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 – XXVI
Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”
But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.
— Matthew 27:13-14 ESV
After the Jews had gained their first victory over the governor, for as such they might account it, in having succeeded by their imposing attitude, in wresting from him the reply, “Take you him and, judge him according to your law,” they proceed with increasing courage, and bring forward accusations against their prisoner, by which they hope completely to influence the Roman, and induce him to favor their murderous project. They are acquainted with his weak side—his pride of office, his ambition, and, in particular, his dependence on the favor of his imperial master; and toward this point they direct their assault. They abstain from repeating, before a heathen tribunal, accusations against Jesus which they could successfully bring forward against him in their Jewish Sanhedrin. Instead of an ecclesiastical, they make before Pilate a political charge. They accuse the Lord of a threefold crime, which, because it is imputed to him, in a certain sense, by his opponents and the enemies of his kingdom, even in the present day, is worthy of particular investigation.
“We have found this fellow perverting the nation.” This is the first of the three charges brought against him. They intend by it to say, “This man seeks to lessen the respect due to the constituted authorities.” The worthless beings, who were themselves puffed up with revolutionary feelings, and incessantly intent upon inciting the people against the Roman sovereignty! But to bring forward against Jesus a charge like the one just mentioned, some shadow of truth was requisite, and this they found in the position which the Lord had taken up with reference to the priests and scribes. For as regards the priests, our Lord certainly did not instruct his disciples to place their trust in them, as their real mediators with God, or to seek in their sacrifices the cause of their justification in his sight. If, by this, he detracted from the authority of the sons of Aaron, he did nothing more than reduce this authority to the correct measure intended by God, and thus purified the veneration which the people showed them, from the elements of a dangerous delusion and superstition, which had occasionally been attached to them in contradiction to the Word of God.
But where had he denied to the priesthood of Israel the authority of a divine institution, and refused it the reverence and submission which belonged to it as such? His position as regards the priesthood was certainly peculiar and unique. The latter, as a prophetic shadow, had pointed to him, and in him, as its essential antitype, it was intended to reach its aim, and termination. This was not to be accomplished by means of a violent overthrow of existing institutions, but on the even and hallowed path of a gradual development. Of itself, and in consequence of an internal necessity, the priesthood of the old tabernacle was to give way to that which is true and real, just as the blossom makes room for the fruit, or like the butterfly bursting from the chrysalis. Therefore, as long as Jesus had not fulfilled the entire requirements of his high-priestly calling, and as long as the great atoning sacrifice had not been offered on the cross, he gave all honor to the Levitical priesthood, for the sake of their divine appointment.
Not only did he visit the temple as the house of God, and celebrate the festivals of Israel as sanctified by him, but he obediently submitted also to all the Levitical statutes enjoined by Moses, from the circumcision and presentation in the temple, to the eating of the paschal lamb. And not only so, but he did not fail to enjoin upon others the punctual fulfillment of their ecclesiastical duties; so that he did not even absolve a leper, whom he had healed, from presenting himself to the priests, and offering the sacrifices appointed by Moses in such a case. So little did the reproach apply to him of degrading what was divinely authorized, that the latter found in him a powerful support; and so far was he from loosening the bond between the people and their superiors, that he was accustomed to enjoin upon all who came to him the most unconditional submission to them—of course after divesting it of all superstitious intermixture.
The Lord acted toward the elders of the people, whether they were Pharisees or Sadducees, as he did toward the priests. It is true that as the Master of all, he reproved their errors and sins, as appears from Mark, 7:13, and refused in any manner to justify their human invented ordinances and traditions, by which the word of God was only weakened and rendered void. He, nevertheless, unhesitatingly recognized their divine appointment, as, you will remember, is evident from Matt. 23:2, 3, where he says, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’s seat. All, therefore, whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works, for they say and do not.” Could this be called weakening the respect due to the constituted authorities, or was it not rather the contrary?
In the present day, the Christ of the Protestant Church, who, as the Scriptural Christ, is certainly a somewhat different Christ from that of the Church of Rome, is reproached in a similar manner by the latter as he was formerly by the Jews. This arises from the universal priesthood of all believers, instituted by Christ himself, and realized in our Church, in virtue of which they are called to immediate fellowship with Christ, and no longer need any further mediators between him and them. A priesthood with mediating rights, finds just as little room in the Protestant Church, as there exists any cause or motive for invoking the glorified saints for their intercession. Now, if a warning against the delusion, that for the laity, absolution, forgiveness, and every favor and answer to prayer is only attainable by a human hierarchical intervention, may be called a weakening of authority—then certainly it may be said of Christ, that he perverted the people.
