An Interpretation. -- Chap. XXII.42-48
Ver.42. |Father, if Thou be willing to remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done.|
But let these things be enough to say on the subject of the will. This word, however, |Let the cup pass,| does not mean, Let it not come near me, or approach me. For what can |pass from Him,| certainly must first come nigh Him; and what does pass thus from Him, must be by Him. For if it does not reach Him, it cannot pass from Him. For He takes to Himself the person of man, as having been made man. Wherefore also on this occasion He deprecates the doing of the inferior, which is His own, and begs that the superior should be done, which is His Father's, to wit, the divine will; which again, however, in respect of the divinity, is one and the same will in Himself and in the Father. For it was the Father's will that He should pass through every trial (temptation); and the Father Himself in a marvellous manner brought Him on this course, not indeed with the trial itself as His goal, nor in order simply that He might enter into that, but in order that He might prove Himself to be above the trial, and also beyond it. And surely it is the fact, that the Saviour asks neither what is impossible, nor what is impracticable, nor what is contrary to the will of the Father. It is something possible; for Mark makes mention of His saying, |Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee.| And they are possible if He wills them; for Luke tells us that He said, |Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me.| The Holy Spirit, therefore, apportioned among the evangelists, makes up the full account of our Saviour's whole disposition by the expressions of these several narrators together. He does not, then, ask of the Father what the Father wills not. For the words, |If Thou be willing,| were demonstrative of subjection and docility, not of ignorance or hesitancy. For this reason, the other scripture says, |All things are possible unto Thee.| And Matthew again admirably describes the submission and humility when he says, |If it be possible.| For unless I adapt the sense in this way, some will perhaps assign an impious signification to this expression, |If it be possible;| as if there were anything impossible for God to do, except that only which He does not will to do. But...being straightway strengthened in His humanity by His ancestral divinity, he urges the safer petition, and desires no longer that should be the case, but that it might be accomplished in accordance with the Father's good pleasure, in glory, in constancy, and in fulness. For John, who has given us the record of the sublimest and divinest of the Saviour's words and deeds, heard Him speak thus: |And the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?| Now, to drink the cup was to discharge the ministry and the whole economy of trial with fortitude, to follow and fulfil the Father's determination, and to surmount all apprehensions. And the exclamation, |Why hast Thou forsaken me?| was in due accordance with the requests He had previously made: Why is it that death has been in conjunction with me all along up till now, and that I bear not yet the cup? This I judge to have been the Saviour's meaning in this concise utterance.
And He certainly spake truth then. Nevertheless He was not forsaken. But He drank out the cup at once, as His plea had implied, and then passed away. And the vinegar which was handed to Him seems to me to have been a symbolical thing. For the turned wine indicated very well the quick turning and change which He sustained, when He passed from His passion to impassibility, and from death to deathlessness, and from the position of one judged to that of one judging, and from subjection under the despot's power to the exercise of kingly dominion. And the sponge, as I think, signified the complete transfusion of the Holy Spirit that was realized in Him. And the reed symbolized the royal sceptre and the divine law. And the hyssop expressed that quickening and saving resurrection of His, by which He has also brought health to us.
43. |And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
44. And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.|
The phrase, |a sweat of blood,| is a current parabolic expression used of persons in intense pain and distress; as also of one in bitter grief people say that the man |weeps tears of blood.| For in using the expression, |as it were great drops of blood,| he does not declare the drops of sweat to have been actually drops of blood. For he would not then have said that these drops of sweat were like blood. For such is the force of the expression, |as it were great drops.| But rather with the object of making it plain that the Lord's body was not bedewed with any kind of subtle moisture which had only the show and appearance of actuality, but that it was really suffused all over with sweat in the shape of large thick drops, he has taken the great drops of blood as an illustration of what was the case with Him. And accordingly, as by the intensity of the supplication and the severe agony, so also by the dense and excessive sweat, he made the facts patent, that the Saviour was man by nature and in reality, and not in mere semblance and appearance, and that He was subject to all the innocent sensibilities natural to men. Nevertheless the words, |I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again,| show that His passion was a voluntary thing; and besides that, they indicate that the life which is laid down and taken again is one thing, and the divinity which lays that down and takes it again is another.
He says, |one thing and another,| not as making a partition into two persons, but as showing the distinction between the two natures.
