Jesus in the midst. John 19.18.
JESUS IN THE MIDST
Rev. Donald MacLean
August 23rd, 1970
Lord’s Day Evening
“Jesus in the midst”. John 19.18.
We have here in this part of the Word of God an account of the great event of the death of ChristÂ—an event prophesied before it took place, fulfilled exactly as it was prophesied.
Now the death of Christ is seen by people in different ways depending upon the degree of light they receive on this particular event. To many in the world today it is an event with which they want no connection whatsoever. To others it is merely an event in history which took place, as other historical events have taken place, shaping the history of the human family in one way or another. Yet others take the view, as no doubt many did, that Jesus of Nazareth’s death was a death of a Man Who had come up against the powerful forces of what is nowadays called the Establishment both in Church and State, that His teachings were not acceptable and that He was overcome by the forces of the Establishment.
These are, of course ,the views of those who are in spiritual darkness. If we are ever to understand the real meaning of the death of Christ, we must see it in the light of God’s Word. It is an event upon which the Word of God sheds a great deal of light. We find again and again, in connection with the events that took place, that they took place that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Many of those details which would appear to be of no significance at all to a man like Pilate and even to others like the High Priests and the Jews, are marked down here by John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as indicative of the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Consequently, if we are to discern and understand what the death of Christ means, and, in particular, what it means to you and me, we must see it in the light of the Word of God.
We see brought before us in these words that ‘Jesus is in the midst’. He was in the midst of Golgotha; He was in the midst between these two malefactors; He was also in the midst in the sense that, being raised up upon the cross of Calvary, He was in the midst between heaven and earth, and in Him, heaven and earth meet together. This is the event concerning which He spoke to Nathanael when the eye of His omnipotency saw him under the fig tree. We have no doubt what Nathanael was doing there. Jesus
said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” John 1, 47. Now, the language of the Israelite in whom there is no guile isÂ—”I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord”, Psalm 32, 5, and, no doubt, Nathanael under the fig tree alone was pouring out his soul unto the Lord and confessing his sins to God, seeking the blessing of “the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32, 1. When Nathanael said “Thou art the King of Israel” John 1, 49, the Saviour told him “Thou shalt see greater things than these” John 1, 50, and this is what he was to seeÂ—he was to see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, to see the fulfilment of that vision of Jacob that he saw when he was an outcast from his father’s home, when he had nothing but the stones for his pillow, when he saw the ladder rising from earth to heaven and the angels ascending and descending upon that ladderÂ—the place where heaven and earth met, and the place where the soul of Jacob heard the voice of loving-kindness and where the God of Abraham and Isaac said to him “Behold, I am with thee ,and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest,” Genesis 28, 15. This is the One, and the only One ,in Whom heaven and earth meetÂ—”Jesus in the midst.”
Now, in the second place, I shall notice that “Jesus in the midst” was the means of bringing together two who were very far from one another before. There was one of the thieves on his cross. He was a prodigal son in a far country until he came to Golgotha, when he was reconciled to God through “Jesus in the midst.” “Jesus in the midst” is still causing this to happen. Prodigal sons and prodigal daughters are reconciled to God. They shall have the promise, “Today”Â—the day that begins in the new birth, and that day is to continue as they are brought to the light, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” It is through “Jesus in the midst” this does still take place.
In the third place, we shall notice “Jesus in the midst” effected a separation between those that were together before. There were twoÂ—they had been thieves beforeÂ—and they had joined hand in hand, although the Word of God told them “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” Proverbs 11, 21. This is a lesson that this generation needs to learn. They think, because the majority go their way, because they join hand in hand in wickedness against God, they think that they can still the voice of conscience, that they can turn their backs upon the Word of God, yet “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” Though these thieves were friends before, and together in wickedness before, “Jesus in the midst” effected a separation. One went from the side of Christ to heaven and the other went from the side of Christ to hell. That is still going on. It is going on now. It is going on here inside these four walls, “Jesus in the midst” is making this separation. So therefore you are to pay attention, and very close attention to discover the effect of “Jesus in the midst.” If you ignore the fact of “Jesus in the midst”, you
ignore it at your peril, and you rush onÂ—you rush on like the horse into the battle which is blinded lest it be turned aside through fear, but it is no less certain to be slain. You may blind your eyes;
you may say that “Jesus in the midst” has nothing to do with you, and, in the blindness of your eyes, you may rush on heedlessly, but, remember, when it comes to your soul leaving your body and going into eternity, there is no friend to hold you then, and you must go to meet God alone.
