And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place coiled the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.
CHRIST is sinking deeper, ever deeper, into His passion. We saw Him made an exlex: that is, one whom men have thrust outside of the sphere of law. Thereupon He was sentenced to death: He was condemned. But now He plunges even deeper into the shaft of humiliation. He is about to be accursed. For He goes now to be put to death on the cross, and “accursed is everyone, that hangeth on the tree.” We shall be compelled to return to that curse, and to the meaning of the word itself, several times during the course of this book. Much of its significance must for the time being be postponed.
The thing we want to discuss now, as Jesus Christ goes out to the place of curse, is the awful weight of the justice of God which puts upon Christ a burden which to our mind is a superhuman one. This burden God places upon Him in order that He may reach out from this maze of sin, from this knot of human falsehood, from these skeins of arbitrariness and injustice, in which He has become entangled and been taken captive thus far — may reach out, we say, to the firm hand of His God in order to submit to His justice, painful as it may be. He must submit to His justice now, to the one justice of God. That, and nothing else, He must do.
For we can truly say that from the human side there is nothing but injustice here. We have seen that before, and shall say nothing about it now. However, there is a difference between one kind of injustice and another. The world knows of a kind of injustice which, terrible though it may be, nevertheless is characterized by a certain consistency and pattern; obstinately it draws up its own program and never lets itself be deflected from the logic it has first chosen. But there is also an injustice which can hardly be said to be characterized by any consistency or pattern. In this kind of injustice logic is quite lacking; it gives no one an opportunity to know what it is all about.
 In the several chapters of Christ on Trial, the preceding (second) volume of this trilogy.
It is this second kind of injustice which accrued to Jesus. Must we take time to prove that? Surely not, for that has become obvious again and again as we followed the pathetic maze of the trial. But there is one thing which we want to emphasize particularly now. This one thing is precisely a question of pattern, of consistency, of inherent logic. We mean the sequence of the several states of justice in which the people placed Christ on public display, or are still to place Him.
This is that sequence of events: first, Christ the exlex. Thereupon, Christ condemned. Finally, Christ accursed. Now this sequence of events in the trial of Christ is essentially and even from a purely human point of view sheer nonsense. We use the word seriously — we mean that the logic of this course of events is outright nonsense. There is no logic in it, and, observed precisely from the human point of view, there is neither rhyme nor reason in it.
That conclusion comes very naturally. For, after all, it is only after a person has been condemned first, and accursed afterwards, that he can, at the end of his trial, be placed outside of the sphere of the law, outside of the “gates” of justice. Plainly, a person can be an exlex only when the law has exhausted itself in reference to him. This is a person’s right, for everyone is born in a context of law. And this is also the prerogative of law. It need not give up its task before it has exhausted itself; until then it need not give its province, its status, its prerogative of meting out punishment and of concluding cases to any other. Obviously, then, the exlex cannot be proclaimed that until the end of the trial. That is as plain as day.
Condemnation, then, legal condemnation is quite impossible except in a context of law. In order to condemn anyone all the machinery of the legal structure must be set in motion against a person. Condemnation can indeed be defined as a mobilization of the machinery of law against a guilty party. And if the curse is to be added to the condemnation, if, considered negatively, even the least privileges which the law still gives its worst enemies are denied, and if, considered positively, the condemned person is to be made the victim of every method of perdition which the law can possibly heap upon one, then, and then only, can the guilty one be constituted a curse and regarded as standing outside of the province of law. The law has nothing further to add to an accursed party who has been condemned first of all by the powerful but pure pressure of the law. All that the law can add after that is the confirmation and the complete execution of its final statement, as well by negative as by positive means. The law which as the exacting principle and as the exacting force has pronounced its judgment is satisfied then; the thirst of the law is quenched then by the condemned blood.
This would as a matter of fact be the course of all condemned people in the world, and this would be the end of the whole matter, if all the laws which obtain in human society did not in a certain sense contain an element of grace. Does that statement, possibly, surprise anyone? If so, we do well to remember that it is a Biblical idea, which we sometimes pass over too rapidly. On the whole we are thoroughly convinced that the law is opposed to us, that it condemns, and curses, and protests against us; but we too often forget that the law nevertheless is characterized by an element of grace.
Indeed, the law has a twofold grace in it: a negative grace inasmuch as it does not place the full burden of its wrath upon us while we are here below; and a positive grace to the extent that it never, here on earth, isolates anyone from the dispensation and purpose of the grace of God.
Those are two separate concepts. We must study each one of them more specifically.
