Yesterday as a family we hunted used books. Generally I return home empty handed. But while thumbing across the bottom shelf in a dusty corner of a book warehouse I discovered an attractive collection of sermons by Brooke Foss Westcott titled The Victory of the Cross, a remarkably well preserved first edition published in 1888. Westcott was a noteworthy theologian in 19th century England and served as the Bishop of Durham for over a decade.
When we returned home the kids napped and I sunk into my reading chair with hot tea in hand and the snow falling outside the window. Not surprising, Westcott’s sermons are rich with insights, the gems of a life devoted to the serious study of the Bible.
At one point Westcott speaks of the Savior’s suffering. Christ’s sufferings were heavy, not merely because they were aggressive acts personally directed at him but because they were the acts of spiritually blind sinners. We can harden ourselves to opposition, Westcott writes, but Christ did not. He could not. It was his compassion that compounded his suffering. Listen carefully to what Westcott writes:
“We arm ourselves against pain by checking our emotions, by hardening ourselves to opposition, by closing our eyes to the extent of the evil about us. But it was not so with Christ. No isolation of absolute purity separated Him from the outcast, while His sinlessness was the measure of His loathing at sin. Every denunciation of woe which He uttered was wrung from a righteousness which was but the other side of love. The wrongs which He endured were more terrible as a symptom of spiritual blindness in those who inflicted them than as a personal agony. How often when He was threatened, and rejected and reviled, must the prayer have arisen in His heart which found a final expression upon the Cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. They knew not, but He knew, and even then He bore the burden of their hardness and unbelief.” (p. 67)
That line, “The wrongs which He endured were more terrible as a symptom of spiritual blindness in those who inflicted them than as a personal agony,” is worthy of reflection. It seems that the Savior’s compassion, in light of the sinner’s ignorance, compounded the Savior’s suffering to a degree that we cannot imagine.