Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 1 - Christ In His Suffering: 21. Chapter 21: Christ’s Sorrows Have Their Own Peculiar Law of Sacrifice

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 1 - Christ In His Suffering: 21. Chapter 21: Christ’s Sorrows Have Their Own Peculiar Law of Sacrifice

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SUBJECT: 21. Chapter 21: Christ’s Sorrows Have Their Own Peculiar Law of Sacrifice

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C H A P T E R T W E N T Y - O N E

Christ’s Sorrows Have Their Own Peculiar Law of Sacrifice

And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

—Luk_22:44 b.

THE sweat of Christ, or, as some, and that incorrectly, like to put it, the sweat of God,[1] has impressed the soul of the church more than its spirit.

[1] Giovanni Papini, L’Histoire du Christ, Payot, Paris, p. 323. Dieu est couvert de seuer, comme s’il venait d’accomplir quelque extenuant.

This can be explained readily but cannot be justified.

True, sweat is the soul’s concern the moment it proves to be the sweat of passion. But after that it should also concern the spirit. Sweat concerns the spirit because passion does.

And the sweat of Christ, particularly, shall become the concern of the human spirit, especially of the thinking spirit of the church. In the sweat of the Christ the church recognizes the form (not the essence) of the price which the Bridegroom gave for the bride.

Besides, the sweat of Christ is blood. It is His own blood concerning which the church and many outside of it have written books, and which mysticism has accepted as the motif of utmost surrender. That is therefore so much more reason for saying that the church should concern itself with the sweat of Jesus’ passion which fell from Him in the garden.

Finally, if we consider in addition that the blood-sweating man, Jesus, is perfectly united with the very God who is in Eternal Life, then we know that the indifference of the spirit of the church is quite inexcusable.

The thinking spirit of the church should have concerned itself anxiously about the blood which is sweat and about the sweat which is blood. The spirit of the church, so to speak, might well have sweated anxiously in considering the problem of the sweating Bridegroom.

But the fact is that the spirit of the church has been less concerned with that problem than has the soul of the church.

Yes, the soul, the believing soul soon busied itself with the sweating of blood. Think of mysticism, for instance. Think of Francis of Assisi, and of the lesser stars of mysticism around him. These all wanted to force Christ’s sweat out of their own pores. Indeed, some among them succeeded in sweating blood.

But—such mysticism must be named a labor of the soul rather than a work of the spirit.

And others there are who in great perturbation and with tremulous voices spoke of the sweat which is the blood-sweat of Gethsemane. They pondered how terrible must be the suffering that draws sweat out of blood and drives blood out of the pores like sweat. They shuddered before the affliction so severe that it is nameless among men, and then, with eyes half-closed in fear, they listened to the scientists who said that nameless agony could, indeed, force blood out of the pores like sweat. There is such a condition, the scientists assured them, as an excessive sweating which makes huge drops of sweat look like clots of blood.[1] Fact is, these people were very glad for a moment when their souls which regarded and wanted to regard this suffering as unspeakably excruciating were given the support of scientists who, as guardians of the faith, now came forward to assert that the expression Luke employs in our text was not a hyperbole but a description of actual fact. Why—they hastened to ask—do you suppose that Luke, who was a physician, would not have discriminated painstakingly in this matter? And, is it not remarkable that Luke is precisely the one who emphasizes Christ’s sweating of blood?

[1] Groenen, op. cit., 1, 1.

So men searched, and pondered—but, when it came to the point, it was always the soul which wanted to keep its eye upon this terrible suffering. The soul assigned a task to the spirit of the scientists only inasmuch as it told the spirit of these to argue for the possibility of respectably retaining the terrible description of the sweating Christ. Meanwhile, the essential mystery of the Christ who sweats blood was far less the concern of the spirit than of the soul of the church.

It will be unnecessary for us to establish the fact that Luke’s account of the drops of blood which were pressed from Jesus’ pores so abundantly and so heavily that they fell to the ground is not hyperbole but matter of fact. Even though we felt unable to say more about such a phenomenon than we are assured of by those specific investigations of men of science, who tell us that in human life such a thing as the sweating of blood is indeed known to accompany awful anguish of soul, we would take Luke’s word for it. Gethsemane is and remains the place which alone can explain itself. Consequently we accept Luke’s description as evidence for the awful oppression weighing on the soul of Christ; we shudder at each drop which falls to the ground. Why do we shudder, you ask? Because in those falling drops of sweat we see the drawing force of the angel, of the angel who strengthened Jesus and who accelerated the motor of Christ’s heart and soul again, when it threatened to stop.

