Beneath the Cross!
George Everard, 1877
"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." John 19:25
The cross of Christ is the believer's lesson book. The sufferings He bore for our sake, should be the subject of our constant meditation. It is true we should ponder the story of His wondrous life, and rejoice in the victory achieved by His Resurrection. We delight to think upon His Ascension to the right hand of the Father, upon His faithful intercession before the throne, and the hope of His coming kingdom.
But the Cross is the central point. It is that to which through life He was ever looking forward. His Resurrection ensures to us the benefits there purchased for us. And as our exalted High Priest, He has no other plea than the work He completed for us. As the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, He abides in His mediatorial kingdom. It is to His death, that the redeemed will ascribe the glory of their salvation: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!"
Especially, in the Lord's Supper, it is our privilege to dwell on the scenes and incidents connected with our Lord's death. The whole value and significance of the Lord's Supper rests upon the work wrought out for us on the tree. It was instituted by Christ on the night of His betrayal, before He entered the dark valley of conflict, agony, and shame. It speaks to us not of His life or His resurrection — but of that dying love on account of which He gave His body to be broken and His blood to be shed for the redemption of sinners. "And to the end that we should always remember the exceeding great love of our Master, and only Savior, Jesus Christ, thus dying for us, and the innumerable benefits which by His precious blood-shedding He has obtained to us; He has instituted and ordained holy mysteries, as pledges of His love, and for a continual remembrance of His death, to our great and endless comfort."
Nowhere, as in the Cross and in the scenes connected with it — do we see such revelations of the heart of Christ. Love bursts forth in every direction, both to friends and foes. The last touch of the hand so soon to be pierced, before it is fettered and bound, must be for the healing of one sent to apprehend Him. No thought for Himself, shall hinder Him from pleading for His disciples, that they might go their way unharmed. Mercy shines forth in her beauty, seeking pardon for His cruel murderers, compassionating the daughters of Jerusalem, and saving a sinner of the deepest dye. Justice, too, stands forth in unsullied glory. In paying the debt of human guilt, in bearing the penalty of a broken law — Christ is seen to be a just God as also a Savior.
It is our joy to remember that Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." As He was then, in pity and compassion and, faithfulness and love — so is He now. The suffering and the shame of the Cross is past — but not the grace and truth which was there revealed. At this moment is He as tender and as true, as ready to support those who turn to Him, and to pray for those who have hated Him — as He was when suffering on Calvary.
It seems to me, moreover, that in our Lord's suffering and death, there is precious instruction for the believer in almost every matter belonging to the Christian life. What are the perils you are likely to meet with — and how best to overcome them; what should be your life in secret before God — and what your path in the world — what is your strength in the hour of temptation and in the season of sorrow; how to crucify the world; how to glorify God in the position which you occupy — all this may be learned in fellowship with our suffering Redeemer.
Beneath the Cross likewise you may best learn to cultivate every Christian grace and virtue. Meekness and courage, zeal and love, prayer and patience and longsuffering, and submission to the will of God — are the fruits of a believing view of Christ's death. You may learn, too, to conquer sin by the sight of that which it cost Christ to save you from it. The nail and the spear may be driven through the sins which have been most cherished. You may thus be enabled to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts.
And beneath the Cross you may learn another lesson. You may learn how to die. Through death Christ has destroyed the power of death — the sting is gone. To him that believes, death is life; for it is departing to be with Christ, which is far better. Nor will the pattern left you by the Savior be without its consolation. His toil and suffering ended, He committed His Spirit into the Father's hand. And when you have finished the work given you to do, you may peacefully yield up your spirit to the faithful care of Him who has trodden the dark valley before you. To Him you can fly for refuge in the solemn hour. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Jesus, my God, to You I fly,
You are a refuge ever nigh,
When heart shall fail, when life is past,
You will receive my soul at last.
Therefore let us often betake ourselves to Calvary. Let memory recall and ponder those hours on which our everlasting peace depends. Let our faith bridge over the centuries that have passed between. Let us go and stand in thought, beside the faithful women who were last at the cross and first at the grave. Let us look again, and yet again, and discover new lessons of instruction and fresh grounds for the deepest contrition, as also for everlasting joy and thankfulness — beneath the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Upon the cross I gaze,
And there behold its sad yet healing rays,
Beacon of hope which, lifted up on high,
Illumines with heavenly light, the tear-dimmed eye.
For such meditation we need, above all things, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who testifies of the Savior. It is only by the Spirit that we learn the truth for our soul's profit; therefore, in reading the following pages, I would ask you often to lift up your heart to Him, who is the giver of all true wisdom.
"O God, open my eyes to behold the light of Your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Give me the Spirit of grace and supplication, that I may look upon Him who was pierced for my sin, and mourn in godly sorrow for that which I have done amiss. Enlighten the eyes of my understanding, and give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that I may know more of the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and of the greatness of His love. Give me the unction of the Holy One, and renew and sanctify me through Your truth. Draw me closer to Yourself, and teach me out of Your book, whatever is needful for my everlasting good, for Jesus Christ's sake."
To Calvary, Lord, in spirit now,
Our weary souls repair.
To dwell upon Your dying love,
And taste its sweetness there.
There, through Your hour of deepest woe,
Your suffering spirit passed:
Grace there its wondrous victory gained,
And Love endured its last.
Dear suffering Lamb, Your bleeding wounds,
With cords of love Divine
Have drawn our willing hearts to Thee,
And linked our life with Thine.