Christ’s Death And Ours
“ And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.”
CERTAIN Greeks desired to “see Jesus.” They informed Philip of their desire, Philip consulted with Andrew and the two disciples together informed their Master of what seemed to them to be a very important matter. As wise men from the East once came to see Jesus, so now would these Gentiles from the West do the same! Probably Philip and Andrew expected that Christ would display His miraculous power before the eyes of these enquirers, but our Lord, instead of going on from His triumphal procession and the hosannas of the multitude to something outwardly grander, began at once to speak about a glorification far other than either His disciples or these Greeks desired–a glorification which was to follow upon death and burial!
Is it not very noteworthy how our Lord’s mind was always dominated by the anticipation of that Baptism of His, that immersion in grief and suffering, that decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem? This was the main thought of His whole life and nothing could make Him forget it. In His heaviest moments of trial and in His brightest moments of joy, His heart was equally at the Cross–He was longing to complete His atoning Sacrifice for the salvation of His people. O brave, loving heart of Christ, so firmly fixed in love, so resolute to be pierced for the Beloved–we admire and love You in return!
Surely we make too little of our Redeemer’s death. I fear that even we, who preach most concerning it, dwell toolittle upon it. That we who pray, plead it too little. That we who sing, praise our Lord too little for His wondrous death and that we who live upon His Grace, yet think too little of the channel by which it flows to us! Christ’s death is HisGlory and it ought also to be ours. All other topics in Holy Scripture are important and none of them are to be cast into the shade, but the death of the Son of God is the central sun of all these minor luminaries! It is the great Alpha and Omega, the first and the last! It is not only eminent, it is preeminent with us. I could almost wish that we had broken every other string of our soul’s harp but that which resounds the music of His Love. Silence, you other voices, and let the voice of His blood be heard in our souls! If we were bound down to this one subject–chained to it and never allowed to take another, but compelled simply to stand and incessantly cry, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world”–it would be an enlargement, rather than a narrowing of our ministry! Here is a theme fit for seraphs! Yes, “Michael the archangel” might find this subject too vast even for his exalted intellect. While we are musing on this text, no other topic shall intrude. Our mottoes shall be, “All for Jesus,” and, “None but Jesus.” May the blessed Comforter, whose work it is to glorify Christ and to take of that which belongs to Him and apply it to us, give us the power of Christ’s death in our hearts!
The verses on which we are to meditate speak of two things–first, Christsview of the necessity and the results of that death.
- First, we are to consider CHRIST’S VIEW OF HIS DEATH. He says, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”
Now, I freely grant that this passage may refer to Christ’s glorification in His Resurrection, in His Ascension and in all His triumph beyond the skies, but, from its connection with the allusion to the grain of wheat, which is cast into the ground to die, it is clear that our Lord was mainly thinking of His death and that He spoke of it as being, in a certain sense, the hour of His Glory. Certainly, to spiritual eyes, the Christ of God was never more glorious than when He was nailed to the Cross of Calvary–not even yonder where the lamps of Heaven glow with supernal splendor, where the harps of angels pour forth matchless music and where Christ, Himself, sits upon the Throne of the Highest, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” A Glory never equaled shone around the Conqueror of death and Hell when He bowed His head and said, “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost!
Mark well that Christ said that, “the Son of Man –for He was speakinghere concerning His human nature. This teaches us that Christ, as Man, was glorified by enduring bravely, patiently andto the end, what no other man has ever borne. Without a murmur, He willingly endured all the agony and ignominy that were heaped upon Him. He marched boldly through the tremendous deeps of physical, mental and spiritual suffering which the Atonement demanded. It may be that in some of His bodily pangs, our Lord’s anguish has been equaled by that endured by some of the martyrs, yet I greatly question whether that has ever been the case. Rather do I believe that His peculiarly sensitive body which had never lost any of its delicacy of tone through indulgence or impurity, and which was originally of the finest mold, seeing that He was "that Holy Thing” which was born of Mary through the overshadowing power of the Highest–for these reasons it appears to me that Christ may have borne physical pains such as, in their intensity, have not been known by any other son of man! But as for His mental and spiritual griefs, they were an unknown abyss–who can measure or conceive what His holy soul endured? Hart’s lines, though very strong in expression, do not go beyond the Truth of God even when he says that Christ, in Gethsemane–
Bore all Incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, and none to spare."
