I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.
Tonight’s post is going to sound familiar—a great deal like last night’s in many ways, because the topics are similar. Today I come to the Passion itself: Matthew 27. Here, Jesus stands before Pilate, is whipped and mocked and spit on again, and ultimately is crucified.
That word has too little force for us, I think. We Christians are too accustomed to the word “cross,” to used to the idea of Jesus being “crucified.” We have become inured to the horrifying nature of the image of a man dying in agony because he has had his body nailed to some pieces of wood. The pain was excruciating. Paul points out in Philippians that Jesus was humbled not just to death, but even to death on a cross. And for all that we come back to this idea in sermons from time to time, I think we still are too little aware of how great Jesus’ sufferings were on our behalf.
I am grateful that the Spirit let me see again, just a little, the horror of that moment. The God-man, the Savior-King who came to redeem the world from its sin, hangs there on a few pieces of wood from some trees he created, both upholding the universe by the word of his power and dying in agony, each breath impossibly hard. In a heartbeat he could have said, “Enough; I will not do this thing!” but the immeasurable depths of the riches of God’s kindness and mercy held him there. Not the Father abusing the Son, as some (fools) would have it, but the Son full-willing taking all upon himself as they and the Spirit in perfect unity did what man never could, so that the mercy and the justice of the Triune Godhead would be on display, side by side, forever. Impossible, glorious mystery.
And then the impossible words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This, Jesus the eternal Son of God suffered on my behalf: not only the physical agonies of the cross, but somehow—in a great mystery—somehow he suffered the agony of relational separation from the Father and the Spirit that we all deserve and have borne in tiniest part, that we might never taste it in full. Somehow he suffered the wrath of the Godhead that we all deserve, so that we might never taste it at all. Impossible, glorious mystery.
He took our thorns—the thorns that grew from the ground that God cursed for Adam’s sake—on his brow. He took the lash on his back. He took the nails in his hands and his side. He took the mockery from Roman soldiers and passersby and wicked thieves hung beside him to die in ignominy. He took it all, that Father and Son and Spirit might pass over our sins and still be good—that when the Son comes again in power and judgment, we his people will stand clothed in his own righteousness. Impossible, glorious mystery!
So praise him: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Mighty One of Israel, the Lion, the Lamb, the one from whom the scepter will never depart, the Holy One, the great I Am, in every way a man and very God of very God, Redeemer, God with us, judge and judged, prophesied prophet, sacrifice and priest, servant-king—Yahweh! Yahweh, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.