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 – XXXI
Pilot Our Advocate
“And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.”
— Luke 23:11-16 ESV
Pilate again finds himself in a great dilemma.
By transferring the proceedings to Herod, he hoped to have escaped from his painful situation. But, contrary to his expectation, the Galilean prince sends the accused back to him again, leaving it to him to terminate the affair he had once begun. The governor, not a little disturbed at this mistake in his calculations, turns again to the accusers of the Savior, and renews his attempt to rescue Jesus, and with him his own peace of mind. He makes a speech to the priests, rulers, and the assembled populace, which, though it contains nothing but what we have already heard him state, is nevertheless worthy of our serious consideration, because in it, Pilate unconsciously and involuntarily appears as our advocate.
However strangely it may sound, Pilate becomes our advocate.
He takes Christ, our head, under his protection, and us with him. He legally absolves him from all criminality, and in him his followers also. He begins his address by saying, “You have brought this man unto me, as one that perverts the people.” In a certain sense, something of this kind may be asserted of the Savior with truth. For even as he testifies to his believing followers, that they are not of the world; so he also enjoins upon them not to be conformed to the world. He calls upon his people to “come out from among them; for the friendship of the world is enmity with God.”
In some degree, Christians will always be separatists. God has so organized them, that an union of fire with water is sooner to be thought of than of them with the multitude. Their convictions, principles, tastes, opinions, and views of things in the world, as well as their wishes, hopes, and desires, all are directly opposed to the world’s mode of thinking and acting. They are by nature and kind separated from the unregenerate world, although the hearts of the children of God never detach themselves from the children of the world, but are incessantly inclined toward them in compassion and charity. But the latter refuse to be regarded as those who ought to undergo a change; and hence the conflict upon earth, with reference to which the Savior said, “Do not think that I am come to send peace upon earth, but a sword.”
When the rulers of Israel charged Jesus with perverting the people, they wished it to be understood in a political sense. They declared him to be the ringleader of a band of conspirators, who strove to stir up the people against the emperor and the authorities, and was therefore guilty of high treason. Nor was our Lord either the first or the last of God’s servants, on whom such suspicions have been cast. Even Elijah was obliged to hear from Ahab the angry salutation, “You are he who troubles Israel;” to which he calmly replied, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed Baal.” In the same manner it was said to the king concerning Jeremiah, “We beseech you, let this man be put to death, for he weakens the hands of the men of war, and seeks not the welfare of this people, but their hurt.”
Later on, we find Paul accused before Felix, much in the same manner: “We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” And all the subsequent persecutions of the Christians under the Roman emperors took place under the pretext that the followers of Jesus were dangerous to the State, their views being directed to the weakening of allegiance, and even to the subversion of the existing government.
This false accusation has been handed down from age to age, although even Pilate most earnestly took us under his protection against such calumnies. We hear him loudly declare before the assembled multitude, that neither the throne nor the state had anything to fear from Jesus and his disciples. “Behold,” says he, “I have examined him before you, and find no fault in this man touching those things whereof you accuse him; no, nor yet Herod; for I sent you to him, and lo! nothing worthy of death is done unto him.” Indeed, how was it possible to convict him of a tendency to revolt, who established the universal principle, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s;” who seriously reproved Peter for assaulting, in his defense, one of the lowest officers of the civil authorities, by saying to him, “Put up again your sword into its place, for all those who take the sword, shall perish with the sword;” and who enjoins upon us to “be subject to the higher powers, since there is no power but of God,” and when we are required to do that which is contrary to God’s word, exhorts us to a passive behavior in obeying God rather than man.
But events have recently occurred, which render needless any advocate on behalf of believing Christians, with reference to their political sentiments. The world now knows that the billows of rebellion find in them a rock against which they break, but not a bay into which they may pour themselves. Attempts to render their loyalty suspected will not in future succeed. The revolutionary party has repeatedly been obliged to confess that nothing interferes so much with their plans as the Christian religion. States, which only a few years ago persecuted their religious subjects, now invite them into their territories, as supporters of the throne and guarantees of public order. Laban speaks kindly to Jacob. Belshazzar clothes Daniel in purple. “When a man’s ways please the Lord,” says Solomon, “he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
There is something astonishing in the sudden annihilation of a charge which has been brought against the followers of the Lamb for more than a thousand years, such as has recently occurred. Let us rejoice at this revolution in public opinion with respect to the soldiers of Christ in the world, as indicative, in some small degree, of that triumphant period of Christ’s kingdom, which is drawing near.