This, however, is no longer a reproach, but a commendation, because he turned the people aside from authorities which do not deserve the name, not being divinely instituted and appointed. But this does not exclude the fact that he most expressly, though in the spirit of Christian liberty, claims the submission of believers to the official ordinances of the Church, which he has himself instituted and sanctified. The pastoral office, with its various spheres of operation, is established by him. He says to those who preach his word, “He who despises you, despises me.” He points them out to us as stewards of the divine mysteries, and says to the members of the Churches, by the mouth of his apostle, “Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor.” “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls.” It is thus the Lord supports the authorities of the Church which rest on divine institution, and only properly rejects, with all earnestness and emphasis, those unjustifiable assumptions which are contrary to the word of God.
The second accusation which is brought against the Lord Jesus by the Jews, is that of “forbidding to give tribute to Caesar.” Truly, a more unjust accusation than this they could not have invented against him. It is devoid of the slightest foundation; and we are compelled to believe that it occurred to them only because they were still smarting under the disgrace of the defeat they had experienced at his hands, when they endeavored to draw from him a disloyal expression. Luke mentions this affair in the twentieth chapter of his Gospel. The chief priests and scribes sought, even at that time, how they might lay hands upon him; but their evil conscience made them afraid of the people, in whose esteem they had already begun to sink considerably. That which they did not venture to execute by force, they sought to attain by craftiness, and under the assumed appearance of what was just and right. For this purpose they induced some worthless individuals of their party, disguised in the mask of piety, and pretending to be secretly his disciples, to attempt to take hold of his words, so that they might have an ostensible ground for delivering him up to the civil power.
The bribed emissaries approach the Savior, in the garb of reverential submission, and ask, with the innocent mien of those who seek instruction, “Master, we know that you say and teach rightly, neither accept you the person of any, but teach the way of God truly. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or no?” The net was cunningly spread, but in such a manner that they were caught in it themselves. The Lord immediately saw through the snare, and tore away the hypocritical mask from them, by the simple question, “Why tempt you me?” He then asked them to show him a penny, which being done, he takes the coin, holds it up to them, and asks, “Whose image and superscription has it? They answer, ‘Caesar’s.'” And he said unto them, “Render, therefore, to Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” The narrative informs us that they could not take hold of his words before the people, and they marveled at his answer, and held their peace.
This single expression of our Lord’s perfectly suffices to show us what was his political principle, if I may so call it. A heathen emperor then reigned over Judea, an enemy to God and his cause. But still he ruled, and wielded the scepter. The coin which bore his image testified of this. The Lord commanded that it should be returned to him to whom it belonged. What else did he intimate by so doing, than that which was subsequently enjoined upon us by his apostle in his name, in Rom. 13:1-3, where we read, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever, therefore, resists the power, resists the ordinance of God; and those who resist shall receive to themselves condemnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you, then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same.”
Christ, therefore, is so far from favoring revolt, that he threatens with judgment all resistance to the existing authorities, whatever they may be, as though it were a rebellion against the majesty of God himself. He enjoins us, in his word, to be “subject to our masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” If a tyrant rules over us, there is no question as to what is our duty, according to our magna charta, the Holy Scriptures. In the autocrat and the despot we have to recognize a chastening rod raised against us by the hand of God, and quietly endure it, while calling to mind our sins. Even the most crying injustice, inflicted upon us by legitimate authority, does not absolve us from the duty of obedience to it. If the government commands anything contrary to our consciences and the word of God, we may then offer passive resistance, but nothing more. We refuse obedience with all reverence, and patiently endure the consequences of so doing for the Lord’s sake. These principles stand immutably firm, as being those of the religion of Christ. The Lord has proclaimed them, and, by his own example, has set his seal upon them.
The third and last accusation brought against Jesus is, that he had said of himself that he was “Christ, a king.” They wish Pilate to understand this in a political sense. But how far the Lord was from causing or fostering such an idea of the object of his coming into the world, my readers well know. The Jews often attempted by force to make him act the part of a king; and would have borne him on their hands, and loaded him with homage and crowns of honor, as the liberator of his people from the disgraceful yoke of foreigners. But as often as he perceived any movement of the kind, he escaped from the multitude, and hid himself. And when his own disciples expressed similar sentiments respecting the kingdom he came to establish, he never failed to reprove them severely, to rectify their mistakes, and to impress upon them, again and again, the fact that his kingdom came not with outward observation, but was within them.
