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 – XII
The Sudden Assault
“He was taken from prison and from judgment.” —Chap. 53:8
How could it be otherwise?
After coming off victorious from his spiritual conflict in Gethsemane, the divine sufferer prepares to enter upon the thorny path of bodily affliction. We must bear in mind that under the latter the former not only continues, but each of the trials to which he is subjected must be regarded only as the reflection of incomparably more, real and inward states and situations. His being taken prisoner, his being brought before the bar of judgment, his condemnation by the Sanhedrin, and his passage to the cross, are only symbolical representations of infinitely more exalted events, which were behind the veil, in the relations of the Mediator to God, the supreme Judge. He who is unable to regard the individual scenes of our Lord’s passion from this point of view, does not penetrate through them, and will never find his way in the labyrinth of the history of our Savior’s sufferings.
We imagine ourselves still enveloped in the darkness of that eventful night, in which our Lord said, in a tone of serious warning, to his disciples, and which may still be uttered to thousands in the present day, “All of you shall be offended because of me this night.” Scarcely has the Savior risen up from the ground when a new cause of alarm awaits him. Before his disciples are aware, lanterns and torches are seen glistening amid the gloomy bushes of the valley, and a murderous band, armed with swords, staves, and spears, is seen approaching along the banks of Kedron. The powerful preparation made for this occasion is partly in order to serve as a mask, as if they were banded together for the purpose of seizing a dangerous conspirator and rebel; and partly in consequence of a secret fear and apprehension in the minds of the adversaries that they might probably meet with some unexpected opposition. The superfluous torches and lanterns, in light of the full moon, likewise manifest their conscience-smitten fears. They might, however, have in view the hypocritical announcement that the individual they were about to arrest, despairing of his cause, was only to be found in secret corners and hiding-places. Scarcely ever were so much devilish wickedness, baseness, and craftiness joined with so much inward cowardice, timidity, and faintheartedness, as we meet with in this band of ruffians. It is truly an infernal host with which we have to do—the bodyguard of Satan.
Let it not disturb us to inspect it a little more closely.
We first perceive the priests, the ministers of the sanctuary. What accusation have they to bring against Jesus? This—that he is undermining their proud hierarchy, stripping them of their false glory, snatching from their hands the scepter of despotism over the consciences of the poor people, diminishing their tithes and resources, and, intimating to them, that they ought to place themselves in the ranks of publicans and sinners. All this was intolerable to these proud and domineering servants of mammon, and hence their hatred of the Lord of Glory. Hence also the animosity of numbers of our contemporaries. All enmity to Christ, regarded in this light, is nothing but the rebelling of proud, self-righteous, human nature, devoted to the service of the world, against a Gospel which places self-denial and the crucifixion of the flesh, with its affections and lusts, at the head of its requirements.
Near the priests we behold the Pharisees, those blind leaders of the blind, the representatives of the delusive idea of individual merit, and hence, also of repugnance to a doctrine which while stamping every one as a delinquent, affords a hope of salvation only by grace, and even to the most pious as the object of their boasting before God, leaves nothing but the freely bestowed righteousness of another. It is easy to understand how these men were offended at a Teacher who set up regeneration as a vital condition for all: whose language was, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” and who testifies of himself saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” Let us here ask ourselves, whether, until the Spirit enlightens our darkness, we are willing to be nothing, and that grace should be everything? Whether we are better pleased than these sons of Gamaliel, to see our justification before God founded solely and exclusively on the blood of the Lamb, and that we are therefore naturally less offended with the Prince of Peace than they? I doubt whether this question will be decided in our favor. The Pharisee dwells in all of us from our infancy.
In the Scribes, who appear next in the band, we see the expression of a spurious wisdom, accompanied by spiritual ambition. No wonder, therefore, that such characters are also met with among the conspirators against Jesus. They, the learned among the people, were told that they must sit on the scholar’s bench with the rest, and condescend to take their places at the feet of the Rabbi of Nazareth. They, the masters in Israel, who were stared and wondered at, and who sat with the heads of the people—were they to submit to this? How could such an idea fail to rouse and enrage the self-conceited men to the utmost? But do not the words of Jesus continue in force, even to this day? “You have hid these things from the wise and prudent;” as well as those of the apostle, “Not many wise men after the flesh are chosen?”
