Christ in the Sabbath

 This review was originally published at “Books At a Glance”

Books at a Glance
 
 

Christ in the Sabbath Rich Robinson

Christ in the Sabbath
Rich Robinson
Moody, 2014
272 pp., paperback

 
Reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel

Rich Robinson (M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; PhD., Westminster Theological Seminary) is a Jewish believer in Jesus and the senior researcher with Jews for Jesus. Throughout his Christ in the Sabbath his fond interest in his Jewish heritage comes through with attractive warmth, and his interest in the topic of Sabbath is more than merely academic. Written at the popular level it is a pleasant read throughout, and it is filled with illuminating observations – biblical, historical, and Jewish-cultural.


Strengths

Perhaps the leading strength of this book is Robinson’s helpful survey, through successive chapters, of Sabbath laws and Sabbath observance through the Old Testament, the time of Jesus and the apostles, and in Jewish culture since, including his own experience growing up in a Jewish home. Both the biblical-historical and the cultural-personal dimensions are enlightening. His summaries of rabbinic Sabbath laws are of great value to the student of the New Testament, and his survey-expositions of various important Sabbath passages along the way are consistently insightful. These chapters alone provide a valuable resource for any preacher or teacher addressing the theme.


Peculiarities

A few matters of curiosity stand out. Of course every reader will want to know what the author has to say about the continuing (or non-continuing) obligation of Sabbath observance, and as the title mildly suggests, Robinson takes a “fulfillment” view – that the Sabbath anticipates our rest in Christ. He does not hold that Scripture requires Sabbath Day observance today, whether understood in terms of Saturday or Sunday.

But what is curious is that although he explicitly takes the position that no Sabbath observance is required of the Christian in this New Covenant age, he yet asserts that a Sabbath “principle” should be observed nonetheless:

“God’s principles for Sabbath rest are still applicable, even if today He leaves the specifics of how and when to individual believers or their spiritual communities” (p.195).

This will make both sides of the discussion either happy or frustrated in that he seems to say both yes and no to the same question. He does not attempt to establish this “continuing (non-) Sabbath observance” obligation exegetically but instead grounds his remarks in health concerns and perhaps in natural theology:

“Actually, setting aside time to rest and worship is just as important for our health and well-being as it ever was. Some have even presented scientific evidence that human beings are ‘hard wired’ for a Sabbath rest of some kind on a weekly basis” (p.195).

He then proceeds to give practical counsel on how the Christian’s non-Sabbath / Sabbath “principle” weekly rest may be observed. All told he seems to say that the Christian is not obligated to keep a Sabbath day, but then again he is.

Moreover, although the title of the book promises to see Christ foreshadowed in the Sabbath (and the purpose of the Sabbath realized in the person and work of Christ), and although this is the position Robinson takes, he actually gives relatively little attention to this rich biblical theme. He provides brief arguments against the views that either Saturday or Sunday remain as a Sabbath to be observed by Christians, and he advocates the position that no Sabbath day remains for Christian observance. And he provides very brief, broad remarks regarding Christ’s fulfillment of the law of Moses (pointing only to a handful of Scripture references in parenthesis). But only in chapter 7 (“The Sabbath in Hebrews: A Brief History of Rest”) does he provide a delightful yet brief survey of the theme. For a book entitledChrist in the Sabbath, and with so much biblical material given to this rich theme, we would expect much further development than Robinson provides.

Finally, closely related to these previous remarks, there is only the very slightest treatment of the theme of the future and final fulfillment of the Sabbath in the eschaton, even in the chapter entitled, “Epilogue: Sabbath In the Future – Final Fulfillment.” Again, given the rich biblical material available on this score, the absence of it here – and that in a chapter purportedly devoted to that theme – is puzzling.


Final Assessment

Even though important theological and biblical-theological themes lack development, the strengths of this book remain. I would quibble here and there, as I indicate above, but in my judgment Robinson tracks the biblical trajectory correctly, and he has provided a genuinely useful resource for the Bible student and for busy pastors (on either side of the Sabbath fence).

_____________

Fred G. Zaspel is one of the pastors at Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA, adjunct professor of Bible at Lancaster Bible College – Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS) in Philadelphia, and executive editor at Books At a Glance. In addition he is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).

