Forerunner, March-April 2004

What was Jesus thinking about during His last hours as a human? While He was suffering under the pains of torture and cruel death, did He dwell on the horrible sins for which He was dying? It seems highly unlikely that our pure and sinless Savior spent much time thinking about our sins and the sins of every person who has ever lived. In fact, from what we know of Him, He gave them as little heed as He could!

Yet, if Jesus was not thinking about humanity's sins during that last day of human life, of what was He thinking? Scripture gives us some clues about His state of mind. The clues derive from what we are told Jesus knew during the time from His prayer with the disciples in Gethsemane to His death on the stake late on that Passover day.

For instance, did Jesus know why His Father had to turn away from Him on His last day of human life? Of course He did! Jesus knew better than any other how limitless is the repulsion between God and sin. We might compare this repulsion to that of the like poles of two colossal electromagnets (though this falls far short of describing the antipathy between God and sin).

Try to imagine the mental and emotional torture of our Savior, to whom sin had been a totally unapproachable thing for all eternity, having every sin ever committed forced onto His perfectly pure head! Try to imagine His desolation as His Father, by necessity, had now to turn away and leave His Son to finish the job on His own!

Yet, every detail of it had been planned, agreed to, and prearranged by Them both. Jesus quoted His own words, which He had inspired His servant David to put into writing a thousand years before this day, when He cried, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1). By repeating it as He hung on the stake, He declared this prophecy to be fulfilled at that very moment; the absolute peak of the agony that He and His Father had planned and foreknew had arrived. Even in His delirium, the utterances of the Logos were solidly based upon His own Word!

In another of his psalms, David had been inspired to prophesy of more details of Jesus' agony at this separation from His Father:

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. (Psalm 69:1-3)

Note the words, "while I wait for my God." Even though their separation was only to last for a little more than three days (the actual period depending on the instant that the Father found it necessary to turn away from His beloved Son), and even though Jesus was only alive and conscious for less than a day of this time, any separation at all was almost unbearable for them both. This was certainly the prime case when, with the Lord, one day—His last human day—felt like a thousand years (II Peter 3:8), and to His Father, the three and a half days of separation felt like three and a half thousand years. It is likely that Jesus' human patience was never tried more than during these hours when He had to wait for His reunification with His Father. How wonderful it would be if we—Jesus' brothers and sisters—would have even a fraction of His desire to be with the Father constantly and to have the Father constantly with us! How profitable it would be if we would cease shutting Him out of most of our thoughts, our words, our deeds . . . our lives!

David's prophetic verses picture the human Jesus as losing His footing and sinking in the filthy, putrid mud of the world's sins. We do not like to think of our perfect Lord in this low condition: weary with crying, throat dried out, eyesight failing Him. It must have taken every ounce of Jesus' strength to continue His human sojourn through to the very end. But He bore this agony knowing that He must wait for the final acts of His human saga to play out before He could be reunited with His loving Father.

The Cup

Notice Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." . . . He went away a second time and prayed, saying, "O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." . . . So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44)

What was this "cup" that Jesus asked might pass from Him if it were His Father's will? Was He, in a moment of weakness, asking His Father to prevent Him from going through the coming hours of physical torture? This is doubtful considering that Jesus, with the fullest knowledge and foresight of all the horrible details, had spent His entire human lifetime, and millennia prior to it, in preparation for this day.

A brief word study on these verses may prove helpful here. The word "cup" is translated from the Greek noun poterion, which can mean the vessel's liquid contents as well as the vessel itself. It is obvious, of course, that Jesus drank the contents, not the vessel. Poterion derives from pino, "to drink."

The word "pass" is translated from the Greek verb parerchomai, which can refer to the passage of time. From this, we can deduce that Jesus may have been asking His Father to make the time it would take to complete this awful "drink" pass as quickly as possible, but even then, only if it fit in with His Father's perfect will.

Most of us have at some time had to drink some horrible-tasting medicine, and although we knew that it was beneficial for us to drink it, the procedure still seemed to take an eternity! By prior agreement with His Father, Jesus was at this time voluntarily draining an enormous cup of spiritual "drink," which was ultimately a healing medicine for mankind but at the same time was to Him a deadly poison.

