Krummacher: The Sword and the Cup

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 – XIV

The Sword and the Cup

“Put up your sword again into its place, for all those who take the sword, shall perish with the sword.
—Matthew 26:52

How horrible to see the Lord of Glory fallen upon
and surrounded like a robber and a murderer!

A singular occurrence interrupts the regular course of the sacred narrative of our Lord’s passion, and serves as an additional proof how difficult it is for human thought to elevate itself to God’s thoughts, especially as displayed in the work of redemption. In the scene we are about to contemplate, a disciple smites with the sword, an action, which, however well meant, is, nevertheless, directed against the very ground and basis of the world’s salvation. Let us rejoice that eternal love pursues its even path, and does not require our help in the accomplishment of its object.

After the mild but overwhelming words addressed to the traitor, our Lord opens the barriers to the banditti, and voluntarily offers them his hands, while they press upon him with an artificial courage. How horrible to see the Lord of Glory fallen upon and surrounded like a robber and a murderer! The disciples witness it; but the sight renders them beside themselves. If, at the traitor’s kiss, their blood congealed with horror, it now begins to boil in their veins. They cannot bear that it should come to such a pass. “Lord,” say they, as with one voice, “shall we smite with the sword?” They do well first to ask, but the question is a mere matter of form, and unconsciously uttered from the force of habit. For, while speaking, they themselves give the answer; and before their Master has time to say a word, Peter’s sword is unsheathed, and the first blow in defense is struck.

We understand what was passing in Simon’s heart. The words our Lord had uttered on the road to Gethsemane, respecting his denying his Master and his own reply, still fermented within him; and he was anxious to show the latter that, in accordance with his own assertion, he would rather die than forsake him. Full of these ideas, and, doubtless, with a confused remembrance of what the Lord had said respecting the purchase of swords, he blindly attacks the troop with his blade of steel, and smites Malchus, one of the high priest’s servants on the right ear, so that it hangs down on his cheek, only by a slender shred.

“Well done, Simon!” we are ready to exclaim, “only proceed as you have begun. These sons of Belial deserve bleeding heads! If you, who are his intimate associates, could have coldly witnessed this abominable crime against your Master, we should never be able to believe in your love to him.” But here again we must take occasion to observe how apparently the noblest ebullitions of the natural heart of man are opposed to the will and order of God. That which appears to us as such an amiable trait in Peter, is only a confused mixture of self-love, arrogance, and folly; while the fire of our natural enthusiasm for Simon’s act, proceeds likewise only from short-sightedness and blindness.

It is undeniable that an ardent and sincere affection had its essential part in this act of Peter’s; but certainly, it was not love alone which nerved his arm on this occasion; at least he was equally as anxious to save his own honor as the person of his Master; while the publicity of the affair was assuredly no mean stimulus to his bravery. Had Peter been in earnest with his question, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” the Lord would certainly have answered him by saying, “Simon, will you pollute the glory of my submission? Is it your intention to expose us to the suspicion that we are only a company of political demagogues? Do you propose affording our opponents a ground of justification for coming against us armed? And will you again offer the hand to Satan for the frustration of the entire work of redemption?”

In this, or a similar manner, would the Lord have spoken; for certainly, if Simon and the rest of the disciples, who were also ready for the combat, had succeeded in their attempt, the plan of the world’s salvation would have been obstructed, since the Lamb of God would then not have been led to the slaughter. The great truth that the salvation of sinners could only be accomplished by the offering up of the God-man, was still a profound mystery to the disciples, and continued so until the day of Pentecost broke the seals and disclosed to them its sacred depths. And to this day it is the Spirit only that opens the understanding and solves the difficulty. Without him, we may listen to the article of reconciliation by the blood of the Lamb, and perhaps even know how to preach it. But it is only possessed as a barren idea, a dogmatic formula, a dead thing of thought, and will be of no benefit to us. It is only thoroughly understood, seriously believed, and vitally apprehended as the basis of hope and salvation, when the Spirit of Grace brings it near, and expounds it to the contrite heart.

The confusion caused by Simon’s thoughtless assault is indescribable. The whole scene suddenly changes. The troop, drawing their swords, now prepare also for the conflict, and the sacred soil of Gethsemane is on the point of being transformed into a battle-field. A shriller discord could not have interrupted the entire purpose of Jesus, than arose out of that inconsiderate attempt. To all appearance, Peter had for the moment, drawn his Master entirely out of his path; and in what danger had the thoughtless disciple, by his foolish act, involved the Eleven, who formed the tender germ of the Lord’s future Church! They would doubtless have been together overthrown and slain without mercy, had not the Lord again interfered at the right moment. But it is easy for him to unloose the most complicated knots. The repairing what we have injured has ever been his vocation, and is so still.

