Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. - Matthew 27:45-54
We saw yesterday that the mockeries and blasphemies of the enemies of God did not hinder the death and passion of our Lord Jesus from producing and showing His power in the midst of such contempt and ingratitude of the world. For here we see all those who were in some reputation and dignity among the Jews, who openly mock the Son of God. Yet that did not hinder Him from pitying a poor robber and receiving him into eternal life. It is not necessary at all that personality obscure or diminish the glory of the Son of God. If it is argued that a poor robber is not at all to be compared with those who rule the Church, who were teachers of the law; it is not proper, when we speak of the salvation which was acquired for us through the gratuitous goodness of God, to seek any excellence in our personalities, but rather we must come back to what St. Paul says,
“This is a faithful teaching, that Jesus came to save poor sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15.)
So then, when we shall consider the fruit of the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, all men have to be humbled, and there will have to be found in them only poverty and shame, in order that God may by this means pour out upon them the treasures of His mercy, having no other consideration to provide for us, except inasmuch as He sees that we are cast into the depths in all miseries. Since then, this robber was a man disapproved of by all, and God called him so suddenly, when our Lord made effective for him His death and passion which He suffered and endured for all mankind, that ought all the more to confirm us. It is not at all, then, a matter of God’s showing here how He extends His hand to those who seem to be worthy of it and who have some merit in them, or who were respectable and in general reputation among men. But when He draws from the depth of hell poor damned souls, when He shows Himself to be pitiful toward those on whom all hope of life had been foreclosed, that is wherein His goodness shines. That is also what ought to give us entrance to salvation. For hypocrites, although they profess to be somewhat restrained by the grace of God, yet close the door against themselves by their arrogance. For they are so inflated with pride that they cannot adjust themselves to our Lord Jesus Christ. So first may we be very certain that Jesus Christ calls to Himself poor sinners who have only confusion in their persons, and that He extends His arms to receive them. For if we are not sure, we shall never be able to take courage to come to Him. But when we shall be well persuaded that it is to those who are the most miserable that He addresses the salvation which He acquired, provided they recognize themselves as such, and they humble themselves, and they are entirely confounded, rendering themselves blameworthy (as they are) before the judgment of God; that is how we shall be assured, that is how we shall have easy access to be sharers of the righteousness which is here offered to us, and by which we obtain grace and favor before God.
Whereupon it is said, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness.” I speak differently from our common language, for we would say twelve o’clock until three o’clock. But the Gospel-writer followed the common manner of speaking of that time. For when he says the third hour, it is not to say three o’clock, but it is at the first part of the day. There are here two things to note in summary. One is that they counted the hours differently from what we do today. For they counted the day from sunrise to sunset, and there were twelve hours in the day, whereas we measure the day by twenty-four hours, figuring from midnight to the following midnight. Clocks had to be managed differently, so that the hours were longer in summer than in winter. According as the days were longer or shorter, so the hours were long or short. The other point is that they divided the day into four quarters of three hours each, and each part was named by the first hour of the quarter. So all the time from sunrise to the second part of the day, was called the first hour. The second part, which extended to noon, was by them named the third hour. And the sixth hour began at midday and lasted until the third, or four hours later. The other part, which was the last, lasted until the sun set and day was ended. That is why it is said by one of the Gospel-writers that Jesus Christ was crucified about the third hour. And it is here said that this was about the sixth hour. Our Gospel-writer meant that from the sixth hour to the ninth hour there was darkness. For our Lord Jesus was crucified between 9 a.m. and noon, and He had been condemned about 9 a.m. by Pilate. And St. Mark means the end of the three hours, not the beginning, when he described the time that Jesus Christ was led to Golgotha. Now He was on the cross until the ninth hour, when already the end of the day was approaching. So it is most likely that our Lord Jesus did not remain in agony upon the cross more than three hours.
During which time it is said that there was darkness over all the land, that is, Judea. For the eclipse was not general through all the world. In fact that would have obscured the miracle which God wished to show. Because they might then have attributed this eclipse to the order of nature. On the other hand there are not many people who have spoken of it in the sense that it happened in other countries. Indeed, those who make mention of it are rightly suspected. But behold the country of Judea which is covered by darkness. And at what hour? For about the three hours after noonday, when the sun was not yet near his rest, as they say. But apart from the common order of nature there had to be darkness to cause fright and astonishment to all. Many consider that this was done as a sign of detestation, as if God wished to call the Jews to account, in order that they might have some feeling for such an enormous crime as they had committed, and as if He signified to them by this visible sign that even all creatures ought, as it were to hide themselves from such a horrible thing, when Jesus Christ is thus delivered to death. But we have to note that in a way the death of our Lord Jesus Christ had to be held as a dreadful crime, that is, with regard to the Jews. God has well detested their so villainous iniquity. For it surpassed all others. In fact, if we hate murder and such things, what will it be when we come to the person of the Son of God? That the men had been so mad as to wish to annihilate Him Who was the Fountain of Life, that they rose up to destroy the memory of Him by Whom we were created, and in the power of Whom we subsist!
