Articles

Passer-by

This article first appeared in The Standard Bearer (April 1, 1963) and was a meditation written by Rev.Gerrit Vos.

"And they that passed by reviled Him."

Matt. 27:39

Ages ago a certain saint suffered deeply from the indifference of his fellows. He was afflicted, steeped in a sorrow which had no equal. Naturally he longed for compassion, for loving mercy, sympathy. But they passed him by. 

That hurts. 

Listen to him: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger?"

That hurts. We can all speak of this hurt. Somehow, somewhere, to some degree we have tasted of thisindifference of our fellows. 

It is so unnatural. Lack of interest in the sorrow of our fellows smells of sulphur. Its origin is hell and the devil. 

You see, dear reader, when we come with the age-old, Biblical doctrine and confess that man, all men, are haters of God and haters of their neighbor, made in the similitude of God, it is so extremely difficult to elicit agreement. Well, they will admit that man is indifferent to real Godliness, to real interest in God and man, but then the word hate is so strong! Are you not somewhat extreme in your views, brother? Everybody is surely no hater of God and man! Witness the thousands of churches and "some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment!" How about the thousands of hospitals many and institutions of purely human and humane mercy? Eh? Is there no inclination to one-sidedness with you and your extreme theology?


Still, when all is said and done I am convinced that the passing by of man is the strongest expression of hate ever. It is indicative of utter contempt. Contempt can assume such awful proportions that its subject is indifferent to the object. That is the bathos of hate. 

And you and I know it. It is much easier to hear the utterances of hatred flung into our teeth, than to see the antagonist strutting past, not even deigning to look upon us. Say there, you, who are passing by—is it nothing to you that I hang here in utmost agony? 

It is so unnatural. 

God made us a race, an organism, a body, fitly joined together, every member supplying the cement of love, every member going out in harmony with the entire race so that the whole might be unutterably happy in love and friendship. And the whole body fitly joined together, would reach out to God, blessed forever! 

Indifference is the expression of death! 

Yes, there is regard for external behavior and good conduct, but I speak of the image-bearer of God. Man, made in the similitude of God, is a creature with a heart. And from that Heart are the issues of life. Nothing short of heart-life is demanded by God and man. Does not the law of God speak of a love that is so sweet that you love the neighbor as you love your selves? Indifference is its extreme opposite. Unnatural monster it is. 

How different is the Christ of God. 

Behold Him! He is leaving Jericho on His way to the: Cross. And coming events cast their shadows before. He is full of that Cross. It is revealed in utterances on that last: journey to the city of God. It is revealed in His mien. The apostles are amazed as they follow. He walks on ahead. 

A great multitude follows Him. The sound of many shuffling footsteps is heard on the dusty road that leads southward.

All of a sudden a piercing cry is heard: "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David!" We have been blind, lo, these many years! And our fellows are not only indifferent to us, but they even tell us to hold our peace, when we hear in solemn refrain the throng's reply: Jesus of Nazareth passeth by! They would even rob us of Thy wondrous compassion. We have heard so much of Thee, O Jesus! And we have faith in Thee. We know of Thy compassion for others. At last we have heard the answer which we have waited for so dreadfully long: Jesus of Nazareth passeth by! And they will cry all the more for the shown indifference of the multitude: Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us!


And Jesus? 

Is He like the rest of mankind? Is He not even now filled with nameless dread? Is His soul not troubled unto death? Does He not see the awful monster of eternal death which He must swallow unto victory? Can He, will He take time out for merely two blind tramps? 

Ah, but He is Jesus! He is not merely a man, but He is the perfect man, the good Man. He loves His neighbor as Himself. He is indeed willing to lay down His life for His sheep. And in the midst of the many different noises of the highway, He hears the voice of faith. And behind it all He hears the voice of His Father: See to it, My dearly Beloved, that Thou lose not one of them. It is the will of God, Jesus' Father, that He lose none of them. 

No, Jesus is not indifferent. He stands still. He does not pass by in indifference even as you and I. He takes time out for these two miserable wretches. No, that is not correct. His standing still for these two is part and parcel of His life, He is the Savior. 

Read it and weep for shame: He had compassion. Read it and weep, for we are indifferent. We would pass by. It is nothing to us that our brother's sorrow is like unto no other sorrow. We can enjoy (?) ourselves in the very midst of untold suffering that is around us. 

We pass by. That's the curse of our corrupt natures. 

Not so Jesus. He touched their eyes while His spirit is overwhelmed because of impending agony, He touched their blind eyes and immediately virtue goes out towards them: they are receiving their sight and they follow Him. That is: Heaven is born for them. 

