I’m part of the mocking mob.
A hymn by Horatius Bonar.
I am continually moved by the words and works of Scottish churchman and theologian Horatius Bonar. The tenor of writings is uniquely cruciform, bringing to bear an exemplary christological faith that remains unmatched by his peers. Bonar’s hymns are priceless specimens of precisely what sinner-saints need. Namely, a persistent reminder of the efficacy of the blood that covers all our sin “once for all.” In the following lines, Bonar puts himself among the jeering mob that applauded as Christ was nailed to the Roman gibbet and crucified as a common criminal. But, in an unforeseen twist of grace, being among that mob means he’s one for whom mercy was won:
I see the crowd in Pilate’s hall,
I mark their wrathful mien;
Their shouts of “crucify” appall,
With blasphemy between.
And of that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude,
I recognize my own.
I see the scourges tear his back,
I see the piercing crown,
And of that crowd who smite and mock,
I feel that I am one.
Around yon cross, the throng I see,
Mocking the sufferer’s groan,
Yet still my voice it seems to be,
As if I mocked alone.
‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood,
I nailed him to the tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.
Yet not the less that blood avails,
To cleanse away my sin,
And not the less that cross prevails
To give me peace within.1
I can’t help but read those lines and weep as I, too, was one among that crowd. The chants of “Crucify him” come from my lips, revealing the squalor of sin that exists within my own soul. Wretched words that emanate from a wretch mouth. And yet, the blood which I and the mob called for is the same blood which reconciles us to God. Bruised and broken, naked and abhorred as that criminal appeared, he was yet the Christ of God, atoning for every sin of even those who were spitting on him in that moment. “Believer, not one sin of all your life was absent, when He was dragged to the cross,” exclaims Henry Law. “All your transgressions strained the cords. They concurred to drive in the nails, and to make deep the wounds. Your iniquities brought in that death. That death brings in your life.”2 And such is how a merciless mob is pardoned.
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1858), 227–28.
Henry Law, Christ Is All: The Gospel of the Pentateuch—Exodus (London: Religious Tract Society, 1864), 25.