Yet the death of our Lord Jesus did not remain merely a sacrifice of sweet savor. For we must always remember that it was the reconciliation of the world, as we have declared above. Besides, the darkness came in order that the sun give testimony to the Divine and heavenly majesty of our Lord Jesus. Although, then, for that minute He was not only abased and rendered contemptible before men, even emptied of everything, as St. Paul says; yet the sun shows that it does Him homage, and as a sign of that, it remains hidden. Since it is so, then, let us know that God, to render the wicked all the more inexcusable, willed that Jesus Christ in His death be declared sovereign King of all creatures, and that this triumph of which St. Paul speaks in the second chapter of Colossians began already, when he says that Jesus Christ triumphed in the cross. (Colossians 2:14, 15.) It is true that he applies that in that He tore up the writ which was against us, and that He acquitted us before God, and by this means Satan was conquered; yet that was already shown by this eclipse of the sun. However, the Jews were convinced of their ignorance, even of a malicious and fanatical ignorance, as if it had been seen with the eye that Satan possessed them, and that they were, as it were, monsters made contrary to nature. That, in summary, is what we have to remember when it is spoken of the darkness which occurred.
It is true that we are enlightened today by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For how is it that the Gospel shows us the way to salvation? How are we illumined to come to God, unless since there the Son of God is presented to us with the fruit and the power of His death? Jesus Christ is really, then, the Sun of Righteousness, because He acquired for us life by dying. But the Jews have been deprived of such a benefit. And in that the sun was obscured they were convinced that they were of all people reproved, and that there was no longer doctrine which would serve them, nor be useful unto salvation, since by their malice they had tried to extinguish and abolish everything that could give them hope. For it was entirely in the person of the Mediator, Whom they tried to destroy by their malice and ingratitude. It was quite right, then, that they were completely destitute of all light of salvation, in order that the wrath of God declared itself in a visible manner upon them.
It follows that our Lord Jesus cried, saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” St. Matthew and St. Mark recite in the Syriac tongue the words of our Lord Jesus, which are drawn from Psalm 22. And the words are not so pronounced by all the Gospel-writers as what the text of the Psalm bears. Even in this word “Eli,” that is “My God,” we see that St. Mark says “Eloi.” (Mark 15:34) But this is by the corruption of language, as we have noted before this. For the Jews having returned from Babylon, have never had a language entirely pure, as before. All the same this query and complaint is drawn from Psalm 22:1. God willed especially that this be recited in two tongues, to show that it was a thing of importance, and to which we ought to be attentive. In fact, unless we would wish to imagine (as do many fantastic people) that our Lord Jesus spoke according to the opinion of men and not according to His sense and His feeling, we surely must be moved by this, and all our senses must be rapt, when Jesus Christ complains of being forsaken and abandoned by God His Father. For it is a thing too dull and too foolish, to say that our Lord Jesus was not at all touched with anguish and anxiety in His heart, but that He had simply said, “They gather that I am forsaken.” That shows that those who look for such glosses, are not only ignorant, but are altogether in jest. Besides, they never cease to blaspheme, like mastiff dogs, against God. And all those who speak thus, it is certain that they have no more religion than dogs and brute beasts, for they do not know how much their salvation has cost the Son of God. And what is worse, they mock it just like the villains which they are.