 

Contours of Ministry – Part Two

 

Colossians 1:24-2:5 ESV

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

..

Introduction and Review:

colossians - andy murrayPreviously we began a new section in the letter to the Colossians and we discovered that this section really functions to guard God’s people from being deluded by counterfeit ministry.

It is designed to protect us from being led away from Christ and His design for New Covenant ministry.

In this section, Paul is asking the Colossian believers and us to take the ministry we have received and hold it up against Paul’s ministry, that is genuine Christian ministry. Paul sees a real danger in distracted, distorted, counterfeit ministry and so he gives us the contours of true Christian ministry.

Last time we looked at the first of six features that Paul lays out regarding his own ministry. The first feature, we saw at last time, was the content of Christian ministry.

And we saw that Paul conceived of his own ministry as making the Word of God fully known and we saw then that what he had in mind was the bringing of the Word of God to its completed fullness in Christ.

The content of Christian ministry is Christ. In all our ministry efforts He must be the central feature. He is the mystery hidden for ages and generations, now revealed to the saints – the hope of glory for all peoples. That was last week.

Outline:

This week we are going to take up 2 more features of Christian ministry:

1. The Goal of Christian Ministry

2.The Means of Christian Ministry

Let’s dive right in and consider the Goal of Christian ministry.

.

#1. The Goal of Christian Ministry

So, Let’s look to our text.

Starting in verse 24 we see that Paul is suffering for the sake of the body, that is the church (vs. 25) of which he became a minister (that is a servant). So Paul is a servant of the church and this accords with (it is in harmony with) the stewardship from God that was given to him for the church. And what was the stewardship he was given? “to make the word of God fully known.” But, why? What is the goal of this service to the church of making the word of God fully known?

Look at verse 28: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

The goal for Christian ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ. I’d like to take some time to unpack what this mean? So, first, let’s take up the phrase ‘mature in Christ’ first:

A. Mature in Christ:

We talked about Paul’s vision for Christian maturity a number of weeks ago.

And now we come to Colossians 1:28 and we find that this maturity is in fact the great goal of Paul’s ministry and we know because of the way this section functions that it should be our goal in ministry as well.

 Now, in Colossians 2:1-5 Paul further unpacks what he has in mind when he is talking about maturity. Paul really cracks open what he meant in the opening verses of Colossians, so let’s read 2:1-3:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

So there are two things Paul is thinking about when he is thinking about maturity in the body. He is thinking about 1. a certain type of knowledge 2. and the expression of love.

Now these are closely linked, so perhaps we should say there is one thing Paul is thinking about when he is thinking about maturity: a certain type of knowledge expressing itself in love. We are going to look at these two things one at a time so we can get a better understanding of them.

First, look at verse 2:

I. A Certain Type of Knowledge:

Paul is striving for this purpose: “that their hearts may be encouraged…”

I think it is important to recognize that “heart” in scripture often means much more than we may typically think. Paul is not just taking about the heart in terms of our emotions, but in terms of our whole person. Paul does not just want to make us feel good – he is not interested in simply giving people a warm fussy feeling or stirring up emotions or passions for a moment.

No, this idea of encouraging the heart has to do with the building up of every aspect of who we are in our inner person. Paul wants to strengthen our minds, our thinking. He wants to strengthen our rightly ordered affections – what we love, and he wants to strengthen our willingness and eagerness and zeal to act on those rightly ordered affections.

Paul further clarifies this “heart” strengthening at the end of this sentence, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

So the great goal for Paul in all of his ministry is to see people reach, attain, possess full assurance of understanding. He is concerned to see people possess full assurance of the knowledge of God’s mystery, now revealed, which is Christ.

He wants to see people’s hearts encouraged, that is to see people own a rock solid knowledge of and confidence in Christ, the final word from God. But, Paul calls this full assurance “riches” or “wealth.” He wants people to come to understand how valuable Christ is – “in (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

So, what does Paul want people to possess? The infinite treasure of knowing Christ. And not just a bare knowing about him, but a cherishing of Him and a full confidence in Him. That is the first thing Paul has in mind when he is thinking about maturity: a rock solid knowledge of and confidence in and love for the treasure of Christ.

