Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Dread of the Cross

We're doing a study of the cross at church, and last week as we discussed how Jesus knew all his life where he was headed, knew that he was to be the Servant talked about in Isaiah 53, the one that would justify the world.

He knew, always knew, that he would have to die. And not just die, but die for out sins.

Today is Maundy Thursday (just looked up Maundy, which means "Last Supper," go figure), the day Jesus and his disciples gathered in that upper room for the Passover meal. My church will be having a messianic seder this evening, as a matter of fact. Jesus shed new meaning on the old ritual that night, didn't he? He offered new interpretations of what they'd all done every year forever. He opened their eyes to the fact that he was fulfilling parts of the ceremony that were prophecy.

He washed their feet, showing what a Servant should do. He gave them a new commission, a new commandment.

Then he went out to the garden to pray.

That prayer--wow. It's the most heart-wrenching, gut-twisting prayer in the gospels to me. He knows exactly what's coming. He knows why it's coming. And he dreads it. So much that he asks the Father to take this cup from him, if it's possible. But above all, he wants the will of God.

Though I've dwelt on this prayer a lot, I'd never before questioned why he wanted the cup taken from him. It makes perfect sense, after all. Right? Who would want to go to the cross? Who wouldn't pray to be saved from such an agonizing death, if there were another way to achieve the same ends?

But a new thought occurred to me this weekend. Was it the death Jesus dreaded so? The physical pain, those terrible hours?

Or was it the sin he dreaded?

See, it wasn't just that Jesus knew the "what" of what was coming--it had a purpose. And pain with purpose is easier to face. We can go through birth because we know it's how a baby enters the world. People jump in front of moving cars if it saves the child they push out of the way. So the pain . . . yes, I'm sure it gave Jesus pause.

But what really causes Jesus pain? What makes his heart twist throughout the gospels? What always seems to get to him most?

Sin. Separation from the Father. 

Think about it. All his life, Jesus has been blameless. Sinless. Perfect. And that is a big part of why he's one with God. There's nothing to separate them. He can approach the throne even from earth, because he has done no wrong to keep him away.

But the cross, to Jesus, wouldn't just represent false punishment or torture. He knew well that when he took that punishment, he was the sacrificial lamb. He was taking the sins. 

And oh, the sins. Can you imagine looking, in a few short hours, at every single sin in history? Every...single...sin. The lies and betrayals, the murders and rapes--piled on his shoulders. The infidelities and idolatries, the outright worship of Satan and demons--all on him. He, who had never once sinned, whose heart grieved whenever he saw a sin in us, would be under that weight. All that weight. Guilty, in that moment, of the most heinous crimes. Guilty of blaspheming the Father he loved above all. Guilty of everything. Everything.

That, I think, is what made him sweat blood in the garden. That is what made him say, "Father, must I? Is there no other way?" That, far more than physical agony, is the pain that Jesus feared. After all, it could have been any kind of death, right? And it would have sufficed. The sacrifice didn't require a cross.

But I daresay Jesus still would have prayed that prayer, even if facing a lethal injection. Not because of the physical, not because of the death.

Because of the sin. 

Thank you, Jesus, for facing that unfathomable, crushing mountain of weight upon your shoulders for me. Thank you for taking my sins on yourself that day so long ago. Thank you for loving me so much that you faced it, even knowing it would mean the agony of separation from your Father. You did it so that I might draw near to Him.

Never can I thank you enough for that. But I'll spend the rest of my life trying.


  1. What an amazing and thought-provoking post. Thank you, Roseanna.

  2. You're right. I always think of Jesus' prayer to let the cup pass, as His dread of excrucuating pain from being hung on the cross. But, somewhere in the midst of this, I lost sight of the probable true reason for his agony and dread. Maybe it's because I think of everything in such human terms and I know how scared I'd be to go through all that physical torture. And since I know what sin feels like, though not to that crushing extent He felt, I forget that He went from nothing to everything all at what a thought. Thanks for sharing this and preparing me more for the spirit of His resurrection!

    1. That's how I'd always thought of it too, Christina, until that hit me last week. It was so striking I borrowed a pen and jotted it down in my study guide, LOL.

  3. Excellent post, Roseanna.

    I once attended a Maundy Thursday service in which we gathered around a large table arranged in the shape of a cross. I had a seat at the foot. The lights were low. I saw the Blood, which dripped on me. And I wept.

    How could I not? My sin, your sin...

    Thank you for this perspective--Perfection, sinless, bearing the stench and filth of our lives.

    O, Lord, thank You. We will never know just what it took...

    1. Thank you, Normandie. Aren't those dinners amazing eye-openers?

      And FYI, I'm 1/4 way through Becalmed and loving it. =)

  4. Thank you for such a thought-provoking post. I guess that would be part of the "Thoughtful Thursdays."
    It really is amazing what all Jesus went through. Physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I think sometimes we need to pause and take a deeper look.

  5. You hit the nail right on the head, Jesus dreaded the loss of the Father. He couldn't bear the filth of sin he beheld in that cup. The filth that belonged to us, He took upon his shoulders. Praise God that He didn't leave us to our own devices, but instead sent Himself to save us the only way possible. Thank you for you post.