(A Gospel Preaching at the Grove City Conference)
Matthew 27: 33-36; John 19: 25-30, 38-42.
I want to take you with me tonight, and to stand by the cross of Jesus. It is a familiar story, perhaps, to everyone of us here but I am assured not a familiar story to everyone in this country, as it is not in the country from which I come-England. A brother told us of an incident that happened at one of the high schools in the south of England. A new teacher arrived at the school and she was set over a class of girls aged fifteen to seventeen. She was a Christian woman and when it came to the Scripture lesson she began to tell them the story of the Cross. She arrived at the place where He was taken into Pilate's hall but before she could get much further in her address to the girls the school-bell rang. School was to be dismissed. There were four girls in that class that gathered around the teacher, and this was the question that they asked: "Did He get off?" Could you credit that? "Did He get off?" My friend, I'm going to assume here tonight that you know very little about the cross, and I'm going to speak to you about it. I want your heart to be affected by the story of the cross; and if you stand by it with me tonight, I trust that that stony heart of yours is going to be broken.
I realise, dear friends, that there's no appealing on my part that is going to affect anything. If the story of the cross doesn't affect your heart, if it doesn't break you down in true repentance to see this Blessed One whose love has been so great toward you, if you don't see that that love demands your love and your obedience, there's no appealing on my part that will be in any way successful.
They led Him out to this place of a skull, Golgotha, to crucify Him. There are two sides to this question, dear friend. He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, but men with wicked hands took and crucified the Lord of Glory. And here in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew we have what they did to Him in great detail. We learn, perhaps, a different aspect of the story when we come to John's Gospel.
The first thing that they want to do, as no doubt they did to others who were to be put to death, is give them this stupefying drink that would make them insensible to all that was going on. But my friend, Jesus refused that. Peter tells us that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." There are three wonderful things in that verse. When men want to write to impress you and me, they write volume upon volume. But listen what God puts into the space of this short verse: "Christ also hath once suffered for sins"-propitiation; "the just for the unjust"-substitution; "that He might bring us to God"-reconciliation. And think of it, dear friend, the Word of God-it has a majesty, it has a dignity of its own so that men need not elaborate on it whatsoever. It is a Word that comes from God Himself. And it comes with mighty power to grip the heart and conscience. That's the confidence of the preacher as he seeks to make known the story of the cross to men and women. He's not depending upon his ability. What a poor thing it would be. But he's depending upon the mighty power of God, and the use of that precious Word, simply though it may be spoken, to reach hearts and consciences. I trust it's going to reach yours tonight, dear friend.
He refused the stupefying drink. He was quite sensible to all that was going on, and they took Him there and they nailed Him to that cross. You know what the Word of God says? "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree." I want to say, dear friend, because of your sins, you're in a cursed position; but there's One who has borne the curse by hanging upon Calvary's tree.
They heaped upon Him every indignity. He was stripped of everything, even of His clothes. But there was one thing they couldn't take from Him and that was His body. And listen, friend, the Bible tells us that He gave His body. He gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, in due season. And the reason for the testimony going forth, the testimony that He gave Himself a ransom for all, is that you might receive it. The testimony comes to you for your obedience. It's looking for an answer in the hearts of men and women here this evening. That's what God is looking for.
But they heaped upon Him every indignity. They mocked Him and scourged Him; spit in His blessed face. My friend, I say to you here tonight, does this not touch your heart-to think of the Lord of Glory suffering such indignity, such hatred and enmity from man? Does it not touch your heart tonight? Oh, I want you to come near to the cross tonight, to see it as you have never seen it before.
There was a young fellow got converted in Northumberland. He wasn't very long in seeing his place and he asked the saints, "What about me taking my place to remember the Lord?" They could see he was in dead earnest. They gave his name out that very Lord's day, and the next Lord's day he broke bread. He remembered the Lord, the One who died for him upon the cross of Calvary. He'd only been converted about three months. After the Breaking of Bread the others got up and they began to discuss how much they had sold their cows for at one of the farm sales. They were discussing anything and everything but the Lord Himself. The young man was still sitting in his seat, with tears-tears rolling down his cheeks. You know what he said to them? He said, "Have you got used to this?" Have you got used to this? I make no further comment. It speaks for itself.