Yet how gloriously He endured it all even to the bitter end! The gold was tried in the furnace, but no dross was discovered. Mightier than Atlas, Christ bore a world of grief upon His shoulders and yet He neither staggered under it, nor cast off the lead. He went to prison and to death–and all through His way of woe, His mighty soul was strong within Him. And He died triumphing over all! He was unconquered and unconquerable unto the last! Crown Him, O you daughters of Jerusalem, as the King of Sufferers, most mighty to suffer and to save! With His garments all red from the winepress, adore Him as having alone sustained the fury of His adversaries!
Remember, too, that Christ won, on the Cross, the glory of being the fully obedient One. “Being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.” It is a great glory to a servant of God to be, through Divine Grace, sincerely obedient to His Lord. But it would be a greater honor if he could be perfectly obedient. Upon our Lord, who had voluntarily taken the place of a Servant for us, the petition of His service casts the highest honor. After having, in all points, kept the Law perfectly by His active obedience, He crowned His life’s service by His passive obedience and was glorious, indeed, when He went to “the end of the Law for righteousness.” First-born of many brethren are You, O You glorious Son of Man, made perfect in Your obedience in order that You might be the Captain of our salvation and bring many sons unto Glory!
Further, Christ was glorified on the Cross by achieving what no one else could have achieved. How often do we setforth the Truth of God, which is always fresh and delightful to Believers, that Christ Jesus, on the tree, took all the sins of all who believe in Him–took them to Himself, literally, and carried them as though they had been His own–and suffered for those sins upon the Cross, all that ought to have been suffered by us on account of those sins, enduring that which His Father accepted as an equivalent for all the agony which ought to have been endured by us because of those iniquities? We believe, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in the literal Substitution of Christ for His people. Christ stood in the Sinner’s place and suffered what was due to the Sinner–even the curse of God and the wrath of God! And now He has so suffered for sinners that those for whom He died can have no sin laid to their charge so as to involve them in punishment, since it is a maxim of all courts of justice that the law cannot first punish the substitute–and then punish those in whose place he stood. Every honest man admits that a debt, once paid, is settled forever. So, as Christ paid the debt that His people owed to Infinite Justice, it is forever blotted out and our obligations to Divine Justice are obliterated! This is the joy of joys! This is the Doctrine that makes the Gospel to be God’s good news to guilty sinners! This is the glorious Truth of God that sets the bells of Heaven ringing with their loudest and their sweetest music–that Christ has made the sin of His people to cease to be! Thus is fulfilled that ancient prophecy, “In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”
The work of Messiah the Prince is “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” And this work was fully accomplished when “this Man, after He had offered one Sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” O Beloved, herein is bliss, indeed, for us if He did really die for us! Your question and mine must be this, “Did Christ die for me?” To answer that, Imust ask, “Am I trusting in Him?” If I am, then He did die for me and all my sins are gone because He was punished in my place. My demerit was imputed to Him and He died to put it away. And now His merit is reckoned as my merit! A wonderful transfer has been made by means of the death of Christ–He has taken all the consequences of our guilt and borne them all–and ended them forever! So was He not, indeed, glorified in His death? And you, Believer, may sing this sweet song, on earth and in Heaven, too–
In my Surety I am free,
His dear hands were pierced for me!
With His spotless vesture on
Holy as the Holy One.
Oh the heights and depths of Grace!
Shining with meridian blaze–
Here the sacred records show
Sinners black, but comely too."
