And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying . . . Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said . . . The thieves also which were crucified with him9 cast the same in his teeth. And the soldiers also mocked him . . . saying . . . And one of the malefactors . . . railed on him.
CHRIST being mocked again: that is the theme of the pages to follow. Now I think each will hear a voice saying to himself: Let us ignore that in this connection, or at least dispatch it very quickly. We have heard so much about the mockery which men heaped upon the Saviour. That has been repeated again and again. And must that old theme be begun anew now?
The question was asked before we had time to feel ashamed of it. And, there is something of truth in it. How difficult it is for us to be patient, and to be ever alert and attentive as we sit at a death bed, that is, at a death bed which would lay claim to a few hours of our attention, or to a single faculty of our spirit. Well, the suffering on the cross by Jesus Christ also lasts a very long time. Moreover, in speaking of it the same subjects recur again and again. Hence we tire of it very soon. If a person is to talk of each one of the “instances” of mockery, he soon begins to feel a little ashamed about the inevitable repetition of the same words and thoughts. The conclusion of that is that the speaker and the auditor, the writer and reader, begin to say to themselves: Now we can appropriately pass on to another point, to something which “we have not had yet.” The fact that Jesus Christ is mocked, and defied — we had that long ago. We have learned enough about that as we went along. One who has treated of the base defiance which the Sanhedrin heaped upon Jesus and which Herod and the soldiers of Pilate inflicted upon Him will at first blush think it rather superfluous to devote a separate chapter to the mockery which Christ had to suffer after the crucifixion. The only thing left to say — one might surmise — is that the number of those who mock Him is gradually increasing. This and the fact that besides the dignified members of the Sanhedrin, the passersby, the soldiers, the one crucified with Him, and the priestly party now engage in the gruesome game of mockery and defiance also. But when that has been said, there is indeed little that can be added, unless, indeed, one wishes to fall into the annoying fault of repetition.
Still we must say that it is not fitting to become impatient — at the cross of Christ Jesus. That is a predication which needs no defense.
No, we must not be in too great a hurry for there is a difference between the one moment and the other. There is a difference between mockery and mockery. Permit us to say that rather strangely and still rather naturally. It makes a great difference whether Christ is being mocked in the morning or at noon. The reason for that difference does not inhere in the mockers themselves so much as in the soul and spirit of Him who is the passive victim of the mockery. It is not the action of the people who mocked Him, but the reaction of Christ, His different response overagainst God and the world in successive moments which must provide the explanation here. Christ relates every experience which He undergoes to the actual circumstances in which He is involved. Now the process of Christ is a richly varied one on this day, and therefore His reaction to it is equally varied. Of Him we can never say that we have “had it” already.
In this way we can appreciate the consideration that a mockery of Christ taking place before His legal condemnation impresses Him differently and grieves Him in another way than a mockery coming to Him after the condemnation, after He has been led “without the gate” after His being bruised by the catastrophic curse. Such mockery is a different thing from the mockery which went on before. For this is a different hour in the great Trial.
We can point out in various ways the difference between the mockery which He experiences now and that which He felt before. For instance, there are more mockers now than there were previously; again, the things for which they blame Christ are not the same for which He was blamed before. But those are not the important differences. The greatest difference between the then and the now is that the mockery of Christ upon Golgotha is a definite and separable moment in the short but violent process of His descent into hell, of His being accursed “without the gate.”
It is this last consideration which is the new significance here. When the Sanhedrin placed Christ in the middle of its group, when He stood there as the target of their mockery, and when, later in the day, the same kind of mockery came to Him from another direction, Christ was not experiencing the extreme afflictions of the pain of hell. Then He still stood within the gate of the city; He had not yet been cast out of it.
Now every violation of law is forbidden within the gate; when such violation occurs the right of appeal exists before God. We must note this. Christ retains the right of appeal up to the time in which He is “condemned,” in which He is cast outside of the gates. As He sees it, He, as the son of Abraham, and as a citizen of Moses, still can appeal up to that time. True in all the things which are actualized on the day of His death (as well as on all the days of His life), in all the facts and events, whether they take place within or without the gate, He must detect the hand of God in the mockery heaped upon Him, and seek the justice of God in the violations of justice carried out by man. But the right of appeal is, as it impresses His conscience, still His own. He may persist in telling those people who are making Him an exlex that He, as long as He is inside the gates of Jerusalem, may acknowledge God there, the God who does not make Him an exlex.
 Interpreted here as the ever active faculty to examine critically all His thoughts, words, and actions as being conformed to the law and will of God.
For the hidden things are the Lord’s and the revealed things are for us children. This is the great regulation which is written down for the human attention of Jesus Christ also.
The hidden things for the Lord. That the Servant of the Lord must carefully consider. In the last analysis He must in His human nature and in the deliberations of His “believing” heart (which walks “not by sight”) simply perform the duty of His office, and in this He may not ask any questions about the outcome (as if that in reference to “salvation” could be uncertain). To ask such questions would betray unbelief. He must simply keep in the forefront of His consciousness the fact that perfect fidelity to God will also be perfect service for the benefit of the people for whom God wishes peace. Hence as a human being, the whole night of Gethsemane and the whole day up to the moment of His condemnation were to Him nothing short of the law according to which He had to live. These to Him were the revealed things, and one of these revealed things was the knowledge that God hates sin as He enters into judgment, that he who condemns the just is an abomination to the Lord, that God regards as an evil the mockery, defiance, and rejection from the law of: the most faithful Son of the law. He knows that every legal transgression is regarded by God as a sin, as an evil against which, the accused,, be ‘he whom he may, can appeal to me Highest Judge himself.
Because of this revealed truth, Christ, up to the moment of His condemnation, could in silent prayers to God, the perfect Judge, still appeal to Him against all the mockery and defiance heaped upon Him. Perhaps someone is inclined to say that this after all was not a great privilege, this right of appeal to God. For it was a privilege which had no practical effect; it was one which could be entertained only in the form of thoughts. Can we say, for instance, that Jesus in the presence of the Sanhedrin, of Herod, and of Pilate, had a voice with which to call out to God, to angels, and to men? Could He have rent the clouds? No, the truth was not such. Only in His thoughts could He appeal to God overagainst the judges, and that — I hear someone say—does not amount to much.
