Dark Dishonour - Answering Glory

C. E. Hocking, Cardiff

Our title was suggested by a verse of CENTRA Thompson's hymn which gripped our hearts during the Lord's Supper recently. The words arc familiar to many of us:

Every mark of dark dishonour Heaped upon the thorn crowned brow.

All the depths of Thy heart's sorrow Told in answering glory now.

It is to our Saviour's thorn crowned brow that the hymn writer directs us first, though we may extend the range to include other of the more obvious and external elements of His dark dishonour revealed in the scriptures. Then, it is upon the depths of our Lord's intimate, inner feelings, His thoughts and heart-sorrows that we are encouraged to focus.

Moving and demanding of our adoring response as these marks and depths are, we are urged on from there. We are drawn upward, to the very throne-room of heaven, to see in our beloved, exalted Lord every answering glory which the leather has bestowed upon the Son of His love now. And there are more to come! Our hearts go out to Him, we worship the worthy One.

Marks of Dark Dishonour

Think of that night in which our Saviour was betrayed. Was He not roughly seized and bound in Gethsemane, and taken away to Annas? After speaking to Annas one of the officers there struck Him with the hand. He was bound again before being taken to Caiaphas, and following those illegal proceedings He was buffeted with the palms and beaten by the men holding Him, They covered His lovely face with their vile spittle.

The next morning they bound Him again and led Him to Pilate. The Roman governor had Jesus scourged, and had Him brought out before the people. With compelling dignity He stood before them as the words rang out 'Behold the man!' For Pilate this was a designedly pitiable sight, intended to move the masses to sympathy toward the innocent Sufferer. The viciousness of that which He had endured was all too evident in the ghastliness of the spectacle. As it had been prophetically anticipated, so now it had come to be: He could say 'I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me'. The Roman soldiers added to His pain and indignity by plaiting and placing upon His head a cruel crown of thorns, and by smiting His head with the reed which they had earlier given Him as a mock sceptre. How meekly He accepted all of this, saying 'I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting'. At last they nailed Him to the tree. He was surrounded by enemies like so many wild beasts. At this, His silent submissiveness was broken by His prayer for those who so despitefully abused Him: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do'. What matchless and majestic mercy!

Surpassing the whole weight of human wrath He endured so patiently, is that impenetrable and immeasurable agony He knew as He bore the righteous wrath of God. What dark dishonour was trlis when, as the One made answerable for sin, He became a curse for us? What storms of overflowing wrath broke upon Him as He sank in the deep mire, wearied with crying, His throat dried, His strength dried up. Of God He said 'thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me'. The divine sword of execution was awakened against the Man who was God's fellow; no pitying eye was found. God brought Him 'into the dust of death'. Have you paused to consider that 'it pleased the Lord (i.e. it was within the terms of the Lord's good pleasure, the working out of His purpose) to bruise him; he hath put him to grief? He was 'smitten of God, and afflicted', wounded, bruised, chastised for the transgression of the people, when the Lord 'laid on him the iniquity of us all'.

Depths of His Heart Sorrow

Man's physical brutality was but a part of that which our Lord endured. Words and actions designed to humiliate, denigrate, implicate, all tools used in psychological warfare, added to the Saviour's sorrows. These were accentuated as He pondered that 'they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love'. Many things must have deeply affected our Lord's holy and righteous soul. He listened to the lies of those false witnesses, heard the charge of blasphemy pronounced, and was subjected to the mockery and reviling of those men that held Him. The sadness and yet the tenderness of that look which broke Peter after his threefold denial spoke volumes regarding the heart sorrow of the Saviour. Even His own forsook Him and fled. What grief it would have brought to Him to hear the false accusations that He had perverted His own nation, that He had forbidden the paying of tribute. Herod joined with his soldiers in setting Him at nought, mocking Him, and arraying Him in gorgeous robes. How deeply affecting it must have been when the cry went out 'Not this man, but Barabbas'. The Roman soldiers enjoyed then-humiliating of Him and the mock homage paid to Him. They not only stripped Him before crucifying Him, but with callous detachment and self interest shared out His garments as a part of the spoil of the day. The One who came to save trangressors was numbered among them. For Him, the railing and mocking did not end once He was crucified. The passers-by, the chief priests and rulers, the soldiers, and even the robbers crucified alongside Him continued their heartless abuse. He could say 'I became a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads'. He was indeed a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, a reproach of men, despised of the people, and laughed to scorn, rejected by men and deserted by His own. The sensitivity of His holy soul only served to magnify the depths of sorrows He experienced through all of this and so much more. Reproach, indeed, had broken His heart. He could say 'for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face ... the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me'.

Yet beyond what He was called upon to endure from His creatures, there remain those unplumbed depths of sorrows while He was forsaken of His God. He could confess that the waters were 'come into my soul', they 'compassed me about, even to the soul'. The unanswered 'Why' that escaped from His lips on the tree revealed not only His awful loneliness, but that His God had forsaken Him as your sinbearer and mine. Was it not His God that 'put him to grief, that made 'his soul an offering for sin'. He did go more than just a little further in 'the travail of his soul', when He 'poured out his soul unto death'. While it is true that the people hid their faces from Him, there were deeper sorrows still for Him when God hid His face from Him in the hour of His deep need.

What Answers to this in Glory Now?

Through His work upon the cross our Lord Jesus glorified God upon the earth, having accomplished the work He had been given to do. Because of this, death could not keep its prey, and God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, vindicating His Messiahship and Lordship. On taking Him to heaven He said 'Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool'. Once debased and humiliated by men, our glorious Lord is now at God's right hand, not only being exalted but highly exalted, a term and honour specially reserved for Him. In His lovely face, once cruelly marred, we read 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God . The thorn-crowned One of the past is crowned with glory and honour today, and we long to see Him rightly crowned with many diadems when He comes out of heaven in the future. The One stripped at Golgotha is now 'clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle'. Just one of those nail pierced hands, glorified, upholds the churches.

The mock homage of earthdwellers has given way to the glad worship of heaven's hosts who crowd around Him owning His worthiness, awaiting His orders. His past heart-sorrow, strangely interpenetrated with 'the joy that was set before him', is transformed in the presence of God now with 'fulness of joy' and 'pleasures for evermore'. He who was numbered among the trangressors, is now far above all principality, and power, having the name which is above every name. The mock homage paid Him by the soldiers is all behind Him; God has declared that 'at the name of Jesus every knee should bow'. Men once wagged their tongues at Him, but it is decreed that 'every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'. His submissiveness as the Lamb of God when before His shearers, finds its antithesis in God putting 'all things under his feet'. This is the Man whom the Lord has delighted to honour. His newly acquired glories extend beyond those which will channel blessing to Israel, for God has said 'It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light lo the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee'. Isa. 49. 6-7.

We are still moved when we look back to 'Behold the man!', but how we are drawn out in worship as we look up and confess Him as our Lord and our God. Of the soldiers at the cross it was said that 'silting down they watched (lit. 'kept guard') him there', but God's answer to this is in the words of the prophet Isaiah who calls all to 'Behold your God!'