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 OUTER COURT
Meditation – II.
Six days before the Passover, and, consequently, four before the awful day of crucifixion, we find our Lord in the peaceful village of Bethany, on the other side of the Mount of Olives, where He was accustomed so willingly to stay. We meet with him this time in the house of a man named Simon, where his followers had prepared him a feast. He appears before us in the unassuming form of a guest, invited with others; but look a little more narrowly, and you will see him, even there, as John afterward saw him in vision, only in a somewhat different sense, as “walking amid the candlesticks.”
The Lord Jesus has no need to testify of himself; for those who are present bear witness of him in the most eloquent manner. Look, first, at Mary and her sister Martha. They are women possessing true nobility of soul, respected by all, sensible, clear-sighted, and sober-minded. Martha, cheerful, active, and busy; Mary, thoughtful and contemplative. Both, however, recline with all their hopes on Jesus. He is, to both, the living pillar which supports their heaven; their prospects of a blissful futurity arise solely from his mediation; and the peace and comfort, which refreshes them in life and death, they derive from Christ alone as the source. What a high idea must this fact alone afford us of the Man of Nazareth!
Look around you further. There are the disciples. Peter, Andrew, John, James, Nathanael, Thomas, and the rest. You formerly saw them listening to the Baptist in the wilderness, like a flock of scattered and helpless sheep. You learn to know them as people who were incited to seek for help, by a very different motive than a mere thirst for knowledge. You found them to be men whose hearts were grievously burdened by sin, and by the anticipation of “the wrath to come,” and whose inward peace was entirely at an end, after having seen God in the fiery splendor of his law, with its requirements and threatenings. Neither man nor angel was able to comfort them; but since they had found Jesus, their thoroughly humbled souls were like the sparrow which has found a house, and the swallow a nest, where they may drop their weary wings. They are now elevated above all anxiety. What bright rays of light does this fact also shed upon Jesus! How highly does it exalt him above the idea of being a mere mortal!
But alas! among the disciples we still find Judas, the child of darkness, the son of perdition. He, indeed, was never, in his own eyes, a helpless sinner; he had never thirsted after God; he was never truly devout; nor had ever set his affections on things above. It may be asked, what induced him to force himself into the immediate vicinity of Jesus? Assuredly, first, the irresistible and overpowering impression of the superhuman greatness and dignity of the Son of David, and then, doubtless, also, an ambitious desire of being called to act some important part in the new kingdom, to establish which the former had evidently come. Thus, the presentiment of the traitor aided in glorifying the person of the Lord Jesus. The divine majesty of Immanuel shone so powerfully through his human form that its rays penetrated even into the darkness of Iscariot’s soul.
But let us further inspect the circle of guests. Who is the master of the house? He is called Simon, and bears the surname of “the Leper.” He bears it to the honor of Jesus; for the name betokens what he was, before the Lord pronounced over him the almighty words, “Be clean!” Simon had once been infected with that horrible disease which no earthly physician was able to heal, and which he alone could remove who had inflicted it—the Almighty, and he who could testify, saying, “I and my Father are one.” Simon, stand forward, and show yourself to every skeptic as a living monument of the divine fullness which dwelt in Christ! All Bethany knows that he had prepared this feast for the Lord Jesus, solely from feelings of gratitude for the marvelous cure which he had experienced through him; and even his enemies cannot deny that, in this man, a monument is erected to the Lord Jesus, which speaks louder and more effectually than any inscription is able to do.
But look! Who is it that sits next to Jesus?—the young man with piercing eye and sunny countenance. Oh, do you not recognize him? Once you saw him lying shrouded on the coffin. You were present when his corpse was carried out, followed by his weeping sisters and a mourning crowd. You looked down into the gloomy vault into which it was lowered. But you were equally witnesses of that which took place four days after, when One approached the grave who called himself “the Resurrection and the Life,” and then commanded the stone to be taken away from its mouth. You heard the words of Martha, “Lord, by this time he smells,” and the majestic reply, “Said I not unto you that if you would believe you should see the glory of God?” And then, after the stone had been removed, how the Lord, lifting up his eyes toward heaven, over the putrefying corpse, exclaimed, “Father I thank You that You have heard me. And I knew that You hear me always; but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that You have sent me!” and then how, with a loud, commanding, and creating voice, he called down into the sepulcher, “Lazarus, come forth!” and you know what followed.
He who was once dead, now sits among the guests, having escaped from the adamantine prison of the tomb. He lives, and is vigorous and happy; and it never occurs, either to friend or foe, to deny that Lazarus once lay as a corpse in the grave, and now lives again at the omnipotent word of Jesus. We find abundant traces that the Pharisees were beside themselves with rage and envy at this miracle, but not the smallest that any one ventured to deny or even to doubt the fact itself. There he sits, and completes the row of lights amid which Jesus walks. No herald is here required to testify of Jesus; no harper to strike his chords to his honor. He who looks at Lazarus hears in spirit a whole choir exultingly exclaiming, “Judah, you are he whom your brethren praise!” No sacred melody is needed to chant the glory of Jesus; Lazarus is a sufficient hymn of praise to the King of Glory from the world above.