 Think, for instance, of the “hymn of praise” which Christ sings before He enters Gethsemane. It is an instance of His self-consciousness as a just man, an awareness which becomes evident also from His apologies, His Intercession, His “supreme service of me Word.”
Whoever says that, does not know what He is contending for. Can you say that an appeal to God which is purely ideational in character does not amount to much? What, in the last analysis, has man which transcends the worth of that? The riches of our life do not reside in what we can hear or see. Our lives are not rich primarily in terms of what can be heard by the ear or seen by the eye. Our riches inhere in what is anchored in the spirit. It is in virtue of his spiritual life that man is differentiated, on the one hand, from all creatures below him, and, on the other hand, is brother to the angels and a real image of God. The deepest motivations of his joys and pains lie in this personal, spiritual basis of life. All the struggles for justice common to our human life are, in the final analysis, operative in the forum of the human spirit; there they are litigated, solved, or dismissed; there, be it along legal or illegal ways, they are brought to a close.
Therefore the spiritual element in man is the conclusive, the determinative element. We live or die, we are rich or poor, elect or lost, children of freedom or children of slavery — in terms of our spiritual existence.
If we think of that, we can appreciate that in a very important sense Christ was still rich and strong, and was God’s great Fellow-Owner as long as He was permitted in the realm of His thoughts, in deliberating on the several stages of His trial by means of His human spirit, still to appeal to God overagainst men. For Him too, the law of life was binding, the creation-ordinance held true, that His riches or poverty, His rising up or His falling down, His life or His death, His possibilities for going on or the immanence of His being closed in, had to depend not on what He said or did, but on the manner in which His active spirit was related to God, to the devil, and to — Himself. Keep Him from working His way outwards if you can; He will still be able to speak and to think. Hinder Him from speaking, take the privilege of speech away from Him, and He still will be able to think, to exercise communion with God in His thoughts. As long as He knows that He can do that, He knows that He is free. If a person would touch, would affect Him essentially from within, he will have to touch His thought-life.
We shall have to consider all of these things if we are to appreciate to any extent at all how Christ in one hour of time could fall into even deeper shame, into much deeper shame than had overcome Him before. For Christ descended into the shafts of humiliation by leaps and bounds; He descended, if we may say so, spasmodically. There were mutations, there were steps, in that process of humiliation. It may be that we sometimes talk too facilely and too unwittingly about the steps in the state of Chrises humiliation. That is something which is very easy to say: that He passed from one step to another, that He plunged from one plane to a lower in His passion. But it is more difficult for us to appreciate the meaning of this, to get a vivid and concrete picture of its significance. For that which He experiences in one moment of His passion will in the next moment seem to have been a kind of height compared with the one to follow; this will again be a deeper level of shame, a lower rung of the ladder, than the one on which He is standing.
Nevertheless it is necessary for us to consider these things and to follow Him from step to step, from rung to rung, from stage to stage. Only in that way will we appreciate why Christ, when He was mocked by the Sanhedrin, by Herod, and by the soldiers, before His conclusive condemnation, was standing on a different step of humiliation than that on which He rests now, after the condemnation, now, hanging on the cross, and why the raillery and the lashing bitterness of hellish mockery is being heaped upon Him.
For it is quite true that in the moment of the official condemnation the course of His suffering sharply broke downwards, and plunged abruptly into a much lower stage. We have observed already that when Christ was condemned He was cast without the gate. We must accentuate that again; it is a detail which is absolutely necessary for us if we are to keep the drama of the darkest day in the history of our world vividly before our apathetic minds, if we are not to let that drama become an illogical succession of pure accidents.
We must recall just for a moment what we said in our first chapter. There we must pick up the thread which can guide us now. There we discover three moments in the course of Christ’s passion, three sharply delineated transitions. First, Christ is robbed of the privilege of acting freely; second, He is robbed of the privilege of speaking freely; and, third, He is robbed of the privilege of thinking freely. Those are the three milestones at which we have successfully stopped to ponder.
At the end of our first volume Christ was bound; that is, the privilege of acting freely was denied Him. The fettered hands were not allowed to act at His behest. At the conclusion of our second volume, the gospel account had brought us to the point at which Christ was judged, was “condemned,” by the judge. That meant, accordingly, that not only was the privilege of acting freely taken from Him, but the privilege of free speech also. The condemned man cannot say anything thereafter; He will not be heard if He does.
Now it is possible for people to deny a man the privilege of acting and speaking freely, but they can never take away the privilege of thinking as he wishes. The deep recesses of free thought do not lend themselves to restriction. The spirit cannot be put in bonds, at least not by fellow human beings. Hence there have always been those condemned people who went to the place of execution without saying and doing what they wanted to say and do, but with a full sense of the fact that in the freedom of their ideas they were triumphing over their enemies. A paean of victory was, well — not in their mouths, but in their hearts. They stood among tyrants as free men, and it was their thinking spirit which allowed them to retain the freedom of personal selfhood.
In the case of Christ, however, this could not be the conclusion. The privilege of thinking freely, as well as that of speaking and acting freely had to leave, had to depart from Him. Unless God took this privilege away from Him it could not be said that He descended into hell. Unless the Lord opposed the Surety, unless the Lord arrested Him in the crevices of His pure logic, of His penetrating reason, and of His ever-active thoughts, Christ could not be said to have been completely condemned. In that case, He would, in fact, not be condemned at all. If by means of His human power He could thrust His thinking spirit through the mountain-pass where Wrath is seeking Him, He would internally and essentially have escaped from the Wrath. Then the Wrath would not have bruised Him; the core, the essence of His human life would have remained unperturbed, free, and entirely unbroken. The descent into hell could not be realized until He lost the privilege of free thought as well as that of the free act and the free word. His thinking, too, had to be challenged radically and seriously. The Lord God had to challenge and oppose it. Christ’s might not be the privilege of freely going about, whether it be actively with His hand, or actively with His mouth, or actively with the thoughts of His unrestrained spirit.
His thinking had to be bound. O God, arrest His progress.
