The Cross of Calvary # 22
The Call to the Cross
"He that doth not take His cross, and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:38).
In the way to the Cross the Saviour cried, "Take up your cross, and follow Me", but He did not explain what taking the cross meant until He Himself had passed through death into the life beyond the tomb, and ascended to His place on the right hand of the Majesty on high. From there, through His chosen vessel the Apostle Paul, He interprets His Cross, and its claims upon all who desire to follow Him.
It is significant that Paul never says "take" your cross, but proclaims the Cross of Christ as a Cross which has already triumphed, and bids the believer enter into the triumph of his Lord.
The words of Paul interpret the call to the Cross given by the Lamb on the way to the Cross, and the words of the Christ interpret again the message of Paul. Although the Cross has already triumphed, and the work of deliverance and victory over the powers of hell is already accomplished, yet believers must individually accept the Cross in its experimental aspect, and deliberately choose to follow the Lamb in His path of the Cross on earth.
The call to the Cross from the lips of Him Who endured the Cross still comes to each of His redeemed, and foreshadows the only possible path in the present world for every follower of the Lamb.
Five times in the Gospels is the Lord's call to the Cross recorded, and each time is shown a different aspect of the Cross in the believer's life, when the call is truly obeyed.
Let us note first from the Master's words that -
The Path of the Cross is Inevitable
"Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 16:27).
The path of the Cross was inevitable for the Christ. To Nicodemus He said that "as Moses lifted up the serpent ... even so must the Son of Man be lifted up", and to the disciples, that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer and be killed. The "must" was imperative. "Thus it must be," He said at another time. He must lay down His life for the sheep, and must bring them back to His Father.
But the path is the same for the Lamb and His followers. The "must" is as imperative for them as for Him, for did He not say that he who refuses to follow Him to the Cross, cannot be His disciple? Since the Christ took the Cross in the sinner's place to redeem him, he who would learn of Christ must take the Cross of Christ, or he cannot be taught of Him.
Until the time when the Lord Jesus began to show unto His disciples the path that lay before Him, they did not know what following Him would involve. They had heard His first call, and had left all to follow Him, believing that he was the Christ - as Peter had said one day - for they knew in their hearts that He spoke the words of eternal life and they had seen His mighty works and marveled at His grace. But a Cross! Suffering and death? No such thought had come to them, although "while all were marveling at the things which He did, He said unto His disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understand not."
It is thus with many children of God today, but with the difference that they know that the Christ has borne the Cross, and they have life through His death, but that He bore a Cross which must be their cross also, has not been thought of by them. They have not realized that the crucified Lord must have crucified followers, and a true following of the Lamb can only be through death, for the Lamb can only go one way on earth - the way of being led to the slaughter. It is only in heaven that a throne is given to a slain Lamb.
The Meaning of the Cross
"If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
Let him deny himself! Not deny pleasant things to himself; nor even deny the sins of himself, but deny himself, and all that is bound up in himself. Himself as the central source, or cause of action: himself as the central object of all things which come to him from without!
Himself! Any other word would have narrowed the Lord's meaning of the Cross, for it covers the whole of the deliverance of Calvary, as afterwards revealed by the Risen Lord to the Apostle Paul.
The crucial message of Calvary to man is salvation from "himself!" If he will take for himself the Cross and, accepting the spirit of the Cross as manifested in the Christ Who died for him, and "deny" - or renounce - himself as crucified on the Cross with his Lord, he will in so doing be delivered from the bondage of his sins, the terror of the law, and the spirit of the world, as well as the power of the devil.
Oh blessed gospel of Calvary! How simple, how deep, how effective, how wise, for "himself" is the center and cure of all the trouble, rebellion,selfish, pride and sin! Let a man look at himself as nailed to the Cross; day by day deny - refuse to know - himself, and calmly, quietly, take the path of the Cross, and he will follow the Lamb not only to Calvary, but right to the center of heaven, and share His Throne.
The Depth of the Cross
"Deny himself, and take up his cross ... For whosoever would save his life (soul) shall lose it" (Matthew 16:24, 25).
Three times the Lord follows His call to the Cross with mysterious words, unintelligible to the natural man, and to the believer who walks "according to men". "Whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life ... shall save it." Again when speaking - not of the Cross, but of the grain of wheat falling into the ground to die - the Lord uses almost the same mysterious words, this time saying, "He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
We have been content with renouncing our sins, and keeping ourselves! We have failed to see that "himself" in a man may stand as completely in the way of the Holy Spirit as his sins, and still more we have failed to see that the life which flows in us from the source of the first Adam, may hinder the manifestation of the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh.
But what is this life which a man may seek to save,and in so doing "lose"? What life is this which we are disposed to love instead of hate, and suffer eternal loss?
(continued with # 23)