And does that, then, suffice for us? May we be satisfied the moment scientists courteously assure us—as they do assure the weak—that Luke was right “indeed”? And, for the rest, may we then withdraw into a corner reserved for mystical meditating, acknowledging there that Christ’s agonies must have been most extraordinary?

As though we had not always known that! As though it had not been told us repeatedly.

Indeed, we always knew Christ’s anguish was exceedingly severe. In fact, the sweating of blood cannot even tell us that, cannot even preserve the truth for us that Christ’s passion was extraordinary. For, if it is true that other people also can sweat blood under the pressure of awful distress, then such sweating of blood is included in the human round of possibilities; it may be above the plane of our bourgeois level of humanity but not above “the” human plane.

It is good for us to see the situation thus and to express it.

For that which transcends our capacity for suffering in the sorrows of Christ is not something perceptible in the forms His sorrows take. That is something contained in what we cannot see. It inheres exclusively in the conflict of His soul, in the passion of His spirit. In these is contained the extra-human in Jesus’ suffering. In these and in His divinity, the sweating blood, though perhaps known only at the outer margins of human possibility, does take place within the human bourne. The truth, therefore, that Christ suffered by virtue of other laws and because of other forces than those known to men, is a truth we believe not on the ground of the blood which He did sweat; but that we believe because of the Word. We believe it, and without drawing the slightest suggestion of evidence from the sweating of blood.

Hence, we insist that this sweating of blood must give our believing spirit great concern, and that this biblical datum must lead us back from the solitary cell of nebulous personal meditation and emotional affection, to the lecture-room of the Highest Wisdom, where our spirit may be taught. And we have a strong argument in favor of this insistence in the very history of the church. Church history itself supports the demand that spirit as well as soul should be active in the matter of Jesus’ sweating blood.

Think: How long has the church busied itself now with the blood that was pressed out of the Christ at Golgotha? Volumes have been written, the whole problem of the exegesis of Scripture has been read into the issue in several treatises on the blood and water which flowed from Jesus’ side when the centurion’s spear tore the dead body open. Not only did Roman Catholic mysticism put the soul to work upon the wounds of Christ on the cross; it put the spirit to work also when it conjured angels into existence who caught up the blood of Christ in vessels as it flowed from His side, in order to pour it over all souls later, even over those in purgatory. And those who were not Roman Catholics have also repeatedly considered the blood which was forced from Christ at His death an important subject for Christian thinking.

What, pray, in comparison with that, has the spirit of investigation in the church done with the drops of blood which the ground absorbed from the foliage and moss of Gethsemane?

In comparison with what Christ’s blood on the cross has meant to the inquiring spirit of the church, we must confess, certainly, that the blood which came as sweat in Gethsemane has interested the spirit and the mind of faith very, very little.

Who are we, that we may so accentuate one incident and ignore another? Who gives us the right to make an issue of the one, and not of the other? Who gives us permission to cut the account of Christ’s blood and of its movement, its expulsion, into two? And to give one part of that sacred page to the spirit to think about and to reserve another for the sourly-disposed ones to shudder at?

The whole Christ must concern soul and spirit together. Each movement of His blood speaks the same language, addressing the soul only if the spirit is willing to listen simultaneously.

Hence, Christ’s sweating of blood is an issue for us spiritually also. It is an issue of revelation. It is no less that than is any of the parts of the suffering on the cross, of the sorrows, and of the temptations of the Man of sorrows.

It seems to us that as we try to understand a little of the element of revelation in the sweating of blood, the right trail to follow is precisely that of the contrast between the sweating of blood in Gethsemane and the vehement expulsion of that blood in the death on Golgotha.

Each of these incidents constitutes a kind of terminal point. The blood of Christ was driven out of Him twice: first at Gethsemane; then at Golgotha.

The first time, at Gethsemane, the blood was expelled from within. It was expelled as sweat. The second time, at Golgotha, the blood was forced out by wounds inflicted externally. Thorns had been impressed upon Jesus’ brow, lashings fallen upon His shoulders, nails had been driven through His hands and feet, and these all culminated in a thrust of the centurion’s lance which caused blood and water to flow from Jesus’ wounded side.

Christ’s blood, which is the stream of His active life, can, therefore, be driven out in two ways: the way of an internal agony of soul, and the way of an external physical affliction.

The sweating in Gethsemane is the culmination and acme of the first way. The flowing of the blood and water at Golgotha is the culmination and acme of the other way.

