At present I’m reading the biography of Eric Clapton. Clapton, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, is the king of the guitar. He is so good that not only do people know his name, many know his unique style and sound.
On one occasion when Clapton was in treatment for drugs and alcoholism a counselor asked him a penetrating question, “who are you?”. At first he was filled with rage. He felt deeply disrespected that someone would even ask such a question. “Of course you know who I am”, he thought to himself.
I think if we are being honest we can all identify with Clapton. None of us likes to be disrespected. We especially don’t like being forgotten. Who of us hasn’t been a bit insulted because someone has forgotten our name? We have a certain idea of our standing in society and our dignity before our fellow man. If someone treats us in a way that does not match up to our perceived worth and dignity we respond with anger.
As I read through John Newton’s sermon Voluntary Suffering I was taken aback by the contrast between Jesus and my own heart in this regard. He as Newton says,
“the King of kings, and Lord of lords, whom all the angels of God worship, made himself so entirely of no reputation that the basest of the people, the servants, the common soldiers, were not afraid to make him the object of their derision, and to express their hatred in the most sarcastic and contemptuous manner.”
What is shocking about this is that Jesus could have at any moment called upon a legion of angels and stopped the whole thing. Or, he having power over his own life could have gave up his spirit at any moment. But he did not because he
“knew that no blood but his own could make atonement for sin; that nothing less than his humiliation could expiate our pride; that if he did not thus suffer, sinners must inevitably perish; and therefore (such was his love!) he cheerfully and voluntarily ‘gave his back to the smiters’ and ‘his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair’.”
What kind of King is this?
This king who would endure the most offensive of insults—the spit upon the face—in order to procure freedom for the very people who disgraced him.
This king who endured the scorn having his beard plucked from his face. They couldn’t even give him the dignity of shamefully shaving his beard. They had to take it a step further and rip it out with their dirty hands. And this king endured it so that he could swallow up the shame of such men.
This king of whom they put a crown of thorns and mocked his kingdom. They beat him. They paraded and triumphed over him as if he were a helpless sheep being led to the slaughter and he endured all of this so that He could triumph and enemy far greater and do this for the sake of those who have mocked him.
Oh, what kind of King is this?
Newton’s finally application of this is fitting in our day. In the West Christianity is becoming less and less acceptable. We are being persecuted on every side. And as we quickly have moved from majority to minority I wonder which type of people we will be? Will we be of those who say, “Don’t you know who I am?” or will be like the suffering servant who endures the ridicule and scorn for the sake of His brethren?
I close with this from Newton:
Shall we then refuse to suffer shame for his sake, and be intimidated, by the frowns or contempt of men, from avowing our attachment to him! Ah! Lord, we are, indeed, capable of this baseness and ingratitude. But, if thou art pleased to strengthen us with the power of thy Spirit, we will account such disgrace our glory. Then we will not hang down our heads and despond, but will rather rejoice and be exceeding glad, if the world revile us and persecute us, and speak all manner of evil against us, provided it be falsely, and provided it be for thy sake!