“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .”
David’s words were about to be severely tested in the life of our Lord, as He resolutely left Gethsemane to face the worst that Satan could throw at Him, climaxed by the wrath of God poured out on the cross.
Has there ever been a darker valley to walk through than the one Jesus entered? Betrayed, abandoned by His friends, arrested, scorned, reviled, and abused . . . That was just the opening salvo of our Lord’s passion. The worst was yet to come.
This morning, Eric Twisselmann will help us watch, enter in, and learn from Christ’s suffering, as James Montgomery calls us to do in the following hymn:
Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff’ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of Him to bear the cross.
Who would be surprised that C. H. Spurgeon could give us an appropriate perspective as we enter into the tragic events of Jesus’ death from the viewpoint of Mark’s Gospel?
“Before we enter the common hall of the soldiers and gaze upon ‘the sacred head once wounded,’ it will be well to consider who and what He was who was thus cruelly put to shame. Forget not the intrinsic excellence of His Person, for He is the brightness of the Father’s Glory and the express image of His Person. He is in Himself God over all, blessed forever, the eternal Word by whom all things were made and by whom all things consist. Though Heir of all things, the Prince of the kings of the earth, He was despised and rejected of men, ‘a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ His head was scornfully surrounded with thorns for a crown. His body was bedecked with a faded purple robe. A poor reed was put into His hand for a scepter, and then the ribald soldiers dared to spit upon His face and worry Him with their filthy jests –
“Forget not the glory to which He had been accustomed, for before He came to earth He had been in the bosom of the Father, adored of cherubim and seraphim, obeyed by every angel, worshipped by every principality and power in the heavenly places! Yet, there He sat, treated worse than a felon, made the center of a comedy before He became the victim of a tragedy. What a descent His love to us compelled Him to make! See how He fell to lift us from our Fall!
“Do not, also, fail to remember that at the very time when they were thus mocking Him, He was still the Lord of All and could have summoned 12 legions of angels to His rescue. There was majesty in His misery! He had laid aside, it is true, the glorious imperial pomp of His Father’s courts, and He was now the lowly Man of Nazareth, but for all that, had He willed it, one glance of those eyes would have withered up the Roman cohorts. One word from those silent lips would have shaken Pilate’s palace from roof to foundation – and had He willed it – the vacillating governor and the malicious crowd would, together, have gone down alive into the pit, even as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram of old!
“Lo, God’s own Son, Heaven’s Darling and Earth’s Prince, sits there and wears the cruel chaplet which wounds both mind and body at once – the mind with insult, and the body with piercing pain! His royal face was marred with ‘wounds which could not cease to bleed, trickling faint and slow.’ Yet that ‘noblest brow and dearest head’ had once been fairer than the children of men and was even, then, the countenance of Immanuel, God with us!
“Remember these things and you will gaze upon Him with enlightened eyes and tender hearts – and you will be able, the more fully, to enter into fellowship with Him in His griefs. Remember from where He came and it will the more astound you that He should have stooped so low! Remember what He was and it will be the more marvelous that He should become our Substitute.”