Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 19. Chapter 19: Christ in the Justification

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 19. Chapter 19: Christ in the Justification

TOPIC: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 19. Chapter 19: Christ in the Justification

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Christ in the Justification

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished.

—Joh_19:30 a.

Now He goes on from strength to strength. His fourth utterance was an expression of weakness. In external form His fifth statement from the cross betrayed the need of help, but an infinite strength consciously expressed itself in it. Now we listen to His sixth utterance. It gives expression to a strength which is also indicated in its form.

It is very short. In this respect it resembles the fifth statement. In the Greek language it consists of a single word. It is full of heavenly realities, however. And, consequently, it is just as fully charged with earthly realities. It consists of a confession on the part of our Prophet and Priest, and is fully informed by the praise of God.[1] The incarnate Word glories in the fact that the moment of Jesus’ dying does not represent a stumbling into the night, but a prolongation of the day of the Lord. It is an extension of that “day of redemption” which in the moment of Jesus’ death may turn over another leaf in its journal.

[1] Again it is John who is writing of this.

“It is finished.” What did the Saviour mean by that statement?

In order to answer that we must first ask ourselves to what it refers. Does Christ mean that the Scriptures and the Prophets have been fulfilled? Or is the statement simply designed to say that His cup of suffering has been emptied, and that the suffering once placed upon Him has almost passed by.

Many think that they must choose one or the other of these possibilities. As we see it no such choice is necessary. We do indeed believe that the fulfillment of the Scriptures vindicated the Christ, and gave Him a free conscience; and we also believe that the completion of His life-task filled Him with an infallible and hence irresistible sense of joy. He was going home.[1] Is it necessary, then, to fix an antithesis between the one and the other? Surely no one desires that. Must we separate the one from the other? No one has need of that. If we remember that the content of the sixth utterance was in Christ’s thoughts when He uttered the fifth,[2] we can better understand the meaning of the sixth. We noted in the preceding chapter that Christ knew all things had been accomplished; and we also considered the fact that He gave His full attention to the definitive and general fulfillment of the Scriptures in this awareness. Hence that was already in Christ’s spirit which He now utters.

[] See Joh_3:31-32. The word of the Baptist: He came from above; He saw and heard what was taking place in heaven. See also chapter 16, pp. 377-78.

[2] See chapter 18, pp. 430-31.

This at the same time points out to us the meaning of the sixth word. All that had definitely been given Him to do had been accomplished. In other words, He had in His historical life achieved everything that the Scriptures had indicated as His Messianic task. The eternal and the temporal, the counsel of God and the deed of Christ, are combined in this utterance of our Victor. These two have found each other, have clung to each other throughout His life on earth, and are now brought together. In the sixth utterance from the cross Christ confesses that His life from the time of His birth to the time of His death has faithfully achieved what the Father gave Him to do. The eternal did not soar over His temporal existence, but entered into it and accompanied it. Standing before the abyss of death He now knows that He is both the fulfiller and fulfilled. He is fulfiller to the extent that as a servant and as a man He has done what was demanded of Him. He is the fulfilled to the extent that as servant and man He worked not on His own authority; He did not do His own work, but the work of the Father expressing itself in the Son.

This statement of the sixth utterance was an exclamation of joy. Moreover, the joy was thoroughly human. There is an objective capacity for joy in the Christ, which always remains itself. It is the deep basis, the vital source of His delight in God and of a good conscience. But the man Christ Jesus has been placed in time; He accompanies the seasons, He develops along with the ups and downs of His work. It is this which makes His joy so moving in its thorough humanness. You can notice it at once. He rejoices because He has something new to say: It is finished.

