Silence: Our Suffering Saviour Is Speaking!
Reading John Chapter 19 v 16-27
Preached By Ken Humphries,
Dan Crawford was but a lad of nineteen when he left for Africa, an only son. In the little company at the Glasgow Station stood his mother. When a friends spoke a word of comfort, she replied, ‘He spared not His own Son.’ Twenty-two years passed before she saw him again. Yes, twenty-two years while he toiled in Africa without a furlough. He had buried his son, and there amid loneliness indescribable, fever-stricken again and again, time after time nigh unto death, he lived and toiled and suffered. At the age of fifty-six died in Africa! Oswald J.Smith.
What did the cross mean to Dan Crawford? What does the cross mean to us?
All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.
Had we the opportunity of being in Jerusalem that Passover afternoon when Jesus was crucified, just how close to the cross would we have come?
It’s true we have been singing with heart and meaning today those challenging words, Jesus keep me near the cross, but had we been standing in Jerusalem on that eventual day just how close to the cross would we have ventured?
We know of some that were not afraid to show themselves at that amazing place called Calvary. And please remember that is where we are today, at Calvary!
This place where our Lord was crucified has often been referred to as Mount Calvary. In actual fact there is no sanction for this expression since the hill on which Christ died was no more than twenty feet high. What is so significant to us is there were some who stood at the cross without fear and that the Lord Jesus in His dying minutes spoke to them. And beloved, down the centuries and in every generation the words spoken by the dying Saviour have great relevance to us. And that highlights some very wonderful thoughts for me.
- Learn From Our Wonderful Master!
Not all who gathered at the cross that day were Christ’s foes, some were His friends. And it’s to those friends He now turns with incredible words. With a heartbeat of love and understanding from which we may learn and be more like our wonderful master. Luke 6v40.
"The disciple is not above His master: but every one that is perfect (mature) shall be as His master."
- Learn How The Master Deals With Pain!
Once again notice how the master is more concerned about others than he is with Himself. In this third word from the cross we hear Him speaking to His mother Mary, and to John, His beloved disciple. In the amazing agony of those never to be forgotten moments He reaches out to others who like Himself at that self same moment were in agony of soul and body. Can you possibly conceive what dear Mary was going through at that very time? Is it possible to contemplate for a moment the depth of agony John must be feeling just then?
Well, it’s at such a time that Jesus, in the hour of His own grief and pain reaches out and ministers to others. Do you know the best way to deal with pain and sorrow? Minister to others!
Here’s how to be more and more like the master, here’s a Christ likeness we could well imitate. Sometimes it’s not easy to learn this great lesson in life. It’s quite simple for us to bemoan our sorrows and losses, and then when everybody does not rush to our aid with substance and sympathy we get annoyed. But beloved when we act in such a fashion we lose one of life’s most valued blessings. Listen, listen, when everything seems to fall apart, when our little world seems to be turned upside down, when sorrow and pain strike hard and leave us shaken and sore, a sure way of putting it together again is to minister to others.
Hear with effect the words of the Apostle Paul 2 Cor. 1 v 3-4.
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
"God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as His chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your "thorn" uncomplainingly-that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak-is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace. The healing of your sinful person thus goes forward, even though the healing of your mortal body does not."
J. I. Packer.
B. Learn How The Master Draws On The Word!
As our blessed Suffering Saviour hangs on that old rugged cross, again and again He draws from the word of God. Surely on this occasion Exodus 20 v 12 must be near to His heart.
"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
Friends, He looks into the Word of God and now we see Him honouring His mother. You see the Word of God means something to the Saviour even when
hanging in deepest agony. It is so important to the Saviour what the Father has said in that precious book. And therefore beloved so it should be with us.
The experiment is often recounted of placing a frog in a pan of cold water on a stove and of slowly increasing the heat. Because the rise of temperature is so gradual, it is imperceptible to the frog, and he remains in that pan even when the water begins to boil. He adjusts to the heat as it rises and eventually boils to death.
Dear Christian friends, that process illustrates what has happened to us as families in these times, including many Christian families. The changed values in society have been so gradual that most people have hardly noticed them. Each small change in standards and values seems insignificant in itself. And because adjustments are gradually made to those lowered standards, the danger is not noticed even when the family and society start to disintegrate and crumble. Moral and spiritual standards have gradually eroded until countless families have been literally destroyed.
