By Rodney Miller
“In living color” used to be the standard line for the films and television shows of the age when “Black and White” entertainment was dying out. Without a doubt “living color” does add a great deal to the reality of any event. So it is with our Bible study. We need to see the very things that the biblical writer saw. We need to feel the emotions that participants in the narratives felt. All in all, we need to perceive the Bible as real live history that happened to people just like us. In short, we need to “see it in living color.”
As we seek to discern the cross of our Lord we need, as maybe in no other event, to see it in “living color.” There were four major colors of the cross that vividly race across the screen and grab our attention.
I. The first color at the cross was black because it was sin that nailed him there. Mark 15:33 tells us that darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. We sing the song, “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin not in part, but the whole. Is nailed to this cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, oh my soul.”
Yes, sins of the night time, sins of the day time, sins of school, sins of work, sins of business and sins of pleasure, sins of eyes, hands, feet and ears. Sins that mountains can’t hide, that oceans can’t drown and that fire can’t burn. They are all nailed to his cross and we bear them no more. And because of all that sin there were charred marks around the cross of titanic struggle between good and evil. The earth quaked and the sound of grinding rocks was heard. The black darkness fell and the sun refused to show its face. This is the same sun that watched 780,000 died in the Crimean wars, that saw only 20,000 short of 800,000 die in our civil wars. The same sun that witnessed 32 million die in the wars of Gingus Kan. It watched 80 million die in the crusader war and over 180 million fall to the slashing sword of the Roman legion. That same sun observed 25 million die of the black plague in the 14th century and in London in one day saw 74,000 fall to the plaque. But that sun could not watch one single, lonely man die; it could not shine.
The blackness at the cross shows that God is deadly serious about my sin. Yes, he is serious about yours as well and about those lost in the erring religious world and about those dulled and numbed by pagan lust and pleasure but yet, the cross says that he is serious about my sin. It was my sin that platted that crown of thorns, that drove the spikes into his feet and that caused the spittle to dry on his face. As we hear his groaning in the seven statements from the cross we can know that God is serious about sin.
When Adam was expelled from the garden and the presence of God it was to tell me that God was serious about sin. The mark was emblazoned on Cain to show me that God would not tolerate sin. The voice of the prophets thundered God’s disapproval with sin. But none of it was enough! It was not until the Holy Spirit revealed in the inspired pages the blackness of sin by way of the cross that I can really see what I have done. As the owner of a dog who has killed one too many chickens rubs the dog’s face in the stench of the dead chicken so does the Spirit of God force me to see the blackness of my sin.
II. The second color was white because of the purity of the sacrifice. Nowhere do we see the purity of Jesus any plainer than that in the Hebrew letter. The Christian to whom the Hebrew writer is speaking has given every thing up for his Lord. But when they are called on to do it again they are in danger of shrinking back to destruction in their faith (Heb. 10:38,39). So to motivate them to hold fast the writer says, “Consider Jesus” (3:1). But what did they see when they focused in on Jesus?
Tempted in all points like we are yet without sin (4:15). They saw a High Priest “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (7:26).
He was the most sensitive man to ever live. It is sin that hardens man so that he does not feel the pain of sin or does not see the vulgarness of sin. So he without sin was made sin on our behalf. One of the greatest miscarriages of human justice is when one who is innocent is charged and punished for the crime that he did not commit. Our Lord was totally innocent. When Satan called for the Lamb to bear my sin it was Jesus of Nazareth that stepped up and stood in my place. Every time I stand at the crossroads of temptation and choose lust, pride or materialism he stood at the same crossroads and chose righteousness. Every mistake of oversight that I commit he stood at the same opportunity and never forgot. He was perfect, not just good, or not just better but perfect. He is Lord simply because he deserves to be.
III. The third color at the cross was red because of the blood that was shed. John 19:24 says, “There came forth blood and water.” Because of sin there had always been death and to symbolize death there has always been the shedding of blood. The Hebrew writer contrasts the Old Covenant with the New Covenant in the function of the priesthood. The Old Testament priest had to offer sacrifices daily because of sin. “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices which can never take away sin.” Notice three expressions that speak of the daily repetition of the sacrifices: (1) “stands daily,” (2) “offering time after time,” (3) “the same sacrifices.” But not so with Jesus Christ. “He once for all” offered himself up to be the sacrifice (7:27).
It was been well said that when Jesus Christ entered the Holy Place not made with hands that there was a rustling of the pages of the Law by the collective sign of all the priests that daily stood to offer the sacrifices. When a priest served in his course in the temple he would slaughter well over 100 animals a day! He would labor all day long covered in blood. His skin would be stained with blood. His nostrils would be caked with dried blood. The stench of blood would not leave his nostrils or his skin. He would serve in blood up to his elbows because sin demanded death and death demanded blood.
When one tells us that baptism is not important or necessary for salvation they are missing one of the colors seen at the cross. When the heavy drops of the Savior’s blood fell like a boulder to the ground, they formed a puddle beneath the cross that was red. And when one is baptized into his death, he comes in contact with the blood. When the blood of Jesus was shed at the cross, the Hebrew writer then says “it is finished.” The debt has been paid and redemption is real. It is totaled. It is complete.
IV. Finally the fourth color was gold because it was lined with forgiveness. Romans 5:8 says, “For God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins.” The one factor that motivated our Lord, “was the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” That joy is the love of sinners and the willingness to forgive. A story that illustrates this type of love is that of the skid row drunk. A bum who smelled bad and was vermin covered. But he lived to tell the story that when “I was on the wagon I was a very successful business man.” Of course his fellow drunks did not believe one word of his often repeated story. One day in frustration he saw a long shiny limousine drive by slowly and stop. When the chauffeur opened the back door for the occupant the fellow could not stand it any more. “See him,” he cried, “He was my partner in business.” “So, if that is the case then go over there and get a hand full of money,” they chided him. As he walked up to the limousine, he covered his mouth and simply asked the fellow to act like you know me. It did not take long for the limousine occupant to size up what was going on. He opened up his arms and spoke in a loud voice, “Well, where have you been? It is so good to see you.” He took him in the limousine and bought him a new suit and good meal and put money in his pocket and then took him back to the street corner.
Now isn’t that like our Lord? He has forgiven me, a skid row bum. The death of Jesus was the golden crown of love and forgiveness holding out a crucified and bloody body to the hands of deeply entrenched hatred. The death of God not only says that God loves us, but it plainly tells us that God longs for us to love him in return. He loves and forgives not because I am so wonderful. We all know that we are not. I know what I am and you know what you are. And with all our prayers, songs, and suppers we know we still have lust, arrogance, materialism, covetousness, jealousy and envy rooted in our hearts. So it is not our greatness that draws him to us. Rather it is his greatness in love and forgiveness that draws him to us.
Without question it was a multicolored day at the cross. The cross was black because of sin. (2) It was white because of his total perfection. (3) It was red for the blood he shed. (4) It was golden because of his love and forgiveness.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 20, pp. 635-636
October 15, 1987