Krummacher: The Scourging

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 – XXXIV

The Scourging

“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas,
and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
(Mark 15:15 ESV)

The path of the Holy One of Israel becomes increasingly dark and obscure. The night-piece of his passion carries us from the region of the tragical into that of the horrible and appalling. His sufferings increase to torture, his disgrace to infamy; and the words of Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him,” are completely realized. We now proceed to the consideration of an act which is calculated to make the blood run cold in our veins. It is the scourging and subsequent crowning with thorns, of the righteous Jesus. We draw near to the appalling scene, and after having viewed it historically, we will endeavor to fathom the mystery concealed under it. May the Spirit of the Lord guide us into all truth, and teach us to penetrate by faith, where human reason fails!

After the momentous decision has been made at Gabbatha, and the lot of the murderer has fallen upon the just: the latter is, for a while, removed from the view of the people, having been given up to the armed band of executioners’ assistants, and led away by them, amid wild uproar, like a sheep for the slaughter, into the inner court-yard of the palace. There let us follow him, although we do so with reluctance; but we must be witnesses of the scene, since it is the will of God that we should be aware of what our restoration and redemption cost our great Surety.

What now takes place?

A deed, the sight of which might rend even nerves of steel and iron, and respecting which, a feeling comes over us as if it were improper and even sinful to behold it with the naked eye. Look at yonder pillar, black with the blood of murderers and rebels. The iron collar which is attached to it, as well as the ropes which hang down from its iron rings, sufficiently point out its cruel object. Look at the crude and barbarous beings, who, like bloodthirsty hyenas in human form, busily surround their victim. Observe the brutal vulgarity of their countenances, and the instruments of torture in their hands. They are scourges, made of hundreds of leathern thongs, each armed at the point with an angular bony hook or a sharp-sided cube. Such are the instruments of torture prepared for Him, who was dear to God, as the apple of his eye. We naturally think he could not and ought not to descend to such a point of degradation, but that all heaven must interfere to prevent it, or that the world must perish under it. But it takes place; and neither does heaven protest against it, or the world sink into ruin.

See, see—the execution of the sentence begins! Good God, what a spectacle! The executioners fall upon the Holy One like a host of devils. They tear off his clothes; bind those hands which were ever stretched out to do good, tie them together upon his back, press his gracious visage firmly against the shameful pillar, and after having bound him with ropes in such a manner that he cannot move or stir, they begin their cruel task. O do not imagine that I am able to depict to you what now occurs. The scene is too horrible. My whole soul trembles and quakes. Neither wish that I should count to you the number of strokes which are now poured upon the sacred body of Immanuel, or describe the torments, which, increasing with every stroke, sufficed in other cases of this kind, to cause the death of the unhappy culprit, before the formal execution which this scourging usually preceded. It is enough for us to know that it lasted full a quarter of an hour; streams of blood flow from his sacred form. What avails it? The scourging continues without mercy. The arms of the barbarous men begin to grow weary. What signifies that?

New tormentors release those that are fatigued. There is not a nerve of the divine sufferer that does not thrill with nameless pain and smart. But such is the intention. The scourges cut ever deeper into the wounds already made, and penetrate almost to the marrow. His whole back appears an enormous wound. Each fresh drop of blood which flows from his opened veins, falls like a drop of oil—not into the fire of pity, which these men know not, but into that of their infernal fury and thirst for blood; and that which they at first performed with a kind of seriousness and solemnity, they proceed with, after the last remains of humanity are choked within them, as an amusement, with shouts of horrid mirth and glee. No abyss yawns to receive these bloodhounds. Certainly, there must be no God—no avenger of innocence in heaven, or, as we have often already seen, the passion of our Lord must have a most extraordinary and profoundly mysterious meaning.