Oh, then, go to Jesus, my dear readers, as the Lord from heaven, the Prince of Life, the Conqueror of Death, for such he is, when regarded even in the light that streams upon him from the circle which surrounds him at Bethany. And he is still some thing more than all this.
He is staying at Bethany. He has now accomplished his public ministry. Several times has he given his disciples of late to understand that such is the case. He has told them and revealed to them as much as they were able to bear. The Comforter, who is to succeed him, will instruct them further. According to the views of those who call themselves “the enlightened” among us, he ought now to have completed his work, and fulfilled the whole of his mission. But in his own eyes, this is by no means the case. For we do not see him now retiring into silence, nor returning to his heavenly Father; but saying, on the contrary, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it is accomplished!” He knows that the principal task assigned him has still to be performed.
He is on the road to Jerusalem, with the full consciousness of all that is passing and concerting there; that his enemies are now in earnest to seize him, and get rid of him; that the chief priests and Pharisees have already “given a commandment, that if any man knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him.” All this was known to him; but far from seeking to escape the snare which was laid for him, he goes directly toward it. He was now—according to his own words—to be delivered to the heathen, crucified, and slain; and there was a necessity for it. “The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world,” was not yet sacrificed. His assertion, that “the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” was not yet fulfilled. The blood, to which the whole of the Old Testament had pointed as the procuring cause of all remission of sin, had not yet stained the fatal tree, but still flowed through his veins. And for this he prepared himself on the evening he spent at Bethany.
Above all things, therefore, let us draw near to Jesus as our sole and everlasting High Priest, as our Mediator, Surety, and Ransom. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” The saints above “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” O delay no longer, therefore, to follow their example! Jesus, in his crown of thorns and bleeding wounds, must be the object of your love and the ground of your hope, or else he is nothing to you, and you are in danger of eternal perdition.
The Lord has just placed himself at table, when Mary approaches, deeply affected by gratitude, veneration, and love, and with a foreboding of what is about to befall him. She feels impelled to display to him her inmost soul once more, and to manifest her reverential and devout attachment to him. But how is she to do this? Words seem to her too poor. Presents she has none to make. But what she has that is valuable—possibly a legacy left by her mother—is an alabaster vessel, of pure oil of spikenard, much valued in the East, and used only on peculiarly festive occasions. She brings it with her. She does not intend to pour out a few drops only, but that it should be wholly an emblem of her profound devotion to the Lord of Glory. With the utmost reverence she approaches her Divine Friend, breaks unobservedly behind him the well-closed vessel, sheds the spikenard upon his head and feet, then humbly bends herself down and wipes the latter with her loosened tresses.
“And the whole house was filled with the ointment.” Yes, we may well believe that this odor ascended up even into the throne-room of heaven, and was inhaled with delight by the holy angels. For the earthly anointing oil was only the symbol and vehicle of that which the wise virgins possessed in their vessels, when they went forth to meet the bridegroom. In this affectionate and symbolical act, a degree of devotedness was manifested such as is rarely exhibited. Mary desires to belong to Christ for time and eternity; to cleave to him by faith, like the ivy to the tree, round which it entwines itself. She wishes to live in his light, like a dark planet in the beams of the sun, which lends it its radiance. Mary knows no anchor of hope, no ground of consolation, no way to heaven, except through his mediation; and were she to imagine existence without him, she could only think of herself as in the jaws of despair, and irrecoverably lost. He is her last resource, but at the same time all-sufficient for her eternal salvation. Hence she cleaves to him with all her soul, and nothing is able to divide her from him. He is always in her thoughts, her sole delight, and the supreme object of her affections—all which she expresses in the act of anointing just mentioned.
The whole circle of the guests at Bethany are deeply touched by Mary’s significant act. Only in the case of one does its sweet harmony sound as discord; only one of them with repugnance rejects the grateful odor. Ah, we imagine who it is! No other than the unhappy Judas, the child of darkness. Never, probably, has frigid self-love stood in such horrible contrast with warm and sacred affection, as was the case here, in the cold and really offensive expression, “Why this waste? Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” Alas, how deeply is the miserable man already fallen! “The poor?” O you hypocrite! As if the reason was unknown to his Master why he would rather have the ointment sold. “For three hundred pence!” He knows how to value the spikenard, but is unable to appreciate the love that provided it, for he is wholly destitute of such a feeling.
O let the example of Judas serve as a warning to any of my readers who betray a strong inclination to mistake the love of a soul like Mary’s to her Savior; and when it is manifested, can speak of it with a certain inward disgust and bitterness; and if not of waste, yet of enthusiasm, cant, hypocrisy, etc. Know, that on such occasions, a slight similarity to the features of the traitor Judas passes over the face of your inner man. You have need to be most carefully upon your guard, not to let that which you feel at such moments extend itself until it gradually makes you brothers of the traitor.
