Summary: It is the cross of Christ which is the object at once of His shame and His glory. This classic sermon by A. B. Simpson looks first at the marks of the Lord Jesus, and then at their reproduction in His followers.
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). The word marks in this text is translated by Rotherham, "brand marks." The world describes a mark that has been branded into the flesh, and suggests the idea of the cruel practice of certain nations in branding political offenders in the face with a badge of dishonor which never could be erased. The Greek word literally means "a stigma," and suggests a mark of reproach and shame. The apostle says that he bears in his body to branded scar which identifies him with Christ and His cross.
The kind of mark which he refers to is made plain by the verse almost immediately preceding, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). It is the cross of Christ which is the object at once of His shame and His glory. Let us look first at the marks of the Lord Jesus, and then at their reproduction in His followers.
The Cross Marks of Christ
He was always overshadowed by the cross which at last He bore on Calvary. His life was a life of humiliation and suffering from the manger to the tomb.
His birth was under a shadow of dishonor and shame. The shadow that fell upon the virgin mother could not be removed from her child, and even to this day only faith in a supernatural incarnation can explain away that reproach.
His childhood was overshadowed by sorrow. Soon after His birth, He was pursued by Herod with relentless hate. He spent His early childhood as an exile in the eland of Egypt, which had always been associated in the history of His people as the house of bondage.
His early manhood was spent in toil and poverty and He was known all His later life as "the carpenter’s son." A modern painter represents Him as under the shadow of the cross even in the early days at Nazareth; as He returns from a day of toil with arms outstretched with weariness, the setting sun flings the shadow of His figure across the pathway, suggestive of a dark cross.
His life was one of poverty and humiliation. He had nowhere to lay His head, and when He died His body was laid even in a borrowed tomb.
He was rejected and despised by the people among whom He labored. "He came unto his won, and his own received hem not" (John 1:11). His work was, humanly speaking, a complete failure, and when He left the world He had but a handful of followers who had remained true to His teachings and person.
His very friends and companions were of the humblest class, rude fishermen and common people without culture and, indeed, often without the ability to appreciate their blessed Master. Coming from the society of heaven, how H must have felt the strange difference of these rude associates; and yet, never once did He complain or even intimate the difference.
The spirit of His life was ever chastened and humble. The veil of modesty covered all His acts and attitudes. He never boasted or vaunted Himself. "He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets." (Matt. 12:19), was the prophetic picture which He so literally fulfilled. He sought no splendid pageants, asked no earthly honors; and the only time that He did assume the prerogatives of a king, He rode upon the foal of an ass and entered Jerusalem in triumph as the King of meekness rather than of pride.
Perhaps the severest strain of all His life was the repression of Himself. Knowing that he was Almighty and Divine, He yet held back the exercise of His supernatural powers. Knowing that with one withering glance He could have stricken His enemies and laid them lifeless at His feet, He restrained His power. Knowing that He could have summoned all the angels of heaven to His defense, He surrendered Himself to His captors in helplessness and defenselessness. He even surrendered the exercise of His own will, and drew from His Heavenly Father the very grace and power which He needed from day to day, the same as any sinful man who lives by faith and prayer. "I can of mine own self do nothing," He said. "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me" (John 6:57). He took the same place of dependence that the humblest believer takes today and in all things lived a life of self-renunciation.
At last the climax came in the supreme trial of the judgment hall and the cruel cross. When He became obedient unto death, a death of shame and unparalleled humiliations, insults and agonies completed His life sacrifices for the salvation of His people. What words can ever describe, what tongue can ever tell the weight, the sharpness, the agony of that cruel cross, the fierceness of His fight with the powers of darkness and the depths of woe when even His Father’s face was averted and He bore for us the hell that sin deserved.