1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
To call Jesus our “propitiation” is to say that He is “our wrath bearing sacrifice.” When Jesus prayed at the garden of Gethsemane, He fully realized that when on the cross, He would have to drink completely of the Father’s wrath. Imagine a great dam, holding back a whole lake, and only allowing a trickle of water through it. Imagine the level of the lake rising through an excessive spring run off, and the pressure against that dam being increased exponentially.
That lake represents the righteous anger of God against humanity for all their sins. And the dam represents God’s future promise of the cross, by which He could hold back the punishment rightly due the world. As sins increase, the pressure against the dam grows with increasing force, making the day when it breaks one of inconceivable fury that will wipe out everything in its path. What the Bible teaches us is that the dam “broke” onto the cross, pouring fully onto Jesus.
No one ever experienced such displeasure from God as Jesus did. For as our sin substitute, He took the full punishment for the sins of the whole world. I believe that is why the sky grew dark. This brings us to Christ’s question: “Why have you forsaken me?” The meaning seems to be, “Why have You forsaken Me for so long?” Jesus, suffering the wrath of God, was not suffering for a minute or two – or ten. It kept going, hour after horrifying hour, the dark weight of sin and the deep anger of God pouring over him – wave after terrifying wave.
“My God – why have You forsaken me – for so long? How long must this go on?” At some point in time, Jesus received His answer. The second last words of Jesus on the cross were “It is finished.” The punishment for our sins was complete, justice was now satisfied. God’s anger was now abated – the awfulness of which you and I will never understand. It is finished. And with that He could say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”, and with that He died.
Then the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Matthew says that the earth shook, and the rocks were split. Many tombs in Jerusalem were opened and some of the righteous dead were raised to testify to the identity of the one who had died. A centurion who was left to guard the cross – so overwhelmed by all of this – in awe and terror, cried out, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
My dear reader, this is a picture of just how ugly my sins and your sins are. It is a picture of just how beautiful is the love of a God who would send His Son to die for our sins!
APPLICATION: Are you overwhelmed yet by God’s sacrifice? Are you filled with profound gratefulness? Do you just want to stand with arms lifted before God and say a hundred times, maybe even a thousand times, “Thank You, oh my Saviour, thank You!”
“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. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken and smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. 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.” (Isaiah 53:3-6)
FOR AS OUR SIN SUBSTITUTE, HE TOOK THE FULL PUNISHMENT FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
Dr. John Neufeld
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