In Gethsemane the blood is forced out organically; at Golgotha it is made to flow by mechanical means.

Jesus sweats blood in Gethsemane but it was not a human weapon which forced it out. He sweats the blood before the eyes of God. God and Satan—but Satan only as seen in the light of God—draw that blood out of His body.

At Golgotha, on the contrary, earthly weapons exact Christ’s blood and let it flow away.

Taken together, these two final and high points show us that Christ’s blood is being demanded by the whole system of the universe. Heaven draws it out, hell drives it out, and the earth forces it out. From every side Christ’s blood, which is the bearer of life, is demanded of Him.

From His own side also there is a contrast between these two incidents of the shedding of blood. True, the suffering of Gethsemane and of Golgotha affect the whole Christ, and in body and soul; nevertheless there is a difference between the two.

In Gethsemane no one touched Him except God alone. Hence in Gethsemane His own soul sacrificed itself to God. There He found peace with God, with Him who exacts blood. Christ said yes to the Chief Requisitioner of blood. He puts all His powers into His yes. He swore the oath of fidelity to God who made Him sweat blood. He did not stint one drop, nor begin to want to recall a single drop. Therefore, it is truth: He sacrificed that blood as an offer. He gave it; and He gave it from within. Christ’s own sorrows of soul forced out the blood in Gethsemane. In those sorrows He fully justified God. The angel who called Him to life, who recalled Him to the possibility of sacrificing blood, did not avert His vehemently-pulsing blood from him, not even when Christ’s spirit understood the angel’s heavy demand. The lion was voiceless. In shedding His blood in Gethsemane, He is offering His soul. In Gethsemane He offered His soul as a sacrifice. And on Golgotha He sacrificed His body.

In Gethsemane the blood was forced out by powers none can name. But at Golgotha it was forced out by the weapon that can wound us also.

Gethsemane is therefore the sacrifice of Christ’s blood-soul [1] as it confronts the invisible world. And Golgotha is the sacrifice of Christ’s soul-blood [1] as it faces the visible world.

The mystery of each of those culminating, final incidents is equally great, however. Gethsemane, where the soul offered itself before the body, and Golgotha, where the body offered itself after the soul, are united by the invisible work of the Spirit. By the eternal Spirit Christ offered Himself to God blameless.

[1] Play on the statement concerning sacrifice in the Old Testament: the soul is the blood and the blood is the soul.

When men require His blood at Golgotha, He allows them to take it. For He has subjected Himself to their service.

But before He allows mankind to take His blood He gives God that privilege in Gethsemane. In the final analysis it is God alone who forced Christ’s blood out at the pores in the Garden of Olives. Only a God-engendered conflict[2] of spiritual forces wrought this extreme crisis in Jesus’ life, and injected into the life stream of the Son of man the virus of death.

[2] Compare Chapter 17: “Christ’s Sorrows Have Their Own Peculiar Origin.”

This is a beautiful mystery: Gethsemane has its own peculiar law of sacrifice. The hour of sacrifice is not determined by grasping human hands; it was determined by Father and Son in God’s own time.

Hence, this final, culminating point in the internal way of the shedding of blood shows us the love of Christ Jesus in its highest form. This moment in Gethsemane is as permeated with love as is the other moment at Golgotha.

Human blood is described in the Scriptures as the bearer of life, is it not? The soul is in the blood. That means, then, that Christ’s blood and His soul are not only taken from Him but also forced out of Him by His own effort.

If Christ’s blood had been shed simply because it had to flow by reason of human pressure, His soul would have gone out with the blood, but it would not have been given as a sacrifice.

Inasmuch, however, as He Himself forces His blood out by means of the soul, His soul becomes a sacrifice. His soul then, like His blood, is moved by the pressure of His own whole human nature.

The act of the priest on this occasion is a perfect one. In the highest sense of the word, Christ lost His life, here in Gethsemane. He lost it to God. Hence He can also receive it again from God, for He who has lost His life shall gain it.

Now that He has lost His soul to God, and has manifested the sign and seal of the losing in the expulsion of His blood, He receives the soul which is life from God in return. He can arise, be master of Himself, arouse the disciples, meet the band of murderers, and hold out His hands to those who bind Him. Soul and life are returned to Him by God, in order that soul and life and spirit may sacrifice themselves to God, but, this time, for the sake of mankind.

For the life and the blood-soul which He first gave God, He can now let men take as a testimony for them, and, if they believe, for complete salvation.

