As Christians go through life, all of us find ourselves in the middle of storms and dangers that have come raging our way. No one really wants to face them, but alas, we will need to be strong because it is inevitable that crises will strike us, for we are not exempt from the effects of sin and a fallen world.
These times that can try men’s souls teach us who we are and who God truly is. In whatever way you choose to examine us, we are frail. In the physical realm, no matter how strong we are, no matter how hard we work at being a great athlete, any number of sundry diseases can damage our body for which we have no defense.
In the spiritual world, we are just as frail, if not more so. These same diseases that so negatively impact a person’s life, can also have a negative impact on our spiritual life as well. And as we find ourselves in physical, mental, or spiritual weakness, we can respond in one of two ways.
Christians have a great advantage during these times because our God and Father, Jehovah, is an all-powerful, all-loving, all-gracious, all-compassionate, all-understanding, all-healing God. And because every true Christian has had a ransom paid for their sins that allows entry into God’s true family, we can go directly to our loving, adoptive Father and lean on His promises knowing that they are forever true. And what God has pledged to one of His individual children is true for all of us. For His love is an everlasting, all-encompassing love,1 and He never changes.2
But what if these promises weren’t available to us? What if there was no promise of God never leaving us? What if He chose at some point in time to leave us? What if He chose to forget about us? What if He chose to have a time in our lives where He would turn His face from us?
For Christians, who have leaned and rested on these promises, we would find ourselves alone and frightened. We would find ourselves wondering without God to turn to, just where can I go for what I daily need? With our heavenly Father making Himself unavailable to us, we have lost our ultimate protection from all things that might attack us in this fallen world. If we play this out in our minds, we would eventually find ourselves broken, dismayed, lonely, depressed, and alone. Ponder these thoughts for a moment. If God had decided to turn away from you, to whom would you go during times of crises in your life? If God decided He would forget about you, how devastating would that be? It would be this devastating: The very life that you knew would be turned completely upside down, if not totally destroyed.
After having received God’s free gift of salvation (that is, after having repented of your sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ), after having His mercy poured out into our lives again and again and again, after having been recipients of His grace time and time again, after having experienced His patience and long-suffering countless times, after personally knowing His goodness and kindness, now imagine that He willingly takes those things away. That is, quite frankly, truly unimaginable to me. In light of these thoughts, I, like Isaiah, would become undone. I would become unraveled and without hope. I would cry out, but He would not hear me? I would turn, but He would not be there. I would look, but He would be nowhere to be found. I would need Him but I would be left on my own. I would be an orphan, lost, abandoned, with no where to turn, and no one to love me and take care of me.
Fortunately for you and me, as born-again children of God, according to Scripture, by His grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, these things will never happen. There will never be a moment in time or eternity where He will ever leave us or forsake us. There will never be a time when we will be alone, without Him by our side. There will never be a second where His love will not comfort us, forgive us, or accept us because in Jesus Christ, He has promised us these things. And in these promises we can and should take unlimited comfort. We should find complete and total rest in our God for that is what He has promised us.
But there is One who was abandoned. There was One who cried out to God and His face was turned against Him. There was One who received the blows of God’s wrath for something He had never done. It was the God-Man whose name is Jesus. When He cried out from the Cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34b (KJV), His Father was nowhere to be found. For He had abandoned His Son so that He could pour out His wrath on Him for the sins of the whole world, to all who would believe. Perfect in every way, as Jesus hung on that Cross on Calvary, looking for His loving Father, the One Jesus Himself loved so much, the Father had turned away from His Son. Truly cursed is the Man who hangs from a tree.3
I cannot imagine what Jesus went through on the Cross. We think we know, but we do not.
There’s the incredible physical pain hanging from that Roman Cross. It was a torturous death. A depraved method of killing a man that would cause excruciating pain and suffering. Death on a cross usually took place from asphyxiation. As all the muscles in the body tire of trying to stay alive, in the end, because the diaphragm is so weakened by the pain and trauma, the body instinctively tries to expand the lungs through pushing up on the nails that are holding the feet in place on the cross. This continues, usually for hours, until finally the ability to do even that wains and death occurs. If life hangs on too long for the prescribed process, then the soldiers come and break the legs of the one hanging on the cross; since they are no longer capable of breathing, they die in minutes.
Jesus was so badly beaten before the first nail was even driven through His hands and feet, that there was no need to break His legs. Quite naturally, Scripture was fulfilled because of this. Speaking of the Passover Lamb, we read in Numbers 9:12 (KJV) “They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it [emphasis mine]: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.” Even though the Israelites had no idea at the time why no bone was to be broken on the Passover Lamb they prepared (they did it simply because God told them to do so), it is now clear that it was to point the Jews and the world to Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. (“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29 (KJV))
Then there was the mocking. Jesus would now hear the contempt and disdain while hanging there.4 When we’re in pain, we yearn for understanding and comforting words just to know that someone cares, that someone loves us, that someone understands. It is consoling to us to know that even though we’re suffering through some pain, God has placed a friend in our midst to suffer with us to the extent that they can. But Jesus heard no such words of compassion. He heard no words of empathy. He only heard and saw those for whom He came, mocking and reviling Him. How those hurtful words, spoken in disgust, disapproval, unbelief, and foolishness, that must have increased His torture. It is for them that He hung there, and all they could do was scorn and ridicule Him. But even worse, Jesus cries out to His God with whom He has always had a perfect relationship, but His Father was nowhere to be found! Jesus could take the ridicule and scorn from the people because the Father was by His side. But wait, His Father was not at His side during this moment of tragedy. And now where was Jesus to turn?
