Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 13. Chapter 13: Christ’s Super-Paradoxical “Amen”

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 13. Chapter 13: Christ’s Super-Paradoxical “Amen”

TOPIC: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 13. Chapter 13: Christ’s Super-Paradoxical “Amen”

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Christ’s Super-Paradoxical “Amen”

And Jesus said . . .Verily (Amen).


BUT Jesus held His peace. This was strange and yet very natural.[1] Such can be the summary of what we have been discussing in our latest chapters. “But” Jesus held His peace: it was a wonder in our ears. “Therefore” Jesus held His peace: it was reasonable religion. To be silent in the dialogue with God, to stand mute before the Judge, to hold His peace in hell, that was reasonable religion.

[1] Strange if observed from below; natural if observed from above (from the viewpoint of God’s justice). This, therefore, is not a paradox!

Jesus very simply held His peace. He had nothing more to say; the hour of abandonment had come, and no one had heard the clock striking the hour. In eternity the pulse-beat weighs as heavily as the stroke of a clock. Jesus held His peace because of His heart and His God; in His case we can put it that way. He could not speak, because the prayer which had been on the lips of all the poets of the psalms would have done injustice to the knowledge of being abandoned, being forsaken by God. The psalmist had prayed, Deal justly with me, O God, and avenge my enemies, and those who revile me. But Jesus could not pray that prayer. Therefore He was mute.

But His silence was not His last act. Very soon we will hear Him speaking again. The statement He will make at that time will be one of great power. It will be an assurance of firm confidence. He who could not succeed in forcing a single thought to the door of heaven, presently by means of a confident gesture throws open the gates of heaven, and says to a murderer — now you have guessed it—: you are sure to enter; come, thou blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom. He who Himself had to be silent while surrounded by the mockery of hell now governs a thousand angels who are singing their litanies, and He does not ask whether these might wish to have His guest go elsewhere. He speaks firmly; He speaks so boldly and so loudly that the heavens quake because of it. He says: Amen!

This is a strange thing. We know that this “amen” comes after the mockery with which He was afflicted and which buried His living spirit. That this, however, is the chronological order becomes apparent from the indication that the “murderers,” regarded as a group — we shall consider the particulars later — took part in the mockery of the many others. Jesus said nothing to the one fellow crucified person, to the one who perseveres in mocking. Overagainst him Jesus remained profoundly and essentially silent. But when a little later the other murderer speaks, and addresses a reprimand to the blasphemer next him, and then says nothing until, somewhat shy and embarrassed, he directs a prayer to Christ, we know that much time must have elapsed between that moment in which the mockery took place, the mockery also of this fellow condemned, and the moment in which Jesus by His address to the second criminal, again speaks, and, with a voice full of assurance, introduces this second person into the paradise of heaven.

The very fact that Christ pronounced His “amen” after He had suffered the mockery of the people, tends to enhance for us the sense of His poised power. “Verily” He says. And in the Greek the word used here and at other places where our translation uses the word “verily” is the familiar designation “amen.” If ever the little word “amen” was used as more than a stop sign or a dignified ending, it was here. Here it was living and powerful, a word borne up immediately by faith, by sure knowledge, and by firm confidence. This “amen” was spoken at mid-day of the Day of Jehovah, the great day of the Lord. It challenges our attention for three reasons.

It challenges our attention because it is another instance of speaking. Jesus opens His mouth again; He listens again; He has something to say after His profound silence.

The word challenges our attention because it is firmly, positively, confidently spoken. It represents firm assurance. “Amen” is a word taken from the vocabulary of faith. It really is a Hebrew word; the root from which it is derived means: to hold a thing true, to trust (overagainst a person), to feel assured. The word has this function throughout the Bible. Jesus used it often, as often as He said “verily, verily,” for “verily” means “amen.” But we also find the word (after all it is a Hebrew word) in its root form in the Old Testament; and always in such cases in which faith is being described. The word used in the Old Testament for “believing” comes from the same root from which “amen” was derived. We read, “Abraham believed God.” In the original, we really read that as follows: Abraham stood in an amen-relation to God. It meant that a full confidence in God had naturally elicited the “amen” from Abraham; the word was part of the man; it typified his relation to God. Now this faith of Abraham, this amen-relationship in which Abraham stood to the living God, is, as Paul says in the letter to the Romans, the cause of His justification with God. We can say that Abraham entered into an amen-relationship with God in a moment of time. This took place in history; it was conclusive, radical, definitive, and it took place because of the irresistible work of God in that moment of time. Since then Abraham remained in that relationship, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.

We all understand, of course, that the word “amen” is not always used in this sharply delineated and firmly circumscribed sense when it is used in the Bible. On the contrary, there are also places where the word “verily” or “amen” is used to indicate only a very ordinary assurance. But now the word comes from Jesus’ lips. That means that the simple “amen”, just as all His words, can be explained solely on the basis of His specific relationship to God. It is true that the word is used by the Saviour to give assurance to a human being; nevertheless the word according to its origin and birthright must arise from His perfect assurance about the universal acts of God. Jesus speaks to a malefactor crucified beside Him; His “amen” opens Paradise to him. We shall discuss the particulars of this later; now we have enough to do to think of Christ, using His “amen” as a self-aware Prophet, and Priest, and Kang. As a Prophet He sees Himself opening up the avenues of blessedness to the desolate present circumstances of this lost son. As a Prophet He establishes the relationship between heaven and earth, between the man next Him and the counsel and will of God. Hence, Christ is prophesying; He says “amen,” and is perfectly certain about the axioms of God’s heavenly ordinances. As a Priest He puts this lost sheep to rest by means of His “amen.” Hence He must be completely assured about His relationship to God and about the inner influences of His mercy. Finally, we can say that by means of the power of a King He throws open the gate of the heavenly Paradise to this fellow sufferer of the curse; that act also testifies eloquently to an awareness on His part of His own powers of isagogics.

This astonishes us. Out of the eater came forth food, out of the strong came forth sweetness. And an “amen” came from Him who suffers the paradoxical plague. It is a short word but it wrenches clouds asunder: “amen” — the Assurance. Never had an “amen” echoed so clearly as did this one. No “amen” ever was such a miracle as this one. Even the preliminary “amen” of the angels, of the blessed, of the “beasts,” of the “elders,” in the heavenly-paradise (Rev_5:14; Rev_7:12; Rev_19:4; Rev_22:20) are not as powerful, as active, as self-sufficient as the “amen” of the Crucified. He who spoke it had long been silent, because He knew no more ... it is a wonder in our ears.