When the divorce rate among Christians is almost as high at that in the rest of society, it is clear that many believers should have jumped out of the pan long ago. It is high time we left the evil system that is engulfing and destroying us and re-establish ourselves in God’s revealed standards of fidelity and moral purity. We have long lost the luxury of living in a society that gives nominal support to the church and Christian values.
We desperately need, like the dear Saviour, even in the midst of all our agonies and hurts to be looking into the Scriptures and seeing where we need to take a fresh look at our family values. Jesus is honouring His Mother. And although His death is imminent He does not simply honour her because of an Old Testament command but because this is something which will become a New Testament principle. Ephesians Ch. 6 v 1-4.
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
You see, the Satanic world system in which we live would undermine, weaken and destroy the family unit and honour, whereas God’s plan is always to build, strengthen and protect the family unit. Our dear Saviour displays that great truth even on the cross.
C. Learn How The Master Directs His Words!
"Woman, behold thy Son! John, behold thy mother."
Jesus is not being disrespectful here. What is happening is there is a change of relationships taking place. We read, "And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." John 19 v 26-27. I am certain this was an act of deep compassion on the dearest of ladies that had been Jesus’ earthly mother. But now earthly relationships were changing, the parental title was now being replaced by a more general title of respect.
I believe we learn from subsequent history just how far-seeing this was. The Roman church has elevated Mary to the point of idolatry. In Rome there is a church devoted to the worship of Mary. Official Roman Catholic dogma
teaches not only the immaculate conception of "the blessed virgin Mary" and her bodily (corporeal) presence in heaven, not only that we should bow before her images, light candles to her, and pray to her, but they call her
By that the Church of Rome means that Mary is just as much our redeemer as Christ. No wonder Jesus sent Mary away from the cross!
I wonder had we spoken to some of the Saviour’s friends around the cross what they would have drawn from his directed words.
For Mary Magdalene the cross would indeed have been seen as a place of Redemption. In Luke Ch.8 v 2 we discover she had seven demons cast out of her and now that redemption price was being paid in full. It cost our dear Saviour greatly to clean Mary Magdalene up and out. And beloved, it will cost you to take up the cross and follow Jesus. Salvation is free but not cheap!
Salome, what does the cross mean to you? I think she would have said, oh, for me, the cross is a place of rebuke. I was so selfish and jealous for my two boys that they would occupy the best place at the throne of God. Matt. 20 v 20-28.
Salome had no true idea of the cost of true reward; she did not realise that there could be no crown without the cross. She was totally unaware that there is no wearing the crown without drinking of the cup of experience and suffering.
Phil. 3 v 10. "That I might know Him, and the power of the resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death."
"When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."
For Mary the mother of Jesus, I believe the cross was a place of reward. From the beginning Mary believed He was the Saviour, the Christ, the Messiah, she would not be moved, her faith was firm. Dear folks, it’s painful to stand firm in our faith sometimes. God may have to crucify that which we love the most.
Mother, are you the rock of your home? Is your faith firmly planted in the Lord Jesus Christ? Then do not be moved, whatever the cost, trust God and know that reward will come.
Illustrator/painter Gustave Dore, one of the patron saints of the DreamWorks team of Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen, was handed a painting of Jesus just finished by one of his students. Asked for his critique, Dore studied it, his mind searching for the right words. At last he handed it back to the student.
"If you loved him more," he said, "you would have painted him better."
Lovers understand better than haters.
- Look At This Watchful Mother!
Here is a mother in Israel indeed, one from whom we may draw great example, so watch with me and learn!
A. Take Note Of Her Silence!
After all is said and done, the man on that centre cross is her lovely son. Sure, she is aware He is the Sovereign God, she is aware He is the Saviour of the world but she is also acutely aware He is the Son of her love.
And as they crucify Him, she stands silent, oh so silent. She is watching with bated breath, no one knows the thoughts of her mind and heart but God. Humanly speaking she cannot change things so she simply watches in silence completely trusting God. Knowing in the depths of her heart, the Heavenly Father knows exactly what He is doing. So she just watches. Could it be she took her dear Sons advice, watch and pray!