I ask you tonight, young friend, how many Gospel meetings have you attended? How many times have you heard this story of the cross of Jesus, in His wonderful love going there and dying for you and suffering all these indignities at the hands of men, as well as the judgment of a righteous and holy God? How many times have you heard it? Let me ask you, have you got used to it? Have you got so used to listening to this story that it means nothing to you? Jeremiah the prophet, in his Lamentations asks, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger."
Oh, friend, that you might rightly value the cross of Jesus and His sacrifice in laying down that sinless, spotless, holy life, as a sacrifice for sins. I ask you, is your heart not affected by it?
We read of these people, "And sitting down, they watched Him there." It seems as though they had come to the end of their tether. There wasn't another thing that they could think to do; and in cold blood they sat down, and they watched Him there in His agony.
I just want to emphasise these two words: "Him there." Why was He there? Pilate's wife wanted to give her husband a bit of good advice, as she thought. "Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." Advice that Pilate couldn't take, and advice that you can't take either, friend. You've got to do with Jesus just as much as Pilate had.
Pilate says, "I find no fault in Him." His wife said He was a just person. Those weren't the only witnesses, you know-witnesses that you and I would never have thought of bringing forward. Judas says, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood."
Him there? Why was He there, friend? He was there because you and I should have been there. He was there answering to the holy God in your place and in my place. He became, as the Proverb said, He became surety for a stranger and He was made to smart. Listen, this is no cheap salvation that we are preaching to you tonight. It's a salvation that cost God Himself the very best, the very choicest of heaven's store for you, the rebel sinner.
Visiting one of the villages in the Lake district over in England, and after having a Gospel meeting in the open air, we went around the doors giving out little gospel booklets. I knocked at a door and the lady's voice inside shouted, "Come in," and in I went. She said, "What is it?" "Oh," I said, "I've brought you a little gospel booklet to tell you the way to heaven." "Oh," she said, "you know, I've had a good upbringing," and she began to tell me of the good upbringing she had had. She said that from a girl, as far back as she could remember, she was taken to church three times each Sunday. She said that she had good parents who were church members, and she had been brought up to attend church regularly.
Dear friend, it's not a good upbringing that many people want, it's a good downbringing. I said to her, "Oh, I've had a good upbringing too," and I quoted from Psalm 40: "He brought me up... out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." I said, "That's the good upbringing that I've had." Naturally speaking, I had no good upbringing, friend. Not speaking in any way disrespectfully of my parents, I was dragged up. Were you brought up in a Christian home? Never cease to thank God for it. You know what I was used to?-a drunken fight, that started on Saturday night and went right over until about the Tuesday when everything was spent up, and our clothes were put into the pawn, and that money was spent as well. That's the bringing up I had. Thank God for the other bringing up. "He brought me up... out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth."
I tell you dear friend, I appreciate the grace of God that picked me up, saved my precious soul, and gives me to stand before you here tonight. Have you been affected by the cross of Calvary, by Jesus dying for you?
In the nineteenth chapter of John we have a company of people standing by the cross. But before we go there, again let us remind ourselves of these two words-I don't want to pass over them so easily-Him there. Listen friend, those are two words that you'll never forget if you go to hell for all eternity, as you will if you refuse Him. Him there! Christ, hanging upon the cross of Calvary for you a sinner, and you refused Him as your Saviour. Don't come away with the idea that God is a sort of kind, old grandfather, that is going to say to you after you have set the gospel message to one side, and neglected this salvation, "Well, of course, you weren't a good lad; you could have been better, but come on in," and take you to heaven. My friend, there's no such representation of God in the Scripture of Truth. God is a righteous God, and if you want to know how God is going to deal with you about your sins, God has demonstrated that at the cross of Calvary. He didn't spare our first parents in the garden of Eden for one sin; He turned them out. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. He cast down the angels that sinned, and they're reserved in everlasting chains of darkness unto the day of judgment. Listen, friend, He didn't spare His own Son when He took your place and mine. The very heavens above Him were as brass, and in anguish He sobbed out those words, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He was forsaken, friend, that you might be accepted. The judgment was poured upon His blessed head that you might go free. Do you appreciate that? He's looking into your heart tonight. He's searching places that I cannot see. He's looking into your heart tonight and He knows just exactly what your attitude is. Friend, I trust that it's affected, that it's melted with the story of the cross of Jesus.