This spiritual drink was a mixture of two ingredients that could not have been more repulsive to Them both. The first ingredient was the sin of the whole world. The second was Their separation from each other. Jesus' spiritual poison did not just taste horrible. It racked His body and His mind with stinging agony (I Corinthians 15:56; Luke 22:44). Perhaps, in agreeing to drink of this cup, He even accepted a taste of the fiery fate of those who would never repent, as foretold through the prophet Jeremiah that the poison was like fire that had been injected into His bones (Lamentations 1:13).

Poured Out

Despite His foreknowledge of the effect, Jesus knew that it was necessary for this spiritual poison to enter Him so that it could be poured out along with His life-blood:

» Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)

» For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)

» But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:34)

The English word "remission" in Matthew 26:28 indicates that the sins flowed out with Jesus' blood. This word is translated from the Greek word aphesis, which can also mean "release" or "liberty," as in the release of blood previously contained by the body's arteries and veins. This word aphesis stems from the word aphiemi, which means "yield up" or "expire." The word aphiemi, in turn, stems from the words apo and hiemi, which together mean "let go" or "sent forth by separation," as in a violent separation of the blood from the body's pressurized circulatory system (which, in Jesus' case, resulted in His complete separation from His Father in death). When God the Father laid the sins of the world upon the head of His beloved Son, they passed into and contaminated Him. They remained in Him until they were poured out with His shed blood.

So again, it is doubtful that Jesus was having second thoughts about accepting the terrible events of the hours that were ahead. Before His Gethsemane prayer, during, and after it, Jesus knew—He was firmly convinced—that He must imbibe, retain, and endure every drop of the poison that had been prepared for Him by His Father. A week before that Passover night, Jesus said to James and John, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Matthew 20:22). And just minutes after He had concluded His Gethsemane prayer, "Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'" (John 18:11).

Throughout His great trials, Jesus knew that if the agony would have become too much for Him, He just had to say the word, and He would have been instantly rescued from His enemies. He tells the disciples, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53).

Jesus forced this knowledge to the deep recesses of His mind because He knew that, if He chose this alternative of physical deliverance, it would be "game over" for every one of His human brothers and sisters. If He had chosen this option, His Father would have removed our sins from Him—meaning our guilt would remain on our own heads—and our future would be a hopeless one of eternal death. Yet, Jesus knew that He had planned all this with His Father since the world's foundation, had revealed Their plan to His prophets and disciples, and had come into the world for the very purpose of suffering to pay the death penalty for humanity's sins. Jesus immediately tells His disciples, "How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus? . . . But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (verses 54, 56).

Quiet Resignation

The gospel accounts indicate that, after His agony at Gethsemane, Jesus seemed more resigned to the barbarous events of His last hours. Referring back to this article's original question, it is doubtful that He spent much time thinking of individual acts of sin during this time. After all, why should He think about sin numbers 343 and 5,276, but not about numbers 12,345,678 and 876,543? Before coming to earth as a man, had He not been able to actually witness four thousand years of human sin? Had He not the ability to foresee the balance for the remaining three thousand years of man's time on earth?

Rather than thinking on individual acts of sin in His valuable, final human hours, the Scriptures reveal that, with a level of empathy impossible for any but the Son of God, He suffered the results of those seven millennia of sin. He strove to overcome the physical torture and the pain of the spiritual poison which He now carried in Him, with thoughts of His soon-coming reunification with His Father and with the knowledge that, one day, His enemies—hopefully repentant by that time—would see Him seated at the right hand of His Father: "Jesus said, . . . 'I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).

There is no mention of any further complaint from Jesus' lips—just a quiet resignation throughout the unjust and illegal trials and the inhuman torture and execution.

» He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

» And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. (Matthew 27:12-14)

No complaint until, in the very last minutes of His human sojourn, He cried out twice in extreme agony at the pain of separation from His loving Father:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?". . . Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit. (Matthew 27:46, 50)

And so the human thoughts of our wonderful Lord came to an end. Although God the Father would suffer from the separation for another seventy-two hours, Jesus' wait was over. His tortured body and His marvelous mind lay stone dead and inactive for three days and three nights. On the Night to be Much Observed this year, as we rejoice with our physical and spiritual families, we should take a moment to think on the almost unbelievable fact that on this very night in AD 31, our Savior—the very Creator of this universe—was dead!

But Jesus' and our Father did not leave Him in the grave (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:27). He raised up His beloved Son and restored to Him the incomparable mind—the vast knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and holy character—that They had shared for eternity before Jesus' human sojourn. One day very soon, astounding as it may seem, Their thoughts will become our thoughts as They willingly share that same perfect mind with you and me.