And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
The Intimacy between Father and Son
From eternity past to eternity future, the Father’s love for the Son, Jesus Christ, is uniquely intimate. The Son is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he is doing (John 5:20). He is pleased to honour his Son above all else. He commands the disciples to listen to his Son. We must try to comprehend what we can of the intimacy between the Son and the Father. Only then can we begin to grasp the depth of the love of the Father and Son for sinners like us.
The Sorrowful Son
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)
Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled. There is a level of sorrow at Gethsemane that surpasses anything Jesus had felt. He was sorrowful, even to death. Luke’s account states that Jesus prayed till his sweat became tinged with blood. We must labour to comprehend how troubled the soul of the Son of God was.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. (v.39-44)
Jesus was troubled by the cup placed in front of him. He prayed thrice that the Father would remove the cup. The thought of having to drink it troubled him greatly. We must ask, what is the cup Jesus refers to?
This is none other than the cup of the Father’s wrath. The Son of God must drink it all. For God to be just and the justifier of those who believe, His wrath must be spent. It is difficult to begin to fathom the offense of our sin to a holy God. The most precious Being in all of creation, who Himself is uncreated and the Creator of all that exists, has been wronged. He has been dishonoured, ignored, even vilified, by his creation. His anger burns hotter than all the stars in the universe. It must be spent. The Son of God willingly drank it all up.
The Forsaken Son
I wish to quote an excerpt from Mahaney’s book, Living the Cross-Centered Life. It captures the essence of the depth of the love of God for sinners like us in a way I can’t.
Jesus entered the garden ‘to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found Hell rather than Heaven open before him.’ Knowing the hour for His death is fast approaching, Jesus has come here in need as never before of His Father’s comfort and strength. instead, hell – utter separation from God – is thrust in His face.
We hear Him cry out: Father – is there an alternative? Is there any way to avoid this? If there’s a way this cup could pass from Me, would you please provide that to Me?
Silence. We can see it in His face – Jesus receives no answer to this desperate entreaty.
A second time He pleads for an alternative to that horror of abandonment by His Father. If such an alternative existed, the Father would most surely provide it. But the obedient Son’s plea to His loving Father is met with silence. Why?
Listen to this verse again for the very first time: For God so loved the world…that He is silent to His Son’s agonising appeal.
This is what bearing our sin means to Him – utter distress of soul as He confronts total abandonment and absolute wrath from His father on the cross, a distress and an abandonment and a rejection we cannot begin to grasp.
In this, our Saviour’s darkest hour…do you recognise His love for you?
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is,“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46)
In the forsaken cries of the Son, there is infinite mystery. The infinitely intimate and inseparable bond of love between Father and Son, is seemingly broken. The cry ought to chill us to our very bones. For at this hour, the wrath of God towards sinners is poured upon the Son He loves and delights in over everything and everyone else. In this moment, the Father says to us, “I loved you so much that I offered up my only Son as a lamb for you.” In this moment, as the Son cries out for the Father’s comforting presence and only finds His wrath, he looks at us and says, “I drain this cup for you – for you who have lived in defiance of me, who have hated Me, who have opposed Me. I drink it all…for you.” (Mahaney)
What then should we say to all this?
If we gaze upon the cross of Jesus and can’t help but see his love for sinners, we cannot help but say three things. As we see the sorrowful Son facing up to the price he must pay for the sins of the world, it compels us to repentance, to turn away from our old sinful way of life. As we see the Son of God forsaken in our place, we see a King worthy of our allegiance and are drawn to follow him. And as we see the Son of God on the cross looking down at us and saying, “I drink it all for you,” our hearts dissolve in thankfulness and our eyes melt with tears as we cry “Hallelujah, what a Saviour!”
Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!