Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 1 - Christ In His Suffering: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Relating Children’s Games to Universal Prophecy

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 1 - Christ In His Suffering: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Relating Children’s Games to Universal Prophecy

TOPIC: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 1 - Christ In His Suffering (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Relating Children’s Games to Universal Prophecy

Other Subjects in this Topic:


Christ Relating Children’s Games to Universal Prophecy

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David! they were sore displeased, and said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?


WE have just seen Christ ride into His realm in royal fashion. We heard the masses honor Him, and appreciated to a small degree the great suffering that afflicted His soul because of the royal reception and its several implications.

Now we have the privilege of fixing our attention upon the majesty of Christ. Were His authority as a king dependent upon the consent of the governed, or subservient to the will of a chance aggregation of the people, that authority would fade out with the waning enthusiasm of the crowd. According to the notions of those who went up to celebrate the feast, the ideal king is one who accepts His jurisdiction from the hands of the people, one who in all things lets them take the initiative. But if Jesus were disposed to satisfy such requirements, His own initiative would disappear as soon as the excitement of the populace had abated.

Beyond a doubt the people did want a king who would take his orders from them. We indicated at the close of the preceding chapter that the Jews hoped Jesus would fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy concerning the coming of a lowly and unarmed Prince in a way suitable to their own interpretation of it. They wanted Him to take with Him an unmistakably worded “Act of conformity” to the will of the people, so that they might arm Him then in their own good time, and might delegate authority as they pleased.

But we also noticed that Jesus objects to such distortion of prophecy. In Chapter 7 we saw that He Himself always takes the initiative. And in Chapter 8 we discovered that Jesus defines His kingdom, not according to the notions of a mob of excited people, but according to the dictates and intentions of the Spirit as revealed in prophecy. He Himself directs the course of affairs. He accepts the kingdom at His own behest. He gets His authority to do things from God and not from men.

You see that this fundamental conflict between the will of the people and His own began early. It loomed prodigiously large at once. Jesus’ own discernment saw it fully informing the triumphal entry itself. And in the course of the coming days it defines itself in still more unmistakable terms.

The tension occasioned by the events at Jerusalem relaxed after a while; the excitement subsided; the violent overture to the week of festivities came to an end. After all, such celebrating could not last forever. The people again scattered over the city and the neighboring community. As a matter of fact, a kind of embarrassment took possession of them. They had honored a King, and pronounced Him a Prince of peace. More than one of them had in their nervous excitement thrown a sidelong glance at the palace of the governor, secretly thinking that the effects of this day might spell ominous things for the praetorship. When the clamor subsided, however, a flush of shame crept over the faces of the people. Strangely embarrassing thing: there was nothing they could do. At the moment there was little to say. This did not seem to be quite the right time to start distributing weapons, or to begin delegating authority. They had welcomed a King into their midst but no one could say just now what they should give Him to do.

If Jesus in this circumstance had only yielded to their wishes, He would have bided His time, accommodated Himself to the circumstances, and passively have awaited some event which would make it necessary for Him to step to the foreground. So He would have ingratiated Himself with the public, for that too was looking for a favorable moment to put a sword into His hand, and to turn Him against Rome and against its representatives.

Instead, Jesus deliberately goes His own way. He does not wait for the people to take the initiative. His actions are not mass-motivated, but self-prompted. He is the great Automatist, and in no sense ever an automaton.

Again He goes directly to His work. He manifests His kingly office this time by means of a mass-healing[1] in Jerusalem, right next to the temple. All kinds of sick people are taken to Him there. The lame and the blind are specifically mentioned. Jesus heals them all.

[1] The word is used by Dr. F. W. Grosheide: Kommentaar op Mattheus, Amsterdam, 1922, p. 250.

This is not the first time that Jesus engages in such a group healing. But this does seem to be a kind of special occasion. Jesus figured prominently in the minds of the people just now. They brought Him many patients, presented these to Him with the burning desire that He should heal them. And it seems that by the prompting of His own Spirit also a will to perform wonderful things moved Him now more than ever before.

Jesus had a purpose in mind as He performed these miracles. He wanted to continue what He had begun. He Himself had, by personally inciting that triumphal entry, explained and fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah. That prophecy, we remember, had pictured the King of the future, the Messianic King, as being lowly and weaponless. Now Jesus wants to push the explanation of that prophecy, which He had begun on Sunday, farther. The purpose of His present miracles is to continue to give the best conceivable explanation of Zechariah’s Messianic portrait.

