For Good Friday, I’d like to share with you a meditation from Johann Gerhard on Christ’s Passion and the use it can serve for provoking repentance in us.
Below is the third of Gerhard’s Meditationes sacrae (Sacred Meditations), originally written in Latin. A previous English translation, which I consulted, was published in the late nineteenth century, but for this post I made my own translation. I have modified the original formatting to make it more useful for purposes of meditation and reflection.
Some readers may be familiar with Gerhard as a devotional writer; some may not. In my opinion, his devotional writing is stunning, almost without parallel. I hope that the following meditation is as moving and edifying to you as it is to me.
The Practice of Repentance from Our Lord’s Passion
From Johann Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations
Mark, O believing soul, the pain of the One suffering on the cross, the wounds of the One hanging on the cross, the torment of the One dying on the cross.
His head, before which angelic spirits must tremble, is pierced by a thick crown of thorns;
His face, more beautiful than the sons of men, is disfigured by the spit of the ungodly;
His eyes, brighter than the sun, darken in death;
His ears, which hear the praises of angels, hum with the insults and biting words of sinners;
His mouth, which brings forth divine speech and teaches angels, is given gall and vinegar to drink;
His feet, at whose footstool worship is given, are fastened with nails;
His hands, which stretched the heavens, are stretched out on the cross and fastened with nails;
His body, the most holy house and pure dwelling of deity, is lashed and punctured by the spear;
and nothing remained in Him except His tongue, in order that he might pray for those who crucified Him.
He who reigns in heaven with the Father is most sadly cast down by sinners on the cross.
God pours out His blood.
From the greatness of the price, judge the magnitude of the danger;
from the price of the remedy, judge the danger of the disease.
Great–do not doubt it–were the wounds, which could not be healed except by the wounds of His quickening and life-giving flesh;
great–be sure of it–was the disease, which could not be cured except by the death of the Doctor.
Consider, O believing soul, the most fiery wrath of God.
His eternal and only-begotten and only-beloved Son was made our Intercessor after the fall of our first parent; still God’s anger was not yet turned away.
He through whom God made the worlds was interceding, and the Most High was taking the cause of the wretched upon Himself as the Advocate of our salvation; still God’s anger was not yet turned away.
The Savior clothed Himself in flesh, so that the glory of His divinity might be communicated to our flesh and make expiation for our sinful flesh–so that the healing power of perfect righteousness might be communicated to our flesh and cleanse the poisoned condition that was clinging in our flesh, and so that grace might touch our flesh; still God’s anger was not yet turned away.
He transfers our sins and what our sins deserve to Himself;
His body is bound, beaten, wounded, pierced, crucified, laid in the tomb;
His blood flows freely like dew over all his limbs as He suffers;
His most holy soul is saddened beyond measure;
indeed, it is sorrowful even unto death;
it is subjected to the pains of hell;
the eternal Son of God cries out that he is forsaken by God.
He pours out so much bloody sweat, he feels so much anguish, that He who comforts all the angels needs the comfort of an angel;
He dies, who is the giver of life to all the living.
What will God do to the dry wood, if this is done to the green wood?
What will happen to sinners, if this is done to the Righteous and Holy One?
How will God punish our sins in ourselves, who was so fierce toward them in the Person of another?
How will God forever tolerate in his servants what He punishes so harshly in His Son?
What will they whom God condemns suffer, if He whom God singularly loves suffers such great pains?
If Christ did not depart from the world without scourging, who nevertheless came into the world without sin, how great are the scourgings they will deserve, who come into the world with sin, live in sin, and depart with sin?
The servant rejoices, while for his trespass the beloved Son feels such heavy pain.
The servant heaps up the wrath of the Master, while the Son labors so much to mollify and placate the wrath of the Father.
O, the infinite wrath of God!
O, unspeakable anger!
O, the inestimable strictness of righteousness!
He who is so fierce against His only and most beloved Son, who shares in His own essence, not because of some transgression of His own, but because He intercedes for a poor servant–what will He do to the servant who heedlessly perseveres in his sins and offenses?
Let the servant fear and be horrified and saddened over what he has deserved, while the Son is punished for what He has not deserved;
let the servant fear, who does not cease to sin, while the Son is in so much travail for sin;
let the creature fear, who crucifies the Creator;
let the servant fear, who kills the Master;
let the ungodly and the sinner fear, who has so afflicted the Godly and Holy One.
O dearest friends, let us hear Him crying out;
let us hear Him weeping.
He cries out from the cross, “See, O man, what I suffer for you; I cry out to you because I die for you; see the punishments that I receive; see the nails by which I am pierced; there is no pain like that by which I am tormented; although the external pain is so great the internal lamentation is heavier, since I find you to be so ungrateful.”
Have mercy on us, have mercy on us, You who alone have mercy, and turn our hearts of stone to Yourself.