And it is precisely this which now overtakes Him. His thinking is being absolutely challenged by the Lord. God is molesting His thoughts. The beginning of our third volume mentioned that. When that milestone had been reached at which we paused at the beginning of our third volume, in other words, when Christ had been cast without the gate, God Himself — the stronger, the absolutely Other-One — took from the man Jesus His right to think freely. The spirit of Christ could no longer unrestrictedly proceed in its own power (see pp. 27-29).
In a certain sense it would seem that the harmony, the parallelism of the passion is being destroyed here. One would have expected that, just as the right to act freely was taken away from Him at the end of our first volume, and just as the right to speak freely was taken away from Him at the end of our second volume, so the right to think freely will be taken from Him at the conclusion of our third volume also. And yet we have pointed out that this took place at the very beginning of this volume and not at the end.
 Christ in His Suffering, Chapter 25, p. 444 f., see also Chapter 25, pp. 435 and Chapter 24, 421.
 Christ on Trial, Chapter 29, pp. 544-546.
This need not surprise us. As we pointed out previously, this ought to be so. We have observed that there was a compelling logic of justice according to which the Messiah as the second Adam had to suffer the pain of hell and to experience the curse within the space of time allotted to Him for the human struggle, within the time intervening between manger and cross. This He had to experience with a full and fine awareness. Now the same constraining logic demands that before His death, and with the same fine awareness He must suffer the pangs of not feeling “right” with God, not even in His ideas. His apology must be able to find “no place,” not even a point of connection. He must be absolutely miserable in His paradoxical state.
 Chapter 1, page 24.
Yes, it was the inevitable consequence of the justice which condemned Christ, the justice of God, that Christ had to suffer a restriction of His created spirit, the deprivation of a free, unhampered, and penetrating mind. He will have to run into a wall precisely in the spiritual conflict of His ideas. The pain of the concussionChrist will suffer with a fine awareness and before His bodily death. For what, to repeat, is the descent into hell, in the final analysis, other than that — the restriction of the active spirit, the deprivation of the privilege of free thought. Must Christ truly descend into hell? Surely, this sounds like luxuriating in oratory about the most gruesome of experiences. And must this become actuality today? If so, then in the name of God let every one of His unhampered thoughts be molested. Then let every asylum in which His distressed spirit might wish to take refuge be closed to Him. No, Jesus’ distressed spirit may not even take flight to the narrowest of alleys today, for He is being entirely cast without the gate. That means that He must acknowledge God’s forsaking Him. And this in turn, means that, according to the discipline of the church and according to the written lawbook of Jerusalem and according to the holy ordinance of an Israel not yet forsaken by God, He who is cast without the gates is a curse to the Lord; and again, He that hangeth on a tree is a curse to the Lord. God Himself is rejecting Him and is leaving no place of refuge for Him, neither under the strength of His arms nor within the spacious folds of the cloak of Father Abraham.
Does it seem that it is taking quite a while before we return to those members of the Sanhedrin, those military men, those priests and soldiers who are railing against the Nazarene? Perhaps, but we had to take this long course in order to see clearly what the significance of this new mockery is. It was necessary for us, if we may put it that way, to place all those mocking people, those dwarfs and midgets — against a background of human convention and of “humane” sentiment. We must accept these grinning dwarfs in the way the Spirit of inspiration presents them to us; and that spirit has placed them against the background of a sinister heaven which is pouring out of its darkly lowering clouds nothing less than the Absolute Wrath and the Pang of Hell. Presently the sun will shine no longer. For we find ourselves here in the ferment of hell.
He, accordingly, who would genuinely appreciate the significance of this particular moment of the passion of Christ must not overlook the hellish character of Christ’s torments.
Are we exaggerating the matter? No, if we devote sound deliberation to the passion on the cross, we cannot possibly “exaggerate.” Everything in Christ’s suffering on the cross weighs as heavily as infinity. Of course, it is true, that he who explains the particulars of the suffering of Christ wrongly can “exaggerate,” for his thoughts and propositions have their source in himself. But he who sees the crucified Saviour of souls as the Bearer of the guilt, and as the Sufferer of incomparable penalty, of the penalty of hell itself, knows very well that, inasmuch as he is following the course of sound exegesis he can not “exaggerate.” Why not, you ask? Because the truth which is revealed to him by God speaks in a language which cannot possibly be exhausted. One can never give adequate expression to the penalty of hell (and to the blessedness of heaven), unless one is in hell (or in heaven) oneself. That we shall have occasion to stress more often.
Hence we can say that our account of the suffering of Christ is not liable to the danger of exaggeration as long as we interpret it in the sense of the Spirit. We always say too little of the Man of sorrows and cannot possibly say too much as long as we remain faithful to the truth about Him.
Hence we must observe now that the Christ, who is suffering the pain of hell on the cross, recognizes that the mockery hurled against Him is the mockery of hell. We know that the nails which were driven through His flesh were not “ordinary” nails to Him, but instruments of the last judgment. We know that the rupture in His side was not a wound measuring so much in length, to His consciousness, but that it was a bruise inflicted upon “this temple” by the hand of God in what is justly called a catastrophic curse. And we also know that the consumption which His soul and spirit felt was not merely the lonesomeness of this or that suffering individual, but the eternal and profound forsakenness suffered by the Son of man because of His God. And in this same sense, we must believe that the mockery which man inflicts upon Christ at the cross in its essence is nothing less than the mockery of hell. It is the defiance of hell. It speaks a sinister, diabolical language. It is the greeting with which the demons welcome the damned. That is the way Christ senses it, and as He senses it, it is. He alone feels the objective reality of everything in His whole being, for His entire being is ever turned toward God.
Now you ask how the mockery of those passersby, the defiance of those who went to and fro along the way, could possibly become the mockery of hell for Jesus Christ. If you would understand this, open your Bible, and ask Him what He sees happening in the place of outer darkness. You will not look long for an answer. The Bible itself teaches us the nature of the mockery of hell. Not only is the greeting of hell, by which one lost soul spews out his misery and despair against another, made audible to us in the poetical language of the Bible, but it is also possible to deduce along dogmatic lines from other parts of Scriptures that the essence of the punishment of hell is defined by the sinister law: homo homini lupus. Being interpreted, that means that one man literally consumes another. The one lost soul fiendishly preys upon his neighbor. The one who is nearest is always the farthest away. To meet the person who is nearest one is to meet the person who is most distant. The general law of dissolution drives a wedge wherever it can find an opening. It is a law of hell that the one hates the other.