In addition to the universal disinclination to Jesus, which is peculiar to every one who is not healed of the hereditary darkness of the human mind, there was also in the case of the Scribes, a latent vexation at the numerous defeats and mortifications they had sustained in the face of the people, as often as they had ventured to assail him. How victoriously had he always driven them from the field! How had he caught them in their own craftiness! How had he taken them captive in the very snares they had laid for him, and then openly disgraced and triumphed over them! These were the things for which they could not forgive him. And after the weapons of their sophistry had been wrenched from their hands, they were neither noble-minded nor ingenuous enough not to regard those of the basest treachery and rudest violence as suitable for their purpose. O speak no more of the natural man’s nobility of spirit! Whatever stage of refinement and mental culture he may boast of occupying, there is always a price for which he will unhesitatingly barter this cause for boasting.
Under the command of the ringleaders above mentioned, we observe the servants of the high priests, those blind instruments of their superiors, who, though less guilty, are anything but guiltless; and then also, the mercenaries of the Roman temple guard. It becomes, indeed, people of this class unconditionally to obey the command of those who are set over them. Yet they are not mere machines, incapable of guilt in so doing, but answerable, as well as all other men, to God the final judge, for their moral conduct; whose obedience ought to be limited by the well-known maxim—”We must obey God rather than man;” and whose duty it therefore was, in the present case, to prefer dying by the hands of the executioner, to the doubtful praise of having done their duty in the perpetration of the most heinous of crimes. However, for the most part, they know not what they are doing. More reprobate than they, appears the despicable troop, who, for money or favor, have voluntarily joined the band. These cowardly flatterers and men-servers, to whom it is a trifle, for one approving look from a man of rank, to smite their conscience in the face, remind us of those miserable imitators of others, who, because this or that person, on whom they depend, thinks in this manner or that, do not dare to speak otherwise; and carry their baseness to such a point that they even dispose of their independent judgment in affairs of supremely vital importance, for the most miserable price in the world. Woe to such worthless characters!
But let us cast a look also at the troop of catchpoles.
Who is it walks at their head, with a gloomy face and confused look? Who is the man, muffled up in a cloak, and bearing the impress of a forced, rather than of a natural bravery, in his mien? Ah, we recognize him! Our hearts shudder at the sight of him, and the blood stiffens in our veins. It is the son of perdition, of whom it was written a thousand years before: “He who did eat of my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” It is the wretched man who wears the garb of discipleship only as the poisonous adder is clothed in its glistening skin; the hypocrite, who conceals himself in his apostolic office, like the murderous dagger in its golden sheath. Sin is perfected in him, and condemnation ripened to maturity. In darkness, bitterness, and a deceiver to the inmost center of his being: he now hates Jesus as the darkness hates the light. He has got beyond the period when he might have broken with Jesus with indifference, and then have gone on his way without troubling himself any more about him. But he has now given way to all the feeling of an infernal revolt. He is furious against him, as though the meek and lowly Jesus were an implacable judge, by whose holiness, purity, and love, he feels himself condemned for his own treachery, hypocrisy, and malice. He had long felt painfully uneasy in the company of Jesus. How could it be otherwise? A bird of night cannot bear the light of the sun.
At the anointing in Bethany, where he became conscious that Jesus saw through him, he resigned himself wholly to the spirit of fury and bitterness, instead of to the Holy Spirit; and swore deadly vengeance against the man who had done him no other wrong than that of looking into his heart. Do not think that the lure of the thirty pieces of silver was a sufficient cause for his treachery. It was infernal in its nature, and must be sought much deeper. The unhappy disciple had already imbibed that furious spirit, which incessantly stings the lost in hell, to curse and blaspheme him who judged them, and of whom they are obliged to testify, that all his judgments are just. Alas! a spark of this fury is every where found in fallen human nature. As often as the Lord is on the point of shedding his light into the depths of its darkness, the hidden serpent begins to move. The natural heart cannot bear the disturber of its idle peace; and thus, the only Savior of sinners is greeted, even by those whom he came to save, with the salutations of the rebellious citizens: “We will not have his man to reign over us;” and with that of the Gergesenes: “We pray you to depart out of our coasts.”