Then, we must hold it as a conclusive fact, that our Lord Jesus, being brought into such extremity and anguish, cried with a loud voice (yes, like those who are tormented to the limit), “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In fact, we have said above that it would be a cold statement from the history of His death, if we would not consider the obedience which He rendered to God His Father. This, then, is the principal thing we have to consider when we would be assured of our salvation. It is that if we have committed many faults and rebellions and iniquities against God, all of it will be buried, inasmuch as our Lord Jesus by His obedience has justified us and rendered us acceptable to God His Father. Now this obedience, in what did it consist, unless Jesus Christ, although death was to Him hard and terrible, nevertheless did not refuse to be subject to it? For if He had experienced in it no difficulty or contradiction, it would not have been obedience. But though our Lord Jesus by nature held death in horror and indeed it was a terrible thing to Him to be found before the judgment-seat of God in the name of all poor sinners (for He was there, as it were, having to sustain all our burdens), nevertheless He did not fail to humble Himself to such condemnation for our sakes, we know in Him a perfect obedience, and in that we have a good cause to glorify Him, as says the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
“Our Lord Jesus was heard in that he feared.” (Hebrews 5:7)
But though that may be, yet He had to sustain what was so hard and burdensome, indeed, entirely contrary to all human affection. It was necessary, then,
that God His Father so trained Him in order that His obedience might be known. (Hebrews 5:8.)
We see, then, the Apostle, who specifies particularly that our Lord Jesus had to be astonished with fear. For without that we would not know what this sacrifice by which we have been reconciled is worth. In fact, St. Peter also shows that our Lord Jesus suffered not only in His body, but in His soul, when He says that He fought against the pains of death.
It is true that Scripture will often say that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as He offered His body as a sacrifice. That is also why it is said that His flesh is to us meat and His blood is to us spiritual drink. But that is said out of regard to our uncouthness. Because we are gross, the Holy Spirit brings us back to what is visible in the death of Jesus Christ, in order that we may have a completely certain pledge of our salvation. However, this is not to exclude what is shown in all the other passages, and even to derogate from the article that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus would not have served anything to wipe away the iniquities of the world, except insofar as He obeyed, indeed, abasing Himself even to so frightful a death. And He obeyed, not at all that His senses were taken away. But although He had to sustain great and extreme terrors, yet He put our salvation above every other consideration. This, then, is what we have to observe in this passage: That is, that the Son of God not only endured in His body such a cruel death, but that He was touched to the quick, having to sustain horrible assaults as if God had abandoned Him. For, in fact, He also sustained our cause, and He had to experience what condemnation there was upon poor sinners.
By our sins we are, as it were, alienated from God, and He must withdraw Himself from us, and we must know that He has, as it were, rejected us. That is the proper thing for sinners. It is certain that Jesus Christ has never been rejected by God His Father. Nevertheless, He had to sustain these sorrows and He had to fight valiantly to repulse them, in order that today the fruit of the victory may come back to us. So we have to remember that, when our Lord Jesus was put into such an extremity, as if God His Father had cut off from Him all hope of life, it is inasmuch as He was there in our person, sustaining the curse of our sins, which separated us from God. For wherein rests our felicity, unless we are made alive by the grace of God, and enlightened by His brightness? He is the fountain of life and of every good, and our sins put, as it were, a long distance between Him and us. Jesus Christ, then, had to experience this. Let us consider now what someone might say. Is it possible that Jesus Christ experienced such terrors, since there is in Him only complete perfection? For it seems that it takes away from the faith which He must have had and from everything that we ought to believe of Him. That is, that He was without any spot of vice. Now the answer to that is very easy. For when He was tempted by Satan, it is certain that He had to have this apprehension that He was, as it were, on top of a tower and that He was subject to such an illusion according to His human nature. However, that took nothing away from His divine power. Rather we have occasion to magnify His goodness toward us, inasmuch as He thus abased Himself for our salvation.
Now it is said that He cried, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In the first place it is very certain that Jesus Christ, insofar as He was God. could have no such apprehension. No, no. But when He suffered His Deity had to give place to His death and passion, which He had to endure. That, then, is the power of our Lord Jesus which was kept, as it were, hidden for a time, until He had accomplished all that was required for our redemption. Yet according to man, let us note that this complaint, this feeling and terror of which we now speak, in no wise detracted from the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. For inasmuch as He was man He had all His confidence in God, as we have seen, and yesterday it was sufficiently treated. It was, then, the true pattern of a true, perfect, and entire confidence. It is said now that He was in such anguish that He seemed to be forsaken by God His Father. However His faith was always perfect, was neither beaten down nor shaken in any manner whatever. How, then, does He say, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It is by natural apprehension. Behold, then, our Lord Jesus Christ Who according to the weakness of His flesh is, as it were, abandoned by God, and yet He does not cease to confide in Him. As in fact we see two parts in these words which are superficially contrary, and yet it all agrees very well. When He says “My God, My God” and He repeats the word in such a way, by that He shows the constancy of His faith. He does not say, “Where is God? How does He leave me?” But He addresses Himself to Him. He must, then, be entirely persuaded and assured that He will always find favorable access toward God His Father. Behold (I say) a certain and infallible testimony of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. When in the midst of the extremity and anguish where He was, He does not cease to call God His Father, and not in pretense, but because He was assured that He would find Him propitious in calling upon Him. Behold (I say) the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ which is sufficiently declared. Yet He repeats the word, because this fight is difficult, as if He would defy all the temptations which Satan prepared for Him, and He sought confirmation of faith that He might always persist in calling upon God.
