Gethsemane and the Cross

J. N. Darby.

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(Notes and Comments Vol. 4.)

The Lord was completely heard and delivered, as regards the trial of Gethsemane, before leaving the garden, and on the Cross before His giving up His soul. And these two trials seem to me to be quite distinct. The prince of this world came, and though he had nothing in Jesus, still He had to go through what death was as the power of Satan to alarm and destroy confidence in His Father. 'This is your hour, and the power of darkness,' said the Lord. Satan had sought to meet Him, and pervert Him as a living Messiah, the Son of God, but the Lord had put him aside, and conquered him with the Word, as the obedient Man; for this was needed for man too. Satan had then sought to divert Him from the path by attractive temptation. The strong man was bound, and, as a living Man, He spoiled his goods - cast out devils - healed all that were oppressed by the devil (as a living Man) 'for God was with Him.' But man was incapable of being blessed in this way, or delivered, for he was a sinner, and morally under Satan's power.

Then the Lord had to meet death, which stood in the way, as sole means of blessing. He must be a dying Saviour, and not a living Blesser, for man could not meet the blessing else, and death came in necessarily, and so he that had the power of death came in in a new form. He is to exercise his full power in hindering the Lord from going through with this dreadful necessity, in which, as Satan, he would exercise the full power that he had against man, and this rested on Christ in Gethsemane. He was looking forward to death, wrath from God was not yet upon Him, though He was looking forward to it, but 'He was sorrowful even unto death' - 'His soul poured out like water,' and the full power of death on it, to the extent of Satan's empire - every human help failing in every way, and treachery and malice hemming Him in, but, above all, Satan's power besetting Him. But He takes nothing from man, nor from Satan, nor complains like Job. He prays - gives Himself to prayer. The effort of Satan to hide God from His soul, to get in between, as he does sometimes with believers, was useless. The distress drives Him to God, being the true sign of the link of the soul with Him. 'Being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly.' And the effect, for the cup (through grace - mighty grace!) could not pass, that He receives it wholly and solely from His Father's hand.

226 The subject of His fear - this dreadful judgment, in which Satan had his power - becomes His glorious obedience, and He presents Himself in the calm of all His life, and with such an evidence of divine power accompanying it, that they go backward and fall to the ground. He delivers Himself up according to the Father's will. Satan is just for nothing in it. This was most glorious. Gethsemane, that place of sorrow, but well-spring of delight and deliverance for us dug in the depths of Christ's soul, was passed.

But another scene was to come - more dreadful, no doubt, but quite different - the wrath of God. It has another character. It is not conflict, and that with the power of evil. It is holiness, justice, dreadful, infinitely dreadful, but not in its nature the terrors and power of Satan. He, who alone could, felt what God was against sin, but nothing, No! nothing - between Him and God. Nothing screened His soul from the judgment of God, before whom He was made sin. It was the immediate wrath of God - dreadful thought! - against sin. It was not to find His Father's countenance, or maintain His look toward Him through all that Satan could command of darkness, but all naked before God Himself. Perfect - yea, perfection itself here to God, He ascribes unclouded praise here. 'Thou continuest holy, Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel,' though He could say, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Infinitely agreeable (in this, beyond all else) to God His Father, He accomplished the full and perfect expiation of our sins. And here, too, He was heard and delivered, and commends His Spirit to His Father without a cloud, as the One who has lifted up the light of His countenance upon Him. No one takes it from Him - He delivers up His soul - lays down His life, that He might take it again, according to the commandment of the Father.