She’s waiting, the worst is about to happen, but she waits in dignified silence. She knows her lovely Son must die to be of value in the redemption of souls. She knows this is all in the Sovereign mind and will of a Sovereign God and she will wait for the conclusion whatever the cost. Beloved, how often I have said it, waiting time is never wasted time. Let us learn anew to wait on the Lord, whatever the cost.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46 v 10.
"But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits." Daniel 11 v 32b.
"But those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."
Psalm 37 v 9.
She’s willing, not once did she lift her voice in anger against God, never once did she question God’s wisdom, not once did she accuse the disciples for running away and not standing with her at her deepest time of need. Not once does she find fault with any other, she is all too well aware of her own faults and short comings. She realises she must let go of the dearest love of her life for the best good of others and for the glory of God. And even though her heart is breaking, she is so willing. What a refreshing act of submission in the heart of this dear lady, may the Lord give us such an attitude of submission in all things.
- Take Note Of Her Suffering!
In Luke’s gospel chapter 2 v 35 we read.
"Yea, a sword shall pierce thy soul also."
This was the message of the angel to Mary when announcing the forth-coming birth of Jesus. Did she suffer? Did she experience the sword in her soul?
Why, when she was with child she suffered shame and reproach, she felt the sword in her soul. Innocent children died because of her baby, she felt the sword pierce deeply. I must be about my Father’s business Jesus said to her one eventful day; she felt the sword of rebuke. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children said Jesus. She felt the sword.
She suffered because He died! She suffered because of the way He died, on an old rugged cross, numbered with the transgressors. She suffered because of where He died, right out in the public gaze, what a spectacle was made of her lovely Son.
She felt the sword pierce her soul. But when he looked at her and said, woman, do you know what? He was assuring her of Calvary Love.
Maybe just now you’re going through major suffering, you are feeling the sword piercing your very soul, your heart beats and aches, your home life is becoming intolerable, your health is suffering just now, there is just one hurt after another and you wonder if it will ever end. Just now He’s looking over the balustrade of heaven and saying, mother, father, son, daughter, and even grandparent I love you with a love that cannot change, I know what you’re going through but I want you to trust me come what may or what must. I will see you through this, standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus. Mary found Him in a wonderfully new way beneath the shadow of the Cross.
"Accept suffering graciously. When you have reached such a point, all misery will seem sweet and you will relish it for Christ's sake and think that you have discovered paradise on earth. As long as you object to suffering you will be ill at ease. Accept it, and you will find peace."
Thomas À Kempis.
C. Take Note Of her Submission!
Jesus was saying to her, go home with John. What’s happening? Well, it’s believed that at this time Joseph, Mary’s husband was dead and none of the remaining children were yet believers. How thoughtful that Jesus would ensure there was someone to look after His earthly mother, someone of like mind and passionate love for the Saviour and for the gospel.
I have often wondered what went through Mary’s mind just at that time. Did she recall her own words at the wedding feast of Cana of Galilee?
"Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." John 2 v 5.
That was a call to Perfect Obedience!
No Mental Reservations! (Whatsoever)
No Heart Rivals! (He)
This was a call to Personal Obedience! (You)
This was a call to Purposeful Obedience! (Do it)
(I draw this from Dr. John Phillips. Exploring Series)
Has God been calling you into some kind of Service for Him?
As you stand at the Cross this Easter time and once again hear His command, "whatsoever He saith unto you, do it", will you not submit to his loving call.
Never mind whether or not the mission will be a success. Isaiah was told by God that his hearers would not receive his message, but he must go just the same. We are not called to succeed, we are called to go. And when we go, He, our victorious Lord goes along.
"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. For the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." Helen Keller.
3. Lean On This Wayward man!
I say that because we see John draw deep on lessons learned while he walked with the Saviour. Sure, like the others he hit a bad patch and ran for his life when Jesus was arrested. It was enough to scatter even the bravest of men and women. But listen beloved, as we saw recently, failure need not be final.
A. Think About John’s Return!
Praise God there is always a way back. "There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin, and at Calvary’s cross is where we begin." John began his return at the Cross!
Years ago President Theodore Roosevelt gave this penetrating call to commitment.
It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. The credit must go to the man who actually tries to do the deed, he knows great enthusiasm and great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Far better is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in a grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. End quote!