Now He said further, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Of course that was according to what He could conceive of as man. For He had to enter into that experience, not to be conquered by it. For St. Peter says,
“It was impossible that He be held by the pains of death,” (Acts 2:24)
that is, that He be seized like a poor man who altogether gives way and is crushed. “It was impossible,” says St. Peter. And so the victory was in the midst of the fight. And that is to glorify all the more our Lord Jesus Christ. David had experienced this in part. For it is certain that in the midst of his afflictions, however great they were, he persisted to call upon God, indeed hoping in Him. But since he was frail man, his faith was very often shaken, as he confesses. But in our Lord Jesus, there was a special consideration (which was treated last Lord’s Day), that is, that He had all His passions well controlled, because of the integrity that was in Him and there was in Him no natural corruption. As sometimes it will happen to us that our pains will proceed from a good cause, indeed, both our fears and our anxieties. But all the same there will always be vice mixed in it, since corruption is in all our passions. But in our Lord Jesus there was nothing troubled or disordered. It follows, then, that He was not so seized with anguish, that He did always have His hope fixed rightly on God, that He called only upon Him and remained firm and constant in that, knowing well that He would be Savior even to the end.
Whereupon it is said, “Some of those who were near Him mocked Him.” “He who calls Elijah, let us see if Elijah will come to help Him.” One supposed that the guards, as ignorant of the Law, spoke thus. But this is too foolish an abuse, for they did not know who Elijah was. There is no doubt, then, that this blasphemy was pronounced by none others than the priests who were trained in the Law. And are not they themselves deceived in what Jesus said? Not at all. For the Prophet whom they called Elijah is not named thus. The name, then, had not deluded them. For there is no doubt implied, seeing that the word “Elijah” is pronounced entirely differently from the word “Eli,” that is, “My God.” That could not cause any ambiguity. It is, then, by certain malice and impudence that the reproach that “He calls Elijah” was put upon our Lord Jesus Christ. And if we find that strange, would to God that there were no such examples today. For one will see today the Papists who turn away and deprave by their calumnies what we teach, that is, what is drawn from the pure truth of God, and they knowingly blaspheme to render our doctrine odious to many ignorant people and people who do not hear what we preach every day. They deprave, then, falsely what we say and they take it entirely the wrong way, in order to give plausibility to their lie and entertain poor ignorant people with it. That is how the enemies of God, possessed by Satan, have turned aside by certain malice the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and today among the Papists one sees the same thing. And not only is that perceived in the Papacy, but even among us there are belligerents who will say that we wish to make believe that Jesus Christ was devoid of all hope when we see that He sustained the anguish of death, that He was as it were cast into the depths, inasmuch as He was there in our name and He sustained the burden of our sins. But that in no wise takes away from the constancy of His faith, that it might not always remain in its entirety. And these rascals who make profession of the Gospel, never cease to knowingly blaspheme, by which they show that they are worse than those of whom it is here spoken. Seeing then that the devil today sharpens the tongues of his agents, and that each one by such brutal impudence comes to disgorge his venom against the purity of doctrine, let us not think it strange if our Lord Jesus was thus slandered. But may we bear patiently these blasphemies, praying to God (as it is said in the twelfth Psalm) that He may destroy these villainous tongues (Psalm 12:3) which are so full of villainy and of execration, and which tend to blaspheme His Name and to obscure His truth.
Whereupon the Gospel-writer records that there was there a vessel full of vinegar (indeed, as we have already seen, which was mixed with gall) and that they took a reed, or better (as says St. John) a hyssop in order to have a long branch, and at the end of it they attached a sponge to make it reach the mouth of our Lord Jesus. St. John speaks here more distinctly, for he says that Jesus Christ, knowing that all things were fulfilled, said that He was thirsty, and thereupon He pronounced once again “It is done, all is fulfilled.” This, then, is what we have to note here, when this drink was given to the Son of God: namely, that He did not ask to drink because He was thirsty, for He had refused it, as already we have seen above. Why? For this drink was given in order to shorten the life. Now our Lord Jesus wished in everything and by everything to wait for the hour of God His Father in patience and rest. That, then, is why He did not wish to hasten His death, but rendered Himself peaceable and obedient, until all was fulfilled — indeed, although He had not yet given up the Spirit and He was not raised from the dead. For he means that until this hour He had shown a complete obedience, so that nothing now hindered Him from giving His soul to God His Father. This, then, is how we must take this passage: It is that our Lord Jesus declared that nothing more was lacking for our redemption except to depart from the world, which He was ready and prepared to do, and to surrender His soul to God. Seeing, then, that He had acquitted Himself of His whole duty as Mediator, and that He had done all that was required to appease the wrath of God toward us, and that the satisfaction for our sins was accomplished, He was willing to ask for this drink.