O, when once the scales fall from your eyes—and God grant that this may be the case before long!—and your souls awake from their Pharisaic dreams, at the awful thought of eternity; when pursued by the curse of the law, terrified at the judgment to come, and severely pressed by Death, the king of terrors, you learn to thank and praise the Almighty that, as a last resource, the bleeding arms of Jesus still stand open to you: you will then no longer knit your brows, when you meet with one who has presented his whole heart to the Lord; nor feel repugnance at the fervor with which Asaph exclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You!” O no! you will then weep in secret penitential tears, that you could ever have so mistaken the most precious thing on earth, the love of Christ, and lament, with us, that we do not love him as we ought.
Observe how the Lord Jesus appreciates the act of Mary. Like a faithful advocate, he immediately enters the lists on her behalf, against Judas and the transient impression made by his dark spirit upon the disciples, and says, while intimating to Judas that he was well aware of the cause of his displeasure, “Why trouble you the woman? Let her alone (do not confuse her); she has wrought a good work on me. The poor you have always with you, but me you have not always. Against the day of my burying has she kept this” (or, according to another Evangelist, “She is come before hand to anoint my body to the burying.”) “Verily, I say unto you, wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Do but notice, how He, who was otherwise so spare in commending human works, mentions, with a particular emphasis, Mary’s work as good.
All the world is to know that such devotedness as Mary shows him is considered valuable, and how highly he estimates this feeling as being the source of Mary’s act. All the world is to be informed that the affectionate relation in which Mary stands toward him, is nothing overstrained or enthusiastic, but that which alone beatifies its possessor. And that every one may know it, he has caused this act of Mary’s to be repeatedly inserted in his Gospel. What he then predicted has taken place; and wherever this gospel is preached in the world, that which she did, is mentioned as a memorial of her, even to this day.
Scarcely had our Lord ended this remarkable speech, when, as Matthew relates, “One of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time, he sought opportunity to betray him.” Horrible! Where, in all the world, can we meet with a contrast so striking, so appalling, and beyond measure dreadful, as is here presented to us in Mary’s tender and affectionate act, and the horrible procedures of this unhappy son of perdition? He is already so far gone that words of compassion, which might have tended to his eternal salvation, when reaching the atmosphere of his soul, transmute themselves into a baneful essence, and producing vexation and bitter hatred instead of repentance, completely pervade the unhappy man as with a mortal poison. “He went out.” Horrible departure! He turns his back upon his only Savior, because he now feels that He sees through him. He rushes out into the night, to which as a child of darkness, he belongs—no, he rushes out into a more awful night than the natural one; and the divine “Woe!” follows him upon his way.
We shudder. We shrink from the idea of accompanying the wretched man, and return with increased fervor to Jesus. “Against the day of my burial has she kept this,” says our Lord. We understand his meaning. He sees his death and resurrection at one glance. An embalming of his body was to take place while he was still alive, since there was no time afforded for it after his death. It is not to be supposed that Mary had any idea of this; but a presentiment of his approaching departure certainly affected her heart; and anticipation of its saving significancy fanned the holy glow of her love to a brilliant flame, and contributed to impel her to that effusion of affection in Simon’s house which we have been just contemplating. Her Master’s love, which was even unto death, excited hers to him in the highest degree; even as the love of his people is accustomed to be enkindled, most of all, by the remembrance of Christ’s sufferings.
But wherever the love of Jesus finds room, there will never be a want of activity in relieving the distresses of others. “The poor,” says our Lord, while casting the words like an arrow into the soul of Judas, “the poor you have always with you;” by which he means that Mary will not be deficient in her charity to them. “But me,” he adds, in conclusion, “you have not always,” and these words are addressed to all my readers, who cannot yet call Jesus their Savior.
O take them to heart, my friends! Him you have no longer, when the wings of death suddenly overshadows you, or when your senses depart under the influence of disease, and the message of salvation no longer penetrates through the crowd of unbridled imaginations. You have him no longer, when God, the Righteous Judge, gives you up at length to “strong delusions,” and permits them to take up their permanent abode in your minds, because you have long enough hardened yourselves against his calls to repentance. You have him no longer, when the last great “hour of temptation,” with its infernal delusions, as well as with its persecuting horrors, shall break in upon you, and when to use a prophet’s words—”Your feet shall stumble upon the dark mountains.”
You have him no longer, if, in the abundance of your prosperity, you are ready to exclaim, with the man in the Gospel, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years: eat, drink, and be merry!” to whom the horrifying announcement was made, “You fool! this night shall your soul be required of you.” Therefore “flee from the wrath to come!” Hasten to save yourselves. Stay not in all the plain. Let nothing hinder you from immediately repairing to the blessed Savior, who has so graciously assured us, that whoever comes unto him, he will in no wise cast out.
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