« AnteriorContinuar »
Pharisees must now have been very strong. He had accomplished little in the world as yet; but He was only thirty-three; He might do so much if He could only live. He might then “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied,” instead of having to die in the faith. Death by crucifixion, too, was socially the most ignominious, and physically the most agonising, which it was possible to endure. It was a Roman punishment, which was only inflicted upon slaves or captives. The crucifixion of a Roman citizen would have been considered a reflection upon the dignity of Rome. “ It includes all that death can have of the horrible and ghastly. Dizziness, cramp, thirst, tetanus, starvation, sleeplessness, fever, publicity of shame, mortification of untended wounds,—all intensified just up to that point at which they can be endured, but all stopping short, for long weary hours, of the point which gives to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. Every variety of anguish went on increasing, until the crucified yearned for death as for a delicious and exquisite release.”
All His previous sufferings, moreover, were gathered up and repeated with tenfold intensity upon Calvary. He was poorer than ever now, for His very clothes were being divided among His executioners : more homeless than ever now, since His last resting-place was a cross: more tempted than ever now, since the temptations that are born of anguish had reached their climax; more isolated than ever now, for not only were the Pharisees against Him, but the common people, who had once heard Him gladly, were ridiculing and insulting Him: and the single disciple who was there to see the end, as well as the three Marys who were with Him, had a wondering pity depicted in their countenances, that seemed to say they had hoped better things from Him, that seemed to reproach Him with the failure of His life. To crown all, in His last moments Christ experienced that ineffable bitterness of spirit compared to which all other suffering is joy—the feeling that He was forsaken by God. From His breaking heart was wrung the bitter cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Die on now, O Saviour of mankind ! Now truly Thou canst say, “It is finished.” “Thou hast learned obedience with strong crying and tears.” Thou hast drunk to the dregs the cup which the Father hath given Thee. Thou hast sacrificed Thyself wholly, unreservedly. Thou hast omitted nothing that could help us to see the beauty and divinity of self-sacrificing love. Thou hast been made“ perfect through sufferings.”
The Mystery of Suffering.
THE EFFECT OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING UPON HIS
“It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all
things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”—HEBREWS ii. 10.
TN the last sermon I endeavoured to give you 1 a slight sketch of the sufferings of Christ. I propose in the present sermon to point out one or two of the ways in which these sufferings would appear to have tended to the perfecting of His character.
First of all, what do you suppose that Christ was like in person? There are two statements in the Bible which are generally understood as referring to Him. “He was altogether lovely." “ His countenance was more marred than all the sons of men.” Now I apprehend that both these statements were literally true. The painters who have represented Christ with a smooth and placid face have made, I think, a great mistake. We have seen that He was in bad health towards the close of his life, and that he looked much older than he really was. The fact that his temptations and afflictions were so numerous and so severe, renders it almost indisputable that His countenance would be marred. Yet we may be sure that, to those who had eyes to see it, the face of Christ was beautiful. There are two distinct kinds of beauty. The soft, rosy, dimpled, laughing face, lovely though it be, is not the only fair countenance the world contains. No. Is there not beauty also in a face like that of Livingstone's, all covered with scars and seams ? For does not each one of those so-called deformities tell of moral conflicts and moral victories, of profound thought and intense feeling, of tremendous earnestness and enthusiasm, of selfabnegation and self-conquest ? To those who had no spiritual insight Christ would appear “as a root out of a dry ground,” having “no form nor comeliness”: but in reality, “the beauty of the Lord God was upon Him.”
We have seen how solitary Christ was—intellectually, morally, and socially. No one understood His purposes, no one cared for His ideal morality, no one sympathised with Him in His efforts to make the world better. But it is not difficult to see how this painful experience tended to His general self-development, and how in particular it increased His moral strength. The man will never be worth much who is always on good terms with every one, who is continually courted and petted by all with whom he comes in contact. He who is content to take everything as he finds it, who has never had an idea which the meanest of his neighbours could not appreciate, who has never felt himself morally indignant with any of his surroundings, such a person is not half a man.
Lonely as Christ was socially, He often courted physical solitude as well, and many a night He passed by Himself on the silent slopes of the Mount of Olives. He who would know something of the greatness and the infinite possibilities of his own nature must do the same. We lose ourselves in the company of our fellows: we find ourselves when alone. I pity the man who has never stood upon the mountain-side, or in some retired spot, far away from the “din of human words ”_stood there in the dusk of even