Two features were dominant in that prophetic portrait. One was the coming King’s lowliness. The significance of that prediction was that the Messiah-Prince would identify Himself with the least, the most common of His people. Observe how He enhances that feature of the picture now. How tenderly He leans over the lame and the blind, the meanest denizens, likely, of the least favored parts of the city. By condescending to these miserable ones immediately after His royal reception, He illustrates strikingly that He is the lowly King that Zechariah saw.

But Jesus as completely interprets and as fully actualizes the second feature of Zechariah’s picture: namely, His meekness, His weaponlessness. The defenselessness proves that His kingdom is not of this world. His is a theocratic kingdom. It makes no use of the formidable phalanxes of the other nations. It disdains to use the sword. It refuses to compete with others in filling its arsenals. It neither safeguards itself nor extends its boundaries by legions of soldiers or flouting banners. Not that it is passive and indifferent. O no, it penetrates the restive, secular world. But it comes in peace, and grows along spiritual ways. Its generative principle is one of spirit and of fire. Its power is not the “right of the strongest,” but is intrinsic might, the authority owing to perfect qualification for rule.

He demonstrates this intrinsic might, not by maneuvering it against the Romans, against the praetorship of Pontius Pilate, but by turning it to the advantage of the sick, of the lame and the blind. The King is in His residence now. It is His turn to distribute gifts, to show mercy, to fill posts of honor. Jesus begins that benevolence at the lowest rung of the ladder. He has precious gifts to give, the best, save one[1]: life itself. Now it is His hour to break the bonds of death in which the children of Abraham are shackled. See how He flourishes in kingly service. He takes the fatal force of death, the last great enemy, the wages of sin, out of the community life. So He begins the great task of destroying sin itself, and of distributing the greatest gift: God’s lovingkindness.

[1] “Thy lovingkindness is better than life....” (Psa_63:3.)

Very soon now, God and the angels in unison will raise the chorale of a heavenly Peace which will fill the whole universe. It is the prelude to that chorale which the lame and the blind are hearing beside the temple.

Jesus did many miracles in His life, performed many and various wonders. Some of them were signs accompanying prophecy. He was prompted to others by a priestly heart and in these a priest’s love revealed itself. But the miracle which He is performing at the temple today is a positive expression and confirmation of the kingship of Jesus. It is a crystal-clear commentary, done in legible hand-writing so that all may read, on what Jesus said of Himself at the ovation which He incited. It is an objective illustration which Jesus gives of the prophecy of Zechariah. Jesus’ miracle at this particular moment, on this specific day, at this definite place has a peculiar significance shared by no other miracle. Every wonder, remember, is unique, has a separate meaning, and is in no sense a copy, a duplicate, of any other.

This wonder, for example, occurs next to the temple, and is a mass-miracle. It blesses the city of the great King. By means of it, Jesus, being in His rightful residence, declares for a last time the law of His kingdom. He heralds the millennium of that future Prince of Peace, who is present already, the prince who comes not with the pomp of glory, but with the will to annihilate sin and to subdue the great penalty of it, which is death.

Moreover, this healing of the lame and the blind occurred during the week of the passion. In this last week of His humiliation Jesus lets power go out of Him, and so proves that He is in control of the energies of the kingdom of heaven. And that is proof beforehand, too, of the fact that the cross, when it comes, will be a revelation of strength, not of weakness, will be a deed, not a death. One who can give life and subdue death as Jesus does in this last week of His suffering cannot die unless He wills it.

The King of Jerusalem, therefore, remains faithful now to the initiative to which He gave expression upon His entrance into the city. And he is just as faithful to prophecy. Precisely because He is that, the city which gave Him that glad welcome must get into conflict with Him. For Jerusalem is not at all inclined to give up its own interpretation of the prophecy of a lowly and defenseless king. They will admit that Jesus’ healing of the sick is a beneficial, rather striking, and altogether philanthropic service, but it is not exactly what they had had in mind for Him. Their sense of respect for so moving a demonstration, their ecstatic wonder at it, and their rather shy gratitude for it does not last long. A king who goes his own way, especially when it is not the one which the people want him to take, cannot expect to keep the torch of popular enthusiasm burning long.