Yes, but just what is finished? The Messianic work? No, not that; absolutely not that. For if Christ had not arisen from the dead, had not continued to perform His service, all would have been in vain, and we would of all men be the most miserable. What is finished? The satisfaction of the justice of God? No, not that either; for He will not have satisfied the justice of God, and will not have satisfied that justice in its exacting aspect, to the extent it makes its demands in the history of Christ, until He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father. What is finished? Being a servant? Not that. As Kurios, as exalted Saviour, Christ also remains subservient to the Father. What is finished? The humiliation? No, His sublime utterance cannot pertain to that either, for His dying presently and His burial later, will also be a part of the humiliation. What is finished? The fact that He has been appointed an offence? No, not that. For Christ is an offence in His exaltation also.[1] He is an offence also in those respects in which we cannot see Him but can only believe.

[1] This is opposed to Kierkegaard, Barth, Althaus, etc.

No, when we ask just what is finished a single thing serves as the answer. That which is finished is the consciously suffered humiliation in body and in spirit. Not the serving, but the being a slave in humiliation; that, observed from the active side, has now been finished. The torment of the payment, the suffering of the penalty, and both of these consciously, that is finished. The effort at compensation for the wrath of God could not be taken away from Him even if the dying and the burial had not accrued to Him. But the suffering in which Christ had to appear actively, in which He, the Second Adam, by His own effort had to surrender Himself, that is finished. True, the bearing of the humiliation, the experience of disgrace and disdain, the being a foolishness and an offence, all these will still be His in the immediate future. But that which could still accrue to Him after His death by way of adding to His humiliation no longer demands His personal deed. When everything has been given in the Spirit, then the recession of life itself will no longer have to be an active deed on His part. The surrender of the spirit is the last act; thereupon death comes of itself. As for the grave, for that He has His “servants and maids.” His deed will not be necessary for that.

The sixth utterance of the crucified Christ consequently is a prophetic declaration about God as well as a joyful declaration about Himself. It is full of subjective gladness. But this gladness has assumed discipline; it is an obedient joy. The speaker remains the servant of the Lord. Learn of Him now, for He speaks meekly and lowly. He does not say:[1] I have finished. He says: It is finished. He Himself is not the subject of His sublime statement. If the servant makes his own work the theme of the discussion, he does not leave the work, the name, the glory of the sender on the highest plane. But Christ, who in this respect is theocentric in His religion, does not place Himself, and His own share in the work, in the limelight, but names the whole program of work which God has done through Him. What does He say? He does not say: Eureka, I have found it. It was not His own inventive faculty, but His qualification for the service of the office, completing a task delegated to Him, which rejoices His spirit. He speaks as a servant who had an assignment to accomplish and not as the master architect. It is finished — by this statement Christ not only draws Himself but also the Satan, all the devils, and even these wicked people here, into the circle of His attention. Nor is He saying: I am free; I have escaped from the snare; I have not been unsuccessful. For — even though because of the physical pressure He could hardly breathe — He had to drink first, we remember — He prefers singing of the steadfastness of the Scriptures and of God’s counsel to rejoicing in the temporal experience of the day or of the days which have just passed. Not His own “tension,” not His own “suspense,” but the unravelling of the seasons of God, the consummation of God’s decrees, these are the theme of His paeans of victory. God be praised, the mandates of the Messianic life have fortunately had an end. Not the fact that His plan has succeeded, but the fact that God’s plan has been finished in Him constitutes His joy. No wonder, we say again (but afterwards, of course): no wonder, for though faith in these days may be regarded by some as an enormous risk, Christ never once regarded faith as a risk. Living according to the letter of the commandments by the Spirit — that was His primary, His sole, and His perfect security. The Scriptures took their own course, and now that the revealed will of God had been His food and His expression, it is certain that the hidden will of God must delight in His joys. His faith is not conditioned by the success of its result, but His faith postulates the effect. He is in no sense uncertain about the result; if He had been that, His entering upon death would certainly have become a risk. In other words, it would have been an act of unbelief. However, quite to the contrary, He is personally certain of God’s response to His Messianic life of service. And He gives expression to a terse epitome of that certainty in this plainly and unmistakably uttered statement.

[1] If we sometimes use the expression that Christ “did not say” this or that, we do not mean to establish a contrast between what He did say and the other possible formulations which are lacking here. The issue here is the formulation and the structure of the sentence, for this cannot be accidental.