But all the charges brought against us are not refuted by our being exculpated from the single accusation of entertaining disloyal sentiments. It is further alleged against us that we adhere strictly to irrational doctrines, especially that of Christ’s vicarious atonement; which, we certainly confess is the marrow of the Gospel, and the ground of all our hopes. If it is not true that the Son of God made the great exchange, in causing our transgressions to be divinely imputed to him, taking our debts to his own account, giving himself up to the sword of divine justice for us, atoning for sin in our stead, enduring the curse and condemnation, and emptying, as our Surety and Representative, the cup of horrors to its very dregs—if, I say, all this is not founded in truth, our sins then continue to lie as a heavy burden upon us; we are still under the curse, and must remain so to all eternity; then, no soul could be saved; and every passage of Scripture in which it is said to the sinner, “Your sins are forgiven you,” is a falsehood, and every promise of mercy in God’s name to the rebellious and transgressors is blasphemous.
Everything of a consolatory nature for fallen man, which the Bible contains, cannot then be of divine origin, but must proceed from Satan; for it is impossible that God, who can never abate anything, either from his law—the reflection of his unchangeable will—or from his threatenings—the emanations of his holiness—could arbitrarily, and without anything further, bless and beatify guilty sinners. If he were to do so, he would cease to be holy, just and true; that is, to be God. Such is our belief and confession. But what appears to us so glorious, acceptable, and rational in the highest sense of the word, the world calls an absurd and foolish doctrine, and an antiquated delusion. But here again, singularly enough, Pilate appears for us, and takes us under his protection.
The Lord Jesus has passed through every examination; he has been put to one test after another, weighed in every scale, measured by every standard, and narrowly inspected by the light of a threefold law—the Levitical, civil, and moral. The veil has now to be removed from the result of the proceedings against him. The judge, who has called the chief priests and rulers to be present at the solemn, and, as he supposes, decisive act, stands surrounded by a vast multitude; and when all are silent with expectation, he opens his mouth to pronounce the final sentence. He declares aloud to the assembled crowd, “You have brought this man unto me, as one that perverts the people, and behold”—this is said to the world at large,—”I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touching the things whereof you accuse him; no, nor yet Herod, for I sent you to him, and lo! nothing worthy of death is done to him.” He concludes, and all are silent, because they feel that Pilate has spoken the truth.
Now, although he, who was free from sin, was in no wise guilty of death, either judicial or natural, which latter is called the “wages of sin,” yet still, he dies. He dies, who, according to justice as well as the promise of God, ought not to die, but live; and dies a death which bears scarcely the remotest resemblance to a martyrdom. If, by his death, he had only designed to confirm the truth of his doctrine, he would have failed in his object; since we cannot possibly think highly of a doctrine, whose teacher, at the gates of eternity, is compelled to make the dreadful confession that God has forsaken him.
But, tell us now, why did Jesus die? “It is appointed unto sinners once to die, and after that the judgment;” but he was not a sinner. Even the redeemed have no other way to the heavenly world than through death, because their flesh is corrupted by sin. But in Christ’s corporeality this is not the case; and yet he dies, and that in such a dreadful manner! Explain how this is. You take time to reflect. But however long and deeply you may study the subject, we tell you decidedly before-hand, that you will not bring forward any rational, convincing, and satisfactory solution of this mystery. Hear, therefore, how we view the subject, and consider whether there is room for any other.
The monstrous fact that the just and spotless Jesus, notwithstanding his holiness, was condemned to death, would compel us to the conclusion that the doctrine of a righteous God, who rules over all, is a delusion—that the will of man or chance, alone governs the world—that there exists no divine retribution upon earth, and that it will not fare the worse with the impious than with the just—that no order exists, according to which he who perfectly keeps the law has to expect the crown of life, and that the Scriptures speak falsely, when they say that death is only the result of transgression—I say, we should be necessarily compelled to inferences of this kind, if we were not permitted to assume that the immaculate Son of God suffered death in our stead. This view of the subject furnishes the only key to the mystery of the ignominious end of the just and holy Jesus.
But if we presuppose an atonement made by Christ for sin—and we not only may do so, but are constrained to it by the clear evidence of Holy Writ—then all is plain; all is solved and deciphered, and a sublime meaning and a glorious connection pervades the whole. God threatened Adam in paradise, saying, “In the day that you eat of the fruit of this tree, you shall surely die.” We did eat of that fruit, and incurred the horrible penalty. But the Eternal Son now appears, removes the latter from us to himself, and we live. On Sinai it was said, “Cursed be every one who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” We did not continue in them, and our fate was decided. But our Surety presents himself, endures the curse for us, and we are justly delivered and absolved.
