THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST
by Octavius Winslow

The Emotion of Anger in Christ

    And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3:5

    He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Mark 3:5

    He looked around at them angrily, because he was deeply disturbed by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, "Reach out your hand." The man reached out his hand, and it became normal again! Mark 3:5

It is not in partial light that our Lord's emotional nature must be studied. Like lines radiating to a center, or the varied hues forming the arch which spans the heavens, His emotions must be considered, not separately and divisibly, but in combination and as a whole, in order to form a correct idea of the portrait. The incident, thus related in His life, presents a feeling differing in its expression, though not in its nature, from any we have as yet considered; and at first sight He appear, in a character less lovely and engaging than we have been wont to admire. That the emotion of anger should find a place in a heart so loving and gracious would seem discordant with all our tender, holy conceptions of the "gentleness of Christ." But, as we investigate the emotion and the occasion which gave birth to it, we think it will appear consonant with the finest and holiest feelings of His heart, and will develop those qualities of His nature which are necessary to the symmetry and perfection of the portrait. Let it, however, be premised, before we proceed further in this subject, that anger, wrath, displeasure, are not the same sinful passions in the Divine that they are in the human. Pure emotions in God, they are expressions of His hatred and punishment of sin, growing out of the holy necessity of His being. God's anger and wrath in punishing the ungodly is nothing less than His holiness and justice in their most awful exercise.
The cross of Calvary was the most august and awful illustration of this truth the universe ever beheld. The spectacle which presents Jesus suffering as the Surety Head of His Church, exhibits Him as enduring the wrath of God to its uttermost, justly due for His people's transgressions. What was the bitter cup our Lord then drained- what the soul-agony He then felt- what the bodily suffering He then experienced- what the ignominious death He then endured, but God's hatred of sin, and the infliction of its penalty in the person of His beloved Son, suffering as the substitute of His Church? "He was made sin (a sin-offering) for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Min." Child of God there is no divine wrath, or anger, or displeasure in the bitterest, darkest dispensation of your God- since Christ, our Divine Surety and Head, endured and exhausted it all for you. Fear not, then, to enter the dark cloud- tremble not to drink the bitter cup- all, all is love.
We now proceed to view in its spiritual light the Incident and the Emotion.