Now we have here a very noteworthy and excellent sentence, when it is said, “All is; fulfilled.” For it is certain that the Lord Jesus does not speak at all of any little or common things. But He intends that by His death we have all that we need to seek to have access to God and to obtain grace from Him. Not that His resurrection should be excluded by that, but it is as if He said that He has performed His office faithfully, and that He has not come to be a partial Savior, but that until the last moment He has executed the charge which was committed to Him, and that He had omitted nothing according to the will of God His Father. Since that is so, we are instructed to fully fasten our confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that all parts of our salvation are fulfilled in what He did and endured for our sakes. That is also why His death is called a perpetual Sacrifice, by which the believers and elect of God are sanctified. Do we wish, then, to have certainty that God is Father to us? Do we wish to have liberty to call upon Him? Do we wish to have rest in our consciences? Do we wish to be made more fully certain that we are held to be righteous in order to be acceptable to God? Let us abide in Jesus Christ and not wander here or there, and let us recognize that He is wherein rests all perfection. Those, then, who wish other props, and who look from one side to the other to supply what must be lacking in the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, renounce fully the power of which we are now speaking. Briefly they tread under foot the blood of Jesus Christ, for they dishonor it. Now in all the Papacy what is there except renunciation of the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ? For though they think to do good works, because they call them merits, by which they are confident that they acquire grace before God, it is certain that they disavow what was pronounced by our Lord Jesus Christ, “All is fulfilled.” And since it is so, when they think to obtain salvation before God, and they wish to have remission of their sins, where do they go, except to their foolish devotions? For each one will perform his little duty at his post, so that all the so-called devotions in the Papacy are so many blasphemies to nullify what was pronounced when our Lord Jesus said, “All is fulfilled.” What follows, then? That we may know that there is not a single particle of virtue or merit in us, unless we apply ourselves to this Fountain wherein is all fullness of it.
That, then, is how our faith ought to be fastened on our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, may we know above all that when He was offered as a sacrifice it was to absolve us forever and to sanctify us perpetually, as Scripture says. (Revelation 13:8) May we, then, have no other sacrifice than this One. It is true that in the Papacy, this diabolical abomination of the mass is called daily Sacrifice; and they say that Jesus Christ surely once offered Himself as a Sacrifice to obtain for us the remission of our sins, but that it is still necessary that He be offered daily, which is blasphemy fully manifest, inasmuch as they usurp the office which was given to our Lord Jesus Christ, when He was ordained only eternal Sacrifice, indeed, with an oath that God adjures that it should be perpetual. When, then, mortal men take it upon themselves still to come to present and offer Jesus Christ to God, do they not rob the honor which God reserves to Himself alone, and which cannot be attributed to any creature? Since it is so, then, we see how these poor blind men, supposing themselves to keep appointment with God, provoke His wrath and His vengeance, renouncing the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so much more ought we to magnify the grace of God by which He has withdrawn us from such an abyss, that when we claim to approach Him, it is to defy Him openly. For we deprive ourselves of Him and of the fruit of His death and passion when we seek other sacrifice than that which He offered in His person. That, then, is what we have to remember.
Now it is said, “Once again He cried with a loud voice and gave up the spirit.” And this cry was, “I give back my soul or My spirit into Thy hands.” In that we see how our Lord Jesus Christ so fought against the pains of death, that from then on He was conqueror over it and He could gain His triumphs as having surmounted what was the most difficult. And this pertains to us, that is, we must apply it to our use. For we are assured not only that the Son of God fought for us, but that the victory which He acquired for us belongs to us, and that today we ought not to be in any wise frightened by death, knowing that the curse of God, which was terrible to us, is abolished, and that death, instead of being able to wound us like a fatal plague, serves us as medicine to give us passage into life. Now as previously by the example of David He said,
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
so now He takes the prayer made by David in the thirty-first Psalm,
“I commend to Thee my spirit.” (Psalm 31:5.)