When Jesus, therefore, responds to the ovation given Him by this comparatively harmless service of benevolence at the temple, the leaders of the people are quick to take advantage of the subsequent abatement of enthusiasm. They rush in to extinguish completely the flickering flames.

This is the situation. While Jesus is healing the lame and the blind a considerable number of people, naturally, are standing by. Among these are a large number of children. They form a circle around Jesus and begin to play at a game of their own invention, in which He is the central figure. They begin to play “hosanna.” No wonder. They have just seen that grand march which, in passing through the streets, sent clouds of dust way up over the houses. Besides, they themselves followed in the wake of the dense crowd of hero-worshippers. By watching the “big” people they learned how to respond to that prophet of Nazareth who had been saying such good things and doing so many wonderful deeds. Meanwhile Jesus has actually stopped at a given point and seems disposed to stay there for a while. This is their chance. They form their circle. Very likely they are swaying branches in the air, good green branches, just as good as those of the palm trees. They remember parts of the doxology and begin to shout these. The picture is complete for them. Just like the grown-ups do.

It is very likely that when the families of the grateful patients come to shyly kiss the hand of the Rabbi of Nazareth, not a few of these children are among them. In all likelihood, too, more than one of these youngsters is a personal pal and confidant of this blind old man and of yonder cripple. There is therefore a sense in which the children’s game is nothing particularly unusual, and in which their shouting the hosanna chorus is quite ordinary.

In point of fact it was very ordinary. Any charlatan might have been similarly greeted.

Therefore it is not surprising to notice that the leaders of the people, who are bent upon using every means to counteract the masses’ growing admiration for Jesus, crowd in now to profit from this chance to cast an unfavorable reflection upon Him. They step up boldly and ask Him whether He cannot put a stop to all that yelling on the part of those children. He wants to be taken seriously, does He not? If so, He ought not to give the appearance of actually being affected by the prattle of the youngsters. A man who really wants to exert an influence upon the people, should disdain to pose for such popular heroism; should do so especially here, in the shadow of the temple, where the scrolls are kept, and where the sages of Israel each day meet in consideration of the profoundest of problems. If He really wants to prove His worth, let Him go inside. The times are too trying for such child’s play.

By such assumptions the Scribes hope to entice some incriminating word from His lips. Of course, He may choose not to answer. Then the question itself, conspicuously unanswered as it will be, will snuff out the flickering torch of mob enthusiasm. It will show the crowd that this upstart Nazarene is not as great as they had supposed.

Jesus response? Well, He knows, of course, that not everything the children say is genuine, profound, sincere. He who saw through the superficiality of the hosannas of the people must detect many a falsetto voice and monotone in this chorus of children. Yes, He knows that their praise is not significant as an index to their appreciation of His work.

But He refuses to silence them. Their shouting, He feels, is a gift to Him, a gift coming not so much from the children as from the God of Israel. The moment He hears their chanting He thinks of the 8th Psalm. He hums it to Himself, ponders its sentiment in His heart, lets it resound in His soul. He takes His answer to the Scribes from it, an answer which corners them at once.

Do they know what the Bible says? Certainly, they know that—they are Scribes. But even as they reply they begin to fidget around in embarrassment. Good, Jesus goes on to say. In that case they will know that God counts the voices of children among the very great things; that heaven takes notice of them. Psalms 8, they will recall, the poet says: ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.”

The phrase “babes and sucklings” refers to all children, for “babes” refers to children in general and “sucklings” to the infants—and we may remember that according to the customs of the east the mother personally nursed the child for a much longer period than is the usage in the west. From the mouths of all of these, therefore, God has ordained strength. He listens and accepts “the sacrifice of their lips.”

Jesus quotes from the 8th Psalm and that gives His statement a peculiar value. It is the Psalm of magnificent things. It has a sublime theme. It sings of the sun, moon, and stars, and asserts that these all praise the name of God. But these—be they ever so overwhelming, so sublime—are not as great as the human soul. Contrasted with the physical universe, man is very small. But as a spiritual being He is great, for He bears the image of His Maker. And in the community of human beings even the frailest, the least developed life is greater than all the constellations of heaven. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings also God has perfected praise. Even on a natural basis such praise is pleasing to God, for it comes to Him from the growing human world in His beautiful creation. But the children’s chorus gives expression to the life of grace as well as to that of nature. God, who not only creates but also regenerates, delights in young voices. From the children of the covenant come the hosts of the faithful who will curb the power of sin later, will raise the battle-cry of holy war in the world in order that God may triumph in it.