THE INCIDENT.
The first circumstance which arrests our attention is- THE WITHERED HAND. We read, "And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand." This affliction may be regarded either as a divine judgment, or as a natural infirmity. Instances of both occur in God's Word. As a judgment of God, we have an intimation and solemn example in Jeroboam. With unhallowed rashness He put forth his hand to seize the prophet who denounced his idolatrous altar, and God smote and withered it. And so we read, "His hand, which He put forth against him, was dried up, so that He could not pull it in again to him." (1 Kings xiii. 4.) The lesson is solemn and instructive! The hand that would profanely rear idolatrous altars, or that would rashly deal with those who denounce them, Jehovah can dry up. The hand that, with unhallowed touch, would assail the truth of God's Word- or which would uphold and advance His kingdom and truth by means human and worldly, distrusting the power and faithfulness of God- He can smite and wither. We have to deal with a God jealous of His honor, who has said, "My glory will I not give to another," and who in regard to His servants has said, "Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm." In the case of the king of Israel, then, the withered arm was a judgment of God. But in the present instance it appears not to have been a divine punishment, but a natural infirmity, permitted and overruled by God to confirm the mission, and to illustrate the grace and power of Christ.
Now let us trace ITS SPIRITUAL TEACHING. In this withered hand we behold the emblem of the moral withering of the soul of man. The moment our first father stretched forth his hand to partake of the forbidden fruit, all his original righteousness, strength, and love withered, decayed, and dried up; and we, his posterity, are the spiritually paralyzed and shriveled limbs of a once stately tree God smote and destroyed. "It is written, There is none righteous, no, not one there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one." It is of the utmost moment to our salvation that we should know our nature just as it is. Essentially defective views of original and actual depravity lie at the root of essentially defective views of the Atonement. There floats before the imagination of man an unreal conception of natural goodness and power, which it is of infinite importance we should dislodge and dispel from the mind. The sacrificial work of Christ is built upon the spiritual ruin of the creature- the glory of the divine upon the utter wreck of the human. Nothing of man shall mingle with the work of God. We see the foreshadowing of this in the law given to the children of Israel, "You shall not sow your field with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled with, linen and woollen come upon you." The law, too, defining the construction of an altar, illustrates the same idea, "If you will make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it." God would here teach that the divine garment of Christ's justifying righteousness is not to be interwoven with the fabric of man's righteousness; and that in the uprearing of that one Altar upon which the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ was to be laid, no human weapon was to be employed. In the stupendous matter of our salvation Christ shall be the Alpha and the Omega. With Him the gospel plan originated- by Him it was revealed- by Him it was executed- and in His undivided glory and endless praise it shall forever terminate. From every tongue in glory, and through the high arches of heaven, the anthem shall peal, "Worthy is the Lamb!" Believer in Christ! Does not your soul pant to join in that song? and does not your spirit exult in the truth that salvation, from first to last, is of God? Oh, how precious is this truth in the consciousness of our many failures and defects! Our salvation is all in Christ- our righteousness is all in Christ- our merit is all in Christ- our completeness is all in Christ- in Christ our Covenant Head, our Surety and Mediator; and no flaw in our obedience, no defect in our love, no failure in our service, should so cast us down as to shut our eye to our acceptance in the Beloved. Imperfections we would not overlook, sin we would not allow, disobedience we would not indulge, temptation we would not encourage; nevertheless, we would ever remember, for our encouragement that, in default of perfection in the most perfect of our own doings, we are fully and eternally complete in Jesus.
What a tendency, too, is there in the believer, in consequence of this utter drying up of original holiness and power, to a withering and decay of grace in the soul! How many who looked like green fir-trees, tall cedars in Lebanon, have to mourn over spiritual declensions, the loss of vital power, the decay of faith, and the waning of love through indwelling sin, neglect of means of grace, the indulgence and seductions of the world! Thus, the breath of prayer is languid, the fervor of affection is faint, and all the spiritual powers and functions of the soul seem paralyzed. How many such withered arms, dried up as to the socket, are found in our Christian churches! How are the holiness, beauty, and strength of the Church shaded, marred, and impaired by innumerable cases of dried-up vitality, withered spirituality, decay, and weakness found within her membership. Alas! how few exhibit marks of spiritual healthiness, growing grace, increasing holiness, love, and divine conformity!
But let us turn from the patient to the PHYSICIAN- from the sinner to the Savior. It appears that on entering the synagogue to preach His own gospel, our Lord's quick eye lighted upon one of the hearers who had a withered hand. Moved by the impulse of His own benevolence, He selected him from the multitude and resolved upon his cure. The scribes and Pharisees, ever on the watch to baffle His designs and impeach His sanctity, seized the opportunity suggested by this work of mercy on the Sabbath-day, to accuse Him with the crime of its desecration. Then follows the expression of His displeasure- the emotion which this chapter of our work illustrates. "He looked round about on them with anger." And what was the nature of this anger which our Lord here expressed? We must acknowledge that never did He appear more unlike Himself than now, and yet never was He more truly so! Had He not exposed the hypocrisy and denounced the malevolence of these whited sepulchers with all the burning, withering, holy indignation of which He was master, then a cloud had shaded some of the brightest beams of His character. Christ was angry, but He did not sin. This could not be the case with us. Let us rebuke sin, let us chide the fall, the error, the inconsistency of a brother faithfully, tenderly, gently as we may, the infirmity and imperfection of our fallen humanity will yet taint and shade it. But this feeling of anger in the heart of Christ was a pure and holy passion, an emotion embodying the deepest hatred of sin with the tenderest compassion for the sinner. Another instance in His life illustrates the same emotion. Entering the temple on one occasion, He discerned men of the same type and mold desecrating the sacred edifice by unholy traffic- turning His Father's house into a mart of merchandise, and converting the place of the Just One into a den of thieves. His righteous soul was moved with holy indignation at the spectacle. "When He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple." And in what light did His disciples interpret this act? They "remembered that it was written, The zeal of your house has eaten me up." Zeal for the glory of His Father self-consumed Him. On another and a memorable occasion, we find our Lord hurling the thunders of His wrath and indignation against the entire Sanhedrin, exposing their false doctrine, unmasking their sanctimoniousness, denouncing their hypocrisy, and branding their unholy lives with the most appalling woes that ever flashed from mortal lips. Never did the emotion of anger stir a bosom more gentle, or yet assume a form or speak in terms more dreadful. Never did the Lamb of God seem more unlike Himself, and yet never was He more really Himself as now. Beneath the surface of His demeanor, thus broken into the dark waves of a righteous indignation against sin, flowed the deepest, warmest currents of benevolence, gentleness, and love that ever glided through the channels of our humanity. We see, then, that Christ's anger was holiness clad in its judicial vesture- it was the anger of holiness.
The wrath of God, as experienced by the eternally lost, suggests another and yet more appalling illustration of this truth. Divine justice, as measured to those who have irretrievably passed the boundaries of hope, and who inhabit the regions of dark and changeless despair, is nothing more than Divine purity in its most appalling and overwhelming exercise. It is Divine justice, unarrested by mercy; it is Divine wrath, unappeased by blood; it is Divine holiness, unclothed with the attribute of grace. Hell is kindled with the untempered, unmixed, unmitigated anger of the holy and righteous Lord God. The day is foreappointed, and it speeds on, when the awfully sublime scene depicted by John will have its full, its terrible consummation: "And the sky was rolled up like a scroll and taken away. And all of the mountains and all of the islands disappeared. Then the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy people, the people with great power, and every slave and every free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who will be able to survive?'" "The wrath of the Lamb!" What is it? Who can describe, who can fathom, who can stand before it? It can only be conceived or estimated by the glory from which He descended, the humiliation to which He stooped, the sufferings which He endured, and the sacrifice which He offered in order to save sinners. A wilful, unbelieving, and persisted rejection of such a Redeemer and of such a redemption must enkindle in the bosom whose slighted mercy it wounds, a holy, just, and righteous displeasure as infinite and august as the benevolence that warmed it. It is the wrath of Incarnate Deity- of Him who sorrowed in Gethsemane, who bled on Calvary, and who gave His life a ransom for many. It is the wrath of Him who said, "You will not come unto me that you might have life." "Him that come unto me I will in never cast out." It is the wrath of Him who pardons the guiltiest, who reclaims the vilest, who saves to the uttermost- who holds out His hand all day long to poor, lost sinners, rushing past it in scorn and madness to swift destruction, choosing death rather than life. Unconverted reader! the judgment is approaching, the great white throne will descend, the books will be opened, the dead will be raised, and all, all will confront this gracious or this angered Lamb of God. From His presence there will be no escape. Every eye shall see Him. The mountains will not hide you, the rocks will not shelter you, the grave will not retain you, the sea will not entomb you, but when the trumpet of the archangel sounds, at that bar you must stand, and by that Redeemer you must be judged.
"But before the trumpet shakes
The mansions of the dead,
Hark, from the gospel's gentle voice
What joyful tidings spread!"
"You sinners, seek His grace
Whose wrath you cannot bear,
Fly to the shelter of His cross,
And find salvation there."

