Friday, April 6, 2007

The Wrath of God & The Cross of Christ

When I survey the wondrous cross,
on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Issac Watts
And Jesus went out, bearing His own cross,
to the place called the place of a skull,
which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
There they crucified Him.
John 19:17-18
On this Good Friday, I want to encourage you to survey the cross of Christ. Take a long, hard look at it. Let it consume your thoughts. I firmly believe that the problems with our churches, marriages, and lives is that we have lost sight of the cross. I realize that sounds like typical "preacher-talk," but I mean it on the deepest level I can. Life is all about that cross. The cross is the only thing that matters! Yet, we never take time to let our minds, our hearts soak in the richness of Christ crucified.
You Deserved the Cross
The cross reveals to us the holy, fierce, just wrath of God. The cross stands to preach to us, "God hates sin. His anger burns against sin." This anger is holy, meaning that it is unlike our anger. God's anger is unique. This anger is fierce, meaning it is the most furious of all angers and the most painful of all punishments. And this anger is just, meaning it is right for God to hate sin. It is right for God to punish sin. Survey the cross today, and see the wrath that you deserved poured out on Christ Jesus.
1) Physical Pain = In 2004, Mel Gibson produced "The Passion of the Christ." There was a lot in the movie that I didn't like, but the one thing Gibson did well was showing the absolute agony that Jesus suffered. The gore, the blood, and the humiliation are all just one part of God's wrath. This is the part we usually think of... the pain and torment that our Lord endured on the cross. But as you look at the cross today, don't forget that you deserved it.
2) Emotional Pain = By this, I do not mean that Jesus needed therapy or that He went through some sort of emotional disorder. I mean that Jesus was a human with feelings and emotions and that those feelings were trampled upon that day. He went through an unfair trial, died as one of the vilest criminals, was mocked and insulted the entire time, and forced to look upon His own mother's deep grief. The emotional pain that our Lord went through was far more than what any of us experience...even in the worst moments of our lives. Survey that cross. See that emotional agony. Remember, you deserved it.
3) Spiritual Pain = This is the part we don't see on movie screens or in Easter plays. Because we can't see it, we often forget about it. Yet, this pain was the worst of them all. On the cross, the sins of His people were laid upon Him. The prophet Isaiah says, "He has bourne our griefs. He was crushed for out iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement of us all." It's been said that only the damned in Hell know what Jesus suffered on that Good Friday. In one sense, that is true. They are experiencing the punishment of their sins (the holy, just, fierce wrath of God). But in another sense, that statement is untrue. Even the souls in Hell's eternal torments are not experiencing what Jesus suffered because they are just paying for their sins. The Lamb of God took away the sins of the world!
The whip ripping His back didn't hurt nearly as bad as your wickedness ripping His spirit. The nails driven into His hand & feet didn't hurt nearly as bad as your sinful nature driving into His spotless nature. The emotional pain of being deserted by most of His disciples wasn't nearly as bad as knowing that you would deny Him on a daily basis.
We get a glimpse of this pain in Matthew 27:46, where Jesus cried out, "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" This misery in His voice isn't due to the physical or emotional pain. It's the spiritual pain! In John 19:30, Christ says, "It is finished." What is? The judgment, the punishment, the suffering for sin is finished! He paid it all!
Do not forget, though, that this wasn't just a man taking the punishment. Had He been merely a man, He would've deserved it. It would've been like you & me dying on the cross -- we had it coming. Jesus wasn't merely a man; He was more than a man.
Jesus was Immanuel -- GOD with us. And as the God-man took that judgment, it became a justifying judgment! As the God-man paid that punishment, it became a propitiating punishment! As the God-man endured that suffering, it became a saving suffering!
Survey this wondrous cross, and see the work of God. Look at the cross and you will see what you deserve. Look at the cross and you will see what you have earned. But as you think on your sin, don't forget those final words of Jesus, "It is finished." The Father's wrath is satisfied. The Divine anger is gone. The Almighty's hatred is no more. Cling to this ugly, despised cross and you will find mercy.
I love the cross of Jesus,
It tells me what I am --
A vile, and guilty creature,
Saved only through the Lamb;
No righteousness nor merit,
No beauty can I plead;
Yet in the cross I glory,
My title there I read.


Kelly Jones said...

I know it is after Easter, but my classmate sent me this article from the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning how Jesus died. It is so easy to see the cross and think "Oh, that was painful" without realizing how horrific that death was and even the Passion of the Christ was limited in that it could only show you the visible wounds. It could not show you that the nails in his wrists/hands would go right through the median nerve, causing "excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both of the arms." Furthermore, everytime He took a breath, he would lift Himself on feet that also had nails going through nerves, pull against the nails in His hands (causing even more bolts of shooting pain)and scrape His bleeding back on the cross, causing even more blood loss than those 39 lashes. It is horrible to even think about since neuropathic pain is some of the worst pain there is. And like you said, we DESERVED that. Praise God that He loved us more than that and that death has no victory anymore

Josh Culbertson said...

Amen, Dr. Kelly!