During the sermon this past Sunday at North Avenue Church I was reminded that the gospel never gets old. As Tim Keller says: “There are depths in the gospel that are always there to be discovered and applied, not only to our ministry and daily Christian life, but above all, to the worship of the God of the gospel with renewed vision and humility.” So, lets dive in again into the depths of the gospel.
Mark dismantled the idea that the gospel of Luke doesn’t teach about the atonement. We read from Luke 22:7-14 and saw that the word Passover is mentioned over and over:
“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Matthew Henry tells us: “The Passover and the deliverance out of Egypt were typical and prophetic signs of a Christ to come, who should by dying deliver us from sin and death, and the tyranny of Satan…and therefore the Lord’s supper is instituted to be a commemorative sign or memorial of a Christ already come, that has by dying delivered us and it is his death that is in a special manner set before us in that ordinance.”
We then read through Luke 22:36-38:
Jesus said to them,“But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”
Mark then walked us through many passages in Isaiah that have their fulfillment in Jesus. The one that Jesus specifically refers to in Luke 22:37 is from Isaiah 53:12. Isaiah 53:2-6 says:
“For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
So, Jesus had an inauspicious beginning. He would be ‘like a root out of dry ground’ and would have ‘no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.’ Jesus is born in a lowly stable, he grew up in Nazareth which Nathanael says in John 1:46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He was a blue collar worker until the start of his ministry. I remember my Dad was preaching through 1st Samuel and when we first meet David the Bible says that he was handsome in appearance. My Dad just briefly mentioned that the same Hebrew word for handsome in that text is used to describe Jesus in Isaiah 53:2 except the word no is in front of it. “No form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”
As Mark said Jesus was not white. Justin Taylor says Jesus “was a Galilean Jew who spent a lot of time outdoors, so his skin tone would likely be a darker olive color, as is typical of those in Mediterranean countries.” Voddie Baucham says: “And, in this culture in which we live, we have a view of Jesus that is more than slightly askew. We think of Jesus not as a very masculine character. For example, when you think about the pictures that we have of Jesus…the pictures that we do have of Jesus are pictures of a European…with the hair of a shampoo model, hands that have never seen a hard day’s work, and feet that have never walked a mile. That’s the visual image that we have of Jesus…Isaiah said that we wouldn’t have been attracted to His form.”
The Garden of Gethsemane
Next we read through Luke 22:39-44:
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Whenever I go to passages on Gethsemane I am reminded that I am entering upon holy ground. As Charles Spurgeon says: “Jesus himself must give you access to the wonders of Gethsemane: as for me, I can but invite you to enter the garden, bidding you put your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon we stand is holy ground.” So, as we take off our shoes and head into this garden we see Jesus entering with his disciples. He proceeds further with his core group of Peter, James, and John. Then we see him withdrawing from this core group a ‘stone’s throw’ away. Then we encounter a Jesus unlike anything we have seen in his life up to this point. We see Jesus begin to be in agony, and we see him begin to sweat on this cold night. His sweat ‘became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ This is an actual medical condition called hematidrosis, which occurs when someone is under extreme stress.
Up to this point in his life Jesus has always been in control and never been anxious about anything. We see him sleeping during hurricane force winds on the Sea of Galilee. His disciples full of fear wake up Jesus, who proceeds to rebuke the storm and the Sea becomes like glass. We see Jesus encounter a naked demon possessed man who no one could subdue. In this encounter the demon possessed man is full of fear. Mark 5:6-7: says when this man: “saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” Jesus then casts out the ‘Legion’ of demons from this man. We see Jesus raising a man from the dead, rebuking fever, giving sight to the blind, facing mobs of people who want to stone him, and he is always calm and never anxious. So, why all of a sudden in this garden of Gethsemane is Jesus in great agony? Why is he sorrowful and troubled? Why is his “soul…very sorrowful, even to death?” Why does he fall on his face and begin sweating great drops of blood in prayer?
The answer is as Jonathan Edwards says that Jesus began to get a foretaste of the wrath of God. Mark said that Jesus entered this garden seeking communion with his Father, and instead he saw hell itself open up before him. Edwards says: “Jesus had then a near view of that furnace of wrath, into which he was to be cast; he was brought to the mouth of the furnace that he might look into it, and stand and view its raging flames, and see the glowings of its heat, that he might know where he was going and what he was about to suffer.” So, why does Jesus continue going to the cross, knowing that he will be cast into a dreadful furnace of God’s wrath?
Jonathan Edwards powerfully answers this question: “The anguish of Christ’s soul at that time (in Gethsemane) was so strong as to cause that…effect on his body (sweating drops of blood). But his love to his enemies, poor and unworthy as they were, was stronger still. The heart of Christ at that time was full of distress, but it was fuller of love…his sorrows abounded, but his love did much more abound. Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with a deluge of grief, but this was from a deluge of love to sinners in his heart sufficient to overflow the world, and overwhelm the highest mountains of its sins. Those great drops of blood that fell down to the ground were a manifestation of an ocean of love in Christ’s heart.”
