“God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, I love you” – Billy Graham
It surpasses understanding to see God doing such an awesome act of first separating His own beloved Son from Himself by sending Him to the earth and that too to occupy a position lower than the angels also who are ever singing hosannas to Him. And then seeing Him face such unexpected humiliation of rejection by those appointed to worship Him and then to crucify Him as a criminal after inflicting horrible physical torture. And the Omnipotent God not only allowed all this to happen but also turned His face from the same Beloved Son to forsake Him who promises never to forsake His creation. God’s love for His creation is beyond comprehension for us earthly creatures but then there is only one God- He has to be unique!!
What is the concept of the Triune God? – Every religion preaches of one God who is the Creator of this universe and various names are given to this Almighty Creator. The Christian concept of one God with three forms and still being one is difficult to understand by many. God does not have a body or such form and is a Spirit and His first creation, the heaven, is inhabited by the angels who are also spirits. The Christian concept of God has the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and all three are God and despite being separate are one entity.
God the Father is the fire, God the Son is the Light that emanates from the fire and God the Holy Spirit is the heat and the aroma, the energy, that comes from the two. Fire cannot be separated from the light or the heat and vice versa and each is in the other yet separate. It is said by many that God cannot have a Son because it is blasphemous to say God came to sexually link up with a woman to produce a Son. It is the narrowness of our mind that we expect the Creator of the universe to be unfit to have a Son in any other way despite having created everything from nothing. The Holy Spirit is the empowering part of God that is seen in every phase of the process of creation and restoration. Lord Jesus who is the Son of God is the Light from God that illuminates the earth physically and spiritually during creation and will do so again after complete restoration.
The Son is the exact image and idea that God sees Himself to be and that is what he revealed to the world. Once the shape was given to the dust particles by God, He breathed a part of Himself into that to create Adam and then Eve. The part of God did not constitute any one part but all the three- the Fire, the Light and the Heat. After separation from God due to sin man did not lose the three aspects of God but lost the Divine presence from within changing the three into their fallen state. The fire in the head/ mind instead of guiding us to God led us towards evil and darkness by changing our thought process; in like manner the fire in the heart gave evil desires; fire in the intestines converted us to be gluttons and desiring tastes over life giving foods and the fire in the creative organs of sex led us towards sexual lusts and total depravity. The Divine control having gone from within the raging fires in us became uncontrolled to cause sin to be rampant.
How does salvation occur? – Salvation is derived from the word ‘sozo/sodzo’ in Greek language and this word translates as “salvation, to restore, preserve, make well, heal or make whole”. Salvation thus is much more than just getting our relationship restored with God. It rather implies restoration of mankind back to the life that was given in the Garden of Eden- a life of abundance, without sin and resultant disease and death in the permanent presence of God. The coming of the Savior, the Son of God is exactly for all this.
Man is a spirit- to relate to God and this is the part and image of God, he has a soul that gives him feelings and emotions and the body is given as a vessel to reside in. After the fall the body which was formed from the dust goes back to dust and the spirit and soul that was breathed in by God return to be at the disposal of God- to suffer for sins or to be in Divine presence and sing His praises with the angelic beings. The loss of relationship with God caused the spirit of man to become dormant and the soul being placed under the control of the body thus succumbing to evil desires and lusts. For salvation to come man had to undergo the purification process of trial through fire to reenter into the lost relationship with the Fire, Light and Heat of God. And this is what Lord Jesus did after assuming the form of a man.
The relationship of sufferings of Lord Jesus with salvation – For transformation to be effective Son of God had to first undergo the refining process through trial and then Himself get into the Holy presence of God to open the way for us to follow. His death is only one part of the whole process, His resurrection from the dead, ascension, enthronement in glory and finally the coming of the Holy Spirit from the Fire and Light in heaven to dwell in us to restore permanent relationship are all equally important steps. The trial and purification by fire of one who is already perfect and pure involves His imbibing all our sins, sickness, deformities and evil onto Himself and then emerging unscathed on the other end victorious over death and thus transferring His perfection to us. The three- spirit body and soul are all singed by fire in the Lord Jesus’ sufferings to get restored.
Lord Jesus’ sufferings in the Spirit – Before anything came into being God existed and His revealed name to Moses is “I AM”- a God of the present. He is the same God of the present yesterday, today and tomorrow for everything is before Him as in the present tense only. The past and future is as open before Him as today is. Before anything came into being just as the thought of creation was formed the entire future of creation was revealed to God and the process of redemption and restoration also was decided. The spiritual trial of the Son of God commenced even before creation since the process could not be stopped since that would be unjust punishment without commission of any sin. The suffering of the Son of God did not start after His becoming man but even before creation.
The Scripture is clear about the status of angels- they worship God in heaven; form part of the heavenly army which is commanded by the Son of God; are spiritual beings and do not have a body; are mighty and placed little higher than man but are supposed to administer to him. The second aspect of the Lord’s spiritual trial is to be placed below the angels and become part of the fallen creation while retaining His perfection and purity even after putting on the sin of creation. God who is the “wall of fire for protection of His people” (Zechariah 2:5) becomes a child dependent on others for protection and His parents flee to Egypt to ensure His safety from Herod. The humiliating ordeal is the angel “strengthening/ ministering to Him” after His temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11) and after another fiery battle with Satan in the Gethsemane Park (Luke 22:43). The angels announce His coming to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, stand by to assist at the time of His arrest by temple guards and Roman soldiers (Matthew 26”53), roll the stone at the tomb away and announce His resurrection.
