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.
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 – XXXV
“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas,
and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
(Mark 15:15 ESV)
We stand, in spirit, before Gabbatha. The judgment-seat is still empty. The scene, as we are aware, has been transferred for a time into the inner court-yard. We know the horrible things which have there occurred. The evangelists describe them with a trembling hand. They mention the scourging only briefly. We think we see them covering their faces with their hands at this terrific scene; but they cannot conceal from us the tears which silently steal down their cheeks.
Impatience begins to seize upon the multitude outside; when suddenly, the gate of the praetorium again opens. Pilate approaches, visibly affected, followed by One who is surrounded by a troop of jeering barbarians. Oh, what an appearance does he present! You shudder, and cover your faces. Do so, and permit me, meanwhile, to relate a brief narrative to you.
Heaven’s pearly gates were once thrown open, and a Holy One descended into the world—such a one as the sons of men had never seen since the fall. He was glorious beyond compare, and came to verify the dream of Jacob’s ladder, which connected earth with heaven. Love was his banner, compassion the beating of his heart. He sojourned three years among mortals, shedding light on those who were stumbling in darkness, filling the cottages of the wretched with temporal and spiritual blessings, inviting the weary and heavy laden to come to him, in order to give them rest, and irradiating the darkness of the valley of death with promises upon promises, as with so many golden lights from heaven. “I am not come,” said he, “to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give my life a ransom for many.” He testified that he came to redeem his people from their sins; that he would not leave them comfortless, but would bring them to the Father, and elevate them to be fellow-heirs with him in his glory.
And how did he fulfill his promises, whenever any ventured to take heart and filially confide in him! O what blessings must such a guest have brought with him to a world lying under the curse! Even the angels around the throne might have envied the pilgrims in this valley of death by reason of this visit. And as regards the children of men—”Doubtless,” you say, “they received him with exultation, melted into tears of rapture, conducted him in triumph, and knew not what they should do to manifest their gratitude to their heavenly friend and deliverer.”
Truly, one might have supposed that such would have been the case. ”What, and was it not so?” My friends, lift up your eyes, and look toward Gabbatha. “Gracious heaven!” you exclaim, “Who is yonder sufferer?” O, my friends, whom do you take him to be? Look him narrowly in the face, and say if wickedness could have vented itself worse than it has done on this person? Alas! they have made of him a carnival king; and as if he were unworthy of being dealt with seriously, they have impressed upon him the stamp of derision. Look at the mock robe about his shoulders, the theatrical scepter in his hands, and on his head, which is covered with wounds and blood, the dreadful crown of thorns. But who is this man, thus horribly disfigured? I think you will no longer seriously inquire. The lamb-like patience, and the superhuman resignation with which he stands before you, point him out sufficiently clearly. No less does the majesty betray him, which, in spite of all the abasement he experiences, still shows itself in his whole deportment, as well as the divinely forgiving love which even now beams from his eye. Who would be found acting thus in a similar situation? Yes, it is the Holy One from on high, who stands before you, the picture of agony. “Behold the man!” exclaims the heathen judge, deeply affected, and faintly impressed with an idea of some superior being. Ah, had Pilate clearly known, what he only obscurely felt, he would at least have said, “You have here before you the moral pattern of our race, the flower of humanity, and holiness personified.”
“Behold the man!” The hope is once more excited in the governor, that he would still be able to accomplish the liberation of Jesus. “Now,” he thinks, “the blood-thirstiness of the raging multitude will certainly be satisfied. In the presence of One so full of dignity and meekness, the fury of the most cruel must subside, and right feeling return, even to the most hardened.” Let us see what occurs. The people are about to reply to the governor’s appeal—the people, that thousand-headed giant, of whom so much is said in commendation, and whose appearance is so imposing; whose united voice is supposed to be always correct, and even proverbially esteemed equal to the voice of God. But what is the echo which resounds from the bosom of the powerful monster in reply to the governor’s exclamation, “Behold the man!” “Crucify him! Crucify him!” rends the air, as if proceeding from a single tongue.
“But are these impious men aware of what they are doing?” Certainly not, in all its extent.
