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CHRIST – ALONE IN GETHSEMANE

(Answering Calvin’s Mistake)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 25, 2012


I want you to turn in your Bible to Isaiah, chapter 63. In tonight’s sermon you are going to have to put on your thinking cap. I’m going to quote a whole bunch of sources, and I have to do it in this sermon. So don’t expect fireworks. We’re not going to have them tonight. I’m going to talk about the Garden of Gethsemane. I’m going to correct one of the problems in church history.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a great man, a great Reformer. But I believe he made an error in his timeless commentary on the Book of Isaiah, and that has colored nearly all of the commentaries since then. Now I’m not against John Calvin. He was a great theologian and a great Bible commentator. I don’t agree with everything the Reformers said. They were pedobaptists. They baptized infants. I’m a Baptist. So I don’t agree with them on Baptism, and some other things.

But I want you to know right now that I’m not against John Calvin per se. I need to say that because there are a great many Reformed people who look at our website and read these sermons. I agree with Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and some of the others on what they said about conversion. And I think we need to restudy the Reformers, the Puritans, and the evangelists of the First Great Awakening on the subject of conversion.

But I have looked through the modern commentaries, and by “modern” I mean those beginning in the seventeenth century, and I find that nearly all of them look back to what Calvin said on Isaiah 63:1-3, and I believe he was wrong on this passage. I’m going to tell you why I think he was wrong. My text is Isaiah, chapter 63:1-3.

“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:1-3).

The prophet Isaiah asked two questions in this passage. First, he asked, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” (v. 1). Second, he asked, “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” (v. 2). Then both of these questions were answered, and in these answers we learn of the suffering Messiah, and particularly of His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. This view has been attacked by John Calvin and those who followed his commentary. We will answer them in this sermon. To do so, let us look at these two questions in more detail.

I. First, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?”

The prophet Isaiah asks, “Who is this?” But Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) pointed out that “Several Jewish writers, ancient as well as modern, interpret this as the Messiah...So says one of their writers [Moses Haddarsan], ‘When the King Messiah shall come, he will be clothed in purple...which in colour shall be like to wine...red as blood...and he shall be the Head of Israel; and this is what is said in Isaiah 63:1, Wherefore art thou red in thy apparel?’” Dr. Gill then quoted other ancient rabbis who said this passage refers to the Messiah, such as Abarbinel and Kimshi. He said that rabbi Jarchi spoke of the red clothing of the Messiah as being “dyed in blood, or dipped in it; to which [said Dr. Gill] agrees the apparel of Christ in Revelation 19:13, where he is said to be clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, which chapter is the best commentary upon this passage...” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 368; comments on Isaiah 63:1).

Albert Barnes said of Isaiah 63:1, “The mass of interpreters have referred it to the Messiah” (Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Baker Book House, 1978 reprint, volume II, p. 368; note on Isaiah 63:1).

But John Calvin disagreed with the “mass of interpreters,” the ancient rabbis and the church fathers. Calvin said, “This chapter has been violently distorted by Christians, as if what it said were related to Christ, whereas the prophet simply speaks of God himself; and they have imagined that here Christ is red, because he was wet with his own blood which he shed on the cross. But the prophet meant nothing of the sort” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Baker Book House, 1998 reprint, volume III, p. 337).

But Calvin’s contemporary, Martin Luther (1483-1546), disagreed with Calvin. Luther said, “Many think it refers to Christ. This is our opinion” (Luther’s Works, Concordia Publishing House, 1972 edition, p. 352). It should be remembered that Luther translated the entire Bible into German. Luther’s thought was shaped by Biblical theology. Therefore I think he is more reliable than Calvin on this particular passage of Scripture.

Furthermore, when Calvin said, “the prophet simply speaks of God himself,” which Person of the Trinity was he referring to? I certainly hope he didn’t forget that God is a Trinity! Does the Holy Spirit wear “garments”? Does God the Father wear “garments”? And a strict Biblical exegesis of the passage should, at least, take into consideration the fact that the physical description of the Person in this passage points to Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead. Also, many modern commentators, such as Dr. Gill, say that the second half of Isaiah 63:3 refers to Revelation 19:15, where Christ “treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” If that is true, why shouldn’t the first half of the verse also refer to Christ?

Dr. John Oswalt said, “Even before N.T. [New Testament] times Jews applied this passage to the Messiah. Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, and other church fathers boldly applied the passage to Christ...reacting against anything that might smack of allegorization, Calvin spoke out strongly against this interpretation, and virtually all commentators since have followed him.” Dr. Oswalt recognized that Calvin was reacting to allegorization. Then Oswalt said, “But if one must resist allegorization, so must one resist an interpretation that does not pay adequate attention to the context in which this passage appears. Here...a major emphasis is on the aloneness of the Warrior, of his doing what no one else could do. Furthermore [it stresses] that it is the arm of God by which salvation appears, and it appears from chapters 49-53 that the arm of God is his Servant...the passage is about the work of the Messiah...” (John N. Oswalt, Ph.D., The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998, pp. 595-596).

