Summary: The cross of Jesus Christ--which naturally suggests only suffering, ignominy and defeat--has become the noblest sign of all that is lofty, heroic and glorious in the story of redemption and the experience of the Christian. A classic sermon by A. B. Simpso
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). A story is told of a medieval saint who asked his attendants to lift him from his death bed and place him on a cross. As he lay there and breathed out his life, he kept repeating with glowing eye and shining face the simple words, "It lifts me up, it lifts me up."
These words suggest the uplifting power of the cross of Jesus Christ. That which naturally suggests only suffering, ignominy and defeat has become the noblest sign of all that is lofty, heroic and glorious in the story of redemption and the experience of the Christian.
The Uplift of the Cross in the Experience of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself
Speaking of it He said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth." To Him it brought no sense of degradation or failure, but only a sense of glory and honor and victory. As He spoke of it to His disciples in advance it was always only as a stepping stone to the resurrection which was to follow. On the Mount of Transfiguration His heavenly visitors conversed of nothing else, but they spoke of it as "his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem," and the word decease expresses not so much the idea of death as of departure. It was but the beginning of a glorious ascension which was to lift Him up to higher honors and loftier ministries through the ages to come. The Apostle Paul, speaking of the cross, can only express himself in terms of the loftiest exultation, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." In the visions of the Apocalypse we find it occupying the place of highest honor in the heavenly world. It is the continual theme of the songs, both of the angels and the ransomed, and the highest distinction of Him who shares the Father’s throne is the mark of the cross. He is described as the "Lamb that was slain."
The cross of Jesus Christ has exalted Christ Himself by giving to the universe a manifestation not only of the wisdom and love of God nowhere else found, but especially a manifestation of the self-sacrificing love of Christ Himself transcending all other revelations of His character and glory. In human history there is something higher than wealth, power, or brilliant gifts of intellect. Grecian history commemorates the heroes of Thermopylae above all the other records of their country. Rome gloried in the legend of Horatius far more than in the pomp and pageantry of Augustus and Hadrian. The fame of Lincoln and McKinley has been heightened by the tragic story of their martyrdom, And the annals of Christian biography are rich in the record of heroic sacrifice. But there is no heroism like the story of Calvary, and there is no glory which shall ever be laid at the feet of the Lamb of God to be compared with the crimson of the cross and the crown of thorns.
But the cross has brought to the Lord Jesus Christ a yet higher recompense in the approval of His Father and the love of His people. What human imagination can conceive the rapture of that hour, when at last He rested on His Father’s bosom, after the anguish of the garden and the crucifixion, and the awful descent among the dead. Speaking of the Father’s recompense the inspired apostle says, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). Almost as sweet to His heart is the devotion of His people and the love and gratitude of those for whom He died. How much a brave man will often dare for the object of his affection, and there is no reward so sweet to him as the thanks of some one dear to his heart whom he has been permitted to help or save. When we think of the myriads whom Jesus Christ has rescued from sin and despair, we can form some conception of the meaning of that promise, "She shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11). As we think of the beautiful lives that we have known, the Christians we have met, the saints we have seen pass through the gates with robes made white in the blood of the Lamb, doubtless we have often felt that for such it would not be too much even for us to die. This was "the joy that was set before him" for which H "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). The day is coming which will make up for all His shame and sorrow, when He shall present to Himself His glorious bride, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," and He "shall be satisfied."