Let us proceed to examine THE HEALING OF THE WITHERED HAND, and its gospel significance. The first step in the process was the separation of the man from the multitude. "He said unto the man who had the withered hand, Stand forth." Is it not by a like process Jesus initiates our spiritual healing, as we have shown at length in the preceding chapter? He takes us, by His providence, out of the midst of the world, sets us apart from others, severs us often from our home and kindred and country, and then graciously draws us to Himself. "The Lord has set apart him who is godly for Himself." Saints are an emphatically separated people, a chosen generation, a church taken out of the world, sanctified or set apart for God. Oh, with what deep emphasis of feeling will you thank the Lord through eternity if the waning of health, or the loss of property, or the vicissitudes of friendship severed the cords, broke the links, that too closely, too inordinately, and too idolatrously bound you to the multitude; and thus alluring you into the desolateness and solitude of the wilderness, there spoke graciously, tenderly to your heart.
The next step in the curative process was Christ's command to the man, "Stretch forth your hand." Perchance some beholders of the scene may have thought this a heartless mockery of the poor man's infirmity, or laughed to scorn what appeared an utter impossibility. To extend, by self-effort, a limb shrunk to its socket, all whose sinews and muscles were paralyzed and withered, would seem a thriftless, hopeless task. Yet such was the command of the Great Healer. By this act Jesus, the Heavenly Teacher, would instruct us in the mystery of a higher healing that, spiritual impotency did not destroy moral responsibility in man- that, though the fall has changed man's original relation to God as a holy being, it has not touched his relation to God as a moral, responsible, and accountable being; that, what was man's duty and obligation when He wandered through Eden unsullied and happy, is still his duty and obligation now that he is a fugitive from paradise, roaming in misery and woe the face of a sin-blighted and curse-smitten world. " God commands all men everywhere to repent." Stricken through with a spiritual paralysis, which has benumbed all your moral powers, dried up the spring of love to God, and withered the right arm of your strength- conclusive and affecting evidence of your moral condition as a fallen being, and of your need of the new birth- Christ commands you to stretch forth the debilitated hand; in other words, to believe in Him to the salvation of your soul. The spiritual hand is withered, but still it is the hand of a reasonable, responsible, and immortal being. The Bible addresses you as endowed with a mind that can examine and feel the force of evidence- with a will that can choose, with a heart that can feel, with a conscience that can dictate; and thus, in the face of evidence the most convincing, of love the most unparalleled, of motives the most over-powering, God commands you to repent and believe- to repent and believe now. Stretch forth the withered hand, ground the weapons of your rebellion, cease your hostility, and fall in the dust at His feet. Cease to do evil- learn to do well. Have you no spiritual strength or power, inclination or will? Is the heart insensible, the conscience callous, the mind dark and inert to spiritual and eternal things? This is no excuse for your inactivity and indifference. I admit your moral inability, your utter lack of power, of will, and of heart to what is holy and spiritual; and in making this solemn admission, I but confirm the fact of your deep sinfulness, guiltiness, absolute and entire need of the Spirit's quickening, regenerating grace. "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."