John, I believe is beginning to realise through remorse and rebuke as he comes back to His dear Saviour’s side, this is not an easy road. I’m not sure exactly what it was that brought John back beneath the cross, but do you remember how it was with Peter. On that eventual evening Peter denied his Saviour, it was not a lecture that drew him back to his dear Lord, it was a look that sent him out weeping bitterly. Whatever it was that drew John back, he’s back to
where he can hear the voice of his blessed master, and he’s back to stay.
Oh, my dear brother and sister, stay within the sound of the master’s voice.
"If you keep watch over your hearts, and listen for the voice of God and learn of him, in one short hour you can learn more from him than you could learn from man in a thousand years." Johann Tauler (1300-1361)
And he wants us to hear his voice so that we can speak like him, and my word, did John not do that very thing. Surely you cannot read his gospel, his Epistle or even the book of the revelation without being very conscious of the voice of our dear Saviour.
Pastor Mark Thompson of Faribault, Minnesota, suffered terrible knife wounds from an assailant in his home, in October 1988. One of the many consequences of his difficult recovery was being forced to miss watching his son Chris run in the state cross-country championship meet. Pastor Thompson commissioned his brother Merv to go in his stead.
According to the account in the St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, Mark told his brother, "I can't be there to see Chris run. So I want you there at the beginning of the race. Holler a lot. ... Then at the end, I want you to really cheer loudly. And I want you to make your voice sound like mine."
Merv heeded the advice, and Chris ran a strong race, finishing second. Merv, also a pastor, discerned the theological truth in the story. "That's what Jesus wants us to do." he said. "Make your voice sound like mine."
B. Think About John’s Restoration! 1 John 2 v 28.
"And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
In a remote Swiss village stood a beautiful church. It was so beautiful, in fact, that it was known as the Mountain Valley Cathedral. The church was not only beautiful to look at--with its high pillars and magnificent stained glass windows--but it had the most beautiful pipe organ in the whole region. People would come from miles away--from far off lands--to hear the lovely tones of this organ.
But there was a problem. The columns were still there--the windows still dazzled with the sunlight--but there was an eerie silence. The mountain valley no longer echoed the glorious fine-tuned music of the pipe organ.
Something had gone wrong with the pipe organ. Musicians and experts from around the world had tried to repair it. Every time a new person would try to fix it the villagers were subjected to sounds of disharmony--awful penetrating noises which polluted the air.
One day an old man appeared at the church door. He spoke with the sexton and after a time the sexton reluctantly agreed to let the old man try his hand at repairing the organ. For two days the old man worked in almost total silence. The sexton was, in fact, getting a bit nervous. Then on the third day--at high noon--the mountain valley once again was filled with glorious music. Farmers dropped their plows, merchants closed their stores--everyone in town stopped what they were doing and headed for the church. Even the bushes and trees of the mountaintops seemed to respond as the glorious music echoed from ridge to ridge.
After the old man finished his playing, a brave soul asked him how he could have fixed the organ, how could he restore this magnificent instrument when even the world's experts could not. The old man merely said it was an inside job. "It was I who built this organ fifty years ago. I created it--and now I have restored it. That is what God is like. It is He who created the universe, and it is He who can, and will, and is in the process of restoring it. It is that same God who will restore us as we live beneath the cross of Christ. James S. Hewett.
C. Think About John’s Responsibility!
Beloved, if we are true followers of the Saviour then we have some responsibilities. And dear folks, one of the things restoration will do is cause us to sound right, look right and do right.
Now, we can do one of five things with respect to responsibilities!
- We may shirk our responsibilities! Hope somebody does for us.
- We may shelve our responsibilities! Do them another time.
- We may shoulder our responsibilities! Wear ourselves out doing them.
(Murray McShane, on his death bed said, "the Lord gave me a message and horse to carry that message across the country, but I’ve killed the horse")
We may shed our responsibilities! Give up half way through.
We may share our responsibilities! That I believe is God’s way.
The Lord Jesus took His responsibilities seriously and fulfilled them every one. That is I believe what He calls us His children to do, nothing less, nothing more, nothing else. As we stand around the Cross today, let me leave this one last thought with you. What if Jesus had not fulfilled all His responsibilities?
"For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice-no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service." John Burroughs.
Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain,
Free to all a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand, just beyond the river.