It’s hard to imagine, as we look at how adorable Elisabeth Cain is. But there will quite probably come a time when Gordon will WANT to cause her PAIN.
When it becomes necessary for Elisabeth to put up with GRIEF so that she might experience BENEFIT. Pain before the GAIN.
Let me give you a of examples of how it might happen for Elisabeth.
Lachlan was at the Eye Clinic at the Children’s Hospital the other day, and there was a little boy who’d been hit in the eye, the same as Lachlan. He was screaming with fear because he was about to go into the consulting room for an examination. I don’t think he was having anything done that was going to HURT him. But even if there WAS a bit of discomfort, it was only to make his eye BETTER. No-one WANTED to hurt him, just to HEAL him.
But, as his mother held onto him, there was this look of BEWILDERMENT on the boy’s face. How could his Mum and the doctors POSSIBLY want to HURT him? To scare him. Why would they DO such a thing? It was just BEYOND his understanding.
But sometimes children have to go through some short-term pain, so that they can GET BETTER in the LONG-TERM.
Another example. When it comes to swimming, our kids grew up varying between being SCARED of water, and being OVER-confident. TOO eager to jump in the water, even though they couldn’t swim a stroke.
A of years ago, Elyse thought she was grown up enough to go swimming without her bubble on. And she wouldn’t listen to Dad.
So, I let her try. She took off her bubble, and with me not far away, she jumped into the pool. And sank straight to the bottom.
The look on her face was of confusion and fear. She was mystified. “Why am I sinking? And, more importantly, why did Dad LET me sink?”
I pulled her out of the water about a second later, coughing and spluttering. But she’d learned her lesson. She COULDN’T swim. And Dad DID know what he was talking about. She always wore her bubble after that.
Sometimes a father WANTS his child to experience some PAIN so that there might be GAIN. Short-term RISK/ for long-term PROTECTION.
I’m not quite sure what God’s got in store for Elisabeth. But I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a similar situation for HER. A time when Gordon would want to cause her PAIN. So that, ultimately, she would BENEFIT. Sometimes that’s what a FATHER has to do.
And there’s a similar situation in today’s passage. The almost INCONCEIVABLE state of affairs. That God the Father would WANT to cause his only Son PAIN. In this case, the ULTIMATE pain – a humiliating and tortuous .
And yet that’s what we’re presented with. Have a look at the situation. V39. Jesus goes, as usual, to the Mount of Olives. It’s where he goes when he wants to pray. To spend time with his heavenly Father. To wrestle through problems.
And you can see what the problem is. He tells his disciples to pray as well. Then, in v42 he prays TOO.
42 “Father, if you are WILLING, TAKE THIS CUP FROM ME; yet not MY will, but YOURS be done.”
The cup he’s talking about is the cup of SUFFERING he’s about to drink. His PASSION. His betrayal, arrest, and .
And he prays that if his Father’s WILLING/ to take the cup away. That he find SOME OTHER WAY. A plan without the PAIN.
Do you see what Jesus is saying about his Father in that prayer? That it’s God who’s BEHIND the coming events. That it’s his FATHER’S WILL that he be caused this pain.
God is no impotent bystander, watching helplessly as powerful men put their ous plans into action. He’s the One bringing these events to pass. And who has the power to bring a DIFFERENT set of events about if he WANTED to.
It’s almost impossible to understand. Yet, there it is! God’s WILL is for the painful of his Son.
And Jesus prays firstly. That there might BE some other way.
But at the same time, he’s willing, if there IS no other way/ to see the plan through. “Yet not MY will, but YOURS be done.”
And so he PRAYS. Prays for the strength and courage to see the plan through. Prays that HIS will would be moulded into the shape of his Father’s.
And, even though God’s MIND is DECIDED, he does answer Jesus’ prayer. V43.
43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of falling to the ground.
The anguish of a son wrestling with the will of a Father to cause him pain. Yet, a Father who’s concerned enough to provide comfort and strength to help him see it through.
And the obvious question to ask is… WHY?
The same question the boy was asking at eye clinic. “Why would Mum let the doctors DO this to me?” The same question Elyse was asking from the bottom of the pool. “Why would Dad let this HAPPEN to me?”
Why would God allow this to happen to his only Son, Jesus?
Let’s rule out some possibilities.
The first thing to say is that it’s not because Jesus DESERVES IT. This is no act of discipline from a harsh Father. To correct, or punish a wayward child. The testimony of Scripture is that God the Father is overwhelmingly PLEASED with his son.
Flip back to Luke 3 v21 (p726). The best part of three years earlier. As Jesus was BEGINNING his public ministry. He went down to be baptised. And look at what he heard.