First of all, “Jesus in the midst” is the One in Whom heaven and earth meet, the One Who is the great Ladder which extends from earth to heaven. Surely, my dear friends, this is a wonderful sight, that here at Golgotha, in this place where death appears to reign and that by the authority of justice, there is One in the midst. One in the midst of the shadow of death. One in the midst of this very place, Golgotha, where there were the skulls of the slain on every side, and it is true that in Him heaven and earth meet.
Now this Person on the cross is the Son of God in our nature. You see, the Son of God contains in His Person all the fulness of the Divine nature. As surely as the Father and the Holy Ghost have the fulness of the Divine nature, so, the fulness of the Divine nature dwells in the Person of the Son, so that the Son is infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His Being, wisdom, power and holiness, justice, goodness and truth, as surely as the Father and the Holy Ghost are. Therefore, heaven and earth meet in this respect of the termÂ—the human nature and the divine nature are united in the Person of Christ. They are meeting in the Person of Christ and, although they do not intermingle or intermix with one another, the human nature remains human, the divine nature remains divine; the human nature does not change, although it is honoured by its union with the divine nature, and yet heaven and earth meet in this Person of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is part of the glory of the Saviour, that in Him heaven and earth meet, in Him heaven and earth are united to one another; in Him heaven and earth are not warring with one another. His human nature is subject to the divine nature in a way that is altogether glorifying both to the divine and human nature. This was to testify and make known that the purpose of God was to bring to Himself sinners who by nature are alienated from Him, who by nature and practice are enemies to God by wicked works, who by nature and practice are at war with God. That is a war that you hear very little ofÂ—the war against GodÂ—the rebellion against God, the immorality, the forgetfulness of God, the turning of the back upon the Word and worship of God, the warfare between the children of men and God. Very seldom is this war spoken of at all, but it is there, my dear friends, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8, 7, and this is what the Gospel speaks of and goes to the very root of. The troubles with regard to war and rumours of war, the enmity
that exists among men must be cured in this wayÂ—that sinners must be reconciled to God.
“Jesus in the midst”, when heaven and earth met together, gave hope of the word of reconciliation, so that Paul could say, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5, 20. When Jesus was in the midst of Calvary we find heaven and earth meeting together in His glorious Person as God and Man.
“Jesus in the midst” also brings before us heaven and earth meeting together in a very solemn way indeed. Bound up with the word of reconciliation come these words. “He hath made Him to be sin for us. Who knew no sin.” 2 Cor. 5, 21. He knew no sin, but was made sin. He is One upon Whom sin was laid. Isaiah, speaking by the spirit of prophecy, discerning the death of Christ says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53, 6. Jesus was in the midst of Calvary, held up from the earth and sin laid upon Him, the sins of a number that no man can number, sins that have been committed on this earth, as Christ said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth.” John 17, 4Â—that very place where His people have sinned was the very place where He glorified God, and now the sword was laid upon this Divine and glorious Person with respect to the sins of His people. Then we find this taking place, heaven meeting earthÂ—heaven meeting with ‘Jesus in the Midst,’ bearing the sins of His people “in His Own body on the tree” 1 Peter 2, 24. What is the language of heaven with regard to those sins but this, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow . . . smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” Zech. 13, 7. That is the language of heaven, my dear friends, against sin borne by Jesus in the midst of Calvary. And don’t you think for one moment that it will be otherwise if you go to eternity without Christ. The sword was asleep when Abel went into heavenÂ—the sword was not asleep when Cain went into eternity; the sword laid Cain down in everlasting sorrow. The sword was asleep when Moses went to heavenÂ—but the sword was not asleep when Pharaoh went down in the depth of the Red SeaÂ—that sword of divine justice laid him in everlasting sorrow in a lost eternity. But, when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the Old Testament saints had to pass into heaven, the sword slept, and it slept in the scabbard of the promise that Christ gave to this sword that He would be in the midst of Calvary. “Father” He said, “the hour is come.” John 17, 1. “The hour is come”Â—the hour when He promised that He would appear in the midst of Calvary, bearing the sins of His people. That hour when the sword would no longer sleep in the scabbard, when it would awake out of the scabbard of the promise which Christ gave it, “I will be in the midst of Calvary and that sword can then smite Me.” Remember in Gethsemane when the powers of darkness came the Saviour addressed this question to them, “Whom
seek ye?” John 18, 4. Did they say “Peter”? Did they say “John”? Did they say “James”? No. They said, “We seek Jesus of Nazareth.” When Simon Peter drew his sword to come between Christ and those who were seeking Him He said, “Put up thy sword into the sheath;” John 18, 11, “There is another sword in this garden that has been taken out of the sheath of the promise that I gave in a past eternity.” And this is what He says with regard to it, “The cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” John 18, 11. This sword came not seeking for Peter, James or John; it was the sword that was to meet with “Jesus in the midst”, to deal with the sins that were laid upon Him. The sword was not meeting with their sins in them, but meeting with their sins in “Jesus in the midst.” So He died in the room and place of His people. When the sword entered into Him and carried the fire of divine wrath into Christ, that fire was quenched in the wounds of a crucified Jesus, and He cried, “It is finished”. John 19, 30.
