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 HOLY PLACE
Meditation – XXVII
Christ a King
And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns,
they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him,
they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.
— Matthew 27:28-30 ESV
Let us now return to the Mighty Captive. He suffers himself to be judged, in order that he may subsequently interfere, both legally and effectually, on our behalf, who had become amenable to divine justice. In every step of his path of suffering, he proves himself to be the man who “restored what he took not away.” But he would not have been such a mediator if, even in his form of humiliation, he had not been at the same time, “higher than the heavens.” This his superhuman glory breaks forth victoriously on every occasion, through the obscurity of his lowliness, like the sun through the veil of clouds. Nor can he so entirely restrain it as to prevent at least a few glimmerings of it from constantly shining forth. Those who are the blindest, are aware of its reflection, and feel surprised. But the sun’s rays produce one effect upon a morass, and another on the slumbering germs of a well-tilled field.
To form a correct idea, however, of Pilate’s state of mind, a different figure must be found to either of those just mentioned. For we still find in him a degree of humanity and of susceptibility for something better. He is not the cold, shallow, worn-out man of the world, to which many would degrade him. God, indeed, will judge him, but not with the lukewarm, who disgust him, and whom, like the Laodiceans, he will spue out of his mouth.
The governor after listening to the accusations of the priests and rulers, returns thoughtfully into his palace, and commands Jesus to be again brought before him. The sacred sufferer appears in silence in the chamber of his judge. It is evident that the Roman cannot avoid feeling a degree of veneration for the wonderful man; and who is there can do otherwise? Even the rudest scoffers feel, in their consciences, the sting of their attacks upon the Lord Jesus, and endeavor, by means of ridicule, to drown the reproving voice within them for their enmity to him.
Pilate begins his examination by asking, “Are you the king of the Jews?” This he seems to have uttered in a mollified tone, in the full expectation of his saying in reply, “God forbid, that I should seek after such high things!” Much would he have given to have heard such a declaration from his lips, partly, that he might have a legal ground for officially rejecting the accusation of the malignant Jews, and partly in order, in an easy manner, to get rid of the Nazarene, of whose innocence he is fully persuaded. Jesus, however, does not give the desired answer in the negative; but, on the contrary, he affirms it, after rectifying the false views of his kingdom, with which the governor was imbued. He begins his reply to Pilate’s question, by asking in return, “Say you this thing of yourself, or did others tell it you of me?” These words were calculated to remind the judge of his duty, not to enter further upon things merely of a suspicious nature, which, like the charge brought forward by the Jews, bore the stamp of falsehood upon its front. “Of yourself,” the Savior intended to say, “you do not surely speak thus, since, being in possession of intelligence respecting my conduct, you are doubtless sufficiently convinced of the absurdity of the Jewish accusation. But how does it consist with the dignity of your office, that you condescend to treat such a groundless charge, in such a serious manner?”
There is also a profounder meaning in our Lord’s words, which may be expressed as follows: “Is it of importance to you—and such it ought to be—to inquire, whether, and in what sense I am a king; or was the impulse to your question given you by the language of others?” Had Pilate been able to answer the first in the affirmative, that hour would have been to him a time of eternal salvation. But his answer was not of a kind to induce the Savior to initiate him more deeply into the mysteries of his kingdom.
Our Lord’s question is still put in a certain sense to all. It is of the highest importance, whether as inquirers, we approach the kingdom of truth by impulse from without, or from a feeling of inward necessity. Thousands ask, “Who is Christ?” only because they wish to know whether this or that divine teaches correctly and scripturally respecting him and his cause. People of this description may attain to a degree of mastery in the knowledge of divine things; but this kind of wisdom, however comprehensive it may be, will never produce peace and salvation. Those, on the contrary, who approach the Lord and his word from an inward impulse, and for the sake of their soul’s welfare, will behold “the King in his Beauty,” and find unsealed the mystery of godliness.
