Friday, September 9, 2016

Christ's suffering

And I'm back again! 

When you think of Christ and what He did for us on the cross, what do you think of? Usually the suffering He went through, the pain and agony He suffered on our behalf. But don't you usually focus on the physical pain of the cross? The physical torture that He endured? There are many other people who have suffered this physical pain, so what makes Christ's suffering so different, aside from the fact that He was undeserving of it? 

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ cried out to His Father, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." And, "O my Father, if this cup many not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." 
In essence, "Father if there is any other way than the cross, let it be done that way." What was it that Christ was dreading? Was it the physical pain that was coming? Was it the shame, shock, and humiliation that the death on a criminal's cross was designed to bring? I am quite sure that He was dreading that to and extent--He was fully God, yet fully human, and it is natural for a human to not look forward to pain and suffering. But there was something different that He was dreading. Experiencing the punishment of sin. What is the punishment of sin? The wrath of God. The turning of the face of God from extending the arm of mercy. The inflicting of an eternity of His full judgement. If Jesus Christ was taking the punishment of all of our sin upon His shoulders, this is what He must experience.
On the cross, Jesus suffered all of these things--the wrath of God, the turning of His face from extending the arm of mercy, the inflicting of an eternity of God's full judgement--the equivalent, of what the necessary punishment was for the sin of all human beings--along with the physical pain and torture that comes with death on a cross, all in just a few hours. Imagine an eternity's worth of judgement for every sinner in the entire world, past present and future, being inflicted on you in the span of just a few hours?  When He cried in agony, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He was experiencing God the righteous Judge. Someone mentioned that up until that point, Jesus had always spoken of God as His Father. Now, He refers to Him instead as God.  He is experiencing the wrath of a holy and just God. 

But isn't this cruel? you ask.  God the Father willingly and actively delivered up His only begotten Son to endure the punishment of sin.  Cruel? Yes, that's what first comes to my mind when I think about this.  But lets step back and consider the situation from both perspectives--that of the Father, and that of the Son.

Think of the Father. His only begotten Son, a Son who is perfect, whom He loves more that you and I could ever imagine. He loves Him more that Abraham loved Isaac. More than Rebecca loved Jacob. More than Jacob loved Joseph and Benjamin. More than even Mary could have loved her own Son, Jesus in the flesh. We don't have the capacity to love as the Father loves. We simply don't. And God the Father loved His Son more than anything. I think it's safe to assume it grieved Him to think about delivering up His Son to be crucified and to endure the torment of His own righteous and just fury that was destined for all the inhabitants of the world because of their sin. If you had a child that you loved as much as He, it would be by no means an easy or simple thing to deliver up that child to be hurt and shamed and humiliated. It would likely be the hardest thing you ever did in your life. Your heart would cry in love, 'No! don't let it be!' But because God the Father had someone else in mind--filthy, rebellious, disobedient, wicked, evil little sinners called You and Me--because He loved those filthy little sinners so much, He was willing to do it. He loved You and Me so much, rebellious and sinful and wicked as we are, that He couldn't bear to see us have to endure the punishment that we deserved, so, being a Righteous Judge who cannot leave sin unpunished, He made a plan to relieve that debt. The payment of the debt included the inflicting of God's wrath on a perfect, sinless person, and that person was Jesus Christ. It was the only way. And God the Father was willing, on our behalf, to deliver up His only Son whom He loved, to be the payment for our sin, to endure the full torment of His wrath in place of us. So that we don't have to experience that righteous wrath and fury that we deserve. 

Now, let's think about the Son's perspective. After considering the perspective of the Father, it makes it a little easier to understand, but it would still seem cruel if the Father delivered up His Son without His Son's consent or agreement to the plan. "Easy for the Father to do," we think. "He's not the one experiencing the pain." What if Christ didn't want to endure the punishment of our sins? I am quite sure that He didn't want to, either. I am quite sure that He thought of the punishment with extreme dread and trepidation. No one in their right minds would enjoy that wrath of God. Would it be safe to say, even though He is God and not merely human, that God the Son did not look forward to being the payment for our sins? Yet He, too had someone else in mind. Those filthy, rebellious, disobedient, wicked, evil little sinners called You and I. And because He saw us even while we were still in rebellion and sin, and He loved us so much that He couldn't bear to see us wretches experience the wrath of His holy and just Father, He willingly gave Himself up to the Father, to be delivered up, taken from His glory and relocated to a filthy, wicked earth, to live among and be rejected and mocked and shamed and spit upon and persecuted by the filthy little wretches He had come to save, all His life, to go to the cross and be mocked and shamed and spit upon and beat some more,  and then experience the torment of the full wrath of God as punishment for, not His sins, but the sins of all the people of the world, people who even now spit upon Him and laid the whip to His sides and nailed His hands to the cross and mocked Him and placed a crown of thorns upon His head and tore His clothes from Him. He was dying for these people. Not because we deserve His love and forgiveness by ANY MEANS WHATSOEVER. We deserve the  full wrath of God, inflicted upon us for an eternity of eternities. But because He loved us. Don't ask me why. There isn't an answer. He simply loved us with the love He has that is unexplainable. 

So, there. After considering both perspectives, what do you think now? God the Father did not give up His Son because He didn't love Him, He did it because He loved us SO much, that He was willing to deliver His Son up and inflict the judgement on Him, because there was no other way. Jesus Christ is the only perfect One who has ever lived and ever will live on this earth.  And God the Son wasn't forced to go to the cross; I'm sure He didn't look forward to it, but He did it because He also loved us SO much, that He was willing to deliver Himself up to the Father's hands to become the payment for our sins.  Does that make a difference in how we view Christ at the cross? 

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" ~Romans 8:31-32 
*And, by 'all things', this verse does not mean a luxurious house and wealth and everything you could want.  Those are things material. This means things that are eternal. It means, if God has not even withheld His own Son, but has delivered Him up to be crucified, what else would He not do for us? It's like a boss saying to his employee, "We have decided that we want to bestow you with a great gift. We are going to pay for you to fly to any place in the world, no matter how expensive it is, and we are going to pay for all your expenses--your food and lodging and anything you would like to do or buy while you are there." And then, after expressing his gratitude over and over again, with tears of joy, the employee asks for a tissue and the boss denies it to him. If God has done so much as to give His own Son, is He not also going to provide for us our daily needs and be faithful to grow us into the likeness of His Son, be with us through everything and bring us home to glory when we have been laid to our rest? These things are trivial in comparison. Just wanted to clarify :)
Now, as you go about your day--or night for that matter--think of the suffering of Christ in a new light. Not just the physical pain He endured--the nail pierced hands and feet, the lashes, the crown of thorns, the shame, shock and humiliation. Think also of what He endured more than that. The torture of all the wrath of God designed for every sinner that ever lived, inflicted upon Him in a matter of three hours.  And He did that willingly. For you. You may not think that you are wicked. But you are. Trust me, you are. 

Julia <3

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