Thus Christ is justified. Both in the presence of God and in the court of His conscience He is completely vindicated. It is finished: the counsel, the Scriptures are finished. And this sublime paean of rejoicing, stating that the suffering He has undergone has accomplished the one good service, the service of God which in its own entrance upon the Sabbath takes a whole people with it into the Sabbath-joys through vindication in Christ Jesus, is now given expression in the joyous: It is finished.

Therefore we can say that not this or that detail of the Scriptures, but that all the Scriptures were present in His spirit as He uttered these last two statements. This is another reason for which we do not believe that the sixth utterance from the cross was an intentional quotation. Some wish to regard the “It is finished” as a conscious illusion to the last verse of Psalms 22. This psalm closes with the words:

A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

Now some choose to regard this last clause, “that he hath done this,” as the original of the sixth utterance from the cross. They point out that in this way the whole of Psalms 22 had its fulfillment in and dominated Golgotha: the beginning, the middle, and also the end of the psalm. The beginning: simply recall the fourth utterance from the cross. The middle: for the parting of the clothes, the mockery, the disdain, the thirst — all these were motifs derived from Psalms 22. And now the end: It is finished; it has been done; God has done it.

Nevertheless, we raise objections to this interpretation. Psalms 22 pertains to that act of God which is being praised by the poet: namely, the rescuing from death, the ascending line. But Christ not only includes His deliverance from His distress, but the distress also in His vision. Not only the victory, but also the struggle, not only the powers of glorification, but also that which humiliated, was before His mind’s eye. In this, Christ sees God’s counsel fulfilled and in this He sees the Scriptures and all of prophecy brought to rest.[1]

[1] We say nothing about the fact that the Septuagint apparently is not thinking of anything that God does, but of “the people whom He hath created.”

Thus this statement of universal power and glory in all of its genuine humanness also becomes a statement of our Lord and God. Past the vessel of vinegar which lent physical strength to the utterance of it, His thoughts go on and reach to the abyss of time, to the culmination of all the eons. The Word was made flesh, concealed itself in a crying babe, and required a sip of vinegar in order to speak. And when it spoke, it spoke of the great deeds of God; it said that these were finished.

Yes, my Lord and my God said that up to this point it was finished.

Three times the Word of God uses this phrase in history. The word “finished” is clearly and ringing]y heralded at the beginning of history, in the middle of history, and at the end. At the beginning, for in Gen_2:1 we read: “thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” Already at this time the eternal Word, the Logos, appeared before us: for by the word of the Lord were the heavens made. At the end of time we hear the same sound repeated: the Revelation of John tells us that some day this voice will sound throughout the world: it is done (Rev_16:17). That is the call which closes the history of the church and of the world as it is brought to its culmination by the Spirit of Christ. Now these two extremes, the primordial beginning, and the accomplished end, are bound to each other by the sixth utterance from the cross. There the Logos speaks in the state of humiliation. There He bears the world which was once created “by” Him into the Father’s hands, surrendering it. It is ready and ripe for the last act. The curtain may rise to it now. The consummation of the Spirit may begin after the consummation of the work of God in the earthly tabernacle.[1] Now that He has labored according to the Scriptures, and now that He can neither be tried nor grieved in all eternity, now that He has fulfilled the covenant of works which came to the Second Adam as a proof and an examination in righteousness, and now that He has lifted every labor of the covenant above the plane of an examination, now He also takes the Spirit in His possession, that Spirit who ever brings to fruition what is latently potential, that Spirit who ever consummates what the will has established in principle, that Spirit who presently will exhaust the Christ until He too can say: It is finished.

[1] Tabernacle, for after the resurrection the body of the Logos is temple- “building.” (2 Corinthians 5).

We have made two discoveries: the sixth utterance from the cross proved to us to be human, and it proved to us to be divine. Now let us permit our thoughts to return to their course. We think back and observe that the sixth statement from the cross represents a two-fold function. In the first place, Christ as the Son of God takes the proper position in the divine being, and there makes His report. In the second place, Christ as the Son of man, as our Mediator and Surety, takes the proper position among His own.