Why silence the children, then? Jesus asks the Jews—and His question is as simple as the playing of the children—if God Himself, as all Scribes know, delights in the praise of infants? How, indeed, dare a servant of the Lord turn His back to a choir which is compelled to sing in praise of the Lord?

The learned gentlemen next to Jesus seem to think that children’s voices are not in consonance with the atmosphere of that lofty temple. But Jesus says that the temple is precisely the place for such praise. Even in the temple of nature, the lesser temple, that over which the sun, moon, and stars form a vault, a chorus of children, according to the psalm, is a delight to the Lord. But such music is especially pleasing to Jehovah and to the angels when it comes from the temple of regeneration where the scrolls are kept and the laws of the covenant are deposited.

By a doxology of that kind, according to the psalm, the enemy and the avenger is stilled. Surely, they cannot expect Jesus to regard that too common which is not too trivial for God! In the name of the third commandment of the law of Sinai: Despise not the day of small things.

That embarrassing answer, naturally, sent the shamefaced Scribes on their way.

We, however, choose to linger with Jesus a little, now that the others have gone. Again we must worship Him for living so completely by the Scriptures, for living in them every moment. His reference to the 8th Psalm leaves it unbroken and intact. With a fine delicacy and perfect harmony He sings the whole of it in well-rounded, full-bodied tones. Its theme develops itself in His soul as a fugue. Melody and measure, both are perfect, whole, complete.

This psalm therefore gives the apparently trivial game of a group of children the sublimely tragical background of the whole passion week.

In the first place, the Psalm unites nature with grace. In it general revelation, natural revelation, represented by the sun, moon, and stars, is praised for its beauty and strength. But special revelation, too, is paid a lyrical tribute in it. For when the poem speaks of children whose function it is to still the enemy and avenger, that allusion can only refer to the spiritual conflict carried on by heathendom against Israel, by the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman, by the Beast against the Spirit. From the sphere of nature the theme of the psalm rises to that of grace, from that of creation to that of regeneration, from common grace to covenant grace, from general revelation to special revelation. And Jesus, as He perfectly sings this psalm in His soul, resolves to fulfill it, even as He fulfills all psalms and prophecies. He resolves to be the Propitiator for the sins of His own people, but also to be the Redeemer of a groaning creation. He resolves not only to give spiritual gifts to sinners, but also to exercise the curse from the domain of the physical creation, to burn it out of the sun, moon, and stars. As He hums the psalm to Himself, Jesus rises to become the Mediator of creation in the broadest sense of the word. As He looks at the flagstones on which He stands at the temple, He proposes to make them not only the foundation of the church of the New Testament but also the groundwork of a new earth. Nature and grace, matter and spirit, both need the cosmical Mediator to give them eternal rest.

In the second place, the 8th Psalm regards that choir of children as a camp of God’s recruits, a reserve upon which to draw in the onslaught of the moral and religious war, in the ancient battle of the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent. Jesus knows as He hears the psalm resounding in His soul that He brings peace on earth; but He knows also that He brings war. In one sense the voice of the children is like a lingering cadence from the “Peace on earth” which the angels sang at Bethlehem. But as the psalm develops in His being, that note develops into a martial air. It announces the warfare that He must fight for righteousness’ sake.

In the third place, the 8th Psalm assigns a function, a definite responsibility to the sucklings, small as they are. They, too, as servants of the Lord have their tasks to perform. As Jesus takes note of that He knows that He, as the greatest Servant of the Lord, must assume the responsibility for the greatest assignment ever given. If the souls of babes are centers from which influences go out to all of God’s creation, then Jesus, as the mature Office-bearer, now approaching the center of history, knows that He must fulfill as well as sing that song of peace and war. He must effect a universal peace in God’s great world, and must promote and complete the pan-cosmical war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

In the fourth and last place, Jesus’ attention goes from the exuberant shouting of the children to His own bitter cry on the cross. By reciting Psalms 8 at the window of the temple of God, by reciting it through and beyond the voices of the children, Christ assumes responsibility for what that Messianic poem expects of Him.

In Hebrews 2, this psalm again returns to the organism of the Scriptures. There the New Testament completely discovers its meaning. It teaches us to read in it a Messianic humiliation even unto hell.

