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 – XVII
The Judicial Procedure
“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
but gracious words are pure”
— Proverbs 15:26
Christ at the bar of the ecclesiastical tribunal is the subject to which our meditations are now to be directed. The apparent contradictions in the life of Jesus increase, and become the more striking, the nearer it approaches its close. Think of the Holy One of God arraigned as a criminal; the Judge of the world judged by sinners! Where was there ever a more outrageous contrast exhibited! And that which thus displays itself on the stage of the world’s history is not the most astonishing or the strangest part of that which here occurs. The exterior of the event, occupies, as we have already seen, the place of a screen, interwoven with symbolical figures, behind which the real judicial act is accomplished, which is typified by the former, and only obvious to the eye of faith—an act which, in a higher degree, concerns us all, and which is carried on before an infinitely higher tribunal than that of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Night still reigns. The city of Jerusalem lies for the most part in profound slumber, and has no presentiment of the awful events which are occurring within its walls. Occasionally, isolated footsteps are heard along the streets, in the direction of the high priest’s palace, the windows of which, now glaring at an unwonted hour with the light of lamps and torches, cause events of an extraordinary nature to be inferred. Let us also repair there. An assembly of high rank, collected together in the spacious hall of audience, receives us. It is the council of the seventy rulers of Israel, with the high priest as its president. A venerable assembly, as regards its appointment; the most illustrious and awe-inspiring in the whole world; since, sitting in the seat of Moses, in the midst of the chosen people, its office is to administer justice according to the book of the law, and in the name of the Most High God. Next to the president we perceive the men who had previously filled the office of high priest. Behind these, we observe the representatives of the four and twenty classes of the priesthood. Then follow the elders or rulers of the synagogues, while the rest of the assembly is composed of the most eminent doctors of the law, men well versed in the Mosaic statutes and the traditions and ordinances of the Rabbis.
It was the primary duty of these men, as keepers of the sanctuary, to maintain the observance of the ordinances of Jehovah among the people; to settle the legal differences of the various tribes; to watch over the purity of doctrine and of divine service; and to examine and judge any heresies that might spring up. It certainly belonged to the privileges and even duties of the authority thus constituted, to bring before them a man who gave himself out for the Messiah; and to examine him in the strictest manner. And that it did not occur to the Holy One of Israel to dispute their right to this, is clearly manifest from the reverence, which, apart from the moral qualities of its individual members, did not fail to show itself in his deportment during the whole course of the proceedings. In the Sanhedrin he sees the tribunal of the Divine judge—but in a superior manner; that is, while hearing the voice of God through its medium, even when the counselors, as respects their own persons, speak from the suggestions of Satan; and while regarding the unrighteous judgments of the latter as changed, with reference to himself, into well-founded and just decisions of the court of judicature above.
Before this supreme tribunal the Savior of mankind stands bound; for we must not limit the great judicial procedure to that which is visible, but must seek it especially in the invisible world. The Lord does not stand at the bar as a Holy One, but as the representative of sinners. Our catalogue of crimes is displayed before him, as if they were his own. Our sins are charged upon him, for he bears them. He is laid in the scales of justice with our transgressions, for they are imputed to him. What may then have passed between him and the Majesty upon the throne, is concealed from us by the veil of eternity. One thing, however, we know, that he stood there in our place. Had he not appeared, that position would have been ours; and woe unto us, had we been made responsible for our sins! Such a thought need no longer terrify us, if we belong to Christ’s flock. What was due from us, he has paid. We come no more into condemnation, since he has taken our place. We know no longer any judge; for the Judge is our friend. How blissful is this consciousness! Eternal praise to him to whom we owe it all.
But we return to the hall of judgment. The council seek for witnesses against Jesus. They seek, because unsought, nothing of the kind presents itself. That which is unsought is all in his favor. But they have already decided to put him to death. Why? Because he spoils the game of the proud men, who have him in their power, and every where comes in the way of their selfish practices. Their heads are less at variance with him than their hearts. But generally this is not the case with his enemies. They dislike him because he disturbs them in their sinful haunts; because he disapproves of the ways of vanity in which they walk, judges their ungodly and carnal deeds, and pronounces them deficient in that righteousness which avails before God. And because, for these reasons, they dislike him, they seek for witnesses against him, denying above all things his divinity; for if he were God, who would absolve them from the duty of reverencing him and believing his word, which condemns them?
And what kind of witnesses do they bring against him? O the miserable authorities to which they appeal, who not only contradict one another incessantly, but themselves every moment! while the witnesses which we bring forward in behalf of our faith, are the devout seers and prophets, the holy evangelists and apostles, the thousands of martyrs, who, in his strength, have sung their psalms to him in the midst of the flames—yes, we appeal to the entire history of his Church, as well as to the daily experience of all believers, as to a continuous testimony in favor of him who is the object of our love, and of the truth of his cause.
