This article first appeared as a meditation in the April 15, 1957 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.33, No.14), and was penned by Rev. Gerrit Vos.
Reviling the Dying Christ
How characteristic of fallen humanity are those passersby!
It was none of their business, but they must needs stop a while, and as they stop, revile the dying Christ.
No, they are not the only miserable creatures who mock Jesus. They all did. But here they are mentioned especially.
Yes, all mock Jesus.
Chief of them all were the elders, the chief priests, the lawyers, the Scribes and the Pharisees. All that was called the cream of the crop surrounded the Cross of Golgotha, and derided the Son of God.
Neither were they alone in their godless work. Also the mob was guilty of this heinous crime. The mob, which consisted of Jews mostly, but also some Greeks, and Romans. Indeed, we may assume that representatives of many nations were present around that cross. Was it not the greatest of all holy days of the church which brought these representatives from all the surrounded nations to the feast of the Passover? Do you remember the many nations that are mentioned a few weeks hence, at the feast of Pentecost?
It must have been a motley throng around that cross.
And that is as it should be. The world must be there. This moment is a very special moment.
This moment is the most important in all the history of the world. Never shall there be a more pregnant hour on the clock of the Universe.
I may even say that this moment is that which is most important in all eternity.
Remember the little Lamb standing as if slain in the midst of the throne of God? And if in the midst of the throne it must needs be in the very heart of God! For God is on that throne.
And that is correct.
Jesus hanging on the Cross is the sweetest and the most beautiful thing God has ever revealed, both in creation and in recreation.
Jesus hanging on the cross, derided and reviled by the world and the church, and nevertheless dying for His own, is the most wondrous spectacle we will ever see.
All things in heaven and earth, in hell and anywhere are, became, and shall be because of this Holy Thing of which the angels sang.
It shows all the virtues of God. It pinpoints all that is glorious in our Father above. It shall make you sing forever before the throne. God will never let you forget His loving heart that would die in Christ: the Death of the Son of God!
As though you would!
You and I and all the host of the elect shall sing unto all eternity: Thou hast bought us unto God by Thy blood!
And all the while we will be pointing to that bleeding little Lamb in the midst of the throne of God!
But the passers-by revile this most beauteous Holy Thing!
Horror of horrors!
Why did not God come and destroy the whole world?
He did not, and for the same reason why Jesus saw, heard, suffered, and . . . . remained nailed to the cruel cross!
But of that later.
First those passers-by.
Yes, they have their hour.
All classes of people have their hour: they also must be represented.
The passers-by are a special class. And yet, when we study them, they are not so special after all.
No, we do now for certain who they were.
Some say that they were Galileans.
Others identify them as of the dispersion.
They are neither the one nor the other.
They were simply, as is stated, passers-by.
They are the world in their coldness, indifference, cold bloodedness, and utmost contempt for the things that are important, great, majestic.
I think that a man like Simon of Cyrene was a fitting representative of this sort of people.
The rest of Jerusalem was at least interested in this bleeding stranger of Galilee. They congregated on this Thursday and Friday and ran in great multitudes from the place where the Sanhedrin congregated to Pilate's hall of judgment, to Herod's palace, and back again, ever growing and ever more clamorous.
But not these passers-by.
They just happen to find themselves at this spot, this Calvary.
Don't you ever believe it! They were here by God's appointment. The passers-by have a date with God. God will have cursed humanity before this spectacle in all their rotten nuances. The whole world must be there.
We have heard of them before.
When a poor man cast a shadow of the cross before, we see them also. I have in mind the passers-by in the days of Jeremiah's lamentations. The book in the Bible that gave utterance before the dying Christ's roaring.
"Is it nothing to you, all that pass by? behold, and see if their be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger." Lamentations 1:12.
Dear reader, in that text you have the suffering of Christ as He suffered in His elect before His coming.
Oh yes, we know these passers-by. They are the godless world from a special point of view.
And would you know it? They are a class that are more numerous now than at any other time in God's history.
Today the world stands in the sign of these passers-by.
