Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fathers Cup – A Crucifixion Narrative

crown-of-thorns Just before Good Friday this year I saw John Piper link to This MP3 by Rick Gamache. It is a narrative of the biblical events of the Thursday evening and Friday leading up to and including Christ’s crucifixion.

This narrative utterly floored me and brought alive the agony and suffering of Jesus like nothing else since seeing ‘The Passion of the Christ’ film.

It is a very graphic portrayal of the physical suffering that Jesus went through from weeping tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane to His death on the cross. It is not easy to listen to in any way. If you have seen Mel Gibson's film you will certainly have had a similar experience with seeing in all its gory detail this same representation of our Lord’s suffering.

However what I have previously failed to entirely, if at all, grasp was what the full meaning of ‘drinking the Father’s Cup’ meant for Jesus.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44)

So what had caused Jesus such anxiety as to sweat drops of blood? Certainly He new the physical suffering he was to face. However I think the greater stress was caused by peering in to ‘the Cup’. I think I had always assumed the Cup was the horrendous physical suffering of the cross itself. No, the Cup was much more than that.

The narrative brings in to focus the cost to Jesus himself of the subsitutionary atoning side of what He did on Calvary. I had never before thought about it how this narrative describes it.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. Never had I realised what this really meant for Jesus. Of course this is only a tiny speck, a splinter compared to what it really meant.

The Son of God, the Perfect spotless lamb, Holy, Righteous and sinless becomes Sin. For those hours He hung there every sin of those whom are His became part of Jesus. He became the filthy, dirty, abominable evil that sin is. Not only that God the Father looked upon Jesus, His beloved Son and poured out His full, complete and terrible, judgement and Wrath against sin upon Him until it was fully spent. For that time the eternal relationship between Father and Son was broken and the Father turned from Jesus in disgust at the sin upon Him. That was the Cup that Jesus drank for the sake of His Glory and our Salvation.

Read the words of that narrative, weep, repent, rejoice and worship at what Jesus did for us. (The PDF can be found HERE)

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odour. It isn't the stench of open wounds. It’s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn't recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks: “Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory? You are self-sufficient and self-righteous—consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious. You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you. You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer. You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity. You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden. With all your heart you love perverse pleasure. You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart. You kill babies for your convenience. You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You love money and prestige and honour. You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones—you hypocrite! You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can’t have so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and un-forgiveness. You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin. You are never slow to speak. And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment. Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk. You are a false prophet leading people astray. You mock your parents. You have no self-control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. You’re a drunkard and a thief. You’re an anxious coward. You do not trust me. You blaspheme against me. You are an un-submissive wife. And you are a lazy, disengaged husband. You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church. You’re a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons. The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future—omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross. The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Silence. Separation.

Jesus whispers, “I’m thirsty,” and he sags.

The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts in on a reed to Jesus’ lips. And the sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted.

Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God’s wrath dry.