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 SUFFERING SAVIOR
Meditation – XXXVIII
Simon of Cyrene
“And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene,
who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”
(Mark 15:21 ESV)
Pilate, driven from the field by the determined opposition of the enemies of Jesus, contrary to the voice of justice in his bosom, has delivered the Holy One of Israel into the hands of his murderers, who hasten to carry the execution into effect as quickly as possible. No appeal was permitted to a rebel after being sentenced; on the contrary, a Roman law commanded that such should be led away to execution immediately after sentence had been pronounced. This was believed applicable to him, whom the people thought they could not remove soon enough from human society, as being a rebel against God, against Moses, and against the emperor.
We left the Savior at the close of our last meditation on the road to the fatal hill. The procession moves slowly forward enveloped in clouds of dust. What a running together from every side! What a tumultuous noise and horrible din! Spears, helmets, and drawn swords glitter in the sunshine. Soldiers on foot and horseback, priests and scribes, high and low, shrieking women and crying children, Jews and heathens, all mingled together in the crowd. At the head of the procession, surrounded by guards, the three delinquents, panting slowly forward under the weight of their instruments of death. Two of them robbers and murderers, and between them, he, to whom, on closer observation, the whole of this hideous exhibition has reference. Behold that bleeding man, who, according to appearance, is the most guilty of the three! But we know him. He also bears his cross, and thus claims our sympathy in the highest degree.
Crosses were often seen, under the dominion of the Romans. A rebellious slave was very frequently condemned to this most shameful and painful of all punishments. But there is something very particular and peculiar about the cross which we see the Holy One of Israel bearing to Calvary. If we refer to the roll of the Divine Law, Deut. 21:22: “If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall in any wise bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), that your land be not defiled, which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” This remarkable ordinance of God was punctually observed in Israel.
As often as a criminal was nailed to the tree of shame, he was regarded, according to the words of the law, as an object of profound abhorrence to the Almighty, and the people were conscious that God could only look upon the land with anger and disgust, so long as the dead body of the criminal was not removed out of his sight. But such of them as were enlightened, well knew that all this included in it a typical meaning, and had a prophetic reference to one who should hang upon a tree, on whom the vials of heaven’s wrath would be poured out, but in whose atoning sufferings, the curse and condemnation of a sinful world would reach its termination. But who would dare to seek in Christ, the individual thus laden with the divine curse, and assert that the ordinance in the wilderness had found its fulfillment on Golgotha, if the word of God itself had not justified such a conclusion? That such is actually the case, turn to Galatians, 3:13, where the apostle states frankly, and without circumlocution, that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.”
In the type of the brazen serpent, as well as in the divine ordinances respecting one that was hanged on a tree, the clearest light is thrown on the horrible cross which the Son of God is carrying to Calvary. Those beams evidently form the stake upon which, according to the promise, the storm of Divine judgment should be discharged. It is the scaffold where, according to Romans. 3:25, God resolved to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. The Moriah where, for the benefit of a sinful world, the curse pronounced in paradise is endured in the sacred humanity of the great Surety. The altar of burnt-offering, on which the Lamb of God submitted to the sum total of that punishment which ought in justice to have fallen upon me; and the dying bed, where death, over which Satan has power, and to which I was subject by a sentence of the Supreme tribunal, is permitted to seize upon, and slay another, in order that he might forever lose his claim upon me. Such is the mysterious cross which you see borne toward Calvary. It is the sepulcher of a world; for the innumerable host of those that are saved, died, in the eye of God, with Christ upon it. It is the conductor which carries off the destroying flash from our race, by his attracting it upon himself; the tree of life, “the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.”
Jesus carries his cross. When did he ever show so plainly in his outward circumstances that he bore the curse, as now? If the voice of God had sounded directly down from heaven, and said, “This Just One is now enduring the sentence pronounced upon you,” it could not have afforded us more certainty than by this living figure of bearing the cross. Its language is powerful, and points out, even to a simple child, wherein we ought to seek the final cause of Christ’s passion. We find the Holy Sufferer, as you know, outside the gates of Jerusalem. The Scriptures attach great importance to the fact that he was led away out of the holy city. Thus we read in Hebrews 13:11, 12, “The bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Here Christ is evidently represented as the true antitype of the Old Testament sin-offerings. But since we know the nature of these, and how, by this devotional act, the sins of the transgressors were imputed to the animals to be sacrificed; that thus they became objects of abhorrence, and their bodies were not only removed from the neighborhood of the temple, but even burned with fire, in testimony of what was justly due to the sinner; and that the latter, after such sacrificial act, was absolved and declared blameless; so it almost clearly appears, that in the passage above quoted, the apostle cannot and does not intend to say anything else than that Christ, on his being led out of the gates, was in fact burdened with our sins, and bore our curse.
