A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 27, 1879, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *11/30/2012
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled
out the hair: I did not hide my face from shame and spitting. [Isa
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1486, “Shame and Spitting, The” 1486]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2827, “Redeemer Described by Himself, The” 2828]
Exposition on Isa 49:24-50:11 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2832, “Christ’s Yoke and Burden” 2833 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Isa 50 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2335, “Three Texts, but One Subject — Faith” 2336 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Isa 50 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2738, “Redeemer’s Face Set Like a Flint, The” 2739 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Who was the prophet speaking about, of himself or someone else? We know that Isaiah here wrote concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Is this not one of the prophecies to which our Lord himself referred in the incident recorded in Luke’s gospel? “Then he gathered the twelve around him, and said to them, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully treated, and spat on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death.’ ” [Lu 18:31-33] Such a remarkable prophecy of scourging and spitting as this which is now before us must surely refer to the Lord Jesus; its highest fulfilment is assuredly found in him alone.
2. Of whom else, let me ask, could you conceive the prophet to have spoken if you read the whole chapter? Of whom else could he say in the same breath, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the hair.” [Isa 50:3,6] What a descent from the omnipotence which veils the heavens with clouds to the gracious condescension which does not veil its own face, but permits it to be spat upon! No one else could have spoken like this about himself except he who is both God and man. He must be divine: how else could he say, “Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness?” [Isa 50:2] And yet he must at the same time be a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” for there is a strange depth of pathos in the words, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the hair: I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.” Whatever others may say, we believe that the speaker in this verse is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, the Son of God and the Son of man, our Redeemer. It is the Judge of Israel whom they have struck with a rod upon the cheek who plaintively declares here the grief’s which he has undergone. We have before us the language of prophecy, but it is as accurate as though it had been written at the moment of the event. Isaiah might have been one of the Evangelists, so exactly does he describe what our Saviour endured.
3. I have already laid before you in the reading of the Scriptures some of the passages of the New Testament where the scourging and the shame of our Lord Jesus are described. We saw him first at the tribunal of his own countrymen in Matthew 26, and we read, “Then they spat in his face, and buffeted him; and others struck him with the palms of their hands.” It was in the hall of the high priest, among his own countrymen, that first of all the shameful deeds of scorn were done to him. “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.” His worst foes were those of his own household; they despised and abhorred him, and would have nothing to do with him. His own Father’s chosen people said among themselves, — “This is the heir; let us kill him, and let us seize his inheritance.” This was his treatment at the hand of the house of Israel.
4. The same treatment, or similar to it, was accorded him in Herod’s palace, where the lingering shadows of a Jewish royalty still existed. There what I might dare to call a mixture of Jew and Gentile power held court, but our Lord fared no better in the united company. By the two combined the Lord was treated with equal derision. “Herod with his men of war treated him with contempt and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe.” [Lu 23:11]
5. Speedily came his third trial, and he was delivered altogether to the Gentiles. Then Pilate, the governor, gave him up to the cruel process of scourging. Scourging as it has been practised in the English army is atrocious, a barbarism which ought to make us blush for the past, and resolve to end it for the future. How is it that such a horror has been tolerated for so long in a country where we are not all savages? But the lash is nothing among us compared with what it was among the Romans. I have heard that it was made of the sinews of oxen, and that in it were twisted the huckle-bones of sheep, with slivers of bone, in order that every stroke might more effectively tear its way into the poor quivering flesh, which was mangled by its awful strokes. Scourging was such a punishment that it was generally regarded as worse than death itself and indeed, many perished while enduring it, or soon afterwards. Our blessed Redeemer gave his back to the smiters, and the ploughers made deep furrows there. Oh spectacle of misery! How can we bear to look on it? Nor was that all, for Pilate’s soldiers, calling all the band together, as if there were not enough for mockery unless all were mustered, put him to derision by a mock enthronement and a mimic coronation; and when they had done this they again buffeted and struck him, and spat in his face. There was no kind of cruelty which their heartlessness could just then invent which they did not exercise upon his blessed person: their brutal sport had full indulgence, for their innocent victim offered neither resistance nor rebuke. This is his own record of his patient endurance, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the hair: I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.”