In the first place, the law which God gives men, puts in the language of men, writes with a human pen into a human book, can never in its expression completely embody or exhaust the unmixed concept of the wrath of God. Moreover, it cannot in its execution completely administer the whole wrath of God. Now as far as the expression of the law is concerned it can never, being phrased in human language as it is, be as powerful as God Himself. What is true of the law is also true of God’s written Word, and of all forms of revelation. Revelation is true and genuine, but it is not complete, is not exhaustive; it cannot express everything contained in the depths of God’s being. Just as all Scripture is revelation but God Himself always remains richer than His spoken Word, just so the word of the law, which, as we know, also belongs to God’s revelation, merely approximates and never reaches the completeness of the essence of God Himself. God’s wrath is more terrible than the law can define. What holds true of the Gospel terms of redemption also holds true of the legal terms of condemnation: they say a great deal, they tell the truth, but they do not tell the whole truth. So much for the word of the law. What now in reference to the deed of the law. The law, we know, also determines the penalty, assigns the punishment, and, even here on earth, administers the penalty. But all the penalty which the law can effect here below, terrible as it may be, is never so terrible as it can be. It can be as terrible as it is in hell. But hell is not realized on the earth. The chasms which the wrath of God will some day open there are deeper and darker than any into which the law can plunge us while we are on earth. Therefore the law in this world is always limited, limited by itself, in its threats and also in the active administration of God’s wrath.
That is the first point which bears on the situation with which we are dealing here. There is a second point. We said that the law in this dispensation is never independent of the dispensing and the purpose of grace. The proclaiming of the law is an act of grace. Yes, it is an act of judgment, but it is first of all an act of grace. The fact that the law makes its threatenings heard is an expression of grace. Indeed, it is also an expression of judgment, but it is first of all an expression of grace. For the law comes into a world which, even where special grace has not achieved a domain for itself, nevertheless lives by common grace. No single, practical execution of a penalty taking place in the world by human agency, human words, and human instruments can ever isolate itself from the common grace which is active in the world. If it should ever happen that someone in some far corner of the world should be annihilated by the full energy of wrath inherent in the Lawgiver, an exhaustive effluence of the vengeance dwelling in the heart of God, we would find that the world would burst, would fly apart in that particular corner. At that point the world would begin to be rent in twain. For wherever the waves of the wrath of God beat against the head of a sinner on earth, that wave meets with the resistance of common grace. True, the wave of wrath will overcome the grace. That is natural. For who could hope to thwart God’s wrath and who could think that the weaker element — the common grace — could resist the stronger and definitive element — the eternal power and love of justice. Yes, indeed, the wave of wrath will break through the resistance of common grace. But it is also true that the wave of wrath is tempered by it. It was God’s own will that this should be so. Perhaps we can make the matter clearer to each other by the use of a figure. You have seen the sun. You know that its rays are weakened by the atmosphere. Light is mitigated by it and loses some of its radiance because of it; moreover, shadows are also tempered by it and lose something of their undesirable darkness because of it. Or, to make it more vivid, think of the heavenly bodies which are not surrounded by an atmosphere. You know that worlds not surrounded by an atmosphere send out untempered rays, and that there, consequently, the rays which are dispatched are far more penetrating and the shadows much darker than they are on earth. From this, now, you can glean some sense of the difference between hell and earth. Here we are surrounded by the atmosphere of common grace; here, therefore, the rays of God’s love are tempered, and the waves of God’s wrath are mitigated also. There is not a single form of execution on earth which gives full expression to the exacting hunger of the justice of the chief Author of the law. For example, Christ could not punish the Antichrist in this world and at this time as He could the sinner who is to be beaten with the fewest stripes in hell. Accordingly, we do well to keep these two thoughts in mind. First, the law, as the Word of God, can never give complete expression to its legal will. Second, this world, as the stage and workroom of common grace, can never satisfy the hunger of God’s exacting justice completely, nor perfectly execute the justice of His will. Remembering those two things, you will catch a faint glimpse of the terrible significance of the word curse. And then you will also understand why the justice which God has proclaimed among the people of special revelation can make someone an exlex even on this earth.
 Think of “the vicious circle,” Christ on Trial, pp. (Chapter 3) 58 ff., (Chapter 6) 126 ff., (Chapter 7) 153 ff., (Chapter 27) 514 ff.