The second thing Paul is thinking about maturity, is (at the beginning of verse 2)

II. The Expression of Love

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love…”

So, what is maturity in Paul’s mind? What is Paul striving for? hearts that are encouraged, being knit together in love.

Paul is striving to encourage the hearts of believers in the knowledge of Christ, resulting in expressions of genuine love toward one another, creating a bond and a meshing so that we truly are a body.

So if we step back and we consider that Paul is placing his ministry before us so that we can test the ministry we have received we see that the aim and goal of Paul’s ministry in verse 28 is to present everyone mature in Christ – and we have seen, now, that he brakes that open here in chapter 2 verse 1-3.

So, we can say that the great goal of Paul’s ministry is to see people possess a full knowledge of and confidence in and love for Christ and that expresses itself in unity and love for one another.

That is what Paul is thinking when he speaks of maturity.

So, now that we have cracked open a bit of what Paul is thinking regarding maturity, note that his goal (in verse 28) is to present everyone mature in Christ. What does Paul have in mind here?

B. Everyone:

Well, there certainly is warrant for thinking that Paul has kinds of people in mind here. In verse 27 Paul has just said, how great among the nations are the riches of the glory of … Christ.” It is natural to think that Paul means, at least in part, that his goal was to see every tribe tongue and nation gathered in and brought to maturity. And so, I believe that must be part of our vision for Christian ministry: bringing in the fullness of Christ’s Body. The goal is to see people redeemed from every nation.

The church must have a global aim of maturity. Do we have heart for the nations?

But, I think that global vision of maturity can only happen as individuals are brought to maturity. I believe that Paul has in mind as his great aim that every single person in each local assembly in every nation, be brought to maturity.

There is no elite group. Everyone: young, old, and in the middle – rich, poor, the talented, the strong, and the eloquent along with the inept, and weak, and fumbling, the shy, the outgoing, the serious and the clown, those who are attractive and those who repel. The goal is to present everyone mature in Christ.

Do we have a heart here to see every person in our body without exception brought to a full understanding of and to possess a rock solid confidence in and an unwavering love for Christ? Do we have a heart to see the young and old, rich and poor, impressive and average, strengthened in Christ and equipped for every good work and overflowing with love and unity?

If you are a member of the body of Christ than you are called to maturity. As we plan to minister in this body our great goal must be to see everyone brought to maturity in Christ.

If this is not our goal here, we have veered off course.

So we have seen that the goal of Christian ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ.

#2. The Means of Christian Ministry

Notice what it is that Paul says he is doing in order to see this maturity grow, in other words, what are the means Paul uses to see this happen: (28)Him we proclaim, warning, and teaching. Earlier he said, it was his aim as a servant of the church to make fully known the mystery which is Christ. Remember also that maturity involves (in verse 2 of chapter 2) full assurance of understanding and knowledge of Christ.

So catch this, when Paul thinks about his goal of maturity he is thinking about the way people think, understand, comprehend, and embrace the gospel. Maturity in the church will not happen apart from understanding and knowledge. And so the means that Paul lays out here for reaching that goal of maturity is proclamation, warning, and teaching.

It is because the content of ministry is the knowledge of Christ, and the goal is to present everyone mature in Christ, therefore the means to accomplishing this goal must involve words about Christ.

Christian ministry has not happened if the word of Christ has not been spoken, explained, made known and maturity will not happen if the word is not heard, understood, and learned and trusted.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”

I do not want to be over critical, but that statement can lead us to think wrongly about the means of Christian ministry. I don’t think Paul would say, “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”

…because the gospel is not a thing that can understood apart from words.

Yes, the power and authenticity of the gospel will be demonstrated by your life, but the message of Christ needs to be articulated.

Yes, the gospel is powerful to change your life, yes the gospel has results in your life, yes, you testify to the power and truthfulness of the gospel with your life – but, the final word from God, must be taught, it must be announced so that it may be heard and understood and embraced.

No one will be saved if all they can see is your moral life. No one will come to maturity in Christ simply because they see your exemplary life. They need to be taught about Jesus. They need to hear about God’s final word.

