TWO MEN were once sinking a shaft, one workman above ground, the other below. The one above was winding a windlass, pulling up the iron bucket which was being loaded with earth and stones by the man working down at the bottom. When the bucket with its heavy load reached the top, a catch was slipped into place to hold the load, till the bucket could be tipped over and emptied.
No Possibility Of Escape
Then suddenly one day a disastrous mistake occurred. The load was hauled to the surface but the man at the windlass failed to get the catch into place. Instantly the handle flew around, but almost as quickly the man acted. He flung himself on to windlass, wrapped his arms around the drum on which the cable was wound and shouted for help. His cries brought help from nearby, and the man at the bottom of the shaft was saved.
In less than two seconds he might easily have been crushed to death beneath the terrible force of the descending load and with no possibility of escape! But his mate had paid a great price that day. The flesh on his arms and body had been dreadfully lacerated as he made that supreme effort, thinking only of the man whose life depended on his success. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.’’
Those words were spoken by One Who showed a greater love still. He came to die for His enemies! His was an unhesitating march to the cross on which He gave His life to save a doomed and dying world from the final destruction of the judgment of God against sin. You and I were in danger of being crushed for ever under the load of our own making, when the Lord from Heaven flung Himself between us and that impending doom.
A Decision To Be Made
Think for a few minutes of that scene long ago. There was the Man Whom the Jewish leaders hated because of His own pure life and His fearless exposing of their sin. They clamoured for His death, but the Roman Governor was sorely perplexed. He had never seen such a man and he declared before the people, “I find no fault in Him.” There was something startling about the perfect calm and meekness of this prisoner, something unearthly in his manner and speech.
To add to his consternation Pilate received a note from his wife, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27:19). What could he do? He was afraid of the people. If rioting and rebellion should break out he might be held responsible.
The whole situation has been summed up in a striking manner by a great preacher of the Free Presbyterian Church, Rev. Donald Campbell, of Edinburgh, Scotland: “Yes, friends, Pilate was in a great dilemma. Here was a decision to be made, the greatest decision that this great judge of Israel had ever to make. He could either condemn Jesus of Nazareth or else release Him. Pilate could see no way out. If he released Jesus he would lose the popularity he had on other occasions gained through giving way to the Jews. However, the disciples of the Messiah could appeal to Rome, for Pilate had already testified that he could find no fault in this man.
The Mind Was Troubled
Yes, the mind of Pilate was troubled. Then a thought passed through the mind of this great judicial character. It was this: “Surely if I deliver this man to be scourged it will have some effect on this blood-thirsty mob. Surely when they see the blood flowing from the back of their Messiah they will look upon Him and have mercy. Will they not repent when they see this sinless man suffering?”
“So Pilate delivered Jesus to be scourged. Now under Jewish law a prisoner is allowed only 39 stripes, but under the Roman law he can be given any number of stripes. Jesus was scourged under Roman conditions. But did this sight of the bleeding Saviour melt the hard hearts of the Jews? No my fellow sinners, they cried even the louder, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“You may say that this was a terrible attitude to take up, but you take the same stand as the Jews as long as you reject the claims of the Son of God. However, Pilate now sees that the Jews are not satisfied with the scourging; they want the very life of the Son of God. The great judge then shows that popularity means more to him than justice, and despite the warnings of his wife and the warnings of his conscience he gives the order, “Deliver Him to be crucified.”
“Pilate, even at. the moment of giving the order, said, “I wash my hands of the blood of this innocent man,” and tried to do so by washing his hands in water!
What folly! What folly! But, fellow sinners, let us remember that it is not the blood that oozed from the scourged back of Christ: it is not the blood that flowed from the crown of thorns on His brow. Paul tells us that Peace must be made “by the blood of the cross”, so Pilate, under the sovereign will of God, delivered Him to be crucified!”
Saved From The Cause Of Trouble
That is the very essence of our Gospel. “Christ died for OUR sins.” But this will be of no value to us if we do not avail ourselves of the covering of that great sacrifice. Look at the two thieves crucified on either side of Christ! Hear one of them raving and cursing and taunting the one hanging on the central cross — “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” Like most people now, he wished to be saved from his trouble but not from the cause of his trouble, sin. To him no word of pardon and peace was spoken. The Son of God was silent.
But how different the other case. Marvellous to relate, this dying thief could see what the others failed to perceive. He saw the dying Saviour as the King of Glory too. Even in his dreadful agony he rebuked the man on the other side, acknowledged his own wrong doing, and then made one short appeal for mercy, “Lord remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”
To see Him as “Lord” at such a time —- how marvellous a faith is that? With an awful death grave before him, yet to discern the eternal Kingdom of Christ ahead, surely this itself is the evidence that the Spirit of God was at work in that humbled heart and had shown him what the wise of this world cannot see.
That one hoarse cry of a dying sinner brought an immediate response from the dying Saviour: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” Yes, there is mercy and instant salvation for those who turn to God in this way; and does this not show that, for the believing heart, death is only a passage from this world straight into the presence of God?
On the one side of the cross was salvation, pardon, peace, everlasting life. On the other side sin, rebellion, bitterness and doom. On which side do we stand? There can be no neutral ground. Shall we stand with His enemies or with those who say like Paul of old, “He loved me and gave Himself for me?”
Written: W. Arnold Long
from The Bushman’s Guide
Acknowledgement : CHRISTIAN BOOK ROOM
P.O. Box 95413 T.S.T. Kowloon Hong Kong S.A.R.of China
Photo by Daphne Bailey