Jesus died for you. I’m sure this is not new to most, but this simple statement leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Why did He die for me? Why would that help me? Who asked Him to do that? It is impressive if somebody would die for you, but if you don’t perceive a mortal danger to yourself, who needs it?
In previous posts, I have shared the unusual way God planned to save a species (humans) that was universally condemned by His Law. Jesus had to become the one human who actually fulfilled God’s Law. From there He had to suffer the consequences that the Law demanded of the rest of us. It is sort of like this. Let’s say you had a son that committed a crime. Rather than let your son pay the price of this crime, you step in and take the rap. This may seem like a breech of justice, but considering how God views both group guilt and group righteousness (as explained in previous entries), it actually is both just and loving.
So what did Jesus have to do? First become a human, so that the Law applied to Him. Next, keep the Law flawlessly, because He was the only one who could do it. Then, step up and let God’s full punishment for sin land on Him alone. This punishment was simply this: He had to be forsaken by God and physically die.
Let’s do the easy one first. Can God die? Not usually. But because the Son of God became a human being through His virgin birth, as a human being He could die. And He did. Jesus did not swoon on the cross. Professionals carried out His execution. They would have been responsible with their own lives to lose had they failed. They made sure He was dead with a spear to the heart. Jesus died on a cross, but He didn’t die from crucifixion. That takes longer. From the record of the events, we can discern that He died from being beaten to death. The scourging He received must have been fierce. (more about this later)
The physical death was easy for observers to see. I dare say, Jesus wasn’t even that worried about His physical death or the process of it. The part He feared, the part that is hard for us to even conceive of, was being forsaken. In Matthew 27:46, Jesus’ words are recorded, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus knew why. He was cooperative with this plan from the beginning. What He didn’t know was what it would feel like to have God utterly reject you and remove His presence from you. This was so devastating that Jesus despairingly cries out.
Jesus’ forsakenness didn’t last forever, as ours would have. It didn’t even last that long. But the horrible experience of being severed from God gripped Jesus, so that it would not have to grip us.
Hell is often described as fire and maggots and the loss of all hope. Those actually are the good parts. Final, complete forsakenness is worse. No one experiences this until after Judgment Day, but plenty will experience it–unnecessarily. Jesus has already did this for us.