Krummacher: The Converse by the Way

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 – IX

The Converse by the Way

“For the joy which was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame.” Heb. 12:2

In our previous meditation, we saw the Lord, on that eventful night, when his sufferings commenced, courageously leaving Jerusalem, after singing the song of praise. What was it that enabled him to tread the path of suffering so serenely, except the joy which he had thus in prospect?

Think of the situation in which the Savior was placed.

It may possibly have happened to some of my readers, that the apprehension of some great calamity suddenly presented itself to their minds, as vividly as if they were already realizing it. Thus it was also, that all the horrors which the Savior was about to experience, appeared to him in clearer outlines than any one ever regarded the future, and that not merely in the light of probability, but of certainty. But while in such seasons of painful anticipation, our minds and spirits are overwhelmed, the Lord on the way to Gethsemane, felt his heart enlarged; and through the gloomy visions which passed before him, found his way to the sunny height of perfect and joyful composure, while regarding the joy which afterward awaited him.

We left the Lord Jesus proceeding to the lonely garden, to which he was accustomed to resort, in the darkness and stillness of the night. His mind is occupied with the thought of his approaching death. His followers press more closely around him, as is usually the case when the moment of separation is at hand, and the grief of parting overwhelms the oppressed mind. Conversation becomes brief and monosyllabic, and long pauses of entire silence intervene. Jesus now opens his mouth. The thought of himself and his approaching sufferings retires into the background. That which affects him more deeply is his love for and care of his flock.

Addressing himself to Peter, who appears to be the most grieved, and who clings to him the closest, he says, while regarding him with melancholy seriousness, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”—(Luke 22:31). What language is this, rendered doubly appalling by the darkness, and the circumstances under which it is uttered! At the very moment when the disciples are to be deprived of their only help and shield, they are informed of the approach of the most dreadful of enemies. The Lord expresses himself strangely, and in a manner calculated to excite the greatest astonishment. “Satan,” says he, “has desired to have you”—that is, he has challenged you, laid claim to you, and begged to have you, that he might manifest his power in you, in order to prove that your goodness is nothing, and your conversion only specious and deceptive. And you know that the Lord occasionally permits the Wicked One to try his power to tempt the redeemed to a certain point. He does so, in order to prove to the infernal spirits the invincibility of those who confide themselves to him, and thereby to glorify his name; and also, that he may purify his children as gold in such a furnace of temptation, and draw those, who live no longer to themselves, deeper into the fellowship of his life. It was an ordeal of this kind to which the disciples were now to be subjected.

The murderer from the beginning had wagered, so to speak, that if liberty were given him, he would cause their entire apostasy, the weapons for which he expected to find in the infinite abasement and disgrace, which their Master was about to experience. But the latter is aware of the horrible design. He already sees the infernal vulture wheeling round the heads of his followers. He dares not conceal it from them, lest the assault could take them by surprise; and he therefore says to them emphatically, fixing his eye especially upon Simon, whom the adversary had principally in view, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”

They are now aware of the adversary’s design. O that they would take every syllable of this address to heart! Warning and comfort are here wonderfully mingled. “Like wheat,” says he, “would they be sifted”—an operation which, as is well known, only scatters the chaff, while the noble grain remains. The result, therefore, is salutary. It will only be a cleansing and purifying—certainly not according to the devil’s plan and design, but wholly through the intervention of divine grace. Those who are thus sifted overcome indeed, but only after being made painfully conscious of their own weakness; and hence they know more assuredly to whom their victor’s crown in reality belongs.

But let us listen to the Lord Jesus further.

He displays to us, still more deeply, the greatness of his affection. After uttering the appalling warning just mentioned, he looks kindly at his disciples, and, as if he would encourage them, he says to Simon, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.” O where is there a faithful friend and guardian to be compared to him? The Gospel narrative often conducts us to the scene of his acts and miracles, and not infrequently removes the veil from his more quiet converse with his beloved disciples, and reveals to us the sacred spots where he exercised his priestly office; but here it favors us with a look into the solitude of his closet. Scarcely was the Lord aware of the intended assault, especially upon Peter, than he sought retirement, and in prayer, commended the endangered disciple to the protection and preservation of his heavenly Father. And the object of his prayer was, that Simon’s faith might not fail in the storm of temptation.

Do not, however, suppose that Simon alone was privileged above other believers, in being the object of such affectionate solicitude. Listen only to the Savior’s intercessory prayer, in John 17, and you will be convinced of the contrary. Hear him exclaim, “Holy Father, keep, through your own name, those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are.” “I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.” “I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.” Do not think that these sublime words have reference only to our Lord’s immediate disciples; for, listen further—”Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.”

Thus has the faith, which the Holy Spirit produces in us, a pledge of endurance in our Lord’s intercession. It may be assaulted, tried, and shaken, but cannot be extinguished or annihilated. Simon was given to know this, in order that he might be in possession of a sufficient weapon when assailed. But in case of his succumbing, this consciousness was to serve him as a staff, by means of which he might successfully leap over the abyss of despair.

“I have prayed for you,” says our Lord, “that your faith fail not.”