With the command to extend the withered hand, there went forth the Divine power to obey. "And He stretched it out." When Christ had recognized the rationality and responsibility of the man, He then performed His part of the cure, which was- the cure itself. Man's duty to obey, Christ's prerogative to heal, and the Divine blessing ever attendant upon immediate and unquestioning obedience to God's commands, are lessons of practical truth and wisdom, beautifully and strikingly illustrated and enforced in this part of our narrative. The injunctions, warnings, and invitations of God's Word relax nothing of their authority, and lessen in no degree human obligation, in consequence of moral inability in the creature. Whatever may be our spiritual infirmity, impotency, and disinclination; God remains the same- infinitely holy in His nature, eternal and immutable in his law. Apply this to your present condition as a soul conscious of the spiritual withering, and standing as if in the presence of the healing Savior. What is the command of Jesus to you? "Look unto me, and be you saved." "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Simply, then, to believe in the word of Christ, is tantamount to the command- "Stretch forth throe hand." See! that infirmity is no barrier to your coming. Your heart may be hard, insensible, impure; you may be mournfully conscious of manifold infirmities and impediments; you may turn the eye from the Divine Healer to the poor debilitated limb, looking now at the Savior, and anon at your sins, wondering if one so weak and sinful, so poor and wretched, so grace-neglecting, so hell-deserving, may venture to touch so divine, so holy, so rejected a Savior as Jesus is- but this reasoning, this hesitation, need not, must not be. Come, beloved, with the withered limb, approach with the poor, trembling, debilitated hand of faith; with one more effort, one more resolve, a last, a final venture- the crowning one of all- and, oh, you are saved!
"Jesus! full of all compassion,
Hear Your humble suppliant's cry,
Let me know Your great salvation
See! I languish, faint, and die.
"In the world of endless ruin,
Let it never, Lord, be said,
Here's a soul that perished suing
For the boasted Savior's aid!
"Saved! the deed shall spread new glory
Through the shining realms above;
Angels sing the pleasing story
All enraptured with Your love."