Scarcely had the lamentable blow been struck, when the Savior stepped forward, and while turning to the armed band, rebuked the storm in some measure, by these words—”Suffer you thus far”—that is, “Grant me a short time, until I have done what I intend.” It is a request for a truce, in order that the wounded man may be healed. Be astonished, here again, at the humility, calmness, and self-possession which the Lord exhibits even in the most complicated situations and confusing circumstances, never forgetting what is becoming, and what belongs to his office and calling. Even in the reckless troops, he honors the magistracy they represent; and does not order and command, but only requests them for a moment to delay seizing his person. And how willingly does he again, in this instance, bow to his heavenly Father’s counsels, according to which, he was to be deprived of his liberty and subjected to the power of his adversaries! What silent admiration must his meek and tranquil submission have produced in the minds of his foes!

By a significant silence, they gave their assent to his wish. But how they are astonished on seeing the Lord kindly inclining to Malchus, and touching his wounded ear with his healing hand, when the blood instantaneously ceases to flow, and the ear is restored uninjured to its place! We are also astonished at this miracle—the last and not the smallest, by which the Savior manifested himself on earth, as the God-man. And we admire in it, not merely his power, which shines forth so gloriously, but likewise his love, which did not exclude even his enemies from its beneficial operation, as well as his care of his disciples, whom, by the healing of Malchus, he secured from the sanguinary revenge of the murderous troop. Nor must we overlook the wise forethought with which the Lord, by this charitable act, defends his kingdom for the future from all misunderstanding as to its real nature. It is not a kingdom of this world, but one in which revenge is silent, meekness heaps coals of fire on the adversary’s head, and where evil is recompensed with good.

While the Lord was stretching out his healing hand to the wounded man, he opens his mouth to Peter, and utters, for the instruction of every future age, the highly important words respecting the use of the sword, his voluntary abasement for sinners, and his unconditional submission to his Father’s will.

He begins by saying, “Put up your sword again into its place, for all those who take the sword, shall perish with the sword.” A serious warning, which must have rolled like thunder over Simon’s head. Few are aware that according to the views of some parties in the Christian Church, this passage altogether prohibits the use of the sword. But Scripture must be compared with Scripture, and what is termed “the analogy of faith,” is the first principle of biblical exposition. In the words above mentioned, our Lord gives us a hint that the sword has also “its place,” where it may justly leave the scabbard; and hence “the powers that be” are described in Rom. 13:4, as “not bearing the sword in vain,” seeing that they are “the ministers of God, and revengers to execute wrath upon him that does evil.” Now, if they commit the sword to any one—whether to the executioner, the soldier, or to a private individual for his own defense: it is then drawn in a proper manner; while in the two first-mentioned instances, the responsibility attaches solely to them; but the sword is unconditionally and in every case withdrawn from private revenge, which is something essentially different from self-defense.

Least of all is the sword in its place, with reference to the interests of the kingdom of God. There, on the contrary, the words are applicable, “Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit, says the Lord! The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.” There the victory is gained by the power of the testimony, by the blood of the Lamb, and by the patience of the saints. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and not the blood of “heretics.” The Church of Rome, alas! has selected the worst thing out of the legacy of her patron, Peter, namely his sword—not, however, in accordance with our Lord’s impressive command, to return the sword to its place, but in the strongest contradiction to it, having drawn and brandished it in order to smite. The weapons of Popish warfare have always been “carnal”—bulls of excommunication, interdicts, tortures, Auto-da-fes, and scaffolds. Hence they have established only a worldly church, which resembles the kingdom of Christ as little as a natural man does one that is born of the Spirit; it being more an institution of the State than a Church, more like Hagar than Sarah, bringing forth only bond-servants and not children; and worse than the Galatians, it has not only begun in the flesh, but seems willing to end in it also.

The words of our Lord, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” do not at least refer to her, but to the true Church, the members of which are born of water and the Spirit. The latter conquer while succumbing, and endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. The true Church has indeed to do with “coals of fire,” but heaps them on the head of her opponents only by the exercise of love. Her laurel wreath is the crown of thorns, and meekness is her weapon. If reviled, she blesses; if persecuted, she suffers it; if defamed, she entreats (1 Cor. 4:12, 13). She takes to heart the saying of Peter (1 Epis. 4:14): “If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you.” Thus she overcomes by submission, and prepares a triumph for Christ by her triumph over herself; and either fights her battles like the sun, which dispels the mists, and causes them to descend in fructifying dew-drops, or like the anvil, which does not strike itself, but cannot prevent the hammers, which fall upon it, from being split to pieces.