But we must not forgot that
Christ was glorified in His death, officially, as our great High Priest. He stood alone in
that dark hour as the true High Priest presenting the one perfect Sacrifice unto God. All other high priests had been but types of Christ, the great Anti-type. They had, once a year, though “not without blood,” passed under the embroidered veil which hid the Holy of Holies from other eyes. But in that dread hour of darkness on Calvary, Christ, the true High Priest, offered up Himself as the Propitiatory Sacrifice which alone could put away His people’s sins. And then, through the torn veil, that is to say, His body–His soul passed up into the Presence of God and there His blood still pleads for His people, speaking better things than that of Abel! Begone all you gorgeous ceremonies of Aaron and his sons, like stars that hide their light when the sun itself appears! Christ, the Great High Priest, is the only one that His Church needs! You may banish your many-colored robes. You may put away your precious miters. You may lay aside your bespangled breastplate, for Christ alone wears the robe, the miter and the breastplate of the true High Priest before God! And He stands gloriously accepted through His unique Sacrifice. From now on let it be known, throughout the whole earth, that there is no other sacrificing priest but the living Christ, and there is no other sacrifice but the Sacrifice which He has once and for all offered–and which still avails for all who trust in it! His precious blood–
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Is saved to sin no more."
Thus have I shown you that even on the Cross, Christ was glorified. Yet this declaration of His may also refer to that which followed His death. It is indeed so closely linked and intertwisted with His passion and Crucifixion that it would be wrong to separate it from them–yet we must never forgot that He who died and was put into the grave–also rose again! It was His Glory that by His own almighty power, He arose, “the first-born from the dead.” After forty days He ascended unto the Father and angels welcomed Him as He returned triumphantly to Heaven. Our faith can almost hear the lingering notes of that wonderful song of His angelic escort, “Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lift up, you everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.” Glorious was His welcome by the spirits bought with blood who were already before the Throne of God! And truly glorious was He as He sat down at the right hand of the Father. See the Son of Mary exalted to sit at the right hand of the Father! Man like ourselves, yet glorified in Being made to reign there with His Father! He had always been there as God, but now He is there, also, as Man, crowned with glory and honor, and made to have dominion over all the works of God’s hands! The very Man who was once the Baby in Bethlehem and then the Carpenter of Nazareth and afterwards the Murdered One of Calvary, is now so highly exalted that at His name, which is above every name, every knee shall bow, “of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father!”
It strikes me that our Lord also meant, by making this statement in connection with the visit of these Greeks to Him, to teach us that after His death He would be glorified among all the nations of mankind. That although in His earthly ministry, He was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet, after His death the Gospel should be preached in His name to all nations–and out of all nations a people should be gathered who would praise His name forever and ever! Even at the present time it is no small Glory to Christ, who was nailed to the Cross of Calvary, that His name is reverenced over a great part of the earth–even by nations whose ancestors were strangers to it–and that His name is the foundation of every true morning prayer and every holy evening song! “His name shall endure forever” and His Gospel shall extend its saving and sanctifying power from realm to realm till He comes again, “in His Glory, and all the holy angels with Him,” to glorify His saints with Himself forever and ever!
I have spoken at this length upon what our Lord said concerning His death as the means of glorifying Him, for I am anxious that we should not think lightly of that of which He thought so highly!
II. The few minutes that remain must be devoted to the second part of the text which concerns THE NECESSITY AND RESULTS OF CHRIST’S DEATH.
