DEGRADATION OF THE WILL
These articles are unified in certain directions by the analysis of human personality, which was accepted at the beginning. In speaking of the essence of sin as revealed in the Cross, therefore, it will be considered in the realm of the intelligence, the emotion, and the will of man, taking these in the reverse order. As at the first, man's sin proceeded through the avenue of the DARKENING OF THE INTELLIGENCE, the DEADENING OF THE EMOTION, and the DEGRADATION OF THE WILL, so here is the ultimate expression of degraded will, deadened emotion, and darkened intelligence.
First, the casting out of Jesus on the Cross was the protest of license against law. It was the most daring act of man in his revolt against the government of God. The Cross was man's response to the fact intimated in the superscription which Pilate in mockery of those Jews had written and placed over His head. There can be no doubt that the Roman governor was far more angry with the priests than with Jesus, and yet driven by the false principle of expediency, He handed Christ to crucifixion, and in doing so mocked the men that had clamored for the blood of the Nazarene, by placing over His head in letters of Hebrew, and Latin, and Greek the words, "This IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." (Matt. 27:37) Thus from whatever cause, man wrote above the Cross the ultimate fact, and in the Cross expressed his attitude towards it.
At the time of Christ's life and death, the three great world forces were all represented in that little land of Palestine, and it is not without deep significance that over His Cross these words were written in letters of Hebrew, and Latin, and Greek, the national language, the official language, the common language; the language of religion, the language of government, and the language of culture. The attitude of all the forces represented by these things was antagonistic to Christ. Out of the religion of the time, the Hebrew arose the inspiration of the crucifixion, while the power of the time, the Roman, was the agent for its execution, and the culture of the time, the Greek, was scornfully indifferent to Him and His claims. Sinful religion rejected Him, sinful power murdered Him, sinful culture neglected Him. He was cast out. The reason is to be found in the burden of His ministry as revealed in the first word of His preaching, the word “repent." In the uttering of this word, He called all men to a course of life EXACTLY OPPOSITE to that being pursued. This first note of His message was a criticism and condemnation of all things as He found them. He practically declared that man had lost the true center of his life, and that all the lines of human activity were proceeding in wrong directions. In the statement which immediately followed the first word, He revealed the nature of the wrong and of the right, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17) This word is a declaration of the DEPARTURE OF MAN FROM THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. It was an announcement, moreover, of the setting up of that government, and the whole burden of His preaching was that of a call to men to submit to God. It was a stern, severe, revolutionary cry that He sent ringing forth over all the manners and methods of men. The sternness was that of a great love, the severity was that of a great tenderness, the revolution was that of restoration. Men did not understand this. They recognized the meaning of the word, and the nature of the call. They knew that if they listened and obeyed, the whole current of life would be changed as to course, because changed at the center. There was no apology in the preaching of Jesus. He did not submit to men a proposal which they might discuss and vote upon. He spoke with authority, and not as the scribes, and the great burden of His message as men heard it, is perfectly expressed in that one word, “Repent."
Through the years of His public ministry, they criticized Him, they entered into conflict with Him, they endeavored to entrap Him in His talk, and at last they gave their final answer to His message, and the answer was the Cross. If Calvary's Cross means anything, it means that men have said, WE DECLINE TO REPENT, we will not have this Man to reign over us, we will not submit ourselves to the Diving government. (Luke 19:14) “…his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us”
Jesus had come into the world for the restoration of the lost order. In the midst of the chaos that He found, He uttered the first word, “repent," and then enunciated the principles of life within the Kingdom of God, proceeding to illustrate the breadth and beauty and beneficence of that kingdom, by all the deeds of tenderness and of love with which He filled the days. Men appreciated the benefits, but declined to submit to the authority. There is one startling instance of the attitude of man towards Christ. He passed over into the country of the Gadarenes, and at once came into contact with a man who must have been the very plague of the whole life of the district. He freed him from the possession of the evil spirits, and in the account of how the men who watched the working of His mighty power told the story in the city, there is this somewhat strange and yet revealing statement, "They . . . told everything, and—" Is it then possible to tell "everything, and —"? What can there be to tell, when everything is told? Now hear the whole statement, "They . . . told everything, and what had befallen" to the man "possessed with devils." (Matt. 8:33) Now mark the inversion of values. What was the "everything” in the sight of these men? The destruction of their pigs. What was the "and"? A man was delivered from demon possession, and set upright in the dignity of his manhood. Is it to be thought for a single moment that these men did not desire the benefit offered in the casting out of devils? There is no doubt that they would gladly have accepted all such benefits, and yet it is written, “they besought Him that He would depart from their borders." What can the explanation of such strange conduct be? This simply. THEY WERE NOT PREPARED TO PAY THE PRICE. This is not the occasion upon which to enter into any discussion of the vexed question as to our Lord's permitted destruction of the swine. It is enough that He permitted it to vindicate the action. And yet it may be declared in a sentence that at this period Jesus was exercising His Jewish Messiahship, and when He permitted the devils to destroy the swine, He but rebuked an unholy traffic, forbidden among these people whose Messiah He was. They eagerly would have the benefits of the kingdom, but this revolutionary interference with their profits they were not prepared to tolerate. This is but illustration of the fact evident through His entire ministry, which had its final expression in the Cross. Men were determined to silence His voice, because THEY WOULD NOT SUBMIT TO THAT ACTUAL KINGDOM OF GOD WHICH HE PROCLAIMED AMONG THEM. The Cross is the incontrovertible proof that sin has degraded man's will.