It was this abandonment of His God and His Father that I believe would cause so much torment in our Savior, a torment that Jesus surely experienced; the pain of which we simply cannot imagine. A faultless relationship; the Father and the Son having always enjoyed a perfect, loving association from eternity past, is now terribly broken. This perfect love that surpasses anything we have ever known, experienced, or felt has now been smashed; the bond is severed, even if only temporarily, and it must have been unbearable to the Son. Jesus’ loving Father has willingly and knowingly abandoned His perfect Son to face the judgment and wrath of the Father all by Himself.
Imagine an incredibly loving mom or dad. They have always been there for you. They took care of you, nurtured you, fed you, clothed you, kept you safe and warm in a home provided by them for you. They played with you, they taught you, they corrected you, the caressed you, held your hand, comforted you, were always patient with you, never gave up on you, and loved you at all times, through thick and thin. One thing you could count on in life was their unconditional love; that was a given. It was certain. Beyond anything the world has to offer, the love your parents offered to you at all times, made life wonderful even in the face of difficulty or adversity. And you loved them with everything fiber of your being because they were so wonderful to you. You couldn’t imagine even a day without them. Even in your adulthood, you still found yourself talking to them, asking for their advice, wanting to hear that they are OK, and you felt their love in their voice and you were comforted by the fact that they were OK. And they too, were at ease knowing that you made it through another day with no problems or issues.
And then one day, you called them and they didn’t answer. You drove to their home and they were gone. You searched and searched, and you couldn’t find what happened to them. You wondered, you thought, “Where are they”? As the days and weeks went by, you cried yourself to sleep so many nights, you were in pain that would not go away, and could not think straight. But you held out hope that one day you would find them. Then that day came; you found that they had moved but that they were all right. You had a rush of peace come over you. You drove to their new home only to find that upon answering the door, they would not see you or talk to you. You cried out, “Why!” “Why are you turning your back to me? What have I done?” We have loved each other so wonderfully, so perfectly, all the days of our lives, and now you are abandoning me? I don’t understand.”
But there is no response; the door shuts in your face. You pound on it but it will not open. You cry out loud, “Mom, dad, please, please come to me! Please comfort me! Please love me again, like you used to!” But your cries are not heard. They are not to be found. You are devastated. Although you never wanted to know, you feel the pain, grief, and sorrow of being alone and what it means to have a truly broken heart. Now you know what mental anguish is and how it hurts so much more than a bruise or broken bone. You are inconsolable. Nothing you say to yourself, nothing you hear, nothing you read, has any positive impact on your hurt, pain, and grief. Life no longer seems worth living.
That scene doesn’t even begin to compare with what I believe Jesus went through. It is my feeble attempt to get us to think about the Father turning His ear from His Son’s pleas. It is a poor undertaking to get us to see what God the Son went through for us. Us: a sinful, wretched, evil people, so unworthy of love, so unworthy of mercy, so unworthy of grace, so unworthy of the Cross, so unworthy of becoming a child of God the Father. But that’s exactly what Jesus did on the Cross; for the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross.5 And what was that joy? What joy could possibly be so great in the Savior’s mind, that He would go through that anguish for you and for me? It was the joy of being true to His Father and to His love for mankind. It was the joy of knowing that once His mission on the Cross was fulfilled, heaven’s doors would be open to all who would believe. And that joy moved Jesus to what He and only He could do for a broken world and sinful man.
And that’s love; agape love. It’s simply beyond my mental capacity to fully understand all that was involved on the Cross that day. We accept it and understand it only dimly now for we are in our fallen state. I cannot imagine when we see Him face to face, and understand fully what He has done for us, how we will respond. Will we ever get off our knees in worship? Will we ever stop cleaning His feet with our tears of thankfulness? Will we ever stop singing to Him in praise? Will we ever be able, even in heaven, to proclaim His praises and adore Him as He alone deserves? Scripture tells us that we will,6 but it still remains incredible to me that I will ever fully comprehend my Savior’s love for me.
It is with these thoughts that I hope we celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday. (Or Atonement Friday and Resurrection Sunday, if you will.) But my hope, by God’s grace, is that these will be my thoughts each time I take communion. And I pray that through the days, what I have written will become my daily thoughts so that I would never forget, not even for a day, what my wonderful, precious Savior has done for such a wretch as me.
May I learn to praise Him more, adore Him more fully, and follow Him more completely. For He is my God and He is my Savior. He willingly died for me and gave Himself for me that I might have eternal life. May my song to my Savior ever be:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.7
Yes Lord, I present to you my life, may it ever, only, be all for Thee.
1 Jeremiah 31:3 (KJV) “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
Psalms 136:2 (ESV) “Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Exodus 34:6 (ESV) “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”
Ephesians 3:17 (KJV) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Ephesians 3:18 (KJV) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Ephesians 3:19 (KJV) “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
Psalms 52:8b (ESV) “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”
Psalms 36:5 (ESV) Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalms 36:6 (ESV) Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.
Psalms 36:7 (ESV) “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
2 Hebrews 13:8 (KJV) “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
James 1:17 (KJV) “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
3 “His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:23, KJV)
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13, KJV)
4 “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Mark 15:29-31, KJV)
5 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)
6 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, KJV)
7 “Take My Life And Let It Be”, Frances R. Havergal, 1874