The psalm tells us that according to the original status of things man is the lord of created beings, and that according to God’s appointed hierarchy he may therefore regard the angels as being in his service. But it also teaches that in another sense man is less than the angels, for he was made a little lower than they. That is the incongruity which hurt the poet’s heart, that man should be lower than the angels now. Experience, however, confirms his judgment. According to his rank in the state of righteousness, man was, indeed, the lord of created things, lord, too, therefore, of the angels of heaven. But sin has crept into the universe; an enemy, an avenger, in the language of the psalm, has appeared in the cosmos. Things are no more as they seem, and no longer seem to be what they originally, ideally are. Man also has been removed from his position at the top of the hierarchy of the beings that were made. His power has been broken, his beautiful body has become the prey of death, his soul subject to the curse. As far as his capacities and abilities go, lordly man has fallen below the angels. Ideally, originally he is above them; actually he is beneath them. And the justice of God swears all of its oaths to the truth of that fact.

The incongruity of the former glory of man and his present condition is the particular tragedy of the 8th Psalm. Therefore it is also that of Christ as He fulfills it in the week of the passion. He comes to His own city as a Mediator. Because He bears human life in Himself, He must identify Himself with its frailty, its mortality, its humiliation. In Gethsemane, where He will appear as the second Adam, that is, as “man,” He will obviously be lower than the angels, for one of them will have to come down to strengthen the Son in the garden. Without such sustenance He would be too weak and would disappear in bottomless mud. And it will become still more obvious on the cross. For He will then be forsaken of God, though all of the angels remain in the Father’s company. Then His flesh will enter the ground where no angel can come. Then He will commend His spirit into the hands of His God, hoping against hope that the angels will bear it to His Father’s lap. For Christ will take upon Himself not the humiliation of a man, but of “man” as he is appraised in the psalm.

So the poem passes through Christ to the 12th Chapter of Revelation. There is the woman again, and the seed of the woman, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars. There is the suckling again, composite of human frailty, child of the woman. Cosmic forces are eager to go out to that child, but it is included in the great curse of the world. However, that child, as the seed of the woman, is also the one, who, in the language of the Psalm once more, will “still” the enemy and avenger, that is, the old serpent.

Pause now and ponder this thought: in the soul of Jesus the Scriptures are never broken. Think of the Scriptures and of Him. Hear Him claim the authorship of it as the Logos; hear Him name Himself the raison d’etre of the Psalm. Listen to Him claim authorship of it, again, as the Lord of the Spirit (the Spirit of Christ which before testified in the prophets). Listen to Him name Himself at once the interpretative principle and the content of the Psalm. When you have done that you will have touched the ends of His soul.

Then you will know that this trust firmly dwells in the Spirit of Christ: by going the way of humiliation He will also be taking the way of exaltation. That way, He knows, will lead past the cross to heaven. True, He will be made lower than the angels, but He will also regain the ancient lordship. In Him Man will arise again to become king of creation in full glory, having neither angel nor archangel above Him, but God alone.

Again we bow in reverence before this Saviour, who in these last days of His humiliation upon earth, always lived and thought and felt artistically, significantly, in terms of the Word.

To the prattle of babes He relates the great world-problem of the glory of the name of the Lord, sublime, cosmical as it is in its implications. To an alley game He relates the course of the sun, moon, and stars. These, in turn, He unites with the woman of Revelation 12, and with her seed which is He Himself. Such is the actuality which is eternal; such is eternity concretely realized. The kingdom of heaven takes its course right through the games of children and through the petty censureship of jealous Scribes. Such is the majesty of the King whom Zechariah saw in his vision. Such is the glory of Christ.

In concluding, we must revert to the beginning for a moment. We must gratefully acknowledge that Christ exercises a double prerogative against those who, although they are still awaiting their opportunity, definitely mean to put Him to death.

Christ exercises the prerogative of personal initiative. He does not yield to the wishes of those who celebrated by waiting for them to act. He receives the program for His passion and coronation week directly from the hands of His Father. He spends His glorious hours of palm branches and laurels of honor with the lame and the blind. They understand that He acts upon His own initiative.

The second prerogative which He exercises is that of self interpretation. Christ explains the “lowliness” and “defenselessness” of the prophetic picture according to His own meaning. He asks no one what he thinks of it.

Such is our ideal King: One who vindicates His rule according to His sovereign good pleasure, and who brooks no interference as He proceeds to execute it.