Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
“And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” – John 19:19.
Sweet is this hour of prayer, all the sweeter because outside in the world we meet with so much of trouble and disquietude. We have each a cross to carry, a burden which we may not and cannot refuse. What shall we do with our crosses? For once,we will go down to the Philistines, and learn from them.
I know of nothing in which I could hold up Pilate as an example to you, save in this one thing; he placed the Name of Jesus on the cross. Writing these words with his own hand, he refused to alter them: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” must stand over the cross, whether the high priests rage or submit. The vacillating governor for once stuck to the “truth, and would not be driven from it. Now, whenever you have a cross, write the Name of Jesus, the King, above it, and stand to what you have written.
Let us consider Pilate’s inscription word by word. Over your cross take care that you set the Name of JESUS. Bear your cross for Jesus, with Jesus, and after Jesus: this is a grand recipe for making it as light as it can be. Remember it is only a wooden cross that we have to carry, though our fears often paint it with iron colours. Neither do we bear upon our shoulder a cross which will destroy us, but one upon which we shall triumph, after the manner of our Lord. We have not to bear it first in the procession of sorrow which is wending its way through this ribald world; but “to bear it after Jesus,” along a pathway which He has beaten for us. He has Himself carried a cross far heavier than ours, and His hearty sympathy is with us. He is so united to us that all our crosses are His own. Bear your cross for the sake of Jesus. What could you not suffer for Him? Bear it with Jesus. What can you not bear in His company? In this way you may joyfully carry your appointed load; the strengthening touch of Jesus will make the yoke easy and the burden light.
Oh, that Name of Jesus! I could talk till midnight of its depth and meaning, its sweetness, its power; and when the twelfth hour struck, you would say to one another, “Why, it is midnight, and the Pastor is only as yet upon the threshold of his theme!” There is so much to be said about the Name of Jesus that all the tongues of men and of angels would fail to tell the half thereof. It is the joy of Heaven above; and, meanwhile, it is the solace of sorrow below. Not only is it the most majestic Name, the most instructive Name, the most truthful Name, the most powerful Name, the most sanctifying Name, but it is also the most comfortable Name that was ever sounded in this valley of weeping. If you will keep your mouth flavoured and your heart perfumed with the dear Name of Jesus, you will find that every bitter thing becomes sweet, and the most unpleasant becomes fragrant. Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us,- why, this is as the opened windows of Heaven, and as the inner melodies of the King’s chamber! Our Saviour is the great Crossbearer, Jesus is the Crucified; and, therefore, we gladly take up our cross, and follow Him; finding, to our astonishment, that our cross has grown light in the presence of His cross.
The Roman governor did not fail to write, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Those last words meant scorn of the bitterest kind, as if he had said, “The wise man of Gotham,” or Tom of Bedlam. To him, it meant that an ignorant country fellow had set up to be a king. Marvel not if, upon your crosses, there should fall a bitter rain of contempt. Accept shame and ridicule as a part of your life’s burden. Be thou also called “a Nazarene”; be not ashamed to own that “thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.” Who are we, that we should receive praise where Jesus received spittle? Let us settle it in our hearts that, if there be an epithet of derision, it may as well honour us as anyone else. The world will not know us any more than it knew Jesus. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, the servants must not expect fair titles. Write Jesus of Nazareth on your crosses, and henceforth contumely and sarcasm will lose their edge.
Very significantly for us, the Name of Jesus, in Pilate’s superscription, is followed by the words the King; Jesus, the King. These also are highly consolatory words, because our hearts prompt us to say, “Did the King bear a cross infinitely heavier than mine? Then I, a servant, may well take up my load, which is comparatively so light. Jesus, the King, does He condescend to this shame? Then, to follow Him, is the utmost height of honour. Jesus, the King, does He ordain a cross for me? Then, why should I question His love, or doubt His wisdom? If He bids me take the cross, what remains to a loyal subject but to obey? If He be my King, I should be a rebel if I kicked against the burden which He lays upon me.
