I still remember my dad’s belt. It was black, made of leather, wide, with a big shiny buckle. It’s one purpose was to hold up my dad’s work trousers until the fateful day it found another purpose. My dad was a quiet, gentle man who worked in a steelworks. He worked shift patterns so for two weeks out of three he wasn’t really around. He was there however the day my brother and I invited a friend up to our bedroom and turned my bed into a trampoline. It was such great fun but dad didn’t think so. When he heard the noise he came rushing up the stairs, sent my friend packing and revealed the belt with the shiny buckle in his hand. Thankfully, he didn’t use it, the threat was enough, and we were scared.
It’s the only time I’ve faced my dad’s anger, something I share with Jesus who only faced his Father’s anger once. Did I deserve to face my dad’s anger? Three young boys were just having fun and his response seemed a bit harsh, but I guess we’d broken his rules and we had to face the consequences. Did Jesus deserve to face his Father’s anger? Not at all. He broke no rules, ever. He was the perfect Son who loved to please his Father.
When he was about 30 Jesus was baptised in the Jordan river. His earthly cousin John the Baptist performed the baptism and this is what happened immediately afterwards.
“At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (1)
God the Father spoke from heaven to tell us that he loved and was pleased with his Son. This was at the beginning of Jesus ministry and for the next three years he carried out that ministry, heading step by step to Calvary. Not long before he died, about three years after the baptism, God’s voice was heard again.
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus…While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (2)
Once again God the Father expressed his love for his Son and told us how pleased he was with him, but not long afterwards Jesus was crucified and faced the full anger of his Father.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” (3)
What’s gone wrong? Why is God doing this to the Son he loves? Was the suffering that Jesus endured fair? Was it right that an innocent man who his Father claimed to love should suffer the way he did? It wouldn’t be fair or right unless there was a purpose behind it that Jesus himself had agreed to, and this is the amazing truth. We are sinners, alienated from God and worthy of his anger, but out of love for us Jesus took his Father’s anger upon himself.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (4)
My friend, we make the same point time after time. God loves you and sent his Son, Jesus, to die for you. Do you get that? The Son whom God loves died for you. Doesn’t that deserve a response of faith?
- Matthew 3:16,17
- Matthew 17:1-5
- Psalm 22:1,2
- Isaiah 53:5,6