They need to know what the reason is for the hope that you have? We need to tell them! Yes, let your life adorn that gospel message, but point people to Jesus.

Paul has told us that a mature Christian will be so confident in the message of the gospel and be so changed by it that their life will overflow in expressions of love and unity, but that love come from a heart satisfied in Christ and we must recognize that maturity only grows as the Word of Christ is heard, understood, embraced and so begins to change a person from the inside out.

Let’s get our categories right. The goal of Christian ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ – the means to that maturity comes by hearing about Jesus.

Ministry Question:

Now, here is a question: Does this mean that when we visit the sick or make a meal or care for the homeless or repair a roof or give time and resources to help the needs of the body that we are not doing ministry? No that is not what this means – but it does mean that if those things are divorced from the word of Christ they become powerless to accomplish the goal of ministry.

For example, if we are a community that loves to care for the poor, but we are a community content to keep the good news about Jesus Christ a mystery than we cease to be bringing people from every nation to the hope of glory and we cease to be bringing people to maturity and so we cease to be doing Christian ministry.

There are many communities and institutions that are doing wonderful things for people and I am sure that Christians should partner with many of these communities and institutions in order to help and love our neighbors. But we must remember that those institutions lack entirely what people really need – the hope of glory. There are institutions devoted to seeing people helped in this world and that is wonderful. But, let us not confuse that with the mission Paul is laying out for the Church. Christian ministry alone has the hope of glory.

The institution of the church alone has been entrusted with the final word from God. We alone possess the treasure that surpasses all other treasures – the hope of glory.

Yes, take care of the poor! Yes, serve each other in 10 thousand practical ways as an expression of your fullness in Christ, but do not think that in these things, by themselves, apart from the word of Christ, that they will bring progress toward maturity.

We must not leave Christ unspoken, undeclared, unknown. Making Him known is what Christian ministry is all about.

Yes, Christians should be examples of unity and love toward one another, a community eager to do justice and mercy toward each other and even to do good toward our enemies. Yes, that is the kind of people we are to be in the Body of Christ. In fact, that is a result of the gospel: the expression of love, flowing out of a rock solid knowledge of and confidence in and love for Christ – But what is the means to that goal? How will that be accomplished?

Live sacrificially and deliberately, and liberally pour out earthly blessings on those in your life. That is the fruit that grows out of a heart satisfied in Christ – but we must recognize how fleeting the things of this life are – and how deep and eternal are the needs of those around you – and how you and I as saints in the Body of Christ have been given infinite treasure – the hope of glory – Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf.

Christian ministry must speak of Jesus.

The New Testament speaks of various gifts. The whole body is not mouths. Some are feet and hands. And you may think, I am not gifted to speak. I am not gifted to teach. Everything you just said applies to the mouths in the Body, but I do not have that gift – and so this does not apply.

I agree that Christ gave his body a variety of gifts – and there are those who are especially gifted for certain types work. But, you are not off the hook. Allow me to place a one passage before you for your consideration.

Colossians 3:16-17

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Allow me to make one observation:

Notice that Paul is speaking to the church and he says – let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and what is that word supposed to do? It is supposed to spill over into other people’s lives – teaching and admonishing one another.

You may be gifted to do behind the scenes kinds of things, to make a meal or to give generously but if that is an expression of the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly, than that same word that is dwelling in you – needs to be shared with others.

When I was in college there was janitor who loved Christ. How do I know he loved Christ? Well, he was a joyful guy much of the time but he also had days of deep deep struggle and sadness. How do I know he loved Christ?

One day he was walking past me and we had never spoken before, I had seen him but never spoken to him, and as he walked past me he paused and said, “have you ever thought about how blessed you are?” I said, “What do you mean?” He pulled out his bible and read Romans 4:7-8:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 

And after he finished reading this passage this janitor simply say, “We are so blessed because of Christ.” And off he went. That word has stuck with me.

Will we not all be Pastors or Sunday school teachers or street corner evangelists, but take every opportunity to share the treasure you have.

Summary statement:

The content of Christian ministry is Christ. The goal of Christian ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ. The means of Christian ministry is speaking the word of Christ to one another.

Col 1:28: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” 

~ Andy
 

Andrew Murray

Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys.

