"...Jesus Cried Out..."

April 10, 2009

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried...." (Matthew 27:46, NIV), Though in the cry which Christ uttered a power more than human was manifested, yet it was unquestionably drawn from him by intensity of sorrow. And certainly this was his chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures, that in his anguish he was so far from being soothed by the assistance or favor of his Father, that he felt himself to be in some measure estranged from him.

"For not only did he offer his body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but. in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us; and thus he became, as Isaiah speaks, "...a man of sorrows..." (53:3). Those interpreters are widely mistaken who, laying aside this part of redemption, attended solely to the outward punishment of the flesh; for in order that Christ might satisfy for us, it was necessary that he should be placed as a guilty person at the judgment-seat of God.

"Now nothing is more dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge. When this temptation was presented to Christ, as if, having God opposed to him, he were already devoted to destruction, he was seized with horror, which would have been sufficient to swallow up a hundred times all the men in the world; but by the amazing power of the Spirit he achieved the victory.

"Nor is it by hypocrisy, or by assuming a character, that he complains of having been forsaken by the Father. Some allege that he employed this language in compliance with the opinion of the people, but this is an absurd mode of evading the difficulty; for the inward sadness of his soul was so powerful and violent, that it forced him to break out into a cry.

"Nor did the redemption which he accomplished consist solely in what was exhibited to the eye, (as I stated a little ago,) but having undertaken to be our surety, he resolved actually to undergo in our room the judgment of God. But it appears absurd to say that an expression of despair escaped Christ. The reply is easy.

"Though the perception of the flesh would have led him to dread destruction, still in his heart faith remained firm, by which he beheld the presence of God, of whose absence he complains. We have explained elsewhere how the Divine nature gave way to the weakness of the flesh, so far as was necessary for our salvation, that Christ might accomplish all that was required of the Redeemer. We have likewise pointed out the distinction between the sentiment of nature and the knowledge of faith; and, therefore, the perception of God’s estrangement from him, which Christ had, as suggested by natural feeling, did not hinder him from continuing to be assured by faith that God was reconciled to him.

"This is sufficiently evident from the two clauses of the complaint; for, before stating the temptation, he begins by saying that he betakes himself to God as his God, and thus by the shield of faith he courageously expels that appearance of forsaking which presented itself on the other side. In short, during this fearful torture his faith remained uninjured, so that, while he complained of being forsaken, he still relied on the aid of God as at hand. That this expression eminently deserves our attention is evident from the circumstance, that the Holy Spirit, in order to engrave it more deeply on the memory of men, has chosen to relate it in the Syriac language; for this has the same effect as if he made us hear Christ himself repeating the very words which then proceeded from his mouth.

"So much the more detestable is the indifference of those who lightly pass by, as a matter of jesting, the deep sadness and fearful trembling which Christ endured. No one who considers that Christ undertook the office of Mediator on the condition of suffering our condemnation, both in his body and in his soul, will think it strange that he maintained a struggle with the sorrows of death, as if an offended God had thrown him into a whirlpool of afflictions.

Matthew 27:47, "...He calleth Elijah..." Those who consider this as spoken by the soldiers, ignorant and unskilled in the Syriac language, and unacquainted with the Jewish religion, and who imagine that the soldiers blundered through a resemblance of the words, are, in my opinion, mistaken. I do not think it at all probable that they erred through ignorance, but rather that they deliberately intended to mock Christ, and to turn his prayer into an occasion of slander.

"For Satan has no method more effectual for ruining the salvation of the godly, than by dissuading them from calling on God. For this reason, he employs his agents to drive off from us, as far as he can, the desire to pray. Thus he impelled the wicked enemies of Christ basely to turn his prayer into derision, intending by this stratagem to strip him of his chief armor. And certainly it is a very grievous temptation, when prayer appears to be so far from yielding any advantage to us, that God exposes his name to reproaches, instead of lending a gracious ear to our prayers.

"This ironical language, therefore—or rather this barking of dogs—amounts to saying that Christ has no access to God, because, by imploring Elijah, he seeks relief in another quarter. Thus we see that he was tortured on every hand, in order that, overwhelmed with despair, he might abstain from calling on God, which was, to abandon salvation.

"But if the hired brawlers of Antichrist, as well as wicked men existing in the Church, are now found to pervert basely by their calumnies what has been properly said by us, let us not wonder that the same thing should happen to our Head. Yet though they may change God into Elijah, when they have ridiculed us to their heart’s content, God will at length listen to our groanings, and will show that he vindicates his glory, and punishes base falsehood."

Calvin's Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels, pp. 246-248.