Billy Graham: Labor, Christ and the Cross

Billy Graham: Labor, Christ and the Cross

Jesus had a great deal to say about labor. He was interested in the common man. The Bible says, “The common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). In fact, Jesus Himself was a laboring man. He was a carpenter. Wouldn’t you like to have been able to spend a day in Joseph’s little shop and watch Jesus use the hammer and saw?

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was human as well as divine. He had calluses on His hands. If the chisel had slipped and cut His fingers, His blood would have been red and warm like yours. He knew what it meant to work long hours, to come in at night tired and weary. That is one of the reasons why Jesus could say, with such appeal, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus knew that a laboring man needs rest and recreation. We Americans have Labor Day—a day in which the wheels of industry stop and the entire nation is reminded of the tremendous contribution that labor has made to the American way of life.

Jesus worked all His life. But the greatest work that Jesus did was not in the carpenter’s shop, nor even at the marriage feast of Cana where He turned the water into wine. The greatest work that Jesus did was not when He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, nor even the dead to rise.

The greatest work that Jesus did was not when He taught as One having authority, or scathingly denounced the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The greatest work that Jesus did was not in the great ethical program He presented to mankind—that program which has become the foundation for western culture.

What, then was His greatest work?

His greatest work was achieved in those three dark hours on Calvary. There He endured a burden that no other person in all the universe has ever experienced. We see Him hanging on the cross for our sins. The rusty nails driven in by Roman soldiers could not hold Him there. That day there were invisible nails that caused Him to stay on the cross when He could have come down from it.

The First Nail—Love

The first invisible nail was the nail of love. Prior to Jesus’ coming to the world, the word lovehad all but disappeared from the vocabulary of the people. They had never known love in the loftier, spiritual sense. The various races hated each other; slaves hated masters, subjects hated their rulers, and the noise of gnashing teeth was only exceeded by the clashing of swords raised to destroy some hated enemy.

Yet in the midst of this conglomerate mass of hatred, bitterness, intolerance and bigotry, God gave His Son to be born in Bethlehem. But hatred pursued Christ. At Jesus’ birth, Herod, full of hatred, sent out a decree that all children two years old and under who lived in and near Bethlehem were to be destroyed. The Pharisees hated Him because the truth of His Gospel brought their hypocrisy to light.

The high priests hated Him because His popularity with the multitudes threatened to lure men away from the temple and the established religious ritual. The Romans hated Him because His philosophy of love and nonresistance promised to make inroads into their system of intolerance and hate.

But Jesus, unperturbed by these existing prejudices, having Calvary as His ultimate and determined goal, declared, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” (John 18:37).

The world had never seen such a manifestation of selfless love as was demonstrated upon Calvary. Having not witnessed it before, the world had no ability to comprehend it. It was this nail—the nail of divine love—that held Christ to the cross.

The Second Nail—Loyalty

The second nail that held Him upon Calvary was the nail of loyalty.

Jesus lived in the shadow of the cross. As a boy He spoke of His Father’s business and, as a man, He referred to His sacrificial work upon the cross. His sayings were filled with allusions to His death on the cross. His whole ministry pointed like an arrow to Golgotha and the fulfillment of the divine purpose for His life. He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).

Jesus died upon Golgotha in a supreme demonstration of loyalty to God’s will, but the unbelieving world has forgotten that 2,000-year-old scene of Calvary. The world will believe the redemption story of Christ as they see the power of the cross demonstrated in your life and mine.

Christ’s loyalty to Calvary should inspire us to be loyal to the cross and “take up our cross” and follow Him. Then will the world be reminded of that first Calvary and, because of our Christ-honoring lives, will be drawn to believe in the Christ.

The Third Nail—Sin

The third nail that held Jesus to the cross was the nail of sin.

Had there been no sin in the world, there would have been no need for the cross. Before the foundation of the world, God planned the cross for the salvation of all who will put their trust in Christ. (See 1 Peter 1:19-20).

It was not only universal sin which held Jesus to the cross—it was your sin. If your sins are not responsible for Calvary, then Calvary has no responsibility for your sins. God, knowing the hearts of all men, and that they were only evil continually, offered His Son to die for all men: those living and those yet unborn.

Calvary is the place of decision. It is the eternal divider, erected to separate men into two classes, the saved and the lost. Embrace its truth and be saved. Reject it and be lost.

Christ in the heavenlies still bears the marks of His suffering upon the cross. The cross still casts its shadow across the world, and the cry of “Crucify Him” would still come easily from the throats of men who would crucify Him rather than accept Him as their King.

Today, after 2,000 years, His followers are still in the minority. The rabble, the thoughtless, the selfish, the vile, still seek to crucify Him “afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).

Christ’s greatest work was His dying for us. His primary purpose in coming to earth was to die, to shed His blood as a substitute in your place and in my place. We must accept Christ’s death as our substitute. There is no other way of salvation.

Before you can get victory over sin, before your goading conscience can be quieted, before you can be rid of your guilt complex, before you can start life afresh, you must by faith receive this great fact of the death of Jesus Christ. ©1953 BGEA

Adapted from a message broadcast on The Hour of Decision, Sept. 6, 1953.

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