Krummacher: Christ Before Herod

Series: The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ by F. W. Krummacher (1796-1868)

[learn_more caption=”Introduction and Preface”] CMC Editor’s Note: In the following preface are the words of F.W. Krummacher introducing his readers to his work. It is our intention to post all fifty three of his meditations. Krummacher is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest preachers and was often compared to Great Britain’s C.H. Spurgeon. The reader will learn much of Christ through this series of devotional meditations on the final scenes in the life of Christ on earth. The printed work (first published 1854) has been described as the greatest single volume of the entire nineteenth century on the last days of Christ’s earthly ministry. The meditations are structured around the Old Testament tabernacle. It’s our prayer that you will be richly blessed his writings.

Author’s Preface

In the following meditations I trust I have succeeded in displaying to my readers at least a portion of those riches which are contained in the inexhaustible treasury of our Savior’s sufferings. Unmutilated scriptural truth, such as I believe I promulgate, still finds a favorable reception in the world, which I have been permitted to experience in the most gratifying manner. I mention it, solely to the praise of God, and for the satisfaction of those who are like-minded, that my writings, or at least a part of them, are, as I hear, already translated into English, French, Dutch, Swedish, and as I am assured, though I cannot vouch for the fact, into the Danish language also. My “Elijah the Tishbite” has even appeared in a Chinese attire. But that which is of greater importance, is the news I am constantly receiving of the manifold blessing which the Lord of his great and unmerited favor has bestowed upon my labors. That in his condescension and loving-kindness, He would also deign to bless this my most recent work is so much the more my heartfelt wish and ardent prayer, since it has for its subject the chief supporting pillar of the whole church—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The division of the work into the “Outer Court,” the “Holy Place,” and the “Most Holy Place,” is intended merely to point out the different stages of the Redeemer’s sufferings, from their commencement to their close, but by no means to attach a less or greater importance to them. Had the latter been the case, I would naturally have assigned the institution of the Lord’s Supper its appropriate place in the “Most Holy Place,” instead of the “Outer Court.” But in the plan of this volume, it falls among the class of events, which immediately precede the propitiatory work of the Mediator.

~ F. W. Krummacher [/learn_more]

..

THE SUFFERING SAVIOR

..

Meditation – XXX

Christ before Herod

“And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.
Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate.”
—  Luke 23:11 ESV

Pilate’s clear and decided testimony that he found no fault in Jesus, did not fail of its effect on his accusers. They stand aghast, and perceive the danger which threatens the result of their whole proceedings. Had Pilate manfully maintained throughout the tone of judicial decision with which he commenced, it would doubtless have burst the fetters imposed on the better feelings of a great part of the assembled multitude, and Christ have been set at liberty, and even saluted with new hosannas; while the tumult thus occasioned might have been attended with serious consequences to the chief priests and rulers. They were, therefore, compelled to oppose such a change in the state of things by every means in their power. They consequently again raise their voices with fresh complaints. But however great the clamor they make, they do not entirely succeed in concealing the embarrassment in which they are involved. Their accusations, though uttered more noisily than before, bear evident marks of their failing courage. Instead of denouncing the Lord, as before, as a rebel and a traitor—well aware that such a barefaced charge would no longer be responded to, and convinced of the necessity of supporting it by actual proof, they bring their accusation down to the unimportant assertion, that “he stirred up the people by his teaching, which he began in Galilee, and continued throughout all Jewry.”

How easy would it have been for Pilate, by a rapid and prudent use of this favorable moment, to have triumphantly rescued his prisoner, and with him, himself and his own conscience! In order entirely to confuse and disarm his more than half subdued foes, he only needed, in a few energetic words, to have pointed out the baseness of their conduct. But fear had taken possession of the poor man to such a degree as to deprive him of the free use of his reasoning faculties, and compel him to have recourse to the most foolish measures. In the uproar, which, however, only showed the weakness of the adverse party, he imagines he hears some new storm rolling over his head, and how does he rejoice when the mention of Galilee seems to him to open a new way of escape. He hastily inquires “whether the man were a Galilean?” and on being answered in the affirmative, he exclaims with the delight of a seaman, who, after a long and stormy voyage at length discovers land, “He belongs, then, to Herod’s jurisdiction!” and immediately gives orders for Jesus to be conducted bound to the latter, who happened fortunately to be at that time in Jerusalem, on account of the festival; and he feels as if a mountain were removed from his bosom, on seeing the troublesome captive withdraw, under the escort of the chief priests, soldiers, and the crowd that followed.

