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WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CROSS?
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“And sitting down they watched him there” (Matthew 27:36).
When I was a teenager I would choke up and tears would come to my eyes when I heard of the crucifixion even though I wasn't saved yet. I could almost feel the nails being pounded through Christ’s hands and feet. When I heard the song Mr. Griffith just sang I always wept. I had to turn my head away because it embarrassed me. I could feel Christ’s pain. I was grieved by His suffering. This was no pretense. There was nothing artificial about it. I felt a dull ache in the pit of my stomach when I thought about Christ suffering on the Cross.
I never hear of young people feeling like that today during a Sunday service. And I wonder why sometimes. Why is it so hard for people to feel empathy for the suffering Christ? Empathy means to feel the pain that someone else is feeling. Most people today seem unmoved by feelings of pity, sorrow or compassion toward someone who is suffering. I remember being shocked several years ago when a group of young people laughed as they watched a little dog being kicked in the stomach. Their laughter was so out of place that it terrified me. Needless to say, every one of them left our church. It would take a real miracle for people who are that hard-hearted to become Christians!
I believe the cause of this hardening can be traced to what young people watch on TV, and in the movies, and in our culture at large. The University of Michigan released a study in 1999 which showed that young people watch over 16,000 killings on TV by the age of 18 – about 900 killings every year on TV. And that’s just TV! It doesn’t count the murders and killings they see in movies, video games, and on news programs of various kinds! On top of all that horror and killing, young people are very aware that 3,000 babies die under an abortionist’s knife every single day in this country! Yes, 3,000 every day – a million and a quarter every year! This much carnage, poured into the minds of young people has got to do something to their emotions. I am convinced it has made this generation hardened and emotionally insensitive to the feelings of those who are suffering.
This morning I am asking you to try and feel the horror Christ went through on the Cross. What do you see when you look at the Cross of Christ? On the day Christ suffered, there were many people near His Cross. Our text says that the soldiers who nailed Him to the Cross sat down and “watched him there” (Matthew 27:36). Many others were there watching Him as well. Which of these people is like you? Think about it. What do you see when you look at Christ on the Cross?
I. First, the priests and elders saw an enemy being killed on the Cross.
“The chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:41-43).
They mocked and ridiculed Him as He suffered on the Cross. They saw Him as an enemy, and they were glad to get rid of Him. There are people like that today. HBO actually pays a man like Bill Maher to ridicule God and make a joke out of Christ. Men like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have made a good living by attacking Christ and the Bible and God Himself! They have become the priests and elders of atheism. Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist who got prayer and Bible reading banned in our schools, said,
“This would be the best of all possible worlds if everybody were an atheist.”
“I am an atheist because religion is a crutch and only cripples need crutches.”
“I will engage in sexual activity with any consenting male any time and any place I damn well please.”
That is what the high priests of atheism think! That is what many of your college professors, in secular schools, think. God dismisses them, like He did those truly godless men at the foot of the Cross. He simply says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Are you like them? What do you see when you look at the Cross?
II. Second, the Roman soldiers saw a garment to gamble for at the foot of the Cross.
“And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there” (Matthew 27:35-36).
These men were so materialistic that all they could think about was Christ’s garment. It was worth some money, and their minds were so hardened all they could think about was getting whatever money they could have from Christ’s garments! Where is your mind focused? What do you see when you look at the Cross?
Many college students are afraid if they became Christians it would interfere with their schooling, and they would not get as good a job when they graduated. Money! Money! Money! That’s all many Chinese young people think of. “It would cost me money if I became a Christian,” they say.
Long ago, when I was a member of a Chinese church, I made a life-changing decision. I decided that I would follow Christ no matter what it cost! Jesus asked a great question when He said,
“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Warren Buffett is one of the five richest men in the whole world. But he gives millions of dollars every year to Planned Parenthood, to help exterminate helpless babies in their mothers’ wombs. What will happen to his soul when he dies? He is over 80 years old now. What will it profit him to have so much money and lose his own soul in the bowels of Hell for all eternity?
The Roman soldiers only saw what money they could get from Christ’s garments. What do you see when you look at the Cross of Christ?
III. Third, one of the thieves crucified with Christ saw Him as a failure on the Cross.
There were two thieves, nailed to crosses on either side of Jesus. The first one looked at Jesus and thought He was only another criminal. He thought that Jesus was only a madman who believed He was the Son of God. He dismissed Christ as a religious fanatic, and turned away reviling and mocking Christ.