And Christ can, even in detail, in Gethsemane, exhort His disciples, heal the servant, reason with those who come, and judge their position as of the hour of the power of darkness, put Judas' sin before his eyes, deal with all the fruits of the power of evil as that which He was, in no sort, under - on the Cross answered, His soul delivered by the Father's glory (the God of truth) to His Father, speak peace to the thief and assure him of Paradise, and place His mother, now all was finished, in the hands of John, to whose love He confided her. All was restored in the perfectness of every aspect in which He could look, and be seen with but resurrection, but the full intelligence of His position now, as leaving the world, having done with it, but the power of death and wrath all passed, and in view of this new and peculiar position which makes death ours, His Spirit commended to His Father, death has no more dominion though He dies. The thief does not wait for the kingdom - he goes then into Paradise, i.e., his Spirit with Christ, not in body neither, but his soul apart from his body. Perfect peace and deliverance in that in which He then had to be delivered, He passes through death, in the power of life, in divine favour. Death is conquered, and, in the full light of that triumph, in the light of His Father's countenance, and, in the power of life, victorious over death, using it for Himself for others, He gives up His Spirit to His Father. What could death do there? That was death. It was the exercise of Christ's power in its highest act of triumph, at least short of resurrection. And so for us. And He still does it as not for Himself, as He only has title, for He has life in Himself, we in Him - 'Eternal life, but that life in His Son.' How glorious and perfect is this mystery! How perfect the work wrought! How glorious and perfect He who wrought it! What to have Him as the Object of our thoughts, and living soul's affection - to live by Him, fruit of that very work!

227 The power that delivers Israel will be glorious in its deliverance of man, and he will escape death, and the snare of the fowler, but our portion is - Oh! how different! - to die, so that this place and principle of sin should be no more, in the power of that life which can pass through death - die only to what gave death its power in it (in Christ, for others) in us. Oh! what a blessing for ourselves, for our flesh's nature is sin! How excellent a boon! What a blessed privilege is death! And mark, ours in Christ. It is negatively (in the power of this life) what God is positively, i.e., it is so through this glorious work of Christ - separation from sin. He gives His Spirit, too, up to God. 'In that He died, He died unto sin once: in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.' What a separation needed, because sin was there! But a separation from it, absolute in judgment, and when disowned and judged, such as innocence or ignorance of sin never could have been. But life of divine power must have been there for this. How plainly separation from evil is identified with absolute, perfect justification by Christ! And what force this gives to Romans 6! Note this is, in privilege, our present state by faith.

228 We may note here that Christ commends His Spirit 'to His Father.' All through, as Man, it is confidence in Him, not power acting without Him, though power were there, 'Life in Himself,' but life acting in the Man in confidence in His Father. This adds clearly to the blessing, while showing Christ in His perfect humiliation.

Note here that in the rejection of Christ (Luke 20) and David's Son becoming David's Lord, we get what brings out the position of the two Adams. He does not take the place of David's Son in Israel, according to promise. Nor is it simply His divine title as Jehovah, for it is Jehovah who speaks to Him as rejected as Son of David down here. There He sits 'till His enemies be made His footstool,' but He is Lord as set there by Jehovah. He will rule among His enemies, and He has drunk 'of the brook in the way,' i.e., been humbled to dependent faith on God His Father.

The first man would be 'as God,' exalting himself, and is abased, and, in the full development of man, as Antichrist, he opposes, and exalts himself above 'all that is called God, or worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.' And he pretends to mount yet higher, and to set his throne above the stars of God, and be like the Most High, ascending up to heaven. But he will be brought down to the pit. The second Adam 'thought it not robbery to be equal with God,' but emptied Himself, and came down to the form of man - there, was 'obedient unto death,' as Adam was disobedient, 'even the death of the Cross.' And God has highly exalted Him - His act - the Man of creation, but the Man of God's counsels, the Heavenly Man, exalted by God, Heir of all that God in His counsels has given to Man, i.e., all things which this Man has - Creation's God - and inherits as Son. And now all flows, not merely from God as of course it does, but from this Heavenly Man. Life has this character and place, righteousness also. The kingdom hereafter - He is gone there to receive it - the inheritance of all things according to Psalm 8, i.e., the source and centre of the whole condition of all God's ways in man, His place with Himself, on which all else depends, for He has put all things under His feet. The Church is united to Him there by the Holy Ghost, which He has sent down, and the Father in His name.