We already know something of Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee. He is the same wretched libertine who, after repudiating his consort, a daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king, and commencing an incestuous connection with Herodias, his half-brother’s wife, at the instigation of the latter, caused John the Baptist, who had reproved him, in God’s name, for his criminal conduct, to be beheaded in prison. For this crime his conscience severely smote him; and when he heard of Jesus and his doings, he could not be persuaded but that the wonder-worker was John whom he had murdered, but who had risen from the dead. A Sadducee according to his mental bias, more a heathen than an Israelite, and entirely devoted to licentiousness, he was nevertheless, as is often the case with such characters, not disinclined to base acts of violence, and capable of the most refined cruelties. Luke states respecting him that he had done much evil; and the only ironical expression that ever proceeded from the lips of the “Sinner’s Friend,” had reference to this miserable man, who was so well versed in all the arts of dissimulation and hypocrisy. For, on one occasion, when a number of Pharisees came to Jesus, and said, “Get you out and depart hence, for Herod will kill you,” the Lord immediately perceived that in these apparently kind advisers he saw before him only emissaries from Herod himself, who, because he had not the courage to lay violent hands upon him, hoped, by empty threats, to banish him from his territory. He, therefore, said in reply to the hypocrites, unmasking them, to their profound disgrace, as well as that of their royal master, “Go you, and tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils and do cures today and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must walk today and tomorrow and the day following.”

To this degraded libertine, therefore, in whom every better feeling had been gradually extinguished, our Lord is brought, in order that he may not be spared from anything that is ignominious and repulsive, and that there might be no judicial tribunal before which he did not stand. The envenomed hosts of priests and Pharisees, with wild uproar, arrive with their prey before the residence of the Galilean king, who, on hearing what was the cause of the appearing of the unwonted crowd, orders the heads of the people, with their delinquent, to be brought before him. Jesus silently and gravely approaches his sovereign. The latter, as the narrative informs us, “when he saw Jesus, was exceeding glad; for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him, and he hoped to have seen some miracles done by him.”

It may seem strange that Herod had never before seen the face of Jesus, although he so often abode in Galilee. But the Lord had never honored Tiberias, where Herod resided, with a visit, although he had frequently been near it; and for Herod to take a single step, in order to make the acquaintance of the Nazarene, who was so much spoken of, naturally never crossed the mind of one so destitute of all religious interest, and at the same time, so proud and overbearing as his Galilean majesty. It afforded him, however, no little pleasure, so conveniently and without risk, to see his long-cherished wish fulfilled. “At all events,” thought he within himself, “it will afford an interesting pastime, an amusing spectacle. And if he will let himself be induced to unveil somewhat of the future to us, or perform a miracle, what a delightful hour might be spent!”

Herod, therefore, hoped to draw the Savior of the world into the circle of the objects of his amusement, even as he had dared to draw the head of John the Baptist into the sphere of his licentiousness. The king promised himself a recreation from the presence of Jesus, such as is expected from that of a juggler or a charlatan. In this respect, he represents those frivolous people who, according to the apostolic expression, “have not the Spirit,” and to whom even the most sublime things are only a comedy. People of this description venture to intrude even into the sanctuary, and are apparently desirous of seeing Christ, at least as set forth in sermons, books, figures, or history, but only because of the aesthetic feeling thereby excited. Suffice it to say, that to such characters, even the church becomes a theater, the sermon a pastime, the Gospel a romance, and the history of conversions a novel. O how dangerous is the position of those, in whom all seriousness degenerates into empty jocularity, and everything that ought deeply to affect them, into jest and amusement! Before they are aware, this their volatility may end in an entire obtuseness to the more affecting descriptions of the last judgment, so that no more effect is produced upon them than is caused by the success of a scene in the drama; and the representation of the horrors of hell passes before them only like the exhibition of a magnificent firework, and causes them the same kind of feeling as the latter.