In the nineteenth chapter of John we have this little company at the cross, and we have Jesus speaking to them. This was His concern for His loved ones, even there upon the cross. And those very persons that were sitting down in cold blood, having done all that they could: He was dying that they might be saved too, and He died that you might be saved, dear friend, even in spite of your attitude toward Him here tonight.
But listen, dear friend, the Lord is not forsaken in John's Gospel. It is just like what we have in connection with Abraham and Isaac. The father and the son, they go together. What a moment for this world, the nearing of the completion of the work that was not only going to save sinners like you and me, but the work that was going to clear sins out of the whole universe of God. And that's the work that I'm resting upon tonight for the forgiveness of my sins: that work which is going to clear the whole universe of sin. Jesus said, after having received the vinegar, "It is finished." Three words in the English language, but they tell me that in the Greek language it is just one word. It wasn't the cry of a man whose life was ebbing out. Jesus didn't die like the two thieves; Jesus dismissed His Spirit. We sometimes sing, "The storm that bowed Thy blessed head." The storm didn't bow His blessed head; He bowed His head in the storm. He was superior to it all. He was able to accomplish the work that He came to do. Once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and there upon the cross of Calvary He was able to say "it is finished." In the seventeenth chapter of this very Gospel, speaking to the Father -it's a privilege to hear each other praying, but what a privilege to listen to the Lord praying,-He said, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."
Friend, we present to you tonight the Saviour who has completed the work that was necessary for your soul's salvation. You're not asked to add anything to what He has done; He's completed it to God's glory. Don't tell me that you expect something more than God expects! A little hymn says, "God is satisfied with Jesus, I am satisfied as well." Will it satisfy your heart tonight, dear friend?
I read those verses from the end of chapter nineteen to show you the effect that it had upon two men, and I trust that it's going to have this effect in your heart tonight. In one of the verses we read towards the end of the chapter it says, "And after these things." After what things? After Jesus had been crucified; after they had witnessed all that had been done to Him; after they had listened to the seven cries that came from His blessed lips upon the cross, beginning with "Father" and ending with "Father"; "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do," and the last one, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." After these things, something takes place.
Here are two men who were secret disciples; men who were not bold enough to come out and confess the Saviour. After these things they come out as witnesses of the Saviour. One of them was Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, a counsellor. Who are you, friend? You've perhaps gone to a high school; you might have had a good education. Here is a man who was in a high position- Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, a counsellor. He couldn't vote openly when the whole world was against the Saviour, but he associated himself with the Christ of God who had died and he begs His body.
Perhaps your parents are not quite sure whether you're a Christian or not. Oh, I trust, dear young friend, that after these things you've been hearing tonight, you're going to make it known, aren't you? You say, "What shall I say? What shall I do?" Listen, you perhaps know the verse, "The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." "The Word is nigh thee." You needn't move from the seat where you are. "Even in thy mouth, and in thy heart." That's not very far away is it? Right where you're sitting now you can confess with your mouth. It's a good thing to confess Jesus. You know what He says? He that shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before the holy angels. Would you like to be talked about in heaven, friend? If I thought they were talking about me in Buckingham Palace, where the Queen of my country lives, my chest measurement would be expanded.
Listen, you've got the privilege here tonight of being spoken about in heaven-Christ confessing you after you have confessed Him here as your Lord and Saviour. What a privilege. But mark what He says-the confessing with your mouth and the believing with your heart. God says, "Thou shalt be saved." We can depend upon that, friend. You can depend upon God's Word, whatever He says to you. You can set your feeling to it, whatever God says, it is true.
We're coming to the end. I want to tell you about a true incident. In the centre of England there's a place called Worksop-it's in Nottinghamshire. Just outside Worksop, there's a little village called Wickworth. There was a young woman there, eighteen-years-old, brought up in a Christian home, and she knew the way of salvation, perhaps just as well as the preacher could tell it. She had gone away with some friends, like the prodigal did, and not only the prodigal but his brother too. You remember his brother said to his father, "Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." He seemed to have friends that his father didn't know anything about. I wonder if you've got some friends that your father and mother don't know anything about? They are not going to do you much good. This young woman, she had some friends too, that her parents knew nothing at all about; but they knew that the friends she had were keeping her away from the meeting. She was invited over and over again to the Gospel Meeting, and they did get her along this Sunday evening. The gospel preacher certainly reached her conscience and she was troubled about her sins.