The third part of His spiritual trial is unbelief of the Jewish elders, Scribes, Pharisees and others despite the fact that He witnessed about God (Matthew 11:27; performed so many signs in their presence (John 12:37). Even His brothers did not believe Him (John 7:5) and John the Baptist desired a confirmation while His disciples deserted and denied Him while Thomas even wanting to see the nail and other injuries on Him after His resurrection (John 20:25). His suffering peaked at the cross when even the Father turned His face away from His Son leaving Him to fight the darkness alone and triumph.
Suffering of the soul in Lord Jesus’ trials – Soul is the centre of a person’s feelings and emotions and Lord Jesus must suffer this trial to redeem us. All attempts by Satan to ignite the fire of self in the Lord directly or through others are targeted on His soul. In the wilderness Lord Jesus has been fasting and praying for forty days and “He was with the wild animals and angels attended to Him” (Mark 1:13). Whatever authority was given by God to Adam in Genesis 1 and 2 after creation, our Lord had that being born sinless.
Satan’s first attack was related to the body that was deprived of food to bring it into subjugation to the spirit and the whole temptation process was to shift focus of Lord Jesus to self and overrule the laws of nature established by God. This was on the same lines as was already successfully tried with Eve. The first was to turn stones into bread to satisfy the hunger of the body, the second was to jump from the height to be saved by the angels and thus feed the ego and was aimed at the soul about self importance by testing God. The third test of offering the kingdoms of this world was directed at the spirit that was to offer worship to God only and look up to Him for all forms of satiation. The offer was to bow down before Satan and then receive the kingdoms of the world while the Son of God had to come to establish God’s Kingdom. This temptation man faces every day when nobody is watching to receive something by wrong means without and against the will of God.
All along His stay as man on the earth Lord Jesus faced such attacks on His soul tempting Him to receive something without any effort. Another instance out of many others is the reaction of people after being fed by the Lord and they wanted to “make Him king by force” (John 6:15). But the Lord departed alone to avoid this, since He knew that “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). After sending the twelve disciples to take the message of repentance and turning to God, Lord Jesus sent another batch of 70 selected ones with authority and message. On return they exclaimed with great joy “Lord, even the devils are subject un to us in Your name” and the warning to them from the Lord was explicit “I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven”. This was to point to the fall of Satan from heaven for his ego and pride to attempt to exalt himself above God and to warn them of his efforts to lure believers through such egoistic achievements. The rejoicing should not be for achievements here but for receiving a blessing from the Father through Divine recognition of our works (Luke 10:17-20).
Satan tried to interfere in God’s plan through Simon Peter who made an effort to stop the Lord from undergoing the sufferings to be rebuked by Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:22-23). The battle in Gethsemane Park was a desperate attack by the devil to stop the whole process and all the sufferings that we as sinners are supposed to undergo in hell were heaped on His soul. The suffering was so intense and the pressure so extreme that the Lord cried out to the Father to shift this cup of wrath be removed after an admission “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow even to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Satan played another trick afflicting the soul of our Lord through the “Chief Priests, scribes and elders (who) mocked Him saying “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel. Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusts in God. Let God deliver Him now if He wants Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:41-43). This one statement of theirs contained many parts:
- He saved others.
- He is King of Israel.
- He trusts in God – but did they also trust in the same God?
- Challenging God to save Him- similar to the temptation of jumping from the Temple height to be saved by the angels to test God.
- Promise to believe Him if He stops the redemption process.
- Acknowledging His claim to be the Son of God.
The Physical sufferings of Lord Jesus – The focus of the world has always been on the bodily sufferings of the Lord especially on the cross and the day of His journey on to the cross but much else is not considered as suffering. It is well established that the Lord retreated to various secluded places to spend time away from the multitudes thronging to Him to find succor from their sufferings. These trips were with three aims – firstly, to pray; secondly to spend time with the disciples to teach and prepare them for their future assignments and to rest and recuperate. He was God but also human and the body does need food and rest for sustenance. These trips were to feed the spirit, rejuvenate the body and soul and one such trip He “went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet He could not keep His presence secret” (Mark 7:24) and He latter shifted to Sidon. His mother and brothers were aware of this and she came looking for Him out of concern for His bodily health (Matthew 12:46).
The brutality of His physical torture and suffering was foretold more than seven hundred years before His coming “But many were amazed when they saw Him. His face was so disfigured, He seemed hardly human, and from His appearance, one would scarcely know He was a man” (Isaiah 52:14). The extremes of torture inflicted upon Him through floggings, slapping and punching, crown of thorns brutally pushed on the head, spitting and other forms of human depravity, marred His appearance beyond recognition. As if this was not enough the Jewish leaders valued Barabbas, a criminal condemned for various crimes against humanity, more than their own Savior and sough his release from Pontius Pilate while seeking death for Him.
King David was a prophet king and Psalm 22 is described as the Messianic Psalm describing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. Describing the marred and disfigured visage of the Lord David prophesied “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” (Psalm 22:6-7). The Son of God being made “a reproach of men and despised by the people”, all types of indignities, insults and humiliation heaped on Him- yet He was sinless and suffered for us sinners.
Sozo or salvation is return to wholeness through the removal of the animal skin covering of our body by heaping up all of our sins, sufferings and depravities on the Son of God and then covering us with His Divine glory. He had to reap in full all that man has in the past sown and is still doing till His second coming to save us from the effects of that. “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the inequity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers , so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-7).
He did not “open His mouth” so that we could do so before God to ASK for blessings and before the world to proclaim His glory!! Praise Him in person before God and all others- that is His command and desire.