For these two reasons alone, this “amen” deserves our fullest attention. But there is a third reason for devoting careful study to it. We are almost embarrassed by our own first gladness. The “amen” seems to subside very quickly, even though it was so positively expressed. A moment ago it seemed very firm and overwhelmingly confident to us but a very different word is to follow upon it: the word, “Why.” Where now has the power and assurance gone? “Amen” — surely that is as far removed as possible from “why.” And besides being very far removed from “why,” “amen” transcends it. At opposite poles from “why,” failing to comprehend, stands the “therefore,” the expression of those who understand. And those who add the “amen” to the “therefore” have added insight to understanding, and faith by its own laws gives them assurance. Hence the “therefore” means much, hut the “amen” means more to those who live in the revealed Word of God. “Amen” does not oppose, but strengthens the “therefore” of faith as it is maintained overagainst the “why” of the uncertain. “Amen” signifies more than laying down the relationship of the will to the content of assurance, and the god of good pleasure who has internally given us confidence; for when I say “amen” both the thing I am certain about and my certainty are founded on the presence of God. Hence the “amen” serves as a loud speaker for the expression “therefore” as well as for the assurance “that.” And this in faith.

Now if this is true, how shall we go about explaining Christ’s “amen”? His fourth utterance from the cross asks “why.” “Why, my God, hast Thou forsaken me.” These are the words of the man Christ Jesus. Again He confronts a wall and cannot pass through it. By means of His “why” — He has struggled for three hours to reach the point at which He could utter it — He hurls Himself and us to the other side of His sublime “amen.” All of His confidences and assurances have disappeared in a moment. Disappeared? As He saw it, they have been forfeited. For to Him everything here seems just.

But Lord, how can this be? He who says “amen” one moment and “why” the next, and in both cases about the same relationships, must be regarded by heaven as an abomination, for, as it seems to us, He has disturbed the amen-relationship. This, if we may be allowed to use the language of men, is a living offense and foolishness. Yes, indeed, also in reference to the words He speaks, and to His interludes and pauses, we seem to be driven again to I Corinthian 2: Christ, the offense, the great foolishness. For it is indeed true that the fourth utterance from the cross with its “why,” at bottom makes the very same things disputable which the “amen” of His second utterance from the cross had established as being certain. The fourth utterance from the cross also treats of the relation between God and the creature, of the relation between heaven and earth, of the relation between the ordinances of God and their corollaries, on the one hand, and the soul that loves God, on the other hand. For Christ together with the murderer has been elected of God, and awakened to the love of the Spirit. The issue at stake in the fourth utterance from the cross also concerns whether the doors of heaven shall be open or shut. Fundamentally considered, the second and the fourth utterances from the cross deal with the same elemental problems. That fact precisely constitutes the difficulty. The very Saviour who by means of His powerful “amen” had hacked every knot in the rope of the murderer next Him to pieces is in a position three hours later to unravel His own knots, and to pronounce His gloomy “why.” God, He says then, I am not certain any more.

Be as cautious as you will now, you will not for the sake of Paul’s wish — for he wrote 1 Corinthians 2 — and for God’s sake — for He inspired 1 Corinthians 2 — succeed in restraining the question: But, if this is so, was the “amen” of Jesus worth anything? Is that which we have called the strongest language possible to faith perhaps nothing more than a hollow phrase? Can it be that the “amen” which Jesus pronounced at 12 o’clock of the Day of Jehovah is a brutal anticipation of those declarations of heaven, for which the Father of all truth, and of all integrity, has thoroughly punished Him? Can it be that it was simply to take from Him His confident assurances that God punished the Son of man who was so very certain in uttering His “amen,” by means of uncertainty — even though He allowed the murderer, who, after all could not help it, to enter in.

Yes, yes, Paul, this is foolishness and offense. A new guest is being introduced to the heavenly banquet, but He Himself must presently ask why He is being locked out. This is foolishness and offense. We have here one who is assured, and one who assures, and the latter, after a few hours have gone by, has no certainty anymore. Now it becomes very difficult to hear Him say “amen,” without clenching the fist or bursting into laughter.

It was very difficult for the man who had been so easily comforted by means of that “amen.” It was very difficult for the bandit to whom the word was addressed; someone[1] has suggested that the man must have had a very difficult time when Jesus died before him. And this person discriminatingly adds that the murderer had to believe in a dead Saviour. We have no objection to a person who says that a dead Saviour must have been a problem to that man, but we would like to suggest that in reality the problem begins earlier than the death of the Saviour, We would like to put it this way: Presently the murderer must believe in an amen-sayer who is asking “why.” It is quite possible to enter in at the eleventh hour as that murderer did, but there is no possibility of escaping from 1 Corinthians 2 at the eleventh hour.

[1] J. van Andel, Bloemlezing uit “De Avondster,” p. 172.

These then are the three reasons for which the “amen” of Jesus is of the greatest importance to us. Their simple naturalness is so convincing that it seems inappropriate to overlook this “amen.” However, it has frequently been overlooked.

This neglect was owing to two causes. On the one hand our Christian thinking continues to have this weakness, that it looks too much upon the suffering of Christ as a bodily distress, or, to put it more delicately, as soul distress. Christian thinking too infrequently struggles with the problem of the spiritual distress of Jesus Christ. By that we mean the distress in which His human spirit and His mind become involved. A fact which is frequently ignored by many is that the redemption, the Suretyship, the earning of the right of free thought by means of a limitation of thought was also a part of the program of the Surety on Good Friday.

Nevertheless it was on that program. But if we prefer to look upon the suffering as taking place primarily in the body, or in the sorrow of His soul — and of His soul as understood up to this time — it is very natural that we will not soon, or rather we will never, busy ourselves intensely with the spiritual struggle which had to take place in Christ. This spiritual struggle has two sides: on the one hand, He must passively listen to the sarcastic words of the mockers; on the other hand, He must pronounce that confident and self-conscious “amen.” A second reason, or cause, for overlooking Christ’s “amen” is that our emotional Christian world prefers being stirred by a narrative about an interesting “murderer,” one who is brought to repentance, and that almost too late, rather than consciously and purposely and proleptically always proceeding from Christ Himself. An “eleventh hour” object of eternal election is more interesting for people — they would say “more edifying” — than the spiritual struggle of the Messiah who had to leave the legal basis for election lying just as it was. No wonder, they say, when you present the contrast: The one is good matter for a moving story, and the other is “nothing but” a dogmatic construction of which we read nothing “in so many words” in the Bible.