6. Behold your King! I bring him out to you this morning in spirit and cry, “Behold the Man!” Turn all your eyes and hearts here and look upon the despised and rejected by men! Gaze reverently and lovingly, with awe for his sufferings and love for his person. The sight demands adoration. I would remind you of what Moses did when he saw the bush that burned and was not consumed — a fit emblem of our Lord on fire with grief’s and yet not destroyed; I ask you to turn aside and see this great sight, but first attend to the mandate — “Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” All around the cross the soil is sacred. Our suffering Lord has consecrated every place which he stood, and therefore our hearts must be filled with reverence while we linger under the shadow of his passion.
7. May the Holy Spirit help you to see Jesus in four lights at this time. In each view he is worthy of devout attention. Let us view him first as the representative of God; secondly, as the substitute of his people; thirdly, as the servant of Jehovah; and fourthly, as the Comforter of his redeemed.
8. I. First, I invite you to gaze upon your despised and rejected Lord as THE REPRESENTATIVE OF GOD.
9. In the person of Christ Jesus, God himself came into the world, making a special visitation to Jerusalem and the Jewish people, but at the same time coming very near to all mankind. The Lord called to the people whom he had favoured so long and whom he was still intent to favour. He says, in the second verse, “I came” and “I called.” God did in very deed come down into the midst of mankind.
10. May it be noted, that when our Lord came into this world as the representative of God, he came with all his divine power about him. The chapter before us says, “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness.” The Son of God, when he was here, did not perform those exact miracles, because he was intent upon marvels of beneficence rather than of judgment. He did not repeat the plagues of Egypt, for he did not come to strike, but to save; but he did greater wonders and performed miracles which ought far more powerfully to have won men’s confidence in him because they were full of goodness and mercy. He fed the hungry, he healed the sick, he raised the dead, and he cast out demons. He did equal marvels to those which were performed in Egypt when the arm of the Lord was made bare in the eyes of all the people. It is true he did not change water into blood, but he turned water into wine. It is true he did not make their fish to stink, but by his word he caused the net to be filled even to bursting with large fish. He did not break the whole staff of bread as he did in Egypt, but he multiplied loaves and fishes so those thousands of men and women and children were fed from his bountiful hand. He did not kill their firstborn, but he restored the dead. I grant you that the glory of the Godhead was somewhat hidden in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but it was still there, even as the glory was upon the face of Moses when he covered it with a veil. No essential attribute of God was absent in Christ, and every one might have been seen in him if the people had not been wilfully blind; he did the works of his Father, and those works bore witness of him that he was come in his Father’s name. Yes, God was personally in the world when Jesus walked the blessed fields of the Holy Land, now, alas, laid under the curse for rejecting him.
11. But when God came among men like this he was unacknowledged. What does the prophet say? “Why was there no man when I came? when I called why was there no one to answer?” A few who were taught by the Spirit of God recognised him and rejoiced; but they were so very few that we may say of the whole generation that they did not know him. Those who had some dim idea of his excellence and majesty still rejected him. Herod, because he feared that he was a king, sought to slay him. The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers took counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed. He was emphatically and beyond all others “despised and rejected by men.” Though, as I have said, the Godhead in him was thinly veiled, and gleams of its glory always and continually burst out, yet still the people would have none of it, and the cry, “Away with him, away with him, let him be crucified,” was the verdict of the age upon which he descended. He called and there was no one to answer; he spread out his hands all the day long to a rebellious people who utterly rejected him.
