THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ROLE IN CHRIST’S SUFFERING

THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ROLE IN CHRIST’S SUFFERING
A Communion Meditation by Jack Cottrell

In my previous meditation I pointed out that Jesus the SON of God was not the only one suffering at the cross. God the FATHER was also suffering, but in a different way. Jesus as the Son of God was the one who was actually suffering the infinite wrath of God in our place, making our salvation possible. But it was God the Father who, with feelings of deepest agony, was responsible for pouring out that wrath upon his own Son (Rom. 8:32).

But here we shall see that the suffering at the cross was not what JUST the Father and the Son went through; the HOLY SPIRIT also was part of a suffering Trinity in that event. The Spirit was suffering, too, but in his own way.

Hebrews 9:14 says that Jesus Christ “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.” It should be noted that the words “eternal Spirit” are rightly understood as a reference to the Holy Spirit. The point is that Jesus was undergoing the whole process of offering himself to God through the help and power of the Holy Spirit!

We often overlook the Biblical teaching that all during Christ’s ministry as God the Logos working through a human person, he was depending on the presence of the Holy Spirit for power to carry out his tasks. This is seen, for example, in these references: (1) Prophesying of the coming Christ, Isaiah 42:1 says, “I have put My Spirit upon him” – which happened in his baptism. (2) After his baptism Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). (3) After his temptation he “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). (4) John 3:34 says the Father gave him the Spirit “without measure.” (For more on this see my book, Power from on High: What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, ch. 4, “The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.”)

When we come to the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus experiencing his need for the Holy Spirit’s power in his life more than ever. And this is the message of Hebrews 9:14, that Jesus was offering Himself up to God “through the eternal Spirit.” (Some of the following comments are based on my book, Power from on High, 149-150.)

This passage in Hebrews refers to what the Holy Spirit was doing for Jesus in the very circumstances of his crucifixion, beginning in Gethsemane. In the few hours that Jesus spent there, every strand of His messianic purpose came together and was unfolded before his human eyes as never before. When this happened, Mark 14:33 says he BEGAN to be AMAZED (the best translation). He became aware of the magnitude, the enormity, the infinite weight of the burden he was about to bear. And his first reaction was to recoil: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39). The cosmic scale of the task that lay immediately before him seemed too much to bear, given the simple finiteness of his human nature. He is overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of this next step in his messianic journey.

As he continues to pray, though, this initial recoiling disappears, and his mind and heart are calmed and made ready for the unspeakable ordeal that awaits him: “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink of it, Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42). If there is a specific point when “the eternal Spirit” began to strengthen the man Jesus in the shadow of Calvary, this was it. Here we can picture the power of the Spirit undergirding the finite humanity of Jesus and infusing him with the resolve to see his “mission impossible” through to the end.

As John Walvoord says, “In the difficult hours of Gethsemane and all the decisive moments leading to the cross, the Holy Spirit faithfully ministered to Christ” (The Holy Spirit, 100-101). Just as Jesus promised the Paraklētos (sometimes translated “Comforter”) to his disciples, we can picture the Holy Spirit walking side by side with Jesus himself, with his comforting arm around Jesus’ shoulders, all the way to the cross.

Here is an image (figurative, not literal) of the cross itself that you can keep in your mind as you are participating in the Lord’s Supper today: (1) Jesus, the incarnate God the Son, hanging on that cross, undergoing infinite agonies of hellish proportions in our place. (2) God the Father, with tears of agonizing sorrow in HIS eyes, pouring out that infinite suffering upon his beloved Son. And (3) God the Holy Spirit, like a grieving mother holding a dying child, helping and encouraging and strengthening this willing servant Jesus, as he marches forward into (as it were) the very flames of hell itself.

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THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ROLE IN CHRIST’S SUFFERING — 6 Comments

  1. Beginning in Hebrews 7:1-3 we read of Melchizedek who seemed to be “eternal”. Next in 7:8 we read of the one who seemed to live without end compared to the Levitical priest who died. For this reason we are not surprised to read in 7:16 that Jesus being of the order of Melchizedek had the power of an endless life. Unlike the Levitical priests who were unable to continually minister due to death (7:23) Jesus is said to minister forever (7:24-25,28) .

    While obtaining the animal blood was part of the offering process and needed to gain entrance, the “act of offering” occurred only after the priest entered into the Holy of Holies (9:7). Therefore “keeping with that figure in this context” the act of Jesus offering His blood actually occurred when He entered the real Holy of Holies (9:11-14) made without hands. Rather than offering animal blood in an earthly tabernacle He being an eternal spirit (Deity) was able to offer Himself /His blood in the true tabernacle (9:24-25).

  2. Greetings;
    Why not conclude that the “eternal spirit” of Hebrews 9:14 refers to Jesus just as the ” endless life ” in Hebrews 7:16 does. The context of these chapters is clearly contrasting the temporal Levitical priests “who died” to the “eternal” Jesus who lives forever after the order of Melchizedek.

    Heb 7:15 And what we say is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest,
    Heb 7:16 who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life:
    Heb 7:17 for it is witnessed of him, Thou art a priest for ever After the order of Melchizedek.

    Heb 7:22 by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant.
    Heb 7:23 And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing:
    Heb 7:24 but he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable.
    Heb 7:25 Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
    Heb 7:26 For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
    Heb 7:27 who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself.
    Heb 7:28 For the law appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore.

    Heb 9:11 But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation,
    Heb 9:12 nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.
    Heb 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh:
    Heb 9:14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

    Merle

    • My response would be that your suggestion would have the writer saying something redundant: through His endless life Jesus offered Himself (which would include His endless life) = through Himself Jesus offered Himself.

      But the writer is wanting to point out something in particular about the cross and the blood shed there: Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice without blemish. He did so through the strengthening work of the Third Person of the Trinity. As Dr. Cottrell pointed out, the passage in Hebrews 9 focuses on the very circumstances of His crucifixion.

      The selection from Hebrews 7 does not.

        • Without the Greek definite article we find the words translated “eternal spirit” in Hebrews 9:14. Just why do you assume such speaks of the Holy Spirit when the context “redundantly” brings up the fact that Jesus was eternal in contrasting Him to mere men?

      • Beginning in Hebrews 7:1-3 we read of Melchizedek who seemed to be “eternal”. Next in 7:8 we read of the one who seemed to live without end compared to the Levitical priest who died. For this reason we are not surprised to read in 7:16 that Jesus being of the order of Melchizedek had the power of an endless life. Unlike the Levitical priests who were unable to continually minister due to death (7:23) Jesus is said to minister forever (7:24-25,28) .
        While obtaining the animal blood was part of the offering process and needed to gain entrance, the “act of offering” occurred only after the priest entered into the Holy of Holies (9:7). Therefore “keeping with that figure in this context” the act of Jesus offering His blood actually occurred when He entered the real Holy of Holies (9:11-14) made without hands. Rather than offering animal blood in an earthly tabernacle He being an eternal spirit (Deity) was able to offer Himself /His blood in the true tabernacle (9:24-25).

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