Yesterday, I posted a chapter from Frederick Leahy’s evocative book, “The Cross He Bore”, in which he began the process of meditating on Christ’s profound work of Atonement between Gethsemane and Golgotha. Today, I post a snippet from a sermon delivered by Spurgeon, a week before Easter Sunday back in 1863. The title of this sermon is “The Procession of Sorrow” and it is very well worth reading in its entirety. I encourage you to do so. Here is a portion of it, for your edification and His glory:
After our Lord Jesus Christ had been formally condemned by Pilate, our text tells us he was led away. I invite your attention to CHRIST AS LED FORTH.
Pilate, as we reminded you, scourged our Savior according to the common custom of Roman courts. The lictors executed their cruel office upon his shoulders with their rods and scourges, until the stripes had reached the full number. Jesus is formally condemned to crucifixion, but before he is led away he is given over to the Praetorian guards that those rough legionaries may insult him. It is said that a German regiment was at that time stationed in Judea, and I should not wonder if they were the lineal ancestors of those German theologians of modern times who have mocked the Savior, tampered with revelation, and cast the vile spittle of their philosophy into the face of truth. The soldiery mocked and insulted him in every way that cruelty and scorn could devise. The platted crown of thorns, the purple robe, the reed with which they smote him, and the spittle with which they disfigured him, all these marked the contempt in which they held the King of the Jews. The reed was no mere rush from the brook, it was of a stouter kind, of which easterns often make walkingstaves, the blows were cruel as well as insulting; and the crown was not of straw but thorn, hence it produced pain as well as pictured scorn. When they had mocked him they pulled off the purple garment he had worn, this rough operation would cause much pain. His wounds unstaunched and raw, fresh bleeding from beneath the lash, would make this scarlet robe adhere to him, and when it was dragged off; his gashes would bleed anew. We do not read that they removed the crown of thorns, and therefore it is most probable, though not absolutely certain, that our Savior wore it along the Via Dolorosa, and also bore it upon his head when he was fastened to the cross. Those pictures which represent our Lord as wearing the crown of thorns upon the tree have therefore at least some scriptural warrant. They put his own clothes upon him, because they were the perquisites of the executioner, as modern hangmen take the garments of those whom they execute, so did the four soldiers claim a right to his raiment. They put on him his own clothes that the multitudes might discern him to be the same man, the very man who had professed to be the Messias. We all know that a different dress will often raise a doubt about the identity of an individual; but lo! the people saw him in the street, not arrayed in the purple robe, but wearing his garment without seam, woven from the top throughout, the common smock-frock, in fact, of the countrymen of Palestine, and they said at once, “Yes, ’tis he, the man who healed the sick, and raised the dead; the mighty teacher who was wont to sit upon the mountain-top, or stand in the temple courts and preach with authority, and not as the Scribes.” There can be no shadow of doubt but that our Lord was really crucified, and no one substituted for him. How they led him forth we do not know. Romish expositors, who draw upon their prolific fancy for their facts, tell us that he had a rope about his neck with which they roughly dragged him to the tree; this is one of the most probable of their surmises, since it was not unusual for the Romans thus to conduct criminals to the gallows. We care, however, far more for the fact that he went forth carrying his cross upon his shoulders. This was intended at once to proclaim his guilt and intimate his doom. Usually the crier went before with an announcement such as this, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, who for making himself a King, and stirring up the people, has been condemned to die.” This cross was a ponderous machine; not so heavy, perhaps, as some pictures would represent it, but still no light burden to a man whose shoulders were raw with the lashes of the Roman scourge. He had been all night in agony, he had spent the early morning at the hall of Caiaphas, he had been hurried, as I described to you last Sunday, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate; he had, therefore, but little strength left, and you will not wonder that by-and-bye we find him staggering beneath his load, and that another is called to bear it with him. He goes forth, then, bearing his cross.
What learn we here as we see Christ led forth? Do we not see here the truth of that which was set forth in shadow by the scape-goat? Did not the high-priest bring the scape-goat, and put both his hands upon its head, confessing the sins of the people, that thus those sins might be laid upon the goat? Then the goat was led away by a fit man into the wilderness, and it carried away the sins of the people, so that if they were sought for, they could not be found. Now we see Jesus brought before the priests and rulers, who pronounce him guilty; God himself imputes our sins to him; he was made sin for us; and, as the substitute for our guilt, bearing our sin upon his shoulders—for that cross was a sort of representation in wood of our guilt and doom—we see the great Scape-goat led away by the appointed officers of justice. Bearing upon his back the sin of all his people, the offering goes without the camp. Beloved, can you say he carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon his shoulders does it represent your sin? Oh I raise the question, and be not satisfied unless you can answer it most positively in the affirmative. There is one way by which you can tell whether he carried your sin or not. Hast thou laid thy hand upon his head, confessed thy sin, and trusted in him? Then thy sin lies not on thee; not one single ounce or drachma of it lies on thee; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and he bears it on his shoulder in the form of yonder heavy cross. What joy, what satisfaotion this will give if we can sing—
“My soul looks back to see
The burden thou didst bear,
When hastening to the accursed tree,
And knows her guilt was there!”