And now, my dear friends, may I ask you this, as the Saviour Himself said, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23, 31. If these things are done in the “Plant of Renown” Ezekiel 34, 29, in “the Apple Tree among the trees of the wood” Song of Solomon 2, 3, do you imagine for one moment that, if you leave this world Christless, the sword of divine justice is going to pass you by? Theories about there being no hell and so on are delusions, and, not only delusions, but they are just unintelligent drivel, and have nothing to do with truth and reality. If, as a sinner who has been warring against God all your days, you go to eternity and you face God and the sword of divine justice, you cannot for one moment expect to escape. If Christ was dealt with as “Jesus in the midst” you must not expect that you are going to escape. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55, 6. “Jesus in the midst” is the One Who has died and paid the ransom price, brought about reconciliation and taken away the iniquities of His people through His death upon the cross, and they are reconciled to God.
Now this brings me, in the second place, to this, that “Jesus in the midst” of His people was the means of bringing together God and the thief, bringing a man, who, until He came to “Jesus in the midst” of Calvary, was without God and without hope in the world, who was a sinner treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, but now, through “Jesus in the midst” this man is reconciled to God.
Now you will be saying “How does this apply to me”? Jesus is no longer in Golgotha; He has risen from the dead; He has ascended up on high; He is now at God’s right hand, “exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5, 31. Jesus is “in the midst” still. Was He not in the midst of the church at Corinth when Paul said to
them, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified?” 1 Cor. 2, 2. Was not Jesus in the midst then? Did he not say on another occasion to the Galatians, “Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” Galatians 3, 1, and is it not true with regard to the message of salvationÂ—that Jesus is in the midst of the Word of God, and Jesus, in the Word of God and in the preaching of the glorious Gospel of grace, is in the midst of the church of God? Paul, setting aside the wisdom of Corinth, the wisdom that appealed to the people of Corinth said, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” I Cor. 2, 2. Well, there is no Gospel apart from that. The Gospel that Jesus is a Man Who has more of the divine that anyone else is not the Gospel of the grace of God. The Gospel that Jesus was a good example and a good Teacher is not the gospel of the grace of God. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed. 2 John, 10. “Jesus in the midst” is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Ladder from earth to heaven by which the sinner must come if He is to be reconciled to God.
Jesus was “in the midst,” and this thief came near to “Jesus in the midst.” Is that not true of you? You have come near to the Word of God. You have come near to the Gospel of Christ. You have come near to that declaration “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2, 2. Are you not as near, with regard to the spiritual aspect of this matter, as this man was before that took place with him, which must take place with you, “Jesus in the midst”? And, you see, there was something else. The Holy Spirit, was He not there at Calvary too? Not only the Father was there, not only heaven and earth met together in the Person of the Saviour, but heaven and earth met together in the Holy Spirit coming to visit the soul of this man who was standing on the brink of the grave and with the grave’s yawning, devouring mouth opened almost under his feet. You and I live on the brink of the grave’s devouring mouth. We know not what a day nor an hour may bring forth. We may promise ourselves years here but, before we know where we are, we are found in the devouring mouth of the grave, and that is where this man was. He discovered that he had sinned against God. He rebuked his fellow when he reproached Christ and told the Saviour to save Himself and them, but that could not be done. He thought he was going to be saved without the death of Christ. A lot of people think that today, but, like this man, they will go straight to hell unless they repent. “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” Luke 23, 40. In that he came to realise in his soul that this Person, Jesus, was standing under condemnation of sins of which He was not guilty, but which He was bearing in love, he came to understand that he was a sinner under condemnation and that, if God dealt with him according to
his sins, there was nothing for it but that he should go down to the grave’s devouring mouth and lie down in everlasting sorrow on the other side of death. But he saw more than that. It was given to him to see, perhaps even from the title that Pilate had written over the crossÂ—”Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John 19, 19. The light of the Holy Spirit shining into this man’s soul began to discern that this was the Lord of Glory, this was the Saviour, this was the One to Whom he must pray if he was to obtain deliverance, and we find him exercising the grace of faith by way of prayer. He prayed first of all, “Lord.” That was a very wonderful thing. Here is a Person nailed to the cross and He is naked upon the cross. He has been crucified through weakness, and this man is addressing Him as “Lord.” You see, faith discerns that this Person is the Son of God. The person who does not believe that