Yet our Lord when he came into the world was admirably adapted to be
the representative of God, not only because he was God himself, but
because as man his whole human nature was consecrated to the work,
and in him was neither flaw nor blemish. He was untouched by any
motive other than the one desire of revealing the Father and blessing
the sons of men. Oh, beloved, there was never one who had his ear so
near the mouth of God as Jesus had. His Father had no need to speak
to him in dreams and visions of the night, for when all his faculties
were wide awake there was nothing in them to hinder his understanding
the mind of God; and therefore every morning when his Father awakened
him he spoke into his ear. Jesus sat as a scholar at the Father’s
feet so that he might learn first, and then teach. The things which
he heard from the Father he made known to men. He says that he did
not speak his own words but the words of him who sent him, and he did
not do his own deeds, but “my Father,” he says, “who dwells in me, he
does the work.” Now, a man so entirely agreeable to the mind and will
of the great God was suited to be the representative of God. Both the
alliance of his manhood with the Godhead and its perfect character
qualified it to be the most fit dwelling of God among men. Yes, dear
friends, our Saviour came in a way which should at once have
commanded the reverent homage of all men. Even his great Father said,
“They will reverence my Son.” Enough of the Godhead was revealed to
impress and no more, lest it should alarm. With a soul of most gentle
mould and a body like our own he was altogether adapted to be the
representative of God. His errand, too, was all gentleness and love,
for he came to speak words in season to the weary, and to comfort
those who were cast down: surely such an errand should have secured
him a welcome. His course and conduct were most conciliatory, for he
went among the people, and ate with tax collectors and sinners; so
gentle was he that he took little children in his arms, and blessed
them; for this, if for nothing else, they ought to have welcomed him
very heartily and rejoiced at the sight of him. Our text tells us how
contrary their conduct was towards him compared to what he deserved:
instead of being welcomed he was scourged, and instead of being
honoured he was scorned. Cruelty struck his back and pulled out the
hair from his face, while derision jeered at him and cast its spittle
upon him. Shame and contempt were poured upon him, though he was God
himself. That spectacle of Christ spat upon, and scourged,
represents what man virtually does to his God, what he would do to
the Most High if he could. Hart puts it well: —
See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in his lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face.
When our parents broke the command of their Maker, obeying the advice of the devil rather than the word of God, and preferring the forbidden fruit to the divine favour, they did as it were spit into the face of God; and every sin committed since has been a repetition of the same contempt of the Eternal One. When a man will have his pleasure, even though it displeases God, he as good as declares that he despises God, prefers himself, and defies the wrath of the Most High. When a man acts contrary to the command of God he as good as says to God, “This is better for me to do than what you tell me to do. Either you are mistaken, in your prohibitions, or else you wilfully deny me the highest pleasure, and I, being a better judge of my own interests than you are, grasp at the pleasure which you refuse me. I judge you either to be unwise or unkind.” Every act of sin does despite to the sovereignty of God: it denies him to be supreme, and refuses him obedience. Every act of sin does dishonour to the love and wisdom of God, for it seems to say that it would have been greater love to have permitted us to do evil than to have commanded us to abstain from it. All sin is in many ways an insult to the majesty of the thrice-holy God, and he regards it as such.
13. Dear friends, this is especially the sin of those who have heard the gospel and yet reject the Saviour, for in their case the Lord has come to them in the most gracious form, and yet they have refused him. The Lord might well say, “I have come to you to save you, and you will not regard me. I have come saying to you, ‘Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,’ and you close your eyes in unbelief. I have come saying, ‘Let us reason together: though your sins are as crimson, they shall be as wool,’ but you will not be cleansed from your iniquity. I have come with the promise, ‘All manner of sin and iniquity shall be forgiven to men.’ What is your reply?” In the case of many the answer is, “We prefer our own righteousness to the righteousness of God.” If that is not casting spittle into the face of God I do not know what is, for our righteousnesses are well described as “filthy rags,” and we have the impudence to say that these are better than the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Or if we do not say this when we reject the Saviour we tell him that we do not want him, for we do not need a Saviour: this is as good as to say that God has played the fool with the life and death of his own Son. What greater derision can be cast upon God than to consider the blood of atonement to be a superfluity? He who chooses sin sooner than repentance prefers to suffer the wrath of God rather than be holy and dwell in heaven for ever. For the sake of a few paltry pleasures men forego the love of God, and are ready to run the risk of an eternity of divine wrath. They think so little of God that he is of no account with them at all. All this is in reality a scorning and despising of the Lord God, and is well illustrated by the insults which were poured upon the Lord Jesus.
