Summary: Thank God for the cross and the record we have of it, for not only is our salvation dependent upon it, but the reality of all Jesus taught is dependent upon what we see and hear at the cross.
One of the most diabolical criminals of his day, and the first big time American gangster, was
also a very impressive pulpit orator. John Murrell as a youth was caught for horse stealing, and
after a public whipping he was sent to prison. He declared eternal vengeance upon society for this,
and while he was in prison he studied theology. When he was released he assumed the garb of an
evangelist and began to preach. His eloquence gained him quick popularity, and soon he had an
unique racket going with a highly organized gang. One of his schemes was to greet people in
front of the church and compliment them on their beautiful horse. This was a signal to his helpers
as to which ones he wanted stolen during the service. Before his career ended he added
counterfeiting and murder to his list of crimes, and all the while he was preaching the Word of
He was an obvious example of the great contrast that can exist between what a man professes
and what he practices. Profession is the easy part. The real test comes in practice. We need not
limit this failure of practicing what is preached to sham clergyman, however. Leon C. Prince has
recorded the experience of others. He writes, "A New England navigator who had charted the
dangerous reefs of the Massachusetts coast who wrecked his own vessel on a sunken rock which
he himself had described and of which he warned others. A surgeon on one of the Arctic
expeditions of the last century who earnestly and repeatedly cautioned his fellow voyages against
the peril of yielding to the almost overwhelming impulse to sleep, but the surgeon himself fell
asleep and perished."
History is filled with such glaring inconsistencies, and we need look at further than our own
lives to add to the evidence that man is far more able to learn the truth than to live it. It is so much
easier to proclaim than to practice. Shakespeare has Portia say, "I can easier teach twenty what
were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
In the light of this fact of human nature it is with great assurance and satisfaction that we turn
our eyes upon Jesus in whom we find perfect consistency. No one ever made such startling
statements as Jesus. No one ever set such high standards of character and conduct. If we could
not look at his life as an example of what He taught, we would have to dismiss His teaching as
dreamy idealism and sentimental nonsense totally irrelevant to the real world in which we live.
How could we honestly bother to consider Christ twice once we heard Him say, "Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you, and persecute you," if we say that he could not practice what He preached?
No can make such radical statements and hold anyone's respect whose life does not back them up.
Thank God for the cross and the record we have of it, for not only is our salvation dependent upon
it, but the reality of all Jesus taught is dependent upon what we see and hear at the cross.
We want to focus our attention on the first word of Christ that He spoke on the cross, for here
we see the idealism of Christ made real, and His life conform to His lips. If all we had was the
record of His life, and not His death, men might dare to doubt the sincerity of His teaching. They
might point out that it is easy to say love your enemies when you are walking from village to
village with crowds of eager listeners. It is nothing to set on a mount with friends and disciples all
around, and talk about praying for those who hate you. But the record of the cross leaves critics
facing a scene that removes all doubt.
The first word on the cross demonstrates in a manner unsurpassed love's response to hate. It
proves dogmatically that Jesus meant every word He preached, and those who claim Him as Lord
need to take everyone of them seriously. Only the blind and deaf could stand at the cross and hear
this word of Christ and not respond with the Roman Centurion who said, "Truly, this was the Son
This word of Christ is composed of two parts. First is His intercession for His enemies, and
second is His interpretation of His conduct. We have then His response and the reason for that
response in this word. We want to focus our attention on the first part only, which is His response