He knows that Peter will fall. He already sees in him the faithless disciple who denied his Master; and yet he feels toward him only like a tender mother, in seeing her darling child in danger. The Savior’s chief care is lest Simon should despair after his fall; and that, at the proper time, he should take courage to return to him. Hence, he says, with the kindest forethought, “And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.” After your grievous fall, the Lord herewith permits you to return. After your unfaithfulness, you may again take comfort in your Good Shepherd, and regain his flock. No, you shall be still further empowered, for when you have returned to him, you shall strengthen your brethren; you shall continue his apostle, and, in future, feed his lambs.

But Simon does not appreciate the compassion shown by our Lord. At the moment, he is unconscious of the tenderness which dictated his words; he has no idea what they mean. He thinks he will never need a second conversion; for, in that case, he must first have apostatized, and says to himself, “the Master shall never have cause to think me an apostate.” But though his Lord’s words may, for a time, lie slumbering in his memory, the day will come when they will awake and prove an invaluable treasure. The Savior himself is not so bent upon seeing the immediate effect of his words as we are. He possesses patience and knows that every tree produces its fruit “in its season.”

“When you are converted, strengthen your brethren.”

Scarcely are we able to cease listening to these words. It almost seems as if Simon would only become a real apostle after his fall. And such was really the case; for otherwise God would not have permitted it. The first and essential quality of a herald of the Gospel is ever a thoroughly broken and contrite heart. For it is only after having obtained mercy as guilty criminals, that we are in a position to “strengthen the brethren.” After having ourselves vitally experienced that without Christ we can do nothing, but everything with him, we then become real evangelists, who no longer lay intolerable burdens upon the people, which we refuse to touch with a little finger, but meek and gentle like him, who came not to “break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax,” but to “bind up the broken-hearted,” and to “strengthen the feeble knees.”

Simon does not enter into the spirit of our Lord’s words. “Lord,” he exclaims almost angrily, as if some false imputation had been cast upon him, “though all men should be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended. I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” How excellent, and yet how full of self-confidence! Nevertheless, a zeal for his Master flames forth from him, which I can only wish pervaded us likewise. No self-estimation is more tolerable and pardonable than that which is founded upon such a zeal for the Savior. O what were Peter’s feelings during this nocturnal walk! How they warmed, glowed, and boiled within him! He had never before felt how much he loved his Master than just now, when the hour of parting approached. And at the very moment when his feelings were the most excited, he hears his Master express his fears lest he should prove unfaithful to him. What? thinks he—”That is surely an impossibility. Rabbi, do not mistake your disciple. Not even bonds or death shall divide me from you.” A holy earnestness dictated these words; but ah! he promised too much!

“How so?”—You inquire with astonishment. “Had not Jesus prayed for him, that his faith might not fail?” Assuredly; and had Peter founded his confidence on this, he might have vowed unshaken fidelity even unto death. But Simon vaunted himself on his own strength, and meant to say, “My love is a pledge to you that I will not deny you;” and this was just his misfortune. “The heart of man is deceitful above all things;” and he who depends on sensations and feelings leans upon rotten supports. However spiritually rich and strong we may believe ourselves to be, let us never promise anything in self-dependence, nor ever plant our feet upon the waters until the Lord calls to us to come, and stretches out his helping hand toward us. But he who rests on the strong arm of Immanuel, and seeks strength from him, may say more boldly still than Simon, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” The Lord will not put his faith to shame, but be a strong refuge for him in the midst of the storm.

Scarcely had Simon, in all simplicity, uttered his heroic assertion, than he receives a second warning from his Master’s lips. The Lord now informs him plainly what threatens him: “I tell you, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day before you shall thrice deny that you know me.” What an alarm do these words sound in Simon’s soul! But the latter, in the warmth of his affection, repulses it. “Be not afraid of that,” thinks he, “Your disciple will not deny you; he will die with you, if necessary, but will never deny you.”

“The Lord foresaw that he would not think otherwise; then why give him the warning?”

It was directed more to the restoration of the fallen, than to the invigoration of the combatant. After Peter had denied his Master, he could say to himself, “He told me beforehand what would occur. He saw it coming, and warned me. Although he perceived that I rejected his warning, yet he did not reject me, but spoke kindly and graciously to me as before.” It was thus he was able to converse with himself, and in due time, to recover and encourage himself by the remembrance of his Master’s words. The Lord appointed the cock to incite him to repentance, and by his morning call, at the proper time, to bring the fallen man again to himself, and cause him to shed tears of contrition. Thus the Savior’s affectionate solicitude extended far beyond the temptation and the conflict; and prepared, beforehand, a remedy for the wounds occasioned by the fall and defeat. O with how much reason may he say, “As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you;” and how much occasion have we to exclaim, on thus looking into the depth of his affection, “His love is stronger than death!”

