Thursday, March 20, 2008

Christ's Suffering According to Luke

On my yahoo mail page this morning sprawled a huge "advertisement" for Easter. In the add was a picture of a group of bright, multi-colored chicks, which I frankly find pathetic. I don't particularly think of myself as an animal rights activist, but dyeing a bunch of small chickens for the sake of advertisement sort of makes me sick to my stomach. I don't even know what they were selling, to be quite honest. All I could think about is how so often, even as Christians, we miss the true meaning of Easter. It has never been and never will be, about brightly colored chickens, or eggs or even a bunny. Why do we as Americans have to have everything "marketed" to us so that we will find it appealing?

The cross is not appealing. Isaiah 53:2- "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." Nor does Jesus try to market His gospel or make it palatable for us to accept Him.

It is only to those whom God has revealed that we see the true beauty and glory of the cross. I was re-reading the gospel accounts of Jesus last days this week, and I was particularly struck with Luke's account. For His account is the only one that mentions Jesus sweating blood on the Mount of Olives. Luke was a physician and as such may have had a natural curiosity regarding that physiological process which could produce this kind of response. He also would have been a careful observer. But as I read, I also noted that His gospel focuses primarily on relationships and character, and he went through painstaking measures to seek out eye witness accounts of Jesus' life. Jesus character of obedience might be revealed as closely here as in any other gospel.

Luke 22:44
"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

One of the Austin Stone's devotionals for this week discusses the medical condition, called hematohidrosis, in which one is so overcome by mental anxiety and stress that the blood vessels surrounding the sweat glands burst and produce drops of blood. But that is not what I want to discuss. What I want to discuss is what caused such a response in My King in those last days of His life?

Surely as God, he foreknew the physical agony He was about to endure in His human body. He knew the exhaustion, the beatings, the dehydration, the pain from nails piercing His nerves in His hand and feet on the cross, the physical shock that He would endure from experiencing such raw pain. This would have been the worst possible method of capital punishment at the time. But as Jesus is crying out to God, (vs42)" Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but your will be done," I have a hard time believing that He is envisioning the physical pain He would endure.

For far more than the physical pain, He was divinely aware of the spiritual pain He was about to encounter. His purpose on this earth, that He has known all along, was to bear the sins of the world-past, present and future. Not only would He bear the guilt and shame of all peoples, He would also bear the ultimate outpouring of God's wrath. His Father, in this moment would not save Him but allow Him to experience, a hell of sorts, for all lost sinners. I think this is what caused Him such anguish that his sweat fell like drops of blood. For the pain and suffering of God's wrath is greater than any physical pain we could experience on this earth, for pain on this earth is only physical and temporary. But the pain of a soul's separation from God is internal and eternal.

But because of God's faithfulness, Christ was crucified, RESURRECTED and raised to God's right hand. Jesus (Isaiah 53:7) "was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." He WILLINGLY and OBEDIENTLY suffered that kind of pain, so that we might be reconciled to God and have LIFE! He endured the suffering of God's wrath, so that you and I might not have to.

Friends, if that does not bring you to your KNEES today, that should make you weep (mourn and wail). For no one can comprehend the depth of the cross unless they first realize how much they have to be forgiven. The love of the cross is derived from a heart that understands it's personal responsibility for what sent Jesus to such a painful end.

Isaiah 53:12
"Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with transgressors. For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."