14. Woe is me that it should ever be so. My God! my God! To what a sinful race do I belong. Alas, that it should treat your infinite goodness so despitefully! That you should be rejected at all, but especially that you should be rejected when dressed in robes of love and arrayed in gentleness and pity is horrible to think upon. Do you mean it, oh men? Can you really mean it? Can you deride the Lord Jesus who died for men? For which of his works do you stone him, when he lived only to do good? For which of his grief’s do you refuse him, when he died only that he might save? “He saved others, he cannot save himself,” for he had so much love that he could not spare himself. I can understand your resisting the thunder of Jehovah’s power, for I know your insanity; but can you resist the tenderness of Jehovah’s love? If you do I must charge you with brutality, but in it I wrong the brutes, to whom such crimes are impossible. I may not even call this cruel scorning diabolical, for it is a sin which demons never did commit, perhaps would not have committed had it been possible for them. They have never trifled with a Redeemer, nor rejected the blood of atonement, for our Lord did not take up the fallen angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham. Shall the favoured race spit upon its friend? May God grant we may be brought to a better mind. But there is the picture before you. God himself set at naught, despised, rejected, put to shame, perpetually dishonoured in the person of his dear Son. The sight should foster repentance in us. We should look to him whom we have scourged, and mourn for him. Oh Holy Spirit, work this tender grace in all our hearts.
15. II. And now, secondly, I want to set the Lord Jesus before you in another light, or rather beseech him to shine in his own light before your eyes as: — THE SUBSTITUTE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
16. Remember when our Lord Jesus Christ suffered like this it was not on his own account nor purely for the sake of his Father, but he “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” There has risen up a modern idea which I cannot too much repudiate, that Christ made no atonement for our sin except upon the cross: whereas in this passage of Isaiah we are taught as plainly as possible that by his bruising and his stripes, as well as by his death, we are healed. Never distinguish between the life and the death of Christ. How could he have died if he had not lived? How could he suffer except while he lived? Death is not suffering, but the end of it. Guard also against the evil notion that you have nothing to do with the righteousness of Christ, for he could not have made an atonement by his blood if he had not been perfect in his life. He could not have been acceptable if he had not first been proven to be holy, harmless, and undefiled. The victim must be spotless, or it cannot be presented for sacrifice. Draw no fine lines and raise no quibbling questions, but look at your Lord as he is and bow before him.
17. Understand, my dear brothers and sisters, that Jesus took upon himself our sin, and being found bearing that sin he had to be treated as sin should be treated. Now, of all the things that ever existed sin is the most shameful thing that can be. It deserves to be scourged, it deserves to be spit upon, it deserves to be crucified; and because our Lord had taken upon himself our sin, therefore he must be put to shame, therefore he must be scourged. If you want to see what God thinks of sin, see his only Son spat upon by the soldiers when he was made sin for us. In God’s sight sin is a shameful, horrible, loathsome, abominable thing, and when Jesus takes it he must be forsaken and given up to scorn. This sight will be all the more wonderful to you when you remember who it was that was spat upon, for if you and I, being sinners, were scourged, and struck, and despised, there would be no wonder in it; but he who took our sin was God, before whom angels bow with reverent awe, and yet, since the sin was upon him, he was made subject to the most intense degree of shame. Since Jesus stood in our place, it is written about the eternal Father that “He did not spare his own Son.” “It pleased the Father to bruise him: he has put him to grief”; he made his soul an offering for sin. Yes, beloved, sin is condemned in the flesh and made to appear extremely shameful when you remember that, even though it was only laid on our blessed Lord by imputation, yet it threw him into the very depths of shame and woe before it could be removed.