That we must consider now. Readers of Christ on Trial will perhaps feel inclined to say: But now you are contradicting what you said in the other book. For there we did indeed say that God does not acknowledge, He does not recognize, He does not know, the exlex. Yes, we said that. And we insist that it is so. There is no conflict whatever between these two contentions. God does not recognize the exlex, and the law of God in Israel shows us the exlex. The first thesis — God does not know the exlex — is one which speaks of God Himself. If we study the justice of God, as it exists in Him, as He knows and experiences it in the depths of His being, as it cries out aloud for satisfaction from His profound abysses and as it is carried out in hell, we must say: There is not a single thing, there is not a single person, there is not a single phenomenon which from God’s point of view is not connected with the law of God. Hell, we know, is the place where God exercises His justice to the fullest extent and where not the slightest remnant of common grace resists the penetrating rays of His wrath.
But the situation changes when we look upon it as it is here on earth. In this world, as we stated above, the law and the wrath of God cannot express themselves fully nor find those forms which completely embody God’s most exacting wrath. Here on earth, consequently, there is a certain unconsumable, a certain inexpressible and unadministrable, remnant of wrath. The thunders of wrath which cause us to tremble now, or of which we dream in our boldest probings or dogmatic speculations must always be such as to leave room for a more awful thunder which has never yet been heard in earthly sounds; there is, to the apprehension of faith, always a wrath which cannot be executed by the instruments of punishment and of torture which this world has been able to forge and set in motion.
[3.] See Christ on Trial, pp. (Chapter 9) 185 f., (Chapter 22) 421.
This unconsumed remnant of wrath it is which is acknowledged in Israel by the concept of curse, and by the concept of the exlex which is its corollary. Hence the curse operates in the realm of special grace; precisely there, in the realm of special revelation. Therefore the curse is operative in Israel. O sublime majesty of God, O majesty of the God of the Word, terrible art Thou. Who can stand before Thee? When men, when the judges, when the priests of Israel pronounce the curse, then the curse is their strongest gesture. But it is also the weakest thing they can do. For those who curse and make the criminal an exlex are saying: Lord, we can go no farther; we have reached the limits of our law. No profounder judgment is possible to us and yet we know, O God, that we have not gone far enough, that Thou canst see and say things more profoundly, that Thou wouldst punish further. Lord, here is the candidate for the torment of hell; we can go no farther . . . Surely, it is a sad day for the ministers of justice in God’s theocratic country when they must utter such things to God and man.
Hence when someone in Israel is first of all condemned, then accursed, and finally made an exlex, nothing is being done in conflict with the austere proclamation of hell according to which, as we said, the exlex is not known. For the exlex in Israel, who has been made exlex after having been condemned and accursed, embodies in his dumb death this very preaching of hell. We can say that He is being pushed in hell’s direction, but that the hands of the judge do not reach quite far enough. The people, the judges, and those who maintain the laws among the people of revelation, all cry out to God: We can do no more to this object of wrath. Nothing that can be conceived by the human mind and carried out by human instruments can now be done to Him. Therefore we say that He is an exlex. We transfer Him to the Lord. Let the birds feed on Him, the children play with His tattered clothing, and the wolves feed on His corpse, for He that hangeth on a tree is a curse to the Lord.
Therefore the exlex in Israel — that is as long as Israel is faithful to itself and to its Lawgiver — is not an invention of the judges who, like Pilate and the others, overlook the law, but it is an acknowledgment of the judges, an acknowledgment of the fact that their appreciation of the law and their execution of the law is imperfect; it is an acknowledgment of the fact that God’s thunders are sublimer and His punishments more perfect in the other world. There, in that other world, the law is expressed not in human phraseology but by an unrestrained effluence of God’s wrath, without a hint of the restraint of common grace.
We can understand, therefore, why the concept of the exlex was introduced into the law in Israel; in the law, that is, that they first had to put a condemned man to death and after that hang him upon the tree. The hanging on the tree embodied a curse, the curse of Jahweh. In Israel, consequently, a course was followed which was diametrically opposed to the one pursued in the presence of Pilate, of Herod, of Caiaphas, and Annas. God’s word took a different course. In the presence of the judges the sequence of events was such that each of the four first made Christ an exlex, then a condemned man (by agreeing with Pilate), and then an accursed man, when they proceeded to hang Him on the cross. For these all do indeed curse Him. That becomes apparent from a correspondence between the narrative of John and the synoptic gospels. The synoptic gospels tell us that the military leaders of Rome led Jesus to the place of curse which was Golgotha, but John emphasizes the fact that it was the high priests who led Jesus away. They did the supervising and pointed out the way: “We have a law and according to our law He must be put to death” And Pilate had held them to that word.
 The chief priests are discussed in Joh_19:15, and the 16th verse also mentions them. Compare Nebe, op. cif., p. 166.
