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The Cross He Bore

April 15, 2022


Pastor Peder Kling


Sermon Passage: Topical Message

Pastor Kling delivered this meditation at our Good Friday service on April 15, 2022. The service was not recorded, so we do not have any media to share. Enjoy the manuscript below—it should take about 15-20 minutes to read. 

The Cross He Bore

Around this time of the year for the last several years, there’s one particular book that I have gravitated toward around good Friday. That book is a small book by an old minister who died in 2006, ten years after he published this book of meditations. It’s called The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer.


The Cross He Bore—how often do you deeply meditate upon the cross he bore for you? The very meaning of the word “cross”, I think, has changed significantly over the last 2000 years. During Jesus’s day, it was a criminal’s death. It meant shame and mockery. In today’s vernacular, it’s most commonly a generic term we use for trials. “Pick up your cross, come on! Keep ‘er moving!”. Or, “looks like I bore my cross for the day, time to go home”. Or, sometimes we describe the cross as a place we go to, or something we experience, for spiritual awakening. “Go to the cross and be enlightened”. Or, we use the cross as an identity marker—“I wear my cross to remember who I am”, or “…to let others know who I am.” Those things are not necessarily wrong as Jesus himself told us that “if anyone would come after me, let him… take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). However, do you notice that these ways that we refer to the cross actually deflect our attention away from what the Lord suffered? In fact—as we refer to “the cross” as “our cross—our sufferings, our path to spiritual awakening, our identity that we wear around our neck”, it’s making the cross more about ourselves than about Christ! His sufferings often fall to the shadows, and I think we’re much worse off for it. When it really comes down to it, I think Leahy has a point when he says this—


The agony of our Lord… was a once-for-all event. There is nothing in human experience that is remotely like it. It is bordering on blasphemy to speak of someone’s Gethsemane or Calvary.


The cross Jesus bore—truly, there’s nothing like it, and it deserves our full attention. We’d hardly be able to appropriately love and cherish our Lord if we don’t meditate upon the unparalleled suffering that he endured on his cross, for us. In his introduction, Leahy says it best—"If our meditation on the cross be meager, can our love for the Savior be great?”. We don’t want meager meditations on the cross—lest we have a meager love for the Savior. We want rich, compelling meditations that exalt his sufferings, his identity, his glory—not our own.


So, let’s consider three fresh observations about Jesus’s cross that might kindle your love for the Savior this evening—and, you’ll notice that the order of these observations walk us from gethsemane, to Golgotha, to glory. 


The Cup was Given at Gethsemane 

One of the passages we read this evening was Luke 22:39–46—Jesus’s prayer at Gethsemane. I trust you may be well acquainted with the prayer. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will, by yours be done” (verse 42). Do you hear his agony, there? The eternal son of God asked his Father to remove “this cup” from him. This was far too much to bear.


We’d do well to notice that Jesus doesn’t refer to the cross, there. Jesus isn’t fazed by the cross in that prayer, or the mockery or the humiliation. When he’s hanging on the cross, he doesn’t say “the pain is too much to bear!”, or “stop the humiliation!”. That’s not what he’s fazed by, and we’d do well to understand that. Here, even at Gethsemane, he’s fazed by “the cup”. What does he actually say when he’s on the cross? “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!”. The cup of God’s wrath, being forsaken by his Father as he hung on the cross. There’s something far deeper than the visible cross at work, here. It’s a piece to this whole crucifixion that we often miss. No Mel Gibson movie can capture the cup—the cross, yes. But the cup? That’s a misery of infinite proportions that no movie could conceivably capture, much less any human mind could fathom.


The Bible often describes God’s wrath as the cup of his wrath. Psalm 11:6, Isaiah 51:17, and Revelation 14:10 to name a few. We’re talking about God’s cup of infinite wrath against our guilt and sin, here. That’s what Jesus was concerned with at Gethsemane. I love what Calvin says—that at Gethsemane and on the cross, “he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; and because of our sins, the load of which was laid upon him, pressed him down with their enormous weight. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if the dreadful abyss of destruction tormented him grievously with fear and anguish.” (Leahy, 9). That’s what Jesus was facing in Gethsemane. That’s the cup he’s referring to—he’s not referring simply to the suffering and shame of a Roman crucifixion. 