Edwards goes on: “There is the furnace into which you are to be cast, if they are to be saved; either they must perish, or you must endure this for them. There you see how terrible the heat of the furnace is; you see what pain and anguish you must endure on the morrow, unless you give up the cause of sinners. What will you do? Is your love such that you will go on? Will you cast yourself into this dreadful furnace of wrath? Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with the thought; his feeble human nature shrunk at the dismal sight. It put him into this dreadful agony which you have heard described; but his love to sinners held out. Christ would not undergo these sufferings needlessly, if sinners could be saved without. If there was not an absolute necessity of his suffering them in order to their salvation, he desired that the cup might pass from him. But if sinners, on whom he had set his love, could not, agreeably to the will of God, be saved without his drinking it, he chose that the will of God should be done. He chose to go on and endure the suffering, awful as it appeared to him…Still he finally resolved that he would bear it, rather than those poor sinners whom he had loved from all eternity should perish.”
This is staggering love. As the famous Issac Watts hymn says this is: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Suffering and the Cross
After this agonizing period in Gethsemane Jesus is arrested. He endures a mockery of a trial. He is scourged by Pilate and then: “the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:16-20)
We could spend a great deal of time on the scourging that Jesus endured, or the crown of thorns, or the strikes to the head or the mockery. However, I just want to focus on the spitting that Jesus endured before we get to the cross. Charles Spurgeon says: “O my brothers, let us hate sin; O my sisters, let us loathe sin, not only because it pierced those blessed hands and feet of our dear Redeemer, but because it dared even to spit in his face! No one can ever know all the shame the Lord of glory suffered when they did spit in his face. These words glide over my tongue all too smoothly; perhaps even I do not feel them as they ought to be felt, though I would do so if I could. But could I feel as I ought to feel in sympathy with the terrible shame of Christ, and then could I interpret those feelings by any language known to mortal man, surely you would bow your heads and blush, and you would feel rising within your spirits a burning indignation against the sin that dared to put the Christ of God to such shame as this. I want to kiss his feet when I think that they did spit in his face.”
Nancy Guthrie adds “To any of us who would be quick to say, “I was not there; I did not spit in his face” Spurgeon forces us to see the subtle ways we, too, spit in the face of God. Spurgeon says: “The mere act of spitting from the mouth seems little compared with this sin of spitting with the very heart and soul and pouring contempt upon Christ by choosing some sin in preference to him. Yet, alas! How many are thus still spitting in Christ’s face.”
I had to pause and go to the Lord in prayer after reading and rereading those last two sentence’s from Spurgeon. For the first 23 years of my life I was guilty of the ‘sin of spitting with my heart and soul and pouring contempt upon Christ by choosing some sin in preference to him.’ Incomprehensibly, God saved me and Jesus endured the cross for sinners like you and me who have spit with our very hearts and souls upon Christ.
The last thing that Mark talked about in his sermon this past Sunday was the sufferings that Jesus endured on the cross. Physically the punishment was terrible and severe. However, many Christian martyr’s have endured physical punishment as severe as this and they have endured it with joy. Why is Jesus overcome with agony on the cross when these Christian martyr’s are filled with joy? The answer is that the Christian martyr’s were as Psalm 23 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God was with them as they walked through the valley of the shadow of death. However, Jesus walked through the valley of the shadow of death all by himself. The real suffering that took place on the cross was wave after wave of the wrath of God falling on the Lord Jesus Christ. As Tim Keller says: “The greatness of Christ’s sacrifice is diminished if you minimize the wrath of God.”
I don’t know if you have ever felt deep within your soul that you deserve an eternity in hell? This is what our sins have merited. As Jonathan Edwards says: “God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honourable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.
So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.”
As we begin to understand this we begin to see the magnitude of the wrath of God that Jesus endured on the cross. Jesus who was infinitely rich, ‘yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.’ (2nd Corinthians 8:9) Jesus was truly poor on the cross when his Father for the first time forsook him. Jesus then cry’s what R.C. Sproul calls the scream of the damned: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Sproul adds: “This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned—for us.”
Tim Challies says: “God the Father looked down on his Son, hanging on the cross, and saw not his beloved Son, but “the most grotesque ugliness imaginable.” He saw the sins of all who would be saved resting on that one Man. He saw all the sins that I have committed. He saw all the sins that you committed. He saw all of these sins resting upon one man. Jesus Christ, bearing our sin was removed totally and completely from the presence of the Father at that moment, for God cannot allow sin to remain unpunished. He turned his back on his Son. He completely, utterly forsook Jesus Christ. That is horror unspeakable.”
As we: “survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,
Our richest gain we count but loss,
And pour contempt on all our pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that we should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm us most,
We sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an off’ring far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”