Our Lord seems to say that it was absolutely necessary that He should die–that even His perfect life would havebeen of no use to us if He had not died. He says, “Except a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone.” So you see, Brothers and Sisters, that if Christ, after having come to this earth as He did, had not died, He would, as far as mankind is concerned, have had to abide in Heaven alone. As God, the word, “ alone,” would have had no reference,for the holy angels, as well as His Father and the ever-blessed Spirit would always have been near Him. But if our Lord could have come here and then have gone back to Heaven without dying, it would not have been possible for any other man to ever have gone to Heaven–and Christ would have been the only Man in the whole of that land of joy! It is dreadful even to think of such a thing as that! If that could have happened, where must all the saints of God and all mankind have gone? There is but one other region–the land of darkness and of death, the land of pain, of horror and of unutterable woe. And we must all if Christ had not died upon the Cross–not only the thief on the lefthand of Christ, but the thief on His right hand, too–not only Judas, but Peter, John and all the Apostles–not only Demas, but Paul, Silas and all the early Christians–not only Ahithophel, but David, also–not only the unrighteous, but the righteous, too–all! All! having sinned, would have been condemned to eternal wrath if Jesus had not died!Ah, but it was not possible for the Son of Man, who was also the Son of God, to be alone in Heaven! He could not be content to be there alone. He left His Father’s side in Glory, in order that He might become the Son of Man! And then, after He had once taken our human Nature into union with His Divine Nature, He could not go back to Heaven to live there in solitude, without another man to bear Him company! We cannot conceive of the First-Born without a brotherhood, the Head without a body, the Savior with no saved ones to sing His praises, the Shepherd without sheep, the King without subjects! No, this could not be and, therefore, it was absolutely necessary that Christ should die!
It was a most suggestive and suitable figure which Christ used–that a corn of wheat must be put into the ground and die, or it cannot produce its like. Our language and all languages, when they speak of such lofty themes as life and death, become very much like a skein of silk that is all in a tangle–and we must never talk lightly concerning these supreme Truths of God. I believe that half the disputes about that very important matter of eternal punishment–concerning which some think that the Scriptures favor the view of a limited period to the punishment–arise because those who hold that view do not observe that there is a vast difference between mere existence and life and, an even greater difference between death and annihilation. If a grain of wheat were really to die, it would not bring forth any fruit. When the maltster has passed the corn through the various processes which end with kiln-drying, it is really dead. And if you were to plant it, it would never bring forth fruit. That is a very different kind of death from that which takes place when the seed is cast into the ground–there it dies in quite another sense, that is to say, it rots–the matter of the corn dissolves and furnishes the first soil for the little minute of life to feed upon, for the grain of wheat is not all life, there is a life-germ inside it. The grain of “corn or wheat” must be broken up and be resolved into its primary elements or else it cannot bring forth fruit. [In C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. III, pages 194-6, there are further explanations of this subject, including the definition of death given by Mr. Spurgeon to Mr. Ruskin, who said, “That is the most extraordinary definition of death that I ever heard, but it is true.”]
So, our Lord Jesus Christ had to die and to be buried in the grave, as the seed-corn is put into the ground, and there He had to be resolved, as it were, into His primary elements–the soul to be for a while separated from the body, and the Deity from the Humanity. Without this death there could have been no fruit-bearing to spring out of Him. But when He had passed through this experience of death, then there sprang up out of the dead Christ–dead after that fashion–abundant fruit! Nobody can tell you why it is that if a single grain of wheat is put into the ground, it may bring forth a hundredfold. Why should it so multiply itself? That is a great mystery, but it is a solid fact–and it is a blessed mystery of faith that, as Jesus Christ died, all who put their trust in Him are the “much fruit” springing up from His death! It is because He died on the tree that Believers are to live with Him forever. I have not time to go fully into that subject now, but you all know that if Christ had not died, we would all still be under the curse. If Jesus had not died, we would have been condemned at the bar of God. If Jesus had not died, there would have been no way of approach for us to God. We could not, as Believers, have had any existence at all except through His death! And now, through the preaching of His death, and the hearing of the message by the ear of faith through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, we are made alive unto God and so become “fruit” to the praise of the Savior who died on the Cross of Calvary!
Brothers, if we want to have fruit in our ministry–if we want to see sinners converted–we must preach up Christ’s death! As the blacksmith strikes the hot iron upon the anvil, we must keep the hammer of the Gospel at work upon this great foundation Truth of God, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is no talking to men upon other topics in the hope that it will lead to their conversion. The great soul-quickening agency is, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Whoever will come and trust in the God-appointed Substitute for sinners shall be eternally saved, for life comes only through His death! The salvation of sinners is not even by preaching the great and glorious Truth of Christ’s Second Advent, nor by preaching about Christ’s millennial and eternal Glory, but by incessantly pointing to Christ lifted up upon the Cross! There is the grain of wheat that put into the ground brings forth much fruit–and we must keep to that theme beyond all others! You who try to talk to the unconverted must do this if you wish to see them find real, lasting peace, and enter into true Christian liberty. You must say, with Charles Wesley–
His only righteousness I show,
His saving Truth proclaim!