And as, by voluntarily enduring the death in the flesh, He implanted incorruptibility in it; so also, by taking to Himself of His own free-will the passion of our servitude, He set in it the seeds of constancy and courage, whereby He has nerved those who believe on Him for the mighty conflicts belonging to their witness-bearing. Thus, also, those drops of sweat flowed from Him in a marvellous way like great drops of blood, in order that He might, as it were, drain off and empty the fountain of the fear which is proper to our nature. For unless this had been done with a mystical import, He certainly would not, even had He been the most timorous and ignoble of men, have been bedewed in this unnatural way with drops of sweat like drops of blood under the mere force of His agony.
Of like import is also the sentence in the narrative which tells us that an angel stood by the Saviour and strengthened Him. For this, too, bore also on the economy entered into on our behalf. For those who are appointed to engage in the sacred exertions of conflicts on account of piety, have the angels from heaven to assist them. And the prayer, |Father, remove the cup,| He uttered probably not as if He feared the death itself, but with the view of challenging the devil by these words to erect the cross for Him. With words of deceit that personality deluded Adam; with the words of divinity, then, let the deceiver himself now be deluded. Howbeit assuredly the will of the Son is not one thing, and the will of the Father another. For He who wills what the Father wills, is found to have the Father's will. It is in a figure, therefore, that He says, |not my will, but Thine.| For it is not that He wishes the cup to be removed, but that He refers to the Father's will the right issue of His passion, and honours thereby the Father as the First. For if the fathers style one's disposition gnomè, and if such disposition relates also to what is in consideration hidden as if by settled purpose, how say some that the Lord, who is above all these things, bears a gnomic will? Manifestly that can be only by defect of reason.
45. |And when He rose from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow;
46. And said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.|
For in the most general sense it holds good that it is apparently not possible for any man to remain altogether without experience of ill. For, as one says, the whole world lieth in wickedness;| and again, |The most of the days of man are labour and trouble.| But you will perhaps say, What difference is there between being tempted, and falling or entering into temptation? Well, if one is overcome of evil -- and he will be overcome unless he struggles against it himself, and unless God protects him with His shield -- that man has entered into temptation, and is in it, and is brought under it like one that is led captive. But if one withstands and endures, that man is indeed tempted; but he has not entered into temptation, or fallen into it. Thus Jesus was led up of the Spirit, not indeed to enter into temptation, but to be tempted of the devil. And Abraham, again, did not enter into temptation, neither did God lead him into temptation, but He tempted (tried) him; yet He did not drive him into temptation. The Lord Himself, moreover, tempted (tried) the disciples. Thus the wicked one, when he tempts us, draws us into the temptations, as dealing himself with the temptations of evil. But God, when He tempts (tries), adduces the temptations (trials) as one untempted of evil. For God, it is said, |cannot be tempted of evil.| The devil, therefore, drives us on by violence, drawing us to destruction; but God leads us by hand, training us for our salvation.
47. |And while He yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus, and kissed Him.
48. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
How wonderful this endurance of evil by the Lord, who even kissed the traitor, and spake words softer even than the kiss! For He did not say, O thou abominable, yea, utterly abominable traitor, is this the return you make to us for so great kindness? But, somehow, He says simply |Judas,| using the proper name, which was the address that would be used by one who commiserated a person, or who wished to call him back, rather than of one in anger. And He did not say, |thy Master, the Lord, thy benefactor;| but He said simply, |the Son of man,| that is, the tender and meek one: as if He meant to say, Even supposing that I was not your Master, or Lord, or benefactor, dost thou still betray one so guilelessly and so tenderly affected towards thee, as even to kiss thee in the hour of thy treachery, and that, too, when the kiss was the signal for thy treachery? Blessed art Thou, O Lord! How great is this example of the endurance of evil that Thou hast shown us in Thine own person! how great, too, the pattern of lowliness! Howbeit, the Lord has given us this example, to show us that we ought not to give up offering our good counsel to our brethren, even should nothing remarkable be effected by our words.
For as incurable wounds are wounds which cannot be remedied either by severe applications, or by those which may act more pleasantly upon them; so the soul, when it is once carried captive, and gives itself up to any kind of wickedness, and refuses to consider what is really profitable for it, although a myriad counsels should echo in it, takes no good to itself. But just as if the sense of hearing were dead within it, it receives no benefit from exhortations addressed to it; not because it cannot, but only because it will not. This was what happened in the case of Judas. And yet Christ, although He knew all these things beforehand, did not at any time, from the beginning on to the end, omit to do all in the way of counsel that depended on Him. And inasmuch as we know that such was His practice, we ought also unceasingly to endeavour to set those right who prove careless, even although no actual good may seem to be effected by that counsel.