Do not let the picture vanish till you have satisfied yourselves once for all that Christ was here the substitute for you.
Let us muse upon the fact that Jesus was conducted without the gates of the city. It was the common place of death. That little rising ground, which perhaps was called Golgotha, the place of a skull, from its somewhat resembling the crown of a man’s skull, was the common place of execution. It was one of Death’s castles; here he stored his gloomiest trophies; he was the grim lord of that stronghold. Our great hero, the destroyer of Death, bearded the lion in his den, slew the monster in his own castle, and dragged the dragon captive from his own den. Methinks Death thought it a splendid triumph when he saw the Master impaled and bleeding in the dominions of destruction; little did he know that the grave was to be rifled, and himself destroyed, by that crucified Son of man.
Was not the Redeemer led thither to aggravate his shame? Calvary was like our Old Bailey; it was the usual place of execution for the district. Christ must die a felon’s death, and it must be upon the felon’s gallows, in the place where horrid crimes had met their due reward. This added to his shame; but, methinks, in this, too, he draws the nearer to us, “He was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
But further, my brethren; this, I think, is the great lesson from Christ’s being slaughtered without the gate of the city—let us go forth, therefore, without the camp, bearing his reproach. You see there the multitude are leading him forth from the temple. He is not allowed to worship with them. The ceremonial of the Jewish religion denies him any participation in its pomps; the priests condemn him never again to tread the hallowed floors, never again to look upon the consecrated altars in the place of his people’s worship. He is exiled from their friendship, too. No man dare call him friend now, or whisper a word of comfort to him. Nay more; he is banished from their society, as if he were a leper whose breath would be infectious whose presence would scatter plague. They force him without the walls, and are not satisfied till they have rid themselves of his obnoxious presence. For him they have no tolerance. Barrabas may go free; the thief and the murderer may be spared; but for Christ there is no word, but “Away with such a fellow from the earth! It is not fit that he should live.” Jesus is therefore hunted out of the city, beyond the gate, with the will and force of his oven nation, but he journeys not against his own will; even as the lamb goeth as willingly to the shambles as to the meadow, so doth Christ cheerfully take up his cross and go without the camp. See, brethren, here is a picture of what we may expect from men if we are faithful to our Master. It is not likely that we shall be able to worship with their worship. They prefer a ceremonial pompous and gaudy; the swell of music, the glitter of costly garments, the parade of learning all these must minister grandeur to the world’s religion, and thus shut out the simple followers of the Lamb. The high places of earth’s worship and honor are not for us. If we be true to our Master we shall soon lose the friendship of the world. The sinful find our conversation distasteful; in our pursuits the carnal have no interest; things dear to us are dross to worldlings, while things precious to them are contemptible to us. There have been times, and the days may come again, when faithfulness to Christ has entailed exclusion from what is called “society.” Even now to a large extent the true Christian is like a Pariah, lower than the lowest caste, in the judgment of some. The world has in former days counted it God’s service to kill the saints. We are to reckon upon all this, and should the worst befal us, it is to be no strange thing to us. These are silken days, and religion fights not so stern a battle. I will not say it is because we are unfaithful to our Master that the world is more kind to us, but I half suspect it is, and it is very possible that if we were more thoroughly Christians the world would more heartily detest us, and if we would cleave more closely to Christ we might expect to receive more slander, more abuse, less tolerance, and less favor from men. You young believers, who have lately followed Christ, should father and mother forsake you, remember you were bidden to reckon upon it; should brothers and sisters deride, you must put this down as part of the cost of being a Christian. Godly working-men, should your employers or your fellow-workers frown upon you; wives, should your husbands threaten to cast you out, remember, without the camp was Jesus’ place, and without the camp is yours. Oh! ye Christian men, who dream of trimming your sails to the wind, who seek to win the world’s favor, I do beseech you cease from a course so perilous. We are in the world, but we must never be of it; we are not to be secluded like monks in the cloister, but we are to be separated like Jews among Gentiles; men, but not of men; helping, aiding, befriending, teaching, comforting, instructing, but not sinning either to escape a frown or to win a smile. The more manifestly there shall be a great gulf between the Church and the world, the better shall it be for both; the better for the world, for it shall be thereby warned; the better for the Church, for it shall be thereby preserved. Go ye, then, like the Master, expecting to be abused, to wear an ill-name, and to earn reproach; go ye, like him, without the camp.