The night before Jesus was nailed to the cross, as he prepared himself for death, He looked to His disciples and… “He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Matthew 26:38)
While praying for strength, just moments before His arrest, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) There is a medical condition called Hematidrosis, where blood vessels can pop due to extreme stress, and the blood will mix with sweat. Jesus was in such stress.
Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. It’s important for us to know that what Jesus did for us was not easy. Yet Jesus was overwhelmed by more than the anticipation of torturous pain and death. What was crushing Jesus was the promise of what waited on the other side of death.
Shortly before His death, while praying to His Father, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) Even as He prayed these words, Father and Son both knew that very soon, they would not be together. They would not be one.
The death penalty for sins includes separation from God – this is the definition of hell. For the first time in eternity, Father and Son would not be spiritually together. Following His mortal death, Jesus descended into hell.
The sins of humanity kidnapped the Son from His adoring Father. Picture a weeping mother handing over her baby to kidnappers. God and His Son endured this heart-wrenching pain voluntarily. The Father shared the sacrifice of the Son. There is no greater pain for a parent than to loose their child to death.
There is no greater love in all of history than the mutual love God and Jesus showed for us. As Jesus said, “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, emphasis added) God held out His Son, and sin ripped Jesus from His Fathers arms, and killed Him.
Once, when I was helping with our church youth group, one of the kids shared a saying he had heard: “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross – love did.” We see the truth of the cross in the mutual love of God and Jesus, for us. That’s what kept Jesus on the cross.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)