At the same time, as I have already pointed out, it is altogether a mistake to suppose that Christ has left us on this subject wholly to the guidance of others. From the very beginning of His ministry the end was before Him, and as it drew nearer He spoke of it continually. At first He was content to refer to it in language purposely vague and mysterious. Just as a mother who knows herself smitten with a sickness which is unto death, will sometimes try by shadowed hints to prepare her children for what is coming, while yet she veils its naked horror from their eyes, so did Jesus with His disciples. “Can the sons of the bride-chamber fast,” He asked once, “while the bridegroom is with them? ... But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then will they fast in that day.” But from the time of Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi all reserve was laid aside, and Christ told His disciples plainly of the things which were to come to pass: “From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.” And if we will turn to any one of the first three Gospels, we shall find, as Dr. Denney says, that that which “characterized the last months of our Lord’s life was a deliberate and thrice-repeated attempt to teach His disciples something about His death." Let me try, very briefly, to set forth some of the things which He said.
First of all, then, Christ died as a faithful witness to the truth. Like the prophets and the Baptist before Him, whose work and whose end were so often in His thoughts, He preached righteousness to an unrighteous world, and paid with His life the penalty of His daring. That is the very lowest view which can be taken of His death. No Unitarian, no unbeliever, will deny that Jesus died as a good man, choosing rather the shame of the Cross than the deeper shame of treason to the truth. And thus far Christ is an example to all who follow Him. In one sense His cross-bearing was all His own, a mystery of suffering and death into which no man can enter. But in another sense, as St. Peter tells us, He has left us by His sufferings an example that we should follow His steps. It is surely a significant fact that the words which immediately follow Christ’s first distinct declaration of His death are these, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross