The Cross and the Crown
February 26th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 19: 17-22
2-26-89 8:15 a.m.
Once again welcome to the throngs and multitudes of you who share this hour on KCBI. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Cross and the Crown.
In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 19. Beginning at verse 16:
Then delivered Pilate Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull, called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, and on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
In some form or other, through all the ages and universally, a cross has been a part of the human family. Its sign and its symbol has been found in caves, in dens, in tombs, on coins, through all of the centuries. It is a sign of contradiction. Its very shape speaks of conflict and confrontation. It says that at the basis of human life there is suffering, sadness, sacrifice.
Jesus took that sign and that symbol and converted it into a sign and a symbol of triumph and of victory. Paul could write in Galatians, chapter 6, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]; the same universality and the same age as characterized humanity in its consciousness of sin.
Ancient Job cried, saying, "I have sinned; what shall I do?" [Job 7:20]. And the response and the answer from the beginning has been in blood, in sacrifice, and in death. The angels of God looked down from heaven, and as the Almighty lighted the stars, the lights of the firmament, the angels looked down upon the impenetrable mystery of the shedding of blood: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Will the crimson tide never cease?
Not only that, but as the ages progressed, men were ordained to shed blood: the Aaronic priesthood and the Levitical tribe [Leviticus 17:11]. David slew thousands of sacrifices at one festival. And Solomon slew tens of thousands at one festival. Hezekiah offered rivers of oil, and Josiah offered clouds of incense. Would sacrifice and blood never cease? And after the captivity it continued, the shedding of blood.
Then He came; our Lord Christ came, the Prince of heaven, and He brought with Him God’s final answer to sacrifice and the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:19-28]. He stopped the line of priests. He stopped the offering of blood sacrifice. He Himself was the Priest, clothed not with a linen ephod but with His own flesh [Hebrews 8:1]. He Himself was the victim, the sacrifice [Hebrews 9:28]; not a ram or a bullock. His altar was not out of hewn stone, but He bore it, a cross. And the blood that He poured out in expiation and atonement for sin was offered not within a veil made with human hands but beyond the veil in heaven itself. He, our Lord, was the sacrifice of Almighty God for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And all the blood and all the sacrifices through all the ages before were but figures of that antitype. He was the One those streams of blood pictured.
Prophecy called Him a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" [Isaiah 53:3]. He was hated and despised and delivered into the hands of sinners. He was clothed in a mock robe and unclothed in shame. He was tied to a pillar and flogged and beaten with Roman rods. He was nailed by fierce men to a cross [Matthew 27:26-35]. God in heaven turned His face away, and the sun refused to shine [Matthew 27:45-46]. And He died a sacrificial atonement for our sins [Matthew 27:47-50, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 John 2:2]. This is sin at its blackest and at its worst. Sin not only would destroy man, but it would murder God Himself.
What is a picture of the blackest of sin? Is it homes that are destroyed and hopeless and helpless? Is it a brothel where virtue and chastity are forever destroyed? What is the blackest of sins? Is it in the marketplace where gold is god and men sell their souls for silver? The blackest of sins? Surely it is seen in the day of the cross [Mathew 27:32-50].
And in one of the most remarkable of all of the providences of God, at that same day when sin was at its blackest and darkest, God’s love and compassionate care and remembrance were at their sweetest, their dearest and their finest. When sin was at its worst, God’s love was at its best. And there on the cross the love of God and the hatred of Satan and sin met in mortal conflict. And the love of God was triumphant, and we were delivered [1 Corinthians 15:55-57].
There the faithfulness of Christ is seen in all of its heavenly splendor. The saints of the Old Testament were in heaven because of His promise to die for their sins according to the Scriptures. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" [Romans 5:20]. The saints of the Old Testament are in heaven, were in heaven, because of His promise to die for them; they’re there on credit.
When you read the story of the transfiguration, there on the mount when Jesus was glorified, there appeared unto Him Elijah and Moses talking with Him. What were they talking about? They were talking about His coming death [Luke 9:28-31]. Moses and Elijah were in heaven on the basis of our Lord’s payment, an atonement for their sin [Romans 5:11, 20-21]. And if our Lord failed in that atoning death, then they would be consigned to suffer for their sins in damnation forever. They were there because of His promised fulfillment that He would die for their sins. And our Lord did not fail them. He died according to the Scriptures, for them and for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]; the depths and the heights and the breadths of the meaning of cross of Christ.
