During Easter we talk about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And I was thinking about the personal pain Jesus experienced. He sweated blood in the agony of decision, was flayed by whips of our scorn and hatred, and nailed to the cross to bear our sinful separation. Every step was physically excruciating, but was His physical pain the true pain of His crucifixion? Was Christ referring to His physical pain when He said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39)? I don’t believe so!
Excruciating is the word we derive from crucifixion. It literally means, “a pain like the pain of crucifixion.” I might use the word in a dramatic gesture to describe a painful situation but obviously that would be misappropriating the full meaning. Excruciating is a pain on top of pain, beyond all that I have previously known as pain: agonizing, severe, acute, intense, violent, racking, searing, piercing, stabbing, raging; unbearable, unendurable – to be crucified. But was Christ’s aversion to crucifixion the resistance to His physical pain? Again, I don’t believe so.
God has asked me to go through many painful situations, some of them deeply so. I’ve even thought to myself, my high premium on the absence of pain doesn’t seem to be as important to God. Pain seems to be essential to living this life. Growth is painful, separation is painful, change is painful—to actually live life is to experience pain as well as pleasure. So if Christ expects me to embrace my personal pains when living my life, then He probably wasn’t trying to avoid His own when He prayed for the Father to take the “cup” from Him.
A Spiritual Separation
What did Jesus desire to avoid? One thing: spiritual separation from the Father! From eternity past, Christ, the Father and the Spirit were One. Jesus lived His life in the Will of the Father as One. They were ONE! The Godhead was intact and unified in everything done. And with this single act, Jesus would have to experience what He never had before: spiritual separation from the Godhead. Because of our sinful separation, He would have to enter that separation to eradicate it forever. And this was the most painful, excruciating thing He could possibly experience. The piercing of His body was nothing to the severing of His connection to the Trinity.
Recently I heard in a meeting the speaker say that for Christ to become sin for us He had to be separated from the Father. God would have to turn His face from Jesus. Wow, this was a Holy act! Thinking or living in independence of the Father is something I can sometimes do without a second glance, but Christ agonized over it. Again, it was excruciating for Him!
Our Spiritual Separation
I think it is all-too-common to accept our spiritual separation from God as normal. We dwell with a distance between us as if there were none. But for Christ, this was a blood-sweating agony. A piercing beyond imagination. A tearing that was too much to bear.
I don’t believe I will ever look at the cross the same way. I always saw the pain as physically unbearable, but now it will be the searing pain of experiencing something most of us would call rather common—living life independent of God.