Alfred Place Baptist Church

15:40-46 People at the cross

Mark 15:40-46 “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God , went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”

There was a Roman centurion in charge of the execution squad who stood right in front of the cross for hours and when our Lord died he confessed, “Surely this was the Son of God.” But there were others standing and sitting on the Place of the Skull, Golgotha , and Mark is concerned to describe to us what their response was to the corpse of Jesus hanging on the cross.

1. THERE WERE MANY WOMEN ON GOLGOTHA .

“Some women were watching from a distance,” (v.40) Mark begins, and you might think that these were a group of curious onlookers, horrified by what they saw and so standing at a distance, but still constrained to see what was happening. They were ‘watching’, we are told, and that word is instructive. In several of his sermons our Lord spoke of the value of ‘watching’ – “watch and pray!” – that is, of keen, involved observation. Then Mark gives names to these observers; they were not simply “the crowd” but they were individuals with their own personalities and histories. There was first Mary Magdalene and this is the first time she appears in the gospel. You will know that in every single gospel she is named as the first witness of the resurrected Jesus Christ. To this deeply flawed woman he first appeared when he was raised from the dead. There is no evidence in the New Testament that she was once a whore; that is simply legend. The only reference to her former life is in Luke 8 where we are told that Jesus delivered her from seven demons, but demon possession is never linked with prostitution in the Bible. She could have had physical illness from this evil influence as a number in the New Testament did, fits and wild shrieks; she could have thrown herself into the fire or a river; there might have been an orthopedic condition; she could have been crippled with an illness. We don’t know, but we do know that the Saviour delivered her and afterwards she never left him.

Then there is Mary the mother of two boys. That may be Jesus’ mother because in Mark 6:3 we are told that his mother had two sons named James and Joses. They are, however, popular names for boys and here Mark calls James ‘the younger’ but that is probably to distinguish him from James the brother of John. I would think that this is the mother of Jesus though I do not know why Mark does not so designate her. Here his mother is again, at some distance from him, as she is throughout the gospels. We know that she was certainly at Golgotha because our Lord spoke to her from the cross and commended her to the care of his friend John the disciple.

The third woman is Salome, the most mysterious of the three. Could this be the daughter of Herodias who danced for Herod and was compelled to ask for the head of John the Baptist? What an extraordinary change in her life, from such wealth and degradation to being a devout follower of the Saviour, even coming to the cross and watching him die. Grace accomplishes glorious transformations. Who would have thought that Saul of Tarsus, the inquisitor general, would have become the greatest of all the followers of the Lord Jesus? But we are not told in the Bible that Salome was the name of Herodias’ daughter. This Salome may have been the mother of James and John the sons of Zebedee whom John tells us in his gospel was present at the cross. From our archaeological records of first century Palestine 50 per cent of the women were named either Mary or Salome.

So Mark tells us that there were these three women there, but it is here, just before the gospel ends, that they get a mention for the first time. Then Mark adds, “In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.” We would never have guessed this from reading Mark’s gospel; he makes no mention of any female presence. You might have imagined that it was an all-male movement, and then once you read these words then it fits into place. Our Lord helped women, and they came to seek his help and his blessing on their children. A number of them gave their time to humbly serve him. They were present at the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection. Then Mark adds this, that “Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.” We have this glimpse of the support structure of the ministry of Jesus, the people who washed and prepared food for the band of apostles and disciples, getting water from the wells, clearing up and serving in other ways, speaking to other women and children and men who came shyly with their questions, always ready to give an answer for the reason for their hope in Jesus. They were regular members of the group which Mark refers to as ‘Jesus and his disciples.’ They were not simply the cleaners and the cooks but they were disciples, and they followed him right to the end. There was this female element in Jesus’ entourage and they were with him on Golgotha . They located where the tomb was and so they weren’t mistaken when they went to that particular graveyard on the first day of the week. Mark doesn’t tell us that they assisted the men in taking Jesus’ corpse down from the cross, cleaning and clothing it with the grave clothes but it is perfectly reasonable to think of their activity in that manner.

