An Application of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”: The Brutality of Moses

July 16, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

As Christian and Faithful continue to their journey together, Faithful continues to relate the events which had recently befallen him.

After declining the offer of Adam the First, thereby earning his wrath, Faithful was overtaken by one whom he describes as “swift as the wind”.  This one proved to be a brutal companion.  When he catches up with Faithful, he speaks but a single word, which is not revealed, and then strikes Faithful with such a blow that he was knocked down to the ground. The blow was so hard that Faithful thought it might very well be the end of him.  Faithful tried to rise but was beaten back down again.  When he cried out for mercy, the man replied, “I know not how to show mercy,” and then proceeded to knock Faithful to the ground a third time.

Faithful was sure that this brutal man would make an end of him, but then, just in the nick of time, another came by, and commanded the assault to cease.  Faithful did not know, at first, who this second man was, but as he went by, faithful observed the holes in his hands and in his side, and so concluded that he was the Lord.

If you have not yet discerned Bunyan’s meaning, Christian speaks for him.  “That Man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to shew mercy to those who transgress his Law.”

We might think Moses, the Law, brutal and harsh.  Indeed, he is.  That is precisely his purpose.  To see one’s sin with clarity, to understand one’s wickedness, to grasp, if only through a veil, the depth of depravity which lies within, and the greatness of our offense toward the Holy God, is brutal indeed.  But this is precisely the role of the Law.  It is intended to show us our sin.  It is intended to bring us face to face with our faults and failures, with our depravity and rebellion.

And so, by the gracious work of the Spirit, we find in the Law a mirror. And when we see our true reflection we are, by the Spirit’s work, crushed, and driven to the ground under it’s blows. And we find ourselves helpless before the onslaught, for there is no mercy in the Law.  No matter how we might try to escape, no matter how we might try to deceive ourselves, the Law is always there, shining its light upon us with bright and perfect clarity, and we are driven to the ground once more.

And though there is no mercy in the Law, our cries for mercy are heard by another.  The One with holes in his hands and side hears our cries.  And He comes. And we find that He is our only recourse.  He is our only deliverer.  It is not from the Law that we must seek mercy, but from this One. For the Law rightfully declares to us that all of the sin which he has shown us deserves judgement and condemnation.  But this One with the wounds…He has undergone that judgment and condemnation.  And He has done it not for sin of His own, for He had none.  He did it for our sin, for which the Law condemns us.

Now, this Wounded One comes and bids the Law, “Forbear”.  And the blows cease. For now, having received mercy from the One who has paid the penalty for my sin, the Law has nothing against me.  The Law looks upon me and no longer sees the filth and grime and corruption of my sin.  Now, all that is seen are the shining white robes of the righteousness of Christ, the Wounded One, the One who took Law’s blows for me.


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