In this mode of passive overcoming, by which alone the world is conquered and brought into subjection to the Prince of Peace, the latter himself is our forerunner and leader. Hear what he says, “Put up your sword again into its place; for all those who take the sword, shall perish with the sword. The cup, which my Father path gives me, shall I not drink it? Or think you that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”

O what a profound and comprehensive view is here afforded us into our Lord’s sublime knowledge of his Divine Sonship! How the veil of his abject form is here drawn aside, and how does the whole majesty of the only-begotten Son of the Father again display itself before us like a flash of lightning in the darkness of the night! He continues the same in the obscurest depths of humiliation; and in the consciousness of his Divine dignity, always rises superior to the opposite appearance in which he is enveloped. He is sure of nothing so much as this, that if he would, he had only to ask, and the Father would send twelve legions of angels for his protection (consequently a legion for each of the little company). How must Peter, on hearing these words from his Master, have felt ashamed for imagining that, if he did not interfere, the latter would be left helpless and forsaken. How severely is this foolish thought reproved by the words, “Think you not.” For Simon knows that his Lord is not accustomed to use empty phrases, and that he must, therefore, take the words concerning the celestial powers that stood at his command, in their literal sense; and yet the idea could occur to him that he must deliver such a Master from a handful of armed mortals, as though he were utterly defenseless! What unbelief! What delusion!

But was it really in the Lord’s power to withdraw himself from his sufferings by angelic aid? Without the shadow of a doubt. Having voluntarily resolved upon the great undertaking, he could, at any moment, have freely and without obstruction, withdrawn from it. Every idea of compulsion from without must be banished far from the doing and suffering of our Redeemer. Hence, there is scarcely a moment in his whole life, in which his love for our fallen race is more gloriously manifested than in that on which we are now meditating. A heavenly host, powerful enough to stretch a world of adversaries in the dust, stands behind the screen of clouds, waiting at his beck, and burning with desire to be permitted to interfere for him and triumphantly liberate him from the hands of the wicked while he, though ill-treated and oppressed, refuses their aid, and again repeats, more emphatically by the action than by words, “Father, your will; and not mine, be done!” “Thus it must be,” says he. Carefully observe also this renewed testimony to the indispensable necessity of his passion. “How, then, shall the Scriptures be fulfilled,” he adds. The words of Moses and the prophets are “a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path.” His language still is, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” Great and momentous words! Let us spend a few moments in meditating on them.

A cup is a vessel which has its appointed measure, and is limited by its rim. The Savior several times refers to the cup that was appointed for him. In Matt. 20:22, he asks his disciples, “Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” By the cup, he understood the bitter draught of his passion which had been assigned him. We heard him ask in Gethsemane, at the commencement, if it were not possible that the cup might pass from him; and here we find him mentioning, with the most unmoved self-possession, “the cup which his Father had given him.” We know what was in the cup. All its contents would have been otherwise measured out to us by divine justice on account of sin. In the cup was the entire curse of the inviolable law, all the horrors of conscious guilt, all the terrors of Satan’s fiercest temptations, and all the sufferings which can befall both body and soul. It contained likewise the dreadful ingredients of abandonment by God, infernal agony, and a bloody death, to which the curse was attached—all which was to be endured while surrounded by the powers of darkness.

Here we learn to understand what is implied in the words, “Who spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all.” “The Lord laid on Him the iniquities of us all.” “I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” “God made him to be sin for us who knew no sin.” All that mankind have heaped up to themselves against the day of God’s holy and righteous wrath—their forgetfulness of God—their selfish conduct—their disobedience, pride, worldly-mindedness—their filthy lusts, hypocrisy, falsehood, hard-heartedness, and deceit—all are united and mingled in this cup, and ferment together into a horrible potion. “Shall I not drink this cup?” asks the Savior. “Yes,” we reply, “Empty it, beloved Immanuel! we will kiss your feet, and offer up ourselves to you upon your holy altar!” He has emptied it, and not a drop remains for his people. The satisfaction he rendered was complete, the reconciliation effected. “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” The curse no longer falls upon them. “The chastisement of our peace lay upon him, and by his stripes we are healed,” and nothing now remains for us but to sing Hallelujah!


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