The Cross, the Center of Christ’s Message to Laodicea

June 14, 2020 Phil Mills, MD

If we will take the time to look, the cross is a theme that can be found in every passage of the Bible. “There is one great central truth to be kept ever before the mind in the searching of the Scriptures—Christ and Him crucified. Every other truth is invested with influence and power corresponding to its relation to this theme.”[i] It is important for us to take the time to look for we can take up our cross daily and follow the Savior only as we see Him lifted on His cross.

The cross is at the center of the redemptive message that Jesus wrote to the Laodiceans.

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14).

In the introduction to His letter, Christ introduces Himself to the church as the All in all: He is the First Word, originating and beginning all creation. He is the Final Word as the Amen, He is Every Word between the First and Last Word because He alone is the accurate Witness, having seen all things from beginning to end. Thus Christ knows the Laodiceans much better than they know themselves, and He gives them a work evaluation:

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Revelation 3:15,16).

The focus of their attention was on themselves and their deeds. Their conversation was about themselves and their accomplishments. Their lips might praise God, but their works were really to bring praise to themselves. He has witnessed their boasting.

You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ Revelation 3:17a.

But what makes them proud makes Him nauseated. Though He tries to be positive, the only good thing He can to say is that they are honest in their self-deception:

—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:17b.

This is no fable. This is the true story of the emperor that has no clothes. To undeceive the Laodiceans, He points them to the cross and reminds them of His prayer for them in His dying agony. Notice how He does this—He repeats His very words from His prayer for them on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”[ii]

“Do not know”, “do not know”—an echo from the cross. He would lift their minds from themselves to the cross .He was thinking of them while He hung on the cross. Like the self-righteous Jews, the Laodecians thought their works were honoring God, they didn’t know that by their works they were crucifying Him afresh and putting Him to open shame.[iii]

But Laodicea is us. On the cross Jesus was interceding for me and every member of the Laodicean church. Since we don’t understand our condition, how could we pray as we ought?[iv] From Gethsemane to the cross in groans and tears that could not be uttered,[v] Christ’s intercession for His ignorant people did nor cease. On the cross, He was giving us a glimpse of his intercession for us in the Most Holy Place. And we can have faith in His prayers on our behalf.

How encouraging, in the heart of the Laodicean message, Christ directs our thoughts to His cross where we see Him suffering for our sins.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see (Revelation 3:18).

What an example He sets for us to follow. Before He gives us council, He prays for us and dies for us. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[vi] He then comes—not with a harsh condemnation—but an offer that only a fool would turn down—gold, costly raiment, and healing eye salve.

There are various items the Bible tells us to buy. We are to “buy the truth” as well as wisdom, instruction, and understanding.[vii] We are to buy the oil of the Holy Spirit. Others cannot share this with us, we must “go … to those who sell, and buy” for ourselves.”[viii] How can one who is blind find a seller? Will he not fall into a ditch while he is attempting such a search?[ix] And how can someone who is abjectly poor, purchase gold? or expensive clothing? or high-priced prescription ophthalmic salves once he arrives at the place of purchase?

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation (3:19,20).

The Christian’s rags to riches story begins with the failure of our way and difficulties we experience because of our mistakes. In place of the satisfaction we expected in the world, we find bitterness and sorrow. Like Adam and Eve, our eyes our opened to our shame.[x] Like the Prodigal Son, we begin to feel a sense of need, a desire to have a more meaningful life. This is God appealing to us. “You who in heart long for something better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to your soul.”[xi]

This spiritual thirst is a gift. “Every want He has implanted, He provides to satisfy.”[xii] Isaiah gives us the instruction for what we must do next.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people.”[xiii]

Though we have nothing to repay, we are enabled to buy when we accept four incalculably valuable gifts:

•   The gift of Jesus who lived and died for us.[xiv]

•   The gift of faith.[xv]

•   The gift of the Holy Spirit which is the eye salve that enables us to see ourselves as we really are.[xvi]

•   The gift of repentance.[xvii]

Enriched with these gifts we can make the necessary purchase. “We must buy—‘be zealous and repent of our lukewarm state.’”[xviii]

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

And after we take these gifts and make the purchases our riches will rapidly grow. Peter explains, “Now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”[xix]

As we patiently bear the tests and trials of life— our “light afflictions”[xx] here on this earth—our faith and love increases and thus our wealth continuously increases.[xxi] By faith Job said, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.[xxii] Job’s faith in Christ was not misplaced. He did come forth as gold. And so may we.

Furthermore, such trials purify our character. Providing the white garment of Christ’s own righteousness with an exclusive and expensive fabric with a pattern woven in the looms of heaven.[xxiii] And it was the cross that made this garment available to us. Around the cross, the soldiers gambled for Christ’s seamless, white garment—His most valuable earthly possession. But we shouldn’t be willing to gamble for anything so perfect and so precious.

With the eye-salve of the Holy Spirit continuously applied our sight continually improves. We see ourselves as we really are and we ask and receive more of the gift of repentance.

We gain the wealth we need by selling ourselves—all that we are and have—to God.[xxiv] We are then His slaves—we have been bought with a price.[xxv] We are now wealthy, for the price paid for us is exceedingly high. After this transaction we possess the blood of Jesus, which is the medium of exchange allowing us to purchase whatever we need. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”[xxvi]

But listen, did you hear a knock at your door? It may be the Heavenly Merchant with gold, garments, and eye-salve to sell. You can check to see if He is the genuine or an imposter. The genuine Merchant carries His ID in the palms of His hands and on His forehead. The counterfeit has marks on the forehead and hands, too, but only the genuine has scars there.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22).