Nevertheless we shall have to be on guard against this double mistake. It is a comforting thing to speak about that comforted and redeemed bandit but it is our duty to proceed from the Christ. And it is also necessary for him who is looking for “suspense.” Which is the greater: the suspense in the person who listens to the narrative of that proselyte who almost comes too late (the one who listens forgets that for God the “almost” was by no means a “surprise”), or the suspense of the Christ who must now struggle in order to earn a legal basis upon which He can introduce this man who had been elected from eternity into heaven? Yes, this is tension, this is extreme suspense. The “amen” of Christ’s spiritual triumphs — for it was the beginning of His spiritual victories — is a turning point; the embattled God later drives Him back from this position which He has gained.[1] That is why this event deserves its place in this book before we can consider what is to follow. The question is not whether we can succeed in avoiding this “amen,” without thinking of the distress of the poet of Psalms 42. “All God’s waves and all God’s billows” have gone over Christ. The poet of Psalms 42 time and again admonishes his soul to pronounce an “amen,” but he must ever repeat the admonishment. Now this short-time amen-sayer admonishes the spirit in the one verse to redeem itself from the paradoxical experience and complication of soul which he is experiencing, and by faith in God to work his way upwards; but before long his “amens” will again be interrupted. Just so Christ passes from His “human,” all too “human” hurry and paradoxical confusion to His reprimanding and encouraging “nevertheless,” and thus to an “amen” of regained certainty; thereupon follows the relapse with its: Why, O God? “My rock, why dost Thou forget me?”

[1] Darkness, and “why”; the fourth utterance from the cross; we shall discuss that later.

Let us approach reverently and try to understand some of these things. The question at issue will be one which even touches on the inspiration of the Scriptures. The poet of Psalms 42 is not singing his own psalm so much as he is struggling to earn and release it. The Author experiences his own psalms and emerges from beneath them.

We have stated already that this assertative “amen” of Christ is a cry of triumph. By means of it He emerges triumphantly from His paradoxical plague. By means of this “amen” He regains the top of the very mountain which had caused Him to be driven into the grottos and crevices of oppression, and into the valley of contradiction before.

Let us for the sake of clarity summarize the main things that were said before. In the first place, we observed, Christ had to be absolutely sure, as He kept His eye fixed on the Scriptures and on experience, that He was innocent in the sight of God. He was not allowed to be in doubt for a single moment about His own purity and virtue.[1] In the second place, we noticed that Christ had to be absolutely sure, as He kept His eye fixed on the Scripture and experience, that He was repulsive in the sight of God, that He had been made a curse, that He had been made sin. In the third place, we are confronted by the difficult question: How was such a paradoxical concussion of thoughts possible in Christ’s human nature? And thereupon we also had to ask how, inasmuch as this conflict was given, He could vanquish it and emerge triumphantly from it. Hence the question now is: How does He come up from the valley of the “why” to the mountain top of the “amen”?

[1] We asked on page 215 (chapter 11), “Why?” To recapitulate: if Christ had no longer been aware of His own purity and sinlessness then (to say nothing about many other unacceptable deductions) His suffering would no longer have been the active deed of the Mediator; then the “why” of the fourth statement from the cross loses its keenness, precisely because it is explicable at all only on the basis of His awareness of being without sin; then Christ would have had to regard Golgotha as a daily recurring symptom of injustice in the world, or as a judgment upon His own sin, or — if He had thought that He could redeem without a conscious conviction of perfect obedience — He in the act of His final satisfaction for the covenant would have broken the terms of that contract (for one of those terms is the imperative of perfect and self-conscious fidelity to the commandments).

Some interpreters evade these problems by appealing at once to Christ’s knowledge. For them it is enough to assert that Christ simply saw everything “systematically” and plainly before Him. These aver that at every moment of His passion the whole book of explanation was with Him in head and heart, and that He consequently never stood embarrassed before a closed door. He had the key which immediately fitted all locks. Christ, they say, always saw the whole plan of God, the whole work of God. He saw it stretched out before Him, and consequently He could have no problems, but immediately brought everything He knew to bear upon everything He experienced.

It will very likely be apparent to all those who read our first volume with approbation that this interpretation is not ours. There we tried to indicate at great length that Christ’s thinking as man always represented a unity,[1] that it always remained pure, and also that it always remained completely human and therefore relevant to the laws of time. Because of that we were permitted to speak of Christ’s sorrows as having their own peculiar origin,[2] their own peculiar severity,[3] and their own peculiar end.[4] What we remarked then must, in a different connection, again be brought into connection, again be brought into discussion here. Why, indeed, should we still have to speak about these things as though they were disputable to a person believing the Scriptures? The mere fact that Christ Himself asks “Why” is conclusive. Either we must reduce this “why” which He uttered in His dying grief to the level of a rhetorical question (which would be making it blasphemy) or we must take out of it its devastating quality, or we must let it stand in its full strength, and then acknowledge at the same time that a grievous oscillation between the walls of the work-room of God’s righteousness and truth was possible here in this history in which God’s counsel is being fulfilled; we must acknowledge that it was possible for Him to be pushed back and forth between heaven and earth, an oscillation caused by His real and difficult search to establish a connection between God’s revealed and hidden will, between a creative and a created knowledge, between a righteousness which establishes standards and a righteousness which maintains standards, between decree and experience, between a nomothetical and a nomotactical work of God in history, between a logical and a genetic judgment, between the books written in heaven and the journals written on earth, between an a priori and an a posteriori way of thinking. He was hurled back and forth in His real search to establish a connection by means of His life-taking struggle between one end of Histhoughts and the other, in His effort to find a higher harmony, approved of God and effected in His soul.

[1] Synthesis (without the added idea of the relationship of heterological elements: Kant).

