“Die he or justice must; unless for him some other able, and as willing, pay the rigid satisfaction, death for death. Say heav’nly Powers, where shall we find such love, which of ye will be mortal to redeem Man’s mortal crime, and just th’ unjust to save, dwells in all Heaven charity so dear?” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton
Who will step forward? Will someone sacrifice the glories and perfection of heaven for the broken and trying life on Earth?
“He asked, but all the heav’nly choir stood mute, and silence was in Heav’n; on man’s behalf patron or intercessor none appeared, much less that durst upon his own head draw the deadly forfeiture, and ransom set,” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton
Silence. The golden streets and tree of life. Silence. The heralds of angels and beating wings. Silence. The majesty of the Creator and the magnificence of heaven’s shining buildings. Silence.
Silence can say so much more than words.
Would anyone step in? Would someone take man’s place?
“And now without redemption all mankind must have been lost, adjudged to death and Hell by doom severe, had not the Son of God, in whom the fullness dwells of love divine, his dearest mediation thus renewed.
‘Father, thy word is passed, man shall find grace; and shall grace not find means, that finds her way, the speediest of thy winged messengers, to visit all thy creatures, and to all comes unprevented, unimplored, unsought, happy for man, so coming; he her aid can never seek, once dead in sins and lost; atonement for himself or offering meet, indebted and undone, hath none to bring: Behold me then, me for him, life for life I offer, on me let thine anger fall; account me man; I for his sake will leave thy bosom, and this glory next to thee freely put off, and for him lastly die well pleased, on me let Death wreak all his rage; under his gloomy power I shall not long lie vanquished; thou hast giv’n me to possess life in myself forever, by thee I love, though now to Death I yield, and am his due,'” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton
All heaven silent, until the Son of God spoke. All mankind lost, until this moment.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” ~ Luke 2:11
He, who had come from heaven: perfect, beautiful, joyful, now came to Earth – to be among his creation, to do what no one else could.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” ~ Hebrew 4:15
Instead of a throne, he sat on the dusty, dirty ground. Insects crawling beneath; an ant biting him. Instead of a crown and robes of splendor, he wore the simple clothing of a carpenter. Blisters on his hands from working with wood; a splinter finding its way into his skin. Instead of angels singing praises hour after hour, he endured the ridicule of bullies. Name-calling, excluding him from activities, causing a bleeding cheek or egg-sized knot on his head. Instead of perfection, he came to the broken world. Temptation rearing its ugly head and the battle not to give in.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
He had friends, family. Perhaps, he had a particular pet growing up that he was fond of. Maybe a sheep that would sneak into the house when it was not supposed to, or a baby chick that cuddled up by his bedside. He celebrated holidays with feasts and great fun. He experienced the growing up pains of being a teenager; the temptation though he did not sin.
And then, came the end of an old world and the beginning of a marvelous grace-filled one where death is defeated.
Let’s back-track though.
The arrest of Jesus.
“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples,” ~ John 18:2
This one sentence has so much information. We learn two key pieces of information about his arrest, that make it so much more painful. The obvious one is that Judas – someone he had taught, ate with, and spent many hours conversing about various things – betrayed him. Secondly, let’s go back to this…”for Jesus often met there with his disciples.”
Putting it in our terms, this was their “hang-out” place. The spot they went to when they wanted to talk, escape the crowds, just be friends. So I don’t think it is too overly assuming to say that this location probably had a special meaning.
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground,” ~ Luke 22:41-44
I’m not sure if it’s because only Luke records it, or if I’ve just never noticed it in the other Gospels before, but I find it so interesting that it says, “and there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” I wonder what this entailed. Did the angel encourage him in words? Remind him of the good that would come after? Give him something to eat or drink?
I think it is noteworthy to point out, that though the angel strengthened him…his pain did not go away. Right after, it says, “and being in agony.”
Yes, Jesus was strengthened, but his “cup” was not taken away. The struggle, the apprehension of what was to come did not leave. As the verse concludes, it becomes clear that he is under a tremendous amount of anxiousness. There is an actual, medical condition where one is under so much stress and anxiety that sweat and blood mix, creating, as Luke wrote, “like great drops of blood.”
There would still be more to come. Trials. Betrayals. Beatings – horrible, gruesome whips that came upon him again and again. Thorns – a mockery by them, shoving a crown of nature’s needles onto his head…blood pooling out. Humiliation – casting lots for his clothing, doing everything to try and destroy his dignity. Pain.
The nails. The cross. Dying the worst and most degraded form of death that could be done. How amazing of a Savior we have! I cannot compute this kind of love – unconditional, perfect, encompassing. Even as I write this, it blows my mind that someone would willingly choose to go through the most undesirable form of suffering for me.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed,” ~ 1 Peter 2:24
Guilt. Though Jesus had done no wrong, he took the weight of our sins. Can you imagine? All of history. All of humanity. Every person that has and ever will live. That feeling, that sense of shame and guilt that comes with sin, he felt. Him, who knew no sin and lived a perfect life, experienced the ramifications of sin. The consequences, though he was innocent.
Imagine the worst crime you can think of – murder, rape. And then picture yourself having to feel the guilt and shame for doing that, though you did not.
In every way, the sacrifice of Jesus was brutal. It was emotionally taxing – friends betraying him, mentally draining – enduring the verbal assault, physically sapping – the most horrific, pain and death, and spiritually exhausting – when God turned his face.
Let’s go back to that place, that hour.
It is the middle of the day; there are three crosses. Because it is the Passover, travelers are passing by and witnessing this dismal sight. There are soldiers, who prolonged his suffering by giving him wine vinegar. There is his family, weeping and in anguish over what has been done to him.
Instant darkness. The light from the day vanished and inky blackness took its place. There was no electricity, and no backup generators. Perhaps someone found a candle, though I doubt they had one close by. Who would have thought it would be needed at midday?
The hours ticked by, time moving slowly. Seconds turned into minutes, seeming to stretch into infinity. What had happened? Why was it pitch black at noon? Would the light return?
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit,” ~ Matthew 27:50
The curtain of the temple stood sixty feet high and thirty feet wide. It separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, that only the high priest was allowed to enter once a year. At this moment, this instant it was torn in two. The separation between God and humanity had been breached.
The ground rumbled – an earthquake. Rocks were broken, split into pieces. The tombs opened up and the “bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52).
Jesus had died.
***will post second part tomorrow on Easter***