18. Reflect, also, upon the voluntariness of all this. He willingly submitted to the endurance of suffering and scorn. It is said in the text, “He gave his back to the smiters.” They did not seize and compel him, or, if they did, they still could not have done it without his consent. He gave his back to the smiters. He gave his cheek to those who pulled out his hair. He did not hide his face from shame and spitting: he did not seek in any way to escape from insults. It was the voluntariness of his grief which constituted in great measure the merit of it. That Christ should stand in our place by force would be a little thing, even if it had been possible; but that he should stand there by his own free will, and that being there he should willingly be treated with derision, this is grace indeed. The Son of God was willingly made a curse for us, and by his own desire was made subject to shame on our account. I do not know how you feel in listening to me, but while I am speaking I feel as if language ought scarcely to touch such a theme as this: it is too feeble for its task. I want you to get beyond my words if you can, and for yourselves meditate upon the fact that he who covers the heavens with blackness, yet did not cover his own face, and he who binds up the universe with the belt which holds it in one, yet was bound and blindfolded by the men he himself had made; he whose face is as the brightness of the sun that shines in its strength was once spit upon. Surely we shall need faith in heaven to believe this wondrous fact. Can it have been true, that the glorious Son of God was jeered and jested at? I have often heard that there is no faith needed in heaven, but I rather judge that we shall need as much faith to believe that these things were ever done as the patriarchs had to believe that they would be done. How shall I sit down and gaze upon him and think that his dear face was once profaned with spittle? When all heaven shall lie prostrate at his feet in awful silence of adoration will it seem possible that he was once mocked? When angels, and principalities, and powers shall all be roused to rapture of harmonious music in his praise, will it seem possible that the most abject of men once pulled out his hair? Will it not appear incredible that those sacred hands, which are “as gold rings set with the beryl,” were once nailed to a gibbet, and that those cheeks: which are “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,” should have been battered and bruised? We shall be quite certain of the fact, and yet we shall never cease to wonder, that his side was gashed, and his face was spit upon? The sin of man in this case will always amaze us. How could you commit this crime? Oh, you sons of men, how could you treat such a one with cruel scorn? Oh you brazen thing called sin, you have, indeed, as the prophet says, “a whore’s forehead”; you have a demon’s heart, hell burns within you. Why could you not spit upon earthly splendours? Why must heaven be your scorn? Or if heaven, why not spit on angels! Was there no place for your base deed but the Well-Beloved’s face? Was there no place for your spittle but his face? His face! Woe is me! His face! Should such loveliness receive such shame as this? I could wish that man had never been created, or that, being created, he had been swept into nothingness rather than have lived to commit such horror.
19. Yet here is matter for our faith to rest upon. Beloved, trust yourselves in the hands of your great Substitute. Did he bear all this shame? then there must be more than enough merit and efficacy in this, which was the prelude of his precious death — and especially in his death itself — there must be merit sufficient to put away all transgression, iniquity, and sin. Our shame is ended, for he has borne it! Our punishment is removed: he has endured it all. Our Redeemer has paid double for all our sins. Return to your rest, oh my soul, and let peace take full possession of your weeping heart.
20. III. But time fails us, and therefore we will mention, next, the third light in which it is our desire to see the Saviour. Beloved, we desire to see the Lord Jesus Christ as THE SERVANT OF GOD. He took upon himself the form of a servant when he was made in the likeness of man. Observe how he performed this service very thoroughly, and remember we are to look upon this third picture as our copy, which is to be the guide of our life. I know that many of you are glad to call yourselves the servants of God; do not take the name in vain. Just as Jesus was, so are you also in this world, and you are to seek to be like him.
21. First, as a servant, Christ was personally prepared for service. He was thirty years and more here below, learning obedience in his father’s house, and the later years were spent in learning obedience by the things which he suffered. What a servant he was, for he never went about his own errands nor went by his own will, but he waited always upon his Father. He was in constant communication with heaven, both by day and by night. He says, “He awakens morning by morning, he awakens my ear to hear as the learned.” The blessed Lord even before the day broke heard that gentle voice which called him, and at its whisper he arose before the sunrise, and there the dawning found him, on the mountainside, waiting upon God in wrestling prayer, taking his message from the Father so that he might go and deliver it to the children of men. He loved man much, but he loved his Father more, and he never came to proclaim the love of God without having as man received it fresh from the divine heart. He knew that his Father always heard him, and he lived in the spirit of conscious acceptance. Have you ever noticed that sometimes a passage will begin, “At that time Jesus answered and said,” and yet there is no notice that he had been speaking to anyone before, or that anyone had been speaking to him? What he said was an answer to a voice which no ear heard except his own, for he was always standing with opened ear, listening to the eternal voice. Such service did Jesus render, and you must render the same. You cannot do your Lord’s will unless you live near to him. It is of no use trying to preach with power unless we get our message personally from our heavenly Father. I am sure you as hearers know the difference between a dead word which comes from a man’s own brain and lip, and a living word which the preacher delivers fresh as the manna which fell from heaven. The word should come from the minister like bread hot from the oven, or better still, like a seed with life in it; not as a parched grain with the germ dead and killed, but as a living seed which roots itself in your souls, and springs up to a harvest. This made our Lord such a good servant that he listened to his Father’s voice and yielded himself to the Father’s will to perfection.