“Rise, let us be going. Behold, he is at hand that does betray me!” From whence resounds this courageous and resolute call? From the same lips, out of which the cry of pressure and distress had only just before ascended to heaven, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me!” But now, behold the glorious conqueror! He emerges from the horrible conflict in Gethsemane, as if steeled both in body and soul. His whole bearing breathes self-possession, manliness, and sublime composure. No sooner was he aware who it was that presented the cup to him in Gethsemane, than he willingly emptied it, and knows henceforth that the terrors and horrors which may be in reserve, belong to the indispensable conditions with which the completion of his great mediatorial work is connected. This consciousness enables him to take firm steps on the path of suffering. He clearly sees that whatever of evil awaits him, is the result of his Father’s counsel.
When the Lord says to his disciples, “Rise, let us be going!” he does so, in the next place, in order to show them his altered state of mind, and because he was desirous that they should all be present at his arrest, that, as eye-witnesses, they might afterward inform the world how their master had voluntarily delivered himself up into the hands of his enemies, and not as one who was vanquished by them.
But see what occurs? Before the multitude that came against him has reached the place, he proceeds several paces toward them with a firm step. In opposition to the conduct of our progenitor in paradise, who, on the inquiry, “Adam, where are you?” sought concealment, our Lord approaches the armed band, and asks them the simple question, “Whom do you seek?”—a question at which the ruffians ought to have felt deeply ashamed, because it revealed the lying character of their whole procedure, and especially of their warlike array against him. But the world was to learn that the Lord was led to the slaughter, not by mistake, but intentionally, because he was the Just and Holy One of Israel; and it was for this reason also, that the Savior asked, “Whom seek you?”
The answer of the armed band was clear and decisive: “Jesus of Nazareth,” say they. After thus making known their object, the Lord, with the sublime composure of the divine Mediator, who not only knew all that should befall him, but was also clearly conscious of the cause, results, and final consequences of it all, said to them, “I am He!” Great and significant expression! It was never uttered by the Savior without being accompanied with the most powerful effects. “It is I!” exclaimed he, to his astonished disciples, when walking on the waves of the sea; and, as at the sound the raging storm immediately subsided, so, a flood of peace and joy poured itself into the hearts of his followers. “I that speak unto you am He!” said he to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well; and immediately she left her waterpot and hastened back home, as the first evangelist to the borders of Samaria. “I am He!” was his testimony at the bar of the Sanhedrin, as we shall subsequently find; and the conviction that he was really the Messiah, smote the minds of his judges so powerfully that it was only by means of the stage-trick of rending his clothes, that the high priest was able to save himself from the most painful embarrassment. And what occurs on his making use of the words on the present occasion? On hearing them the whole band of officials start, give way, stagger backward, and fall to the ground as if struck by an invisible flash of lightning, or blown upon by the breath of Omnipotence.
That which thus powerfully affected them was, undeniably, the deep impression of the holiness and innocence of Jesus, by which they were for a time overpowered. His majestic, though simple declaration, called forth in them, in its full strength, the forcibly repressed conviction of his superhuman glory. But this mental emotion would not alone have sufficed to stretch the whole troop bodily, as by magic, in the dust, if an act of divine omnipotence had not accompanied it. The Lord overthrew them, in order, in the most forcible manner, to stamp their appellation of “Jesus of Nazareth” as a falsehood, and to force upon them the conviction of his divine superiority, as well as to leave the world an actual proof that it was not through compulsion or weakness that he became a sacrifice for it, but in consequence of his free determination.
The murderous band lie at his feet, prostrated by a single expression from his lips.
And what would have hindered him from walking triumphantly over them; and, after fixing them to the ground, departing uninjured and uninterrupted? But he only aims at displaying his supremacy and independence, and after attaining this object, he permits them to rise again from the ground. Their prostration in the dust before him, points out to unbelievers the situation in which they will one day be found. The homage which they refused to Jesus here below, he will in due time compel them to render him. The knee that would not bow to him in voluntary affection, will at length be constrained to do so by the horrors of despair. A threefold woe will light upon them as obstinate rebels, when the Lord shall appear, no longer with the palm branch and shepherd’s crook, but with the sword and scales of even-handed justice. There is no rising up, or recovering from the amazement and terror which will then seize upon them, at the sound of the words, “I am He!”