Herod regards our Lord, on his approach, with an inquisitive look, and after eyeing him from head to foot, presumes to put a number of foolish questions to him. Our Lord deigns him no answer, but observes complete silence. The king continues to question him, but the Savior is mute. Herod even suggests that he ought to perform some miracle. Jesus cannot comply with his wish, and gives him to know this by his continued silence more impressively than could have been done by words. The chief priests and scribes, indignant at his passive behavior, again begin their blasphemies, and accuse him vehemently. He regards them as unworthy of a reply, and continues to observe a silence, which is distressing and almost horrifying.

The Lord having refused to do the will of Herod and his satellites, the miserable men infer from his behavior that he is unable to do anything, and begin to despise him, and even to mock him. Painful are the mortifications that Jesus has here to endure. Even the hurrying him about, here and there,—Pilate’s sending him to Herod, to show the latter a piece of civility—Herod’s returning the compliment by sending him back to the Roman governor, that the latter may have the honor of pronouncing the final sentence upon him—what degradation is inflicted on the Lord of glory in all this! But this is only the beginning of disgrace and humiliation. How much has he to endure in the presence of Herod and his courtiers, who treat him as a juggler and a conjuror! He is urged to amuse the company by a display of his are. His ear is offended by impertinent questions; and on his making no reply to them all, the measure of insult and mockery overflows. He is treated as a simpleton, unworthy of the attention he has excited, who, after having acted his part, and proved himself to be merely a ridiculous enthusiast, is only deserving of universal contempt. Herod deems it unnecessary to take any serious notice of the accusations which the chief priests vent against Jesus. He thinks that no great weight ought to be attached to the senseless things which such a foolish fellow might presume to say of himself. He is sufficiently punished for his folly by his helplessness being now made known to the whole world, and by his thus becoming the object of pity and public ridicule. He carries out these sentiments, by causing, in his jocular mood, a white robe to be put upon the Lord, in order to point him out as a mock king and the caricature of a philosopher, or, perhaps even to stamp him as a lunatic, since it was customary in Israel to clothe these unfortunate people in white upper garments.

Such, my readers, is the sacrificial fire which burns in the narrative we are now considering. And tell me how the Most Holy One, who inhabits eternity, could quietly have borne to see such degradation of the Son of his good pleasure, without casting forth the lightnings of his wrath upon the perpetrators of such indignities, if the Lord Jesus had endured this scandalous treatment only for his own person, and not at the same time as standing in an extraordinary position, and exercising a mysterious mediation? But you know that he stood there in our stead, and as the second Adam, laden with our guilt. He there heard the Father’s exclamation, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow!” Here also was fulfilled the ancient prophetic saying, “The Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all.” “The chastisement of our peace was upon him.” Thank God that such was the case; for I should never have been able, even if an angel from heaven had brought me the intelligence, to make room for the conviction that my sins would not be imputed to me, had I not, at the same time, been told what had become of the sins thus taken from me, since I know nothing more surely than this, that my blood-red sins cannot be arbitrarily pardoned and overlooked, or even pass unnoticed as trifles of no account. Were this the case, how would it be possible for me to believe any longer in a just and holy God? But the Gospel now comes in, and tells me most clearly the history of my misdeeds, how they were transferred to him who appeared in my place; and in his intervention, I now sensibly grasp the legal ground of my absolution. The Lord stands before Herod, as he did before Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate, not merely to be judged by men, but by God at the same time; and it is my sin for which he atones, and my debt which he liquidates.

No wonder, therefore, that he resigns himself to the poisoned arrows which here pierce his heart in its most vulnerable part—that without gainsaying he listens to the most wicked imputations, and with lamb-like patience lets himself be branded both as a blasphemer and a fanatic, a rebel and a conspirator—that he even bears with equanimity the circumstance that Herod’s expectations respecting him are gradually changed into contempt for his person—that the Lord of Glory suffers himself to be degraded so low as to become the butt of the miserable jokes of a contemptible and adulterous court. What he endures is horrible to think of; and yet it lay in his power, with a wave of his hand, to dash the reckless company to the ground. But he does not move a finger, and remains silent, for he knows that here is God’s altar, and the fire, and the wood; and that he was the Lamb for the burnt-offering.