We are thus conducted to THE CURE. And now the Savior appears truly Himself. Now He vindicates His proceedings from all suspicion of unsympathizing trifling with the poor man's infirmity, unveils His ineffable benevolence, and manifests His merciful design. It was a perfect cure. "And his hand was restored whole as the other." "Whole as the other!" Christ's cures are not half cures. Perfection traces all that He does- whether He paints a lily or rears a mountain, heals the body or redeems the soul, like Himself, all His ways and works are perfect. When God justifies the sinner, it is a perfect justification- he is "justified from all things." When He adopts the soul, He fully and inalienably adopts- "Now are we the sons of God." When He pardons the guilty, He entirely and forever pardons- "having forgiven you all trespasses." The Lord has left nothing in our salvation for us to supply, nothing in the gospel plan for man to supplement. It is on the basis of a finished work the believer stands- his Lord and Surety having done all, suffered all, given all that law and justice demanded for the present redemption and the future glory of His Church. "When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." " Without strength." When the arm was paralyzed and withered, Jesus then undertook the cure; and, undertaking, He perfected it, Nothing has He left for us to add- not a tear of repentance to His tears of grief; not a groan of sorrow to His groans of agony; not a drop of blood to His vital stream; not an atom of merit to His infinite and all-sufficient worthiness. Lift up your heart, then, depressed child of God- rejoice in the Lord greatly. He has perfected the cure of your soul. All your salvation is in Christ, and God has pardoned and accepted you without a single work of your own, rests in His love, and rejoices over you with singing. Blessed Savior put forth the power of Your grace in our souls, and perfect that which concerns us. You have completed our justification, complete our sanctification, and mature us fully for glory. Subdue our iniquities, weaken the power of inbred sin, quicken our sensibilities to all that is holy and spiritual, deaden them to all that is earthly and carnal, and bring our souls into a closer communion with the solemn, invisible realities of eternity. "Heal us, O Lord, and eve shall be healed."
In CONCLUSION, let me remark, if Christ is grieved at our unbelief, what must be the joy which our faith gives Him! If our hardness of heart shades His countenance, how must that countenance gleam with holy delight over the soul subdued in penitent love at His feet! Think it not presumption, then, to travel to Jesus with the withered hand- with a chilled love, with declension of grace, with weakness of faith, with low frames, and with a tempted, tried, and wounded spirit. Jesus Christ makes you whole. Christ is for the poor and needy and empty- for those who have no helper. It is said of David, the type of Christ, that, there gathered unto him within the cave of Adullam "every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, and He became a captain over them." Around the glorious Antitype, Jesus the Son of David, there gathers- received and welcomed- all who are in spiritual distress, who are in debt to the law of God, having nothing to pay, who are discontented with the world, with the creature, with themselves; and, lo, Jesus becomes the Captain of their salvation! We repeat, Christ is for the necessitous, the bruised, the outcast, the bankrupt; and, withered though may be your spiritual strength and beauty- withered the flower and fruit of holiness and grace- withered the heart's young springs of love, its gushing streams of sympathy- all its early sensibilities, yearnings, and hopes crushed and withered, blighted and beclouded- the gloom and desolateness of winter mantling and chilling the bright landscape of life, yet Jesus' heart expands, and invites you to the asylum of its warm, fathomless, changeless love!
Do not be weary nor discouraged in the Lord's service. Like your Savior, many will seek to thwart, impeach, and wound you in your work of faith and labor of love for Christ. Heed them not. Rejoice if you are counted worthy to be identified with your Lord and Master in suffering for righteousness' sake. "Consider Him. who endured such, contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds."
Let us seek grace that the emotion of anger in our breasts may more closely assimilate with the emotion of anger in Christ's- a holy anger against sin, blended with a loving, yearning compassion for the sinner. Such is the Divine precept: "Be angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." When this emotion springs from zeal for God, His truth, and worship, and glory, and when it prompts us to seek, in the spirit of meekness, humility, and love, the good of those whose conduct we condemn, it then becomes in us, what it was in Christ, a holy, amiable, God-honoring emotion, unmixed with sin and self, and throwing no shadow of sadness upon the mellow light of evening, when the sun goes down at the hour of prayer.
If, on the contrary, you find this emotion rising in your bosoms, in its sinful, fleshly, and corrupt form, lose not a moment in bringing it to the cross, that by the love, the sufferings, the last prayer for the forgiveness of injury of Him who died upon its wood, that species of anger which dwells alone in the bosom of fools, may be crucified and slain in you. Seek not mercy from your fellows, and ask not forgiveness from your Father, while unholy anger against a brother or a sister finds a moment's lodgment within your heart. It has been well remarked, that, "some who profess to bury their wrongs, do but embalm them; and a busy and eager memory keeps unbroken all the lineaments of the injury they have received." But with what sincerity of confession, and with what hope of pardon can such approach suppliantly the Father's footstool, and ask, for sins and wrongs against that Father infinitely more numerous and aggravated, the forgiveness which cancels forever the guilt and the memory of all? O beloved! imitate Him who overcame evil with good; and "let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice; and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's salve has forgiven you."
Saint of God? in the light of His love interpret the frowns of your Father's displeasure. The hidings of His face, the rebukes of His word, the smitings of His hand, are but the muffled tones of love. They fall upon your wakeful ear like a dirge; nevertheless they are the deep and solemn utterances of Divine affection, compassion, and sympathy. They are correctives for sin, but they are the correctives of a Father, hating your sin, but loving you His child. "You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you." Humbling yourself under the chastening hand of God, you will rise up instructed, purified, and God-like, exclaiming, as the discipline passes away, leaving nothing but its hallowed effects and its grateful memory- "O Lord, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me."