And the crown: in Philippians 2: through11;
He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be equal with God:
But – poured Himself out – made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant,
Became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
And every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
The crown of our Lord.
I saw heaven opened,a white horse; He that sat upon him was Faithful and True,
His eyes were as a flame of fire,on His head were many crowns; He had a name written,
Clothed in a vesture dipped in blood,
And He had on His vesture and on His thigh the name KING OF KINGS, and LORD OF LORDS.
"And on His head were many, many crowns." ‘Tis a remarkable thing; when Satan accosted the angels of God, one-third of them fell into disaster and damnation and death, one-third of the very angels of heaven [Revelation 12:3-4]. When Satan accosted Adam and Eve, they fell into sin and into death [Genesis 3:1-7]. And for these centuries since, Satan has accosted the entire human race. And the earth is nothing other than a place to bury our dead. Satan has the keys of death, and of the grave, and of damnation – until he met the Master. And when he met Jesus, it was like doing battle with the lightning. It was like trying to hold thunderbolts in your hand. It was like seeking to rebuke the tides and the billows of the sea, it was like encompassing the storms and the winds. And the keys of death and of the grave are now at the girdle of our Lord Jesus. As the Revelation 1:18 says, "I am the First and the Last. I am Alpha and Omega. I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death" [Revelation 1:17-18]. Our Lord is Conqueror, and we are delivered. And that victory of our Savior is forever finished. It is final. It is complete, eternally enduring.
It’s a remarkable thing, tetelestai, tetelestai – as He cried on the cross, "Tetelestai," "It is finished" [John 19:30]. In the Greek Septuagint, that word is used three times, tetelestai. It is used at the first of Genesis when God finished His creation [Genesis 2:1]. It is used in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, verse 6, when God’s grace and program and purpose for the world [Revelation 21:6], tetelestai, "It is finished." And one other place is in the middle, when Jesus bowed His head and said, "tetelestai," "It is finished" [John 19:30], it is done, complete, our salvation, and our deliverance, and our resurrection, and our conquest over sin, death, and the grave.
It’s a remarkable thing. The Book of Joshua closes with these words, "And there was much land yet to be conquered" [Joshua 13:1]. David died having just begun the temple. A remarkable thing, it’s so characteristic of humanity. When Raphael died, his great Transfiguration was about half finished. When Raphael’s funeral procession went through the streets of the city of Rome, there were two men holding that half-finished Transfiguration in their hands. Beethoven died and they called it "The Unfinished Symphony." Rudyard Kipling laid down his pen, and we’re in suspense to the day; how did that story finally end?
But our Lord completed our atonement. "It is finished" [John 19:30]. It is complete. His triumph over death and sin and the grave is forever glorious, victorious [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And on His head many crowns, many crowns [Revelation 19:12].
I think of the head of our Lord, as a little baby, an infant, lying on the breast of His mother; the head of our Lord. In the carpentry shop, bowing in obedience; the head of our Lord. A reservoir of tears, Jesus wept [John 11:35]; the head of our Lord. His sweat was as it were drops of blood falling to the ground [Luke 22:44]; the head of our Lord, crowned with thorns [Matthew 27:29]. The head of our Lord, spit upon [Matthew 27:30]. The head of our Lord, bowing in death [John 19:30] and buried in the grave [John 19:38-44]. And now, crowned with many crowns [Revelation 19:12]: the crown of grace; from beneath His strong rivers of mercy, pour out, gathering His people together, the King of His church. The many crowns; a crown of praise, the saints and the angels in heaven give themselves day and night and forever to magnify His majesty. The crown of glory, they reflect in heaven the radiance of the Son of God.
