Jesus Christ Seen Crucified

cross

"Jesus Christ has been portrayed, crucified, before your very eyes" (Galatians 3:1).

The verb "set forth" has been translated here as "portrayed." The word may actually mean "placarded," posted up as on a poster, or "publicly advertised." The original word has the usual root for the verb to draw or write, "graphe," which all will recognize from its use in a good number of English terms, and the prefix "pro," which in composition with the verb can have the meaning of "before your eyes." It is asserted by some that the expression was used to refer to the Greek play producers' custom of making their presentations known by means of posters, on which were depicted details of a play; maybe enough to whet the appetite of interested playgoers, much as is done nowadays in the press, or indeed, on public posters. In what way, then, could Christ have been placarded, before their eyes, crucified? It was some years after His death; how then could the Galatians have seen the Lord graphically depicted as crucified?

I believe that it was in Paul that they had this before them so vividly. The apostle had lived among them, for a time, as a Crucified Man would live. We may then ask How would a crucified man live? Several points might be noted, but I suggest two.

1. Paul lived as a man who was finished with the world. A man suspended on a cross would realize more acutely than any of the onlookers would know, that in a very short time he will pass out of this world into the scene beyond death, and even in his extreme agony, this awesome journey would be starkly real to him. His physical suffering would be intense, especially if he were nailed to the cross, which was sometimes the case, but the yawning abyss which opened its gaping jaws before his terrified senses would be more dreadful even than the indescribable sufferings he endured. Nothing in the world would hold his interest at all, except that if he were a family man with a living wife and children, he would think of them and agonize about their future, of course. But the mere world, as such, would no longer have any meaning for him; his outlook would be blinkered to all that the world represented. Who would win the next election, which team would win the world cup - matters like this would no more engage his attention. This is what he was finished with. Paul also finished with this: the political or social outlook was not a concern of the apostle; he was wholly concerned with the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He was crucified to the world (Gal. 2:20).

2. The World was finished with Paul. It is very remarkable how what was said of the Lord was repeated almost verbatim of Paul. They said of the Lord Jesus, "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a demon?" One said of Paul, "Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." Of the Lord Jesus they said, "Away with Him;" they said of Paul, "Away with such a fellow from the earth." They said of the Lord Jesus, "Crucify Him;" and they said of the apostle Paul, "It is not fit that he should live." The Lord Jesus was plain in His utterances about the world. He had not come to condemn it, but in His statements concerning it He was really emphatic. The world was as direct as He in its rejection. The world did not know Him and it hated Him. Paul, as the servant of Christ, had come into a position similar to his Lord, vis-à-vis the world. Paul had abandoned everything in the world that could have been a profit to him. If a man renounces the world as valueless he does not stand to increase his popularity in the world. The closer a Christian walks to his Lord the more certain will be his rejection by the world. Paul was so clear an example of a devoted Christian that their rejection of him was total. How did this come about? Well, he tells us in this epistle, using an expression which is not used elsewhere, as far as I know. He writes, "It pleased God to reveal His Son In Me." Not only was the Lord Jesus Christ made known to Him, but He was made known IN HIM. Thus, Paul became a living delineation of Christ, in his body, as a man on earth. This is how he appeared to the Galatians. Paul was there, a clear representation of His rejected Lord; maybe as clear as any man has attained to in history. Paul had so literally accepted crucifixion with Christ that every thought, every word, every deed declared his fixed purpose to be done with the world and to be only, and wholly, for Christ. He was crucified with Christ to the world, and the world was crucified to him. He saw himself in this rejected place, and they saw him there also. Thus the rejection was complete both ways. He was not rejected for himself; it was not the man whom they refused; it was Christ IN HIM which brought about the rejection. It was not merely a personal matter but a representative matter. I am crucified with Christ. It all centered in Him and was for Him.

It was normal to flog prisoners who were to be crucified. The Lord was flogged in the course of His trial before Pilate. He was abused and struck by the Jews in their wicked examination of Him, though we do not read of Jews flogging Him. Paul had five times been flogged by the Jews and three times by the Gentiles. He did not have to endure crucifixion as the manner of his death; his was by the sword which was the privilege of a Roman. But he was so far identified with his glorious Lord that he could say of himself, "I bear in my body the brands of the Lord Jesus." So the statement may read thus, "As for me, I bear on my body the brands (or the stigmata1) of the Lord Jesus." Though a living man (perhaps the most truly LIVING man on earth in his time), yet it was not Paul who lived but, as he says, it was Christ who lived in him; Christ whom the world still rejected, still reviled, and still considered as having rightly been crucified, but who was now exalted to the highest glory: both Lord and Christ. They had wanted to be rid of Christ altogether. When a man came along who so clearly lived the life of Jesus in his tortured body, they saw that they would have to get rid of him also. Otherwise they knew that there would be no rest for them from the challenge of his life. When Christ was living here they could not fit Him into any of their plans or schemes. Nor could they find a niche for Paul. But, the Lord does not seek a niche; He must be supreme; He must reign over all, and Paul was not seeking a niche in the world. What He sought was that men should trust his Lord and give Him the supreme place in their lives and their affections, and he announced this gospel with the utmost energy and clarity (Phi. 2) He would suffer anything at all to make HIM known. Paul's presentation of Christ was not only in preaching (as in Gal. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:17-18) but he was a living representation, in his body, of the Christ whom he preached. Was Christ rejected? Paul was rejected. Was Christ crucified? Paul was co-crucified with Him. The mockery, the derision, the ill-treatment with which men abused the Savior came upon Paul because of his total identification with the Lord Jesus. A former Church of England bishop said in a speech at a function, "Wherever I go they make a tea party; wherever Paul went there was a riot." These are very significant words indeed. Paul was so wholly identified with His rejected Lord that they rejected him as completely as they rejected his Lord.


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