The Jews also were well aware how far it had always been from his intention to found a kingdom according to their views; and this was the very thing which irritated them above everything else, and kindled their animosity against him. Nevertheless their effrontery and mendacity extend so far, that they now impute to him, as his desire and aim, what they had fruitlessly labored to induce him to attempt. They thus open out to us a new view into the treachery and craftiness of the human heart, and give evidence that they are well-schooled and tutored children of the father of lies.
You know that the endeavor to stamp Christ as an earthly king did not expire with the Jewish scribes and Pharisees. A Church exists, which ascribes it to the Lord, not in the way of accusation, but of commendation, that his intention was to found “a kingdom of this world.” It represents Christ as handing over to Peter two swords, emblematical of spiritual and temporal power; and that from him they pass to his pretended successors the popes, as the head of the Church, and as far as kings and princes reign in the world, they bear the sword of authority only by commission from the Church, and as a fief of the latter. The Church is authorized, in case of their refusing the service claimed, to withdraw their power and authority from them, and to absolve the people from their oath of allegiance. This Church does not say with the apostle, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal;” but deems itself called upon, by means of both swords, to protect and enlarge its territories. It has excommunications and interdicts for its disobedient children, and the prison, and the scaffold for heretics. For its own interests, it declares war and institutes crusades. To celebrate the bloody eve of St. Bartholomew, it orders medals to be struck; and the history of Otaheite tells us of a mission by the mouths of cannon.
A single glance into the Gospels will deprive us of every doubt whether it was the intention of the Savior that his Church, the Bride of heaven, should be clothed in such attire. The Lord gives his messengers the salutation of peace on their way, and not the word of arbitrary power or excommunication. He girds them with meekness and with ministering love, and not with severity and inquisitorial rigor. He points out their work to them as that of the good Samaritan, and not as oppressors and inquisitors. He certainly requires “coals of fire” for his opponents, but only such as are heaped on their heads by patience and unwearied kindness. It is also his will that those who are without should be compelled to come in, but he will have them quietly sought for in the highways and hedges, and be greeted with the peaceful salutation, “Come, for all things are now ready!” He also desires that the fallen, and such as are going astray, should be restored from the error of their ways; but that it be done in the spirit of meekness. Besides this, he requires from his followers that they should forgive those who sin against them, seventy times seven times, and says in particular to those who bear the pastoral office, “You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and those who are great, exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever will be great among you, let him be your servant.”
But as certainly as Christ did not come to establish an earthly kingdom; so surely will his dominion eventually swallow up all the kingdoms of the world, and become itself an earthly empire. Yet will this not be accomplished by means of any powerful overthrow or assault from without: but by the inward operation and creative energy of the Holy Spirit. The potentates of this world will deposit their crowns and scepters in homage at Jesus’ feet, in order to receive them back consecrated, and as a fief from the hand of the King of kings. The people, enlightened and returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, will submit with delight and affection to a government in which the gentle guidance of their Prince of Peace is alone perceptible. The legislation will have, as its basis, the word of the living God, and the economy of the state will rest upon the foundation of the Gospel. The offerings, which the common weal may require, will be tendered by the impulse of voluntary affection, and the “swords will be turned into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks.”
Daniel looked forward to this jubilee-period of the kingdom of Christ, when he exclaimed, “But the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominion shall serve and obey him.” In the same manner, Zechariah refers to this subjugation of all worldly empire to Christ, when he significantly predicts that “In that day, shall there be upon the bells of the horses, ‘holiness unto the Lord,’ and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.” The song of praise for this period of triumph and fulfillment, lies already in the archives of divine revelation, and is as follows: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ! and our Lord comforts us with the anticipation of this period, while teaching us daily to pray, in blissful hope, “Your kingdom come!”
We have now been convinced, my readers, that nothing could be more groundless than were the accusations brought against our Lord before Pilate. Every investigation which took place terminated only in his greater glorification. We rejoice at this result; for you know how much we are personally interested in his coming forth justified from every tribunal. “Just and right is he.” No deceit was ever found in his mouth, and he was the personification of every moral virtue, and in this respect, he has left us an example, that we should follow his steps.
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