But, I want you to notice one more thing about Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane. He says “Father, remove this cup from me”. Obviously, by “this” cup he may be referring to the cup he’s about to receive at the cross. However, could it be that he’s referring to the cup that the father had already given to him at Gethsemane—as if Jesus was already beginning to feel the effects of the cup in the garden? When did the Father begin to afflict the son with his wrath—with his darkened presence?


We are told that at Gethsemane, Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled” (Matthew 26:37). When Mark tells the story, he even says that he “began to be greatly distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). I love the KJV, here—it says that Jesus began to be “sore amazed, and to be very heavy”. This is when he said to his disciples, “my soul is sorrowful, even to death”. From that moment on until he breathed his last, he’d experience nothing but sorrow. It’s a wonder that moments before, Jesus was washing the feet of his disciples and enjoying a Passover meal with his disciples, and closing it off by singing Psalms with them with prayers of gratitude to his father. Do you remember how he instituted the Lord’s supper, at that meal? “And giving thanks, he took the bread…”. What contrast between that meal in the upper room, and this cup in the garden. “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death”. Watch and pray. Then, he goes a stone's throw away from his disciples pleading three times to his Father that “this cup” would pass from him. No answer. From that moment, until the cup was emptied, his Father’s cup would only become more and more bitter within his soul.


One theologian said that “the cup of horror does not pass from the trembling sufferer; on the contrary, its contents become every moment more bitter. Louder sound the complaints of the agonizing Saviour; more urgent becomes his prayer; but [God] is silent, and heaven seems barred with a. thousand bolts.”  (Leahy, quoting Krummacher, 9). 


So that’s our first observation. We aren’t just thinking about a cross, here. That imagery falls far short of what Jesus suffered. We’re talking about a cup of infinite wrath and displeasure—and that cup, it would seem, was given to the Son at Gethsemane. What becomes of the cup, then, at Golgatha?


The Cup was Emptied at Golgatha.

As you continue to read the story of Christ’s trial and execution, it becomes readily apparent that Christ obediently drank from the cup—freely, and willingly. Even though God’s wrath involved God forsaking Jesus, we nonetheless hear Jesus say that he could “ask the Father” for twelve legion of angels to protect him at any given moment. In John, 16:32, Jesus even says to his disciples that “the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the father is with me.” Isn’t that odd? We often say that when Jesus’s friends forsook Jesus, he was completely destitute, alone, even without his Father! In one way or another—and, it’s beside the point to discern how—the Father seems to have been with his Son through much of this trial. Even in Gethsemane, we’re told that an angel was sent to minister to him. Perhaps it was only at the end, during the hour of darkness, that Jesus felt his Father’s presence totally leave him, and forsake him. It was at that moment when creation itself darkened, that Jesus said the painful words of Psalm 22—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. Either way, this demonstrates that while the Father was with the son in one way or another until the final hour, the Son received the Father’s will at every turn. He actively sought obedience, never seeking from his Father a way out. He prayed three times at Gethsemane, and then he submitted to his Father’s will.


Jesus sought to be fully aware, cognoscente, alert—all so that he might mindfully receive God’s cup of wrath, and empty it on our behalf. When the soldiers offered him a mixture of drinks that would dull his senses and weaken his mind, he refused it. Leahy says “What if Christ had accepted that cup…? Then, with a befuddled brain, he could not have prayed for the soldiers who were waiting to nail him to the cross. Then those seven great sayings on the cross would never have been uttered. Then his obedience would at last have been broken and all would have been lost.” (p 80). He refused the soldier’s cup. He had another cup to drink.


In his obedience, he also kept his mouth silent when he had opportunities to defend himself. As his was his Father’s will to crush him, he remained a silent lamb at the slaughter. What if he had spoken, when given an opportunity to defend himself? Leahy says, “because of his … silence, he has earned the right to speak [as our advocate] eternally” (p 36). He was obedient, actively drinking the cup the Father gave him—a bottomless cup that no other human could have emptied. 


I remember being a child at a lake that locals called “the bottomless lake”, because it was so deep. As a child, you believe those figures of speech—it’s “a bottomless lake”. I can remember the feeling of terror, as a young child, standing at the lakes’ shoreline being terrified that I’d fall in and sink down forever. The very thought of an infinitely deep lake was terrifying! And yet, Christ beheld the bottomless cup of God’s infinite wrath. He did it willingly, obediently. and completely.


