“It hurts, for me it feels like someone stepped on me like a bug (I’m not sure what horrible feeling you have but I know it’s 0% fun) and it may hurt for a while.”
Can you guess the context of this quote?
This is what a friend sent me after a breakup – she was empathizing with the pain of rejection. But why am I writing about this on Good Friday, the anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion?
In December, I wrote, “When we understand Jesus’ death, we learn that God’s love for us is greater than we can fathom.”
On this somber day, we should reflect on the cross because the better we understand the depth of Jesus’ suffering, the better we understand God’s love for us, and central to the cross is the sting of rejection.
Let’s start by looking at this passage in the garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus died (emphasis added).
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.“ Luke22: 41-44
Why was Jesus in such agony? The immediate response is that Jesus knew he was about to be crucified and knew the physical pain that was coming. Designed to maximize pain, crucifixion was a brutal way to die. But however appalling crucifixion was, I don’t believe that is what caused Jesus to agonize and to sweat drops of blood.
Something bigger was happening than a torturous death, and it shook Jesus to the point of asking God the Father whether there was another way. But there was no other way. The plan was always that Jesus would come to earth to die. This plan was radical and contrary to any human logic, and for millennia, people have been asking why Jesus had to die. Let’s explore this question because the answer will help us understand the suffering Jesus endured.
Q: Why did Jesus have to die? A: To drink and endure the cup of the wrath of God.
“So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ ” John 18:11
Q: Why did Jesus have to drink the cup of the wrath of God? A: Because God can’t be just and let our rebellion against him as king go unaddressed.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Romans 1:18
Q: But why did Jesus specifically have to endure God’s wrath? A: He didn’t have to. There was no obligation. But if he hadn’t, we couldn’t be reconciled with God.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus love led for us led him to the cross because it was the only way we could be reconciled to God. The last quote from 2 Corinthians says that we become righteous because on the cross Jesus became sin for us. When this happened, the perfect union Jesus had experienced with God the Father was severed as God poured out his wrath on Jesus.
Like my friend said, breakups hurt. I’ve never had a relationship longer than a year, and so I can’t imagine being married to someone for 25 years and having them cheat on me and want a divorce. But on the cross Jesus experienced the sting of an eternal relationship severed – for all eternity, Jesus had been in perfect union with God the Father.
Meditate on this today. Ask God to show the depth of the suffering he endured and let this love transform your heart.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27: 45-46