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"IT pleased the Lord to bruise Him." He was acquainted with grief." It had to be so, for the Incarnate Saviour, with His messages and burdens, could not come in the form of a radiant angel, or as one of the bright and gay. But the words carry far more meaning than this. They mean that His experience was solitary, for it has been truly said that we know not what sorrow is, neither are we really acquainted with grief. We have seen the black surface of the Stygian pool and felt the chilling mists that rise from it. But we have not penetrated the ab3^ss or plunged into its drowning waters. Sorrow has been our companion. She has walked for a season by our side in black garments, with veiled face and with a voice of grief. But we have not received her into our flesh and our heart for ever. Our Lord was to be made in the days of His flesh one spirit and
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one body with grief. For him the veil was lifted from death and hell. In the hand of the Lord there was a cup which He was to taste for us, taste in the sense that He should experience the full bitterness of each drop and be verily acquainted with grief.
It was by degrees that He reached this awful knowledge. From the first it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He must have experienced the keen pain of a nature wholly pure surrounded by the guilty. When He comes full into our view, we see first His heart of compassion and hope. His heart was touched by the pain of the world. The voice of suffering was heard by Him in every wind of heaven, and rang in His ears till He died. But for suffering He was able to do much. He could speak peace in absolutions and blessing. He could work His wonderful works of love. In the morning watch, in the evening meditation, in the stilling
of pain, in the answering of human needs. He carried our sorrows. But as time went on He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. His miracles did not work the end He was striving for. Even when the dumb were speaking, when the lame were leaping,
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when the devils were fleeing, when the dead were rising, His triumph was incomplete. For the world did not believe His report. He was the arm of the Lord revealed to men, and they were blinded. For the sinner's sake He descended into what we call hell. He sought the outcast in her trembling shame. He offered Himself separately to the guilty one by one. With the clearest perception of human suffering there was always combined in Him the consciousness of knowing a great light and a saving name. His speech was not the mere words of a human being, but the breakers of the Everlasting Love
itself as they rolled in and shattered themselves on this bank and shoal of time. But He came to His own and His own received Him not. In the name of the law and the prophets they rejected Him in whom the law and the prophets ended and were lost. We can see how His anguish rose at the successive impediments to His godly purpose. We can see how He was moved with an overwhelming fear for the rebellious as the world's enmity disclosed itself to Him. As the months passed and the mystery of iniquity and the devices of Satan became more and more clear, we can understand how He said to Himself,
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" Why art Thou as a man ashamed, as a mighty man that cannot save ? " He seemed to be striking into the air, preaching and toiling without fruit. Yet in Him faith never staggered.
Hope was never echpsed. Love was never dried up. Of God's fulness He always received, and grace for grace. He acquiesced and rested in the Everlasting Love that foreknew and chose, and would give to Himself the sheep for whom He died ; and yet we know how He spake about Chorazin and Bethsaida, where His miracles were done in vain, and how He wept as he saw the eyes of the Jerusalem that slew Him close for ever. And so He saw the cup approaching, the cup which held the sorrow which is more than the sorrow of a rejected messenger, even though the rejected messenger was the Eternal Son.
Next there came what we may call the far-off vision of the supreme sorrow. He had known it from the very beginning. But it grew clearer as He advanced, and He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. He must suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed. The arm of the Lord was made bare in miracle and preaching, in flesh and blood, but it
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had to be made bare in agony before its work was done. Still, may we not say reverently that the crisis of His pain did not come till the cup was close to His lips ? We can ourselves partly understand what it is to bear a sorrow that is deferred. For when it is deferred, we picture to ourselves the light that lies beyond it, and so did He. Through the proclamation of His death there rang the cry of triumph, " And be raised again the third day," and from the distance He could see the glory of the resurrection shining on the Cross. He knew that He could not make a tabernacle with His saints on the mountain, and linger always there. He knew that the ecstasy of the exalted heart must pass with the drifting cloud and with the withdrawing vision. He never deceived Himself, as we do who know not what a day may bring forth. We pretend we do not know, and cheat ourselves with hope. The delusion helps us. We even seem to rise up by
degrees to take hold of life for a time. His vision was clearer, and still for Him also day dawned after day, evening after evening closed in, and the dreadful hour was not yet come. But it was coming. It was not far away, and He always knew that through His ti-avail and agony. His
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cross and wounds, the redemption of the world must be accomphshed.