the Saviour is the Son of God and that He is One to be prayed to and is to be addressed as God, that person has no true faith. He has never passed from death unto life. This man, he saw what eyes do not see, what ears do not hear, he saw what doth not enter into the heart of man, that this Person on the cross of Calvary was the Lord of glory. He prayed to Him as the Lord of glory. There are many nowadays who look upon the cross of Christ as something weak. They were saying here, “This Man is dead” and they were surprised when they came to find that He was dead already, before the two thieves were dead, and there was no necessity to break His legs because His spirit was gone. It was gone into the Father’s bosom and it appeared that His cause in the world was just dying out. But the thief knew better. He addressed Him as God. He knew in his heart according to the light he had, that, although Christ was crucified through weakness, He was to live by the power of God. People nowadays say we are living in the post-Christian era. Christianity has had its time. Has it indeed? There are churchmen who are saying, “We must accommodate Christianity to modern living. We must seek out the best in Mohammedanism and Buddhism, etc. but Christianity and all its exclusive claims, all that is gone now, the Lord was crucified through weakness.” Some of you remember the story of Alexander Peden, an old noted Covenanter. He said that the time would come when churchmen in Scotland would lay Christ in the grave as surely as He was laid in the grave after Calvary. Christ would be gone out of this land. But, when Christ would arise, “the crack of His winding sheet would strike terror into the hearts of His enemies.” Whatever that exactly means, friends, there is one thing that must strike terror into the hearts of these men, and that is the very thought that Christianity is true, because it is. This man had faith and those who have spiritual faith may go lower and lower in the weakness of the cause of Christ but they have no doubt about this, it is a cause that will never fail and that from age to age there shall be those who fear God. The cause of Christ will never die out and Christ will always have His people in this world.The prayer of faith embraces the Lordship of Christ.
The second thing in this prayer was that this man saw by faith the kingdom of Christ. There was, as far as the human eye was concerned, no sign of it. It would cause a supercilious grin on the face of Caiaphas and Pilate himself to think that this Person had a kingdom. Looking at Him on the cross in the midst of Calvary without a garment to cover His body, a crown of thorns on His head and crying out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15, 34, where is the kingdom of this Person? It was not an earthly kingdom Christ spoke of, else His servants would fight. It was a kingdom described by Paul, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14, 17, and this is what this man saw. This man realised his sinnership, and what he needed was righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu, the righteousness of Emmanuel, the righteousness that God had prepared, the righteousness that God accepts. The Apostle says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” Romans 1, 16 & 17, and he gives a reason, “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith”, and you see this righteousness is the very salvation that is in Christ, the One Who died and rose again and Who met all the claims of law and of justice on behalf of His people. In His kingdom there is righteousness. It is based upon that righteousness. There is peace. How the thief needed peace with God, when his life’s blood was ebbing away, when his life was failing, how he needed peace with God and joy in the Holy GhostÂ—joy in beholding the love of the Person who was dying for him.
Some of you will remember the story of the Persian prince whose kingdom was overthrown and he with his young wife were brought before their captors. This young man said to the men who had captured him that he was willing to die if his wife could be spared and the captor was so impressed with what the young man said that he allowed them both to go free. When they were together the prince said to his young wife, “Was it not very noble and great of the captor to let us go free”? And his young wife said, “I have no eyes but for the man that was willing to die for me!” This is the nature of that faith that worketh by love. There are no eyes, my dear friend, for any, but for the Man that died for them. He gives peace, this Prince of Peace Who died for them. And let me assure you that, once the eye of faith that worketh by love sees the glory of Christ’s love as the One Who died for them, there will be felt joy unspeakable and full of glory. “Whom, having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1, 8.
And then there was this, that he saw that Christ had to enter into His kingdom by this way; he saw that the righteousness and peace and joy in the kingdom was founded upon the death of
Christ. Christ had entered into His kingdom by then. He saw righteousness, peace and joy in the kingdom founded upon the death of Christ. “Lord, remember meÂ—remember me.” He had nothing to plead of his ownÂ—no righteousness of his own, no good works of his own. How could he have any when he was nailed to a tree? He would just hang his soul upon thisÂ—that Christ would remember him. “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people;O visit me with Thy salvation.” Psalm 106, 4. He said “Remember me” as he came in the exercise of faith to hang his soul upon Christ for time and for eternity.