The governor has not wholly misunderstood the Lord’s words, even in their profounder meaning, and clearly perceives that Jesus seeks to make an impression upon him, and to incite him to be serious with regard to the question concerning his kingdom. But scarcely does he perceive our Lord’s intention than he adroitly evades it, and says, with a degree of harshness, which makes it clearly appear that he is struggling against the idea of coming into closer contact with the mysterious personage before him, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you unto me. What has you done?” We see how purposely he tries to liberate himself from him, as though he feared lest the awe-inspiring influence which the deportment of Jesus exercised over him, might become stronger, and in the end overpowering. “Am I a Jew?” he asks, and thereby means to say, “Can you expect me to have any regard to the question whether you are really the promised Messiah or not? What have we citizens of Rome to do with the hopes of the Jews?”
Observe here how Pilate is the inventor of the often-repeated artifice of infidels—that of regarding both the Old and New Testament only as Oriental literature. They are anxious to discuss their estrangement from Christianity on the ground which Pilate takes, of not being a Jew. It is a current saying with such people, “Every nation has its own sphere of religious ideas; and hence what responds to the peculiarity of one nation, is not, on that account, for all.” The prophets—no, even the Lord himself and his apostles, are treated just like the sages of Grecian antiquity, or the Saphis of Persia, and the Brahmins of India. There, as here, men investigate under the pretense of retaining what is good. But the idea of belonging to any particular religion, like that of Palestine, as if it were the universal religion, they reject. What blindness! Is the sun a particular light, and of no use to the north, because it rises in the east?
Our Lord easily perceives how little inclined the governor is to lend his ear to deeper explanations, and, therefore, he confines himself to the placing the charge made by the Jews in its proper light. “My kingdom,” says he, “is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” How simple, and yet how striking are these words! How they overthrow the absurd accusation that his intention was to subvert the government! But do not leave unobserved how carefully he selects his words, while thus defending himself, lest he should infringe upon the truth even by a mere omission. He does not deny that he came to establish a kingdom, and expressly calls it his kingdom; he only repels the groundless suspicion of his having intended to overturn the existing authorities, and to establish a new political state. “Had this been my intention,” says he, “then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”
He does not, however, say that his kingdom makes no claim eventually to the government of the whole world, or he would have denied more than was consistent with truth. He only asserts that his kingdom was not of this world, and clearly intimates, by laying the emphasis on the word “this,” that another aeon than the present would certainly see his delegates seated on the thrones, and his word and Gospel the magna charta of all nations. It is particularly to be observed that in the sentence, “Now is my kingdom not from hence,” the word “now,” evidently refers to a period in which his kingdom should occupy a very different position than it did at that time.
Pilate listens with astonishment and with a degree of uneasiness to our Lord’s speech, and then affected by a reverential impression respecting the person of the accused, he says, “Are you a king then?” One might have thought he would have said, “I clearly see that you are not a king.” But it would appear that the idea became increasingly strong in him that this Jesus was really a king, although in a different sense from what the Jews declared he pretended to be. But the case is similar with regard to many in the present day. These people are still capable of a slight consciousness of a superior nature, and of an elevation of spirit into the regions above the senses, although they continue in their unbelief, and are never clear in their own minds about the person of Christ. Though they were to say a hundred times, with apparent conviction, that Jesus was nothing more than a man, yet it only requires that the Gospel, with its sacred imagery, be once expanded before them, and they are no longer able to utter the words with the same confidence. An obscure feeling which pervades their minds objects to it; and in the bottom of their soul the question of Pilate again is heard, “Are you a king then?” And when, notwithstanding, they try to defend the bulwark of their unbelief, nothing is left them but by constraint to belie the voice of truth within them, which thousands, alas! do, because a recognition of Christ as a king would cost them the delight they experience in the service of the world and sin.