Those are the stages followed by the judges: exlex, condemnation, and curse. That is what Pilate, and Herod, and the Sanhedrin, all of whom have abandoned God’s Word and no longer tremble before the concept of the exlex, wish. Now this course of events is in diametrical opposition to the Word of God and the Law as these were entrusted to Israel. Had the course of the law which God had given by revelation been followed, the sequence of events would have been different: first the condemnation, then the curse (the deed), and finally the proclamation of the exlex. The second is the course things should have taken — that is what God would have wished in every case from every human being. Note the adjectives: every case and every human being.
 See Christ in His Suffering, Chapter 11, pp. 169 ff., 173 ff.
Learn to tremble, O man, before the great day of Golgotha. We return to our point of departure. We say: now the Christ must be very careful to keep the legal action of God carefully distinguished from the crooked activity of the people, even of His own people. And what distinction does He make? Pay close attention. He sees very clearly that what God would forbid and prevent in any other case, for any other human being, God is Himself now doing to Him. The sequence of events which God would characterize as a violation of the law if followed in the case of the meanest slave, of Achan the thief, of the sons of Rizpah, of Korah and his band, or anyone, God Himself approves of in the trial of the Saviour. Exlex first, then condemnation, and finally the curse. He was an exlex already. His doom has been sealed. Now He goes to the cross — and accursed is every one that hangs upon the tree, that is cast “outside of the gate.”
This is a sad day. God’s sequence of events is always different from that of Jesus’ judges, but today He appropriates and accepts their own program of activity. Why did these judges of Jesus begin with the idea of the exlex? Because they had themselves as judges first of all abandoned the law. Now God accompanies them. The least among the accursed of Abraham’s lost children has more right than Jesus to be legally condemned in terms of the law and in virtue of the voice of the law and not until then to be condemned and hanged as a curse. God grants His Son less than that. Even the sons of Saul, whom Rizpah wanted to keep from becoming exlex, were treated genuinely, that is, according to the logic of the Word of God. Put to death first, and then made a curse. Mary, afflicted mother, is God less concerned about your Son than about the sons of Rizpah? Who will help us out of this bewildering maze? Who will give us the key to the explanation? Judge of Israel, must not Christ Jesus be treated as the least of earth’s disgraced ones are treated: condemnation first, the curse next, the exlex only then — abandoned to the God vengeance only then? Lord, this world is a topsy-turvy world; the whole of the legal structure is turned upside down in dealing with Thy Son. He became an exlex at His first entrance into the courthouse, and was that at every stage which followed. Of course, on the part of Pilate and of Herod and of Caiaphas and of them all, this was a sin. But can we say that God imitates this wickedness? Is such evil compatible with God’s holy justice? Can the God of truth triumph through such crooked transactions?
Yes, God answers. These things must take place thus in this unique hour, in reference to this unique defendant. God’s justice was poured out through the funnel of men’s crooked dealings. The key to the explanation lies contained in a single word. That word is Suretyship. All these things must happen thus because the Christ, who is suffering here as the Surety, had to suffer the sorrow of being an exlex not after but before His death.
Be very cautious now, be very careful, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. However, do not be silent about what the Scriptures teach you. And the Scriptures teach us that Christ is taking up His cross here as the Surety, and that as the Surety He goes to the place of curse as a condemned man. As the Surety Christ now comes to pay the debt which His people have made. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. Now a part of that chastisement which brings our peace was that we in this world, overagainst this earth, and overagainst common grace become exlex. Every sinner must know that the punishment which he has earned is always more terrible than the modes of penalty and the words of punishment that obtain on earth. And after that the pain and penalty of hell awaits him. After that — that is, after his death. But if the Christ also were to suffer the pain of hell after His bodily death, He could not be our Mediator. For the mediatorship must not only repay God but it must completely settle for God’s wrath. The indebtedness must be completely stricken. There must be an end, there must be finality, when the Mediator pays God, in the stead of His own. Without that there could be no It is finished.
Therefore the torment of hell, the penalty of hell, the infinite, the incomparable pain which comes to all others who die outside of God after death, must accrue to Christ before He dies. The whole mystery of the descent into hell, as it is regarded, among others, by the Heidelberg Catechism, is based on that thought; and the same concept is emphasized in the fifth and sixth Lord’s Days of this Catechism. There, too, we confess that the Mediator who is to truly redeem us must consciously experience in His earthly life, before His death, before His departure from the world and from the circumference of time, that which the lost human being will suffer after his death and on the other side of this bourne. Before the Mediator can say “It is finished,” the eternal punishment, the eternal, perfect expression of an unrestrained and unbounded wrath of God must be endured and left behind. Not after His death, understand, but before His death. Not in the other world, but in this world. Not when He has been hurled from this earth, outside of “our” domain — the domain of the vicious circle, and of common grace — but here in our world, in our life, in our earthly home of common grace and of “common” wrath.