Thus it happens that Isaiah speaks of condemned persons who consume each other in the realm of darkness and of the shadow of death. Isaiah refers to the king of Babel, and to the defeated ones of the realm of the world. If these tumble into Sheol, into the realm of death and darkness, and if they tumble into it without God, the first word which greets them is as venomous as death itself. Each lost person gloats over the misery of the one who is lost with him in the eternal darkness. And this is also the way we can understand Ezekiel, who speaks in the same spirit about Asshur among the condemned.
Thus Christ also heard Himself being mocked upon the cross. He heard exactly what Isaiah and Ezekiel heard, heard it coming to Him from the realm of darkness.
For what inhabitant of hell is there that does not mock the great Lost Son as He hangs on Golgotha? Lo, He is descending into hell, and, nevertheless, He knows that He still is the bright and morning star (Rev_22:16). Such is the paradoxical experience, and the paradoxical self-appraisal. Isaiah once heard awful words being addressed to the lost king of Babel but those which are hurled against Christ bear a heavier accent, are spoken in a stronger tone, and spring from a profounder background of justice and of wrath than these. Nevertheless, we can the better appreciate Christ’s suffering for listening to the description of Isaiah:
All they shall speak and say unto thee,
Art thou also become weak as we? art thou
become like unto us?
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave,
and the noise of thy viols: the worm
is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,
son of the morning! how art thou cut down
to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will
ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne
above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mouth
of the congregation, in the sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee,
and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made
the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms? (Isa_14:10-16)
The Christ knows and feels that the suffering which is coming upon Him now is infinitely heavier than the suffering which Ezekiel pictured when he described how the dead of Asshur, that tree which had once stood so radiantly proud in the Eden of the world’s culture, were received into Sheol with a bitter mockery. They were received there by the swords and knives of that hellish community.
 Ezekiel 31. See also Christ on Trial, Chapter 9, p. 193.
Yes, swords and knives and the community of hell — these are the things which are present at Golgotha when all ordinary folk rail against the Passover of God.
We return now to the point of our departure. Even though the people at the foot of the cross took on the proportions of hell, the severity of Christ’s humiliation is not determined by the subjective scope of their intent but by the objective scope of the word of God, and of the wrath of God. Those people are but the instruments,
and the instruments come from below. But God manipulates the instruments and God is from above; He is the eternal.
Now we must know that all those people are provoking Christ to rejoinder, to defense, to apology. They goad, they spur His trembling thoughts into those narrow confines where God, the righteous Judge, had always given an audience to the oppressed and accused children of the covenant. But God does not answer. He spoke to the fathers, He heard their addresses, He gave their inmost thoughts free scope.
But Christ can find no room for His apology today. Even in His inmost thoughts, nay precisely in His inmost thoughts, He can no longer appeal to God overagainst men. He lacks the power of appeal because the right to appeal has been challenged by God. He hears Bible texts being cited against Him in the challenge. Alas, it is written that He who is hanged without the gate is a curse. A person cannot appeal to God unless he feels free to do so; He must have what the Scriptures call a good conscience, and that upon objective basis. That eager yearning of faith which the Bible calls a good conscience is the absolute requisite for every appeal which man, overagainst his earthly judges and enemies, would make to God, the perfect judge. It was a comfort to Job to be able to appeal to his judge, whom he called his witness for him, He who was in heaven. And this must be the same assurance felt by every accused person who in his distress because of what men do to him desires to appeal to God. Whoever makes this appeal knows that God is with him. Or, at the very least, he should be able to feel that he is not certain to the marrow and the bone that God is against him.
 Chapter 1, page 24 ff.
Is this true of Christ Jesus? No, for Him matters are very different. He feels in the bone and marrow of His being that God is against Him. He is man — therefore He has to keep the revealed and not the hidden things before His consciousness. Hence the word which must be seared upon His mind is the one which says that he who is hanged is a curse to the Lord, and that there is no acceptance of him with God. A great gulf has been fixed between Jehovah and Me.
Now all His ideas jar against this high wall of God’s relentlessness. All the thoughts of the Son of man beat against it. He is without the gate — and that is more than a topographical designation. It has become the active cause and the explaining motivation of all His struggles ever since this king was led out of the gate as an exile. The word written about those who are cast out was written for Him; it suited Him and it was all too clearly designed for Him.
Now it is easy to raise as an objection against this the fact that Jesus knew very well that up to this time He had been without sin. We know that He ever kept His eye fixed upon the holy pattern of the lawgiver of the universe. Consequently He must constantly have known and believed that no eternal abysses of animosity can come between the righteous soul and the righteous God. We would not think of denying this fact. We would, in fact, go so far as to say in a positive sense that the Mediatorship of Christ depends upon the soundness of His conviction that God will not condemn the righteous soul and that His soul is indeed righteous. But there is an adequate response to the objection raised. Christ must not only and must not in the first place devote His attention to His own clear and immediate knowledge, a knowledge which is His because of His pure relationship to God. As the Servant of servants He must also pay attention to that law book written of God to whose texts and codices He is subservient. This law book has announced that he who is legitimately hanged can find no acceptance with God, but is a curse to the Lord. Therefore this revealed truth demands as much of His attention as the other revealed truth which asserts that God cannot be the antithesis to “die schone Seele.” He must give as much attention to the first of these revealed truths as to the one which maintains that the glory of God cannot take a paradoxical and critically condemnatory attitude towards any righteous spirit.
At this point we must look in two directions. Some commentators like to emphasize the fact that Christ was convinced of His personal righteousness with God, and, consequently, of the right of apology which He had overagainst God. To this emphasis, however, we must add another, which does not contradict it: namely, that Christ, as man, as servant, as a creature subservient to the law, had to draw the Scriptures towards Himself. That means that He had to apply the Scriptural utterances about the person hanged upon a tree without the gate to Himself also. Such a person, Christ had to feel, is in a double sense a curse, an outcast, a thing which cannot be accepted by God. Dying, He still had to keep this Scriptural statement before His eyes, and He had to pave a way in His shocked spirit for the specific, concrete, and absolute application of this revealed word to Himself. He had to fix His soul upon it. He whom we see upon the cross is not a “naive” Christ who is internally but acritically convinced of the righteousness of His cause, and who does not tire or trouble Himself about the rest. No, He who is hanging here is the fully conscious Worker in God’s universe, He is the Office-bearer, the second Adam. By means of a passion for reality and an effort at sensitive awareness, He must stretch His human existence to the breaking point of active strain, in order to experience, to live through, the curse, the forsakenness, the rejection, the “hanging before the face of Jahweh.”
