Christ Lifted Up
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 5, 1857, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."—John 12:32.
IT was an extraordinary occasion upon which the Saviour uttered these words. It was the crisis of the world. We very often speak of the "present crisis of affairs," and it is very common for persons of every period to believe their own age to be the crisis and turning point of the whole world's history. They rightly imagine that very much of the future depends upon their present exertions; but they wrongly stretch the thought, and imagine that the period of their existence is the very hinge of the history of the world: that it is the crisis. Now, however it may be correct, in a modified sense, that every period of time is in some sense a crisis, yet there never was a time which could be truly called a crisis, in comparison with the season when our Saviour spoke. In the 31st verse, immediately preceding my text, we find in the English translation, "Now is the judgment of this world;" but we find in the Greek, "Now is the crisis of this world." The world had come to a solemn crisis: now was the great turning point of all the world's history. Should Christ die, or should he not? If he would refuse the bitter cup of agony, the world is doomed, if he should pass onward, do battle with the powers of death and hell! and come off a victor, then the world is blessed, and her future shall be glorious. Shall he succumb? Then is the world crushed and ruined beneath the trail of the old serpent. Shall he conquer? Shall he lead captivity captive and receive gifts for men? Then this world shall yet see times when there shall be "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." "Now is the crisis of this world!" "The crisis," he says, "is two-fold. Dealing with Satan and men. I will tell you the result of it. 'Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.' Fear not that hell shall conquer. I shall cast him out; and, on the other hand doubt not but that I shall be victorious over the hearts of men. 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.'" Remembering the occasion upon which these words were uttered, we shall now proceed to a discussion of them.
We have three things to notice. Christ crucified, Christ's glory. He calls it a lifting him up. Christ crucified, the minister's theme. It is the minister's business to lift Christ up in the gospel. Christ crucified, the heart's attraction. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." His own glory—the minister's theme—the heart's attraction.
I. I begin then: CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION IS CHRIST'S GLORY. He uses the word "lifted up" to express the manner of his death. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." But notice the choice of the word to express his death. He does not say, I, if I be crucified, I, if I be hanged on the tree; no, but "I if I be lifted up:" and in the Greek there is the meaning of exaltation. "I, if I be exalted—I if I be lifted on high." He took the outward and risible fashion of the cross, it being a lifting of him up, to be the type and symbol of the glory with which the cross should invest even him. "I, if I be lifted up."
Now, the cross of Christ is Christ's glory. We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others—Christ by the slaughter of himself: men seek to get crowns of gold—he sought a crown of thorns: men think that glory lieth in being exalted over others—Christ thought that his glory did lie in becoming "a worm and no man," a scoff and reproach amongst all that beheld him. He stooped when he conquered; and he counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest.
Christ was glorified on the cross, we say, first, because love as always glorious. If I might prefer any glory, I should ask to be beloved by men. Surely, the greatest glory that a man can have among his fellows is not that of mere admiration, when they stare at him as he passes through the street, and throng the avenues to behold him as he rideth in his triumph; the greatest fame, the greatest glory of a patriot is the love of his country—to feel that young men and maidens, old men and sires, are prepared to fall at his feet in love, to give up all they have to serve him who has served them. Now, Christ won more love by the cross than he did ever win elsewhere. O Lord Jesus, thou wouldst never have been so much loved, if thou hadst sat in heaven for ever, as thou art now loved since thou hast stooped to death. Not cherubim and seraphim, and angels clad in light, ever could have loved with hearts so warm as thy redeemed above, or even thy redeemed below. Thou didst win love more abundantly by the nail than by thy scepter. Thine open side brought thee no emptiness of love, for thy people love thee with all their hearts. Christ won glory by his cross. He was never so lifted up as when he was cast down; and the Christian will bear witness, that though he loves his Master anywhere, yet nothing moves his heart to rapture and vehemence of love, like the story of the crucifixion and the agonies of Calvary.