We expect to say more of these things later in this book when we reach the dark chapter of Christ’s suffering in hell and of His fourth utterance on the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
But if we may be allowed to anticipate a little of that now we shall do so simply to free Christ exlex from the caricatured versions of Israel’s and of Pilate’s vitiation of law, and to teach our soul that both the idea and its realization finds its rightful place only in the true course of justice in which God — our God — punishes the Surety — our Surety — and makes Him to be sin for us.
Rejoice, O my soul! What man had intended for evil, God turned into good. In all other trials it may, from God’s point of view, be an atrocity if anyone becomes an exlex before he is condemned and accursed, but in this hour of the Surety that very thing happened in accordance with God’s holy logic. “What is truth?” This is truth. “What is justice?” This is justice. The lawgiver opens and closes the doors of law according to His good pleasure and that in the last analysis is simply the end of the matter.
You ask what the chief Lawgiver would teach us at this time? He teaches us the obligation of the Surety to be the exlex, fully conscious of its implications while here in His human life. Just as Christ suffered the pain of hell before His bodily death, fully conscious the while of all of it, so also He suffered the pain of the exlex, the misery of which had always been depicted by the Word in Israel as the beginning, the first phase of the transition to the condemnation of hell. This, too, He must suffer during His life, before His death, and with a full consciousness of all of its import.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, with all thy strength. Out of the chaos of the illogical ideas of those who violate the law He builds the cosmos of the ideas of the Logos according to His justice. In this the greatness of Christ is preached to us. Our second volume is really explained by the third, even though the third lay contained in the second. For now it appears that Christ’s descent into hell — which must be taken to mean His suffering of the pain of hell — did not impinge upon Jesus suddenly, mechanically, without a gradual transition, when, on the cross, He had the assured feeling that He has been forsaken of God. No, that descent into hell was a gradual, an “organic” — alas, our pathetically inadequate language — development, growing out of the day of His death. The passion of hell therefore was a slow but certain process. The descent into hell? That begins in the presence of Annas, when Jesus is struck on the cheek. Then Christ had already been made the exlex. Then He knew that these people could go no farther. He knew that they had done their utmost to Him. A servant struck Him: He felt His cheeks being struck by God. He knew with perfect certainty that He was a child of hell. For now He was the exlex who — you will remember — was thrust outside of the door of the domain of thought and activity in Israel, and was in God’s name pushed into the no man’s land of hell and condemnation. He was the exlex — the sheer outcast . . . Jesus is caught between two worlds: the world of human law and human punishment can do nothing further about him; and the world in which God exhausts His laws and perfectly satisfies them has not yet consumed Him. He is brought to no man’s land — between two fronts: the front of men and the front of God, the front of this world and that of the other. And no man’s land is also every man’s land — anyone may do to the exlex what he wishes.
 Christ on Trial.
Christ, then, knew He was the exlex already at the time of the preliminary hearing. That was at the very beginning. That is saving nothing about what follows. In all that followed Christ remained the exlex. He felt the same cruel pain of being an outcast as He stood before the Sanhedrin, before Herod, and also before Pilate. And now Christ is being led to the workshop of the curse. They press the cross upon His shoulders; He had better carry that Himself. Each step which He takes now is taken with a full consciousness that He is condemned, that He is condemned of God, that God has already forsaken Him, that God is awaiting Him with the untempered pains of hell.
To go on, however, God’s program, God’s sequence of events, has not yet been announced. As we ponder that, we get a better insight into the necessity of the fact that Christ has to accomplish His departure in Jerusalem. Faith is willing to acknowledge also the place in which Jesus dies. He gives up His life in Jerusalem, the city which was entrusted with the Word of revelation. This, too, is not a mere accident, not a disconnected particular. He could die in no other place, because in no other place could he recognize in the crooked transactions of people who are making Him an exlex the holy sequence, the sacred program, of the God who is making Him an exlex.
We must consider that fact now. First of all we note the city of Jerusalem. Even though the Saviour was condemned by Pilate, and even though the law of Rome cast Him out of center and suburb of the world, Jesus may not forget for a single instant that He must stand and fall in the country, the city, of Israel. He must reduce the wicked dealings of the heathen in reference to Himself to the straight ways of the God of Israel.