On the way to hell, Jesus prepares heaven for others.


There is your and my example, brother. Are you not blushing for shame? Compare it with your and my cursed life of hatred and malice and envy and jealousy, yes, and indifference. 

Go to now, you would-be merciful Samaritans! You, you, the old man of sin and corruption, never stirs a foot out of the indifferent, selfish way that you tread. Ah, the mercy of the world is cruel. Hold thy peace! This to the cry of agony of the brother who is made in the similitude of God, blessed forever. 

Certainly there are the hospitals and institutions of human mercy, but they are the attempts of externaldeportment and outward behavior. The ever-repeated call from the blessed heavens is not to appear beautiful outwardly, but to be filled with bowels of mercy, with inward compassion for all the misery of man. And that requires a regenerated heart, first of all. And as an immediate corollary, that requires hospitals for the sickness of the soul, institutions against iniquity and trespasses.

Tell your doctor, while you are lying on his operating table, that he is on the way to hell because of his corruption: endeavor to preach the Gospel to him—and he will pass you by. The poor man has only external observance. He is akin to the god-forsaken mass of Israelites of whom the Lord complained: This people worship me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me! 

Indifference, passing by our brother in his utmost agony, it is the curse of spiritual death!


And Jesus? 

Throughout His whole life He stood still, enquired, was intensely interested in the suffering of His sheep.

He went through the land doing good. When He saw and heard the widow who brought her only son to the grave, He was filled with untold compassion. He halted the bier and spoke the word of life: I say unto you, young man, arise! And again, heaven appeared. And note the pathetic touch: "And He delivered him to his mother!" 

Ah, Jesus stands still. And the place of His pausing is your and my misery, brother. No, no, Jesus of Nazareth does not pass by. He stands still to save. 

And how have we requited Him for His standing still? 

Come with me; I will lead the way. We are ascending the place of the skull. Here we are. Do you hear that groaning, do you see that twisting of the limbs? Well, that is the agony of them that die the accursed death of the tree. These three forms are two murderers and the only real merciful Samaritan that ever lived. All other real mercy is but the outgoing of His virtue in others. He is the only Merciful One. Yes, and there He hangs now, between two murderers. That is His wages of the world and of the apostate church. When the mob summed up His life, they found that He was a malefactor, a rebel, inciting others to rebellion, and that He made Himself a King and the Son of God. A hellish mixture of truth and the lie. But that is His reward for doing good to you and to me.


And, finally, notice! Do you notice that there are passersby? Matt. 27:39. Yes, there are passers-by. 

I have searched in all my commentaries for the identity of the passers-by and there are many. Many learned answers I have found. Still, methinks, they do not fully fit the case in hand. The real point at issue they passed by. Certainly, they have been historical persons and I have no quarrel with their learned answers as far as they went. 

But here is the full answer: These passers-by are we, are the human race, are the corrupt world of so-called merciful men and women. 

"En ik dacht er met aan, dat ik zelf door mijn schuld: Zijn kroon had gevlochten, Zijn beker gevuld!" 

We have crucified the Christ of God. The nature of Judas, the Pharisees, Herod and Pilate and all their ilk, is my nature and your nature. It is the man of sin that "has hated Him without cause!" 

And this is the tragedy of my life: I still pass by, as far as the old man of sin is concerned. It is the cause of the cry of the night: Be merciful to me the sinner! 

But this is my song in the night of my sin: Jesus of Nazareth still stands still! 

Here is more than human, here is Divine mercy! 

And they follow Him. 

And that is heaven! 

Vos, Gerrit

Rev. Gerrit Vos was born in Sassenheim, the Netherlands on November 1, 1894. He died in Hudsonville, Michigan on July 23, 1968.

Rev. G. Vos received instruction in the PR Seminary and was ordained into the ministry in September 1927. He served churches in Sioux Center, Iowa (1927-1929); Hudsonville, Michigan (1929-1932) and again in 1948-1966. He was pastor at Redlands, California (1932-1943) and in Edgerton, Minnesota (1943-1948). He retired in 1966.

The Rev. G. Vos was very eloquent in preaching and extremely descriptive in his writings. One sermon remembered well at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church was that preached the Sunday after a devastating tornado roared through the city in 1956. That sermon was later presented in the Standard Bearer as a meditation.

Three books of his meditations have been printed by the Men's Society of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and later reprinted by the Reformed Book Outlet of Hudsonville, Michigan.

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