He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.
I. AN EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION TO WRONG. The slave-driver (Exodus 3:7; Job 3:18), or the exactor of a tax or a debt (Deuteronomy 15:2, 3; 2 Kings 23:35), is the image of oppression in its urgency and its contumely· And the silence of the suffering One eloquently speaks of his resignation (Psalm 38:14; Psalm 39:9). The gentle uncomplaining lamb may well set him forth "with power at his disposal, yet as meek as if he had no power; with consciousness of impending fate, yet calm as if ignorant of it" (cf. Jeremiah 11:19; 1 Peter 2:23). The idea of the Lamb of God in the New Testament rests in part upon this passage "The two or three who can win it may be called victors in life's conflict; to them belongs the regnum et diadema tutum. His was the lot represented by our great poet as tempting in its extreme anguish to thoughts of suicide. But from another source the Servant obtains his quietus. He was not supported by the thought that the meaning of his sufferings was understood and laid to heart by his contemporaries. They did not see that for the rebellion of the people he was stricken. And even after death insult pursued his memory (cf. Jeremiah 26:23). They buried his body, not amidst the remains of his departed friends, but with the wicked and the criminal, the proud deniers of God, or with the rich and haughty Gentiles. This was the last mark of an ignominy (Isaiah 14:19), and it was all undeserved. How mighty the contrast of appearances and results! The despised of men is in reality the eternally honoured of God.
II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE AND DECREE. There was no cruel accident or misunderstanding in all this; it was the result of Divine deliberate will - the pleasure of Jehovah. The Servant was to lay down his life as a guilt offering. He was to fulfil and crown the idea of all sacrifice in his own Person. Restitution was to be made for injured rights of property. Israel had become de-consecrated. Her life had been forfeited, and satisfaction must be rendered. And this is provided in the self-dedication of the Servant. And the result will be that he will become the Head of a spiritual posterity (cf. Psalm 22:30). His piety will be rewarded by length of days. Both these are figures of highest blessing among the Hebrews (Genesis 12:2; Deuteronomy 6:2; Psalm 91:16; Psalm 127:5; Psalm 128:6; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 17:6). He will be promoted to a scene of high spiritual employment (Isaiah 52:13), the pleasure of Jehovah" prospering under his conduct. His former spiritual agony and toil of spirit, his travail (Psalm 110:10; Job 3:10; Jeremiah 20:18; Ecclesiastes 2:11-20; Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 for the word), will be abundantly compensated by the joy of contemplation of the progressing work of salvation, as the husbandman is satisfied with the sight of the harvest, for which he has "sown in tears." On the foundation of his sacrifice and his teaching many will be redeemed from sin and become a righteous and a holy people. And so, without bloodshed and the din of battle, he will become a glorious Conqueror, and the spiritual kingdom of the Eternal will be among the world-subduing powers. All this because he humbled himself, because he was devoted, because he loved.
III. LESSONS. How mighty the power of patience! The hero of God is not clothed in purple, nor fed on sweets; "daily his own heart he eats." His hope sets not with the setting of suns; his faith is earlier in its rising than the stars. Amidst all his seeming weakness he cannot be crushed; and the blows of his adversaries miss their aim. The spiritual element is immortal, indefeasible, finally victorious.
"They say, through patience, chalk "This is he who, felled by foes, Though they sealed him in a rock, Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
"This is he who, felled by foes,
Though they sealed him in a rock,
Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
He was oppressed.I. THE NATURE OF THE SUFFERINGS. "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted."
II. THE CARRIAGE OF CHRIST UNDER THEM. "He opened not His mouth," which is amplified and illustrated by two similitudes, of a lamb going, to the slaughter, and a sheep before her shearers.
1. "He opened not His mouth." This shows two things.(1) The great patience of Christ.(2) His great love to man, shown in His wonderful silence, even when He might justly have spoken in His own defence, but would not seem to interrupt the design of God.