It is true that David said that, being in the midst of dangers. As if he said, “Lord, hold me in Thy protection; for my soul is as it were between my hands; it is there as it were fluttering. For I see myself exposed to all hazards; my life is as it were hanging from a thread. It does not remain, then, unless Thou takest me into Thy keeping.” That is how David by this prayer constituted God as his Protector. However, he did not leave it until death itself to call upon God, and to be assured that always God is the Savior of His elect, not only to maintain and guard them in this world, but also when He withdraws them to Himself. For the principal guard that God keeps over us is that being withdrawn from this world we are hidden under His wings to rejoice in His presence, as St. Paul speaks of it in 2 Corinthians. (2 Corinthians 4:3) And our Lord Jesus also pronouncing this prayer declares that He dies peaceably, having conquered in all the combats which He had to sustain for us, and achieves already His triumphs in our name and to our profit and salvation. He fully declares by this same means that God is His Savior and that He keeps His soul as a safe trust. For that is what this request that He makes of Him implies, when He says, “My God, be Thou guardian of My soul, even after death.”
When our Lord Jesus speaks so, it is as if He assured us all that we cannot fail in committing ourselves to our God, since He surely condescends to take charge of us, in order to sustain us, and that we shall never perish being thus under His hand. Now especially we have to note that Jesus Christ, saying, “My God, I commend to Thee My spirit,” acquired the privilege which is attributed to Him by St. Stephen in Acts 7. It is that He was constituted guardian of all our souls. For how is it that Saint Stephen speaks in His death?
“Lord Jesus, I commend to Thee my spirit.” (Acts 7:59.)
This, then, is how St. Stephen shows the fruit of this request which was made by Jesus Christ: namely, that now we can address ourselves to Him, and we ought to do it, declaring that since He was given to us as Shepherd by God His Father, we need have no doubt to be peaceable both in life and in death, knowing all will profit us and will be turned to our advantage. As St. Paul says, having Jesus Christ he will find gain in everything, that he will no longer lack anything in either life or death, for all will be useful to him. (Philippians 1:20-24.)
So then, let us learn now, when we shall be besieged by death, that Jesus Christ has taken away the sting which might prick us fatally in the heart, and that death will no longer be harmful to us, and that when our Lord Jesus gave His soul to God His Father, it was not only to be preserved in His person, but in order to acquire this privilege which is entirely preserved for us by virtue of this request; indeed, when we shall have our recourse to Him, as to the One under the protection of Whom we cannot perish, since He declares it. There is still this triumph of which we have made mention, which already profits us. For our Lord Jesus shows how precious His death is, when He so confidently departs to God His Father to lead us to Him and to show us the way to Him. But the principal thing is that we may know that the fruit of it comes back to us, inasmuch as He tore up the writ which was against us, as He acquired for us full satisfaction for our sins, so that we can appear before God His Father in such a way that even death is no longer to do us evil or any harm. Although we still see in us many things which might astonish us, and we experience our poverty and misery, yet let us not cease to glory in Him Who was then abased for us in order to raise us with Him.
In fact, although on man’s side there is only complete shame, yet when Jesus Christ was hanged there on the cross, already God wished at that time by the mouth of Pilate that He be declared King. So, although the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is vilified before the world, may we not, however, cease to hold it as the foundation of all our glory, and may we know that being in shame under His leading, we have nevertheless whereof to rejoice; since our condition will always be blessed, because all the miseries, afflictions, and ignominies which we endure are more honorable and precious before God than are all the scepters, all the pomp, and things honorable, to which men are addicted. That, then, is how we must come to our Lord Jesus Christ, and cling in such a way to Him that we may know what the riches which He brings to us are worth, and above all when He leads us by His Gospel, may we reject all the conveniences and comforts of this world; indeed, may we hold them in detestation when they would turn us aside from the good way. Briefly, may our Lord Jesus obtain the honor which He deserves, and on our part may we also not be as reeds shaking with every wind, but being founded in Him may we call upon God, and in life and in death may the victory be given to us in which He has already triumphed. And while we are still here below may we give Him the honor of recognizing that it is He Who sustains us. This is what He will do when we shall really have our refuge in Him: He will do it, I say, not in a common manner but miraculously. For when we shall be cast down to the very bottom of the abyss of death, it is His office to withdraw us from it and to lead us to the heavenly inheritance which He has so dearly acquired for us.
Now we shall bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.