And my sweet people, may God help me to describe for you the most amazing of all of the scenes that I could think for. It says here in Revelation 4 that, "Round about the throne were four and twenty elders; and they had on their heads crowns of gold" [Revelation 4:4]. The twenty-four elders represent twelve from the Old Testament and twelve from the New Testament, twenty-four elders; all of the saints of God in heaven. And they have on their heads crowns of gold. Now I turn the page:
And the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sits on the throne, they worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O God, to receive honor and glory.
They cast their thrones; they cast their crowns before Jesus on His throne.
I want you to look at that scene. The twenty-four elders – twelve, the complete number from the Old Testament and twelve from the New Testament – crowned with crowns of gold, and they come before the Lord and cast their crowns at His dear feet. Oh, what a sight! The prophets and the saints of the Old Testament come before the Lord and cast their crowns at His feet, saying, "Not unto us but unto Thee be the glory."
And the apostles and the saints of the New Testament, "We come and cast our crowns at His feet; it is none of us Lord, it is of Thee." And the great sufferers of God and of Christ through the ages, from the stake, from the gibbet, from the gallows, from the rack, from the fire, they come and bow, casting their crowns at the feet of Jesus, saying, "It was by Your strength we overcame."
And the soulwinners come before the Lord and cast their crowns at His feet, saying, "It is not we who save, it is Thee O Lord."
And as I watch, there is a great innumerable company of cherubic spirits. And I say, "Who are they?" And one of their leaders replies, "These are the infants; these are the babies who, from their mother’s breasts, fled to heaven. Out of all the tribes and peoples of the world, these are the babies who’ve been washed by the blood of the Crucified One. And they’ve been redeemed by the sacrifice of the Lamb, and they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus. "You saved us and washed us from original sin in Your own blood" [Revelation 1:5].
And I see another great company come before the Lord’s throne. And they are the opposite. These are the aged, the referent sires who, for the years and the years of a lifetime, faced trial and trouble and tribulation. They come and lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus saying, "Lord, it was in Your strength and blessing we persevered, finished our work, completed our pilgrimage."
And I see a multitude of great sinners come before the throne of grace, casting their crowns; Saul of Tarsus [Acts 9:1-18], Rahab the harlot [Joshua 6:22-25, Hebrews 11:31], the repentant Peter [Luke 22:63]; "Lord in Your love and grace, You forgave us."
And I look at you and you and I’m with you, coming before the Lord in that ultimate and final day and casting our crowns at His dear feet. No wonder we sing,
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all.
That every tribe and every tongue
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty is ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.
[from "All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!" by Edward Perronet]
Dear God, could it be that we who are made out of dust and ashes will be there one glorious, triumphant day and honor Thee, Lord of all?
Give me a moment more that I might finish in just a word? First the cross and then the crown. If there’s not any cross, there’ll not be any crown.
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sail through bloody seas?
[from "Am I a Soldier of the Cross" by Isaac Watts]
First the cross, then the crown. When James and John came to the Lord, saying, "Could one of us sit on Your right hand and the other sit at Your left hand?" He said, "Can You be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? And can you drink the cup that I drink?" [Mark 10:37-38]. It’s for him who suffers, who carries a cross.
There’s no child born without agony – first a cross, then the crown. That thief to whom Jesus said sēmeron, "you will be with Me this day in Paradise" [Luke 23:43], He not only was experiencing the death of the cross, but he had further to experience the horrible death by the crushing of his bones, though that day, he was in Paradise. And heaven is described as a place where there are no more tears. "God shall wipe our tears away; there is no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" [Revelation 21:4]. What would that mean to someone who’d never cried? What would that mean to someone who’d never died? What would that mean to someone who’d never agonized? What would that mean to someone who’d never suffered? First the cross and then the crown.
That’s why Paul wrote in the last of his letters, "Henceforth – waiting martyrdom – henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of glory" [2 Timothy 4:8]. O God, when the day comes, may I be faithful in pain and sorrow and tears and brokenness as You were, Lord, in bearing Your cross for me?
Now we sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing this song, a family you, coming into our dear church, a couple you, giving your home and heart and house to the people of God, a one somebody you, accepting the Lord as your Savior, while we sing the song, on the first note of the first stanza, come, "Pastor, this is God’s day and God’s hour for me, and here I stand." Welcome, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.