At this point our thinking meets with difficulties. We know that Christ’s progress towards death, that His self-surrender to the cross, must essentially be an act of service, a gift. For a “love” which overlooks its purpose, or which departs from a clearly perceived knowledge of its goal in distinction from its means, is not love but ecstasy, eroticism, passion, self-service, or idolatry. One side, one term of Christ’s mysteries on the cross, is that the love of the priest must remain aware of the fact that the priest himself is innocent, and that he consequently is in a position to give gifts, to give away what he has earned from God. Such love must know that the sacrifice from beginning to end is an act of love, of lordly, divine, and sovereign love, a love so important, so chaste, and so blameless that the word “aristocratic” would be ludicrously inadequate to describe it.
But there is another side to this problem. There must be another side to the description which love writes of itself by way of a memorial today. For now this question arises: May the awareness of His own beauty, His own purity, of His own capacity to give gifts serve as a kind of counter-argument by means of which He as the satisfying sacrifice may mitigate the terror of God’s wrath? God is entering His Great Remonstrance today, and is laying it before the Son. The principal reason stated in this remonstrance is a definition of His wrath, and of Christ’s obligation to suffer punishment. Now the question arises whether Christ’s own sense of being perfect, and gracious, and precious in love and in virtue can become a continuous argument for Him to be included in a human counter-remonstrance. Can He enter this apology with God, the same God who is beating Him in the presence of angels? Can anyone in God’s wide world really feel that he has been made a curse, if he has all kinds of counter-arguments at his fingers’ tips? To ask the question is to answer it. We are sure that all sources of comfort which Christ has must be earned at the cost of awful struggle; not one of the consolation prizes has been paid for Him beforehand; we need not believe that at twelve o’clock of the “day of Jehovah” the climax of this “day of the Lord,” the day which comprises all the centuries, a single prize, a single consolation prize will be given away. The day demands payment, nothing less; the prize must be purchased at the cost of awful struggle carried on before the face of Jahweh.
 Christ in His Suffering, Chapter 28, p. 314 f.
Yes, every consolation which He wishes to keep before His eyes, and every act of lordship which He may wish to do, and every respite which He may want to enjoy, must be earned by Christ. Does He want to have the power to say to a murderer beside Him: I shall reserve a place for you in Paradise? Then He must struggle for the right and the power to do so by means of a fiercely fought conflict; and, since that is true, there is no other possibility for the Son of man as a temporally motivated and impressionable human being than that the unhampered control of His sources of comfort first be taken from Him. The right of apology must be taken from Him, cum effectu civili. He must be made conscious of the pain which this denial causes Him by means of a crowd of mockers swarming around Him, to whom He can make no rejoinder. He must be bandied to and fro between the possibilities of remonstrance and counter-remonstrance, between the poles of attraction and repulsion, of conscious sovereignty (which stands above the plane of apology), on the one hand, and a conscious sense of having no rights whatever (a sense which puts Him on a plane below apology, unless the curse has been exhausted), on the other hand.
 See the next chapter.
In the language of men, this is called paradoxical — a word which probes, and gropes, but which cannot state exactly what is meant in reference to Him.
We alluded to the paradoxical in the Christ. Now we are perfectly willing to confess that we are on dangerous ground. We are touching on one of the most difficult problems which it is possible for the thinking of faith to confront. We are not merely using a word which is in vogue just now, but are using it quite seriously. As we stand at this moment before Christ’s silence among all those mockers without the gate we are facing a paradox. By this we mean — for misunderstanding in this matter is dangerous — that it is not we who find ourselves in the midst of a paradox, but Christ. He is being consumed by the paradoxical plague, and it is precisely this passion which delivers us from the pang of the paradoxical.
Let us approach Him again and observe. The paradox ... the moment we use that word many contemporaries prick up their ears. The one will find the word interesting because of its sound; the other — with more wisdom — because of its meaning. The one will use the word loosely and facilely, taking it upon his lips five times in as many minutes. By a paradox this person means an opinion or a reality which is or seems to be in conflict with what by the standards of common sense is obvious, even though the opinion may be true, or may correspond to reality. The other person will by no means use the word “paradox” facilely or flippantly, but will bring the thunder of God and of the Word to bear upon it. By “paradox” he means that God and God’s thoughts are absolutely different from us and our thoughts, and that, therefore, everything which is genuinely divine and heavenly is vertically opposed to everything which we think or can think, everything which we feel and know, or can feel and know in our horizontal plane of apperception and orientation. In recent times there have been many who point to the fact that God is entirely different from us, that a great gulf lies between Him and us which no one can bridge. These say that God is the “wholly Other.” These maintain that no one who is finite can ever by means of his own human thoughts comprehend the infinite, absolute God; and that therefore, and in this specific sense, God’s truth always opposes our human thinking and feeling and expression in a paradoxical way. According to this opinion God’s truth is an ever- living, ever-variable judgment upon our thinking and feeling and arrogant speaking.
This is not the place to discuss these things further nor to state our own opinion about the attitude to which we referred. It suffices to say here that according to our view the word paradox cannot possibly be used more appropriately, and that its content was never sensed more sharply, or plumbed and experienced more fully in its capacity for oppression and judgment than by our Lord Jesus Christ at this moment. And it is also our purpose to point out that the element of truth inherent in the opinion of those who think of God as the “wholly Other,” never grieved a human soul by its terrible pain so intensely, nor ever shocked or cast anyone into the abyss of judgment and of bruising as it did here in overcoming the Saviour.
 For my personal attitude towards this interpretation I refer you to my: “Bij Dichters en Schriftgeleerden,” p. 65-147, and “Tusschen ‘Ja’ en ‘Neen’,” p. 233-359.