They are the eyewitnesses of the world. If this were a wonderful fiction then you would have had men being with Christ at the cross and men being the first to see him rise from the dead. Women were regarded as worthless witnesses in the world of Jesus’ day; they were never called upon to give evidence in court. But Mark doesn’t apologise for the fact that women were eyewitnesses of the central facts of the Christian gospel. They were with him when he died as they had been when he lived. They helped in his burial and were the first to see him rise from the dead. Paul says about weak men and women that God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty. The last, in the eyes of the first century, became the first, and the first were the last. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the blessings God gives to women and as we read on through the book of Acts we are going to meet Priscilla and Dorcas and Lydia, and also all the women Paul mentions in the last chapter of his letter to the Romans. How important is the place of women in the kingdom of God .

When Abraham Kuyper the great Dutch preacher went to his first church in 1863 he had a very inadequate grasp of what the gospel was, and one of the godly women in his congregation at Beesd was called Pietje Baltus. She was thirty years old, the unmarried daughter of a miller. At his first home visit she refused to shake hands with him because he was not clear in his gospel preaching, and she relented only when he insisted. “All right, I will shake hands with you as a fellow human being, not as a minister,” she said. He liked her and often went back to her and spoke to her because he wanted to learn from her. All the modernism he had picked up in his student days had not been sluiced out of his system. He did learn and developed a more biblical understanding of the gospel. When she was an old lady and he was a national political leader he arranged for her to have a small pension.

But this strong conviction of Pietje Baltus was not the position of these women was it? You could not say that at the cross, or early on the first day of the week when they walked to the Sepulcher that they had a lively faith. They were not going to the grave to see it open and Jesus alive, though they had heard him many times speak of his crucifixion and on the third day his resurrection. None of these people prepared his body for the sepulchre in a spirit of anticipation. They were not watching for Jesus with Messianic hope. It was for them simply an isolated and heartbreaking event. How well had they learned from him after three years? Did they see in the hanging corpse the body of the Son of the living God? They took him down from the cross in love, and washed and cleaned and dressed his body in love, and they covered him in spices in love, and buried him in love, but a love that is not joined to true faith is not spiritual, it is sentimental. It is human affection and admiration, it is not faith wrought by the Holy Spirit. What of your love for Jesus Christ, is it largely emotional? Is it a matter of feeling, and respect? What depth is there?

The Times has an agony aunt named Bel Mooney, and this week (Wednesday February 2nd, 2006) she answered a person who had written in with this question: “I have a problem answering my daughter’s twins, aged six and a half, when they ask me if I believe in Jesus. My daughter is a born-again Christian, and a single parent, and I (being divorced) see the children a lot, for example, we holiday together. The twins go to Sunday school as well as Bible classes after school once a week. But I am an atheist, so it becomes a problem how to answer. Please help.”

Amongst other things Bel Mooney replies, “Personally, I’d rather they were at Sunday school than stuck in front of the television watching the rubbish that many children are allowed to see. Fix on Jesus as a good man and answer accordingly.” But would a good man, if he were a mere man, claim that he would judge the whole human race and that from his lips men would receive their eternal destinies. Would a good man claim this? Our answer would be, “Is your atheism set in stone? Can you look again? Can’t you read and think about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ?”

2. THERE WERE ALSO SOME UNUSUAL MEN ON GOLGOTHA .

Mark tells us, “It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God , went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph” (vv.42-45). So here is another person of whom we’ve had no mention at all in Mark’s gospel until we read these verses. Just remember that at the birth of Jesus there was Mary his mother and Joseph the man to whom she was betrothed, and at his death of Jesus there was another Mary and another Joseph.

Let’s just pause and turn it this way that Jesus has many friends of whom little is known. My colleague David Jones the pastor of the Rhymney Evangelical church was taking some tracts into the newly opened Kebab shop called “Yummy’s” in that south Wales town a few weeks ago, and one of the smiling proprietors said to him, “I’m a Christian.” “Wonderful,” said David, “Tell me more.” The man told him how he had been contacted last year by some Christians in Newport and that he had done some Bible Studies with them. He had come to faith and been baptized in the Emmanuel Church pastored by Graham Harrison. Then the high rent and rates incurred in running a shop in that city drove them 25 miles north to Rhymney to open “Yummy’s”. David has eaten more kebabs in the last few months than at any time in his life, and so have other members of the congregation. He has taken the man Turkish booklets concerning the Christian faith.