As for the first, Christ as the Son of God takes His proper position in the divine being, and there presents His report. As the Son of God He reports to the Holy Trinity. The word “reports” may have an irreverent connotation for some, and not seem to be a proper expression for indicating the relationship between the three persons of God, but we shall let it stand as it is nevertheless. We must not regard matters here in a human light, but must take flight to God with our thoughts. If we do that, the word we use is in place. For it is a peculiarly divine activity that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit report to each other about their work. The divine life in the three persons is not merely a mutual knowledge, but it is also a reciprocal communication. The glory of the divine life, the strength of the divine life, is always announced by the one to the other in the secret language of that good pleasure of God which ever returns to God, the self-esteem of God, the self sufficient. Now the Son is entering into fellowship with the Father and with the Holy Spirit and — mark, He is rejoicing about this great day. It is finished! The song which gave expression to the divine joy of creation was not as sublimely moving as this short song of God’s regenerative capacities. The Lord has introduced “something new” upon the earth and this new thing has now progressed to a certain point of ripeness and crystallization, a point at which it can be said: It is finished! It is finished! — that is an evening hymn, and also a mid-day hymn. It is an evening hymn if it is observed from the viewpoint of time; then it is the evening hymn of Christus Moriturus, the evening hymn of this strange Pilgrim’s journey which took thirty-three years. But this evening hymn of Christ’s temporal existence also becomes the mid-day hymn of God’s sublime working day. God has created and regenerated; He has dug under the creation, and placed a firmer foundation under it. Now the Son comes and says: I see all that I have made, and behold, it is very good. For without the Word nothing was made that is made. By it were all things made, and without the Word nothing was regenerated that is regenerated. By it were all things brought back. Yes, “the beginning of the creation of God,” the Almighty God, rejoices in His acts. In God there is a sublime pleasure in creation: He sees even before it is finished. And there is also in God a recurring joy when He sees the work after it is finished. It is finished: perfect time, perfectum.[1] A verb in the perfect tense has smilingly fallen from God’s lips. Perfectum beatitudinis, perfectum quiescens. God’s present tense hovers over history — hide yourself from the emanating power of a God who in His created passion is expressing Himself!

[1] (Present) perfect time; not: it is being finished, but: it is finished.

Joyously singing,

The mighty God

Sings praises to His name.

He sings praises to His name. It is finished. In a perfectum of perfect rest the Son announces His victory. Simply, directly, He says it to the Father and to the Spirit. He stands infinitely above the evangelizing practitioners. He makes the immanent announcement in which the Father, the Son, and the Spirit enjoy each other. And His sublime announcement of peace, of the finished act, that condition of rest which is ever there, His perfectum of seven blessednesses, is known only in heaven. On earth we can at best fumble with the meaning of the blessedness of such reciprocal announcement between the three persons. On earth perfecta are very temporary, they are constantly replaced by others, by the imperfect tense. But the perfectum is peculiarly heavenly; all the verbs of heaven are first conjugated in that tense.[1] It indicates the completion of the action, and all heavenly action is in its relationship to God completed. “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” “Thou art my Father, this day have I finished it.” Such is the language of heaven. Why? Well, this perfect condition of restfulness is strange to Satan, is quite unknown in hell. In hell there is only the tension, the imperfect time; there nothing is completed, and a condition of rest is an impossibility. Before it could utter a perfectum propheticum, hell would have to cease being hell. In hell there is an unbroken suspense, which can never be lifted. In hell there is only fearing and trembling.

[1] Naturally, this is figurative language, but it is derived from the usages of the Old and New Testaments (those of the poetry and the prophecy), and from dogmatic considerations.

But the Son arises to His rest. He also arises into His rest. His rising represents a standing, and all His standing is a sitting, a resting. Thus the Son now enters into fellowship with the Holy Trinity. The human word of Jesus the Nazarene causes a flash of the light of the divine joy in regeneration to dazzle the heavens.

