Krummacher: Christ before the Sanhedrin

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 – XXIII

Christ before the Sanhedrin

“To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

—  Proverbs 17:26-27

After a horrible night, the morning breaks, and announces the dawn of the most important and momentous of all earthly days. It is Good Friday, that most dreadful accuser of the sinful world, but at the same time, the birthday of its salvation, and the dawn of its eternal redemption. It is the day typified by the deliverance of the chosen race out of Egypt, and annually announced to the believing Israelites for upward of a thousand years, in the great day of atonement, which was the chief object of their hopes and desires. All the radiations of grace, which had ever beamed upon them, were only preliminary emanations of this day, which still slept in the lap of a far distant future; and whenever God favorably regarded a sinner, it was solely on the ground of the propitiation by the blood of Christ, which was actually made upon this day.

Notwithstanding the very early hour, the members of the council at Jerusalem are up and in full activity. They are preparing a second examination of Jesus, “that they might put him to death.” But have they not already established his guilt, and pronounced sentence against him? Certainly they have.

But yet they are not satisfied, and would gladly find out other and more decisive proofs against him, than those on which their judgment was founded. It is evident that our Lord’s whole demeanor, during the first hearing, and especially his great confession, which was uttered with such majestic decision and confidence, had left a powerful impression upon them; and what remains of conscience they still possessed, awoke from its slumbers and stung them. The irresolution we perceive in them, as well as the hope they betray of obtaining fresh and more substantial grounds of justification with reference to their murderous purpose, places this beyond a doubt.

They now meet in their hall of session, which was in one of the buildings of the temple, in the character of a regular plenary assembly, because their first meeting in the high priest’s palace—apart from the absence of several of its members—bore the aspect of being accidental and tumultuous. The council or Sanhedrin, was, as you know, the supreme court of judicature of the later Jews, and consisted of seventy-one members, including the chief priests, elders, and doctors of the law, or scribes, under the presidency of the high priest, which, formed on the model of the seventy elders, whom Moses joined with him for the administration of justice, during the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness, had to judge and decide in all national Jewish, and particularly in ecclesiastical affairs. Christ, according to Matt. 23:2, regarded this authority as being divinely sanctioned, and submitted without objection to its citation. Before this tribunal, Peter subsequently stood, as a pretended wonder-worker, and again, in company with John, as a deceiver of the people; further, Stephen, as a blasphemer, and Paul, accused of being a false prophet. After the Romans had possession of the country, this court of judicature was deprived of the right of carrying its sentences of death into execution by its own authority, which required, as appears from John, 18:31, the sanction of the Roman procurator. The stoning of Stephen without it, was a transgression of the rule, for which the Jews might have found an excuse in the fact that the governor, who usually resided at Caesarea, was at that time absent from Jerusalem.

We now see our Lord brought a second time before this court. He is conducted up the hill on which the temple stands by an armed escort. It is his last passage along that road, and by a remarkable coincidence, it occurs at the same time with the paschal lambs, which are on that day brought to the priests for sacrifice. What may have been his feelings on this occasion! He certainly thought of the typical journey of Abraham to Mount Moriah, which was now so visibly fulfilled in him. For Christ, as the antitype of Isaac, is now proceeding to the altar of God upon the same path which once his human type, led by his father, had trodden for the same purpose. Christ, indeed, does not say like Abraham’s son, “My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” He knows what the lamb is which God has provided, and willingly bows to the divine decree. He is also aware that in his case it will not be merely a sacrifice of the will, and that after he has ascended the altar, an angel from heaven will cry, saying, “Lay not your hand upon the lad,” but that he has to recognize his type not only in Isaac, but also in the ram whose horns were caught in the thicket, and which Abraham, at Jehovah’s command, took, in order to slay it in the place of his son.

The sitting of the Sanhedrin commences. The accused stands at the bar. He is again asked by the judge, “Are you the Christ? tell us!” as if he had not already plainly told them that he was. But it would seem as if they hesitated to deliver him up to death, as a deceiver and a blasphemer, on this account, without anything further—no, as if they involuntarily sought to prolong the affair, because a slight echo of the voice of conscience told them—not, indeed, that he really was what he gave himself out to be—but that it possibly might be the case. The Lord opens his mouth; and now mark how the tables are turned, and the accused becomes judge, and his judges the delinquents. “If I tell you,” says he, “you will not believe; and if I also ask you (that is, if I were to attempt to convince you by proofs), you will not answer me, nor let me go.”

O how many there are in the present day, to whom these words are applicable! I do not now refer to people who are entirely indifferent to religion. I mean such as are continually inquiring who Christ is, and would seem to have no rest until they were convinced. But although he is brought before them, first in one form and then in another, still they do not believe. The Church tells them, in the second article of its Confession of Faith, but they say, “The Church may err. What do the contemporaries of Jesus say?” The apostles tell them, as with one voice, “He is the Word that was with God from the beginning, and was God; the brightness of the Father’s glory, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” But to this they reply with a gesture of dissent, “Love is blind, and enthusiasm is visionary.” They will only receive what Jesus says of himself. And Jesus comes forward and announces himself, not only as the light of the world, the truth and the life, but as greater than all this—as one with the Father, as being before Abraham, and to whom all power in heaven and earth is given. Do they now believe? They start; but before we are aware, they again slip out by means of a variety of questions, such as, “Did the historians rightly understand Jesus?