You understand the point of my telling you that story? I am saying that we suddenly meet others of the Way in unexpected places, like coming across Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene here. J.C. Ryle says, “We know nothing of Joseph of Arimathea’s former history. We don’t know how he’d learned to love Christ, and to desire to do Him honour. We know nothing of his subsequent history after our Lord left the world. All we know is the touching collection of facts before us. We are told that ‘he waited for the kingdom of God,’ and that at a time when our Lord’s disciples had all forsaken Him, he ‘went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus,’ and buried it honourably in his own tomb. Others had honoured and confessed our Lord when they saw Him working miracles, but Joseph honoured Him and confessed himself a disciple when he saw Him a cold, blood-sprinkled corpse. Others had shown love to Jesus while He was speaking and living, but Joseph showed love when He was silent and dead.

“Let us take comfort in the thought that there are true Christians on earth, of whom we know nothing, and in places where we should not expect to find them. No doubt the faithful are always few. But we must not hastily conclude that there is no grace in a family because our eyes may not see it. We know in part and see only in part outside the circle in which our own lot is cast. The Lord has many ‘hidden ones’ in the Church, who, unless brought forward by special circumstances, will never be known till the last day. The words of God to Elijah should not be forgotten, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel .” (1 Kings 19:18.) (J.C.Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, p.351).

So Mark suddenly introduces us to a man named Joseph who came from Arimathea (that place is probably Ramah which is twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem – again Mark is giving us names and places so that those people alive when he wrote this gospel could check up on the truthfulness of what he wrote). Mark also tells us that Joseph wasn’t merely a member of the Sanhedrin (which was the leading kind of parliament and supreme court of the Jewish people), but Mark tells us he was a “prominent” member of that body, so here is a man of authority and influence in the country. More than that, we are told about him that “he was himself waiting for the kingdom of God .” In other words, he looked around him at the state of his fellow countrymen, the religious and moral state of the nation, and he concluded rightly that though this was God’s Promised Land this was certainly not heaven on earth. Joseph was not utopian at all. He wasn’t defensive as one of the nation’s rulers about the state of the land of Judah and Galilee . He judged, “There’s a huge gap between how people should live and what they’re actually doing with their lives. We need Almighty God to come and set up his throne in our hearts and reign over our lives. We need him to rend the heavens and come down and bless us. I am waiting and longing for that.” He might have thought of the impact of the discovery of the word of God in the temple centuries earlier during the reign of King Josiah and when it was read to the people how the Word of God transformed the nation. So Joseph was himself waiting for the kingdom of God to come to Israel ; “Thy kingdom come,” was his prayer. So he was a man of piety as well as social standing in the community.

Then we want to ask why this reputable man didn’t say or do anything when the Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial. Why didn’t he use his influence and stand up to Caiaphas? We don’t have a hint in any of the gospels that he had intervened in any way, speaking up, when Christ appeared before them, or that he did anything to stop the Council’s guards beating up Jesus afterwards. It is so odd, that this man Joseph provided for Jesus a tomb when he was dead but was silent when he was alive. It is a common tragedy that men don’t know what they’ve got until it’s gone. We put wreaths on people’s graves when they’re dead, but we never said a word of appreciation for them when they were alive. We never said “Please forgive me,” or “I forgive you,” while they were with us, but when they’ve passed away we realise it is all too late and we cry “God forgive me.” When I was an eleven year old and could explore Merthyr Tydfil on my bicycle one place to which I could ride in the countryside of south Breconshire was the Vaynor church. I always went to the churchyard and pushed my bike to the grave of the famous ironmaster Richard Crawshay. He was buried there in 1810 and there is a wrought-iron fence around the huge gravestone on which these few words are carved, “May God Forgive Me. ” I visited it again a couple of years ago. That is all. How sad, and what a mystery! Men and women, today is the time to seek forgiveness from God and man, not to carve it on our tombs after we are dead. It is too late then. As the tree falls so it lies. Joseph did nothing in life, but then once Jesus was dead his faith burst out. There is a certain sadness about this.

