By now, you’ve heard about the Malaysia Airlines tragedy that killed all 298 people on board. Quick question, has your heart been heavy with grief since hearing the news? Probably not. You saw the headline, felt some combination of sadness and anger but then life moved on for you. Meanwhile, the family members of the victims have undoubtedly not stopped lamenting their loss. The disparity between our reaction to the news and the family’s reaction has an obvious explanation. The amount of inner anguish a person experiences when someone dies is proportional to the degree of relational connection to that person. The level of sorrow rises exponentially with the closeness of the relational bond.
The lyricist for the song Here I am To Worship was spot on when he wrote “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross”. We will never know exactly what happened in that period between the garden and the grave when Jesus suffered and died.
So how exactly does that mystery relate to our own suffering here?
When a husband and wife are so closely knitted together that they are said to be as one, we intuitively understand what that means. When death breaks that bonded tie, the resulting anguish of the one left behind is all but unbearable. But what if two persons existed that were so thoroughly connected in relationship that they were not simply “as one”, they were truly actually one in essence?
Or what if a son was so intimately united to his father that He was not just a beloved extension of his father, he was actually one with him? To see one person was to see the other. Isn’t that precisely the language Jesus used to describe His relationship with God the Father? In the book of John, Jesus says “I and the Father are One” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
A severing of that kind of relationship would unquestionably impart the most potent form of sorrow ever experienced by one person on planet earth.
It’s with that understanding that we might begin to plumb the depths of the anguish Jesus experienced on that Roman cross when the Father “made Him who knew no sin become sin.” Exactly how the eternal pre-existent Christ processed those 6 hours of suffering is beyond us. Whatever He experienced was of such cosmic proportion that its work holds the capacity to bridge the infinite chasm between man’s rebellious heart and the holy God of the universe.
So why does this need to drive your thoughts today, tomorrow, and the next time you are weeping over the casket of a loved one? Two reasons.
First, we must never forget that Jesus’ payment on the cross cost Him everything. The God of the Bible is worthy to receive every thought, prayer, and deed because He gave up everything to have us as His own. Jesus’ physical pain at Calvary, while unquestionably excruciating, was not the entirety of His suffering. Isaiah rightly prophesied that it was the “anguish of His soul” that brought us peace with God.
Second, it’s only when we understand this important aspect of the cross that it can serve as a warm blanket in times of grief. These truths won’t make the pain go away, but they do serve to direct our hope to the God who willfully experienced the crushing sorrow of severed intimacy. If anything, God has experienced the sorrow of loss more than we ever have. That’s what makes Him so deserving of our worship in times of joy and so worthy of our trust in times of pain.