First of all, we must gaze at the centre cross, or rather at Him who was nailed thereon — Jesus of Nazareth — that blessed One who had spent His life in labours of love, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, drying the widow’s tears, meeting every form of human need, ever ready to drop the tear of true sympathy with every child of sorrow; whose meat and drink it was to do the will of God, and to do good to man; a holy, spotless, perfectly gracious man; the only pure, untainted sheaf of human fruit ever seen in this world; “a man approved of God,” who had perfectly glorified God on this earth and perfectly manifested Him in all His ways.
Such, then, was the One who occupied the centre cross; and when we come to inquire what it was that placed Him there, …profound truths are unfolded to our hearts.
In the first place, we are taught, as nothing else can teach us, what man’s heart is toward God. Nothing has ever displayed this — nothing could display it — as the cross has. If we want a perfect standard by which to measure the world, to measure the human heart, to measure sin, we must look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We cannot stop short of the cross, and we cannot go beyond it, if we want to know what the world is, inasmuch as it was there that the world fully uttered itself — there fallen humanity fully let itself out. When the human voice cried out, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” that voice was the utterance of the human heart, declaring, as nothing else could declare, its true condition in the sight of God.
When man nailed the Son of God to the cross, he reached the full height of his guilt, and the depth of moral turpitude. When man preferred a robber and murderer to Christ, he proved that he would rather have robbery and murder than light and love. The cross demonstrates this tremendous fact; and the demonstration is so clear as to leave not the shadow of a question. The cross is the only perfect measure of man — of the world — of sin. If we really want to know what the world is, we must remember that it preferred a robber to Christ, and crucified between two thieves the only perfect man that ever lived.
But this leads us, in the second place, to look at the cross as the expression of God’s heart toward man. …We behold, at the cross, the marvellous meeting of enmity and love — sin and grace. Man displayed at Calvary, the very height of his enmity against God. God, blessed for ever be His name, displayed the height of His love. Hatred and love met; but love proved victorious. God and sin met; God triumphed, sin was put away, and now, at the resurrection side of the cross, the eternal Spirit announces the glad tidings, that grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. At the cross, the battle was fought and the victory won; and now the liberal hand of sovereign grace is scattering far and wide the spoils of victory.
…Would we know the measure of the heart of God — His love to us — His hatred of sin? we must look at the cross. Would we know the measure of the heart of man, his real condition, his hatred of all that is divinely good, his innate love of all that is thoroughly bad? we must look at the cross. Would we know what the world is — what sin is — what Satan is? we must look at the cross. Assuredly, then, there is nothing like the cross. Well may we ponder it. It shall be our theme throughout the everlasting ages. May it be, more and more, our theme now! May the Holy Ghost so lead our souls into the living depths of the cross, that we may be absorbed with the One who was nailed thereto, and thus weaned from the world that placed Him there. May the real utterance of our hearts ever be, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God grant it, for Jesus Christ’s sake!