2. The particular resemblance.(1) "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter." It is an emblem of innocence, meekness, and patience. It may import weakness and slenderness of appearance in the world. Christ is nothing in show, though mighty in power. It noteth the meekness and sweetness of Christ, willingly yielding to be a sacrifice for us.(2) "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb." Christ did not open His mouth, unless to pray, instruct, and reprove.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. The oppression to which Christ was subjected was of no ordinary kind. The first three Gospels indicate to some extent the spirit of hostility which animated the people, though in the fourth Gospel the advancing stages of that hostility are most clearly marked. At the last we find Jesus hurried off to trial. There were two trials: first, the Jewish, and then the Roman one. In the first, so far was the mind of the accusers set against Christ, that neither the fairness nor even the form of proper judicial procedure was observed. In the facts of(1) the trial being begun, continued, and finished, apparently, in the course of one night,(2) witnesses against the accused being sought for by the judges,(3) the evidence of one witness not being sustained by another,(4) questions being put to the accused which Hebrew law did not sanction,(5) a demand being made for confession, which Jewish doctors expressly forbade, and(6) all being followed by a sentence pronounced twenty-four hours too soon — in all these six main features the Jewish "trial" was an outrage on Hebrew law. Nor was the second trial a whit more in accordance with the rules of Roman procedure. In the first trial the point of law was, the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God; and, without any proof, that was pronounced invalid, and therefore blasphemous. In the Roman accusation the question concerned the claim of Christ to be a king; and the point on which the whole matter turned was this, "Did Christ's Kingdom clash with Caesar's rights?" And though the Lord Jesus had expressed Himself with a clearness on this point which ought to have made mistake impossible, yet men came with lies on their lips to charge Him with plotting against the Roman Government. Pilate, the governor, who shows by turns indecision, complaisance, bluster and subserviency, evasion, protest, compromise, superstitious dread, conscientious reluctance, cautious duplicity and sheer moral cowardice — is overcome at last, and decides against his knowledge to please the people, perhaps (as men on the incline of scepticism must sooner or later be) "stricken with inward paralysis from want of a motive and a hope." It would not be easy to say in which of the two trials the injustice was the more glaring; there was a more striking violation of form in the Hebrew trial; but, perhaps, a grosser violation of conscience in the president at the Roman one.
2. Amid this oppression there was no defence of Himself. Once He called attention to His rights as a Hebrew; once and again He reaffirmed His claims when challenged on oath. But "when He was reviled, He reviled not again." Why this silence? He knew His hour was come, and He yielded Himself to the stroke. He knew that His words would not tell rightly on His accusers in the state of mind which they cherished. With the far-distant future before Him, He saw that the sequel would vindicate His honour, and He could wait. He loved, too, to show patience rather than to display power; and He would show us the Divine grandeur of keeping power in reserve.
3. Underlying all this there was a Divine purpose being wrought out, of which the men of that generation had no conception. Man meant one thing, God was intending another.
4. This great work, of which the men of that generation never dreamt, was that the Messiah was cut off, "a stroke for them," for the people who sought His life and crucified Him. Let us, then,(1) Give the full and loving consent of our hearts to this Divine arrangement.(2) Learn to see sin in the light in which God views it.(3) Live a life of faith on Jesus Christ as being ever in His own glorious person our atoning sacrifice.(4) Be perpetually thankful and devoted to Him who consented to lay down His life for us.(5) Imitate our Saviour. In its relation to the government of God, the sacrifice of Christ must ever stand absolutely alone. But in that aspect of it which represented fidelity to the truth, and devotion to man, we can imitate it, even though at a far remove. It is precisely in connection with this view of it that Peter tells us, He "left us an example that we should follow His steps." But how can we follow such steps? By patience under wrong. By being willing to renounce our own ease and comfort, if thereby we may advance the welfare of others. By taking the sorrows of others on ourselves, not only by suffering for them, but by suffering with them. Suffering for others is the divinest form of life in a sinful world. By bearing others on our hearts in prayer, even though they may be our bitterest foes.
(C. Clemance, D.D.)
Yet He opened not His mouthMatthew 26:63; Matthew 27:14): — What can be said of the silence of Christ? Much has been said of the words He spake, and too much can never be said of them, for He spake as never man spake. Much has been said of the sacrifice He made. Much has been said of His miracles, etc., but how little of His silence, and yet how full of meaning to every thoughtful and inquiring-mind.
I. IT WAS WONDERFUL. Wonderful that Christ should remain silent, especially under false accusations — false witnesses giving testimony against Him, and a wicked judge about to deliver the charge. He who could with one word have made the world tremble, witnesses, judge and jury fall dead before Him, testifying to His innocence as well as His Divinity by their lifeless bodies. The silent years of Christ — how wonderful! He who knew so well how to speak and what to say. But, we can understand something of this — it was a time of restraint, of growth, of preparation. But the preparation is over and Christ Jesus has asserted Himself. He has declared Himself by His life and by miracles to be the Son of God. He is falsely and basely accused, declared an impostor, sentenced and condemned to die, scourged mocked spit upon, arrayed in a gorgeous robe and finally crucified, but silent amid it all. Do you ask why? The wonder is only increased. It was for our sake.
