My topic today is common in churches. However, it is among the least understood messages because our knowledge of it is limited. This could be because it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the agony Jesus suffered during His Passion.
How can our human minds grasp the gruesome death of our Saviour and its compelling power? This is an attempt to unpack that mystery. Christ’s suffering is also called His Passion. The Passion of Christ has many angles, the first of which is His anticipated suffering.
As a little boy, malaria attacked me several times. Our town had a medical assistant who ran a treatment scheme out of his home. He was famous for his fearsome ‘needles’, as we called the injections that he liberally administered to young children suffering from malaria.
Our father dutifully took us to him when we were unwell. The medical assistant would promptly take out his ‘needle’, immerse it in water in a saucepan, light a paraffin stove and proceed to boil the water in full view of the intended victim! I would sit there helpless, cringing with fear, anticipating the suffering when that needle would eventually tear through my backside.
My anguish to an extent reflects the agony of Jesus that night when Judas walked out to betray him. Jesus anticipated the physical, spiritual, mental, and social pain He would endure in the coming hours of doom. His perspiration turned into buckets of sweat; which Luke calls “great drops of blood”.
But I think that Jesus’ worst nightmare was separation from the Father! On the cross He cried, “My father, my father, why have you forsaken me?” To make sense of this, consider that eternity has no beginning and no end; eternity is.
The Father and the Son had known unbroken pure, loving, fellowship with each other eternally but on that cross they were parted. As humans, our love is time-bound and it has ups and downs. Even those who pledge the deepest love on earth can never assure unbroken fellowship. They get parted, and we talk of heartaches. The Father and the Son did not know this life.
Their love was deep and knew no end. That was broken for the first and last time on the Cross. The Father and the Son were parted because Jesus was carrying the sin of the world. This is another enigma. The Bible puts it simply: “He who knew no sin took our sin.” And He carried the full consequences of sin. Separation from the Father within Himself and physical death became possible this once in eternity.
Years ago, one of my sons was very ill. His body temperature tested the maximum on the doctors’ thermometers. One night, while my wife was away, and I was in bed with this young boy, his body touched me.
It felt like red-hot charcoal! I jumped up, gripped with fear, and dressed hastily to take him to hospital. I am glad there was no traffic or traffic police on the road. Love moved me.
My eyes welled with tears at the thought of losing a son I love. In a very small way I felt his pain, and I was there for my son. So it was with Jesus. He was there for you and for me. He suffered our pain of sin. Peter says, “He bore our sins in His body on the tree.” The final perspective I want to reflect on is Judas’ betrayal. As Michael Card sang,
“Only a friend can betray a friend.” Jesus washed Judas’ feet, and shared bread with him at the Passover dinner. John reflects on Jesus’ love, saying, “… having loved His own … He loved them to the end.”
Still, Judas betrayed Him and Jesus had to bear this agony too. Jesus went through agony, rejection, separation from the father, and betrayal by His friends, for you and me. The song writer Clay Crosse put it that, “He walked a mile in my in my shoes.”