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]




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!



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