Have you ever dreaded something? I mean really dreaded. Not like, I dread going to the grocery store, or I dread bathing the dog. I mean the real, out-and-out “I don’t know if I can put one foot in front of the other” kind of dread.
I can say that I have experienced this on several occasions: saying goodbye to my dad as he lie in a hospice bed, packing up each child to send them off to college, speaking a eulogy for my best friend. In every instance, the thoughts racing through my head were the same. I’m not ready. It’s too soon. How can this be happening? Absolute dread.
This week, as I contemplate the last meal Jesus ate before the cross, I wonder how Jesus felt, looking toward the crucifixion. Jesus, having grown up in a good Jewish family, would have celebrated the Passover feast every year. It was God’s command that His people remember the Passover lamb–the innocent creature that saved the inhabitants of the homes with its blood painted on the doorframes. No fewer than 32 times, Jesus sat through the teaching. I wonder when He realized: This is all about Me. Did His brothers and sisters understand the severity? Did His aunts and uncles grasp the significance of the young man sitting at their table? Year after year, did Jesus dread it?
We get a very telling glimpse in the garden of Gethsemane just prior to His arrest. With all sincerity He asked His Father, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) Assuredly, that night, Jesus dreaded what was to come.
As I look back over my life, it occurs to me that all of my moments of dread involve separation. We do not want to be removed from those we love. At times the very thought is unbearable. I truly believe that’s what Jesus dreaded most that night in the garden. The next day, His Father–His very sustenance–would turn His holy face from the beloved Son. For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus would endure a moment without the glory of His Father warming His soul.
As Scripture tells us, at 3:00 the next day, Jesus hung on the unrelenting cross and in anguish cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) Those watching could barely take it in. What did this mean? If He is who He says He is, what could possibly force God to take His eyes off the perfect Son? The answer is reprehensible. The answer is: my sin. It was at this moment that Jesus willingly took on my sin and the sins of the entire world (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sin causes separation between the sin-bearer and the holy God (Isaiah 59:2).
There are times of separation that we absolutely dread. But somehow, we know that we can get through it when there is a higher meaning, a greater good. For Jesus, there could be no greater good than that for which He came and suffered and died–the cause for which He rose again. By His death and resurrection, He made the way for every reprobate to be reconciled to God.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2