Thursday, March 8, 2012

George Smeaton: a deepest possible humiliation becomes our very boast

The apostles justly regarded the crucifixion as the deepest possible humiliation. It was the most ignominious of punishments, inflicted only on slaves and the lowest of the people; and if free men were at any time subjected to crucifixion for great crimes, such as robbery, high treason, or sedition, the sentence could not be executed till they were put into the category of slaves by degradation. Their liberty was taken from them by servile stripes and scourging, as was done to Christ. However that crisis in Christ's history perplexed and saddened the apostles for a time, they no sooner discerned the deep underlying truth of the symbol than they triumphed and gloried in the deep abasement to which the Lord of glory had descended for them, enduring the cross and despising the shame. Their symbol was the cross; their boast was the cross: they could not live without it; they could not die without it. They set forth, wherever they went, that the types of the law had received their fulfillment in the cross, and that the Messiah had died in such a way that every one must necessarily perceive that the curse of the law was fulfilled upon Him in our room and stead.

(Smeaton, George. The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991. Print. 15-6)

I think most of us can conceive how minor trials and largely insignificant difficulties could be redeemed. You only need to look to the "silver lining" in the clouds, "keep your chin up", with a "stiff upper lip", and  you'll see "the sun will come out tomorrow". These cliches are evidence of humanities ability to cope with bumps in the road of life.

But what if we're not talking about "bumps in the road", but rather craters engulfing not only the road but all surrounding level ground. Keeping you chin up is not the answer when life throws out it "deepest humiliation" at you. When the greatest hopes and dreams you entertain are crushed under the weight of tribulations, you need more than to look to a silver lining.

Consider the apostles, whose great hopes and aspirations were killed alongside their Messiah as he was crucified on a cross. Consider that their greatest grief would become their great rallying cry and their very reason for living. Cliches cannot produce that. Only God can. Only a sin-conquering, death-defeating Saviour can effect that change.

The cross became their boast, despite it originally being their bane.

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