II. HIS SILENCE WAS FULL OF SUFFERING, suffering that was vicarious and expiatory. We are not to attribute the justification of sinners to the death of Christ alone. It was the sinless purity of perfect obedience of His whole life.
III. IT WAS OMINOUS; that is full of foreboding, portentous, inauspicious, foreshowing ills. It told of the utter degradation of the men before whom He stood. He had already said and done everything that was necessary to establish His claims to the Messiahship. His silence said, what more can I do unto My vineyard than I have already done unto it, and having done all He could do, He answered now to never a word. It is an appalling sign when Christ ceases to plead with any of us. It shows that we have seared our hearts — that we are bent on ruin.
IV. CHRIST'S SILENCE WAS INSPIRED, and therefore full of instruction as well as the words He spake. I refer now to the general silence of Christ. If His words were inspired must not His silence have been also? It is absolutely inconceivable that He who is Himself the Truth could have connived at heresy in any of the great doctrines He taught, or desired that should be taught even through silence.
1. Take the great doctrine of our Lord's Deity, and was it not the very question under dispute and for which He had been accused "of making Himself equal with God"? Now this fundamental doctrine is established by a vast and varied mass of evidence, but no stronger proof of it is anywhere to be found, as it seems to me, than that to be drawn from the silence of Christ. We know how Peter checked the homage of Cornelius, and how the angel shrank in alarm from the worship which John offered him. But Christ never acted so; He held His peace; He spake not a word. He never so much as hinted that this devotion should not be paid Him, and when His enemies accused Him of making Himself equal with God, He did not repel the charge with horror. Meek and lowly as He was He accepted all the worship that men offered Him; He welcomed it, and by His silent approval seemed to claim it.
2. Apply it to the authenticity of the Old Testament Scriptures, and what an argument we find! He held His peace in regard to all these criticisms that are being made. He condemned the unscriptural traditions of the Jews, but He at no time questioned the purity or integrity of the Old Testament Canon.
3. Apply His silence to the perpetuity of the Sabbath law and with what force it speaks. There are those amongst us who maintain that the Sabbath was only an institution for the Jews, and that its observance is not binding now under the Christian dispensation, but Christ nowhere says so. He often spoke in reference to Sabbath observance. He found the Sabbath a standing ordinance of God, and He left it such, only freshened by the dew of His blessing.
V. CHRIST'S SILENCE WAS BEAUTIFUL, especially during His dread trial. It is difficult to speak aright amid enemies and detractors, but it is even more difficult to be silent right before them. The lip is ever ready to curl unbidden, the light of malice hurries to the eye, in a moment the crimson of anger mounts to the cheek before we are aware, but not so with Christ.
VI. CHRIST'S SILENCE IS EXEMPLARY TO US ALL. Self-imposed silence often becomes a duty. There are calumnies good men cannot refute. There are accusations which they must leave unanswered.
1. Because of the perils of speech. In self-justification we are liable to self-glorification, to irritability, to extravagance.
2. Because of the blessings of the discipline of silence. If we spend our time in self-vindication, then farewell labour for Christ, for we will have no time for anything else.
(J. I. Blackburn.)
(J. I. Blackburn.)
(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)
He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter
1. As to these sufferings, our Lord is called a lamb in the text; He was as defenceless, and as innocent as a lamb is. Since then Scripture compares Him to this inoffensive and unprotected animal, we may, without presumption or irreverence, take the image as a means of conveying to our minds those feelings which our Lord s sufferings should excite within us. Consider how very horrible it is to read the accounts which sometimes meet us of cruelties exercised on brute animals. What is it moves our very hearts, and sickens us so much at cruelty shown to poor brutes? First, that they have done no harm; next, that they have no power whatever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which makes their sufferings so especially touching. He who is higher than the angels, deigned to humble Himself even to the state of the brute creation.
2. Take another example, and you will see the same thing still more strikingly. How overpowered should we be, nay not at the sight only, but at the very hearing of cruelties shown to a little child, and why so? for the same two reasons, because it was so innocent, and because it was so unable to defend itself. You feel the horror of this, and yet you can bear to read of Christ's sufferings without horror. Our Lord was not only guiltless and defenceless, but He had come among His persecutors in love.
3. And now, let us suppose that some venerable person whom we have known as long as we could recollect any thing, and loved and reverenced, suppose such a one, who had often done us kindnesses, rudely seized by fierce men, made a laughing-stock, struck, spit on, severely scourged and at last exposed with all his wounds to the gaze of a rude multitude who came and jeered him, what would be our feelings? But what is all this to the suffering of the holy Jesus, which we bear to read of as a matter of course! A spirit of grief and lamentation is expressly mentioned in Scripture as a characteristic of those who turn to Christ. If then we do not sorrow, have we turned to Him
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
The Thinker.1. There is only One in whom are fulfilled all the prophecies of this wonderful Lesson (Acts 8:34, 35).
