Good Friday is here again. That date on the calendar when we take a moment to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. Sometimes we go to a service where his pain is described in detail, and we walk out thinking, “Wow, He did that for me.” I always thought about Jesus in the Garden, sweating literal drops of blood in anguish as he cried out, “Let this cup pass from me…yet not My will, but Yours be done.” It is a powerful picture- Jesus, knowing the physical pain He was going to endure and anguishing to that extent. But what if there was more to it than just that? It wasn’t until a few years ago that God opened my eyes to the contents of that “cup” that had Jesus in anguish.
Since the time of Christ, believers all over the world have been persecuted for their faith. They have been left to rot in prisons, beaten, tortured, starved, beheaded, thrown to wild animals, etc… One of my heroes is Perpetua of Carthage. She was a first century believer who refused to burn incense to the Emperor. She was thrown in jail, and her baby was taken from her arms. Later, she was led into an arena to be trampled and gored by a bull, and ultimately she was beheaded. According to her prison guard, she was singing praise songs, and was full of joy while being led to her death. After she was gored and tossed around by raging bulls, her captors were about to behead her. As the soldier prepared to deliver the final blow, his hands were shaking violently. Perpetua reached out and steadied the blade with her hands.
This is not a rare incident. In fact, it was common for martyrs to go rejoicing to their deaths, full of the Spirit. Do we truly think that Jesus, the author of our faith, would shrink back at something his followers faced with joy and peace? I don’t think so. He is the Son of God. He was full of the Holy Spirit and walking in perfect, sinless fellowship with the Father, but it was a very different “cup” that Jesus was about to drink. Yes, it was full of suffering a terrible death and pain and humiliation before the eyes of men, but it was so much more than that. Jesus was God. He was the Holy, Holy, Holy God who dwells in “unapproachable light.” He was the same God of the Old Testament who delivered the law on Mt. Sinai where the people were warned not to approach the mountain or even touch it, because God was there and they would die. Why? Because they, being unholy people, were in the presence of an infinitely Holy God and they would not survive nearness to Him in their condition.
Yet, in the Garden, Jesus, God in the flesh, was about to go to the cross, and for the first time and the last time, the Holy One would “become sin” for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “God made Him who had no sin to BE sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Isaiah 53:6 says that “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” I can’t imagine it. Our Holy, righteous God on a cross, in that moment bearing the weight and the guilt of our sin. Every lie, every evil thought, every rape, every murder, every moment of idolatry, every word of slander, every selfish act, every act of violence and abuse…God, who could not even look at sin had to BECOME it. He had it on Him…all of it…and I can’t imagine the anguish of Jesus in that moment. And then the Father, with whom the Son had enjoyed perfect fellowship for eternity past, had to turn His face away from His Son in agony because He could not look at Him. He was so full of our sick guilt and sin. The Innocent was suffering death for the Guilty. The Just was dying for the Unjust. All sin, for all time, resting in the body of Christ…Silence…and then the wrath of God fell. The punishment for every sin, the punishment for every rape, for every murder, for all self-righteousness, all hypocrisy, the punishment for every act of oppression, violence, and every sin ever committed…the wrath fell. The full force of the wrath of a perfectly Holy God fell…but not on us. It fell on our Jesus- on the Innocent and Beautiful One. The force of this act was so great that the physical earth could not bear it, so it shook. People ran…the sky turned black in the middle of the day. The veil in the temple, separating a holy God from an unholy people, tore from top to bottom. The wrath was poured out. It was gone. Righteousness was fulfilled. We were free. Redemption. All of this was in the cup that Jesus surrendered His will to God and drank fully until it was gone.
Today is Good Friday. Good is an understatement. People like to ask if God is good. I like to answer, “Have you seen a cross??” Then yes…God is good.
So, now approach that mountain where God is with boldness. You run up it with all your heart and get to Him. The fear is gone. The wrath is spent on Jesus. You won’t die. You will live! Go to Him. Worship Him for this day and for every day that we live in the aftermath of what He did on Good Friday.