Friend, it's amazing how near some people can get. The Lord had to say with regard to one young man-do you remember him?-"Thou art not far from the kingdom." He was on the very threshold. Listen, you're on the very threshold here tonight. And this young woman, she sat in that meeting spellbound as she heard the story of the cross and of the love of Jesus. She was really affected and the preacher saw it. He spoke to her after the meeting. He said, "Now, what about it? Are you going to decide for Christ tonight?" You know what she said? She said, "No, not tonight." She had made arrangements to go to a dance with this friend that she had taken up with. She went to bed on Sunday night and couldn't sleep. She was troubled, mightily troubled about this preaching which she had been listening to earlier in the evening. She lay, tossing in her bed. Eventually she got up. There was a voice speaking in her ear, and speaking so loudly that tears were rolling down her face. She was in such distress, that she was roaming up and down her bedroom, not knowing what to do. She had a Bible in her hand, because what the voice was saying to her was this: "Ezekiel seven and eight! Ezekiel seven and eight! Ezekiel seven and eight!" She couldn't find it for the blinding tears. I'll read it to you. Before I read it, let me tell you what happened. Her mother, who was sleeping in the adjoining room, heard the commotion that was going on, and she came in. Seeing her daughter in such distress, she was very anxious about it, and seeing the Bible in her hand and hearing her exclaiming, "Ezekiel seven and eight, Ezekiel seven and eight," her mother took the Bible from her. She sat her daughter down in the chair and this is what she read: "Now will I shortly pour out My fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee; and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations." Her mother turned to the chair where that young woman was sitting, and she was dead.
That's not something I've read in a book but an incident that I heard of at Whitwell just outside of Worksop. Friend, I say to you tonight, how long, how long is God going to suffer you? The number of times He has spoken to you! Is this going to be the last opportunity He's going to give you, in this meeting tonight? Oh, I say to you, be wise, be wise, friend. I'm coming to a close with this meeting. I'm going to take it no further. I say to you right now, don't wait until we've sung the closing hymn. Bow your head, bow your heart before the blessed God and tell Him how thankful you are tonight for sending Jesus to die for you. Take your place along side the cross and be able to say like the great apostle Paul, "Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Oh, may you come to Him tonight.
Friend, you're being prayed for. These meetings have been held up to the throne of God on your behalf. There's prayer ascending even at this very moment as we come to the close of our meeting. And I want to say to every Christian here tonight, don't let the devil in at the end of the Gospel Meeting. It's just then that he takes advantage, to get us all conversing together and the whole thing is confusing to anyone under deep exercise before God. Oh, let us not be ignorant of his devices, but let us prayerfully and quietly leave this auditorium, and leave it with the solemn thought that there might be someone like that young girl, that we just mentioned, here tonight. Someone that may be saying NO to the Saviour, and going to their bed, and perhaps being found dead in the morning. I know what people say: it could happen to anybody but you. My friend, don't be so sure. Make sure of this, that you get right with God before it's too late. Trust the Saviour and trust Him NOW, and make it known. Openly confess Him. Make it known to every one in the auditorium.
Friend, Christ was out in the open for you. He was crucified there in the midst of a mocking crowd. Are you afraid to confess Him as your Saviour in the company of Christians? My word, how easy He's made it for you!-hard for Him, easy for you. Don't miss the opportunity. Trust Him, trust Him NOW, and go on your way rejoicing-for His Name's sake.
Now we're going to sing together hymn number thirty-five. We're going to sing two verses of it, and I want to give you the opportunity afterwards, dear friend, of making known to us that you're going to trust the Saviour tonight. Don't put it off. Don't be out of this blessing. God wants you to have it, and it's here for you tonight. "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me, see on the portals He's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me." We're going to sing the first and the third verses. "Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing."
Listen, before we close in prayer I want to give you every opportunity that we can. If there's anybody here tonight that would like to openly confess Christ as their Saviour for the first time, you do so! Is there one? We want to do everything in our power to put you into the way of salvation. I commend you to God in prayer.