Now return to the barren knoll of Golgotha, and sit down calmly and quietly at the foot of the cross. Listen attentively to what the mockers dare to say in railing against the crucified Saviour. Do you not feel, here, that Christ is being consumed by catastrophic griefs which, while being catastrophic, are at the same time permanent griefs, griefs which may be characterized as constituting a truly paradoxical suffering, paradoxical knowing, and paradoxical thinking?
Thus we must return to the word “paradoxical.” It was taken to mean: proposition and counter-proposition, reality and contradictory reality. And in discussing it, we encountered two propositions. The first was that Christ had to assume the curse for Himself, and that He had to acknowledge that this curse was willed of God as a power of devastation actually arising in His life. This He had to acknowledge by applying the words of the Scriptures to Himself which said that a condemned person who was hanged without the gate upon a tree is accursed.
The second proposition, was that the man Christ Jesus also had to be convinced of His own sinlessness overagainst God. These two truths force His thoughts to oppose each other diametrically. This is the paradox in His prayers and in His sufferings. He must consider the first truth. The text of the Scriptures states that the person condemned outside of the gate is a curse, and this truth must echo in His soul in all its power. Remembering that, He must necessarily conclude as follows: It is just that I be dumb before God and men, that my breath be cut off, that my righteous speech be taken away. This is just. It is just that Christ the exlex should be silent among these many shouting people. Jesus held His peace — this was the first time without the gate that He had laid His hand upon His mouth.
But Christ must also pursue that second train of thought. Doing this He must necessarily confess that He has not deserved the curse by Himself and for Himself. He must confess that He has indeed been plunged into the dark waters of the curse, but that these could find no point in Him at which they might cause infection to set in, at which the curse might “organically” take its effect in terms of the law according to which sin in principle is itself death and curse.
To put it humanly we can say that an epitome of the first train of thought would be this: I suffer justly. And that a summary of the second line of thought would be: I suffer unjustly.
According to the first line of thought He may with good reason cry out: I am a curse; I dare not appeal to God. But in terms of the second way of thinking there is as good a reason for crying: I am just and woe to Me if I should doubt the primary scheme of God which has said that He is not antipathetic, nor antithetic, to the “beautiful,” to the just, soul.
There are these two lines of thought then; they take opposite directions; they constitute the plague of paradox.
Looking upon the first of these, at the reality of His accursed status, He can but be mute. He must even be silent about the perturbation of His thoughts. But when He thinks of the fact that He is the pure man, that He has indeed a “good conscience before God,” He must, with or without words, but in any case “moved in spirit” cry out against all those mockers. Then the apology, even though He does not express it with His lips, must be present in His thoughts, and able to build up its structure in terms of a logical development.
What is this, if it is not paradox? It is the paradox which tore Christ apart, which rent Him asunder.
We can be sure that this paradoxical element in Christ’s experience grieved Him terribly. On the one hand, He knows that the suffering of the curse is the inevitable way, the curse is the only way. It means the forfeit of the right to defend Himself even in His thoughts. That is the way. It is the way of payment, it is the way drawn by God for the people whom I love infinitely. The Lord told David to say to Abishai that he had to be silent over- against Shimei, the railer. And David after a while presents the message of the Lord and says: Let Shimei curse, for the Lord hath said to Shimei: curse David (Compare 2Sa_16:5-11). And is it plausible to believe that David’s great Son can escape from the message of His father David and from his having no message at all to give? Let Him be silent and constitute Himself a speaking David as well as an astonished Abishai. O spirit of God, hear Him as He confesses from the depths of His soul: the Lord hath said to all the Shimeis, to all the remnant of Saul (2Sa_16:5) who are gathered here at the foot of the cross: Curse Jesus, curse, and defile, and mock. His curse, is his way. A spirit entered heaven and said: I will be a spirit of mockery in all the epigones of Saul, in order that the Son of David may fall, in order that lie may be reviled on the hill of hellish mockery. The Lord said: Thou shall prevail: go forth and do so (see 1Ki_22:22).
On the other hand, however, all that is in Jesus rises tip to sing psalms to God’s glory. Or, if He does not actually sing them, He at least composes them. He did no evil at any time, and He kept His thoughts pure. This had been His task had it not? Was it not His task as the second Adam to stand in the state of obedience and was not the second Adam, even as the first, promised a future which provided an unhampered vision of God that set up a relationship between “the beautiful soul” and the right to live? As Christ thinks of that, He feels constrained to say: The glory of a “good conscience,” a confident presentation of my own apology to God — that is my way as well as the curse is. The Lord spoke by David, saying: Woe be to Shimei, who curses David; the sword shall find him out. “Hold Shimei not guiltless, for thou art a wise man” (1Ki_2:9). It may be that the spirit of mockery has entered into all the sons of Saul, but it is written, and it remains written: He who condemns the just man (and mocks him) is an abomination to the Lord.
O paradoxical day of Golgotha!
This paradoxical suffering of Christ’s disrupted spirit was as intense as it was because this particular moment of mockery and defiance is essentially different from all the other moments in which He was also mocked and defied. The difference arose from the fact that before this time He could, and now He cannot, exercise the right of appeal to God.
In all previous instances in which the mockery of men grieved Him, the speech of God and of the Word of God could still offer Him comfort above what human beings did to Him. The Word of God weighed heavier than the word of men. It always weighed heavier, not only when it guaranteed acceptance, but also when it threatened reprobation. Again and again God Himself stood at the end of the way overagainst those who rejected Him, over- against the false friends.
But here at Golgotha, which is “without the gate” things are different. Now God is not standing overagainst the human, but now the divine seems to be standing overagainst the divine, the Word of Scripture overagainst the Word of Scripture, the way of the covenant overagainst the way of the covenant. The nonuse of apologetics today is just as necessary according to the law of revealed things as is the maintenance of the right of apologetics. What human beings call despair (irrespective of what in their case motivates it) is not only the greatest sin here but also the primary manifestation of righteousness. Here — that is, in the case of Christ, the second Adam.