But however deep the humiliation in which we behold the Son of God; it is nevertheless interwoven throughout with traits which are glorifying to him, and tend to establish our faith.

Even in the childish joy which Pilate evinces at the prospect of transferring the process against Jesus to another, his deep conviction of the innocence and unblameableness of the accused is more clearly reflected than in all his oral assertions. His soul exults at the accidental information given him that Jesus belonged to the Galilean tetrarchate, which teaches us how fortunate the Roman esteemed his being thus able to escape from sharing in the guilt of condemning the Righteous One.

Of Herod it was said that he was “exceeding glad when he saw Jesus.” This uncommon joy of the Galilean prince, that at last an opportunity was afforded him of seeing Jesus, face to face, is not less important in an apologetic point of view, and tends no less to the Lord’s glorification than the joy of Pilate in being happily rid of him. The Savior must have excited a great sensation in the country, and not have displayed his marvelous powers in remote corners, but in places of public resort, that Herod thus burned with desire to make his personal acquaintance. And how uncommon and unique must the Lord’s acts have been, that a man so totally dead to every better feeling, as that adulterer in a royal crown, should have such a desire!

Herod hoped, besides, that he would have seen some miracle performed by the Savior. This expectation is again a proof that Jesus had really sealed his divine mission by miraculous acts, and that the wonders he performed were universally acknowledged to be such. Herod does not intend first to try whether Jesus can work miracles, but takes his power and ability to do so for granted. But what a depth of inward corruption is betrayed in the fact that this man, in spite of his conviction of the Savior’s ability to perform divine acts, not only refuses him belief and homage, but even degrades him to the state of an object of his scorn!

The tetrarch asks the Lord a variety of questions surpassing the bounds of human knowledge. He had therefore heard of the wisdom with which the Lord knew how to reply to questions of this kind, and to solve every difficulty. Hence he involuntarily does honor to Christ’s prophetical office. And even in the circumstance that Herod did not venture to go further in his ridicule than the clothing Jesus in a white toga, when the latter observed a profound silence to his questions—he manifests a secret reverence for him, and thus proves anew that Christ must have actually spoken in an ambiguous manner of his kingdom, and of a dominion which he came to establish.

Finally, that the deep-rooted disagreement, which had so long prevailed between Pilate and Herod, was suddenly terminated and changed into a friendly feeling by the civility shown to the latter in transferring over to him the accused Rabbi, serves again as a proof how highly these men in power thought of the delinquent brought before them. The transfer of a common criminal, or even of a notorious fanatic and swindler, would probably have been attended by no such effect. But that Jesus of Nazareth was selected to mediate the renewed approximation of the two potentates, works favorably, and puts an end to all former ill-will and mistrust. Who does not perceive that this circumstance, however revolting in itself, again tends to glorify Christ in a high degree?

Something similar to that which occurred between Pilate and Herod, happens not seldom, even in the present day. Parties who most violently oppose each other in other fields of research become reconciled, and even confederates and friends, if only for a while, as soon as they join in the contest against Christ and his adorers. But what else do they evince thereby than that Christ stands in their way as an imposing power? An inconsiderable personage, whose claims on their submission they knew not to be well-founded, would never exercise such an influence over them; and finally, an individual whom they regarded as merely mythological, they would certainly put aside, as unworthy of their attention.

Whatever may be planned or executed against Jesus, he comes forth more than justified from it all. Hatred must glorify him as well as love. Persecution crowns him as well as devotedness to his cause. But if mutual opposition to him is able to transmute bitter enemies into friends; what bonds ought the mutual homage of the glorified Redeemer to cement! “I believe in the communion of saints,” is a part of our creed. I not merely believe it, but thank God! I also see it. May the Lord however preserve it; for at this present time it suffers. Those who are united in Christ, fall out with each other, because they blindly embrace some school-formula as their Savior, instead of Christ, as if they were tired of him. This is a lamentable and deplorable circumstance. May the Lord overrule it, and awaken in the hearts of his children, sentiments of real brotherly affection toward each other!

 

__________________

Krummacher’s work is available through Amazon.