Saturday, 11 April 2009

I will strike the Shepherd

Immediately before starting the journey to Gethesemene Jesus quoted a verse from the ancient prophecy of Zechariah; “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Zech 13:7-8 NKJV It was this prophecy that set the tone for Gethsemene. The Speaker is Jehovah; God himself would 'strike the shepherd'.

It is a remarkable prophecy. It speaks of one who is 'a companion' of the God who says he has 'no companions'. It touches on the nature of the Triune God. This is the mystery that John declared when he said; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1-2 NKJV. Father, Word and Spirit had enjoyed an eternal and unbroken fellowship. 'Daily' delighting in each other's company. Even the incarnation, when the Word became flesh, did not interrupt that delightful fellowship.

But as events move towards their climax the shadow of an impenetrable interruption now falls upon Christ. This was the cause of the agony and the blood sweat. The physical tortures of crucifixion would pale almost into insignificance in comparison to this. In fulfilling his mission he would become the Sin-bearer and as the sin-bearing goat of the Day of Atonement he would not only carry it, but carry it away from the presence of God.

Three times in Gethesemene he came to this same place of submission to the unthinkable. Three times he was offered the cup of God's righteous wrath against sin. Three times he faced the prospect of the Father unsheathing the sword of judgement against the sin-bearer. Three times he set his heart to go through. The calm of the trials is a witness to the fact that the matter was settled. He had accepted the cup, all that remained now was that he should drink it.

This is the explanation to that terrible cry of abandonment; 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?” Matt 27:46 NKJV The phrase is from Psalm 19 which describes the agonies of the cross in language far more gripping than a physical description of the physical suffering. This was the Passion, not the nails or the thorns but this moment of dereliction.

Some theories of the Atonement, held even among evangelicals, refuse to believe that Christ received the penalty for our sin. The modern publishing phenomena "The Shack" teaches that Christ was mistaken when he 'felt himself forsaken'. But Christ was neither mistaken nor deluded. He had been baptised into our condition of separation from God and nature itself drew the curtain of darkness over the scene. It was not visible to human eyes and not understandable to human comprehension, but it is an eternal fact for all that. If God has not 'struck the shepherd' then his sword remains unsheathed. The blow must surely fall. It has either fallen upon the Sin-bearer or it must fall upon me.


KingJimmy said...

Amen brother Ron. I did not know that "The Shack" taught that about Christ's being forsaken on the cross. I think such reveals the sentimental attitudes we as evangelicals often have towards God. We do whatever we can to soften our views of the cross, and refuse to see it for the horrible event that it really was. And anytime we soften our view of the cross, we become more crippled as Christians. For in the ways of God, death must always precede resurrection, as Passover must always precede Pentecost.

Every time we make the cross an inch shorter, we decrease in our ability to partake in resurrection living and power that Christ wants us to walk in. We substitute goosebumps for power. But I promise, Christ experienced no goosebumps on the cross. It was "for the joy set before Him" Hebrews reminds us, that Christ despised the shame and embraced the cross. Christ experienced no joy while hanging on that cross. There were no goosebumps. There was only death, and death in its ultimate sense: being forsaken by God-- having no consciousness whatsoever of His presence.

Indeed, the saint who truly knows the Lord and what it is to suffer and die to self understands this very thing. He understands that even when he is doing something very spiritual, as our Lord was doing on the cross, that even though he be a son of God, he may have no awareness of God's presence whatsoever. Indeed, trials are a suffering, not because of the physical or emotional stresses it may put on a man, but they are a suffering because in them one has no consciousness of the divine presence. It's a suffering "of the ultimate sort."

Ron Bailey said...

Yes Jimmy
I engaged with the author of The Shack when it first came out. I challenged him on this and on his views of the trinity but I got no satisfaction and he became irritated with my contributions to the forum!!