Chapter 15 – Crucified with Christ

“Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” John 11: 16.

This was an outburst of impetuous love from the heart of Thomas. The disciples had been vainly endeavoring to dissuade the Master from going back to Judea, because of the malignant hate which the resurrection of Lazarus had awakened on the part of His enemies, and the certainty of such hate being renewed in a dangerous form if He should return. “Master,” they said, “the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?” But when Thomas saw that persuasions did not avail, and that the Lord was certainly going back to face His enemies, he cried in an impulse of desperation and devotion, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” This, does not refer to the death of Lazarus, but to the certain death which Jesus would incur should He return to the midst of His infuriated foes. It was the cry of a devoted soldier ready to follow his leader in the “forlorn hope,” even into the jaws of danger and of death.

Thomas was wiser than he knew in the words he uttered. It is true he and his fellow-disciples did not immediately share their Master’s fate, for, as Christ afterwards said to Peter, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.”

But there was a deep and sacred sense in which they were to die with Him, even before the literal death which persecution and martyrdom were to bring to them. And there is a real and solemn sense in which these words are true of every disciple of Jesus Christ. For the death of our blessed Lord is not only the source of our salvation, but it is also a pattern of our life, and the secret of our crucifixion . . . “crucified with Christ.”

There is an important sense in which we may die with Christ to our past life of sin. The first chapter in the believer’s life is justification. This is founded upon the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it comes to us through the faith that reckons His death as ours, “For in that He died, He died unto sin once. . . . Likewise reckon ye yourselves also to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . . For he that is dead is freed from sin,” or, as it literally means, “is justified from sin.”

When God saves a man, He does not merely overlook his sin in kind and gracious clemency, but He settles for it completely and finally. And when He justifies a sinner, He not only overlooks his fault, but He declares him righteous, and puts him in the same position as if he had never sinned; or, rather, perhaps, as if he had been punished for his sin, and had thus satisfied all the demands of justice and law.

When Jesus Christ hung upon the Cross of Calvary He suffered as the Substitute of every sinner who should afterward believe in Him. Hidden somewhere in His wounded side we were there, and God counts it as if it were our death and our execution. This was the day of judgment for Christ and the believer. Every demand of justice was satisfied, every penalty executed, every debt paid. With Him we died to sin, and God recognizes us as if we had actually passed out of existence. The criminal was executed, and buried, and as a dead man the law can never touch him again.

But now, through Christ’s resurrection we have come into a new life; and that life is utterly detached from the old sinful life. God recognizes us as though we were not the same persons who sinned, but new creatures, born out of heaven and standing in the same position before Him as Jesus Christ occupies. Thus the death of Christ, when reckoned ours, puts us in the place where we are justified and “accepted in the Beloved.”

Surely, this is a glorious place for a guilty, hell-deserving man. O sinner, hasten to claim the blessed privilege of reckoning yourself to be “dead indeed unto sin” through Him. “Let us go, that we may die with Him,” and then let us rise to live for Him who died.

There is a sense in which we may die with Him to the power of sin in our hearts and lives; for when Christ died on Calvary He died for our sinful nature. “God, sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of God might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” “He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

These passages undoubtedly teach that the death of Jesus Christ was God’s provision for our sanctification, just as much as for our justification, and that He bare on the Cross of Calvary not only our guilt and liability to punishment, but our sinful nature, with all the roots and springs of corruption which we inherited from a fallen head. It is our privilege, therefore, to reckon, not only that our past life of sin was expiated on the Cross, but that the principle of sin and the whole sinful man was crucified when Jesus died. It is our privilege, therefore, to lay that over upon Him, to reckon it crucified with Him, to refuse to recognize it any longer as having a right to control us, to repudiate it, and take our new life from His resurrection and reckon ourselves alive unto God through Jesus Christ. The secret of this is the reckoning of faith, and the deepest snare we shall meet in this life is the assault of Satan upon our faith by an appeal to our feelings. He will try to make you think, even after you have made a full surrender and renunciation of yourself to Him, that there is really no change, that your old sinful self is still there in all its power, and that this reckoning is a fiction and a falsehood. If you once listen to him and take counsel of your own heart, you will surely fall, but, if you refuse to believe him and hold fast to your reckoning, God will make it real. In the spiritual life the very principle of victory is faith. What you dare to claim and hold fast, God will make it true in your experience, and if you falter you shall always fall.