229 This is the key-stone of all God's ways, His purpose as to all things. And our moral relationship has its character from this - it has the character, standing, and perfection of what God has wrought. It is the Second Man set on God's right hand, the self-humbled One, as the first, or creation man, was the self-exalted, tried in responsibility till Christ's death, and even after, to see if he would own the Exalted One. Then, adversary, shown in principle in the Jews, thereon set aside (and specially in Paul, pattern of Israel's mercy, and witness of sovereign grace, and the Church) and, finally, as Gentiles and as man, in the Antichrist, when the man of the earth will give place to the Heavenly Man now exalted with God, known by faith but then displayed to man, and setting aside all that opposes. Such are the first and second man, or Adam, the self-exalting, and self-humbling One!

Now in Christ Himself we find the distinction between the glory conferred and His own blessedness. He has humbled Himself to the death even of the Cross, and He will be found exalted, having a Name above every name. He will be displayed with crowns of glory, but not, speaking simply, of His divine and unchangeable blessedness. He has a resulting joy of a higher character than displayed reward. When the elders are crowned and on their thrones, they are in a wonderful position for such, no doubt - to have thrones round the Throne, but when 'Holy, Holy, Holy' is pronounced, they leave their thrones, and fall on their faces before Him, and cast their crowns before the Throne - in a higher position when they seize and estimate His glory, than when displayed in their own. So in the way, of course proper to Him, Christ has a part more excellent than the royal display of glory. On the Cross, He has morally fulfilled the whole divine glory, and that as Son of Man. He gave Himself up that everything in God might be perfectly glorified and displayed - not only was He God manifested in love to man, and Man obedient to God, but He gave Himself up - so that God's perfect love, righteousness against sin, majesty against the audacious transgressor, truth in the threat He had made to man, and yet salvation in all its fulness, according to the glory of a God of grace - Righteousness against sin to the uttermost, for the Son suffered and was not spared - Love to the sinner without bounds, for the Son was given - Grace reigning, yet reigning by righteousness, maintaining God's glory, to the utmost, in Holy Majesty, and yet descending to the extreme of ruin, 'made sin,' and under death, because we, worthless ones, were there. God was glorified in Him, and indeed the Son of Man glorified, for what obedience! What a wonder that in Man, God's attributes should be thus glorified, and made good! What devotedness to God! Self sacrifice that God might be glorified! So giving a motive even that the Father should love Him - descend to the uttermost of weakness, yet in that confiding Himself, in death, to His Father's faithful love and glory (to what God was) and raised by it!

230 Thus in the Cross, the Son of Man was glorified, as being One in whom God could be, and God glorified in Him. Then, in answer to this moral glorifying of God, He is glorified in God Himself - not merely display Him in His own glory as Son of Man, which in His times He shall show, but in Himself. And this was the just and necessary consequence. If God be glorified in Him, God must, as the only measure which answered to God's glory made good in Him, glorify Him in Himself, and this without question of the display of it - that would not be in Himself. He would do it immediately, not waiting for the time of displaying the Son of Man in glory. He is glorified in God Himself, as the consequence of God being glorified in Him - a glory and a place enjoyed in se, participating in the infinite delight and excellency of God, as thus exalted, which, however the result of it may be displayed, is above and beyond all display. Such is the glory and blessing of the Son of Man! Wondrous truth! Flowing no doubt, from what He was, as well as from what He had done as to its possibility, still, enjoyed as Man there. It is a wonderful but a glorious mystery, and we shall see Him as He is. Moreover, we dwell in Him, and He in us.

Christ was not only the manifestation of the perfect grace of God towards men (en anthropois eudokia) and that when man was in his sins, the holiness being so perfect, and untouchable by sin, that He could rise up over the sin to deal with the sinner in love, but He was the exhibition of the new Man as God delighted in Him - the divine Life with all its qualities unfolded in the scene of misery in which it was all put to the test, and only shone the brighter for it. 'That Eternal Life which was with the Father, and manifested unto us' (and 'which thing is true in Him and in us, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth,' and hence we are called to be 'imitators of God as dear children,' for He is our life) and thus we can take delight in all the perfectness of it, objectively, in Him, yet as ours.

