Why Were the Martyrs So Courageous in Death When Jesus Was Very Troubled in His Death?

“But since the divine nature was united to the human, how is it possible that it was so oppressed and weakened as to break forth in such exclamations of anguish; and especially so when there were martyrs who were far more bold and courageous? The cause of this arises from the difference which there was in the punishment which Christ endured and that of martyrs. St. Lawrence, lying on the gridiron, did not experience the dreadful wrath of God, either against his own, or against the sins of the human race, the entire punishment of which was inflicted upon the Son of God, as Isaiah says, he was stricken, and smitten of God for our sins: We say, then, that St. Lawrence did not feel the anger of an offended God piercing and wounding him; but felt that God was reconciled, and at peace with him; neither did he experience the horrors of death and hell as Christ did, but he had great consolation, because he suffered on account of confessing the gospel, and was assured that his sins were remitted by and for the sake of the Son of God, upon whom they were laid, according to what is said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) Hence it is easy to be accounted for, why St. Lawrence seemed to have more Courage and presence of mind in his martyrdom, than Christ in his passion; and hence it is also that the human nature of Christ, although united to the Godhead, was made to sweat drops of blood in the garden, and to give vent to the mournful lamentation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Not that there was any separation between the natures in Christ; but because the humanity was for a time forsaken by the Divinity, the Word being at rest, or quiet, (as Irenaeus says) and not bringing aid and deliverance to the afflicted humanity until a passion altogether sufficient might be endured and finished.” -Zacharius Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

[NOTE: Ursinus’s teaching about the divine nature of Jesus abandoning him at the cross is not great theology. It was actually the Holy Spirit that empowered the person Christ to do great works, have aid, etc, not the divine nature. In fact the divine nature is fully active in the suffering of Christ, keeping the human nature from disintegrating under the judgment of God. However his discussion of Christ’s lament vs. the courage of martyrs is quite insightful.]

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