The twenty-seventh of this month, this coming Sunday, marks this year’s remembrance of the greatest day in the history of mankind—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And as Christians, we give Resurrection Sunday its due celebration and recognition. However, do we truly consider and grasp the enormity of what Christ did for us, and do we fully recognize the anguish He suffered to bring about our salvation? Are we guilty of diminishing, through lack of acknowledgement and appreciation, the extreme sacrifice our Savior made to reconcile us with God? I believe we are.
As Americans, we have little experience with true suffering and live our entire lives in relative ease and luxury. Thus, we tend to shy away from things that are painful and difficult to ponder. Why? Because it makes us uncomfortable. We, therefore, romanticize the gospel and soften its edges, from dressing up the Nativity scene to glossing over the events of and leading to Calvary. But by doing this we lose sight of reality, the truth of events, and the great significance behind them, and thereby lessen what Christ truly did. So this year, let’s cast our minds back over two thousand years and take an honest look at the happenings during that week of Passover, fully pondering all that Jesus suffered to bring us redemption.
Roman crucifixion was the cruelest and most gruesome form of death ever invented by man. And this was the death Christ was destined for. However, despite the extreme physical suffering of this brutal execution, our Lord uttered not a word of anguish or protest. The only exclamation of agony was uttered toward the end: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These were words displaying not suffering of the body, but rather torment of the soul. But how could Jesus’ greatest pain be from the soul while suffering the most agonizing death in history? How could He bear the physical affliction in complete silence? Because the anguish of separation from the Father far surpassed anything man could do to the body.
Ponder that for a moment…
The agony of the cross could not compare with the pain of separation from God the Father. And we see this anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus struggled with the horrors He was about to face. For He, though He was innocent, took the burden of sin upon Himself and, therefore, suffered not only separation for His Father but also the holy God’s just punishment for the sins of mankind. Jesus was fully God and was with the Father since eternity past, yet He chose to come to earth as a man and live a perfect life in order that He might take our sins upon Himself and face the holy wrath of God in our stead, all because He loves us. Oh, how great and boundless is Christ’s love for us!
The true sacrifice and anguish of the cross did not occur on Good Friday, but rather the evening before, as Jesus’ human desire to avoid the suffering to come battled with obedience to the Father. Jesus knew what was about to happen and could have easily avoided Calvary and all that it entailed, but if He had, we would never have received forgiveness for our sins. And thus, He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” The following two verses from Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s modern-day hymn “Gethsemane” eloquently summarizes the heart-wrenching night spent on the Mount of Olives:
So this week, in honor of our Lord’s atoning work on the cross, I encourage you to study the events leading to Resurrection Sunday that you may obtain a fuller grasp of God’s great love for you. However, as you study the crucifixion, remember that the spiritual sacrifice Christ made was far greater than the physical one. May we follow in the footsteps of our Savoir and share His conviction that separation from God is far worse than any physical affliction. And in closing, let us carefully ponder this convicting exhortation from Matthew Henry:
When next you dwell in imagination upon the delights of some favourite sin, think of its effects as you behold them here! See its fearful effects in the garden of Gethsemane, and desire, by the help of God, deeply to hate and to forsake that enemy, to ransom sinners from whom the Redeemer prayed, agonized, and bled.
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