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
God the Father expressing his LOVE and PLEASURE in his Son. Just like Gordon felt this morning at ELISABETH’S baptism.
And nothing changed in the REST of Jesus’ ministry. The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was like us in every way, but NEVER SINNED. The only human being EVER who was PERFECT.
Every thought and motivation. Every action and desire. Always perfectly aligned with his Father’s.
So, whatever the reason, it wasn’t because Jesus DESERVED it.
Does that mean that God was being UNJUST? If Jesus never did anything wrong, and he was crucified by his father’s WILL, then does this take the prize as THE GREATEST INJUSTICE IN HISTORY? The biggest miscarriage of justice?
No it doesn’t. God is still being perfectly JUST. Take my word for it at the moment. But give me a bit of rope – I’ll come back to the question in a few moments.
The second thing to say, is that this scheme is no “Plan B”. It’s no last minute second-best proposal to cope with some unexpected outcome. It’s NOT that God’s been caught on the hop. And has to make things up as he goes along. That’s not it at all. It’s been his plan since the beginning of time.
Let’s look for example at Isaiah 53 (p523). A prophecy God gave to his servant Isaiah in about 700 BC. A prophecy about his Son Jesus. Predicting what he’d accomplish. Written seven centuries before Jesus was even born.
Look, for example, at v5.
5 But he (that’s Jesus) was PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, he was crushed for our iniquities; the PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT US PEACE WAS UPON HIM, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
And then down to v9
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his , though he had done no , nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
Despite having done nothing wrong, it was God’s will that Jesus suffer. God’s purpose RIGHT BACK AT THE TIME of ISAIAH. And even BEFORE. It had ALWAYS been the plan.
The Great Reversal
But it’s these verses that start to give us some of the pieces to the puzzle. Why it’s NOT the greatest injustice in history. I said I’d come back to it.
See up there in v6. Jesus might have done nothing wrong. But that’s not the case WITH US. Every human being has done wrong. We’ve turned our own way, followed our own path. Like stupid sheep wandering all over the mountain side, rather than following our Shepherd.
It’s a basic attitude of REBELLION. Of thinking we know better than God. It’s what the Bible calls SIN, And it’s an attitude that demands God’s JUSTICE. His punishment. , and eternal separation from him.
That’s what we all DESERVE.
But it’s not what we all RECEIVE. Because v5 talks about SOMEONE ELSE who receives it INSTEAD. JESUS was pierced for our transgressions. Crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. It’s THE GREAT REVERSAL.
God’s justice demanded for our rebellion. But instead of our / God chose to offer the only acceptable substitute in our place. The only human EVER who didn’t DESERVE to die for his rebellion. Jesus Christ.
And God chose to accept the of his Son/ as just punishment for OUR sin. In our place. Pierced FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS. Crushed FOR OUR INIQUITIES.
Through HIS PUNISHMENT comes OUR FORGIVENESS. God replaces our dirt and guilt/ with the purity of Jesus. And punishes Jesus as if he was as guilty as us. The great reversal.
And that’s the REASON God wanted his Son to die.
But it still doesn’t really answer WHY? Why would God chose US/ over HIS ONLY SON?
Two points. The first part of the answer is because it WAS ONLY TEMPORARY. God knew that the of his Son was only a stepping-stone. Not the END.
There in Isaiah 53 in v10. Have a look at it.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, HE WILL SEE HIS OFFSPRING AND PROLONG HIS DAYS, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, HE WILL SEE THE LIGHT [OF LIFE] AND BE SATISFIED
God was promising that wouldn’t be the end for Jesus. In fact, by his he DEFEATED . Resurrected in glory. To live into eternity. And he sees his offspring – that’s US. The ones his guilt offering has paid for.
And so, God the Father, and ultimately Jesus as well, was prepared to go through the SHORT-TERM pain of and separation, for the ETERNAL GAIN of glory and freedom and life. He gave his Son up, because he knew he would get him back again.
Perhaps Jesus even spent time thinking about these verses in the Garden on that final night. As he wrestled through his fears and temptations. These promises of Victory, and life, and Success. And offspring and Restoration.
But it still doesn’t really answer “Why US?”
For that we turn to one of my favourite Bible verses. Probably one of the most well-known, too. John 3:16. just listen to the incredible declaration in this sentence. It’s printed there in your outline.
16 “For God so LOVED THE WORLD that he GAVE his ONE AND ONLY SON, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not PERISH but have ETERNAL LIFE.
Why did God give his only son for the sake of the world? Because he LOVED us. Yes, you heard right! He LOVED us – even when we wanted nothing to DO with him, he loved us enough. To send his Son to rescue us.
