"The Sacrifice of the Cross"
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels:
A Devotional Exposition of the Teaching of the Christian Year
by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.,
Vicar of Castlechurch, Stafford.
SPCK, London, 1902.
THERE can be no doubt that our Church desires us to consider the Cross
as the sacrifice for sin. With this the special Lessons of the day
are also in harmony.
THE EPISTLE. (HEB. x. 1.)
THE PERFECT SACRIFICE.
In this second passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews we are taught,
as on Passion Sunday, the superiority of the Christian sacrifice to all
the sacrifices by which it was prefigured. It is most fitting that
on Good Friday we should thus consider the benefits of the Passion and
its relation to human sin.
A. A Better Sacrifice.
The Jewish sacrifices, by their very repetition, confessed their inadequacy
to cleanse the conscience from sin. They were also sacrifices of
something external to man. He offered to God not his own life, but
a life lower than his own.
In both respects we have a better sacrifice, for the offering of the
body of Christ was so complete and final that it can never be offered again.
The sacrifice Christ offered was that of a human body, and, therefore,
better than the offering of the lives of bulls and goats. But more
than this, He offered that which is the very essence of sacrifice--a surrendered
will. His death was the completion of a life of sacrifice, His offered
body was the outward expression of the inward offering of the will.
In union with this will we have been sanctified, and His sacrifice has
become available for us. Thus God has taken away the first sacrifices
that He may establish the second and more perfect sacrifice. He has
abolished the outward in order to bring in the inward sacrifice.
B. A Better Priesthood.
Christ is a better Priest than those of old, for their work was never
done. Year by year they offered the same sacrifices for the same
object. They were pathetically incapable of completing their task
for all their diligence. Christ had but to offer a single sacrifice,
and then to enjoy His eternal rest at the right hand of God, waiting His
final victory. He had done all that was needed for the perfect acceptance
of "all them that are being sanctified," viz., of the whole body of the
believing Church, who are seeking, receiving, and submitting to the power
of sanctifying grace.
C. A Better Covenant.
A mediator implies a covenant, for he offers to God a pure life, which
is, as it were, the medium through which God looks upon those whom He represents.
Thus we turn to the Christian covenant. It is a covenant conferring
two benefits. It is a covenant of sanctification, under which God
engages to write His laws upon the heart; and a covenant of pardon.
"Their sins...will I remember no more."
In no sense is the Christian covenant one of mutual agreement, and,
strictly speaking, there are no such things as terms or conditions of salvation,
but only three great duties:--
(1) Faith in relation to God.
We are to draw near with faith. The way to God's presence is open
for us, and we may approach with boldness. It is not a way of dead
ordinances, but a personal, living way. Christ is our way through
the veil that hides God. It is a human way--"the way of His flesh."
We translate verse 20--"A new and living way through the veil, namely,
the way of His flesh"--a suggestion of the late Bishop Westcott in his
(2) Hope in relation to ourselves.
Through the atonement we receive the assurance of personal forgiveness
and sufficient grace.
Verst 23, as in R.V., "Confession of our hope."
(3) Love in relation to others.
This love is to find expression in Christian activity, common worship,
mutual encouragement and exhortation.
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN. xix. 1.)
THE SACRIFICIAL DEATH.
This is most prominently brought before us in the narrative of S. John.
A. The Sinless Sacrifice.
Christ came forth wearing the crown of thorns, which represents the
sinner's curse, and the cast-off robe, which represents the sinner's shame,
to receive the sentence of condemnation, but Pilate cannot condemn.
Twice over he repeats the sentence of acquittal, "I find no fault in Him."
This was the verdict of the judge.
B. The Divine Sacrifice.
Christ's claim to be this is attested by His accusers, and is echoed
by Pilate's fears and anxious question, "Whence art Thou?" He has
said, "Behold the man," but now he fears and almost believes that it would
have been only truth to have said, "Behold your God." As God Christ
declares to Pilate the degree of his sin. Pilate's doubt is the Christian's
certainty; his fear is our hope.
C. The Kingly Sacrifice.
Christ died as a king dies for his people. He was accused of making
Himself a King. He was sentenced as a King. His accusation
placed upon His Cross bore witness to His universal Kingship in the three
great languages of the world. It was so written as to imply that
it was true. Pilate was asked to change the title from fact to assertion,
but he refused. What was written remained, and remains written.
D. The Prophetic Sacrifice.
This thought is ever present to S. John, who thrice records the fulfilment
of prophecy in the Crucifixion, and in this case by four Roman soldiers
who had never heard of it. The fact is recorded by the other evangelists,
but here only with a minuteness of detail showing the importance attached
to the correspondence with Ps. xxii. 18.
E. The Human Sacrifice.
Christ gave many proofs of His manhood, but none more touching than
His love to His mother and His friend. Jesus, the Perfect God, was
also Perfect Man, and it is an essential part of godliness to be human.
His human body thirsted for water, and His heart for love. Christ's
atonement depends upon His Divinity and upon His Humanity equally.
F. The Finished Sacrifice.
This is the leading idea of the last section. Christ's final cry
was of satisfaction at the completed evidence of prophecy, the completed
work of obedience, and the completed attainment of man's salvation.
The soldier's spear was also not only the evidence of actual death, but
of the benefits of that death as bringing cleansing and life to men (cf.
notes on First Sunday after Easter).
The unbroken body was the final proof of the fulfilment in Christ of
the sacrifice of the Passover, and of the special command--"a bone of Him
shall not be broken."
Thus the piercing of Christ fulfilled both the law and the prophets.
THE COLLECT. THE PLEADING
OF THE SACRIFICE.
We plead the Sacrifice of Christ on behalf of:--
A. The Whole Church.
This is the family of God which has received the adoption of sons through
the sacrifice of Christ and by virtue of the new covenant in Christ's Blood.
B. Every Member of the Church.
We plead the sacrifice of Christ not only for the whole body, but for
every degree, section, and member of it, that all the members may each
perform their special vocations and ministries within the Church.
C. Those Outside the Church.
We plead for these by the love of God in Creation, and by His uncovenanted
mercies, that they may be brought into the sphere of the covenant.
We pray for those in various degrees of error; the Jews and Turks, who
worship God but not in Christ; the infidels or heathen, who worship Him
not at all; the heretics, who worship Him amiss. We pray that all
may be brought through repentance into the one fold..