There are few words that break my heart the way these do. Much of the time, when I think about Jesus, when I talk to Him, I see Him as my strong protector, my teacher, my friend. He is wise and wonderful, loving and forgiving. To consider the anguish He endured on my behalf is heart-wrenching, intolerable. I don't want to picture Him grieved to the point of sweating blood. I don't want to imagine the sound of His voice asking for mercy, pleading for His daddy. Not Him. Not this.
But consider it I must. Without the anguish of Gethsemane and Golgotha, the joy of the empty tomb is meaningless. And so I turn toward what every ounce of my being wants to run from.
In his book, The Case for the Real Jesus, author Lee Strobel speaks to the extreme brutality of Roman scourging and crucifixion: "Witnesses in the ancient world reported victims being so severely whipped that their intestines and veins were laid bare. Tacitus referred to it as 'the extreme penalty.' Cicero called it 'cruel and disgusting' - so horrendous that he said 'the very word cross should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.'" He continues, "...death by crucifixion was basically a slow and agonizing demise by asphyxiation, because of the difficulty in breathing created by the victim's position on the cross."
Many people were beaten senseless and died by crucifixion in ancient Rome. Not only was it a potent punishment, but it was also a potent deterrent for defying the laws and powers-that-be of the time. What could convince someone to obey more than seeing mangled, blood-soaked bodies gasping for air for hours preceding their death?
Jesus experienced that. All of it. But not just that. Unlike everyone else who has ever been crucified, Jesus suffered something wholly unique and beyond the comprehension of any of us - the full measure of God's wrath for the sinfulness and wickedness of humanity, of which I am a contributor. Not only did Jesus experience the fullness of the wrath of God - His own father - but God left Him there in the midst of it. Jesus was sent to earth to suffer unimaginable pain and die on a cross, separated from His father. No mercy. No sympathy. No rescue.
Why would God do such a thing, allow such a thing, not intervene to stop such a thing?
"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" (John 3:16). God so loved you, He so loved me, that much. Somehow, some way, God cares for us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. Somehow, some way, Jesus cares for us so much that He obediently fulfilled the horror of His destiny.
The very least I can do is not turn away.