One of the many volumes Abraham Kuyper wrote is called His Decease At Jerusalem. It’s an excellent collection of devotional essays on Christ’s passion and death. This morning I ran across the following paragraphs, in which Kuyper discussed the fact that Jesus’ followers slept while he labored in prayer concerning his upcoming suffering:
“Seeing them asleep, did He not realize that from that very moment He would be treading the wine-press all alone? Not for a single hour could He draw encouragement or strength from His followers.”
Kuyper extends the thought:
You see how this is so when the Scriptures talk of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Without so much as one word of complaint, he received the rough-hewn stones that are hurled at him, with a bearing of unswerving faith. But by what power did Stephen, and every other martyr after him, triumph? Is it not by the power and grace Jesus poured into their souls? Every martyr dies with Jesus back of him, with Jesus by the side of him, with Jesus to strengthen and reassure. In fact, it is not the martyr who triumphs, but Jesus in the martyr conquers.
All this is different with your Savior. When He faced Calvary He stood alone to face the unbroken power of the curse of sin and Satan. He had not Savior to shield Him, no Savior to draw nigh and comfort in the trying hour. He was Himself the Savior!
Others triumphed by looking back to the Cross; but He must mount that Cross to bear in His own body the sin of all the world. He was not a martyr, but the victory He won at Golgotha makes every real martyr a conqueror.