[2] Christ in His Suffering, chapter 17

[3] Ibid, chapter 20

[4] Ibid, p. chapter 22

Surely, if Christ on His cross had stood outside of the possibilities of paradoxical confusion and dissipation, if He had lived beyond the chances, beyond the possibilities, of the pain of paradox, and — imagine the possibility — if a true “why” could not have come to birth in Jesus’ soul, then — we are taken aback at the very thought of the word — then Golgotha would have been a mere display, and a mere appearance. The very people who are so eager to discuss Christ’s blood, and who write many books about the worth of only a single drop of that blood, and who dedicate sermons and poems to it should have busied themselves long ago with the tremendous worth of the struggle and the passion of Christ’s human spirit. Take the spiritual confusion out of Christ’s suffering, especially His suffering on the cross, take the oppression which He suffered in His human experience and the confronting of problems which He encountered in His human nature out of Golgotha, and Golgotha will become nothing but an unsuccessful attempt; then Golgotha represents an effort to enter into human suffering, without ever achieving a real participation in it. Then Golgotha at very best, if it still represents a service to all, certainly cannot represent the service of the second Adam.[1] Then Christ is not in our stead suffering that which we by our sin deserve, but then He — imagine that this were possible — is bringing us something as a “prize” which He has “earned,” a prize, understand, which had never been a debt demanding to be paid. For a part of the suffering of the wrath is the binding of His ideas, the confusion of His spirit.

Consequently we cannot avoid the question we put above in this way.

[1] Second Adam: for the first (think of the probationary command) was also duty bound to establish the relationship by means of a conscious and active deed of religion between God’s hidden and revealed will, etc. (See chapter 13, p. 282). We shall not discuss this further at this time, however, because the issue of the Suretyship as it functions in the paradoxical suffering of Christ was touched upon in the preceding chapter and therefore need not be taken up here except in an indirect way.

But now others approach us, and say that they too do not want to look upon the matter thus. Nevertheless, they add that they propose to overlook all these curious questions simply by taking refuge in that statement of our faith which says that in His human nature Christ’s suffering was supported by the divine. Those who prefer to adopt this attitude like to believe that the thinking of Christ is too difficult for us to follow (a fact which we readily admit) because (and in this their attitude differs from ours) we cannot possibly know anything about it. They say that Christ was not only a human being, but also God; in Him therefore there was not only human experience, and human thought and feeling, but also divine knowledge, divine sovereignty of decision, and divine foreknowledge. And in Him there was, besides, a constant knitting together in each specific moment of all the threads which merge in each specific decree of God. Therefore — they go on — it is not appropriate for us to go into these things farther. “We ought not to be wise above our own conceits.” Even though we know that the soul and spirit of Christ were vexed by the passion and by the problems which depressed Him, let us — thus their admonishment — let us comfort ourselves in general with the truth that me divine nature supported the human, and that, for the rest, all questions must necessarily remain unsolved in this admittedly unsolvable mystery.

Now it is the least of our wishes to gainsay the element of truth contained in these remarks to the extent that they have been spoken with reason and justice. We, too, acknowledge the fact of the mystery, and frankly state that we cannot fathom it. We do not know and we never will know how to span the gap between the divine and the human in the Christ, As He hangs on the cross, we confess that He is our Lord and our God. To confess Him as such, in this terrible hour necessarily commits us to a full acknowledgment of the unfathomable, of the mystery in this hidden relationship. If ever a person should undertake to give a “conclusive” explanation of the relationship between the divine arid the human in Christ’s mind, we could say that this effort would be as foolish as the effort of those who think that they can “prove” God’s existence, and that they can exhaustively set down a characterization of the works of God.

But this does not take away the fact that precisely by calling the mystery a mystery we are but becoming more deeply entangled in our problem. The core of that problem we remember is this: the paradoxical in the human which remained pure. Now we cannot escape from this. It does us no good to say that Christ’s human man nature “must have” been sustained by the divine also in its spiritual struggles; for that is a remark which includes the suggestion that a further “application”[1] of it must not be undertaken. The very fact that reference is made to supporting, is an acknowledgment that Christ’s being vexed in His human nature is the real problem.

[1] The application is that the problem be left untouched.

Now is it allowed to man to investigate this human passion in the light of Scriptures. Allowed to man? No, the Christian must investigate it. We are called to see the second Adam who struggled for us as He was in His thinking; we are called to investigate that in the light of the Scriptures and it is our duty to keep that which has been given us to know about it clearly before our eyes.

Just what kind of “comfort” is it anyhow, and what kind of ethical seriousness is there in that facile gesture to dismiss all the difficulties of the problem of Christ’s spiritual ascents and descents, of His “amens” and “whys,” by a mechanically applied theological knowledge according to which the moment a difficulty arises for us we dispatch it by a reference to the support given Christ’s human nature by the divine? We must not think of this support in so mechanical and abrupt a way. We may not use the mystery of the relationship between Christ’s divinity and humanity as an argument which, after the fashion of a deus ex machina, can be drawn into the discussion at any time to help us out of our difficulties. For that mystery, that relationship, between the divine and the human created a certain condition, a condition which was ever present and remained for years, a condition which was Christ’s in His youth, in His temptations, in His miracles, in His sleeping, in His calm deliberations, in His eating and drinking, even in His vacations. We must not think of the relationship between the human and the divine as something which periodically intervenes and then recedes again; it is not a spasmodic interference on the part of heavenly influences which explodes out of the clouds each time difficulties arise for us. Hence anyone who would forbid us cautiously and reverently to investigate the problem of Christ’s human, spiritual confusion by an appeal to the relationship between the divine and the human in Him, must also act on his assumption when he discusses Christ’s birth, and childhood, and youth, and such other things as were named above.

No, we prefer to acknowledge that in each instance Christ was true man, and that it is both warranted and good to discuss His purely human temptation and victory, provided that in the discussion we limit ourselves to the data of the Scriptures. Whatever the connection and relationship between the divine and the human nature were, Christ nevertheless suffered all His passion completely and exclusively in His human nature. This, therefore, also holds true of His spiritual struggles, of His paradoxical difficulties, and of the triumphs which He achieved in His “amen.” Every attempt mechanically and abruptly to call the relationship between the divine and the human into the discussion by way of explaining this or that, is, to anyone who has fathomed the fundamental principle of Calvin, nothing but a hardly concealed heresy. For it takes offense at the truth that the suffering of Christ was completely endured in His human nature.