Years ago I had a friend who was a nice fellow. I always liked him. One night I begged him to come to church with me to hear the Gospel. He said, “No.” Then he said, “To each his own, Robert. To each his own.” I will never forget him saying that as long as I live. He meant that I had church and he had a bunch of beer drinking friends. What was good for me was different than what was good for him. “To each his own, Robert. To each his own.” I looked down into his coffin a few years later. He didn’t have a grey hair on his head. He didn’t have a wrinkle in his face. He was only in his forties. Somehow he knew it would end that way. Although he was in good health, he used to tell me, “I’ll never make fifty, Robert. I’ll never make fifty.” He was forty-eight years old when he suddenly dropped dead in his house. I looked down at him in that coffin and his words went through my mind, “To each his own, Robert. To each his own.” As I conducted his funeral, I could not give one word of hope to his family and friends – not one word of hope! I could only preach the Gospel to those that he left behind.
That first thief hung on the cross beside Jesus, mumbling blasphemous words. He thought Jesus was just another religious fanatic. Before the sun went down that day this man was in Hell. What do you see when you look at the Cross of Christ?
IV. Fourth, the second thief saw Him as the Lord and Saviour on the Cross.
This man had been railing against Jesus with the rest of the crowd all that morning. But at noon a strange darkness came over the land. He heard Jesus pray for those who crucified Him.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus’ prayer for those who were killing Him deeply moved the heart of the second thief. He stopped mocking Jesus. Turning his head, he looked at the Saviour, and his heart melted. He had never known anyone who prayed for their enemies to be forgiven.
“Father, forgive them!” thus did He pray,
E’en while His life-blood flowed fast away;
Praying for sinners while in such woe –
No one but Jesus ever loved so.
Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree;
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading –
Blind and unheeding – dying for me!
(“Blessed Redeemer” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).
All the thief knew was the viciousness of the crowd, the tender love of Jesus for them, and the inscription nailed above Jesus’ head which said, “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). Suddenly this man believed it! He had certainly heard of people being healed and restored by Jesus. He had certainly heard what Jesus had been preaching. Now it all came together in his mind. This is the King of the Jews! This is the Messiah! This is the deliverer! He didn’t have all the facts. But how many of us do have all the facts about Jesus? I know I don’t have all the facts – and neither does anyone else, in my opinion. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Facts are not enough.” There is much to learn about Christ that we will never fully understand with our little minds! But this thief knew he was a sinner. He felt it in his heart! He said to the unbelieving thief, “We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing [wrong] – nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41). Indeed, “facts are not enough.” This is where I think some of our Reformed brothers go wrong. Dr. Lloyd-Jones was right, “Facts are not enough.” If you are looking for facts to prove Christ to you, you will die in your sins, and never be saved. The Bible plainly says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10).
That’s where many modern preachers go wrong. They preach to the head and not to the heart. Oh, please God, don’t let me do that! Please Father, help me to preach to their hearts! “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This poor dying thief then turned his head and looked at Jesus – and he said,
“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”
Before those words left his mouth, the second thief was already saved! He knew very little doctrine. He had no special feeling, or proof that Jesus was the Lord and Saviour. But he trusted Jesus, and “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” HE SIMPLY TRUSTED JESUS! That is all that God requires! Joseph Hart said,
The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His blood!
(“The Moment a Sinner Believes” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).
The thief believed in Jesus, and was saved in a moment! That’s how all of us were saved, you know! We believed in Jesus. We trusted Him. We were saved! And Jesus said to the thief who was saved,
“Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
That very day the thief would die on the cross and go with Jesus to paradise!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Now ransomed from sin and a new [life] begun,
Sing praise to the Father and praise to the Son,
I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Saved! Saved! My sins are all pardoned,
My guilt is all gone!
Saved! Saved! I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
(“Saved by the Blood” by S. J. Henderson, 1902).
The moment you believe in Jesus, and trust Him in your heart, you will be every bit as saved as the dying thief – on the cross next to the Saviour. Jesus saved the thief. Jesus washed away all the man’s sin with the Blood He shed on the Cross that day! And His Blood is available to wash your sins away this morning! Don’t ever believe any preacher who tells you there is no Blood. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “It is not enough to talk about the cross and the death. The test is ‘the blood!’”
If you will simply trust Jesus this morning you will be cleansed from all your sins by His Blood! You will be saved! You will be a real Christian! You will be ready for Heaven! You will have a new life in Christ! Repent and trust the Saviour now!
If you would like to speak with us about being saved and becoming a real Christian, please leave your seat and walk to the back of this auditorium now. Dr. Cagan will lead you to another room where we can pray and talk. If you are here for the first time, and you have a question you would like to ask me about this sermon, go to the back of the auditorium now. I myself will sit down with you and speak to you. Go quickly. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus this morning. Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 27:35-44.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Blessed Redeemer” (by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985).
THE OUTLINE OF
WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CROSS?
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
“And sitting down they watched him there” (Matthew 27:36).
I. First, the priests and elders saw an enemy being killed on the Cross,
II. Second, the Roman soldiers saw a garment to gamble for at the
III. Third, one of the thieves crucified with Christ saw Him as a
IV. Fourth, the second thief saw Him as the Lord and Saviour
on the Cross,