More and more we begin to see their faces, and more and more we see the world such as it will be when Jesus returns. Then the whole world will be as those indifferent specimen around the cross. They will then sow, reap, buy and sell, marry and give in marriage, etc. And that shall be their sin. They shall act as the dumb brute which is insensible to all spiritual data.
Oh, the horror of those passers-by!
But here they reviled the dying Christ.
And how perverted is their judgment!
They tell a lie in a double sense.
The Lord never said: "I will destroy the temple!"
He had announced Himself as the rebuilder of the temple when we destroyed it. We always destroy the temple of God: in paradise, in Moses' day and also in Christ's day. The temple is the house of God: man plus God.
The Lord said: You destroy, but I build it.
And, second, the Lord had not spoken of the edifice on Zion's mount, but He spake of His body. He was the temple of the living God. In Him God and man are united. And Him they broke. And even now, while they are reviling Him, He is rebuilding it.
They were liars in a double sense.
The cross of Jesus is the very foundation of the rebuilt temple of God, and more than that, it is the foundation of the glorified, exalted Temple of God, that cannot even be likened to the edifice on Mount Zion.
That cross is the God of our salvation, reconciling the world unto Himself.
Presently He will send the Holy Spirit which He will receive from His Father and then He shall draw all the elect unto Himself, so that the Temple may be full to overflowing.
And that rebuilt, glorified, and exalted Temple shall be beautiful indeed. To see a preview you must read the wonderful revelation of John. (I mean, of course, of Jesus Christ).
But the passer-by is simply a passer-by. What could he know of the glories that are crystallizing before his very eye?
He is blind to God, to Christ, to spiritual values.
Poor, miserable passer-by.
"If thou be the Son of God, Come down from that Cross!"
That means: Thou art not the Son of God, and therefore Thou canst not come down.
It seems that they have inquired round about that cross.
That was already plain when we examined their double lie. They must have said: why is this man on the cross? What has he done? And there are always willing informers. They must have told them about the accusations before Pilate. Hence, this cry.
And so we have the blindness of sin in this reviling cry.
Change the viewpoint: we destroyed the temple; the temple must be built on perfect righteousness, and loving obedience to God; we cannot do it; only God is able; hence, He is the Son of God rebuilding the Temple of God.
Why cannot Jesus, come down from the cross?
Oh, He could, if you would only take into account His exalted Godhead and power. Did He not say at one point: I can pray My Father and He will send me 12 legions of angels?
But again: why could not Jesus come down from the cross?
The answer is a beautiful story, my friends.
The theological reason is the unfathomable love of God. God will have His love known. And I do not mean first of all His love for us.
I have in mind this idea: the only reason why we have creation and recreation is the fact that God wanted to display, manifest, reveal how inexpressibly lovely and beautiful He is. And His wisdom devised the way of sin and grace: And Jesus our Savior serves that glorious purpose. And Jesus knew it. And so He will not come down: Hallelujah!
The Christological reason is the salvation of the church. How could we be saved if Jesus came down?
Moreover, there is that wonderful text in Heb. 12. Jesus endured the Cross and despised the shame because of the reward of glory that was set before Him.
This same bleeding Christ shall receive a name that is above every name.
No, do not pass by.
Stand before that cross and sing!
It is the splendid spectacle of surpassing beauty of God!
Rev. Gerrit Vos was born in Sassenheim, the Netherlands on November 1, 1894. He died in Hudsonville, Michigan on July 23, 1968.
Rev. G. Vos received instruction in the PR Seminary and was ordained into the ministry in September 1927. He served churches in Sioux Center, Iowa (1927-1929); Hudsonville, Michigan (1929-1932) and again in 1948-1966. He was pastor at Redlands, California (1932-1943) and in Edgerton, Minnesota (1943-1948). He retired in 1966.
The Rev. G. Vos was very eloquent in preaching and extremely descriptive in his writings. One sermon remembered well at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church was that preached the Sunday after a devastating tornado roared through the city in 1956. That sermon was later presented in the Standard Bearer as a meditation.
Three books of his meditations have been printed by the Men's Society of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and later reprinted by the Reformed Book Outlet of Hudsonville, Michigan.