After the Lord had finished speaking to Simon, and arranged everything for the restoration of the zealous disciple, in the season of contrition and weeping, he turns to the disciples in general. They had now finished their years of tuition, and the time was at hand when they were to let their light shine in the darkness of this world, and in the midst of storm and pressure, tumult and strife, to unfurl the banner of the cross among the nations of the earth. Jesus is now going to tell them so; and he does it in such a kind, careful, tender, and affectionate manner, as to make one’s heart rejoice. “He said unto them, when I sent you without purse, and bag, and shoes, lacked you anything?” The disciples cannot call to mind that they had ever been in want, and must cheerfully confess it to their Master’s honor, by saying, “Lord, never!” The Lord had acted toward them as he generally acts toward his children whom, in the time of their first love, he leads very gently, and with parental care and kindness. Not only what they desire is granted them, but even the manner in which they desire it; the intention being that they may thus accustom themselves to him, and may receive an indelible impression of the loveliness of his peaceful kingdom during their future journey through life, as well as to divest them of every doubt of their being really accepted and sharing in his affections.

It might be thought that after this declaration of his disciples our Lord would say, “Be not careful, therefore, in future, for such will always be the case.” Instead of which, he tells them just the reverse, and that in future they would not infrequently find it otherwise. “But now,” says he, with reference to the whole of their future course of life, “he who has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag. But he who has none—neither purse nor bag—let him sell his garment and buy a sword.”

How are these words to be understood?

Generally speaking, they announce to the disciples, that conflict, danger, distress, and manifold trials awaited them, for which they must timely prepare; but that they might then firmly confide in him, whom they had ever found a faithful friend in time of need. At the same time, he gives them clearly to understand that henceforth they must not rest too confidently on the same obvious and wondrous guidance which they had hitherto experienced, because their life would in future partake more of the common course of human affairs, and that the direct interposition, by means of which the hand of eternal love had hitherto sustained and provided for them, would give place to a more indirect divine aid, for which faith would be required. It would then be necessary, besides prayer and looking up to heaven, to apply the ordinary means of provision, defense, and aid. Let him who had a purse and a bag not cast them away, but take them, and make use of them. Manly resolution, foresight, and prudent calculation are no longer to be despised, but to be practiced and employed. No, he who had no sword ought to sell his garment and buy one.

Perhaps you suppose that by the latter our Lord meant a spiritual sword, the sword of the Word, or of faith. No, my readers, the Lord thinks as little of spiritual weapons, when he mentions the sword, as of spiritual traveling equipments when he speaks of the purse and the bag. Nor does he intend that his disciples should provide themselves with swords in the literal sense of the words. His language is allegorical, and its meaning is, “Your future course and calling will lead you into situations and circumstances in which you will have to bear your souls in your hands, and to strive with firmness and resolution for your liberties and lives.”

But then, as if the Lord had intended to say, “Be not astonished at that which I have just told you, for the disciple is not above his Master, and what is hostile to me, will also be so to you:” he reminds them that his own path would terminate in ignominy and suffering: “For I say unto you, that this that is written of me, must yet be accomplished in me, ‘and he was reckoned among the transgressors,’ for the things concerning me have an end.” The Lord here refers to Isaiah, 53, particularly to the 12th verse of that chapter, and expressly testifies that what is written there of Jehovah’s servant,—that he should bear the sin of many, make intercession for the transgressors, and by his obedience and vicarious sacrifice, justify and eternally redeem his people—is said of himself. He thus dispels every doubt respecting the only correct interpretation of that portion of Scripture. It treats of him, his person, work, and kingdom. He also affords his disciples a strong light upon the mysterious obscurity of his approaching passion; and, finally, points out to them that the way to the crown is by the cross, and that his people ought scarcely to expect a better fate, in this evil world, than himself, who would have to endure the accursed death of the cross, and to be numbered with transgressors, and accounted and rejected by the world as the offscouring of all things. But what does our Lord mean by the words which immediately follow—

“For the things concerning me have an end?”

Certainly not what he had intended to convey in the words, “This that is written must yet be accomplished in me.” The Lord there unmistakably refers to the warning previously given to his disciples; and the import of his language is threefold. He intends to say, in the first place, “You must not arm yourselves on my account, nor in my defense; for, as the Lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world, I must patiently resign myself to the appointed sufferings, which are indispensable for your reconciliation to God.” Next, “The measure of that agony on which your redemption depends is exhausted by my passion. You may, therefore, boldly go forward, as being by one offering forever perfected.” And, lastly, “Whatever you may have to suffer in future has nothing to do with your reconciliation to God, since that which had to be endured to atone for sin and to extinguish guilt, is laid upon and has an end in me. If you suffer, it is only for your purification, and while it does not become me, it is befitting for you to defend your lives and preserve them for my service, for the brethren, and, in case of need, to protect them by all legitimate means.”

Such was our Lord’s meaning, which, however the disciples do not comprehend, but explain it as a call upon them to protect him by force against his enemies, as Peter actually endeavored to do in the sequel. Under this idea, they show him the swords, with which two of them, including Simon, were armed, as was customary with wandering Galileans, and childishly, though with the best intention, say, “Lord, behold, here are two swords!” “It is enough,” rejoined the Savior, breaking off mournfully—as if he had said, “Let us leave the matter for the present; you will better understand my meaning in the sequel.”


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