I agree with Dr. Oswalt, the ancient rabbis, the church fathers, Luther and Spurgeon. This passage of Scripture speaks of Jesus the Messiah! Even Dr. John MacArthur agrees with them. He calls this Person “Messiah” and “The Saviour” (The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997 edition, pp. 1050, 1051; notes on Isaiah 63:1, 3). Isn’t it at least possible that these men were right, and that John Calvin made a mistake? Although Calvin was a great man, his comments were not infallible. Only the Bible is infalllible.

“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:1).

This is Jesus the Messiah! “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

II. Second, “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?”

There is only one further question that needs to be dealt with. Please stand and read verses two and three aloud.

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:2-3).

You may be seated. Notice in verse three that the King James Bible says, “I have trodden the winepress” and “I will tread them in mine anger.” “I have” and “I will” – one in the past and one in the future. In dealing with the Hebrew words, Dr. Edward J. Young pointed out that the modern translators and commentaries “usually” translate these words wrong, making both treadings in the past (see the NKJV, NIV, NASV, etc.). Dr. Young pointed out that the Hebrew “weak waw” shows that the tramplings are future, so “there were two distinct tramplings, one of which has not yet occurred” (Edward J. Young, Ph.D., The Book of Isaiah, Eerdmans, 1993, volume 3, p. 477). Thus, the King James Bible and the Geneva Bible of 1599 are the only popular Bibles that translate verse three correctly. Thus “there were two distinct tramplings, one of which has not yet occurred.” The two tramplings show us the work of Jesus the Messiah at His first coming, and at His Second Coming!

“I have trodden the winepress alone.”

“I will tread them in mine anger.”

“There were two distinct tramplings, one of which has not yet occurred” (Edward J. Young, Ph.D., ibid.). The one that “has not yet occurred” speaks of Christ’s Second Coming, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“I will tread them in mine anger” (Isaiah 63:3b).

This is Christ at His Second Coming! The Apostle John said,

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:11-15).

But what about the first trampling of the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me...” (Isaiah 63:3a).

There is only one possibility of this occurring in the life of Christ, at His first coming. It is the time when He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me...”
      (Isaiah 63:2-3a).

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” Here is the answer,

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

The blood on His clothing was from that bloody sweat! The prophet asks,

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” (Isaiah 63:2).

Jesus answers,

“I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me...” (Isaiah 63:3).

The Disciples had gone to sleep at the edge of the Garden. Jesus was alone in the darkness of Gethsemane. “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me.”

Speaking on that text Spurgeon said that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane,

Bore all the incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, but none to spare.

My soul, meditate on the glorious Wine-presser! Those sins which would have crushed thee to pieces, he had to tread beneath his feet. How it must have bruised his heel to tread upon those sins! O how powerfully he must have trodden on those crimes of thine, breaking them into less than nothing! How it did force from him, not sweat like ours, but drops of blood, when he could say, “I have trodden the winepress alone.” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Single-Handed Conquest,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 reprint, page 195).

Speaking again on Isaiah 63:1, Spurgeon said,

The commentators and expositors almost universally deny that this text may be used as referring to our Lord’s passion. They tell us that to do so would be to wrest the Scripture from its obvious meaning; at any rate, at the best, it would be a mere accommodation of the passage. Now, I take up the gage of battle, and deny the assertion. The church by a holy instinct has referred the passage to our Lord’s first as well as his second coming, and she has not been in error (C. H. Spurgeon, “Who is This?”, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974 reprint, volume 33, p. 86).

I believe that the first half of Isaiah 63:3 speaks of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Dr. John R. Rice said, “You will note the agony of Jesus in [Luke 22] verse 44, ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ We suppose that the pressure, the tension, the sorrow, the burden of the sins of the world, were about to kill Him. The capillaries were about to burst...the blood was oozing out through the sweat glands...at any rate, let us remember that the sufferings of Jesus for the sins of the world were not simply the sufferings of the cross alone” (John R. Rice, D.D., The Son of Man: A Verse-by-verse Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1971, p. 519; note on Luke 22:44).

There alone in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus took our sins upon Him, “and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus had our sins laid on Him, and He took them to the Cross the next day,

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”
       (I Peter 2:24).

Oh, Saviour, sweating a bloody sweat in Gethsemane, Thy garments are drenched in blood! How we thank Thee for bearing our sins from the Garden to the Cross! Now we know that all our sins are atoned for by Thy suffering and by Thy death! Now we know the answer to the prophet’s question,

“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” (Isaiah 63:2).

And we hear Thy answer,

“I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me...” (Isaiah 63:3).

Now we know that Thy garments were made red by Thy own bloody sweat! How you loved us to suffer so!

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
   That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
   Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

Sinner, will you trust Jesus? Will you trust Him and be saved, tonight? Will you say with Dr. Watts, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”?

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 22:39-44; Isaiah 63:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow” (by William B. Tappan, 1794-1849).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHRIST – ALONE IN GETHSEMANE

(Answering Calvin’s Mistake)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:1-3).

I.   First, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” Isaiah 63:1;
Revelation 19:13, 15.

II.  Second, “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?” Isaiah 63:2-3;
Revelation 19:11-15; Luke 22:44; Isaiah 53:6; I Peter 2:24.