Thus it is we that tread the path to the place of execution; for he does so in our stead. That such is really the case, and that He does not proceed upon that road as the holy Jesus, but as the representative of our sinful race, becomes more apparent at every step. Hence it is comprehensible how the Eternal Father could give him up to such nameless ignominy and torment. It is on this account that no angel from above hastens to his aid; no fire falls from heaven to consume his murderers; rather do the clouds pass quietly and silently over the dreadful scene, as if assent were given above to the horrible transactions below; no, the Just One may, for this reason, while wearied to death, be ready to break down under the burden of his cross, without any one in heaven or on earth appearing to grieve at it. The gates of the eternal sanctuary are closed; the portals of the Almighty’s abode are shut; and the same God who delivered righteous Lot out of Sodom, Daniel from the den of lions, and commanded the enraged Laban to speak only kindly to Jacob, and who says to all his saints, “Fear not, for I am with you”—this Keeper of Israel seems to slumber and sleep with regard to his best Beloved, and to have forgotten respecting him who was his “fellow,” his sweet words of promise: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you.” All the circumstances in which we see the Savior are truly dreadful and appalling; but all exclaim, with the most powerful emphasis, “Behold the Lord Jesus, laden with the sinner’s curse!”
We have been contemplating Jesus with the sinner’s cross. The scene now changes, and a new figure presents itself to our view—the sinner with the cross of Jesus.
The Holy One had proceeded forward some distance with his heavy burden, when his blood-thirsty attendants begin to fear lest he should break down under his load, and entirely succumb from exhaustion before the execution. To prevent this, they look about for some one on whom they may lay the cross of Jesus for the remainder of the way; and their eyes soon light upon a stranger, just coming from the field, whom they the sooner select for this purpose from thinking they see in his looks a secret sympathy with the Nazarene. This was Simon, born at Cyrene, in Africa. We are not informed whether he belonged, at that time, to the secret friends of Jesus; but he was certainly regarded as such by the people, and probably not without reason. At least Simon’s two sons, Alexander and Rufus, were afterward designated as true Christians; and the inference from the sons to the father is probably correct. Suffice it to say, this Jew, Simon, was stopped, and compelled to bear the Lord’s cross. At first he resisted being thus burdened and disgraced, but he soon reconciled himself to it, and then bore it willingly.
With reference to this circumstance, the words of Jesus are accustomed to be applied—”Whoever will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me;” and occasion is then taken from the history of this part of the passion, to treat of the reproach we have to bear for Christ’s sake. But this seems to me not entirely correct, since Simon does not bear his own cross, but that on which Jesus died. Something very different is, therefore, reflected in the symbolical form of the cross-bearer. It presents to our view the inward position of faith with respect to the cross of Christ, that is, to the sacrifice and act of redemption accomplished upon it. We ought to be cross-bearers in the same sense in which Simon was, only spiritually so. We are such, when the cross of Christ becomes ours in the way of self-accusation, believing appropriation, and continual dying with Christ.
He who, in spirit, sees Jesus proceeding toward Calvary under the burden of his cross, will, in so far, immediately become like Simon, in being compelled, by compassion and right feeling, to remove the dreadful load from the innocent Jesus, and cast it upon the wicked Jews, or upon a blind and merciless power, which he calls fate and chance, or even upon the all over-ruling God himself, whom he secretly accuses of not having prevented such a piece of crying injustice. But relieving Christ of his burden in this manner, only proves great mental blindness. It is true, the commencement of all Christian life begins by our being inwardly constrained to take the burden from the Savior, not, however, in order to hurl it upon others, but in sincere self-condemnation, to take it upon ourselves. An enlightened conscience urges upon us the conviction of our own guilt. We shrink back from it, and resist with all our power, but in vain. The holy law, the dreadful mirror of the Divine perfections, now no longer misunderstood, stands before us, and who will undertake to belie or deceive it? Possibly the lightning that strikes us, flashes upon us, at first, only from one of the ten commandments. We then think we may be able to save ourselves in the other nine, and we cast ourselves, as into a safe fortress, perhaps into the first command, “You shall have no other gods before me.” But the Spirit, who has now begun to enlighten us, conducts us ever deeper into the inmost nature of the divine law, and it is then said to us, “You who suppose you have kept the first commandment, have you loved God from your infancy, with all your heart, and mind, and strength?”
On hearing this heart-searching question, we hasten to turn our backs on the first, and then flee, say to the sixth. We are aware of never having sought another’s life, nor ever committed murder. Nevertheless, we now hear it thundered in our ears, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer;” and thus the supposed fortress of the sixth commandment has a breach.
We cast ourselves into the ninth, and think we have never been guilty of bearing false witness. But it is then said, “How do you dare to appeal to the ninth commandment? Have you never told a falsehood, never deceived, dissembled, nor flattered? We hear, but do not let the voice of conscience finish its speech, before we retire, without hesitation, into the seventh, and say, very confidently, “I have kept this, I never committed adultery.” But we immediately hear the appalling words, “He who looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery;” and we flee from the seventh commandment as from a fire which threatens to consume us.