But how is He to find His God in these, and how is He to understand God’s language, if He does not read the Word and live by it, if He does not always keep the law of Israel clearly before His spirit? He may not allow the roll of the book of Israel, the Scriptures, to recede from His awareness. For Israel is still the people of revelation; Jerusalem is still the “holy city.” This city, and this road, and the via dolorosa also are still subsidiary parts of the sacred inheritance in which special revelation makes itself known. The plan of Jerusalem is something more than a mere topographical thing; it is the plan of the ecclesiastical city. It will be that until God sends out the apostles by means of the Spirit to preach and to baptize in front of the rent veil of the temple.
Obviously, now, if Christ separates the disorganization of this human legal process from Jerusalem, and from the sacred roll of law, He is lost. For — as we said — the people are putting the concept of His being the exlex in the wrong place. They have wrenched the proper sequence of events apart. That which had to come last, the exlex, they placed at the very beginning. The heathen did this, yes, but also the Jews who have abandoned the word of God. Observed from the human point of view, therefore, the carrying out of the concept of Christ-exlex, precisely because it was placed at the very beginning, was an act of superficiality. In such an act one can detect only the flippancy of men, and none of the seriousness of God. And if Christ should explain the people in terms of the people now, without reference to the Word of Jahweh, His status as the exlex will not be able to depress Him. On the contrary, He will then simply be able, over-against God, to appeal to this fact, saying: I caused them no difficulty, no hard work. Lord, my God, I am therefore not affected by it in the least. The indigestible food of the laws of Thy kingdom they have converted into easily digested bread. They began with the concept of the exlex, and they should have ended with it. Then the fact that he had been made an exlex prematurely, an untimely exlex, would have been the apology of the accused over-against His judges. Then God would not have been acknowledged in the present, in the naked facts of this historical day.
But Christ did not say that. He was not allowed to find an excuse for Himself in the crookedness of the human procedure. He who would be the Surety may not look for excuses. He who must descend into hell today must not appeal to the higher court of the morrow. Nor was He allowed to explain the people in terms of the people nor the particular day in terms of the particular day. Had he not fiercely protested against that very thing Himself? No, let the Christ Himself first of all bear the burdens which He places upon the shoulders of others. Let Him look at everything which overtakes Him in the holy city in the light of the sacred Word of Revelation which still lies exposed in that city and still awaits Him only. For the Word of Revelation is indeed still in Jerusalem, and it is presenting one request: Keep me clearly in mind. Am I still an integral part of your experience? Am I? And if Christ does this, two things become clear to Him, become fixed in His spirit, draw the blood out of Him, very terrible, but in righteousness. Those two things are these: first, that the passion of the exlex is the beginning of the descent into hell; and, second, that He must die outside of the city gates within which He has been declared an exlex.
This in reference to the first consideration. Only among the people of revelation is the exlex one who has been surrendered to hell. Wherever else the concept is used, the exlex is a foolish figment of the human imagination, an act of robbery committed against the law and against its awful tension. Everywhere else — save in the legal system of Israel’s God. There to the extent that the Word is being faithfully followed, the exlex first experienced what the law had in it to inflict, and only after that was humiliated beyond the point which human language can express and the deed which human beings can execute. Everywhere in the world the placing in pillory of the exlex by human beings is an evasive attempt to escape from the law, and a closing the ears to the thunder of the law. But in Israel the Word of Revelation says this: When our ears are tingling with the thunder of the law, and man can go no farther, then the condemned person is the exlex. In Israel, consequently, the exlex has not been segregated from the pressure of law, but has been subjected to a more than human tension.
That is why Jesus dies in the city of the Word. True, His judges have freed themselves from the pressure, but He personally, as the accused, must feel that extra-human tension. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you are still necessary. They cannot get along without you. You are the only city in which Christ can stand under the pressure of the Word. You are the only city in which He as the accused can overcome the sin of the judges. You are the only city in which He — the Author of the sermon on the mount! — cannot derive an excuse before God from the sins of men in an effort to escape from the awful pressure of hell upon Him.
You are the only city in which He cannot today appeal to tomorrow, before the higher Judge. For the highest Judge was present in the room. Here Christ is directly bound to the Word, here He softly whispers to Himself: Away with all self-defense by means of an appeal to their superficiality, for thus it is meet for me to fulfill all righteousness.
So much for the first consideration. Now the second. Jesus sees Himself being rejected and thrown outside of the gates of Jerusalem. This circumstance, too, He must relate to the laws of the people of Israel. Again the consideration holds true that Jerusalem does not just happen to be the city in which the history of the passion takes place. It is the only place in which the Lamb of God could die outside of the gates, in which He could die as one unclean and accursed before the Lord God.