Our text assures us that this service knew no reserve in its
consecration. We generally draw back somewhere. I am ashamed to
say it, but I mourn that I have done so. Many of us could give to
Christ all our health and strength, and all the money we have, very
heartily and cheerfully; but when it comes to a point of reputation
we feel the pinch. To be slandered, to have some filthy thing said of
you; this is too much for flesh and blood. You seem to say, “I cannot
be made a fool of, I cannot bear to be regarded as a mere impostor”;
but a true servant of Christ must make himself of no reputation when
he takes upon himself the work of his Lord. Our blessed Master was
willing to be scoffed at by the lewdest and the lowest of men. The
abjects jeered at him; the reproach of those who reproached God fell
upon him. He became the song of the drunkard, and when the rough
soldiers detained him in the guardroom they heaped up their ridicule,
as though he were not worthy of the name of man.
They bow their knees to me, and cry, “Hail, King”:
Whatever scoffs or scornfulness can bring,
I am the floor, the sink, where they it fling:
Was ever grief like mine?
The soldiers also spit upon that face
Which angels did desire to have the grace
And prophets once to see, but found no place:
Was ever grief like mine?
Herod and Pilate were the very dross of men, and yet he permitted them to judge him. Their servants were vile fellows, and yet he resigned himself to them. If he had breathed upon them with angry breath, he might have flashed devouring fire upon them, and burned them up as stubble; but his omnipotent patience restrained his indignation, and he remained as a sheep before her shearers. He allowed his own creatures to pull out his hair and spit in his face. Such patience should be yours as servants of God. We are to be willing to be made nothing of, and even to be considered as the offscouring of all things. It is pathetic for the Christian to refuse to suffer, and to become a fighting man, crying, “We must stand up for our rights.” Did you ever see Jesus in that posture? There is a propensity in us to say, “I will have it out.” Yes, but you cannot picture Jesus in that attitude. I defy a painter to depict him so: it is someone else, and not Christ. No! he said, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the hair: I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.”
23. There is something more here than perfect consecration in the mere form of it, for its heart and essence are revealed in an obedient delight in the will of the Father. The words seem to me to express alacrity. It is not said that he reluctantly permitted his enemies to pull out his hair, or strike his back, but it is written, “I gave my back to the smiter, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the hair.” He could not delight in it; how could he delight in suffering and shame? These things were even more repugnant to his sensitive nature than they can be to us; and yet, “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.” He was ready for this dreadful treatment, for he said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I constrained until it is accomplished!” He was ready for the cup of gall, and willing to drink it to its dregs, though it was bitterness itself to him. He gave his back to the smiters.
24. All this while — now follow me in this next point — there was no flinching in him. They spat in his face, but what does he say in the seventh verse? “I have set my face like a flint.” If they are about to defile his face he is resolved to bear it; he girds up his loins, and makes himself more determined. Oh, the bravery of our Master’s silence! Cruelty and shame could not make him speak. Have not your lips sometimes longed to speak out a denial and a defence? Have you not felt it was wise to be quiet, but then the charge has been so excessively cruel, and it has stung you so terribly that you hungered to resent it. Base falsehoods aroused your indignation, and you felt you must speak and probably you did speak, though you tried to keep your lips as with a bridle while the wicked were before you. But our own beloved Lord in the omnipotence of his patience and love would not utter a word, but like a lamb at the slaughter he did not open his mouth, he witnessed a good confession by his matchless silence. Oh, how mighty — how gloriously mighty was his patience! We must copy it if we are to be his disciples. We, too, must set our faces like flints, to move or to sit still, according to the Father’s will, to be silent or to speak, as most shall honour him. “I have set my face like a flint,” he says, even though in another place he cries, “My heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my body.”