Accordingly, we shall limit our discussion solely to the human nature of Christ. We want to raise two considerations. The first is the fact that Christ is true man; the second is the thought that Christ is sinless man. And we want to attach two conclusions to our problem: first, if Christ is true man, then it is possible for Him to be steeped in paradoxical conflict. Second, if Christ is sinless man, then it is impossible for Him to remain in a condition of paradoxical conflict.

Our first consideration, accordingly, is that as true man, Christ can be steeped in paradoxical conflict. In view of what we said about this in our first volume we can leave the discussion here after having made a few remarks.

Christ as a man born in time, and, living, suffering, and dying in time, was subject to the law of growth, of change, of mutation. True, His being was characterized by unity but the unity of His being, of His essence, did not exclude the breadth of His experience. It is true that He always stands as an essential unity, perfect, undivided, unblemished, overagainst the pluriform, vacillating things and influences of human life. But His mind is subject to the law of growth, and also to that of time and succession. His mind is genuinely human and consequently cannot isolate itself as a separate entity from what for Him as for us are gradually developing and evolving areas of knowledge. All the things which are external do not impinge upon Him simultaneously but successively. For Him, too, life does not arrange things in a harmonious order. For Him, too, the Scriptures are not a concordance, with an adequate text-and-subject index. He, too, must learn, must penetrate, must organize. Hence when His human nature confronts the things which He must meet, and when He fastens His heart upon God’s means of revelation, He also establishes a relationship between what He experiences and what He knows about God; these He puts into living relationship with the things of temporal experience, with the vacillations of earthly life, with historically progressive human experience. Thus He puts Himself before a gradually unfolding Scripture. Christ’s attention does not wish to be dissipated or scattered; neither is it an immovable, immutable greatness; it is simply bound to the scattered condition of things, and to the scattered condition of the Scriptural data. In the last analysis Christ as man did not have to devote Himself to the hidden things, known only to God, but to the revealed things. Each moment, overagainst everything which He sees and experiences, He must consciously and by means of an ever new deed, fix His attention upon the Scriptures, upon the spoken and written Word given us “at sundry times and in diverse manners.”[1] This He must do with powers that are ever growing and with a mind ever becoming firmer, a knowledge of God which takes on strength with His increasing knowledge of man and life.

[1] Think of the significance of this expression (Heb_1:1) as Christ must have read and assimilated it.

From this we may infer that Christ, even as we, met with influences and realities in this our human life, with antithetical forces and things, whose deeper unity God only knows, but whose inner reconciliation is given no human mind to know. There is much in life which seems contradictory to us. Now His consciousness was also impressed by the things coming from without as having this apparent antithesis, this apparent duality. When these mutually contradictory things confronted Him, He had to span the gap between the one pole and its opposite, between one side and its opposite, between truth and temporary truth. He had to span the gap, He had to bridge the gulf, as does everyone. The material for that bridge God gave, as He ever does, but He first had to gather it together. He Himself had to estimate the length, the arch of the bridge. In order to do this He had to concentrate on what He knew about God, about what He read and believed in the Scriptures.

This was all the more exacting because Christ is not in an abstract sense a “theologian” but is first of all the one who is the motive force of religion, the one who is the great religious soul. The fact that the man Christ Jesus is active theologically, the fact that He lives and reads in the Scriptures is but a result, an expression, a “good work” of His religion. This religion we must understand as being pure and unbroken, as a service of God manifesting itself in all things. For this reason it is impossible for Christ to set up an experiment with an “abstract” theological system of thought, and to combine the manifestations and scattered data of experience and revelation without entering into awful spiritual conflict. In Him the knowledge of God does not come “from” experience but is itself experience, life, and service. Precisely because He is the motive essence of religion itself He is a theologian. Ours is not a Christ who by means of abstract human thinking constructs park benches where, unmoved by the apparent contradictions, He can sit, resting quietly, and making Himself believe that He is “enjoying” God. Nor is ours a Christ who by means of the apparatus of His mind constructs His arcs — arcs by means of which He binds together the outlying mountain-tops of God’s revelation — in the manner of an architect who by means of a mathematical computation and the aid of a few scattered data works out his blue print for a building. For, besides constructing the blue print, besides drawing up the plan on paper by means of square and ruler, He must experience His constructions. He must bring what He has projected in His mind to bear upon living reality. These He must carry into the farthest recesses and the inmost chambers of the universe of the works of God.

An immediate consequence of this fact is that paradoxical experience is possible to Christ. For He came into the world as true man, and as true man He came into the Scriptures, and both the world and the Scriptures reveal their unity only to those who obediently investigate these in time. Gethsemane is the example of that, by no means the only example, by no means the first, but possibly the one which speaks most loudly to us.

Now there was paradox in this human course of His obedience, in this dual experience. Here was the consciousness of His just rights on the basis of the revealed Word; for the revealed Word testified well of His works. And on the other hand, there was the consciousness of His being abandoned, of His being forsaken, of His being condemned, of His real repulsiveness to God — and this again on the basis of the revealed Word, which specifically assures Him that the curse attached to him who hung upon the tree.

In this way, then, we may know that it was possible for Christ to be steeped in paradoxical entanglements.

We consider next the fact that, as sinless man, it is impossible for Him to remain in this paradoxical confusion. He cannot stay caught in it, He cannot remain resting in it. He cannot abandon the problem; He cannot admonish His soul to overlook the problem, and without a super-paradoxical answer to rest in a “why.”

At this point we must make two predications. First, the paradox cannot evolve in Christ from within. Second, Christ cannot objectively ascribe the paradox to God, or explain it on the basis of God’s essence and works.

We said that it was impossible for the paradoxical confusion to arise out of Christ’s own life. This has its immediate consequences, for — speaking generally — that which cannot evolve out of man (unless it is a new creation,[1] a thing which we shall presently deny about the paradox) cannot be a remaining condition of the human life, it cannot be an abiding, ever accompanying manifestation of his life.

[1] Such as regeneration, and the effects of it.

The fact that the paradoxical confusion cannot arise from Christ Himself needs little contention; at least not to the person who shares this interpretation of the essence and the origin of the paradoxical. If we can define the paradoxical as a division of the ways of thought, by means of which the unity of thinking is broken, and as a result of which two attitudes or theses persist in contradicting each other in our minds, and concerning which we dare not say yes to the one and a conclusive no to the other, then we can safely say that such paradox cannot possibly have its origin in Christ’s human constitution.