Are his expressions to be taken literally? Is it possible, generally speaking, for Deity to become incarnate?” etc. And when the Lord condescends, in a convincing manner to these skeptics, and by a direct influence on their minds, or by means of his ministers, begins to ask them who else he could be, if he were not the One whom he gave himself out to be, after the predictions of two thousand years had reached their fulfillment in him to an iota—after his resurrection from the dead had been established even by his enemies—after having been subsequently seen by a host of disciples who joyfully hazarded their blood and their lives for him—after the Holy Spirit, according to his promise, had really visited the earth with his regenerating influences—after the best of the human race, for eighteen centuries, had honored and adored him—and seeing that his Church testifies for him more loudly than any word or single act can do—they are silenced, and have reached the end of their objections, but still do not believe, and yet do not let the Lord go, since they cease not to doubt of his superhuman dignity, and to render it suspected by others. They will not believe. This is the solution of the problem. They are horrified at the thought of being obliged to crucify the idols of their own wisdom and righteousness, as well as the honors and pleasures of the world, for the sake of Christ. They see an abyss open between them and the Lord, which threatens to swallow up nothing less than their entire glory and self-sufficiency, and they start back from such a death. They are still too conscientious to part with him decidedly, like the Gadarenes, and to say, “What have we to do with you?” but not conscientious enough to give admission to the truth. They rather let the matter rest, and come to no decision.

The Lord renews his declaration. The constituted authorities demand it, and he obeys. Besides, it is of importance to him that the world should know, with certainty, who he was, and whom they crucified. From the summit of the eminence on which the temple stood, he surveys in spirit the human race and the ages to come. He once more raises the veil from his humble guise, and baring the regal star upon his bosom, he says, “Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God.” A sublime expression, evidently having reference to the remarkable passage in Daniel, 7:13: “One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven.” The priests and scribes could not for a moment doubt that by this he declared himself to be the Messiah promised by the inspired prophet, and thus claimed divine nature and essentiality. He intimated, even by the name by which he usually designated himself, that his humanity was only something attached to his person in an extraordinary way. For had he been conscious of being a mere man, what kind of meaning would attach to that striking appellation? His prediction concerning his approaching sitting at the right hand of power, or of the Divine Majesty, is nothing less than a decided declaration that he would divide the throne of glory with his heavenly Father, and with him rule the world in equal perfection of power. The Sanhedrin, conversant with the language of the prophets, understood the words in this sense. “Are you then the Son of God?” cried they all, as with one voice. “You say that which I am,” replied he, with majestic firmness and composure.

The Lord has repeated his great confession The whole assembly rise in real or dissembled indignation and astonishment. One exclaims louder than the other, “What need we any further witness; for we ourselves have heard it from his own lips?” True, they have heard it from his own mouth. This their confession has been recorded in heaven, and will, without fail, be brought against them at the day of judgment. With which, then, will they justify their refusing to pay homage to the Lord, seeing that in reality they needed no further witness? On account of this testimony they condemned Jesus to death, and by so doing, for the confirmation of our faith, only established the fact of the testimony having proceeded from his own lips. Even to this hour, the tradition exists among the Jews, that Christ was crucified because he made himself equal with God, and therefore was guilty of blasphemy. Hence, nothing in the world is so beyond a doubt as that Jesus actually made that judicial confession of his divine Sonship. He who seeks to view him as anything less than the Eternal Son, brands him as a blasphemer, and convicts him, with the Jewish council, as being worthy of death.

After sentence of death on the divine sufferer had thus been confirmed, the officers approach, in order again to put on his fetters, which had been for the time removed. He willingly offers his hand, that the words of Isaiah might be fulfilled (chap.53:7), “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.” He who had just before solemnly asserted his equality with God, with the consent of the whole heavenly world, appears now in fetters like a rebel. How monstrous the contrast, how great the contradiction! But how obvious it is that it is a voluntary act on the Lord’s part; and how clearly do we again read in the soul of the holy sufferer the words, “Then I restored that which I took not away!” His fetters have contributed to procure our redemption; for Satan would have held us eternally captive had Jesus preferred liberty to bonds. Horrible and heart-affecting it is to see, that those hands, which were only employed in offices of mercy, are bound with cords, like the hands of a felon, by the very world to which they were extended only in blessing. But God be thanked that he restrained the lightning of his wrath from destroying the rebels, when they thus laid hands upon his Holy One! For in those cords which bound the limbs of Jesus, were hidden the fetters which would have forever bound sinners in hell.

The officers have done their task. The whole assembly then breaks up, in order, contrary to custom and etiquette, personally to bring the accused before the governor, and by their appearing in a body, to force from him the confirmation of their sentence of death. Herein was fulfilled the Savior’s prediction, that he should be delivered unto the Gentiles. This feature in the proceedings belonged to that which was symbolical in the history of his passion. The whole world was to have occasion, in its representatives, to manifest its real position with reference to the Holy One of Israel, and its participation in the guilt, and the need of redemption. As regards sin and the curse, we have all fellowship with Israel; as well as in the vocation of grace.

He whom we have seen proceeding bound to the second court of justice, sits now, having long since accomplished his work, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as keeper of the heavenly blessings which he purchased for us. Let us bow, in humble adoration, before him, and not let him go until he has granted us all the blessed results of his passion. Let us beware of again binding his hands by our unbelief, and be cautious lest by our improper conduct, we should again deliver him up to the baptized and unbaptized heathen. Rather let us bind him to us by the cords of grateful love, and by a joyful confession of him, recommend him to those who are still ignorant of him. Let us bring our peaceful disposition, holiness of life, and fidelity in his service, as witnesses which justify him before the world, and learn to devote ourselves unceasingly to him who loved us and gave himself for us.


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