25. And do you notice all the while the confidence and quiet of his spirit? He almost seems to say, “You may spit upon me, but you cannot find fault with me. You may pull out my hair, but you cannot impugn my integrity; you may lash my shoulders, but you cannot impute a fault to me. Your false witnesses dare not look me in the face: let me know who is my adversary, let him come near to me. Behold, Adoni Jehovah will keep me, who is he who shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall become old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up.” Be calm then, oh true servant of God! In patience possess your soul. Serve God steadily and steadfastly though all men should slander you. Go to the bottom of the service, dive even to the very depth, and be content even to lie in Christ’s grave, for you shall share in Christ’s resurrection. Do not dream that the path to heaven is up the hill of honour, it winds down into the valley of humiliation. Do not imagine that you can grow great eternally by being great here. You must become less, and less, and less, even though you should be despised and rejected by men, for this is the path to everlasting glory.
26. I do not have time to expound on the last two verses of the chapter, but they express a noble lesson. “He gave his back to the smiters”; if, then, any of you walk in darkness and have no light, this is no new thing for a servant of God. The chief of all servants persevered, though men despised him. Follow him, then. Sustain yourselves upon God as he did, and look for a bright ending of your trials. He ultimately came out into the light, and there he sits in inconceivable splendour at his Father’s right hand, and so shall all the faithful come out of the cloud and shine out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Only bear on with resolute patience, and glory shall be your reward, even as it is his.
27. IV. Lastly, I am to present him in his fourth character, as THE COMFORTER OF HIS PEOPLE; but I must ask you to do this, while I just, as it were, make a charcoal sketch of the picture I would have painted.
28. Remember, first, our blessed Lord is well qualified to speak a word in season to him who is weary, because he himself is lowly, and meek, and so accessible to us. When men are in low spirits they feel as if they could not take comfort from people who are harsh and proud. The comforter must come as a sufferer; he must come in a lowly, broken spirit, if he would cheer the afflicted. You must not put on your best dress to go and visit the daughter of poverty, or go wearing your jewels to show how much better off you are than she is. Sit down by the side of the downcast man and let him know that you are meek and lowly of heart. Your Master “gave his back to the smiters, and his cheek to those who pulled out the hair,” and therefore he is the Comforter you need.
29. Do not only notice his lowliness, but his sympathy. Are you full of aches and pains this morning? Jesus knows all about them, for he “gave his back to the smiters.” Do you suffer from what is worse than pain, from scandal and slander? “He did not hide his face from shame and spitting.” Have you been ridiculed recently? Have the graceless made fun of your godliness? Jesus can sympathise with you, for you know what unholy mirth they made out of him. In every pang that rends your heart your Lord has borne his share. Go and tell him. Many will not understand you. You are a speckled bird, differing from all the rest, and they will all peck at you; but Jesus Christ knows this, for he was a speckled bird too. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” but not separated from such as you are. Go to him and he will sympathise with you.
30. In addition to his gentle spirit and his power to sympathise, there is this to help to comfort us — namely, his example, for he can argue with you like this, “I gave my back to the smiters. Can you not do the same? Shall the disciple be above his master?” If I can only get on the doorstep of heaven and sit down in the lowliest place there I shall feel I have an infinitely better position than I deserve, and shall I think of my dear, blessed Lord and Master giving his face to be spit upon, and then give myself airs, and say, “I cannot bear this scorn, I cannot bear this pain!” What, does the King pass over the brook Kidron, and must there be no brook Kidron for you? Does the Master bear the cross, and must your shoulders never be galled? Did they call the Master of the house “Beelzebub,” and must they call you “Reverend Sir?” Did they laugh at him, and scoff at him, and must you be honoured? Are you to be “gentleman” and “lady” where Christ was “that fellow?” For his birth they loaned him a stable, and for his burial he borrowed a grave. Oh friends, let pride disappear, and let us consider it our highest honour to be permitted to stoop as low as we ever can.