Jesus, the King; is it not sweet to think that, even on the cross, Jesus is the King? When He dies, for the first time in His mortal career His sovereignty is acknowledged by official authority among His countrymen, and the representative of Caesar sits down in Jerusalem, and writes, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Hebrew and Greek and Roman had it, under Pilate’s hand and seal, that the Crucified One was indeed a King. Then, my soul, if Jesus triumphed on the cross, canst thou not triumph under the cross if His grace be in thee? Art thou not still a priest and king unto the living God, despite thy griefs, and reproaches, and crosses? He that hath made us kings and priests unto God has not given us an empty title, neither does the fact of our cross-bearing in the slightest degree cast a doubt upon our royal dignity. We wear our coronets by patent of the King of kings, and our royalty none may question. Even when the cross weighs heaviest upon us, let us still rejoice that we are honoured to suffer with Christ, and are thus crowned as well as crossed. See the royal Name set on our cross, and it will become at once lovely in our sight.
But Pilate wrote, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” “Well,” says one, “what has that to do with us?” I answer, write this also on that great cross which the whole Church has to carry after Christ. He is a King whom His subjects refuse. The heaviest cross the Church has to bear is that the world will not bow to Christ. Perhaps, in our younger days, we said, “We have only to tell men the Gospel, and they will obey it;” but we soon found out our mistake. We thought that there was very little for us to do except to push the world before us, and to drag the Church behind us; but, to-day, we have a different opinion. We see the legions of darkness still in their entrenchments, and though we have won many a victory, yet how small our success compared with what still remains to be done! Africa, China, India, why, these are all parts of the great cross for the Church to carry. Jesus is King of all these countries, for He is “Head over all things;” but as yet we see not all things put under Him, and this is our cross.
Write on the burden of your service these words, “Jesus, the King of the Jews;” and be encouraged. Jesus possesses a throne which rules over Israel, even though Israel be not gathered. “Oh!” says somebody, “the Jews are the last people that will be converted.” Perhaps so, for judicial blindness has fallen upon them; but, still, Jesus is their King, and He will yet bring them to bow at His feet. He despairs not of them, He doubts not that Israel shall yet adore Him; wherefore, be ye also of good courage. Do you wish it had been written, “Jesus, the King of the Gentiles”? Ah! but this is better still; for when the Jews bow the knee to Jesus, then the fulness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in. Their conversion will be the capture of the innermost citadel of unbelief. I remember how Luther used to talk of the Jews in his wild, cruel way; he did not believe in their salvation at all; but we have made a great advance upon so unchristian a feeling. We hail with acclamation the title, “King of the Jews.”
My point, however, here is this. The Jews rejected Jesus, and yet He reigned over them upon the tree; and we, too, shall triumph in that very point in which we are most tried, and perhaps most overcome. Tribulations crush us, but we “glory in tribulations also.” The cross was Christ’s throne over Israel, and our affliction is our conquest over sin through the work of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying it to our purification. Let us not hesitate, therefore, to bear the cross which bore our Lord, and to write over our cross the same claim of kingship which was written over Him. Very plainly let us label our crosses with the regal title in full. Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin were the three common languages of Jerusalem; all men in the Passover crowd would know one or other of these tongues, hence the superscription was repeated in three varying characters.
Let it be plain to ourselves, and then to all others, that we have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, and that our griefs are akin to His, and shared by Him. Then our sorrows will build us pulpits from which to preach Jesus; or, at least, they will be pillars upon which we can uplift the adorable Name of our Lord. Our afflictions will teach us many languages, we shall speak to the many sons and daughters of woe, and each one shall hear, in his own tongue wherein he was born, a brother voice proclaiming comfort to the mourners in Zion. It is well to carve the Name of the Well-beloved everywhere; but the cross is a peculiarly suitable pillar for uplifting the dear memorial. This title will be read by many if we affix it to the cross. Some will scoff, but others will turn aside to indulge in thought awakened by our thoughtfulness, and to assuage their sorrows by learning how to make them golden links with the Man of sorrows. Sure I am that you will find it wisdom to Write The Name Of Jesus On All Your Crosses.