It was not what Joseph said, but what he did that was so striking. Mark tells us that he “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” (v. 43). It took some courage to go to the Roman governor and ask for the body of a man who was executed as an enemy of Rome . It took some courage for a prominent member of the Sanhedrin to take responsibility for the burial of a man so unanimously condemned as a blasphemer to the death of the cross by the chief priests and Sanhedrin. Here was a man swiftly gaining a reputation as a Jesus-lover!

What was the rush in going off to Pilate immediately? The answer is that it was already three o’clock and the Sabbath began at six o’clock. Sundown was the deadline and he had to hurry to Pilate’s palace, get the permission, purchase a shroud before all the shops shut, hurry back, take Jesus down from the cross after his body had hung a further hour or two after his death on the accursed tree.

Joseph was not mealy-mouthed about these actions, though there was nothing in it for him. After all Jesus was now dead. The dream of the Kingdom coming soon was all over, but still Joseph went to Pilate ‘boldly,’ Mark says. This was no cringing Uriah Heep, shuffling obsequiously before the procurator and offering a bribe. There was a holy boldness in his whole approach, but yet a deference to the authority of “the powers that be” ordained by God; “My lord Pilate, Jesus of Nazareth is dead and I have a sepulchre ready where I want to bury him. May I take him down?” he asked. Pilate looked at him. This was a man who a day earlier had insisted that he condemn Jesus to be crucified. He seemed to have changed completely; he seemed to have become a disciple of Christ. Did all sorts of alarm bells ring in his mind as he was reminded of his own and his wife’s conviction that Christ was a righteous man? Pilate prevaricated. “Jesus dead already?” Pilate wanted to make sure about that; he had to be confident that this was not some ploy and that a half dead man was being taken down to be revived later. The early church would meet that objection that Jesus had not truly died – even as one comes across it in the 21st century, that Jesus had not died at all and that later he revived himself to the extent that he pushed the stone aside, overcame the soldiers and preached to the world that he was the resurrection and the life, and then in 40 days disappeared off the face of the earth! One great hoax! The most evil of all hoaxes! Come on! Get real! So more time passed as Joseph of Arimathea walked up and down the corridors of Pilate’s palace, looking at the sun setting while the centurion was sent for, the very man in fact who had within the last hour confessed, “Surely this was God’s Son.” There they finally met in Pilate’s presence, two new disciples of the Lord Jesus, a Gentile and a Jew who had become one in Christ. They both testify to the powers that be that our Lord was not at all in a deep swoon but a corpse, as dead as mutton. Pilate himself then pronounces him officially dead; “You can take him down. Jesus was never really a threat to the Pax Romana in the first place.” Of course he wasn’t, and Pilate knew this. So Joseph has permission to remove that stiffening body from the cross, and bury him. How Joseph’s boldness was vindicated. Anyone who trusts in Christ, Jew or Gentile, will never be put to shame.

Joseph hurried back to Golgotha knowing that that night he would be ceremonially unclean. He would be unable to participate in some of the Sabbath activities, but he had to get Jesus buried before nightfall. The cross was lifted out of its socket and the nails were levered out of the wood. The corpse would then have been washed and wrapped in strips of linen, and covered with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to offset the smell of decomposition (Jn.19:39&40). Presumably it would have been carried on a stretcher by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus; together they placed Jesus in the nearby sepulchre cut out of the rock, a fine tomb, a brand new tomb in which no man had been lain before this time. There were no old bones brushed into the corner. This was no inhabitation of rats and vermin in the royal sepulchre of King Jesus.

Though the Mishnah prohibited those who had died ignominious deaths from being buried with their fathers in ancestral tombs Joseph ignored the regulation and had our Saviour’s body laid to rest in his own family tomb. The Mishnah specified burial vaults being two yards by three yards which were sealed with large disc-shaped stones that were rolled into channels in front of the opening sealing the decaying bodies inside and keeping out animals and grave robbers. All that was done and now it is the Sabbath and everything must rest, including the body of Jesus.