This culminating moment of Christ’s passion in Gethsemane shows us also the majesty of His grief.

Surely, Christ’s suffering on account of the invisible world was not less severe than His passion owing to the visible world. In Gethsemane He suffered from the actuality of invisible forces in the spiritual world which attacked Him there. But He also suffered from a full anticipation, a sensitive premonition, of the passion which would descend upon Him at Golgotha. He suffered as severely because of the idea as because of the actuality.

This Saviour can bear mankind now. He withstood and overcame them in the invisible struggle. He withstood them in idea before their actuality caused Him to groan with convulsions.

Beforehand He saw all those madding people who move against Him now. In the presence of God He saw them. He can resist them all now, for in the labor of His soul He has already reckoned with all of them.

In this fact inheres the majesty of Christ’s passion. From this fact it becomes plain that God alone can bruise His Son. Men cannot do it, for them He Has already defeated in the arena where God was the only spectator.

The breaking of the body on the cross later is folly and an offense only inasmuch as God is operative in the breaking. Not the external side of the passion on the cross, or of the suffering in Gethsemane, but the spiritual conflict represented in it is the essence of Christ’s grief as expressed in the sweating of blood.

Nevertheless, there is folly and offense in the blood-sweating Christ as well as in the crucified Christ.

To Jews and Greeks, says Paul, the crucified Christ, peculiarly, is offensive and foolish.

For these can see the cross. They simply cannot tolerate the fact that men, mere thugs, can triumph over one who claims to be a world-redeemer. How can one whom ordinary soldiers are able to nail to a cross be the bearer of the world’s burdens? Externalities annoy Jews and Greeks and therefore the cross annoys them. The people, the men who are active at Golgotha, are so large and so busy that they rob the Jew and Greek of a vision of the Mediator, Jesus.

But we sense the problem more profoundly still when we have seen Christ sweating blood all alone before His God.

In this instance the offense is not external but internal. Christ lay before God alone. The riddle of the event is not that the victim of men is the Saviour of men but that He who was smitten of God receives His great Commendation from God. Whoever sees Christ’s blood forced out at the pores by God Himself must think the Gospel of such a Saviour offensive and foolish. As long as nails and hammers manipulated by human hands are causing Jesus’ blood to flow, we can clench our fists in protest against the men who wield them. And that is to many a welcome substitute for the acquiescence of faith which they do not covet. But when I see God, and the Holy Ghost, and all the angels drawing the blood out of Jesus in Gethsemane, I clench my fists in vain. Then all I can do is to believe. Then all that is in me must either rise in rebellion or bow in faith.

The great difficulty does not arise from the bound hands nor from the crown of thorns, for only men are to be blamed for these.

The great difficulty is the blood-sweat. The sweating of that was the work of God. It is the riddle of Abraham who was about to kill his own son, but it is that riddle transferred to the clouds, and to the abyss of perfect knowledge. For Isaac, the son of Abraham, nonchalantly climbs the hill of sacrifice. “Father,” he casually asks, “where is the lamb?” He does not sweat one drop of blood. But Christ knows everything. The abysses into which the Highest Wisdom is descending today do not make the Son a naive Isaac. Therefore He sweats blood: “Father, I am the lamb.”

That God could have treated His Son thus in the last moment before men were permitted to beat Him, that the farewell of Father and Son required the sweating of blood before men came to do their work—that, my heart, was thy fault, thy work, because of thy sins.

Otherwise it were impious, ungodly, to believe a word of this.

Now, therefore, a deeper note is sounded for all who believe, in the admonition to have patience: you have not labored to the point of sweating blood! For the blood of Jesus and that of none besides Him was ever taken by outside forces or ever pressed out from within by an invisible power as was His.

In the full, complete sense He alone strove to the point of blood. His struggle proceeded from within outwards, and from without inwards, and all the while it demanded and took the unique, noble blood of our Surety and Mediator.

All that we have written so far would be foolishness if Christ had merely undergone the suffering; if Christ’s agonies had placed Him before us only as a passive sufferer. But Christ does not suffer in that way only.

Once we read: Jesus wept (Joh_11:35). He wept at the grave of Lazarus. But He wept because He “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” Would He have wept in Gethsemane, then, do you suppose, without having “groaned in the spirit”?

In Gethsemane God took His blood. But in God’s taking it and through it Jesus also gave it Himself.

His blood was taken, His blood was given: Blessed be the name of the Lord.

His soul was taken, His soul was given: Blessed be the name of the Lord.