231 In Acts 7 we have three very important points: man resisting the Holy Ghost - man full of the Holy Ghost (being redeemed and washed in the Lamb's blood) - and religion, established on earth in connection with Creation, entirely set aside as belonging to the first Creation, into which sin and disobedience had entered. This gave the whole character of man established in relationship with God. The earlier history of resisting the Spirit is given distinctly in connection with Israel - Joseph, Moses. But here it was resisting God, when they had failed under Law, and the Spirit worked in testimony, and that in sovereign grace, proposing, on their repentance, Christ's return when already rejected. On the other hand, we have heaven opened, the Holy Ghost in the believer making him look steadily in (note, it is not heaven opened to man, looking down on the Man of delights, John 1 and Matthew 3:17, but man filled with the Holy Ghost, in virtue of redemption, looking into heaven on the Son of Man there) testifying to the Son of Man being at God's right hand. This was the great testimony. This brings the Cross, and complete conformity to Jesus. But the resisting the Spirit, the setting aside all carnal ordinances, all power on earth, and then, in contrast, the saint being filled with the Spirit and looking into heaven, and all association of God, religiously, with the earth being set aside is very remarkable.

Note further, in the latter part of Luke 22, when all is brought to a point, and Christ, victorious over Satan, as he tempted the first Adam by will, rejected as delivering man down here, the things concerning Him have an end. So that, brought to the point of death, unless He gave up His work, death, as having the character of judgment and wrath, was in Satan's hand as power, as in God's in righteousness against the sinner. We have this great crisis brought out in three ways - flesh incapable of it, when there was the best intention, for man was there, Satan in malice and power, and God in righteousness. Satan sifts and man fails, cannot go through. If he does not fly off in despair, and still hold on to God, whatever his failure, it is God's grace, and Christ's intercession. Man is worthlessness and failure, with the best of intentions, and Christ perfect grace in the worst of failures. Such is sifted Peter! Flesh breaks down - he is fit to strengthen then, because he knows the flesh good for nothing, and Christ a perfect stay when man, as such, is gone and ruined, and proved worthless.

232 Secondly, we have Christ going through this same crisis, and the whole fulness - blessed be God! - of Satan's power in this way seeking to drive His soul back from accomplishing this terrible work in obedience. He is perfect through it. Being in the conflict, He is only nearer to God. Here we have, not the flesh breaking down at the first shadow of it passing on the soul, but grace going through it in perfect obedience. All entered into with God - all done when man came - it was then but the occasion of obedience.

Thirdly, we have the efficacy of the work itself in the passage of the thief into Paradise - not the kingdom, we are all beyond that so that we leave failing flesh, when Satan is out with the power of death in his hand. Perfect submission and obedience, so that Satan is wholly overcome, and his power in this respect annulled for faith, and the work of going under judgment and wrath so perfectly performed for the sinner, that he goes into Paradise with Jesus immediately. They are the three phases of man in connection with death and the Cross. Another place of man is his active and wilful connection with Satan - in the lowest points a Judas - but of this I have spoken elsewhere, and do not touch here. It is embraced in the words, 'Your hour and the power of darkness.'

I add, it is very difficult to get rid of the esteem of self in respect of others. But it must be rooted out. More than these the Lord recalls, but Peter now no longer pretends to. We must be brought down to a level with others, if we exalt self at their expense. But the effect is to make Christ everything, being ashamed of self. Peter says simply 'Thou knowest that I love Thee.' At present I think any one could (though I would not be behind) love Christ better than I do, but that I love Him, and as to object, Him alone - that He knows. Still how poor what is there! But I have nothing but Him, nor do I want - He knows, and my God knows - anything else. The Father's love is there. What a sense of blessedness!