Yes, the Son enters into a pure relationship with the three persons. He has finished the creative renewal and redemption of the “great Day of the Lord.” Now we know that “the Day of the Lord” is divided into phases, into hours. It was evening, or it was noon, or else it was morning; but in any case there were phases, there were milestones. There were separate hours, transitions. This day of creation also is divided into milestones of creative evolutions.

Listen now. Presently a voice is heard in this “Day of the Lord.” My Lord and my God is speaking. He says “Finished!” Now it was morning, and it was mid-day. In this the joy which is surcharging the heart of God at once finds an outlet, an expression by means of which it can reach the earth. In that sixth utterance from the cross God’s Sabbath rest is being vindicated. But because God wants men to enter into His Sabbath, there immediately takes place a reaction to His Sabbath-evolutions here below. In the sixth utterance from the cross God, my Lord and God, announces the approach of the Christian Sunday. It was finished, but finished at mid-day of the “jom Jahwe.” Hence the arduous labor, the exacting strain, and the feverish effort to arrive at the condition of rest was now completed. Completed by the Son first and completed for the people next. Hence it is part of this statement which divides the day of regeneration into segments, that now the sun which shines down upon the “jom Jahwe” must turn. Henceforth it will not be a matter of laboring arduously in order to achieve a state of rest, but of a work whose benefits proceed to the outside. It will be this for the Son first, and for the people next. It is finished: now the Sabbath of men on earth will no longer be at the end of all their arduous effort, but at the beginning of the days and the weeks. The recreating procedure of God, the creative appointment of the new things in the kingdom of heaven changes from an appointment to an ordering, from an establishing to an elaboration, from a struggle to introduce the new things to a joyful service in ordering them, and so this procedure reaches the state of a princely and eschatological enjoyment of the established and ordained “new” works of grace. Therefore at this turning point of time the Sabbath is transferred from the last to the first day of the week, for it is the privilege of earthly realities to be a reflection of heavenly realities. The Christian Sabbath is being announced beforehand, is being legally established by this sixth utterance of Christ, and it will be proclaimed and actually instituted on the day of Christ’s resurrection.

We began, when we wanted to listen to the Speaker of the sixth utterance from the cross, by paying attention to the three persons of the divine Being. In this utterance God called to God, the incarnate Word called out to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. By means of what was otherwise a genuinely human expression, God called to God. That we have observed and what else was there for us to observe? The sixth utterance from the cross placed us human beings on display as empty and very poor. A cry is passing over our heads. God is calling to God with us, about us, without us. The announcement of the Son to the Father and the Spirit echoes around us; we hear a trembling, a vox humana, but in the deepest essence of the call, this utterance going from God to God passes over our heads. God’s announcements first of all seek Himself. Only after they have found Him and because they have, are we saved. The redemptive fact has by the power which is from above delineated its own paths upon the earth. It is finished! Looking at it this way, I detect the sovereign language of free grace.

Now our second consideration. In this sixth utterance from the cross Christ also proceeds to occupy the right position overagainst His own. He stands erect and in His own place, in the commission of the covenant. We gave expression to this when we set down as the title of our chapter the phrase: Christ in the Justification. Why that strange term? Because it really is impossible to find an adequate substitute. The word “justification” is a fixed expression, suggesting vindication. By it the justifying announcement of God is indicated, by which the sinner is acquitted of the guilt of sin, and by which his right to eternal life is proclaimed to him.

Naturally justification in this strict sense was not given the Christ. He has no sin, hence it cannot be stricken from His record. If we cling to the word in its strict meaning, we must say: He does not share in the justification, but distributes it.

Nevertheless Christ — on the other hand —has been made sin, and has been made curse. He has been condemned by the justice of God, and must by that same justice be restored to favor. A punishing justice was aroused against Him. Thus, as the “Ebed Jahwe,” the suffering “servant of the Lord” entered upon His shame. But now Christ is again being vindicated. He has done what was required of Him. All the obligations of the covenant of works He can cancel by adequate payment. He is righteous, also in His own conscience. As for this last remark, He knew that all the Scriptures had been relived in Him. He says as much. And now He places Himself overagainst the justice of God and glories in His justification.

