Signs of Wrath

Jesus’ cry of dereliction (Calvin, Institutes , 2.16.11) expressed His feeling that he was “forsaken and estranged from God” and that all His cries were unheard. It was “as if God himself had plotted [His] ruin.”

Calvin adds, though, that God was not in fact angry with Jesus: “we do not suggest that God was ever inimical or angry toward Him” ( Neque tamen innuimus, Deum fuisse unquam illi vel adversarium vel iratum ). This would be impossible: Jesus is the Father’s beloved Son, in whom He is pleased. How could He hate His own Son? Besides, if the Father were angry with Jesus, Jesus could not appease the Father, since He would Himself be an object of God’s wrath. The effect of the cross depends on the Father not being angry with Jesus.

Yet the death of Christ appeased wrath because Jesus bore all the torment of hell. Jesus “bore the weight of divine severity, since he was ‘stricken and afflicted’ by God’s hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God” ( omnia irati et punientis Dei signa expertus est ).

That signa marks Calvin’s carefulness and reticence: Jesus suffered to dispel wrath; and yet He was never personally the object of that wrath.

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