You must not, however, suppose that they are acting merely as in a dream. O no! In the person of Christ, they would gladly dash to pieces the mirror which mutely renders them conscious of their own deformity. In the Nazarene, they would gladly extinguish the light of the world, which they hate, because they feel more at ease in the darkness of deception, than in the broad daylight of unvarnished truth. They would gladly get rid of the disagreeable monitor who reminded them of the awfulness of eternity; for they are vexed at being disturbed in the quiet enjoyment of their earthly husks. They neither desire an external conscience, nor the exhibition of a model of virtue, nor an awakener from their deadly sleep, nor, generally speaking, any moral authority over them. On all these accounts, they are exasperated against the Holy One of Israel, and have nothing left for him but the implacable cry of “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Thus they are judged. In the manifestation of him who was “fairer than the children of men,” our fallen nature has taken occasion to make it evident that its corruption is radical, its disease desperate, and its inmost tendency nothing else than enmity against the Most High God. The many thousand additional proofs of this which history furnishes, we may dispense with, after our race, in the murder of the Lord from heaven, has pronounced sentence upon itself, and filled up the measure of its guilt. The mute sufferer in the purple robe and crown of thorns, sits in judgment upon it, and silently testifies that without mediation and an atonement, the seed of Adam, in its whole extent, is exposed to the curse.
That which manifests itself at Gabbatha, is only the mature fruit of a seed, which grows, openly or secretly, in us all. Do not call this assertion unjust. As long as we have not experienced the second birth by water and the Spirit, we do not act, with regard to Jesus, in a manner essentially different from the wretched men at Gabbatha. Like them, we are offended at the holiness of Jesus. Like them, we spurn them from us, when he is desirous of rending the web of deceit we have spun around us. Like them, we spit upon him in spirit with our scorn, when he gives us to understand that we ought to bow the knee of homage to him as our ruler. Tell me, does not Christ still wear, in a hundred different forms, the purple robe and crown of thorns in the world? Is he not exposed to public ridicule, and treated as a liar and an enthusiast, because he bears witness to his superhuman dignity? Is not his name, even to this day, proscribed by thousands, like scarcely any other? Does not an ironical smile dart across the lips of many, when it is mentioned with reverence and fervor? Is it not regarded, in many circles, as much more pardonable to be enthusiastic for Voltaire, than that it should occur to us to be serious in our love to Jesus? As soon as we begin to be so, are we not inundated with disgrace and reproach, and in us, the Lord himself?
Truly, the sins which were committed on the bleeding form of Jesus, are so little to be regarded as the sins and impious acts of a few, that the accumulated guilt of the whole human race is only thereby made apparent. The horrible and cruel scene at Gabbatha is not yet at an end. It is daily renewed, although in a somewhat less striking manner. The words, “Behold the Man!” point not only to what is past, they have also a condemning reference to the present. Alas, the world became a Gabbatha! The thorn-crowned martyred form exhibited there mutely condemns us all without distinction.
But the presence of the divine sufferer acts not merely judicially and condemnatory. It also exercises an influence commanding homage and reverence. However deeply abased the Savior may appear, he is still a king. Even in his blood-stained attire, he accomplishes a truly regal work, and in so doing, ascends a throne on which no eye had previously seen him. It is not the throne of government over all created things; for to this the Father had long before elevated him. Do not mistake, while contemplating the man thus covered with disgrace. If he sways even the feeble reed in his hand, legions of angels would hasten down for his defense, and lay his foes beneath his feet. Just as little is the throne he here ascends that of an avenger and a judge. This also he had previously occupied. Let no one deceive himself; beneath his robe of mockery, he still conceals the thunder, and the lightning; and consuming fire, if he permitted it, would issue from his thorny crown, as from Jotham’s bush of old, and devour his adversaries.
“But if he possessed the power to do this, why did he not make use of it?”
I answer, because beneath the robe of mockery he wears another and a different one, the purple of a compassionating love, which longs for the salvation of the lost. The new throne, which he ascends on Gabbatha, is that of a King of poor sinners and of a “Prince of Peace.” It is the throne of grace, from whence forgiveness flows down, instead of retribution, and promise proceeds instead of command. To this throne no other way is open to him, but that on which we have seen him walk. Before the curse could give way to blessing, the sword of justice to the olive branch of peace, the obligations of sinners must be fulfilled, their debts liquidated, and thus divine justice satisfied. This is the great work in which we see the Redeemer now engaged. Through suffering, he acquires fresh power; immersed in ignominy, he clothes himself with new glory.