31. And, then, his example further comforts us by the fact that he was calm amid it all. Oh, the deep rest of the Saviour’s heart! They set him up upon that mock throne, but he did not answer with an angry word; they put a reed into his hand, but he did not change it to an iron rod, and break them like potters’ vessels, as he might have done. There was no wincing and no pleading for mercy. Sighs of pain were forced from him, and he said, “I thirst,” for he was not a stoic; but there was no fear of man, or timorous shrinking of heart.
32. The King of Martyrs well deserves to wear the martyr’s crown, for he endured very royally: there was never patience like his. That is your copy, brother, that is your copy, sister — you must write very carefully to write as well as that. You need to have your Master to hold your hand, in fact, whenever children in Christ’s school write according to his copy, it is always because he holds their hand by his Spirit.
Last of all, our Saviour’s triumph is meant to be a stimulus and
encouragement to us. He stands before us this morning as the
Comforter of his people. Consider him who endured such opposition
from sinners against himself lest you are weary and faint in your
minds; for though he was once abased and despised, yet now he sits at
the right hand of God, and reigns over all things; and the day is
coming when every knee shall bow before him, and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Those who
spat upon him will rue the day. Come here, you who derided him! He
has raised you from the dead, come here and spit upon him now! You
who scourged him, bring your rods, see what you can do in this day of
his glory! See, they flee before him, they invoke the hills to
shelter them, they ask the rocks to open and conceal them. Yet it is
nothing except his face, that very same face they spat upon, which is
making earth and heaven to flee away. Yes, all things flee before the
majesty of his frown who once gave his back to the smiters, and his
cheeks to those who pulled out his hair. Be like him, then, you who
bear his name; trust him, and live for him, and you shall reign with
him in glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Isa 50; 53:1-7 Mt 26:62-68 Lu 23:8-11 Mt 27:27-30]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, In Heaven — ‘Touched With The Feeling Of Our Infirmities’ ” 327]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Church, Ordinances, The Lord’s Supper — The Sorrows Of Our Lord” 937]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Life on Earth — Despised And Rejected Of Men” 268]
Jesus Christ, In Heaven
327 — “Touched With The Feeling Of Our Infirmities”
1 Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great High Priest our nature wears,
The Patron of mankind appears.
2 He, who for men their Surety stood,
And pour’d on earth his precious blood,
Pursues in heaven his mighty plan,
The Saviour and the friend of man.
3 Though now ascended up on high,
He bends on earth a brother’s eye;
Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame.
4 Our fellow sufferer yet retains
A fellow feeling of our pains,
And still remembers in the skies,
His tears, and agonies, and cries.
5 In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part;
He sympathizes in our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.
6 With boldness therefore at the throne,
Let us make all our sorrows known,
And ask the aid of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.
Michael Bruce, 1770, a.
Church, Ordinances, The Lord’s Supper
937 — The Sorrows Of Our Lord
1 Well praise our risen Lord,
While at his feast we sit,
His griefs a hallowed theme afford
For sweetest music fit.
2 Such torments he endured
As none e’er felt before,
That joy and bliss might be secured
To us for evermore.
3 Hurried from bar to bar,
With blows and scoffs abused;
Reviled by Herod’s men of war,
With Pilate’s scourges bruised.
4 His sweet and reverend face
With spittle all profaned;
That visage, full of heavenly grace,
With his own blood distain’d.
5 Stretch’d on the cruel tree,
He bled, and groaned, and cried;
And in a mortal agony,
Languish’d a while and died.
6 Then up to heaven he rose,
That we might thither go,
Where love and praises have no end,
Where joys no changes know.
Joseph Stennett, 1709, a.
Jesus Christ, Life on Earth
268 — Despised And Rejected Of Men
1 Rejected and despised of men,
Behold a man of woe!
And grief his close companion still
Through all his life below!
2 Yet all the griefs he felt were ours,
Ours were the woes he bore;
Pangs not his own, his spotless soul
With bitter anguish tore.
3 We held him as condemn’d of heaven,
An outcast from his God;
While for our sins he groan’d, he bled,
Beneath his Father’s rod.
4 His sacred blood hath wash’d our souls
From sin’s polluting stain;
His stripes have heal’d us, and his death
Revived our souls again.
William Robertson, 1751.