Do not misunderstand us. We are not saying that there is an essential contradiction in God or in the Scriptures or in the whole scheme of revealed things. For the unity of what seems to be contradictory here is to be found in the divine counsel, in the good pleasure which laid down the law of the Suretyship, and in the words written about that law. But this does not take away the fact that as a man Christ felt the concussion of those two realities of experience in Himself and felt them as a concussion. It is precisely in this moment that He in the strictest sense of the word finds Himself in the paradoxical tension, for on Golgotha the divine does not stand overagainst the human as the higher power and as the ultima ratio (final cause), but all that is of God, and all that is of the Scripture, and all that has been revealed, now seems to conflict with itself. In each of the terrible hours of mockery and defiance which He suffered before, Christ could freely draw up His apology, in His thoughts at least, overagainst the people who accused Him. He was still inside the gate. But if He wants to ascend from the human beings who mock Him to God in His thinking today, He confronts a wall, and can go no farther. My God, why art Thou forsaking me, standing afar off from my roaring? My Rock, why dost Thou forget me?
 We shall consider this point further in a later chapter.
 Christ on Trial, chapters 9,16,21, and 28.
Is it a foolish undertaking to consider these things? How can anyone ask that question now? Are we not, if we look upon matters in this way, facing the absolute impossibility of harmonizing the first and the fourth utterances from the cross?
In that first utterance Christ expressed Himself with confidence. Jesus was so firmly convinced of the justice of His cause, and so naturally persuaded by His feeling of self-confidence, that He risked being the intercessor for His murderers. Plainly an intercessor who prays in faith proceeds upon the assumption that his right to apology goes unchallenged. In fact, all the apologies and all the defences of others must appeal to Him, and be pleaded on the basis of His virtue.
Overagainst this first utterance from the cross stands the fourth. It speaks of being forsaken. It is the lamentation of One whose apology simply does not register, who no longer can be heard, who has been proclaimed unacceptable.
Now do you yourself state whether this first and this fourth utterance from the cross, both of which issued from a single human soul on the same afternoon, can be related to each other by anything except the experience of extreme paradox. We shall return turn to this point but just now we wish simply to point out that in the most absolute sense paradox is present here. God was indeed the “wholly Other” to Jesus. The term “without the gate” was translated in Jesus’ theological dictionary by that other term, “in hell.” Jesus suffered under the transcendence of God and lacked the comfort of His immanence. God refused to comfort Him against the Shimeis, even though He called out the sword for their devastation. All the angels whispered to Jesus — or were they devils? —that the Lord had charged these people to curse the Son of David. This is a paradox: mockery belongs here (for Jesus is outside of the gate) and —mockery does not belong here (for Jesus is the “beautiful soul”). The words of raillery are decent (for Jesus is hanging on the tree) and they are indecent, they are an abomination (for he who condemns the righteous is an abomination to the Lord). The first utterance from the cross is a natural matter, a very natural thing: the just may pray for the unjust: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And this same first utterance from the cross also has its repudiation in heaven: Father forgive Me for asking a benefit for others; forgive Me, for Thou knowest what Thou art doing to Me in binding my mouth. And thus Christ is bandied to and fro. God is very distant from Him; God is the “wholly Other.”
 In the two next following chapters.
 “Aphes”: do not attach any immediately responding legal results to that.
Well, we alluded to the fact that there were steps of humiliation, steps — abrupt, spasmodic stages of descent into hell.
Recall Gethsemane and try to measure the distance between Gethsemane and Golgotha. We noticed that in Gethsemane also Christ suffered grievously. We noticed that He there also had to lay a bridge over the abyss by means of His struggling spirit, that He had to construct an arch between the one mountain top and the other mountain top of God’s eternal justice. But in Gethsemane He was not without rights as He is now. First His right of requisition was completely denied, and now His right of apology, of defense, is taken away. In Gethsemane Christ solved His paradoxical problem and when He had conquered it and achieved His poise, He spoke confidently to His friends saying: Arise, let us go from here. At Golgotha, hanging on the cross, He will gain another victory. But here it will be at the expense of more tears and more blood than at Gethsemane, for now He is the exlex, the refuse of all things. He is in a state of excommunication. In Gethsemane we could say: Christ’s sorrows have their own peculiar end; now we must say: Christ’s sorrows have their own and ever-renewed beginning. In Gethsemane, the moment the power of thinking freely was His again, He could regain His poise; but at Golgotha He must battle for the privilege of free, unhampered thought. In Gethsemane the heaviness hovering over Him was caused by trying to reach God in His thinking. At Golgotha the trouble begins the moment He lets His thoughts proceed from a God who speaks in His Word, and for the rest is silent.
 Christ in His Suffering, Chapter 22, pp. 379-392.
Yes, indeed, there are steps of humiliation. Only a few hours separate Golgotha from Gethsemane, and yet the distance is immeasurably wide. And just because this distance is so great and because the descent from one to the other is so sharply marked, there is no point in saying that Christ took the words of raillery hurled against Him “too seriously” and that it is unwarranted to speak of the “mockery of hell” here. The Bible itself reveals to us that the moment Christ was driven “without the gate” was the all-prevailing moment of the passion. If that were not true we would not dare to say what we have written in this chapter. But inasmuch as the Holy Spirit Himself has said these things, we dare not choose softer colors than those we have selected for painting Christ’s spiritual-paradoxical destruction. For Christ the people who did the railing and reviling, common, ordinary men of the street as they were, were in very fact the poison-mongers of hell. Not less than that. In fact they — were worse than hellish people.
 See the particulars included in chapter 1 of this volume.
We said they were not less than hellish people. We have pointed out previously that the person who would appreciate what is going on in the depths of Christ’s soul must not ask about the person doing the mocking but what is the action and the reaction of the person against whom the mockery is hurled. Not the subject, but the object, determines the nature of the passion. We have previously stated that men cannot destroy Christ unless God does it. But the moment God begins the destruction, men are also able to destroy. The instrument becomes effective by means of him who makes use of it. Now we know that God as the Judge did excommunicate (without the gate). Because that is the case, those puny people of the plains, those ordinary Jews of the street who are standing at the cross, railing against Christ, are for Jesus Christ the regular customers of hell.
 Christ in His Suffering. Chapter 21, p. 373.
No, do not weigh them in your personal balances or in mine. They might have been seated at the table with us this noon, and they might have revealed the image of our own heart to us in that case. Yes, these people also were blind; and the guilt of many generations avenged itself in them; and he who gives his attention to the mockers themselves and to nothing else is sure to exaggerate if he calls their mocking the mockery of hell.
