I’ve seen movies and heard descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion. The physical torture that Jesus experienced is explained in detail, and we see each lash ripping His flesh, the excruciating walk to Golgotha, and the nails hammered into His hands and feet. Many times the pain is our sole focus, and we assume that the fear of this pain explains why Jesus petitioned God at Gethsemane to “take this cup from me.” However, the physical sacrifice is only one aspect of Jesus’ death on the cross. There is so much more that we many times forget to examine and meditate on.
The crucifixion is made up of three components, and physical pain is only one of them. Yes, Jesus is human, so the pain was a big part of why He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14.34 NIV). But I do not believe that it was fear of pain that made Jesus sweat drops of blood (Luke 22.44 NIV). I know that Jesus loves me more than I can comprehend, and He would boldly confront physical persecution for my sake. I think He had a greater reason to feel anguish — a reason that our culture has trouble even understanding.
The second aspect of the crucifixion that would cause Jesus to be overwhelmed with sorrow is that He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21 NIV). Please note that Jesus became sin. He was sin for us. What is sin? Sin is the absence of God. Sin is the absence of light, love, beauty, glory, etc. The best way I can illustrate this concept is to take the innocence of a newborn baby and force that innocence to experience every disgusting, revolting, hideous sin you can think of. Try to imagine the innocence of those you love (especially your own children) and your mind will shut down. Your heart can not process the anguish.
The third aspect of the crucifixion ties directly into the second. This was the “more” that I was looking for. It took a while for me to comprehend, which demonstrates just how much I do not know about love. Several months ago, I was reading through the New Testament, and I was struck by the relationship between God and Jesus. They are so deeply rooted together, and I wanted to know how it felt. I prayed and asked God, “Show me how much Jesus loves You.”
After I prayed that prayer, I read about Jesus praying to God in Gethsemane. His soul was in anguish, and God sent Jesus an angel to comfort Him. As I read about Jesus just minutes before He would be betrayed, I remembered how I had always been dissatisfied with explanations of the crucifixion. Yes, the physical pain Jesus endured was incomprehensible, but I know that there was another pain that I wasn’t understanding. Finally, it hit me. If Jesus became sin, and God can have no part of sin, then God would have to disconnect from Jesus for a time.
Jesus loved God so much, and His entire existence was solely dependent on God; therefore, Jesus’ biggest fear was to be forsaken by God. I believe Jesus feared this more than the physical pain and more than becoming sin. When Jesus cried out on the cross with His only complaint, He did not cry out, “My God, My God, this pain hurts so bad” or “My God, My God this sin is so revolting.” No, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mark 15.34 NIV).
Nothing else mattered more to Jesus than the presence of God. That is how much Jesus loved God, and this showed me how much I do not. As I meditated on this, I became overwhelmed with anguish. God has been a sidenote, a ball I juggle in my busy schedule. Yes, He has also been a Father, a Friend, a Savior, a Healer, a Teacher, a Guide, an Encourager, yet He has never been my core. How do I know this? Because I constantly struggle with forsaking Him.
I forsake God for sleep, for my own desires, for my spouse, for my children, for my career, for the opinions of others, for security, for money, for prestige, for acclaim, for comfort, for pleasures, etc. I daily struggle with forsaking God, and I have no fear of it. Yes, I feel guilty and I repent when I know I’ve purposely walked away from His will, but do I fear? No.
I know that God loves me no matter what, and I’m happy to say that I have forgiveness of my sins through Jesus. However, I want God to be my core. I want Him to be my everything. I think that is why Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26 NIV).
Jesus does not actually want us hating people or ourselves. Research the Scriptures, and you’ll see that Jesus tells us over and over again to love others. However, our love for God should be so immense and so deep that our love for anything else should be comparatively weak. Would we be willing to give up all that we have for God? Jesus did.
When Jesus asked God to “take this cup from me,” I do not believe He was talking about the physical pain or even becoming sin. Jesus’ prayer before His crucifixion is the only time I see that Jesus took a step of obedience that He did not willingly want to take. God asked Jesus to give up the one thing that Jesus loved the most so that humankind could have everlasting life with Him: Jesus gave up God. Jesus became sin, and God can not have any part of sin. If this weren’t true, then our sins are not really forgiven. If Jesus did not take our sins upon Himself, they are still on us. If they are still on us, God can not allow us into His glory.
If I could just understand Jesus’ step of obedience, His sacrifice for me, I think I could have a glimpse of how much Jesus loved God. I love Jesus so much because He took this step of faith for God, even if He didn’t want to. I love God so much because He “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16 NIV). That God chose to weave me into this Divine Romance between Father and Son boggles my mind. I want to love them both back with a love deserving of their love for me. I know that my love will pale in comparison, but God beautifully makes up the difference with His grace!
“For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you” (Isaiah 54.7 NASB).