Jesus took all these rites, types, symbols, to the Cross and nailed them there, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14).
These types are remembered now only to interpret them in the light of Christa redemption.
They were redemption symbolized – the sacrifice offered by human hands. Himself is redemption realized – the Lamb slain.
Coming up from Edom with dyed garments, from Bozrah, glorious in his apparel (Isa. 63:1), traveling in the greatness of his strength, he retrod the way of man’s retreat, opened the way to the tree of life, liquidated the bond of inexorable law, sheathed the sword of justice behind the blood-drenched Mercy Seat. Then God’s perfections opened wide their arms repentant sinners to receive!
In all this we rejoice.
For the fingers of prophecy point to Calvary! The incarnation was preparatory to Calvary! The transfiguration foreshadowed Calvary! Pentecost was the fruit of Calvary!
And as the rays of glory emanating from Christ find focus in Calvary, so at Calvary, the history of human guilt culminates – the purposes of divine love become intelligible – the mysteries of prophecy are unraveled – the majesty of the law is vindicated – the great problem of human redemption is solved.
His Cross has become the rendezvous and universal resort of the chief of sinners.
The desire of all nations was never found until Christ was crucified.
But Christ crucified, like a divine loadstone, has drawn to Calvary a multitude, that no man can number, of guilty hearts, of bleeding hearts, of broken hearts.
The Cross, the true center and sanctuary of this fallen and broken world, is the only leverage mighty enough to roll off crushed humanity the ponderous incubus which bondage to Satan had placed upon it.
“Near the Cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me!
“Near the Cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star
Shed its beams around me!
“Near the Cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river!”