2. It may be noticed how animals are chosen in Holy Scripture as symbols of Divine Persons and mysteries; and Christian art has perpetuated the association. The dove has been the symbol of the Holy Ghost from earliest times. The man, the calf, the lion, and the eagle represent the four Evangelists, and are types of the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. Christ is represented by a lamb, for this was the symbol of our Lord both in the Old Testament and the New. Indeed, it was such a popular symbol in the early ages of the Church, that authority was invoked to check it as a substitute for His human body.
3. Throughout Holy Scripture, by hints and prophecies, by types and fulfilment, Christ is depicted by the lamb (Genesis 22:8; the Paschal lamb; the, daily sacrifice in the temple; St. John s exclamation, "Behold the Lamb of God!" John 19:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6, 12; Revelation 6:1; Revelation 7:14, etc.). The symbol has two aspects — that of the victim, and that of the example. Let us look at it in both lights.
I. THE VICTIM.
1. The text expresses the willingness of the Sufferer. "He was ill-treated whilst He bowed Himself, " i.e. "suffered voluntarily," as the simile of the unresisting animal explains. It is a prophecy of the self-oblation of Christ (John 10:15, 18). The oblation was the result of love. He was led to the slaughter with the full knowledge of all that was before Him. The voluntariness of Christ's sufferings is a ground of merit and a secret of attractiveness. Sacrifice must "be the blood of the soul," the offered will, to have value before God; and it must be spontaneous, to touch and win the hearts of men.
2. "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter" reminds us of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. He was "obedient unto death," a sacrificial death — different from a mere martyr s death, as the words just before the text show. The Lord had laid on Him the punishment of Israel's guilt — nay, "the iniquity of us all." There can be no getting rid of "the poena vicaria here" (Delitzsch). This is a great mystery. But it is not one man suffering for another, for "no man can deliver his brother;" but God Himself in man's nature suffering. Those who think such a mode of redemption unjust, it will be found, have not grasped the dogma of the Incarnation, or the oneness of will in the Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity. It was an act of love. Death is the test of love, and the worst kind of death, that of the cross, the most convincing test. "He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter" is a sentence which at once would bring up before the mind of the Jew the sacrificial worship in which he had often taken part. In the language of St. Paul, Christ "became sin for us" — a Sin Offering — "who knew no sin." In the language of St. Peter, we were redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish."
II. THE EXAMPLE.
1. One of the purposes for which Christ came was to be an Example. The truth is sometimes obscured by dwelling too exclusively upon the mystery of redemption; as, on the other hand, there have not been wanting those who have been too much absorbed in that view of our Lord as the True Light which meets the cravings of the human intellect. To keep the proportion of faith is not always easy, especially as personal needs and experiences are apt to exaggerate some one aspect of a mystery.
2. Christ's life throughout has this twofold view — sacrificial and exemplary. We might have expected that the latter view would be associated chiefly with His public ministry, and the former with His Passion. But it is not so. Both culminate on the cross. "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example" (1 Peter 2:21); and, as the context shows, the final sufferings are before the apostle's gaze. A suffering world needs a suffering Example. The Passion brought out to view the virtues which man is ever requiring to exercise, and in a manner which exercises a spell upon all who look upon "that sight." Even those who are blind to the atoning efficacy of the mystery are touched by its moral loveliness.
3. "Brought as a lamb to the slaughter;" "dumb before her shearers." This is a difficult virtue which the words unveil — patience, or meekness. What we read in the prophecy we see in the Passion (Matthew 27:12, 14; John 19:9) and upon the cross. "All three hours His silence cried." "When He was reviled, He reviled not again." The lamb, innocent and silent, aptly represents the Lamb of God, meek and patient in the midst of His slaughterers.
1. Let us seek through the sufferings of Christ to realize the enormity and malice of sin. Pardon without any revelation of Divine justice and holiness might have demoralized mankind. We know not "how that satisfaction operated towards God," and the Church has not attempted to define this. That Christ died "for us men and for our salvation" is all that we are required to believe. and that is the kernel of the doctrine.
2. Seek to imitate the patience of Jesus — to be silent when "reviled," and to still within the movements of anger and pride.