Christ is one. Sin may have seized upon our human mind and have steeped us in paradoxical confusion, but Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and in whom sin at no point introduced perdition or disruption — Christ, even though He was heir to the weaknesses of the human constitution, never found the cause of these residing in Himself. His thoughts were never driven apart by an act of His own spirit. Never did He on His own part shift His point of view, His point of orientation, from the center to the periphery. He never sought for bias, and never carried faulty weights in His hands. Hence the paradoxical cannot arise in Him; it can only impinge upon Him. He was never antithetically opposed to Himself, and consequently He never “saw” an antithesis unless God had placed it there. True He saw a clear and sharp antithesis between God and Satan, between the divine and the satanic, between good and evil; but He never recognized an antithesis as the result of a flaw in His own thinking, never in this way saw a contradiction in the Scriptures, or in God, be it in nature or grace. We must never convert the weakness of Christ’s human nature, a “weakness,” in which life as He experienced it, and in which His apprehensions and His spiritual development were bound, into a spiritual “sickness”; for weakness and sickness are not identical. No, Christ’s thinking was not faulty, and He was not Himself responsible for the parting of the ways of His thought. His thinking “creates” no antinomies. “Weakness” and “sickness” are not identical; and “weakness” and “strength” are not identical. The “weakness” of Christ’s human nature is not a positive influence or principle; it cannot set Him to thinking “creatively.” We cannot ascribe His knowledge about the Most High to it any more than we could imagine a phantasy about a God broken up into antinomies, or about a revelation thus broken up as having arisen in Him because of it. His “weakness” prevents Him from climbing up to God’s altars but does not itself build an altar to an unknown god who conceals himself in antinomies. The weakness of Christ as a human being can operate as a hindering influence, and as such it can be an obstruction in the way of the ascent of Christ’s thoughts. It can also detain Him in His struggle to arrive at that sublime condition of rest which He desires not at the beginning but at the end of the labor of His thoughts, at the end of His inquiries which both proceed from and work towards His God. This weakness, this human and temporal limitation, can stand in the way of triumphantly feeling that the mountain top of accomplished thinking has been attained; it can prolong the struggle of His ideas. But it cannot introduce a flaw into His thinking. It cannot teach a false logic; it cannot serve to impart a false dialectic which ascribes unreasonable things to God and traces antinomies back to Him.

We do well to note the difference between the beginning of Christ’s thinking and the results of Christ’s thinking. We admitted above that as true man He was susceptible to the struggle and conflict of thoughts. As the second Adam in objective reality, and as having a mind which functions purely and genuinely, He must now achieve knowledge, He must earn the content of thought; and this He must do along the ways of revelation. For Him, too, nay, precisely for Him who must go the whole way of the probationary commands of Adam, precisely for Him the rule was inviolable that the revelation of God contained no paragraphs in which specific loci, in which specific chapters of dogmatics, or paragraphs of philosophy, or completely prepared material of knowledge were fixed and arranged in a logical order. The opposite is more true. The first and second Adam are duty bound to gain for themselves a synthetic judgment and unified knowledge about what God reveals in the Word, in nature, and in history. And in this we detect a difference between the beginning and the end of the learning process of both. At the beginning both have as a given a pure, and genuine capacity for apprehension, an unspoiled mind, a normal attitude toward everything. Thereupon both are asked whether they are, as religious people, willing to take the way of obedience to the rich reward of knowledge (regarded now as the content of thought, as the object of knowledge). It was in this way of obedience that Adam fell but the second Adam remained inaccessible to sin. The sin of passive acquiescence in the paradox[1] consequently could not be His. Such acquiescence would be possible to Him only if on His own part He had yielded the center of His area of knowledge and had no longer believed in the unity of God and the work of God. He ascribes no antinomies to His God, even though the appearance of these can distress Him and assault Him.

[1] A form of despairing of God, or despairing of conscious fellowship with God.

We note, then, that the appearance of paradox — for this appearance does exist — can accrue to Him, but that He cannot acquiesce in this semblance of paradox for a moment. Just as a healthy body reacts to infectious materials, so a reaction must immediately arise in Christ against every phenomenon of life by means of which God or Satan prove or tempt Him with the semblance of antinomy. A passive attitude toward the appearance of paradox in God’s words or works is as He sees it a sin, a repudiation of God, and an instance of unbelief.

This opinion is based on our firm conviction that acquiescence in the paradox, taken in its strictest sense, is an instance of arrogance. We stated previously[1] that God can use the experience of paradox in order to break down one’s pride; in fact, we derive from this thought our right to conclude our previous chapter with the thought: Christ our surety in the paradox.

[1] Chapter 11, page 234.

We must remember, however, that this coin has its opposite side. When God while disciplining me by means of the trial of paradox, strikes me to the ground in order to break my pride, I must not myself want to manipulate the instrument with which He struck me down. That would be to confirm my arrogance: God’s instruments do not fit my hand. Nor must I take the instrument which God hurls against me in His loving warfare and conjure it into a different thing by means of an unctuous faith; I may not, preaching the while, convert it into an instrument of peace, but I must pray that His proving me may not become a satanic temptation: lead me not into (paradoxical) temptation, but deliver me from evil! It is folly to take the instrument which God uses for disciplining and to convert it into one for building up, or for cultivating a field. It is folly to convert a disciplinary device with which God can humble my arrogance into a means of education by which He can in His school teach me the genuine elemental relationships existing between things. It is folly to oppose the salutary effect of shame caused by ignorance (in paradoxical conflict) after the conflict (for then the shame follows) by regarding ignorance as normal. The abnormal — my sin — is indeed broken by the disciplinary means of God’s proving, but this last remedy of discipline must not be praised and glorified as the normal bread of life.[1]

[1] For then we forget that the disciplinary remedy of proving (a) coincides with a satanic temptation in the form of an act of war; (b) that, from God’s point of view, this remedy is applied at all because I have recognized the revealed Word too little, and must be driven back to it now. The first of these was no part of the Christ (not sufficiently recognizing the Word before the paradoxical conflict); but it is true of us. Because of that He must make atonement for us as our Surety now; therefore He must by means of the conflict of paradox work His way back and up to the Word. For this purpose the Word first had to be broken into pieces: text “against” text.