The divine order of God’s work is apparent in this too. We are emphatically reminded of the fact that Christ in His processes of justice first solves them within Himself, within the four walls of His own spiritual house, and only then presents the same con­flicts to God and thus by means of influences proceeding from the outside, again opens the gates, and presents the issue for new dis­cussion (see pages 305-309). We can detect the same order here. For who proclaimed Christ as being righteous ? Yes, the sun shone again, but that was the only thing which said anything for Him, which had a friend­ly voice for Him But for the rest Christ’s own spirit moved and prompted Him and He assured Himself that indeed all things were accomplished according to the word of God. And He as­sured Himself that the Second Adam can look upon His day with rejoicing, that now He is righteous before God. Only after He has said this to Himself, and has assured Himself of the right to the Passover does the Father intervene with an external act: then the Father rends the heavens on Sunday morning, thrusts Jesus’ grave stone to one side, lets life quiveringly enter into His body, and then Himself also proclaims the justification, of the Christ.

Thus the least of the Passover had its beginning in the spirit of Christ; there He righteously arouses Himself and does not sin. The least of the Passover had to have its beginning in Him. He must believe in His own justification. Not that it is actually anchored in His own righteousness only; it must also be embraced by His own faith, and by His own faith be proclaimed.

And this is what happened. That becomes evident to us in the statement from the cross still to follow. In the sixth He announces that all things are accomplished and the broken covenant of works can no longer lay any claims upon Him. He says to God: There is no tension in the atmosphere now; there is no need to struggle now; this matter of justice is no longer among the uncertain things; no one can charge me with guilt; the punishment is passed. This is the first element in the justification. And in the next utterance from the cross, the last one, He accepts His right to eternal life, vindicates His eternal life as transcending His temporal death, and says: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. This right to eternal life is the second element in the justification.

Accordingly, we say that Christ is in the justification. Therefore this sixth utterance from the cross is one of the historic moments which proclaims and confirms ours.

Let us rejoice now. It is true that in the fourth statement from the cross He heard a voice saying: God repents that He made Jesus a king. But in the sixth utterance His voice declares: See my works; the rejected king certainly may be a king. He no longer hides Himself behind the vessel. Surely the king is in His justification. The prophecy is His self-defense: again He is in a state of rest. He admonishes Himself, saying: Sleep on now, and rest. It is finished: again, for Himself and for man, there is a perfectum quietivum[1] The Son of man, the Second Adam, can now speak as man in a condition of perfect rest. Thus He may enjoy God. Christian dogmatics has often said of Him: He was “not comprehensor, but viator.” By that is meant: He did not go through life as one who as a calmly calculating individual was playing a carefully studied role, as one who with a purely intellectual insight and oversight went through life as a strange, dispassionate guest, but as a pilgrim here below who constantly experienced as a new experience that which confronted Him as a new phenomenon.

[1] Perfect time: the rest-imparting thought that the work is finished.

We shall not contradict this eloquent statement taken from the tradition of dogmatics. In a different form we ourselves have repeatedly stated similar things. However, we must amplify the statement. The comprehensor, who intellectually comprehends the relationships of things, and the viator, who experiences them, are never contrasted to each other in the Christ. The discrimination is not a separation.

We see that here. He is the comprehensor; for He says: It is finished. Yes, that much He had ever understood very well. He had never been able to think of it; in any other way. He laid His stones regularly every day, and never once doubted Himself. But He is the viator too. That He actually is finished row is a discovery He makes in a moment of time, and it is a blessed feeling of delight to Him in this joyous moment; it suffices to make Him shout. He looks at this marvellous thing in a genuinely human way, being much moved and greatly perturbed by it.