“Behold the man!” Yes, fix your eyes upon him, and strike your hands together with astonishment at the sight. In the mock robe in which he stands before you, he gains victories and triumphs which he never could have won in the sumptuous robe of his divine majesty. In it, he overcomes eternal justice, while compelling it to change its sentence of death upon the sinner into a sentence of grace. In it, he overcomes the irrevocable law, by rendering it possible for it to withdraw the curse pronounced upon us, without infringing its authority and dignity. He overcomes sin, from which he rends its destructive power; Satan, whom he deprives of his last claim to us in the way of right; and death, from which he takes away the sting, and the armor of a king of terrors. To the man, so disfigured as scarcely to be recognized, belongs, henceforth, the earth, as the price of payment for his blood; and no destroying power, which, as the consequence of sin, had, by divine permission, entered into the world, has any more a legal claim upon it. From its pillars he removes the insignia and armorial bearings of all usurping authority, and replaces them with the sign of the cross, the mark of his peaceful sway. And no one dare to interfere and say to him, What do you? He is complete and unassailable in his own right. The world is his, that he may let his love rule over it, and not his wrath; and if he henceforth treats penitent sinners as if they were replete with holiness and virtue, who will be bold enough to contest his right to do so?
“Behold the man!” Yes, it is a strange ornament that decks his head; but know, that in this wreath he possesses and uses a power of which he could not boast while only adorned with the crown of Deity, which he inherited from all eternity. In the latter, he could only say to the dying thief, “Be you accursed!” In the former, he is able to say to him, “This day shall you be with me in paradise!” In the heavenly crown, he could say nothing else to a Magdalene, a tax-collector, or a paralytic, than “Depart from me!” and give them over to perdition. But in his crown of thorns, it is in his power to say to these guilty souls, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven you!” In the former he certainly reigned, but over a hopelessly ruined race, devoted to destruction; in the diadem of thorns, he rules over a world replete with great and glorious anticipations.
“Behold the man!” A feeble reed is his rod of office; but with the scepter of Omnipotence, which he wielded from the beginning, he did not perform the wonders which he works with this mark of abasement and weakness. True, the gates of hell opened for transgressors at a wave of the former; but when he sways the latter, the doors of the paradise they have forfeited open for them at his pleasure. With the former, he was Lord over mankind only as over a lost race destined for the slaughter; with the latter, he now tends a flock of them called to eternal salvation. The scepter of his majesty did not menace the kingdom of darkness in its claim on fallen man, since retributive justice, which is the basis of God’s throne, bounded his power with impassable limits. With the scepter of his lowliness, on the contrary, he overturns the seat of the prince of darkness, taking away from him territory and population, and that so justly, that hell itself dares not object to, nor call it in question.
Can you mistake the conqueror of the world in Him whom you see before you? Does not the “stronger” stand before you, who takes away the spoils and armor of the “strong man,” and makes an end of all opposing authority? But know, that in the same attire in which he there yields himself up to the world, as to any legal claim, he continues to overcome it. It is not in the form of “the Master in Israel,” nor in that of the glorious Son of the Eternal Father, but in the form of the divine sufferer, that he inclines the hearts of those toward him whom he has purchased with his blood. He meets his children usually in his wreath of thorns, and gathers, even to this day, the recompense of his sufferings in his robe of mockery, and not in the purple of his Eternal Majesty. The sons of the desert continue estranged from him as long as he meets them only in the garb of a teacher, or with the insignia of his superhuman royalty. But no sooner does he display before them his suffering form, than they begin to be astonished, and feel attracted, as by a wondrous and magnetic power; and when they hear, as from his bleeding lips, that all he endured was for their sakes, it is his purple robe they first lay hold of, his crown of thorns to which they first pay homage, and his reed-scepter to which, in joyful obedience, they bow their necks, as to that of their rightful Lord. Yes, the sight of the suffering Savior is still the mighty power which silently changes lions into lambs, breaks and melts the stony heart, and prepares the way for his most glorious achievements.