But we must enter into Christ’s death moment by moment, in the actual living out of this transaction of faith. There is a point where we definitely yield and accept Him. But then it must be translated into all the details of our actual life, as He meets us in His providence and brings us face to face with the very experiences which introduce us into actual fellowship with his earthly life, and enable us to live it over again with Him. It is there we shall find the value and help of this blessed oneness with the Crucified. We shall not have gone very far till we shall find that our strength and goodness have quite failed us; and how comforting it is to realize at that moment that He does not expect from us either strength or goodness, but only to ignore our strength and goodness, and take Him instead as our all-sufficiency. Our business is to die with Him to all our own resources, and then to receive His fulness, “grace for grace.” We shall learn gradually that we are no good in ourselves, and we shall come to know it without being discouraged. He has known it all the time, and He has simply been bringing us fully to find it out. We shall come at last to begin every battle with a surrender to Him and end it with a song, “Thanks be unto God that always leadeth us in triumph through Christ Jesus.”

Again, we shall often come to the place where our old positive nature and our self-asserting will springs to the front, and we find our struggles unavailing to subdue that will; and then again we shall learn with infinite joy that it is His business to subdue that will; that we have but to hand it over to Him, to the end that His love may chloroform it to death and “work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

Thus as we come into the conflict of fierce temptation we shall find Him in the front, and His reassuring voice will say to us, “Stand still and see the salvation of God. The battle is not yours, but God’s.” If we are wronged by injustice, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation we shall find that it is His wrong first, not ours, and we shall hear Him say to our persecutors and enemies, “Why persecutest thou Me?” and it will be such rest to “commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator,” and to die with Him even as He suffered and died, “as a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb.”

So also, when trouble and calamity confront us, instead of rushing impetuously for the help of man, or seeking some expedient of self-effort, we shall find ourselves falling into His hands, and recognizing that our trial is His first and ours only in fellowship with Him.

How beautiful the incident at Capernaum, where poor Peter suddenly found himself confronted with the demand of the Roman officers for their taxes, and embarrassed at his inability to pay the demand. How tenderly we are told that the Lord “prevented him,” that is, anticipated his trouble, and even before Peter had said a word about it provided relief by sending him down to the sea to catch a fish with the coin of gold in its mouth. But with exquisite tact He added, “That take, and pay for Me and thee.” “It isn’t your tax only, Peter, but Mine first. I am bearing the heavy end of the burden and you are suffering with Me.”

If we can thus recognize the trials of life as partnership with His sufferings and always put Him first, the things that have humiliated us, harassed us, and often become to us temptations to unbelief and sin will be changed from weights to wings, and will become blessed occasions for closer intimacy with our Lord, and nobler triumphs in His name.

Shall we thus die with Him? Shall we follow Him forth along that pathway of loneliness, shame, and sorrow, and at every step realize a closer fellowship with Him? And should the coming days bring to us a full rehearsal of all the story of His life and sorrow, let us never for a moment meet it alone, but always with Him. Should our pathway lie down the slopes of Olivet, and even lead us into the somber shades of Gethsemane, let us remember that He is only saying to us, “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?”

“Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom as My Father hath appointed unto Me.”

Should we go forth in these coming days to meet Him in the reproach and shame of the judgment hall, and the betrayal of some Judas, or even, harder still, the denial of some fondly loved Peter, oh, let us take Him with us through it all, and, meeting it in His Spirit, sweetly realize that we are simply dying with Him. And as the shadows deepen into the darkness of that cross, where for Him earth’s sun ceased to shine, earth’s friends forsook Him and fled, and even His Father’s face for a little while was clouded and turned away, oh, let us remember Him who, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame”:

“Crucified with Christ, my Savior,
To the world and self and sin,
To the death-born life of Jesus
I am sweetly entering in.
In His fellowship of suffering,
To His death conformed to be,
I am going with my Savior
All the way to Calvary.

‘Tis not hard to die with Jesus,
When His risen life we know.
‘Tis not hard to share his suff’rings,
When our hearts with joy o’erflow.
In His resurrection power
He has come to dwell in me,
And my heart is gladly going
All the way to Calvary.”