What can explain the change in Joseph of Arimathea from a secret disciple to a bold disciple? He and Nicodemus had been delaying their response to Christ. They thought that they could put it off, and prevaricate in confessing him as their Lord, and put off following him indefinitely, but providence intervened, and here is Christ at the end of his life and they are confronted with him. What shall we do with this Jesus who is called the Christ? The great change that took place was at the cross. When Joseph and Nicodemus came unhappily with the Sanhedrin and stood watching Jesus die they were both changed. When the centurion stood apart from the mob and apart from his gambling men and watched Jesus die then the centurion was changed. Calvary changes people. Once our Saviour said that if he were lifted up he would draw all men to himself, and here we see all kinds of men being drawn to him, Jews and Gentiles both saying things aloud and doing revolutionary things before the whole world – all this before Pentecost, but after they have been to Calvary. Jesus’ grace in suffering is a means of grace to us; his forgiving love on the cross makes us more loving. His courage makes secret disciples courageous. His concern for a dying crook makes us concerned for others. His assurance that that day that man would be with Christ in paradise makes us long to trust him too and be with him the moment we die. Jesus’ words of confidence that the work he did was finished make us more zealous to declare the glorious finished work of Christ.

The cross of Christ demands a response from you because it says to everyone who surveys it three things. “Isn’t sin horrible?” Look what our sin can do. Men just like ourselves, not particularly monstrous men, but ordinary soldiers and typical religious people will take the loveliest and best man that this world has ever seen and will whip him, and spit at him, and nail him to a cross, lifting him up high so that the weight of his body is suspended from those nails. Then they will mock him for hours, and gamble over his cloak. That is what the sin of typical human beings is capable of doing, and if you face up to Golgotha with any integrity at all you will feel ashamed of yourself. Men who were bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh did that to the spotless loving Son of God! Isn’t the human condition sick?

On Friday I was in a hospital ward having a minor operation, but opposite me was a man who had been beaten up Thursday night. A group of men had kicked his head like a football. They had cracked his skull in three places, broken both his eye sockets, his nose and both cheek-bones. They had broken his palate and his jaw in two places. The seeds of the sin of murder are in every heart here. What evil is to be found in the hearts of men to devise so cruel a torture and then inflict it on so marvelous a man as Jesus of Nazareth! You need more than a good education, and money from a decent job to face the future. You need a new heart, and mercy for your sins. You must be born again. Except you be converted and become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Calvary faces us with our sin.

Again, the cross of Christ overwhelms us with its extraordinary grace, because all this darkness and pain was planned by the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God could have dealt with us in justice as he dealt with the rebellious angels. “You have sowed, and so you must reap,” he could have said, and no one could have challenged his justice. It was what we deserved, but what he did not deserve. You have seen mothers and fathers weeping over the murder of their children and declaring that they will never be at peace while the murderer walks around free. What if God had looked at Golgotha and decided, “I will blot out the whole cosmos and start again. Any species who treats another human being like that deserves nothing, but to have done this to my holy child Jesus brings my fiercest condemnation upon them.” But he did not. God raised his Son from the dead, and on the day of Pentecost he poured out his Spirit on these Jerusalem sinners. Three thousand of them were converted in an hour. They were brought from darkness to light, from being under his curse to receiving God’s richest blessings, and these blessing came to them precisely because Jesus had become the Lamb of God and had taken away our shame and despair and condemnation when he hung on the cross. What love, that God judged sinless Christ his Son without sparing him, and God pardoned sinful rebels, sparing them. What love, offered to you, that though he knew all about your double dealings he offers you mercy for Jesus’ sake. He will wipe the slate clean of every spot.

The cross of Christ declares that salvation is God’s free gift. The sins of cowardice and weakness seen in Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, men who were silent when they should have spoken, men who were statues when they should have acted, were freely pardoned by the same Jesus they let down. Their actions sent him to the cross and yet he forgave them. He made them strong; he gave them courage. The centurion was a brutalized military man; what wickedness had he been responsible for? Yet on the basis of Christ suffering in his place a new heart could be given to him. All the judgment he deserved from God for his rotten life was borne instead by Christ dying and Christ dead. Only a stony heart could be unmoved at such wonderful grace! What was the price that Joseph of Arimathea had to pay in order to be forgiven? Not a penny. What price did Nicodemus or the centurion pay for their pardons? Nothing at all. We can contribute nothing. All we must do is humble ourselves to receive salvation as God’s free gift.