I here call to mind a well-known learned man of Saxony, who after having all his life long attacked Jesus and his Gospel with all the weapons of sophistry, was in his old days partially deprived of his reason, chiefly through the fear of death, and frequently fell into religious paroxysms of a peculiar nature. He was almost daily observed conversing with himself while pacing to and fro in his chamber, on one of the walls of which, between other pictures, hung one of the Savior. Repeatedly he halted before the latter, and said to it, in a horrifying tone of voice, “After all, you were only a man!” Then, after a short pause, he would continue, “What, were you more than a man? Ought I to worship you? No, I will not worship you, for you are only Rabbi Jesus, Joseph’s son of Nazareth.” Uttering these words, he would turn his back upon the picture; but immediately afterward he would return with a deeply affected countenance, and exclaim, “What do you say?—That you come from above? How terribly you eye me! O you are dreadful! But—you are only a man after all.” Then he would again rush away, but soon return with faltering step, crying out, “What, are you in reality the Son of God?” In this way the same scenes were daily renewed, until the unhappy man, struck by paralysis, dropped down dead, and then really stood before his Judge, who, even in his picture, had so strikingly and overpoweringly judged him. Tradition relates also, respecting the man whom we have heard asking, under such peculiar excitement, “Are you a king then?” that, being exiled, he died as a lunatic at Lyons. Be that as it may, it remains true that there is nothing more dangerous than obstinately to resist the Spirit of Truth when he performs his witnessing, warning, and reproving office in us.
What answer does the Lord Jesus make to Pilate’s question? “You say it, I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” He is, therefore, a king. He boldly asserts it himself. Not for a moment did the shame and suffering he was enduring succeed in obscuring in him the consciousness of his superhuman dignity and majesty. May you who are our brethren in the Lord, in the midst of the weakness of the flesh, and the various afflictions through which you have to pass, never wholly lose the divine consciousness of your adoption. Christ is a king; you are, therefore, not in error who wear his uniform, and have trusted your life and destiny to his hands. You are perfectly justified, not only in speaking of Christ’s kingdom, but also in bidding adieu to the last doubt of its final victory and eventual sway over the world, although his kingdom is not of this world, or, as he majestically expresses himself, like one looking down from the heights of heaven upon the earth, “Now is my kingdom not from hence”—that is, has no earthy origin.
Christ is a king. “To this end,” says he, “was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth.” Two objects are mentioned here; the first has reference to his royalty, by which he asserts that he was no adventurer, but was born a king, such as the wise men from the east correctly honored when they hailed him as the new-born king of the Jews. The second has reference to his bearing witness. In the words, “I was born,” he indicates his incarnation. But, lest Pilate, or any one else, should erroneously suppose that Jesus included his whole origin in these words, he adds, “I came into the world;” thereby intimating his heavenly descent, and his existence before he appeared in the flesh—yes, before the world was. We ought highly to esteem such testimonies of his eternal and divine nature from his own lips. Their value is increased in an age like the present which is so full of skepticism, and which so boldly dares to stamp the Lord Christ as a mere man. Had this really been the case, there would at once be an end of the Christian religion, and nothing would be left us but to close our churches and bury all our hopes; because the latter rest wholly on the divinity of Jesus Christ as upon their essential basis. Let us, therefore, cleave firmly to this doctrine, seeing that it is clearly and fully asserted in the sacred Scriptures, especially at a time when, to use the language of the apostle Peter, there are many “false teachers who privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
It is pleasing to observe how the Lord, out of consideration for the governor, imperceptibly leads him from his kingly office to the circumstance of his bearing witness, and to the truth as its object. He hopes, by so doing, to touch the string which would be the first to reverberate at the sound of the Gospel. The perverted Roman was also an inquirer after truth, for this question belonged to the Grecian subjects of study which the Romans had also taken up, although in other respects more intent upon war than any other pursuit. A seeking after truth belongs to human nature, and is accustomed to be the last feature of it that perishes. Some one well observes here, that “Jesus lays hold of Plate by the only topic by which he could make an impression on him.” Thus carefully does the Lord proceed in the exercise of his pastoral office, while taking into account the particular inward state of every individual whom he strives to save.