“Behold the man!” Yes, keep your eyes fixed upon him. Even as he is the Judge and Conqueror, so he is also the Benefactor of the world. We know that he no longer stands on Gabbatha. He has long ago ascended the throne of glory, in a different robe and a different diadem to that in which we there beheld him. But he left us his thorn-crowned image in the Gospel; and Oh, the wonders it has wrought in the world, and continues to perform, whenever the Holy Spirit illumines it! Even as in that degraded suffering form, the Lord from heaven saved the world, so he still shows himself in it as the world’s benefactor. Thus arrayed, he exhibits himself in the lonely cell of the weeping and contrite penitent, and how is the heart of such a one relieved at the sound of “Ecce Homo!” for “He bare our iniquities.” In this form he shows himself to those who are severely tempted; and the sight of him who has trodden Satan under his feet, renders their victory secure. He appears in this form to those who are grievously afflicted, and scarcely do they behold him than they breathe more freely, and exultingly exclaim, “Through the cross to the crown!” In this form he approaches his children, when rejected and despised by the world; and when they see him, though only through the lattice, they feel already fresh courage, and boldly say, “We desire no other array from you who are his adversaries, than that in which you once clothed our Glorious Head.”
In this form he silently draws near to those who feel grieved at the base ingratitude and coldness of the world; but in his presence, how quickly does their sorrow turn to deep confusion at their desire for human praise and empty honor! In this form he restores those to his flock, who had again let themselves be seduced from him by the allurements of the world. A compassionate and warning look from his eye, from under the crown of thorns, causes them again to melt in contrition at his feet. In this form he appears to his children when the shades of death begin to fall around them, and their feet already tread the dark valley; and when their half-closed eyes behold him, they feel that heavenly peace flows down to them from his crown of thorns, and that, from the reed in his hand, the king of terrors, overcome, shrinks back with all his horrors, and as if the purple robe of their divine friend extended itself like a peaceful canopy over them. Cheered by his presence, they exclaim with good old Simeon, “Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen your salvation!”
O may he thus appear to us, likewise, when our day declines, and the darkness of night surrounds us! May he then unveil his suffering form before us, when the gloomy path presents itself to our view, which we must tread alone! When our pulse ceases to beat, amid the unavailing tears of those who are dear to us, and the world passes away from us forever; when no human are any longer avails, and even the consolation of human affection no longer reaches the heart, O may he then accompany us in our solitary path, in his purple robe and crown of thorns, and all that is dark around us will be changed into heavenly light and glory! For it is in this form above every other, that the great truth is expressed, that the sentence of death and the curse are removed from our heads to his, in order that free access to the throne of grace may be granted us, when clothed in the robe of his righteousness. O how much sooner does a poor sinner take heart to lay hold of the hem of his purple robe, than of that of his garment of light; while from the thorny wreath around his brow, the mysterious benediction of Moses is pronounced upon us: “The good-will of him that dwelt in the bush come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.”
Let, then, the sound of “Ecce Homo!” ever vibrate in our hearts, and nothing in the world ever cause his suffering form to fade from our mental view. This ought never to be the case, if we desire that the peace of God, courage in striving against sin and the world, and comfort in life and death, should abide within us. The wisdom of the just consists, as Paul expresses it, in knowing nothing among men save Christ, and him crucified. Dying daily to ourselves and the world, in fellowship with the dying Redeemer, in order daily to rise with him to the new life in God, is our vocation. Let us be satisfied with it, remembering that “we have here no abiding city.” How long may it be before we hear the sound of another “Ecce Homo!” But if we then lift up our eyes, a different form will present itself to our view than that which we saw on Gabbatha. The King of Glory will then have exchanged the robe of mockery for the starry mantle of Divine Majesty, the wreath of thorns for a crown of glory, and the reed for the scepter of universal dominion. He inclines the latter to us graciously as the symbol of his especial favor, saying, “Come, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!” And while from the interior of the heavenly city of God the never-ending hallelujahs of the blessed above greet our ears, our full hearts respond to the ecstatic acclamation, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honor and glory, and blessing.”
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