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for dress,
Helpless look to Thee for grace,
Foul I to Thy fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour or I die.” (Augustus Toplady)

What is the alternative? If you reject my Saviour what do you have? First of all you will have rejected everything about his life, that he was a perfect and blameless man, for if you reject him you will have made him out to be a liar – he who claimed that he and God were one. You have to dismantle the entire life, and turn it into fairy tales, and insist that he did none of the miracles and was not raised from the dead. What of his teaching? You try to say respectful things about it, but throughout it ran this insistence that he was the judge of the whole earth who one day is coming again with glory to the world. You can’t have that can you? If you reject my Saviour then you face a future of bitter opposition to the life and claims of Jesus. You are at war with my Jesus. You face a future claiming that at death we are all snuffed out, and that there was no purpose in life. That will be your bleak philosophy, but you don’t know that. You can’t prove that. You are simply living by faith in that device, but now you are facing hell begun on earth, a life without any sense at all, and no Redeemer and no mercy.

You look at these disciples who had not believed the words of Jesus that he would rise on the third day. They did not have a glimmer of hope for the future. Before them there was despair. That Saturday morning they woke up with all their dreams shattered, overwhelmed by the memory of all they had seen, conscious of their own terrible failure, and no hope that anything was going to change. There was Mary and a sword had pierced her soul. There was Peter paralyzed at his own guilt. There was John with a broken heart. There was Joseph and Nicodemus muttering, “Too little, too late.”

That is where most people in our town live, certainly the vast majority of teenagers are living in despair and darkness. That is why they are drawn to alcohol, and nicotine, and pot because they can’t bear life without chemicals. It is all desperately black for them – and they are seventeen years of age! They are all Saturday’s children, Good Friday is over in its darkness, and they have never met the resurrected Son of God. They live on a perpetual Saturday, plodding on to a death without hope, despair gripping their lives. Hopelessness and meaningless crushing them from all sides. Yet it was for those sinners, cowards and enemies, for these Jesus died, for the very people who hated him, people like Saul of Tarsus. As Paul (to give his subsequent name) put it later: ‘The Son of God . . . loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:20). Christ did not wait until Paul loved him before he loved Paul. He loved Paul as he was, even this blasphemer and persecutor and injurious. He loved him even when Saul of Tarsus lived his dark Saturday existence, execrating his holy name, ridiculing his claim that he was the Son of God, and the Lord of Glory, despising this idea that he is here to bring the words of the Creator to us, and die for us. While Paul was pouring his scorn upon him Christ was dying for Paul. And he was doing the same for you and for me. You who have reviled him and blasphemed him and hated him and regarded all this preaching of the cross as an offense, for sinners like us he did it. That is the measure of his love. When I survey the wondrous cross, what do I see? This is what I see, a spectacle that the world has never seen before, and will never see again. I see the holy Son of God bearing the punishment of my sins, the author of life dying that I might live, that I might become a son, a child of God, and go on to spend my eternity in the glory everlasting with him.

And this is only the beginning. I say that what we see in the cross is light! Here is the end to your dark despair. The glory of the Godhead shines down upon us, first in the lovely person of Jesus Christ. Have you seen it? If you have seen even a glimmer of what I have been trying to say, you must glory in it. You do not just believe it, you don’t just praise it. You say, “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” A total allegiance, a complete surrender; I live for him; he died for me.

As Dr Lloyd Jones once preached, “In other words, we put it as the famous Count Zinzendorf, the great Moravian leader put it. It was the turning point in his life when he saw that portrait of Christ with its little inscription, ‘Christ dying on the cross’. He looked at the picture, he, the wealthy and learned Count, and this is what he read: ‘I did this for thee, what wilt thou do for me?’ He saw that there was only one response, and for the rest of his life this was his confession: ‘I have but one passion, it is him and him alone.’ ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .’” (D.M.Lloyd-Jones, The Cross, Kingsway Publications, 1986, p.61).

Do you really believe that the Son of God came down from heaven and died on that cross for you? Do you really believe it? You cannot truly believe it without giving up everything for it. Consider how unashamed of Jesus was Mary Magdalene. Consider the boldness of Joseph. If you really believe it and see what it means, well, it is everything to you. It is either everything or else it is nothing. Men and women, are you glorying in the cross? If you are, you can take it from me that you have sown, and are sowing, to the Spirit and that you will reap life everlasting.

5th February 2006 GEOFF THOMAS