It is this last consideration which is the error of those who proclaim that as long as the world and time exist, the paradoxical is normal inasmuch as God is “wholly different” from man. Overagainst this thesis we maintain that God goes give us a sense of His revelation in our human life, causes it to bear fruit in our human life, inasmuch as in this life we are aware of communion with Him as conscious human beings and enjoy such communion. Now we want to add that those who take this attitude can never ascribe the paradox to the revelation which God gives, or to the manner in which that revelation is given. Clashing with these paradoxes arises from our limitation, our weakness, our perdition, but not from God. It may be true that He humiliates us by this means, and “mocks” us as dwarfs who in our proud journey have gone astray in the forest of paradox in which we, like so many children, have been overtaken by darkness. But His is not the guilt for our straying; for His revelation was one. If we were to accept the paradox as a fate, a fate which God as the Creator and Revealer has laid upon us from the time of Paradise to the end of time, we would not have believed in the unity of God’s thoughts and works or in the unity of His being, or in the unity of His revelation. Then we would have been taking an attitude of doubt, an unbelieving point of view, towards the transparency and manifest character and unity which, according to these themselves, characterize the Holy Scriptures. Then we would be taking a critical attitude towards the belief that the Scriptures are adequate, not to “solve” all kinds of scientific problems, but adequate to lead us as religious people to the goal which religion puts before us.

If we carry these thoughts to Golgotha, we will be able to understand what the response of Christ must have been to these things. God had never taken an arrogant attitude towards God, and hence He at no time could for a single second countenance the thesis that God had spoken to us unplainly, or that God had plainly contradicted Himself, or that He had talked to us in a way we could not understand. The Saviour never found rest in the experience of paradox; for such an experience cannot represent a Sabbath-experience; and the spirit of Christ longed for the great Sabbath-rest with the Father of all spirits Himself. The appearance of paradox cannot arise from the positive will of God. As long as this plagues Him “His heart is burning within Him.” The content of God’s speaking is a single, undivided thing. Consequently He must take His paradoxes to the Scriptures, even if it was the Scripture itself which had placed the paradoxical problem before Him.

We even dare to accept the thesis that Christ in the conflict by means of which He would consume Satan’s temptation[1] and deliver His thoughts from the burden of paradox, was pointed solely to the revealed Word, solely to that revealed Word. His Messianic consciousness was not a superb, divine knowledge, which He had taken along out of heaven, and which, for the rest, at no point touched on His human thinking. It was not a naive intuition, which could stand as a second factor in the motivations of His life beside the Scriptures as a first factor. Every attempt to “explain” these matters in that way must necessarily lead us back to the manner of thinking alluded to above,[2] which ascribes Christ’s human obedience in part to His divine obedience; but the divine excludes obedience; God does not obey. No, when Christ entered the world, grew up into a lad, a youth, a man, when He suffered and died, He had to be satisfied with what was His in the Scriptures. The doctrine of the adequacy (de sufficientia) of the Scriptures takes on new glamour and new depth if we look upon it as being the spiritual property also of the true man Jesus Christ. The second Adam could learn from the Scriptures that obedience, that the fulfillment of the commandments, was pure religion; and He could also learn that religion is always communion with the Father. Moreover, He could learn from the Scriptures that the unique human life which could confess every moment that it had kept the commandments could only be the life of the one Messiah for whom the centuries had waited, and to whom the Great Mission had been given by the Father. Thus Christ, confessing with a blessed joy His own sinless existence every day, and confessing with blessed joy His own perfect faithfulness to the commandments, could move upwards knowing with certainty that He had to be the great elect, the Messiah, the second Adam, He who had been called from eternity to the great labor of redemption, to the law of the covenant of grace.

[1] A struggle, too — this time of Satan: See Cremer-Kogel, Bibl.-theol. Wtchch. & Neut. Graz. 10, p. 914, for the difference in the original between dokimazein and peirazein. This must not be regarded as a purely intellectual struggle by reason of paradoxical temptation, but as a battle for life.

[2] Chapter 13, page 285.

In very truth, then, the Scriptures were adequate to Him. His Messianic self-awareness was conditioned by their adequacy, and vice versa. The adequacy of the Scriptures, was, we can say, His great axiom, His first and great conviction and belief. Because of this it was impossible for Him to look upon a paradoxical experience as being normal, and impossible for Him to find peace in such an experience for even a moment. And when the passion of that paradox came upon Him, along the one route on which it could accrue to Him, the way of descent into hell, the way of being the exlex without the gate, He — this was His obedience, and thus He became our Surety — exerted all His living effort[3] to take exception to that paradoxical experience. But the effort He exerts is an exertion of obedience. Thus do the Scriptures drive Him to the Scriptures; thus words impel Him to the Word. “Comparing Scripture with Scripture” — that is what took place here. The wrestling of Psalms 42 in which the soul admonishes the soul and the spirit the spirit was absolutely fulfilled in Him there.

[3] A struggle, too — this time of Satan: See Cremer-Kogel, Bibl.-theol. Wtchch. & Neut. Graz. 10, p. 914, for the difference in the original between dokimazein and peirazein. This must not be regarded as a purely intellectual struggle by reason of paradoxical temptation, but as a battle for life.

Now we shall not ask further to what extent His divinity supported His humanity on this occasion. We believe that it did, but we can never say a word about the manner in which this took place. It does not grieve us that we are unable to say anything about it, for we cling to the heartening knowledge that in His humanity, that in His being Adam, He had enough not only to be susceptible to the confusion accruing to Him as a paradox from the outside, but also by the exerted strength of His perfect religion to assert Himself against it, and to fight against it so puissantly and effectively that He finally gave voice to that super-paradoxical: amen!

Amen — “It shall certainly be so!”

Now there are some who abandon this Scriptural chain of thought in favor of entangling themselves in such poetry of the Middle Ages as, by means of a false science of esthetic, an unspiritual eroticism, compared Christ to a nightingale singing a song in the May-tree, or warbling because He cannot do otherwise in the joyous May of His natural, native, impersonal, unspiritually apprehended love — a song of love[1] for that poor “murderer” hanging next Him. For he who abandons the other interpretation in favor of such a phantasy has bartered the riches of God’s truth and the riches of a truly architecturally constructed dogmatics[2] for a poor and helpless science of esthetic.

[1] Christ in His Suffering, chapter 13: p. 269 f.; also see this volume, chapter 14.

