The Great Transition From One Humanity to Another
But now we come actually up to the time of the Cross, the hours before the crucifixion, and the hour itself; and you have gathered around that Cross a representation of every aspect of the human race. From the inner circle to the wider circle, they are all there; and the focal point is the Cross of Jesus Christ. And what is that Cross bringing to light? Let us take a few cases and instances of this. We will begin with the highest representation of the highest religious system and order that history has known.
Caiaphas, the high priest of Israel, in whom the race is officially centered and gathered up - he is representative of the nation. You read the story put together from these accounts where Caiaphas is the chief actor on the stage of this drama. No words of mine or of man can describe, really, that man with this Other Man in his presence. i think the only description, the only words that approach the description of this man were long before prophesied by Isaiah. You remember? You are so familiar with then in Isaiah, chapter six, when the prophet has made his response to the Lord's appeal, "Who will go for us? ..." - said Isaiah, "Here am I. Send me!" What did the Lord say to him? ... and He said (the Lord said): "Go, and tell this people, 'Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed.' " That sounds terrible. "Lest ... lest ... they turn again." make it impossible for them to do so, take away their ability to go back upon their course. Is not the terrible?
But what are you dealing with - you are dealing with a hardness of heart which has been hardened and hardened and hardened again against the Word, against the prophets, against all the revelation that God has given, a hardening, a hardening until they have gone beyond the point of no return and God has said: "You have so hardened your heart and said so positively 'No' to My Ways, that it is beyond now remedying. That is Caiaphas and Israel at the Cross; the heart which says "No" to God.
What a heart, what an exposure, what a revelation of human capacity in the Presence of the Highest Privilege. Yes, it is coming out now, what has gone on. It had perhaps a very simple beginning, but it grew and grew - there was no where God said: "Take away their capacity for hearing and seeing." The judgement of the hard heart of man, even under all those appeals and pleadings and sobs and tears of God, comes out at the Cross - what the Cross reveals about what is possible in our hearts!
You say: "That is Caiaphas, that is not me." Oh, you do not know the human heart if you say that. You do not know the human heart if you have never had any rebellion in your heart. If you have never had the capacity for saying "No" to the Lord and had to have a battle over it. It is there: it is not Caiaphas, it is Adam: this is Adam following through by coming to development.
What An Opportunity This Man Had
In the high place of religion you come from Caiaphas and move over to Pilate. Pontius Pilate!! What an opportunity this man had. Oh, what has history said about Pilate? We do not thing of Pilate without some feeling of disgust. Pilate, who had the opportunity of humanity in his hands, and what is he doing? Well, you say, he is vacillating, he is moving from one foot to the other; he may at times seem to be rocking, but all that speaks of weakness 0 inability to come right down one hundred percent on one foot and make his full and final decision, trying to pass it over to someone else to make the decision, trying to shed the responsibility ... but why? Why? He represents a time server ... "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend." That is it! Caesar's favor, Caesar's ability to further my worldly interest: "If I take this line, then all my worldly interests are in jeopardy; my prosperity in business, my good standing with the authorities, those who have it in their power to further my interest." He is a time server, and Pilate goes down in history as the man who handed Jesus over to be crucified from his own inability to make a decision in His favor. "Take him, you take Him; I have said, I find no fault with Him, but you take Him and crucify Him." The weakness of what? The awful tragedy of a divided heart, the main feature and factor in which is: "how this is going to effect me and my interest." That finds us out all the way along.
You see, that was the battle that Jesus Himself fought in the wilderness with the devil. The devil was saying how it would effect You if You go the way that You have decided to go, how it would effect You: "You want the kingdom of this world, You take the line of compromise." That was Pilate ... what an exposure of what is in man!
We Hurry On
We hurry on and come nearer, nearer to the center of the circle, we come to Judas Iscariot. You cannot use that word, that name now, can you, without a frown, almost a sneer. "Judas". When you want to say the worst thing that you can say about anybody, you say: " - he is a Judas." It started somewhere in a very simple way, it started in a day when either the Lord Himself (Who knew what He was doing, mark you) or the other disciples, said to Judas: "Look here, people will give us gifts to help us along, we have to have somebody to look after the gifts. Judas, you, you have the bag."
A simple beginning, but what happened? Being in that position drew out something that was deep down in that humanity. Perhaps not even Judas knew it, but this drew it out. You know the end. A man who again goes beyond the point of return and recognizes at last that he has been betraying the Lord. Everything was put in his way of glory, the heavenly order; and there is nothing else to do but to take his own life.
What has been exposed? What is it in this humanity that is down there in the root of things and comes up and up if only given an opportunity?! I heard Dr. Campbell Morgan once say in preaching that we are capable of anything if only we have the opportunity for it. That is searching. What is come out? Covetousness, that is all. Wanting to have; and my friends, while you shrink from the name Judas, be careful, this is in us all, even in the work of the Lord! Covetousness to be recognized, to be given opportunities of service, wanting for ourselves even in the things of God. As disciples, the root may be there - this wanting to have, to make ourselves something. Covetousness, which the Word says is idolatry. The Cross will discover what is in us; it will bring it out. Well, that is Judas.
A Man Who Did Not Know Himself
Now let us come nearer still, perhaps to the innermost circle. Simon Peter. Simon Peter is a man who did not know himself and who thought so differently about himself from what was true: "I will never forsake Thee, I will go with Thee even unto death. Though all men forsake Thee, yet will I not. I will not." "I will, "-" I." Where did that begin? You have heard this before. Blinded by this ego, this self-hood, oh, Simon Peter, you do not know yourself, but the Cross is going to uncover you, find you out, and expose you and devastate you. You will go out in despair of yourself, and shed many tears. The Lord will have to send someone searching for you with a special message: "Go to my disciples and to Peter ... I know what is happening there, I know where he is and what is happening."
Poor, poor Simon Peter. What was happening? Well, the Lord told Simon Peter what would happen, and Simon Peter did not understand it until afterwards. "Simon, Simon, satan has desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat" - strip off that false covering of self-hood that covers. Really, Peter, what is there, you do not know ... sift you as wheat.
Simon Peter found that the Cross is a very searching and a very devastating thing to any kind of self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-interest, or anything of self. It is going to simply desolate that kind of humanity.
(continued with - "Men Without Anything Left")