God has resolved to save sinners; notwithstanding he has said; “I will blot the name of him that sins out of my book.” We believe in our salvation, for he inflicted upon Christ the punishment due to us. God promised the crown of life only to the obedient; but after Christ, as our representative, obeyed in our name, God can bestow the crown on sinners and yet continue holy. Thus all becomes clear, and the most striking opposites harmoniously agree. And yet men dare to call our doctrine of the atonement made by Christ irrational and even absurd! Look how Pilate unconsciously stands in the breach for us, by testifying to the truth that Jesus was not guilty of death. Attempt, in a satisfactory and rational manner, if you can, to explain it, otherwise than by the atonement made by Christ, how it was that even the holy and immaculate Son of God paid the wages of sin.
Pilate takes our part once more. He clears us of a new cause of reproach. He does not, indeed, do this directly, but he gives occasion for our being freed from it. We are accused of dispensing Scripture consolation too lavishly. We are reproved for extending the grace purchased for us by Christ to the greatest sinners and most depraved criminals. We are told that we are not justified in so doing, and that such conduct is dangerous and injurious to morality. But there is something intimated in that part of the narrative under consideration which fully repels the narrow-minded reproof, and justifies our procedure as being quite evangelical.
After Pilate has solemnly declared that no guilt attaches to the accused, he continues, “I will therefore”—release him? not so, but “chastise him (that is, with rods) and let him go.” Only think, what injustice! We are ready to say, “O Pilate, how is it possible that you should have recourse to such an expedient! Will you scourge him as a malefactor, who said to you, with the clearest expression of truth, ‘I am a King and to this end was I born, that I should bear witness of the truth,’ and from the whole of whose deportment shone the radiance, not only of spotless holiness, but also of supernatural descent? O to what length does the miserable fear of man mislead you, and the pitiful anxiety for a little worldly honor and temporal comfort!”
But let us be silent. Pilate’s speech, “I will chastise him and then release him,” is still the language of numbers of this world’s children. He is chastised when men tear the crown of deity from his brow, and when they silently brand him as a deceiver and blasphemer; but then begin to commend his excellences and virtues, and thus release him after having maltreated him. They deny that he is the only way to heaven, although he himself has said so, and in this way he is chastised; but then again, they applaud him as the most eminent of teachers; and thus he is let go.
Men chastise him by insulting his members upon earth, and vilifying those who boast of his meritorious sufferings as the sole ground of their salvation; but again release him by making an outward obeisance at his communion-table, or by confessing that he was more than Socrates or Solon. Alas! we all carry about with us, by nature, a secret scourge for the Lord Jesus, and never omit to use it in one way or other. But if our conscience asks, after such a chastising, why we are so averse and opposed to this Just One, who never injured us, we are accustomed, instead of feeling penitent, to hide our own naughtiness behind the traitorous kisses we bestow upon him, and again release the ill-treated Savior by dubious marks of respect.
But to return. It was customary in Israel to chastise those with rods, who, after trial, were convicted only of slight transgressions, and then to release them. Pilate was anxious to treat Jesus as a delinquent of this kind. One might have expected after all that had passed, by which the innocence of Jesus was placed in so clear a light, that his mediating proposition would have been responded to. But no! God had determined otherwise. It was intended that Christ should suffer as a criminal of the worst description, and that the lot of a murderer and an outcast of the human race, should be his, and that not until then, should the hour of redemption arrive. But why was this? For what other reason than that, according to God’s counsel and will, sinners and criminals, like Manasseh and Rahab, might have reason to believe that the great Surety suffered for them also. Jesus was obliged to descend into the regions of darkness, into the being abandoned by God, and into the extreme of ignominy and suffering, that the vilest transgressors might not despair of mercy.
If this doctrine is dangerous, why do the apostles proclaim it as from the housetops? If it is contrary to God, why has he confirmed it in the case of David, Saul, Mary Magdalen, and even in that of greater sinners than these? If it is pernicious, why do those who in themselves experience the truth of it, exceed all others in their hatred to sin, and their zeal for God and his glory? Does it make them negligent and unfruitful in good works? The very reverse; for he who participates in the merits of Christ, becomes also by Christ’s Spirit, a noble tree in the garden of God, which brings forth its fruit in its season. O it is well for us that the case is as we have described it! If Christ had not endured the fate of the chief of sinners, who, even among the enlightened, could glory in Christ, since the Holy Spirit teaches all such to testify with Paul, “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief!”
Pilate has done us a good office. Not only has he cleared us from a grievous accusation, but, by the testimony he bore to the innocence of Jesus, he has also justified our view of the Lord’s death and its import; and by his fruitless attempts to treat the Redeemer as a petty offender, he gave occasion to the Judge on the throne of majesty to frustrate his project, and by so doing, to make it known that Christ was to bear the curse even of the greatest sinner, according to the will and counsel of the Almighty. We feel ourselves deeply indebted to the Roman for the two last pieces of service which he has rendered us, for we confess that, with the atonement and satisfaction made by Immanuel, our peace as well as our hope stands or falls.
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