Good morning! How are you doing today? Today we continue our Lenten series “What’s So Special about the Cross?” And I have some amazingly good news for you. Are you ready?
Last Sunday we looked at how Jesus became a holy substitution for the sake of our salvation. Human sin put God in a terrible dilemma. He loves us, but he is also absolutely just and holy. So he had a choice to make. He was under no obligation to save his rebellious people, but he loved us too much to abandon us to his holy judgment.
So he decided to intervene on our behalf. He chose to find a way for sinners like us to be forgiven and have our righteousness restored. Once God made that decision it was all up to him. There was nothing we could do to assist him in anyway.
God himself must provide the substitute who would take the penalty of our sin upon himself. Where would God find such a substitute? There was only one who qualified and that was God’s one and only son, Jesus. So Jesus became a man and went to the cross for us.
Today we look at a second word connected to the cross. It’s the word “satisfaction”. We began our service by singing Natalie Grant’s beautiful hymn, “At the Cross”. In the second verse she writes, “On the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” Natalie Grant
Several editors wanted to put her hymn in their new hymnbooks, but they insisted that the word “wrath” be removed. They said the word “wrath” was too negative. Natalie Grant and Keith Getty who wrote the hymn refused and the hymn was left out of the hymnals.
Whether we like it or not the word “wrath” occurs at least 200 times in the Bible mostly referring to God’s wrath toward sin and sinners. Isaiah pictures God’s wrath as a cup of judgement that sinners must drink that makes them stagger and faint like drunks.
We easily associate God’s wrath with human wrath which is ugly, capricious, unpredictable, dangerous, abusive, violent, wicked, unfair. The word wrath conjures up pictures of child abuse, spouse abuse, bullies. We don’t think of wrath as an aspect of mercy and love!
When people equate God’s wrath with human wrath, they see God as a celestial bully who gets demented pleasure out of torturing sinners and burning them in hell. Others are so put off by that image that they make God out to be this benevolent old grandfather in the sky that accepts anything and never judges anything. Neither image is Biblical.
The Biblical view of God’s wrath is congruent with God’s character. God’s wrath is just, holy, pure, consistent because that’s who God is. God’s wrath flows out of his love. It cannot be separated from his love. How is that possible?
We must remember, God is not like us. God is the omnipotent, omniscient King of the universe. He is the supreme authority, the One by whom everything else is measured.
Because God is love he is emotionally engaged with his creation. He cares deeply about all he has made. Some try to say that God is too mighty, too sophisticated, to have emotions. But throughout the Bible, we see God expressing deep emotion. God feels compassion, joy, love, anger, grief, anguish. He suffers when his children suffer and when they rebel against him. Our emotions are part of being created in his image.
God’s wrath is a function of his love. His anger blazes when his children, his creation are threatened. He describes himself as a jealous God, protective God, a redeeming God whose steadfast love never gives up us no matter how we rebel against him.
Some years ago I ran into some helpful insight into the emotion of anger. Anger itself is neither right nor wrong; it’s what we do with our anger that is good or bad. The Bible says “Be angry but do not sin.” Let me give you a Biblical principle concerning anger. “Anger is God given energy to change something that needs to be changed.”
Unlike sinful human anger, God’s anger is never abusive or selfish, or unjust, or out of control. God’s wrath is the righteous, holy expression of his anger against sin and injustice. It is love in action to change something that needs to be changed.
Let me give you 2 truths about God’s wrath. First, God’s wrath is holy, just and consistent. God doesn’t get mad and lose his temper. He is not capricious or unpredictable. His wrath is the right expression of anger toward evil. God’s wrath is never selfish. The purpose of God’s wrath is to deliver, restore and bring back together what sin has separated.
Most of us live in a world of incredible entitlement. It’s impossible for us to fully understand what it’s like to be a slave or face injustice and abuse without hope of deliverance. People who languish under cruelty and injustice long for a warrior with power, with holy wrath, who will come and destroy their oppressor and set them free.
For them the wrath of God is good news. It means salvation is coming. But for those who benefit from the fruits of injustice, the wrath of a deliverer is terrifying.
The second truth about God’s wrath is that it is fearful. The Bible warns us that God is a consuming fire and that it’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. No one comes into the presence of the living God saying, “Hey dude, what’s shakin’?” A day is coming when we will stand before him and give an account of how we have lived our lives.
On that day, we will have a problem, because we have all sinned and fallen short of what God created us to be. We have all participated in injustice. We all have blood on our hands. We all stand under God’s holy judgment and wrath.
We are all destined, in the words of the OT; to drink the cup of God’s wrath. God’s holy justice demands retribution. What we have done to others will be done to us - unless God intervenes. And that’s what happened on the cross. The cup filled with the dreadful wine of God’s wrath was given to Jesus.
Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus talked about the cup the Father had given him. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” Lk 22:42
A few minutes later the soldiers arrived to arrest him and Peter whipped out his sword and hacked off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, he healed the man’s ear and then he said “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Jn 18:11
What cup? The cup of God’s holy wrath against our sin! As Jesus died, he cried out, “It is finished!” Meaning, he drained the cup of God’s holy wrath against us to the last drop. The wrath of God was satisfied.
But why Jesus was tortured so inhumanely on the cross? Why would the Father do this to his Son? That seems so wicked. It was wicked, but it wasn’t the Father who tortured Jesus nor was it Satan. It was people.
The abuse humans gave to Jesus on that horrible Friday happen every day somewhere in the world. The betrayal, lies, brutality, gossip, murder; these are the tragic fruits of our sinful nature. But God’s holy wrath, his just retribution, didn’t fall on us, it fell on Jesus. He drank the cup of God’s wrath to the last drop and then he said, “It is finished - paid in full” John 19:30
“On the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” It sounds strange to our human ears. God’s wrath is a holy expression of his love that causes him to rise up and act to restore what sin has destroyed. Is this really possible? Are there really right reasons to be angry and wrong reasons to be angry? Is there such a thing as holy wrath?
That’s what happened on the cross. When sin threatened his relationship with his people, God’s holy wrath was kindled to act, to rescue, to redeem the people he loved. On the cross we see the depth of human depravity and we see the Father’s righteous wrath against sin. We see Jesus drinking the cup of that wrath in our place as the only means of our salvation.
When we first meet the Apostle Paul, he was an angry mean abusive man. But Jesus changed his heart and filled him with love. He changed the way Paul expressed his anger.
Instead of using his anger to destroy and abuse people, Paul used his anger against sin to energize him to travel the world sharing the Good News of Jesus.
He wrote what he had learned in Eph 4:26-27, “Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger! Do not give the devil a foothold” Eph 4:26-27
There are injustices in this world that should make us angry. If they don’t make us angry, something is wrong. Holy anger, indignation, wrath is a gift from God - it flows out of God’s love. God’s wrath energizes us to change what needs to be changed. It has nothing to do with getting mad, it means, like Jesus showed us, we get involved.