That’s the wonderful news of Easter. It’s why we can call the day of Jesus’ / GOOD Friday.
But, for Jesus that’s still more than 12 hours away. And for us, the best part of a week.
So, for now, I want to turn your attention onto what all this means for us. To ask the question, SO WHAT?
And the first thing to say is/ that if God the Father went to such great lengths to deal with your sin. Then your sin must be pretty serious.
We’re often quick to judge other people. But when it comes to our own sin, we’re surprisingly slow to recognise its seriousness.
I was driving down to Goulburn the other week on the Hume Highway. And some idiot zoomed past me at about 140 km/h. I shook my head, and wondered why there never was a policeman around when you needed one. Until I looked at my OWN speed. And found I was doing 120 km/h. At which point I was GLAD there wasn’t a policeman.
We don’t think our sin is as bad as it really is. But the reality is/ we ALL live our lives in rebellion against God. The things we do may not seem that bad. Certainly not compared with other people. But in God’s eyes, they’re so serious they deserve .
Your sin is serious.
2. But, on the other hand, you’re VALUABLE. God didn’t just leave us in the lurch, unable to do anything about our future. He provided a RESCUE. Because he LOVES US.
As floodwaters swirl around your home, you go to great lengths to rescue the things you VALUE. And God went to the greatest lengths OF ALL to rescue us because we’re VALUABLE to him. He gave his SON.
3. The third thing to say is that you’ve been given a gift – ACCEPT it.
God has offered you a gift. A gift you didn’t earn – that you CAN’T earn. The gift of his Son – the gift of forgiveness. The gift of LIFE.
But, like ANY gift, it has to be ACCEPTED before it’s YOURS.
Our Mobile phone company recently decided to offer us all new phones. FREE phones. Replacing our old ones. A straight swap. A FANCY phone with all the bells and whistles, for our OLD ONES. No strings attached – not that I’ve worked out yet anyway! I haven’t got a bill yet!
But they promised we’d have our gifts within a week. Sure enough, three days later, I got home, and there was a card in the mailbox. “The Courier was here to deliver a parcel. There was no-one to sign for it. You can pick it up after 4:30 pm from the PO in Blacktown. Bring ID.”
The gift had been GIVEN. But I wasn’t there to COLLECT it. Did I HAVE my new phone? Could I make calls on it? No. I needed to COLLECT it. Which is what I did.
And it’s the same with the gift of FORGIVENESS God offers to US. The gift is available to ALL. The card’s been delivered to everyone who’s ever heard the message of Easter. “Your gift is waiting for collection. All you need to do is COLLECT it.”
And Christians are the ONLY ones who’ve bothered to COLLECT it. Who’ve ACCEPTED the gift. Most people HAVEN’T. The card is still sitting in their letterbox.
And you can see how to COLLECT YOUR GIFT in John 3:16.
whoever BELIEVES in him/ shall not perish but have eternal life.
To BELIEVE in Jesus is the key to receiving the gift of eternal life. But to BELIEVE means more than recognise that he EXISTED. (Like saying you BELIEVE in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy).
A better word is TRUST. We need to TRUST Jesus. TRUST that we NEED forgiving. TRUST that his is effective at washing away our sin. TRUST that God has forgiven us.
And then, to SHOW that trust by living our lives with Jesus as our King. The one who we give our allegiance and our lives to.
We accept God’s gift by TELLING him that. “Thank you God for the gift of your Son. I need forgiving. I’ve sinned. Please forgive me. I trust the work of Jesus, and your promise of forgiveness. Help me to live trusting Jesus as my King.”
That’s all a Christian is.
Many of you have already done that. And ARE DOING that. But perhaps today is the day for you to do that for the FIRST time. I’d love to talk to you if that’s something YOU want to do.
And I think there’s at least one more “SO WHAT?” that comes out of these verses.
4. Fourthly, WHEN TOUGH TIMES COME, REMEMBER YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.
Because if we ARE going to follow Jesus as our king. Then, these events show us we shouldn’t be surprised when PAIN and temptations and trials come OUR way. God never promises being a Christian will mean life is a bed of roses.
In fact, in MANY parts of the world, becoming a Christian will very quickly make your life a WHOLE LOT TOUGHER.
But, if that happens, then remember this. If God had a plan for the tough times his Son went through, then he’s probably got a plan for US TOO.
Evil men can do whatever they want to us. Circumstances might seem to be against us. But the events of Easter remind us that God IS in control. He’s our loving Father who was prepared to put his Son through short-term pain, to see the GAIN.
And who might just want to do the same WITH US.
Your sin is serious. But you’re incredibly valuable. Your heavenly Father is in control of your life. Working all things for your good.
Trust him, honour him. Live for him.