After the horrible act is finished, another instantly follows, which almost exceeds it in cruelty. The agonized sufferer is unbound from the bloody pillar, but only to be tortured afresh. The material rods have done their duty, and mental ones of the bitterest and most poignant mockery are now employed against him. Their ridicule is directed against his kingly dignity, even as it was, on a former occasion, against his prophetic office. A worn-out purple robe, once the garment of the leader of a Roman cohort, is produced. This is thrown over his back still bleeding from every pore, while the barbarians exult aloud at this supposed witty and appropriate idea. They then break off twigs from a long-spiked thorn-bush, and twist them into a circle, which is afterward pressed upon his sacred head as a crown. But in order to complete the image of a mock king, they put into his hands a reed instead of a scepter, and after having thus arrayed him, they pay mock homage to him with shouts of derisive laughter.

The miscreants bow with pretended reverence to the object of their scorn, bend the knee before him, and to make the mockery complete, cry out again and again, “Hail, King of the Jews!” It is not long, however, before they are weary of this abominable sport, and turn it into fearful seriousness. With Satanic insolence, they place themselves before their ill-treated captive, make the most horrible grimaces at him, even spit in his face, and in order to fill up the measure of their cruelty, they snatch the reed out of his hands, and repeatedly smite him with it on the head, so that the thorns of the horrible wreath pierce deeply into the skull, while streams of blood flow down the face of the gracious friend of sinners. Merciful God, what a scene! O horror unexampled, and without a name!

My readers, how can we reconcile such revolting occurrences with the government of a just and holy God!

A great mystery must lie at the bottom of them, or our belief in a supreme moral government of the world loses its last support. And is not this really the case? Have you not already perceived that the references of that scene extend back, even to the commencement of the history of mankind? Did it not seem to you as if, instead of the Lord Jesus, you saw our first father standing before you, and suffering the punishment due to his transgression in Paradise? If so, you have hit upon the right clue to explain that otherwise inexplicable scene. Believe me, there is a closer connection between the garden of Eden and the court-yard of the Roman praetorium than might at first sight be supposed. Debts incurred in Eden are there liquidated, and sins committed in Paradise are there atoned for.

Consider, for a moment, what was the crime by the commission of which, the first of our race plunged himself and all his descendants into destruction. He who was so abundantly blessed by his Maker, lusted, nevertheless, after the forbidden fruit, and ate of it. He who was adorned, by the kindness of God, with innocence and beauty, was not satisfied with that attire, but stretched out his hand to grasp a crown which did not belong to him. He refused to be God’s servant any longer, but would be himself a god. No longer satisfied with the rod of dominion which had been granted him, as lord of the earth and every earthly creature; he sought, in a certain sense, to seize the scepter of the Almighty himself. His presumptuous desires tended to the being independent of the Lord in heaven, to the right of unconditionally ruling over his own destiny, and even to unlimited freedom from every law which he did not impose upon himself. “Independence” was the motto which flamed upon his banner. He wished to be a king—not as he ought to be, under God, but a sovereign, independent as God himself, as autocrat, to whose egotistic will everything should bow.

But in this tendency of his heart lay the most decided falling away from God; and alas for us! that, in its germ, it was transferred over to, and inherited by us, like a subtle poison. Who will venture to pronounce himself free from it? Who does not feel those sentiments daily blossoming and bearing fruit in him, in a thousand different ways? Do not we all naturally strive, as a heathen writer has expressed it, “always after that which is forbidden?” Is it not self, instead of God, that we would gladly place upon the throne; and does not its glorification lie incomparably nearer our hearts than that of our Creator? Does not the arrogant desire accompany us at every step, to mark out, as little deities, our own path of life; and do we not all bring with us into the world the rebellious inclination to evade the laws of Jehovah, and instead of them, arbitrarily to make our own laws? Assuredly it is so! We all bear about in us the likeness of our fallen progenitor; and if we refuse to hear of it, we only, by so doing, again evince our inherent pride, and the inward darkness into which we are fallen.