We mentioned the Lamb of God. That is a name which Christ puts into relationship with the law of sacrifice of — Israel. That law of sacrifice, that Word of God, which declares that Christ is the exlex, is also the only law which can proclaim that He is the sacrificial Lamb. The sacrificial Lamb — are there any priests in the neighborhood? Yes, indeed. We have pointed out already that, as John tells us, it is the high priests who take the lead in the matter of this day’s execution. After all, they have cast Christ outside of the city gates. We said just a moment ago that we could not do without Jerusalem. Well, we cannot do without the priests either.
 Christ on Trial, Chapter 29: p. 540 f. and p. 546; also this volume, Chapter 1: p. 22.
We cannot do without the priests. Now for the first time Christ’s being taken out, Christ’s being led away, becomes a sharply delineated, separate moment in the passion of Christ. All of the gospels tell us that He went forth, that He was led out of doors, that He was thrust outside of the city gates. Now if Christ places this act of rejection into relationship with the place where it happened, He will say to Himself: I am being thrust outside of the domain of sacred words and works. Exlex, yes, and exile also. Outside of the law and outside of the country! No, no one may segregate the gospel narrative of their leading Jesus outside of the gate from the dogmatic statement: “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate’ (Heb_13:11-12). The writer of these words is recalling a regulation stipulated in Lev_16:27. There we are told that the flesh and skins of the bullocks and goats offered for a sin offering had to be brought without the camp. Obviously, the body of these beasts which were slain for a sacrifice is “done away with as unclean, and there is no more fellowship between the people in the camp and the sin laden sacrificial animal” Now this stipulation of law centuries ago fixed in the minds of all, — and in reference to Christ — that that which was brought without the gates, without the camp, might no longer be regarded as clean. Because it is unclean it does not belong in the fellowship of the clean.
 Grosheide, De Brief aan de Hebreeuwen en de Brief van Jakobus, A’dam, Bottenburg, 1927, p. 381.
Can you feel now how grievously Jesus is being humiliated here? So often we human beings think: well, presently the pain and humiliation will begin, presently — when the nails are driven through His hands. We like to make everything very gory at once, and nothing but the shedding of blood can excite our interest. But for Christ Jesus the moment in which He had to pass through the gate, His back to the temple, was the equivalent of a scourging from heaven. And all those “mean” things which we said on purpose in Christ on Trial about the Jews who were too “sensitive” to enter a pagan house, well — we need not retract them here but we ought to remember now that God is fully agreeing with those Jews today. We must understand very well that both God and Satan are whispering this message into Jesus’ ear: “They were quite right, however; you do not belong in the city which is holy. They were quite right, for God Himself is casting you outside of it. He preserves Jerusalem as the domain of holiness, and adds that you are not worthy of the city.” Let your thoughts pause here for a moment; otherwise they will hurry on — on the via dolorosa. Thinking is very dangerous here. Close your eyes for a moment, and repeat the words of Paul: He is made sin. Then go on. Then you will appreciate that it is not heresy to say that God and the devil are together whispering into Jesus’ ear. Then you will believe that God drives Jesus outside of the gates, the very gates which He had entered not so long ago, exalted, riding on the foal of an ass. Now you will believe that even that Jewish pride which hit upon the idea of an Akeldama (in which, as we observed, their passion for distinctiveness was carried out to the limit) is being employed against Christ by God Himself in His legal action at this time. God will punish the Jews for it; but meanwhile He will put Jesus to death by it. Yes, indeed He is made sin for us. Hence He is cut off and cast out.
What we have here is a sin-offering. Now please do not begin singing a Latin aria just now: agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi. Latin is a kind of distant thing, and rather unreal for those who attend Roman Catholic churches as well as for those who, for aesthetic reasons, avoid churches. No, first go to the priests, look at the blood and filth; look upon the entrails which have been burned. The Scriptures would take you to that point. Sin offerings are after all as ugly as death itself. They are instinct with the curse. One must not sing the word “curse” in a strange language, but must say it in one’s own. God wants us to do that; if we do not, it does not affect us. Accordingly, we say again: This is the sin-offering. Please step out of the neighborhood, for He is unclean. He has been made sin.
Now let Him carry His cross, for who is to help the utmost exlex. Via dolorosa — people pronounce that beautiful word — Latin again — with a quivering voice. But the angels say: There is a stench here. No wonder, for the road leads outside of the gate. And Christ is now being cast into fellowship with that which is unclean. That which is unclean and is thrown outside of the camp — why hesitate to say it — that is thrown on the dung hill. Do you start at the word? That does not matter; we ought to be startled today. Dare anyone think the word is unbiblical, unbecoming, or irreverent? Then he does not know his Bible. For the Bible itself teaches that the dunghill is a symbol of hell, and that the place where men throw filthy and unclean things, when seen in a prophetic light, is a symbol of the darkness of hell. In the days of Judah’s faithful kings, Josiah appointed the dale of Hinnom, a place which had first been used by the idolatrous worship of Moloch as a dung-hill. This he did intentionally. And the spirit of prophecy made a symbol of this place, a symbol of uncleanness first and of hell afterwards (Jer_7:31-32; Isa_66:24).
