“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
~Luke 22:43-44 (NIV).
This is perhaps without a doubt the most poignant moment in the history of all creation—God turning in upon the Godhead; separation of the Son from the Father, with the Holy Spirit, it could be seen, holding the Holy Trinity tremulously together, a cataclysmic tension of eternal proportions.
God separating, even momentarily; that is a tremendous concept—that God would do this for us, to redeem us!
The Price of Separation – to Win Us Back
Thinking about the fact of Jesus’ betrayal, unjust trial, his scourging and crucifixion—the perfect denial of the Father of the Son in the midst of torment; the heavens turning aside and adjusting for us per the sin of humankind.
This is God’s holy retribution taken in and on upon the Godhead—I’m deeply thankful to the point of tears always that God was so committed to the plan of redemption that it is made perfectly incomprehensible. It is only something to be marvelled at.
So serious was God (the Holy Trinity) about redemption it faced separation—the Father’s rejection of the Son, the Son’s forlornness, the Spirit’s dissonance at the conflict and knowledge of its necessity—which was a concept abjectly foreign in the context of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), and certainly nothing Satan could’ve predicted. After all, we ‘own’ a concept that God is One.
That God would do this for us, shows us what we mean to God.
This is a picture of eternal horror—manifest in a moment—as seen from any vantage point over the continuum of time.
This is God so in amid of the perfect fix to the redemption of humankind that the Deity seemingly thought nothing of cutting off the Son—in incarnate form—completely for a period of time, for the very Presence of God to be perfectly scourged as the most lucid testimony of God’s sacrificial love for us.
The act of God to temporarily estrange itself from the Divine identity was a once-in-all-time event. Never again will it occur.
The anguish that Jesus experienced on this momentous-of-all occasions was shared by the Father and the Holy Spirit—God in the highest registration of turmoil for broken humanity; for the sons and daughters of God to return.
The Price of Separation – for Us
I heard it said very recently that if people choose to live without God in this physical life they must not want to live with God in the next. It seems fair to me.
But to consider that hell is a place of unending physical and psychological punishment, where fellowship with God is denied forever, and even where annihilation is posited, who would ever want to not be with God?
This truth leaves us shaken for our unbelieving partners, friends and other family. It is a hard subject, and just because it’s hard doesn’t make it any less true. We always have some things to pray for!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgment: Pastor Arthur Payne, preaching on the Wrath of God—a wonderfully balanced, brave and well-considered sermon delivered on July 18, 2010 at Lakeside Baptist Church, Perth, Western Australia.