Jesus riding in Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on a borrowed ass is a visually irreconcilable scene where he displays an “admirable conjunctive or diverse excellencies,” a praiseworthy joining of almost paradoxically supreme qualities. This scene encapsulates the picture of His entire ministry. He has walked a long way, but now on the outskirts on Jerusalem, He must RIDE into the city of David. Why? Because this is a show! A solemn performance of the Nature of His Kingdom. Until now, he would not accept the title of King, but now He at length openly declares himself to be a King, even the King of Kings. Only Kings and dignitaries ride into Jerusalem with such pomp and circumstance. This is a Victory Parade culminating with the humiliation and death of the King. Jesus is the Picture of the Ideal King triumphantly riding into Jerusalem with transcendent majesty, but on the back of a borrowed donkey like a poor man or a child reminding us that he takes the path of weakness and service. He embodies otherwise irreconcilable qualities: transcendence & immanence; royalty & modesty; Boldness & Humility; Toughness & Tenderness. He is the Sovereign Creator King who came not to be served but to serve. He sits at the highest place in the heavenly places but the Son of Man has come to lay down his life. He exudes Royal Humility, a supremely confident weakness because He has come to bring peace not war, He has come to save not destroy. During His first advent, the Great King will not ride a war horse but a young donkey, a beast appropriate for a child.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we find Jesus like we’ve never seen Him before, “greatly distressed and troubled” and saying, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Then He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Jesus does not shrink back here from His impending physical suffering and death, but rather from the dreadful tribunal of God and the Judge armed with inconceivable vengeance. And as He comes to His Father in the garden for a taste of Heaven instead is forced to face the horror of Hell and it was almost more than He could bear.
“This cup” which Jesus asks the Father to remove was a normal Old Testament metaphor for the wrath of God as a punishment for sin. God declares, “You will drink a cup large and deep, full of ruin and desolation and you will tear your breasts.” and “You will drink the cup of his fury and will stagger.” (Cf. Ezekiel 23:32-33; Isaiah 51:17,22) That’s what Jesus was going to experience in His death, the incomparable, unprecedented suffering of wrath and abandonment. What is this cup? It is Hell! In the cross, Jesus had a rendezvous with Hell.
The Bible, though not clear on the details, talks about Hell as a real condition of complete hopelessness and agony and is the suffering that arises both naturally and legally from sin. As Paul says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death” and that death is the endless torment of Hell. This is precisely the payment which Christ pays. Jesus goes through Hell, the experience of complete separation from God and complete spiritual disintegration. From the time in the Garden through His burial, Jesus’ emotions are like a ship on a stormy sea seeking to stay on course. The cup from which He drinks contains the full vehemence and fierceness of God’s holy wrath poured out against sin. It is intended for sinful humanity to drink. It’s my cup, your cup.
When Jesus saw the wrath of God exhibited to Him, as he stood before the tribunal of God charged with the sins of the whole world, he could not avoid shrinking back in horror from the deep abyss of death. He was struck with horror at the divine curse and was so distressed at the scene that after seeing it the Father dispatched an angel from heaven to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43). Jesus was victorious over sin, death and hell but it was not without a FIGHT. He fought for you, He endured hell for you and in the process Jesus was loosing the pangs of death (Acts 2:24).
Jesus descended into Hell for you and me. This is, what Calvin calls, “a useful and not-to-be-despised mystery of a most important matter.” The church fathers all spoke of it and it is a tenet of the Apostles’ creed which is a summary of our faith, full and complete in all details. “He descended into hell” is not a detail that we can leave out for if we do much of the benefit of Christ’s death will be lost. This is an expression of the spiritual torment that Christ underwent for us. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. Instead He went through the severity of God’s vengeance to appease His wrath and satisfy His just judgment. So he had to wrestle with the very armies of hell, the dread of everlasting death and eternal punishment. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). His wounding, crushing, chastising and striping were more than the pains of His physical flogging, crucifixion and death. It was the FULL punishment due to us for sins entering into the condition of Hell for us.
See other posts on Jesus in the Garden:
This week I am going to write a series of four or so blog entries about the Christian Sabbath attempting to explain my personal view. Most of the teaching that I have heard on the Sabbath has been unsatisfying to me because it is either viewed as a policy with a list of joyless regulations or as an old-fashioned obsolete shadow of the past. My view will become clear by the end of the week but there are several systemic underpinnings which need to be established first.
Many are familiar with the Sabbath of Ten Commandments Fame: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” And while few take exception to the other 9 commandments, some declare ambiguity about this fourth commandment.
But the heart of even the Old Testament Sabbath was that the people might sanctify themselves to God in true and spiritual worship, freeing themselves from worldly obligations so they could be free to attend the Holy Assembly. Interestingly, the Law specifically forbade only two activities on the Sabbath: the kindling of fires and the gathering of sticks and while the 10 commandments do prohibit work, no definition of work is ever given. A more regulated view of the Sabbath among Jews began in the Pharisaic Period (536 BC- 70AD) where the oral tradition and interpretation of Old Testament laws became increasingly regimented. The Jewish Mishnah, a later written form of the Pharisaic oral tradition, was keenly aware of the dangers of legalism: “the rules about the sabbath are as mountains hanging by a hair, for the Scripture there on is scanty while the rules we make are many.”
It is this Pharisaic view of the Sabbath command that is at the heart of the problem for Christians today who reject legalism and therefore throw away the legalistic interpretations along with the good command having the proverbial effect of throwing the baby out with the bath water, an expression we use to suggest an avoidable error when something good is eliminated while attempting to dispose of something bad. Sometimes because of an excessive zeal on the Serious side the heart of the command is discarded while retaining the unnecessary rules (aka throwing away the baby but keeping the bath water).
The Pharisees along with today’s overly zealous Biblicists damage the message, heart and intention of the law by a false zeal that cares more for laws than people. This pushes Christ-loving, Bible-appreciating folks to run from the good command because of all of its weighty attachments. We learn a lot about the Sabbath from Jesus’ interactions with the rule-oriented leaders and we find that Jesus’ heart was not to cancel the sabbath but to protect its design from abuse.
A friend and I were discussing what impresses us? Apart from the athletic achievements of those like Michael Jordan or the financial prowess of investors like Warren Buffet, we’re not impressed by much. Have we lost our awe when it comes to God? We certainly have lost the meaning of the word ‘awesome.’
In the Old Testament there’s a story about a Queen who travels a far distance at great personal expense to meet King Solomon to hear of his wisdom, experience his greatness and to learn of his God. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed. There was no more spirit in her. Her knees became weak and she felt faint when she saw his magnificence.
Sure, she was impressed by his wealth and wisdom, but she was most impressed by the sincerity of his devotion to the Lord in the manner in which he went up to the house of the Lord. Solomon was soooo Great, but he went to the Lord with all Humility and Devotion with generous sacrifices. In all his greatness and splendor, he was humble before the God of Israel. And this greatly impressed her because NEVER HAD SHE SEEN SO MUCH GOODNESS ACCOMPANIED BY SO MUCH GREATNESS. Such humility accompanied by such majesty! And this overwhelmed her to the point where there was no more spirit in her. She was amazed, she had never seen the likes of Solomon.
Yet we can be so unimpressed by the One he worships. Jesus says in Luke 11:31- “One Greater than Solomon is Here.”