 See my Wat is de Hel? Kampen, J. H. Kok, 2nd ed., p. 29 ff.
Hence we are following a Biblical course by placing things in the connections we have outlined. The dunghill and the Latin aria are unlike each other, but the dogma of Christ’s suretyship cannot get along without the vernacular which Scripture uses to point the sin-offering outside the gate. Therefore we conclude that the descent into hell would not have been possible to the spirit of Christ, which responds genuinely to all things, inside of the walls of Jerusalem. Nothing comes by chance. Golgotha had to be located outside of the city walls. Only by going forth outside of the gate, only by being accompanied by the fugue of the wrath of the Judge of heaven, who expressed His vengeance in Israel’s law, could Jesus perfectly regard Himself as descending into hell, as experiencing the curse, as consciously being the exlex. Only in that way can He really know that He is the scapegoat who, laden with sins, died, and washed away our uncleanness in His blood. Day of atonement—Good Friday.
Accordingly, we are compelled by heaven itself to sing psalms on the way which leads upward, or downward—how shall we put it today?—to the dunghill of the world and the galleries of hell. Does anyone feel like saying, I cannot do that; or another, It seems to me that it is not fitting? The latter sins worse than the former. Be that as it may. Our noble thoughts and our good taste and our humane feeling and even our self-respect, must pause to consider the blunt description: Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach (Hebrews 13). Every system of dogmatics which refuses to accept the satisfaction of Christ is doing injustice to this text. It refuses to go outside of the gate. It pulls up its nose at the dunghill of God’s universe, and consequently it can never get itself to see that God’s angels are today turning away from the filth of our sin. However, the disciple of Calvin, apprehended by the Scriptures, knows that the phrase “without the gates” is related to the concepts of hell, and is permeated with the stench of hell. He refuses to have the foulness of his sins blown away from him by the gust of humanism. He wants to discover himself at the dunghill of the world Without the gate, without the gate. He will rest in Christ who suffered all this for him, and endured it all for him. And accordingly he does not want to forget that this was the dunghill of filth, or that the path thitherward was his own path. Now this has become a strange history. We paused to observe the human chaos, and found that everything was out of its place. Consequently only the cursing word of God kept Jesus standing erect and brought Him back to the straight course. The chaos of men which had turned the program topsy-turvy did not perturb His thinking. He saw the cosmos of God’s justice rising, and He stumbled on, a hero. He went to Golgotha and courageously strode outside of the gates. He knew that men had thrust Him outside of the sphere of Mosaic law, but in spite of them this was the way by which He returned to it.
We can say that a beautiful irony characterizes the moment in which Pilate uses the key of Rome to open the gate of Jerusalem in order to bring something which stank to the dunghill of the world. Did the pilfering devils probably hurry to the scene? If so, their game was lost from the very beginning, for He who was chased from the inheritance of Moses was explained only in the light of Moses’ own law. He who was prematurely made an exlex was now according to right and justice made an exlex over-against His God at God’s own perfect time. All that men turned upside down God again turned right side up.
And in saying that we are saying nothing yet of what we called the “forgotten chapter.” At the time we observed that the forgotten chapter was the priesthood of Christ. Now note the beautiful irony again. The high priests cast Jesus outside of the gate and thereby in spite of themselves minister the preparation of God’s last sacrifice. The sacrifice for sin. O Noah, you have seen them hammering on the ark they scorned. O Jesus, you have seen them working on the despised offer. They test the Lamb, and find it wanting. They say it is not a Lamb which can serve as the sacrifice. But in spite of themselves they must perform upon Him all that they ever did to the scapegoat. And inasmuch as He is willing to enter upon His death, and to take the cross upon Himself, He is, besides being the scapegoat, also the Passover Lamb in meekness.
 Christ on Trial, Chapter 23: pp. 427 f. 432 ff.
Now the Saviour goes outside of the gate humiliated, degraded. But whoever has seen God, as He saw God, will raise a hymn of thanksgiving to Him: Lift up your heads. O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, that the sacrifice may go out. And every oppressed soul who sees no exit within the gates and no entrance outside of the gates, should pause here and read a marvelous truth about suretyship and satisfaction and atonement. Until he has done that he should not go farther on the way—the way of Christ as He emerges from His suffering.