Tis all my business here below
To cry, ‘"
I must close, Brothers and Sisters, with this reflection. You and I want to bring forth fruit unto God. We want to save souls. Then we must do what Christ did, though in another sense. That is to say , we must fall into the ground anddie. Did you ever see a minister who was such a gentleman that he did not know his people, and never shook hands with them in his life–one who was only anxious to show them what a dignified individual an ordained minister is? Well, such a man as that is like a grain of wheat put into a golden shrine to be admired. But, possibly, you know another man–he may be a city missionary–and he goes right down into the midst of the sin and misery of those whom he seeks to win for Christ, looking at everything from their point of view. And often it is a difficult task for him, yet he will do it. He lays aside everything in which he is their superior, speaks so that they can understand him, and brings the Gospel right down to their level. That man will win souls for the Savior because he is not a grain of wheat laid on a marble shelf, but he is dropped into the ground! And the more that man will spend himself for his Master–work himself to death, break up his constitution–kill himself, as it were, in his Master’s service–the more likely is he to bring forth “much fruit” unto God. I do not believe you can do much good without having a great deal taken out of yourselves. And when men are so very particular and careful about themselves and will only serve God if it does not cost them anything, I believe that no earthly good can come of that. The man whom God will greatly bless must be willing, in this sense, to fall into the ground and die!
In persecuting times, the Christian has often had to literally give himself up to die, but, instead of the cause of Christ being injured by his death, he has, in that way, brought forth the “much fruit.” There have been no other such fruitful preachers of the Gospel as those who suffered at the stakes of Smithfield or died upon the rack. If you would be the means of saving others, you must make no reserve for yourself, but imitate your Master, of whom His enemies tauntingly but truly said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” I ask you, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, to resolve, by God’s strength, that there is nothing you will not do and nothing you will not give for Him who loved you so well that He gave all He had to save you! Seek, by every means that you can use, to win souls for Christ! The man who must have conversions, or he will die, will have them! The woman who feels that she must bring her class to Christ and will never rest till she does, will bring them to Christ! The Lord help us so to preach Christ and so to live for Christ and, if necessary, so to die for Christ, that we may bring forth fruit unto God–“some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” Amen. PUBLISHERS' NOTE:
A very considerable portion of this Sermon was revised by Mr. Spurgeon in readiness for publication. The topic–“Christ’s Death and Ours”–is peculiarly appropriate to the 15th s last days uponearth. January 31st–the exact anniversary of the date of his Home-going–is still more suitable. The text is, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And the title of the Sermon is to be, “Fifteen Years After!” to remind all readers that although the preacher’s voice has not been heard in this world for the past 15 years, yet, like the martyred Abel, “He being dead yet speaks,” and, as Dr. Newman Hall truly said, “as he yet speaks, he is not dead.”
It is also a somewhat remarkable fact that the Sermon to be issued next week was preached on Thursday evening,February 11 th the long processionfrom Newington to Norwood, and the interment in the cemetery there in the presence of an enormous concourse of sympathizing spectators.
Regular readers of the Sermons will remember that similar coincidences were pointed out at the time of Mr. Spurgeon’s Home-going, when, without any human pre-arrangement, the Sermons intended for reading on the four Sabbaths in February, 1892, were as follows–No. 2242, Volume 38–GOD’S WILL ABOUT THE FUTURE; No. 2243, Volume 38– HIS OWN FUNERAL SERMON; No. 2244, Volume 38–MEMBERS OF CHRIST and No. 2245, Volume 38–“LIVING, LOVING, LASTING UNION'–the four discourses concerning the Home-going of Deacon William Olney.–Read/download the entire sermons, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.