Where now? possibly to the fifth. Alas, both father and mother accuse us. To the eighth? It really seems as if we should find shelter there for we are no thieves. But woe unto us! not far from it stands the tenth, with its injunction, “You shall not covet!” This finally strips us of everything, and terminates the whole process by a general condemnation. All our boasting is then at an end. We hesitate, indeed, to give up. We assemble together all our so-called good works; but scarcely do we begin to derive comfort from this dubious source, when a light shoots down upon it from the sanctuary of God, in whose bright and burning rays, even our best performances appear as a worm-eaten fruit of impure self-love.
Thus we are compelled to pronounce sentence upon ourselves. But what threatens transgressors, such as we, during the remainder of our existence? “Tribulation and anguish upon every soul that does evil.” “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness.” We read and tremble, “Woe is me,” we exclaim, “Miserable man that I am! I am already condemned, and accursed, and lost!” We refuse to believe it, but the appalling words, “You are the man!” resound on every side; and it seems as if the very walls of our chambers, and the joists and beams cried out against us. A thousand reminiscences of past transgressions crowd around us like avenging spirits exclaiming, “You shall surely die!” and the dreadful words haunt us even in our dreams. We imagine we read them in the stars, and that they are written on each of our days. Thus we are at length compelled to acknowledge that the sentence is just. Christ’s cross is laid upon us, that is, we find ourselves guilty of the cross, since we feel that we are ourselves exposed to the curse which Christ endured upon it.
When, in this sense, we have taken the cross of Christ upon us, God who has humbled us, is accustomed, in due time, to comfort us. We again arise from the darkness and horrors of self-condemnation into the crimson-colored sunshine of the atonement. In the cross of Christ, we recognize the mysterious tree, on which the sentence which menaced us with eternal destruction has long ago been endured. We apprehend the mystery of the cross in its consolatory depth, and enter into a new relation with it, embrace it as our only refuge, and believingly appropriate the merits of him who suffered upon it. We now take it in a different manner upon us than before; certainly more from necessity at first than desire. Proud human nature resists the idea of being saved by grace. In the sequel, however, we become reconciled to the wondrous burden, and finally bear it with delight, even as an heir his inheritance, as a king his scepter, as a warrior his sword and shield, as a conqueror the flag of victory, as a liberated debtor his receipt in full, and as a nobleman the diploma of his nobility.
Thus, in a spiritual sense, we become like Simon of Cyrene. We enter into the most vital, fervent, and blissful fellowship with the cross of Christ. We are every where and continually occupied with this cross, and it becomes the sign by which we are known. If listened to in our chamber, we are heard praying beneath the cross. If we say, “Abba, father,” it is the cross which encourages us to do so. If we hope for a favorable answer to our requests, the cross emboldens us to expect it. If our conversation is in heaven, the cross is the heavenly ladder, on the steps of which we rise above the world, death, and hell. The cross forms the focus of all our heartfelt melody. If a gleam of joy rests upon our foreheads, the cross is the sun from whence it proceeds. If we are courageous, it is in the shadow of the cross. If we overcome the temptations of the wicked one, the cross of Christ is the banner under which we conquer.
We do not indeed always embrace the cross with equal warmth and fervor. Occasionally, we bear it with indifference, unwillingly, and even as a burden. This is the case either when the root of our life again sinks imperceptibly deeper into the soil of this world; or when the Lord causes our mountain to stand strong, and we take fresh occasion to please ourselves with our own doings. But God, who is as faithful in humbling as in comforting us, knows how to render the cross sweet to us, by giving up our old man to a renewed crucifixion, and by reviving and refreshing in us the consciousness of our wretchedness in the midst of distress, disgrace, and pressure. Generally speaking the experience of all who, in faith, take upon them the cross of Christ, agrees in this, that they are ever longer drawn into the death of him who hung upon the tree. They decrease. They consciously become personally poorer, more worthless and helpless—no, in time, nothing remains in them of which they might boast as a ground of justification. But the more completely they suffer shipwreck as to everything of their own, the more valuable does the cross of Calvary become to them, as the only plank of rescue from the surge. How fervently is it then again embraced, how highly and loudly praised, and how bedewed with warm tears of grateful thanksgiving, until at length the whole inward life moves round the cross, in ever closer drawn circles, like the revolving planets round their several suns.
May the Lord be pleased to impress the form of Simon the cross-bearer ever more clearly upon our inner man; and in order that this figure may be the more fully produced in us, may he the more and more comprehensively unveil to us the corruption which adheres to us by nature! It is only thus that we learn to bear the cross of Christ with a holy pride. Only thus does it become to us a tree of life, from which we may pluck heavenly fruit. Only thus does it serve as a wondrous weapon, by means of which we overcome the world, death, and Satan.
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