3. To be able to do this we must meditate upon Christ's sufferings, and see in all things, as they reach us, the will of God, though our sufferings may arise from the faults and sins of others. We must "commit our cause to Him that judgeth righteously," accepting calmly all that we may have to bear.
4. We must pray for the help of the Holy Ghost, without which we cannot grow in patience and meekness, which are "fruits" of the Spirit.
And as a sheep before her shearers is dumbI. OUR SAVIOUR'S PATIENCE. Our Lord was brought to the shearers that He might be shorn of His comfort, and of His honour, shorn even of His good name, and shorn at last of life itself; but when under the shearers He was as silent as a sheep. How patient He was before Pilate, and Herod, and Caiaphas, and on the cross.
1. Our lord was dumb and opened not His mouth against His adversaries, and did not accuse one of them of cruelty or injustice.
2. As He did not utter a word against His adversaries, so He did not say a word against any one of us. Zipporah said to Moses, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me," as she saw her child bleeding; and surely Jesus might have said to His Church, "Thou art a costly spouse to Me, to bring Me all this shame and bloodshedding." But He giveth liberally, He openeth the very fountain of His heart, and upbraideth not.
3. There was not a word against His Father, nor a syllable of repining at the severity of the chastisement laid upon Him for our sakes. You and I have murmured when under a comparatively light grief, thinking ourselves hardly done by. But not so the Saviour. Many are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but few are the lamentations of Jesus. Jesus wept, and Jesus sweat great drops of blood, but He never murmured nor felt rebellion in, His heart. I see in this our Lord's complete submission. There was complete self-conquest too. There was complete absorption in His work.
II. VIEW OUR OWN CASE UNDER THE SAME METAPHOR AS THAT WHICH IS USED IN REFERENCE TO OUR LORD. As He is so are we also in this world. Just as a sheep is taken by the shearer, and its wool is cut off, so doth the Lord take His people and shear them, taking away all their earthly comforts, and leaving them bare.
1. A sheep rewards its owner for all his care and trouble by being shorn. Some of God s people can give to Christ a tribute of gratitude by active service, and they should do so gladly every day of their lives; but many others cannot do much in active service, and about the only reward they can give to their Lord is to render up their fleece by suffering when He calls upon them to suffer, submissively yielding to be shorn of their personal comfort when the time comes for patient endurance. The husband, or perhaps the wife, is removed, little children are taken away, property is shorn off, and health is gone. Sometimes the shears cut off the man's good name; slander follows; comforts vanish. Well, it may be that you are not able to glorify God to any very large extent except by undergoing this process.
2. The sheep is itself benefited by the operation of shearing. Before they begin to shear the sheep the wool is long and old, and every bush and briar tears off a bit of the wool, until the sheep looks ragged and forlorn. If the wool were left, when the heat of summer came the sheep would not be able to bear itself. So when the Lord shears us, we do not like the operation any more than the sheep do; but first, it is for His glory; and secondly, it is for our benefit, and therefore we are bound most willingly to submit. There are many things which we should like to have kept which, if we had kept them, would not have proved blessings but curses. A stale blessing is a curse.
3. Before sheep are shorn they are always washed. If the Good Shepherd is going to clip your wool, ask Him to wash it before He takes it off; ask to be cleansed in spirit, soul and body.
4. After the washing, when the sheep has been dried, it actually loses what was its comfort. You also will have to part with your comforts. The next time you receive a fresh blessing call it a loan. A loan, they say, should go laughing home, and so should we rejoice when the Lord takes back that which He had lent us.
5. The shearers take care not to hurt the sheep: they clip as close as they can, but they do not cut the skin. When they do make a gash, it is because the sheep does not lie still: but a careful shearer has bloodless shears. The Lord may clip wonderfully close: I have known Him clip some so close that they did not seem to have a bit of wool left, for they were stripped entirely.
6. The shearers always shear at a suitable time. It would be a very wicked, cruel, and unwise thing to begin sheep-shearing in winter time. Have you ever noticed that whenever the Lord afflicts us He selects the best possible time?
7. It is with us as with the sheep, there is new wool coming. Whenever the Lord takes away our earthly comforts with one hand, one, two, three, He restores with the other hand, six, a score, a hundred; we are crying and whining about the little loss, and yet it is necessary in order that we may be able to receive the great gain. If the Lord takes away the manna, as He did from His people Israel, it is because they have the old corn of the land of Canaan to live upon. If the water of the rock did not follow the tribes any longer, it was because they drank of the Jordan, and of the brooks.
III. LET US ENDEAVOUR TO IMITATE THE EXAMPLE OF OUR BLESSED LORD WHEN OUR TURN COMES TO BE SHORN.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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