[2] A dogmatics which has left ample room in it for this “mystery.”

Perhaps someone will call this a singular unbosoming. It is. But it can be explained on the basis of our firm conviction that this is the only way we can believe in an amen-relationship[3] which has, by means of a proving[4] of the second Adam, been put in the fire of refinement; this is the only way we can believe in such an amen-relationship between God and the Christ as the head of the covenant of grace, as the Great Maintainer of the covenant of works.

[3] Probationary command!

[4] To be “proved” again presently from God’s side by the darkness which lasted for three hours; to be discussed later.

Now we want to see the dogma converted into a poem; now, by losing the paradoxes,[5] we would gain them. For the “amen” which the Christ addressed to the murderer is fully informed by glorious contrasts; but, since we understand the background, we know that these contrasts have their deeper unity in Himself, and in God, and in the Word.

[5] Not now, naturally, in the strict sense in which paradox was set aside above.

We can say that the “amen” of the Saviour is: first, although full of tension, nevertheless very “ordinary”; second, although empirically it may be regarded as a moment of experience, Scripturally it may be regarded as sound doctrine; third, although it is super-paradoxical, it is humbly believing; fourth, although uttered by the emptied Christ, it is an expression of the perfected, pleromatic Messiah; fifth, although uttered by one who was completely broken, it is a cry of triumph. We pause to consider each of these predications.

We said that although Christ’s “amen” is full of tension, it is very “ordinary.” By this we mean, that as He saw it, it was perfectly “natural.” It has become apparent long ago that it is full of tension; it represented a cry of triumph after a paradoxical conflict; and it is to be followed very shortly by a “why” of utter distress. The “amen” may therefore be said to be situated between two wars. On the other hand, it is also very “ordinary”; for in all this, we have seen the Christ as a true man, who in order to utter this “amen”, needed nothing more than that which God had given to every man: namely, the Word, and for the rest the revelation of God in the history of life. Everything in this wilderness consequently was as common and usual as was every moment in Paradise for Adam. Perhaps we can say that Christ did not stand up before our astonished eyes on the stage of Golgotha in order to fulfill His calling there in a mystery drama motivated by divine knowledge and kept poised by a super-natural strength, but He proved in all these things to be true man, We have not seen His Messianic self-awareness as a detached mental construction which always lay fully explained before His mind’s eye, and which He had taken with Him ready-made from God’s hidden council, or by way of recollecting the council of peace which from eternity and all times had been set up between the Father and the Son. No, Christ had no means at His disposal which the first Adam did not have. We have seen the Christ as a true man who in His Messianic self-awareness in the last analysis had sufficient for Himself on this day, and as a servant had to have enough for Himself in the two data: the Scriptures, and His perfect, self-confessed, historically manifested obedience. We can say, therefore, that Christ as Servant, as Mediator, entered into the most difficult of battles in no other armor than suited Him every day. He fought as man; what God was to do besides, in order to support Him, that was God’s prerogative and work; but He, from His own side, did not reckon in terms of that. In this most unusual, and unnatural hour, He remained “usual” and ordinary. Then He uttered His “amen” and the utterance was not foisted upon human experience by divine knowledge; nor was the “amen” an “aristocratic” gesture of certainty on the part of one who without super-human strength could not have rescued His spiritual property, but it was the expression of one who was true man, and who made use of no armor which had not been given Him at His birth as a servant and a man.

Therefore we can say that this “amen” of the Christ in the last analysis is a maintenance of what, three years ago — at the beginning of the ministration of His office — He had told the devil. Then, three years ago, when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness —no people were present at the time—Satan told Him: Leap down from the pinnacles of the temple, and they will believe you. Satan said: Perform an ostentatious sign, a miracle, and they will believe you without the cross. But Christ said: “My “amen-relationship” with God prevents me from doing that; get thou behind me, Satan, hallelujah, amen! Today the situation, but with a sharper delineation of the problem now, recurs. Again there is the voice; no, there are many voices, there is a chorus of voices, of human voices, saying to Him: Come down from the cross, and we will believe you; perform a miracle, expressive of unusual might, and we will believe you. This time the problem is a more difficult one. These are not devils, but these are men; and that aggravates the situation, as we have seen before (pages 226-228). In the second place, the cross can no more be evaded, for the cross is here now. Only death can be avoided. However, the problem may be more complicated and the tension severer, but it is the same old problem, the same problem now which existed then. The question is this one: Will Christ by an ostentatious miracle, cut loose from utter obedience, request and earn faith in Himself. This helps us to understand His answer for the first time. It is the answer which He has given during three years of discoursing, and it is the answer which He is giving now by silence. The answer is: It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. To Him this means: Thou shalt not perform any extraordinary miracles, any miracles not written in the revealed Word; Thou must accommodate Thyself to the lowly, to the ordinary, to the things written in the daily program of the kingdom of heaven, to the extremely “common” attitude of one who simply does his duty, and cares to know no more than that.

Christ did not “tempt” God, but chose the “ordinary” way. He kept choosing it also as He hung mute while suffering the mockery of hell. As He did so, He saw the way lying clear ahead of Him. It was the way of very ordinary things. By that route He arrived at His “hallelujah” and His “amen.” The heavens quaked because of this “amen,” but the heart of Jesus did not once beat faster because of it. On the contrary, His heart regained its normal equilibrium again precisely when He could utter the “amen,” and his soul was the more ready to offer itself now to death. He who gives God room is able to breathe the more freely. This “amen” is fully informed by the conscious activity (the utter tension) and — let us use the predication very cautiously — the heavenly naivete (the very ordinary).

We said that, in the second place, the “amen” of Christ, although it can be designated empirically as a moment of experience, can also be designated Scripturally as the sound conclusion of sound reasoning. It is indeed a moment of experience; for while Christ was in the state of being forsaken, and of being rejected without the gate, He was in a state of extreme distress. Difficulties of experience crowded His hours and consumed His soul. Nevertheless, in order to save Himself, He must let the Scriptures speak, He must let all of the Scriptures address Him. The difficulties which the Scriptures themselves disclosed to Him, He solved by means of the Scriptures. In these His victory must have its point of departure. Just as Christ, a few days later, after His resurrection, will comfort those travelling to Emmaus, and will lead them to victory by admonishing them not to listen to a single statement of the Scriptures in reference to a specific event, but to let all the Scriptures witness about all the events,