The gargantuan meaning of Golgotha.
Alexander Maclaren on the cross as the fulcrum of faith and history.
What is it that keeps the ceaseless march of man’s history continually churning forward? What is it that buttresses these days from spinning off into oblivion? Humanity wishes to take credit for such things through the labyrinthine ways in which the universe is “explained” or understood. Human ingenuity, then, is the great sustainer of the stars. Of course, writing that out makes it sound all the more preposterous, but such is the logic of those who do not wish to be governed by some heavenly Arbiter. At the expense of their own lives, they will cling to their own mortal wisdom to make sense of their days.
In contradistinction to such convictions stands the church of Christ, which is founded upon a central tenet regarding the history of the world, one articulated quite well by renowned orator and expositor Rev. Alexander Maclaren. “We believe,” he states, “that the history of the world is but the history of His influence, and that the centre of the whole universe is the cross of Calvary” (11:360). On that ragged Roman spigot hung the very One whose breath formed worlds and positioned the stars in their courses. Such is the magnitude of the moment which Golgotha presents to our eyes. We ought not look away, nor think too lightly of that divine display of love to the uttermost. Indeed, that cross, as Maclaren goes on to say, is our “guide” to understanding all of history. He writes:
“It is the Lord!” should guide us in all our thoughts about the history and destinies of mankind and of Christ’s Church. The Cross is the centre of the world’s history, the incarnation and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot round which all the events of the ages revolve. “The testimony of Jesus was the spirit of prophecy,” and the growing power of Jesus is the spirit of history, and in every book that calls itself the history of a nation, unless there be written, whether literally or in spirit, this for its motto, “It is the Lord!” all will be shallow and incomplete.
“They that went before and they that came after,” when He entered into the holy city in His brief moment of acceptance and pomp, surrounded Him with hosannas and jubilant gladness. It is a deep and true symbol of the whole history of the world. All the generations that went before Him, though they knew it not, were preparing the way of the Lord, and heralding the advent of Him who was “the desire of all nations” and “the light of men”; and all the generations that come after, though they know it not, are swelling the pomp of His triumph and hastening the time of His crowning and dominion.
“It is the Lord!” is the secret of all national existence. It is the secret of all the events of the world. The tangled web of human history is only then intelligible when that is taken as its crude, “From Him are all things, and to Him are all things.” The ocean from which the stream of history flows, and that into which it empties itself, are one. He began it, He sustains it. “The help that is done upon earth He doeth it Himself,” and when all is finished, it will be found that all things have indeed come from Christ, been sustained and directed by Christ, and have tended to the glory and exaltation of that Redeemer, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Maker of the worlds, and before whose throne are forever gathered for service, whether they know it or not, the forces of the Gentiles, the riches of the nations, the events of history, the fates and destinies of every man. (11:364–66)
Your days aren’t arbitrarily ordered by fate or some cosmic nether-force. They are orchestrated and ordained by the very One in whose palm sits the entire universe. Even as blood streamed down his forehead and mingled with the dirt below his feet, history hadn’t given way to disorder. Even there, he was ruling. Even there, he was revealing the unstoppable, unfathomable heart of God to reconcile all things to himself. The Maker of far-off solar systems, forever invisible to our eyes, is the same One who descended to such depths that he allowed Roman nails to pierce the very hands which fashioned the furthest corners of the cosmos. And such is the One, my friend, whose wisdom and grace sustain all of your days.
Grace and peace to you.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944).
Thank you Brad. The last line touched me at a deep emotional level. At another level, it is historiography at its best. You might be interested in Trygve Tholfsen, Historical Thinking. He writes as a secularist about the linearity of history found in the Old Testament.