The council of the Sanhedrin, who are anxious for the people’s sake, and probably also for the sake of their own consciences, to clothe their legal murder, with at least an appearance of justice, take great pains to find witnesses against Jesus. But a more fruitless undertaking was perhaps never attempted. They long to meet, in the garden of his life, with a single poisonous plant, from which they may weave for him a fatal wreath. They find, indeed, an abundance of flowers for a crown of honor, but not the vestige of a weed. Desperation then advises an extreme course. A number of bribed witnesses are suborned—fellows well experienced in all the arts of rendering another suspected—who strive to fasten one or other false accusation on the Holy One. But what is the result? They expose themselves, with those who hired them, in the most barefaced manner, and serve only as a new foil to the innocence of the accused. What they adduce, condemns itself as an absurdity, and not even that is attained which was indispensably required by the Mosaic law, that their testimony should correspond. They become more and more confused, refute one another against their will, and remind us of the word of the Lord by the mouth of Zechariah, “I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness.”
The venerable assembly now finds itself in the most painful dilemma. At length, two witnesses come forward, and hope, by means of an expression which the Lord had once uttered a year before, and which they now charge him with—naturally in a malicious and perverted form, to make amends for the deficiencies in their accusation. The words adduced are those in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Even at the time, this expression, which he doubtless divested of any serious misapprehension by pointing to himself, was most maliciously misinterpreted by the Jews who were present. “Forty and six years,” said they, “was this temple in building, and will you rear it up in three days? But he spoke,” says the Evangelist, “of the temple of his body.” The two hirelings were aware of this. It seemed to them, however, a very suitable expression to make use of for casting upon Jesus the appearance not only of an ungodly boaster, but also of a crime against the Divine Majesty, by blaspheming the temple. Thus we hear them say, “He boasted that he was able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it again in three days.” But they, too, fall into the most glaring contradictions on the outset, as partly appears from the Gospel narratives. The one maintaining that Jesus had said, “I will,” the other, “I can;” the one, “I will destroy the temple of God, and build it in three days;” the other, “This temple that is made with hands, I will destroy, and within three days I will build another without hands.”
Suffice it to say, the opposing statements of the two complete the scene of confusion; and even the high priest is not yet base and inconsiderate enough to pronounce his judicial decision upon such miserable and suspicious evidence. His conscience was still sufficiently susceptible to make him sensibly feel the pitifulness and worthlessness of these last testimonies; and if it were not the voice of his inward monitor which raised itself against it, yet the secret apprehension that such a judicial inquiry might not satisfy the people, as well as the impressive, sublime, and commanding tranquility which the accused opposed to the wretched fabrication of the two witnesses, restrained him from it. Thus in the end, the whole inquisitorial proceeding of the judge, although so well versed in scraping together the moral weaknesses and defects of offenders against the law, only tended to our Lord’s glorification, since by it his spotless innocence was placed in the clearest light. Yes, my readers, he is the Lamb without spot, which it was necessary he should be in order to take away our guilt.
But how does the accused conduct himself during the judicial procedure? His whole conduct is extremely significant and remarkable. With a judicial mien, which only partially covers his perplexity, the high priest says to him, in an imperious tone, “Answer you nothing to what these witness against you?” “But Jesus,” as we are told by the narrative, “held his peace.” How eloquent was this silence—more overwhelming for the children of the father of lies than the severest reproofs would have been! And why make many words on this occasion? since his enemies, though against their will, witnessed so powerfully in his favor that he needed no further justification. He was silent.
How easy would it have been for him, by a few words, to have most painfully exposed the august assembly! But he honors in it, as before, the powers ordained of God, of whatever injustice they may be guilty; and, viewing the matter thus, he deems it becoming him to hold his peace. He does so, remarks an expositor, like an ill-treated child, who is silent before his unjust father. The essential meaning of his silence, however, lies still deeper. It is not merely the silence of a good conscience, but rightly understood, the reverse. His holding his peace is the reflection of a more mysterious silence before another and higher than any human tribunal; and regarded from this point of view, it may be considered as a silence of confession and assent.
When a criminal makes no reply to the accusations brought against him before a human tribunal, it is regarded as an admission of his guilt. Thus we must also regard the silence of Jesus, who, having taken upon him, before God, the sins of his people by a mysterious imputation, deems himself worthy of death and the curse. By mutely listening to the accusations of his judges, without attempting to exculpate himself, he wishes outwardly to intimate the actual offering up of himself as a culprit in our stead. Thus he is silent, not only as a lamb, but also as the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world. His silence enables us to speak in judgment, and gives us power and liberty to lift up our heads boldly against every accusation, while trusting to the justification wrought out for us by the Redeemer.
May the Lord instruct us all when to speak and when to be silent; the former, by enlightening the darkness of our natural state; and the latter, by an application to our hearts and consciences, of the consolatory mystery of the sufferings of Jesus for us! There is only one way of escaping the horrors of future judgment, and that is, the believing apprehension of all that our Surety has accomplished in our stead. May God strengthen our faith for this purpose more and more, and enable each of us from the heart to exclaim, in the words of the apostle, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!”
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