Three Cries from the Cross
“Sweet the moments, rich in blessing, Which before the cross we spend,
Life, and health, and peace possessing,
From the sinner’s dying Friend.”
A number of years ago a dear brother, now with the Lord, rose, frequently, at the end of the Hour of Worship, to give out this hymn. Invariably the hour had been one fraught with sweetness. The solemn contemplation of the pulsating pathos of Calvary had gripped each heart. It was only fitting that we should leave this very atmosphere of heaven with these words ringing in our ears:
“May we still, the cross discerning,
There for peace and comfort go;
There new wonders daily learning,
All the depths of mercy know.”
For our brother, sense has given place to sight; the shadow has become the substance. He basks in the eternal sunshine of the presence of Him Whom he loved. For us who remain, there is the constant remembrance of the cross, with all it means to us and all that it means to God.
Shall we turn aside for a moment, and with unshod feet, view afresh that scene. Let us listen while He speaks, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Lk. 23:24). Here is the very acme of grace; here the very heart-throb of God. A few moments before, the hands of those for whom He prayed had nailed Him to the cross. See, how they mill about its blessed precincts as they heap upon Him every insult the wicked heart can conceive. And yet He says, “Father forgive.” No wonder the poet could exclaim, “It passeth knowledge, that great love of Thine.”
What shall we say of this first cry from the cross? What shall we say of that One Who bore its pain and shame?
“True image of the Infinite
Whose essence is concealed,
Brightness of Uncreated Light,
The heart of God revealed.”
Yes, it took this One to reveal the heart of God. “For God so loved.” The little children, in their simple trust sing, “Jesus loves me; this I know,” and well might we join them singing, “The cross reveals Thy love below.” The history of man from Adam down proves his utter depravity. It reached the very pinnacle of human calumny at the cross. But there it was met, met by a simple word, “Forgive.” Over the trouble, wave-beaten shore of time came that word which whispered peace to the burdened soul. What joy to recall the sweet, sweet sense of repose that became ours when, as a penitent sinner, we bowed before the cross and received Divine forgiveness! How thrilling to remember again and again our blessed emancipation!
If the first cry from the cross was simple, the second was profound. The first revealed the love of God’s heart; the second the trenchant anguish of the suffering Saviour. For the first time in His eternal existence, the Son of God made manifest in flesh, as the substitute for the sinner, was separated from His God. That poignant cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”. (Matt. 27:46), wrung from His heart engulfed in the blackness of Divine severence, told, only too well, the depth of His suffering. A deathly hush had fallen over the scene. The hour had come. The heavens were clothed in shades of night. Christ sank down, down, down under the judgment of the thrice holy God. No human mind can ever grasp the full meaning of this cry. Out of the Stygian gloom, there rose to the gates of heaven that awful, awful wail. And from its very echo we draw fresh hope. He was forsaken that we might never know the bleak desolation of eternal separation from God. His was the gall of bitterness; ours the transport of delight. He entered into death that we might enter into life. With heart filled to overflowing, we “Fall at His feet, and the story repeat, and the Lover of sinners adore.”
If the second cry was the cry of a soul seared by the flame of Divine judgment, the third cry was that of the Victory. “Finished,” (John 19:30). From the long night of darkness we turn toward the morning. Over the purple hills breaks the hue of a new day, the day of grace. One word turned the whole tide of human destiny. Here was the hinge upon which swung the whole purposes of God. With one clarion-voiced cry, the whole debt of sin was cancelled. What a glorious triumph, this! Here was the focal point round which centred God’s plan of salvation. The moment for which all eternity had waited was now come. The head that had found no resting place on earth pillowed itself on His own sweet breast. How grand to know that we are among those millions who have found this perfect resting place in the calm of sins forgiven.
“I take the cross of Jesus
For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain or loss;
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.”