“I have nothing of my own. I am before the grave’s devouring mouth. I am a sinner clothed with sin and iniquity, but Lord,” he said, “Remember me.” The Saviour said “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23, 43. What day? Well, of course, in this case, it is this day. But there was a day begun in the soul of this thief when the Sun of Righteousness had risen upon his soul with healing in His wings. This is true of you if you by faith of the operation of God have hung your hope for eternity upon Christ. When that day began in your soul, the Sun of Righteousness rose with healing in His wings upon your soul, and that, my dear friends, is “the path of the just which is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4, 18. The day of grace must become the noonday of glory. ‘Their sun shall no more go down” Isaiah 60, 20; when it strikes the meridian, my dear friends, for you, your soul will be away to Immanuel’s land. “Their sun shall no more go down.” So it was with this man. When Christ’s soul went into the bosom of the Father, this man’s soul went into Paradise with Jesus of Nazareth. “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”
This was a man who was far from GodÂ—a prodigal son in a far country and, through “Jesus in the midst” he had come to be united to Christ and to God the Father in Christ, and his soul was away to Paradise. So it is still. Through “Jesus in the midst” of the Gospel and by the power of the Holy Ghost, the sinner comes to say, “Lord remember me.” He comes to be united to Christ by faith and united to Christ by faith we may say that heaven and earth are joined that day. Let us remember that the soul that is united to Christ by faith is united to Christ Who is also in heaven, and that soul shall be with Christ in Paradise.
Now there was this too. There was a separation between those who were friends before. Those who had joined hand in hand in the world and served in sin together, “Jesus in the midst” made a separation between them. There was another thief who was just as near Jesus outwardly as this man was. He could see the wounds in His hands. He could see the words, “The King of the Jews.” He could see Jesus and Him crucified as surely as the other man could. But “Jesus in the midst” made this separation. The other of whom we were speaking, he went from the side of Christ to heaven; this man went from the side of Christ to hell. Now, he was just as
near Christ, outwardly, as the other man was. And that is happening still. Do you know that? Do you know that that is happening still? Do you know that there are men and women coming near to Christ, as near to Christ, outwardly, as God’s people come. They come near to the Gospel and hear it with the hearing of their ears, and they go from the sound of the Gospel to perish in hell with the devil and his angels. What about you? You need not go any further than this Sabbath morning. Did Jesus in the midst not make a separation here today? Did Jesus not appear in the Gospel? We hope He did in the Gospel. But “Jesus in the midst” was also represented by the symbols of the broken bread and the poured out wine. Did not ‘Jesus in the midst’ and Jesus in His death in the midst make a separation here today? There were those who sat at the Lord’s Table and those who did not. Perhaps there were some who should have done, but there were others. And you know this, my dear friends, you know it as well as I know it, that the reason why you were not at the Lord’s Table this morning was this, that you are a Christless soul. That’s the reason. Your own conscience and the Word of God bear witness to the fact that you don’t want Christ, I put this to you. Have you not seen one here, one there, one in your own family, they were your friends before, they were joined with you; they joined in your companionship;
they joined in your vanities; they joined in your pleasures, and what happened? You saw them turning from the evil of their ways. You saw them going to the prayer meeting. You saw them beginning to read their BibleÂ—you saw them leaving the cinema, the dance hall and the ceilidh. Why, what was happening? The Gospel, “Jesus in the midst” was making a separation between you and them. Why? Because they were beginning to go to heaven and you are continuing to go to hell. “Jesus in the midst”, my dear friendsÂ—, O what a solemn thing “Jesus in the midst”, in the gospel, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper making a separation. ::The one shall be taken and the other left.” Matt. 24, 40. There are people here who have been under the gospel for years and years. I say, my dear friends, you are here under the Gospel, and your hair is grey with the years you have been under it. Are you not afraid that Christ is saying to you, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep?” John 10, 26. Is it not time to be concerned about this matter of “Jesus in the midst”; that you took it to heart that “Now is the accepted time. Behold, now is the day of salvation” 2 Cor. 6, 2, that you began to say, “Lord, remember me;
that you began to cry with blind Bartimaeus,” Thou Son of David, have mercy on me?” Mark 10, 48. It would cause “joy in the presence of the angels of God” Luke 15, 10, in respect to this Communion Season if there was one sinner that repented, one sinner that cried from the depths of his or her heart, “Lord, remember me.”