Felon

 

“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” John 19:34.

… While our Lord lived, He was the subject of every form of scorn. He was scourged as none but a felon might be according to the Roman Law. He was spat upon and mocked, as even a felon ought not to have been. That crown of thorns, that reed scepter and that old scarlet cloak — who could have invented a more shameful insignia for One who was greater than all the kings on the earth but who was brought exceedingly low? And our Lord’s death, itself, was a great portion of His shame. It was a shame for Him to die — and ignominy for Him to die the death of hanging on the Cross. Heraldry has so emblazoned the symbol that we do not ordinarily apprehend the real shame to which Christ was exposed. Were I to preach to you tonight that a certain man who was hanged was very God, people would begin to say, “Why do you preach of one who died on the gallows as a felon?” Literally and truly, that is just how Jesus Christ died, according to the customs of His times. Crucifixion was to the Romans what hanging is to us, only it was worse. It was more shameful, for crucifixion was reserved for the very worst of crimes. Not all murderers were so punished, but only the worst and vilest crimes with murder to aggravate them received this opprobrious doom. People hang crosses round their necks and wear them as ornaments — I wonder whether they would make ornaments of gallows? Yet it means that. It is just the same thing and this is the shame of Christ. This is the very shame in which Paul rejoiced and gloried, that Jesus Christ was not ashamed to be ashamed! That He was willing to be made ashamed and a curse for us! That He was content to be treated with all the scorn that human malignity and inhuman cruelty could heap upon Him!

But, Beloved, when Christ was dead, they might certainly have ceased from their scorn. But no, the brutal Roman soldiers were not very nice as to what they did with living bodies. They would not, therefore, be particular as to what they did with dead bodies! Therefore this soldier, in a mere freak of wanton brutality, thrust his lance into the Savior’s heart. It was the last kick of the old enemy. It was, as it were, the last of the spit from the foul mouth of human slander and hatred. It was the last thrust that human malice could give to the Lord of Life and Glory! I see in this the mark, the crowning emblem of the shame which He endured.

Well, and what then? Why, it should teach us, dear Friends, what a shameful thing sin must be! For, though Christ was no sinner, yet when our sins were laid upon Him, look how God treated Him and permitted Him to be treated as an outcast — to be covered with the utmost shame! Ah Sin, what a shameful thing you must be! Blush, Christian, that you should be guilty of it. Blush again, that you do not blush more often! Be ashamed that you are not ashamed of sin, and be offended that your heart should be so stolid over a thing so detestable.

Charles Spurgeon, “A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 18, 1912. DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.” Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 58: 1912

Christ was a felon. Condemned in criminal court. He suffered a most degrading death. How could contemplation of the word, “felon” be of use to a devotional blog?

We can consider Christ’s suffering as a felon. Fully grasping the shame and indignity of how he suffered may have a spiritual resonance with us as we are exposed to the depth of God’s love and the horrific price of sin. These sins aren’t just “nominal and childish ones”, such as getting short with one’s wife, or failure to pray enough times a day. The sins we are guilty of range from “greed, trickery, and exploitation” (C. S. Lewis), to “real, great, grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very greatest and most shocking sins” (Luther).  We have to understand these charges also being true of  ourselves in the present tense.  This kind of understanding is where contrition takes place.

Secondly, it might take a little bit of the sting out of the tone when we use this word against our neighbors, or even the vilest criminals.  That Christ was one too should cause us to take pause.

Thirdly, those actually under such a sentence from the state can find some comfort. That the King of the Universe has an earthly title that they share. They have good company.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we pray for felons. First we consider that our treatment of our neighbor and our idolatries would make us just as worthy of that cross, that treatment. Secondly, may we temper our disdain for our slipping brothers and sisters, for those who do evil to us. Knowing that the word, “felon” has a different kind of sting in the light of the cross. Thirdly, let us remind all prisoners and those under state action of their worth and dignity, and Someone who shared their title. AMEN. 

 

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