Then came the time when the cup drew nearer and nearer to the pahng hps, and when manifest!}' the last hours and sorrows were nigh. And that was Gethsemane. That was the prayer of prayers : " '• Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." Transcat calix — let this cup pass. That we say is the prayer of prayers. There is no time in which we cry to God as we do when His sword is lifted to smite us, and when yet
it seems as if it might be turned aside ; when the grief which we have long seen with foreboding tears comes to us, and there are but minutes, or at most hours, when we can plead. Then the deep of misery calls to the deep of mercy, and we know in the full sense what it is to pray Transeai calix — let this cup pass. It seems as if everything we could desire and everything we could hope for were summed up in the passing of the cup. Once the cup was not in sight, or dreamt of, and yet oftentimes we fancied that life was grey. But now there is nothing to ask but one thing, and if that one thing were given we feel that we should never ask from
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God anything more. Let this cup pass. Let it just but be as it used to be, and we shall be more blessed than we ever were in our wildest dreams. When it looks as if the intensity of our praying might decide the wavering
balance, how the heart gathers itself up, how it pours its emotion in full tide, how it seems to greaten and grow irresistible, as if it might even wrestle with God and prevail. This was how Our Lord prayed in Gethsemane. But He prayed as we cannot always pray, with perfect submission. We strive and struggle, we turn this way or that for a door of escape, we would force our wills upon God. But He, when He put His hand to the plough, did not draw back, and never once drove an unsteady furrow, though His prayer was for a greater deliverance than ever was asked for by merely human lips. For at the moment He went down into — was lost and disappeared in — grief, as He disappeared when He was once buried in the waters of baptism. The Lord entered the awful regions spoken of by the Greek Church as His unknown sufferings — tu ayvM<jTa TTaOn/xaTci. The rebuke that broke His heart was the gathered rebukes of all His people, the rebukes that else would
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have broken their hearts for ever in an irremediable pang. We can never understand the depth of that suffering. Suffice it that an angel came to help Him when He seemed to be swooning into death. The anticipation of great agony, its rehearsal, is often the chief element in the agony. When it is passed the worst is passed, especially if we know that the anguish is to be an end of all anguish, and that death is behind. When once the spirit has sobbed out, " Thy will be done," the rest seems little. As the great heroisms of life are often preceded by inward conflict of which the world knows nothing, but which is far harder than the outward conflict, so the great griefs of life are suffered often in secret ere they come to open manifestation. His warfare in a sense was accomplished at Gethsemane, and thenceforth He strove no more. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.
Last of all there came to Him the sorrow of the Cross, the hours of the open shame and the power of darkness, of the nails, the thorns, the hammer, the bowed head, the death-cry, and the death. It was not all darkness, for, as one of the
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Fathers has written, He died in the risen sunshine of God's name, every cloud flying, and the clear sky returning. He knew that when all was over He was to be the chief cornerstone of the Eternal City, never to be moved nor disquieted again. There is a certain dreadlessness in Our Lord's agony, a peace, a serenity, a feeling of a travail gone through and ended, never to return. Yet that we may remember His unknown sufferings, that we may understand that He died as our substitute, and that He was bearing for the sins of His people the weight of the divine wrath, we have the peace broken by the dreadful cry, " My God, my God, why hast
Thou forsaken me ? " Then we know that He has touched the last depth of the last abyss. And these things were done in the Tree whose root and head was God I It was thus that -j-Love bore the sin of the world. Then the cup of wrath was laid down, and He took in His hand for ever the cup of blessing. He had gone through what we may reverently call His deep baptism into humanity, whence come those closest interlacings, intercessions, and tenderness of His eternal high priesthood. And all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized into His death.
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