Truly, it’s a mystery. How can God’s infinite wrath for all our sins be poured out upon one man, over the course of a few hours? The only way to explain it is in the infinite value of that one man—Jesus Christ, God’s eternally-begotten Son. A person who is infinitely valuable to the Father can satisfy the Father’s infinite wrath. It’s the only answer. Calvin says on this, that this “should excite in us deeper horror at our sins”. The visible misery and darkness that was apparent to everyone at the cross, it would seem, was only a tangible picture of the infinite misery that descended into Jesus’s soul. One theologian says that God’s wrath was “burning itself out in the heart of Jesus”, and “hell came to calvary that day, and the Saviour descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead” (Leahy, quoting Hendriksen, 93). This all brought Jesus to utter those miserable words from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


However, were those words utter misery—or, were they laced with hope and faith? As I said before, Jesus never stopped trusting his Father through this. If you read Psalm 22, it opens with those words—although, the rest of the Psalm declares hope in God’s salvation. Could it be that Jesus identified himself with Psalm 22 because—while he was forsaken by God, he fully trusted in God’s power to save the righteous? By faith his Father’s power and salvation, brothers and sisters, Jesus emptied the cup as he breathed his last—only to be received in glory. “Today you will be with me in paradise”, he said to the thief on the cross.


Jesus received the cup at gethsemane—and through faith and obedience before his Father, he emptied it at Golgotha. The whole journey, no doubt, was inconceivable misery that you nor I will ever have to face.


Another Cup is Filled for Glory

The cup was given at Gethsemane, and it was emptied at Golgotha. Those are our first two observations about Christ’s sufferings.


Now, through all that, was the Son utterly forsaken? Leahy asks “Did [God] ever for a moment cease to be well pleased with [his beloved son]?”. We’d do well to remember that the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus offered up “loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). Don’t you love that? It’s a mystery, folks, that the Father could pour his wrath out upon his beloved son, forsaking him as he bore our sin—and yet, God still heard and loved his Son through it all. Even though the Father seemed far off, the Son still prayed and trusted his Father’s promise to save him from death. Leahy says “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 perfector of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2)”. That’s spot on—not only Jesus’s death, but Jesus’s obedient faith through death brings us salvation.


What did that earn for us? What did Christ acquire for us, in emptying God’s cup of wrath at Golgotha? The cup of kindness. The cup of blessing—of salvation, grace, and mercy. The cup of Christ’s blood, ladies and gentlemen. There is all kinds of Passover symbolism that we could get into, this evening—but, we can save that for another time. I’ll just leave it at this for you, this evening—in one, smooth sweep at the cross, Jesus emptied the Father’s cup of wrath on our behalf, and he filled the cup of blessing with his blood that we partake during the Lord’s supper, and he secured the cup of fulfillment that we will enjoy in glory.


When we look to the cross, we do well to honor the Son’s sacrifice by seeing an emptied cup of wrath, and a cup of blessing and fulfillment filled to the brim. Christ—on the cross, filled the cup of blessing with his blood for our victory, hope, and salvation. We do a disservice to the blood of Christ if we view it only as something to get sad and somber over. It’s something to raise up—righteous blood that speaks a better word than Abel (cf. Hebrews 12:24). It speaks salvation, victory, and joy. The resurrection three days later marked the Father’s stamp of approval—that his cup of wrath truly was emptied, and the cup of blessing truly is overflowing to eternal life. 


Our response, ladies and gentlemen? Raise high the cup of blessing, by faith, and give thanks. It’s all we can offer. “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD”. (Psalm 116:12–13).



So, there's three observations for you this good Friday—taking you from Gethsemane, to Golgotha, to glory. (1) Jesus received the cup of God’s wrath at Gathsemane where he began to be greatly troubled, even sweating drops of blood; (2) Jesus emptied the cup at Golgatha, where he died in darkness; and (3) with his blood, Jesus filled the cup of blessing and consummation for glory. So by faith—especially as we have opportunities to observe the Lord’s Supper—raise the cup of blessing high in your soul with a humble, reverent faith in Jesus’s sufferings, and a joyful hope in Jesus’s glory.

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