A comprehensor is here. He has seen this moment beforehand in connection with all of His times. The viator is here. He enjoys this moment as though He understands it not at all, and as though it comes as a surprise. He is the comprehensor: He sees the day and the things of the day as by a bird’s eye view from His sublime heights; He knows the lay of the land, and sees the various thoroughfares in their essential inter-relationship. He is the viator: He is as surprised as a person who suddenly turns a sharp corner and discovers an unexpected panorama of beauty. He is the comprehensor: He reckons in terms of time. He is the viator: He enjoys His moments, His seconds.

Recently they talk a great deal in the church about “the moment.” By that they mean that “moment” of life in which we touch on eternity. I think I shall let them talk, for Christ suffices for me. He has His “moment.” This causes an interruption, an accent, an emphasis in His rhythm. But in the last analysis it is included in that rhythm. It is a “selah,” but the psalm goes on. Selah means a moment; but the psalm was the condition. He is the viator who experiences “His moment,” but also the comprehensor who definitely knows that this is mid-day of the Day of the Lord.

Therefore we can say that the “mid-day” of Jahweh was enjoyed with trembling in the “moment” of Jesus. He confesses to Himself: I know that I have fulfilled all the Scriptures, and I have cried aloud in order to fulfill the Scriptures even more. I believe passionately in the Scriptures. And He puts a question to Himself: What benefit is it to me to believe all this? He knows His own answer: “That I in myself am righteous before God, and heir of eternal life.” He sings His evening hymn as a man thirty-three years old but it becomes the hymn of His justification. Thus He teaches the angels the mid-day hymn of the Lord,[1] and announces the morning hymn of God.[2]

[1] Jahwe: covenant God, regenerator; jom jahwe, covenant of grace.

[2] God; as creator of the world (before regeneration).

How rich He is, how immeasurably rich!

And yet how poor He is. Poor — in the world’s reckoning. For, strictly interpreted, what does this amount to, this “It is finished.” Does it give Him anything in common with “great men?” Ah, no. He did not say “I,” but “it.” The sixth utterance from the cross is not a conclusion written large in capital letters under an autobiography; it tells us nothing about Himself. He did not “disclose” Himself. Nor did He “characterize” Himself. He is by no means “a great man” who drew up His position on top of a conspicuous rock on the mountain of humanity, there where hardly any human being can reach Him, where He alone can carry His head in the clouds, shouting victory to the sun. God be praised, He is not one of the “great men.” He is infinitely more; He is wholly different. He is the basis, the foundation, the cornerstone of human life. And hence He speaks so terribly generally now. “It is finished.” All heretics can read their interpretations into it. And all exhausted little men when they die can repeat it. This is the same old song: the least of His brethren can take His utterance from the cross upon his lips (see page 325 ff). It is finished: that is a word of self-concealment.

But in this self-concealment He is my Saviour now. No Caesar and no king, no philosopher and no great man, can possibly conclude his discourses as vaguely as this. They all conceive of an autobiography if they wish to leave a final typifying biography behind. But Christ has no biography, cannot bear one. As man He is entirely swallowed up of the work of God. This was “His meat,” not His pose. It was His life, not His type. The zeal of God’s house has consumed all biographical notice of Him. It is finished; the work is completed; the seeds have germinated. There is nothing else to say; the matter of a “biography” is quite out of place. He cannot endure the thought of a “life of Jesus.”

Therefore He will die in a world which has died in giving birth to “great men.” The impersonal human nature left with a statement which sounded impersonal. Men shook their heads; they beat against their breasts, when an earthquake came. They cannot be frightened by impersonal words, even though these really can be spoken by no one else and really are a miracle in Him, far more miraculous, in fact, than an ordinary earthquake. The people left: He had literally said nothing particularly striking by way of further explanation or justification. It — it — and that was all.

But the reaction in heaven was quite different. When He ended impersonally in this way, but allowed His next to the last statement to be borne aloft by the Spirit, they in heaven said: God be praised: the first Adam has been made a living soul, and the Second Adam a life-giving spirit.