Christ, however, did not come into the world to join himself to the seekers after truth as their confederate, but rather to lead them on to the aim they were in search of, and thus bring them to the Sabbath of repose. He did not come, as some think, to bring down truth from heaven to earth, but, as he himself says, “to bear witness of the truth.” Truth already existed, interwoven in the history of Israel, and clothed in the inspired language of Moses and the Prophets. Christ only bore witness to it, and confirmed it in the most comprehensive manner, accomplishing prophecy in himself, and presenting, in his own person, the realization of the law’s fulfillment. In his whole conduct he exhibits to the world the divine origin of the law, and, in the events of his life, that of prophecy. He bore witness of the truth, inasmuch as in his own person, while casting down all that is false, he was able to display it, in all its splendor, in the face of heaven, earth, and hell. He who looked upon Jesus, if the eye of his mind were not entirely blinded, saw in him the actual solution of the most important questions which can arise in the mind of man. He no longer needed to be told what was to be regarded, held, and believed of God and the world, heaven and earth, virtue and sin, and of man’s vocation and his future state. He knew it all, and that with the utmost certainty.
But how was it that the Lord, who never abruptly passed from one idea to another, connected his witnessing for the truth with his kingdom and dominion? Did he mean to say that his kingdom was only a sphere of tuition, and he in so far only a king, as he was able to reign over the minds of men by his teaching? By no means. We have already observed that he was far from placing his regal power and dignity in the fact of his bearing witness to the truth. He does not bear such witness as a king, but as a prophet; and points out the way in which he will establish his kingdom, which he intimates in the words, “He who is of the truth hears my voice.” Yes, those who hear his voice are the citizens of his kingdom.
The expression, “every one that is of the truth,” betokens an inward preparation for conversion, which no one, however, experiences without the operation of “preventing grace.” No one is by nature of the truth; but all men, as the Scriptures say, are liars, since they love darkness, rather than light, because the light reproves them for their sins, and disturbs their repose; and because they press error to their bosoms, and shut themselves up against the entrance of truth, which menaces their sensual pleasures with danger, and urges them to a life of self-denial. Thus, as St Paul once expressed it, they “hold the truth in unrighteousness.” But as soon as the Spirit, which, like the wind, blows where it wills, gains room, the love of delusion gives way to the ardent desire to be freed from it, and studious self-deception to the willingness to “prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good.” Before the honest, serious inquiry after truth and peace, the visionary forms of those false ideas vanish, to which the poor soul had been previously attached. But when, by the operation of the Spirit of God, we have attained to this simplicity of heart, we become joined to those who are of the truth. Then, if the Divine Teacher utters his voice, how does our inmost soul echo to the sound of his light and life-giving words. If he then says, “Come unto me, you that are weary and heavy laden,” how gladly do we accept the gracious invitation! If he then unveils his glory and beauty, how do our longing souls rush into his arms rejoicing! If he then displays the standard of his cross, how do we not hasten to it, to build tabernacles under its peaceful shadow!
O my dear readers, were you all of the truth, what a blessed thing it would be to write to and address you, and what an increase would the kingdom of God among us have to rejoice over! Then could I say with his beloved disciple, in writing to “the elect lady,” “I rejoiced greatly when I found certain of your children walking in the truth;” and to his beloved Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” But it happens to thousands as it did to poor Pilate, whose ear was beginning to open to divine truth, but was soon closed again by the objections of carnal reason and the predominating influence of temporal things. Therefore, let us not cease, dear readers, to call upon the King of Truth to do violence to us, and not leave us until he has attuned the chords of our soul in such a manner that his word may find a full and abiding echo in us. Let us entreat, above all things, the hearing ear, the understanding, believing, child-like, and simple heart, and plead his gracious promise to guide the meek in judgment, and to teach the humble his way.
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