In this Maundy Thursday message, Pastor Neil explains the suffering of Christ, its meaning and its implications. Here are some excerpts:
…[T]he physical pain and suffering of crucifixion were not what Jesus dreaded the most. (The fact that Jesus dreaded what He would have to go through shows the genuineness of His humanness. Yes, He was fully God. But He was also fully human. His humanness is on full display in the agony and distress of soul He experienced in the Garden.) What Jesus dreaded the most was the spiritual separation from God the Father He would have to endure in order to accomplish our salvation. It was the experience of being forsaken by the Father as He bore our sins in His body on the cross. What He dreaded the most was the righteous judgment and wrath of God that would fall on Him as He bore the full weight of our sins – and the sins of the whole world. That is what caused Jesus to be in such agony and distress as He prayed to the Father in the Garden.
Jesus was in such agony, in fact, that Luke says “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:44). “Sweating blood” is an actual medical condition called hematidrosis (or hematohidrosis). It is extremely rare, but in extremely rare (!) circumstances, when a person is under extraordinary stress, emotional anguish, or physical strain, the capillary blood vessels may rupture, causing sweat and blood to mix. We don’t know if that is exactly what happened with Jesus; Luke says His sweat was like drops of blood, not that He was actually sweating blood. What is obvious, though, is that Jesus was undergoing an extremely severe level of emotional and physical trauma.
Jesus knew what was in store for Him – both the physical pain and suffering of crucifixion (as well as the emotional and physical abuse and humiliation leading up to it) and the spiritual trauma of being cut off from the Father and drinking “the cup” of God’s just and righteous wrath for sin. For our sin. Yours and mine. Jesus could see it all. And so, in His humanness, He wished for a way out. If there was any other way to accomplish His mission to save us from our sins, He asked the Father to spare Him the suffering He knew was ahead.
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden was (as His prayers always were) so honest. So heartfelt. And so humble. He said: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done” (22:42). Both Matthew (26:36-46) and Mark (14:32-42) tell us that Jesus prayed this prayer three times in the Garden that night. Three times He asked the Father to spare Him the horrors of the cross.
All three times, He submitted to the Father’s will. As much as He wanted to avoid the cross, His even greater desire was to do the Father’s will and to complete the mission on which He had come from heaven. As Thabiti Anyabwile says: “Though the Son prays three times for the cup (of God’s judgment) to be removed, each time the Father returns a silent No from heaven. The Father said No to the Son in order to say Yes to us” (Anyabwile, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Luke, 331).
Do you hear that? The Father said No to the Son in order to say Yes to us. That should give you an idea of how much you matter to God and how much God loves you. The Father said No to Jesus in order to say Yes to you and me. And Jesus, knowing there was no other way to accomplish your salvation and mine, no other way to reconcile us to God, no other way to give us peace with God, willingly said Yes to the Father’s will: “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Philip Yancey put it this way: “When Jesus prayed to the One who could save Him from death, He did not get that salvation; He got instead the salvation of the world” (Yancey, “Jesus’ Unanswered Prayer,” www.preachingtoday.com, April 2000).
Pastor Neil has much more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.