A few years ago, my oldest son was arrested on a felony marijuana charge. I remember his phone call to me, “Mom, I’m in really bad trouble.” He had returned several months prior from a 15 month tour in Iraq and was suffering from PTSD. As much as I had begged and pleaded with him to get help, he was self-medicating with alcohol and pot. Now, it had caught up with him. I listened to his panicked voice and choked back the tears. As much as I wanted to help my son, I knew I couldn’t. He would have to bear the punishment for his crime. Over the next few months, as he waited for his trial, I would receive desperate phone calls begging me to get him a lawyer or someone to help. I couldn’t help him because I knew he had to deal with the consequences on his own. I would lay in bed at night sobbing because I had to let him go through this situation alone. Our relationship was strained. I could have changed everything by hiring an attorney but it wouldn’t have helped my son change his life. By God’s grace, and through the prayers of many people, he was given a stiff probation sentence and has since turned his life around.
This experience with my son gave me a deeper appreciation of how profound Christ’s sacrifice was for us. Jesus was punished for sins he never committed and it severed the intimate relationship with his father, God. In Mark 14:32-42, Christ has gone to the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare for the events which would alter mankind’s relationship with God forever. He is there with his friends, the disciples, and he takes Peter, James and John aside with him to wait while he prays. In Mark 14:33-34 it says, “…he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’, he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’” (NIV) He goes off and it says in verse 35-36 Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (NIV) The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word used by children when talking to their fathers. It is the equivalent of our word “Daddy” which is a warm expression of affection between father and child. Christ prays three times for his “Daddy” to change the inevitable circumstances but he accepts his father’s plan unconditionally.
I had always understood this passage in Mark to be Christ’s anguish and sorrow over his upcoming torture and horrible crucifixion but as I studied it further a more intense meaning was revealed. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus Christ was sinless and if he were truly concerned over his personal physical well-being he would have been guilty of selfishness and sin. The motivation behind Christ’s distress and sorrow was not the looming physical suffering he was going to endure. His consuming grief, the reason he prayed “Daddy”, was because he knew God was going to turn his back on him as he bore all the heinous sins of mankind in his body. Christ was tormented over the impending separation which would occur between him and his father. This is why he cried out, on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which literally means, “God, God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34) (NIV)
There is a scene in the movie “Hope Floats” in which a little girl named Bernice desperately wants to be with her estranged father. She packs a little suitcase and climbs in her father’s car but he puts her out telling her she can’t go with him. She collapses to the street screaming, “Daddy! Take me with you!” as he drives away not looking back at his distraught daughter. She sobs, heart wrenching cries, until her mother comes and carries her into the house. I can only use this as an illustration of the anguish Jesus must have felt as he collapsed to the ground and prayed, “Daddy! I know you’re going to abandon me. Please, don’t abandon me!” Then, on the cross, knowing his father could not look at him because of the darkness of sin overshadowing him he cries out, “Why have you abandoned me?” There is no greater feeling of emptiness than what we experience in abandonment and rejection.
It is beyond our comprehension how truly and deeply God loves humanity. He wanted to restore our fellowship with him so much he shunned the sight of his beloved and sinless son as he hung on a criminal’s cross and accepted the punishment for every inconceivable, disgusting human sin in his own body. We hear news of the horrifying murders of 20 little children and 6 adults by a despicable, evil young man in Newtown, Connecticut and we turn our eyes away because the absolute enormity of the crime is unbearable. Multiply that by the millions and millions of sins humankind has, and will, commit. Every one of those sins was deposited on Christ and resulted in God turning his eyes away from his son. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for your life, is nothing to be taken lightly. It is the most precious gift you will ever receive.
There is no tragic ending to this story however. Three days later, God brought his son back to life and restored their cherished relationship. Christ’s resurrection provided a way for us to restore our severed relationship with God as well. His sacrifice redeemed and cleansed us from our sins and his resurrection guaranteed us a new life. We can be transformed. We just simply have to accept the gift of salvation he purchased for us with his blood. After my son’s trial, I went to visit him and our relationship was renewed. I embraced my son feeling every sorrow for the pain he went through but rejoicing in the exciting changes in his life. He embraced me knowing I loved him and wanted what was best for his life. Reestablishing the intimacy of our relationship was just a miniscule example of the amazing restoration between God and his beloved son.
Another astounding benefit we derive from Christ’s sacrifice is found in Hebrews 4:15 which says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus, our high priest, understands the deepest emotional pain we endure. When he faced the desertion of his father, he could have selfishly said, “I’m not going through with this.” However, he committed himself to dying on the cross for our sins. (Philippians 2:8) When we are confronted with abandonment, rejection, grief, or heartache we can be confident Jesus understands. He was human and he felt the depths of emotional sorrow. We can boldly go to him and tell him about our pain, assured of his comfort, because he empathizes with us. Many people today have experienced broken homes, destroyed relationships and tragic circumstances and they believe no one can comprehend the depths of their despair. Jesus Christ intimately understands our misery and sadness and he can restore and bring peace to shattered hearts.
The sacrifice of Christ, which has bought our salvation, is the most remarkable, astonishing and selfless act of grace and mercy. He gave up everything—the glory of heaven and the precious relationship with his father—to purchase for us something we would never attain on our own. Our redemption was bought at a price we will never fathom. If you are a Christian, your salvation is something you need to thank God for every single day. If you don’t know Christ, please consider the incredible expense he paid to restore your relationship to God. Christ’s selfless grace can transform your life. There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life--everything precious and sacred to him--for his friends. (John 15:13)