CONNECTIONS — I use that word and hear that word a lot these days.
Our church database has a module named Connections (I’m the database manager in case you are wondering how I know that) and the current sermon series is all about making connections with our neighbors. And above all we want to have a connection with Jesus.
The amazing thing is what Jesus was willing to go through in order to be connected to us. He gave up the perfect connection He had with the Father and the Spirit for the chance that we might want to experience that connection with Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
CONNECTED TO JESUS
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of the need to be connected to the Lord. My parents loved Him and taught us to follow Him. Most of my family and our family friends also loved Him.
You could say I had this connection handed to me with a clear map for how to keep it. So why, as a young girl, would I do what I did? I remember clearly where I was and what I said. I was sitting on one of the ladders on our monkey bars and for whatever reason, I wanted to know what it would feel like if God took His presence from me for just a minute. I wanted to know what it felt like to be without Him. Maybe so, in my childish thinking, I could fully appreciate what it was like to be connected to Him.
That was my prayer: God, leave me for just a minute, but then come right back. And I remember waiting and not feeling anything any differently than before I had prayed. I also remember being disappointed that He wouldn’t do it.
Today, I am so thankful that He wouldn’t do it. My Father knew I had no idea what I was asking for. Jesus understands fully what it means to have the connection with the Father broken.
CUP OF HIS WRATH
I recently read Timothy Keller’s book, Encounters with Jesus (2013). In the eighth chapter he discusses the loss of that connection in a way I hadn’t considered or appreciated before. Why do you think Jesus was in such agony in the garden the night before He died? It’s because “this was a different death than anybody else ever faced before or since.”
This cup that he wanted the Father to take from him was what Isaiah 51 calls the cup of His wrath…the bowl of staggering. It represented judicial wrath.
“…not just physical torture and death; He is about to experience the full divine wrath of the evil and sin of all humanity. The judicial wrath of God is about to come down upon Him rather than upon us.”
“And while this outpouring of wrath struck with full force on the cross the next day—where Jesus cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’— I agree with the commentators who believe that he was beginning to get his first experiential foretaste of it there in the garden. What would that judicial wrath feel like? It is the torture of divine absence.”
(Keller, Encounters with Jesus)
THE TORTURE OF DIVINE ABSENCE
We have no idea what that’s like. Jesus saw it coming. He took Peter, James and John along with Him and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said to them… - Mark 14:33, 34.
Keller described it this way: “He’s reeling, dumbfounded, astonished. As he is on his way to pray, a darkness and horror comes down on him beyond anything he could have anticipated, and the pain of it makes him feel he is disintegrating on the spot.”
No wonder He wanted the cup to pass from Him. But He chose it because He loved us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. - Romans 5:6
I don’t ever want to know what that feels like—divine absence. It would certainly be the death of me.
Thank you, Father, for not giving me what I asked for—and what I deserve. It is breathtaking to consider the agony of the cost that Jesus paid so that I wouldn’t have to experience the loss of connection with You.