Again: Christ at this time won much glory by fortitude. The cross was a trial of Christ's fortitude and strength, and therein it was a garden in which his glory might be planted. The laurels of his crown were sown in a soil that was saturated with his own blood. Sometimes the ambitious soldier pants for battle, because in days of peace he cannot distinguish himself. "Here I sit," saith he, "and rust my sword in my scabbard, and win no glory; let me rush to the cannon's mouth; though some call honor a Fainted bauble, it may be so, yet I am a soldier, and I want it "and he pants for the encounter that he may win glory. Now, in an infinitely higher sense than that poor glory which the soldier gets, Christ looked upon the cross as being his way to honor. "Oh!" said he, "now shall be the time of my endurance: I have suffered much, but I shall suffer more, and then shall the world see what a strong heart of love I have; how patient is the Lamb, how mighty to endure. Never would Christ have had such paeans of praise and such songs of honor as he now winneth, if he had avoided the conflict, and the battle, and the agony. We might have blessed him for what he is and for what he wished to do; we might have loved him for the very longings of his heart but we never could have praised him for his strong endurance, for his intrepid spirit, for his unconquerable love, if we had not seen him put to the severe test of crucifixion and the agonies of that awful day. Christ did win glory by his being crucified.
Again: Christ looked upon his crucifixion as the completion of all his work, and therefore he looked upon it as an exaltation. The completion of an enterprise is the harvest of its honor. Though thousands have perished in the arctic regions, and have obtained fame for their intrepid conduct, yet, my friends, the man who at last discovers the passage is the most of all honored; and though we shall for ever remember those bold men who pushed their way through winter in all its might, and dared the perils of the deep, yet the man who accomplishes the deed wins more than his share of the glory. Surely the accomplishment of an enterprise is just the point where the honor hangs. And, my hearers, Christ longed for the cross, because he looked for it as the goal of all his exertions. It was to be the place upon which he could say, "It is finished." He could never say "It is finished" on his throne: but on his cross he did cry it. He preferred the sufferings of Calvary to the honors of the multitude who crowded round about him; for, preach as he might, and bless them as he might, and heal them as he might, still was his work undone. He was straitened; he had a baptism to be baptized with, and how was he straitened till it was accomplished. "But," he said, "now I pant for my cross, for it is the topstone of my labor. I long for my sufferings, because they shall be the completion of my great work of grace." Brethren, it is the end that bringeth the honor; it is the victory that crowneth the warrior rather than the battle. And so Christ longed for this, his death, that he might see the completion of his labor. "Ay," said he, "when I am crucified, I am exalted, and lifted up."
And, once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph. His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. "The cross," said he, "the gibbet of my doom may seem to be cursed with ignominy, and the world shall stand round and hiss at the crucified; my name be for ever dishonored as one who died upon the tree; and cavillers and scoffers may for ever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with the malefactor; but I look not at the cross as you do. I know its ignominy, but I despise the shame—I am prepared to endure it all. I look upon the cross as the gate of triumph, as the portal of victory. Oh, shall I tell you what I shall behold upon the cross?—just when mine eye is swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is palpitating with its last pang; just when my body is rent with its last thrill of anguish, then mine eye shall see the head of the dragon broken, it shall see hell's towers dismantled and its castle fallen. Mine eye shall see my seed eternally saved, I shall behold the ransomed coming from their prison-houses. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is just preparing for its last cry of 'It is finished;' I shall behold the year of my redeemed come, I shall shout my triumph in the delivery of all my beloved! Ay, and I shall see then, the world, mine own earth conquered, and usurpers all disthroned, and I shall behold in vision the glories of the latter days, when I shall sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!" Yes, Christ saw in his cross the victories of it, and therefore did he pant and long for it as being the place of victory and the means of conquest. "I," said Jesus, "if I be lifted up, if I be exalted," he puts his crucifixion as being his glory. This is the first point of our text. (Please click her to continue reading, “Christ Lifted Up”)