But Christ measured them with His own rule. He did not look upon the mockers as such but saw them as instruments of the wrath of God. The spirit of the Son of David on this occasion exhausted the problem of David, Saul, and Shimei. “The author sang his own psalms” in the room of the Passover and that was but a short time ago; we heard Him sing them with joy in His heart. But we must not limit ourselves to this one side of the truth; there is another side: the Author sang His own psalms of wrath and cursing. And He appreciated fully that they referred only to Him. Hence He is mute. Isaiah was inspired by Him and by His spirit when He composed those songs of the mockery of hell which were too realistic for even the spirit of Dante to employ. So also Ezekiel; we alluded to him before. But He who incited the Spirit that prompted Isaiah and Ezekiel is today being shocked by the fulfilled puissance of reality lurking in His own compositions about hell. All of His works are the works of God and the Logos is familiar with all His own poems from eternity. But that which was known to the Logos throughout eternity by means of a preliminary and creative knowledge, that the incarnate Logos must now experience by a knowledge which is a humanly limited and humanly empirical knowledge. That is why at this point, outside of the gate, the raillery of these people wounded Him sorely. It “overpowered” Him, and pressed more heavily upon Him than when Isaiah and Ezekiel in common with all prophets cried aloud: Thou hast overwhelmed me, O God of all prophets.
 Christ in His Suffering, Chapter 16, pp. 269-286.
 Chapter 11, pages 211-12.
Approach reverently, and see whether He can sustain His own composition. Once more, however, do not say to yourself, “But these were mere men, innocent men to a certain extent; these were not devils.” As though the mockery of men did not count as heavily for Christ as that of devils! As a matter of fact, we must put it the other way: Men can grieve Him worse than devils can. In this respect also Gethsemane represents a less severe temptation than Golgotha. As the Saviour left Gethsemane, He gave utterance to that heavily-fraught statement: This is your hour and the power of darkness. He saw the demons and the devils preparing themselves for a pompa damnatoria. They drew themselves in the form of a black procession of mocking forces.
But he who, like Christ in this hour of Golgotha, has tarried in a hellish sphere for a time, he is troubled by others besides devils. All that is personal is aroused in the land of hell and draws itself up in a disjunctive, antithetical, damnatory power overagainst all that is personal and that was cast with it into this pool of outer darkness. In other words, next to the lost angels who are called devils, the lost men take up their places, in order to hurl the mockery of hell against the others, who in turn inflict it upon them.
We can even go farther. We know that in the kingdom of heaven, and in the state of blessedness, men occupy a position higher than that of angels, inasmuch as men are the sons of God’s house but the angels are only the servants in the house of God. That is why a doxology lifted up to God or men in the heaven of God’s glory has more worth when it comes from human lips than when it has its expression among the angels of God. And this we would say also but in a precisely opposite sense, of the depths of hell.
In hell also a fallen man is in the last analysis more terrible inasmuch as his nature is more important than a fallen angel. All of the destructive forces of hell taken together cannot break down the ordinances of creation. Presently man will be transplaced from this changeable period and from the process of mutation and endless “becoming” to the state of perfected, and immutable things. When that happens the least among men will be greater, and hence more terrible, more sinister, than the greatest of the fallen angels. A dwarf among men will be greater there than a giant among the devils. Just as much as a son transcends a servant in glory, so much more ominous will a fallen son be than a fallen servant in the grotto of hell. For this reason, when weighed in Christ’s delicate balances, the suffering which overcame Him was far weightier when it came from men than when it came from devils. Yes, in Gethsemane Christ spoke the statement which revealed prophecy: “This is the hour and the power of devils.” To that Christ now had to add as an acknowledgment to His own soul this acquired confession of experience: “This is the hour and the power of the people of hell.”
 “Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb_5:8).
For this reason the attack of the devils in Gethsemane was less difficult to withstand than the attack of the judges during the trial. Hence also the attack of men during the trial which took place within the gate and before the official curse was less difficult to bear than the screech of all the raillery which took place without the gate and after the perfected act of the curse.
Were they, then, mere human beings? But the fact that they are human beings is precisely what accounts for the terribleness of the travail. The hellish triumphed in the human: hence the awfulness of the passion.
We must go further. We said a moment ago that this suffering of Christ was even more severe than the suffering of hell. Why more? Because Christ suffers differently in hell than does anyone else. He is the sinless one. Hence, in hell, He is the absolute stranger. When a lost child of man has gone into the darkness of hell, and when he is mocked there by the spirits who are bound by the same bonds which fetter him, we can say that the hatred of the one is a sharp thorn in his flesh, but the other person is in the same sin; in the other person the same sinful passions are active. But Christ suffers the pain and the mockery of hell while He Himself is the holy and innocent one. It may be a terrible thing to be black among black men, a sinner among sinners, a dead person among dead people, but Christ is the white person among the black, the holy person among sinners, the living among the dead.
Therefore His suffering of hell is always a more terrible experience than that of any other person in the realm of outer darkness. No one in all eternity will ever experience this mockery of hell so intensely nor drink of it so fully as Christ does here. No one will ever understand or appreciate His paradoxical distress, no one in heaven or in hell. In hell He was the stranger, the one who had no relations with any. In the place of outer darkness where each rejects the other, Christ was the One Who was as conjunctive as life and love. He thrust no one aside from His pure humanity. True, His spoken word turned many away, rejected many, condemned many — all those in fact who rejected it — but that was not the fault of the Word, but was owing to the sin of those who refused to accept it. The pure soul of Jesus could be nothing less than the great attraction to everything that can be called truly human. Christ, then, was the only one among all those mockers and railers Who as the Unique One experienced “something strange” there. That is why He suffered a hellish pain which was severer than anyone in all eternity will ever be able to feel. His first utterance from the cross had still been: Father, forgive them. But hardly had this statement, by means of which He kept the world together through all ensuing centuries (chaper 6, page 125), been spoken, before the venomous serpent of human mockery crept up against His cross, and before the sputum of hate and rejection attached itself to His forsaken soul and spirit.
Truly this was the mockery of hell. And it was more than that.
Now faith must sing a hymn of love for Him and about Him. For it is pr