Tell me, now, what, according to your opinion, ought to have been the fate of Adam for lusting after the forbidden fruit, and for his impious infringement of God’s prerogatives? “At least,” you think, “the scourge instead of sensual delight; a crown of thorns instead of the longed-for diadem; and a robe of mockery instead of the imperial purple.” You have judged rightly. Look now into the court-yard of Pilate’s palace, and convince yourselves that all this, of which you deem him worthy, really befell him. “Whom;” you ask, astonished, “our first father, Adam?” No other than he, and we, his seed, in him. Yes, see there the presumptuous luster, the culpable insurgent, and aspirer to the crown in Paradise; except that you do not behold him there in person, but as represented by him, who, as the second Adam, took upon himself the guilt of the first.

Such is the secret cause of the bloody events we have been contemplating.

Away, therefore, with all false sentimentality! with the partial and selfish indignation at the barbarous crew! Apart from the fact of our being innately no better than they—they are the unconscious instruments in the hands of retributive justice. What befalls Christ, befalls us in him, who is our representative. The sufferings he endures, fall upon our corrupt nature. In him we receive the due reward of our misdeeds; and now say, if it be too much? With the shudder at the sight of the martyred Lamb of God, ought to be joined a thorough condemnation of ourselves, a profound adoration of the unsearchable wisdom and mercy of God, and a joyful exulting at the glorious accomplishment of the counsel of grace. Our hell is extinguished in Jesus’ wounds; our curse is consumed in Jesus’ soul; our guilt is purged away in Jesus’ blood.

The sword of the wrath of a holy God was necessarily unsheathed against us; and if the Bible is not a falsehood, and the threatenings of the law a mere delusion, and God’s justice an idle fancy, and his truth a mere cobweb of the brain—then, nothing is more evident than this, that of all the millions of sinful and guilty men who ever trod the earth, not a single individual would have escaped the sword, if the Son of God had not endured the stroke, and taken upon himself the payment of our debts. This he undertook. Then it thundered upon him from the clouds; the raging billows of a sea of trouble roared against him; hell poured upon him all its tortures and torments, and heaven remained unmoved. What was all this but the fate which awaited guilty sinners? But since Christ endured it, the crosses, which were erected for us, have been thrown down; the stake which waited for us has been removed; the cannon which were pointed against us have been dismounted, and, from the royal residence of the Lord of Hosts, the white flag of peace is held out to us poor dwellers upon earth.

The case has been well stated by an ancient writer, in the following words: “Adam was a king, gloriously arrayed, and ordained to reign. But sin cast him down from his lofty throne, and caused him the loss of his purple robe, his diadem and scepter. But after his eyes were opened to perceive how much he had lost, and when his looks were anxiously directed to the earth in search of it, he saw thorns and thistles spring up on the spot where the crown fell from his head; the scepter changed, as if to mock the fallen monarch, into a fragile reed; and instead of the purple robe, his deceived hand took up a robe of mockery from the dust. The poor disappointed being hung down his head with grief, when a voice exclaimed, ‘Look up!’ He did so, and lo! what an astonishing vision presented itself to his eye! Before him stood a dignified and mysterious man, who had gathered up the piercing thorns from the ground, and wound them round his head for a crown; he had wrapped himself in the robe of mockery, and taken the reed, the emblem of weakness, into his own hand. ‘Who are you, wondrous being?’ inquired the progenitor of the human race, astonished; and received the heart-cheering reply, ‘I am the King of kings, who, acting as your representative, am restoring to you the paradisaical jewels you have lost.’ Our delighted first father then bowed himself gratefully and reverentially in the dust; and after being clothed with the skin of the sacrificed animal, fathomed the depths of the words of Jehovah, ‘Adam is become like one of us.'”

What I have now related to you is a parable, but one which rests on an historical basis. For, in fact, the great exchange which Christ made with us, as regards the reversion and the right, has again placed us in the full possession of paradisaic glory, seeing that we are “begotten again to a lively hope, and to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for us, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto eternal salvation.”


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