After the armed band, by the Lord’s permission, had again raised themselves up, he repeats the question to them, “Whom seek you?” accompanied this time by an overwhelming irony. As when one, who had been mistaken for a vagrant, and arrested as such, should suddenly display to the view of his captors the royal star on his bosom, and were calmly to say to them, “Whom did you think to catch?” So here, likewise, with our Lord’s question, “Whom seek you?” only that here is more than an earthly king. The banditti at his feet have just been made aware of it; the question, therefore, as it respects them, puts on the form of the bitterest mockery, for what folly for a straw to attack a fire, or a spark the foaming ocean! They feel the sting of the reiterated question in their consciences, and are confounded. The monitor within condemns them as reprobates and fools; nevertheless, they readily overcome their inward impression of the truth, and mechanically give the same reply as though it were the word of parole. It was uttered, the first time, with a certain military rudeness and boldness, but now it escapes from them timidly and without emphasis, and testifies of an inward overthrow, which gives way to a degree of assurance, only after the Lord has voluntarily delivered himself up to them.
“Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He. If, therefore, you seek me, let these go their way.” How sweet and full of promise are these sounds! O how well the Lord was able to preserve the most perfect self-possession in every situation, however terrible; and, with his anxiety for the completion of the work of redemption, to mingle the minute and inconsiderable with the stupendous and sublime. While girding himself for his mysterious passage to the cross, he does not forget, in his adorable faithfulness, to rescue his disciples from the approaching storm; “If you seek me,” says he, “let these go their way.” To this expression, however, we must attribute an application far beyond its immediate meaning. The evangelist, nevertheless, acts quite correctly in applying it, in the first instance, to the apostles, and adds, “that the saying might be fulfilled which he spoke, ‘Of them which you gave me have I lost none.'”
“If you seek me, let these go their way.” An expositor has very judiciously remarked on these words, that there was a delicate propriety in Christ’s not saying, “These my followers,” or “These my disciples,” but only indefinitely, while pointing to them, “these.” For had he applied either of the previous appellations to them, it would have been construed by the armed band as meaning “my partisans,” and that in a sense which he would be careful not to countenance. In the sense in which the world is accustomed to understand it, the Lord Jesus was not at the head of a party, and he was desirous of avoiding the least appearance of being so.
In other respects, the simple expression, “Let these go,” uttered with emphasis, was all that was needed for the safety of his disciples. It was not a request, but a royal command, and at the same time, a hint to the disciples as to what they had to do. It was the signal for their temporary retreat from his scenes of suffering. It would have been well for Simon Peter had he obeyed his Master’s faithful hint. At that period they were unable to cope with such a “fight of afflictions,” and would certainly, for a time, have all of them suffered shipwreck as regards their faith, if they had followed their Master further on his path of humiliation, not to speak of the danger which would besides have threatened their liberty, and even their lives. Therefore, adored be the foreseeing circumspection, and the admirable collectedness and composure which we see the Lord Jesus exercising at a time when the most excellent of men could not have found room to think of anything but themselves, while bearing upon his heart the welfare and safety of his followers, and so graciously providing for their security during the approaching storm.
But do not let us overlook the rich consolation for believers in every age, which this act of our Lord’s includes. For he has uttered the words, “If you seek me, let these go their way,” to other bands than those at Gethsemane, on our behalf. In their more profound and general sense, he spoke them also to hell, earth, and the devil, for it was he whom they really sought, laid hold of, and brought low. But as regards his believing people, they have forever exhausted their power upon him, and have left in him their sting. And as far as these hostile powers extend, in the present day, anything more than to sift, try, or purify the followers of Jesus, an insuperable barrier is placed before them by these words. They can never destroy those who are in Christ. In the words above mentioned, we have a passport which insures us a safe escort across the frontier into the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us therefore honor this document, for the seal of God beams upon it.
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