from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 37

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: The Passion of the Cross

We often read in the heavenly Doctrines of our church of "the passion of the cross." The word "passion" means suffering. We have been learning about the Lord's sufferings, that they were sufferings of His heart and mind. But sometimes they were at the same time sufferings of the body also, and then they were hardest to be borne. This was so in the garden of Gethsemane, also before Pilate and on the cross.

We will once more call to mind that the Lord's sufferings were brought about by the devils of hell, who attacked the Lord in the spiritual world. And on earth men permitted themselves to be so influenced by the hells that they made the Lord suffer even in His body by treating Him cruelly. It was evil spirits that influenced Judas to betray the Lord. Afterward Judas was very, very sorry for it, and returned the thirty pieces of silver which had been given to him to pay him for the betrayal. It was the evil spirits of hell that influenced the Jews and the soldiers to mock the Lord, and treat Him cruelly, and finally to put Him to death on the cross.

Why did they do all this? Because they were evil and He was good. He was teaching men the truth and leading them to do good, and thus establishing His spiritual kingdom. The wicked hate what is spiritual and heavenly, and love only what is earthly. The Jews were like them.

You will remember that the Lord had shown Himself to the Jews as King, but He had taught them that His kingdom was not of this world. But the Jews wanted an earthly kingdom. They wanted the Messiah to free them from the Roman government and make them the conquerors of the world. Whatever was foretold in the Old Testament about the Messiah they explained to mean this, and so "perverted" or twisted the meaning of the Word. They laughed at whatever was said of the Messiah that plainly showed that His kingdom was not earthly but heavenly. They mocked at the Lord's spiritual teaching, and they showed this by mocking Him, dressing Him up in things which would look like a king's regalia, and yet were not - a crown, not of gold but of thorns; a scepter, not of some beautiful wood and adorned with precious stones, but a reed - making mock reverence to Him, and altogether showing that they laughed at and held in contempt what He said, and what the Old Testament foretold of Him about His being king. And when they at last put Him to death, they thereby showed that they wanted to destroy everything that is heavenly and Divine in the Word.

Now remember that the Lord Jesus Christ had two natures, just as we have two which we call "spirit" and "flesh," or "soul" and "body", or "internal man" and "external man," or "spiritual man" and "natural man." In the Lord, these two natures were called "the Divine" and "the Human," or "the Father" and "the Son." The "Divine" nature did not suffer. It was the "Human" nature that suffered. This could be nailed to the cross. This could die. This could be put in the grave. This it was that rose again on that glorious day which we shall celebrate on Easter, but it was changed.

This was "the temple" of which the Lord had foretold them, that if they were to destroy it, He would raise it up in three days. And He did so.

This human nature suffered terribly, and at last it seemed as if He were forsaken by the Father. But that was the end. Then the curtain in the temple that hung between the holy of holies and the holy place was torn in two, and there was an earthquake, and the dead holy people arose out of their graves. You must not think that it was the dead material bodies that actually arose; but they seemed to do so, because the Lord, the great prophet, wanted to teach by this appearance, what He was accomplishing at the time; namely, that He died in order that men might live - in order that those who were not "alive" to the knowledge of Him and of heaven might become regenerated and live from Him.

Besides, these bodies represented those in the spiritual world who had been living for a long time in the lower earth, and who are called those "bound in the pit" and whom the Lord delivered after He had accomplished His whole work of redemption. There were many faithful or holy people, who were in the spiritual world, but who could not be saved until after the Lord had come into the world, and had subjugated the hells. In the meanwhile they were kept in those places in the world of spirits, which are called "pits," and were delivered by the Lord after His coming. These pits were represented by the "graves which were opened," and those who lived there are meant by those who were "sleeping," or "dead," who, after the Lord's resurrection, appeared to many in the holy city. The "holy city" was Zion and Jerusalem, but by these was meant heaven, whither they were taken up by the Lord.

So the Lord saved men in the other world, having accomplished the great judgment by means of the passion of the cross as the last temptation. The Lord was willing to pass through all the terrible trial and crucifixion in order to represent and show what a terrible thing it is when men do not believe in His spiritual kingdom, but wish only for earthly and natural pleasures and therefore do not care for His holy Word, and the truths it teaches, except as they may find things in it that they can so change as to help them to enjoy their sinful pleasures. To do this is to crucify the Lord.

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