the cross he bore // strengthened to suffer

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Leahy states that self-denial characterized Jesus’ life as the Suffering Servant who is obedient to the very end. He presents that Jesus is continually cognizant of his role in the covenant bond of the Trinity and his role in the covenant of grace (with his people)–and so, voluntarily submitted in covenant obedience. Though the Father is silent to the Son’s cries, he is not indifferent. Leahy unfolds the drama of Jesus’ sufferings with a look at the Father’s hand through the aid of an angel, sent to strengthen Jesus. Aided and strengthened, the suffering intensified.

“While our Lord in Gethsemane received no answer to his repeated knocking on heaven’s door, he knew, from that profound silence, that he must drink the awful chalice that the Father had placed in his hands…Again and again he addressed the Father, a word so often on his lips, as ‘my Father’ and ‘my God’. That is covenant language.”

“Christ’s sufferings were an essential part of [the Father’s] satisfaction of divine justice, and the Father was actively involved even when he deprived the Son of the sense of his presence…Initially the presence of the angel must have brought some modicum of comfort to the Sufferer. It came at a moment when unaided human nature could no longer take the strain…For one fleeting moment immense joy must have leaped within Christ’s soul as the Father’s hand touched him. This was a message from home Heaven was behind him. He was forsaken, but not disowned.”

“It is true that Christ preached the gospel, but as R.W. Dale says so well, ‘The real truth is that while He came to preach the Gospel, His chief object in coming was that there might be a Gospel to preach.'”

As I ponder the Lord’s humility in his suffering, I am awed that the Creator would be aided by the created. Indeed, Jesus was fully man for an angel to minister to him. And how much greater the suffering he was to endure if after the comfort of the angel “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). How often have I asked to be strengthened without consideration of what lies ahead? My strengthening is often wasted in a sense that I am short-sighted in considering its purpose. Jesus was aided for the purpose of suffering. It was not a relief or pause from suffering, but a strengthening to endure to the utmost.

the cross he bore // prayerful submission

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In this second chapter, Leahy opens our eyes to see Jesus’ sufferings revealed in his agonizing cries to the Father, his faith in the silence of the Father, and his obedience to the will of the Father.

“It is bordering on blasphemy to speak of someone’s Gethsemane or Calvary. The ‘hour’ of Christ’s passion is high noon in the day of human history. We are now living in the afternoon.”

“Again and again the Saviour casts himself on the Father’s bosom in earnest supplication, but there is no answer to his anguished cry. Heaven remains silent. He rises and falls, rises and falls, but it seems almost as if God were thrusting him away. For the moment the door of his Father’s house remains fast closed, despite his repeated knocking. No Father meets him with outstretched arms!”

“Thus it was that amid ‘loud cries and tears’ our Lord ‘learned obedience through what he suffered’ (Heb. 5:7, 8). That is, as the incarnate Son, who fully shares our humanity, he learned the cost of obedience. He never needed correction. Now he learned what it meant to be obedient to the death of the cross.”

“Even when Christ for a time lost the sense of his Father’s presence and affection, he continued to know him solely by faith: he is ‘the founder and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2).”

Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will is even more beautiful and glorious against the backdrop of his agony–intense cries to the Father from the Son, drenched in tears and answered with silence. I ask for signs while Jesus asks for the Father’s will. I obscure God’s “No” with my own “Later/Maybe” while Jesus receives it with faith. To know God in the truest sense is to know Him even when I do not sense His presence. The Son suffered the absence of the Father so that I may know Him as my own father.

the cross he bore // man of sorrows

Holy Week is upon us. One cannot look to the redemptive work of Jesus without considering his sufferings. This week I want to share my reflections on Christ’s sufferings as I read through Frederick Leahy’s The Cross He Bore. This book has been on my wish list ever since I tried to buy it a couple years back in hopes of reading it prior to Easter. A popular book that year (or time of year), it was sold out. Well, I finally ordered a copy in February and have been eagerly waiting for Holy Week to read it. So begins my reflections…

“It has been common to contrast the calm and serene death of Socrates, condemned to drink the poisoned cup, with the agony of Christ at the prospect of death. Socrates faced death fearlessly and stoically because he had mastered the art of suppressing his emotions, but in this, as Klaas Schilder reminds us, he lived only a half-life and died only a half-death. Christ, on the contrary, suppressed nothing either in life or in death, and in the cold shadows of Gethsemane he gave full vent to his feelings, full rein to his emotions…”Jesus wept’, but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, ‘Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?‘ (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? ‘THIS CUP’– not some future cup.”

In this first chapter, Leahy leads us to consider the reason Jesus began to be sorrowful unto death. Here, with his soul overwhelmed by sorrow and facing immeasurable temptation, his humanity is magnified. What does it mean for deity to be man? What does it mean for the Son of God to face death? And by “death,” I don’t mean the physical death, but the death that is apart from God the Father–to “taste eternal death” as Leahy puts it, with terrifying and piercing clarity.  Man is capable of facing physical death without fear, but man cannot cup the goblet of God’s wrath and look into its fathoms without terror, let alone a sinless man.

I cannot comprehend the depths of Jesus’ sorrow as he held the cup in the darkness of the garden because I cannot fully comprehend the wrath of a holy God (and by His grace I will not have to), nor the perfection of an unbroken fellowship with Him. But Jesus, as fully man and God, perfectly grasped what was at hand. In Matthew 20, it was “the cup” and in Matthew 26, it is “this cup.” “God was placing it in the Saviour’s hands and it carried the stench of hell” (page 5). God the Father began forsaking the Son–that is the reason Leahy presents for this unprecedented overwhelming sorrow. And with this cup before him in Gethsemane, Jesus began to sip…until the very last drop on the cross.

Jesus speaks of his soul, his very sorrowful (human) soul. In choosing to become man, my Jesus was  flesh and soul to the fullest extent in both the temporal and eternal sense: he lived on earth as a perfect man and he lived in hell as sinful man would in eternity. Every man in his flesh has been separated from God because of sin, but not every man’s soul will be eternally separated because my Saviour faced that eternal separation for me and for them. He gave his soul to save my soul.  His soul was sorrowful unto death, and my soul was loved unto life.