A Clarifying Statement on Jesus Experiencing God’s Wrath January 4, 2019

Dear Lake Murray:

Sometimes, as communicators, we say something that doesn’t quite come out as intended.

When we looked at Mark’s account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42), we noticed the great distress (verse 33) and sorrow (verse 34) he experienced as he prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (verse 36). Regarding the great sorrow he endured, we noticed its direct tie to “this cup,” a cup which, in the Old Testament, was a reference to God’s wrath over sin (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-18). In a very specific sense, Mark raises into view an intense sorrow that Jesus experienced as he prayerfully prepared to endure the Father’s wrath over our sin.

As this was being communicated, we looked back to Jesus’ statement to his disciples before he started to pray: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34, emphasis mine). We noted how this reference to “death” in the New Testament is often a reference to spiritual death, i.e., separation from God, and we were pointed forward to the moment on the cross when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34, emphasis mine). In that moment of anguish, as Christ experienced the wrath of the Father over our sin, he also—in some very mysterious way—experienced a forsakenness from God. Literally, Jesus cried, “Why have you left/deserted/abandoned me?”

And I mentioned:

Jesus is saying, “God, if it’s possible, remove this from me. I’m going to feel and endure your wrath, and I’m going to experience something I have never experienced in all of eternity.” Where the second person of the Trinity—the Son of God—experiences a separation from the first person of the Trinity… Jesus was looking ahead to what awaited him, and what awaited him was the weight of our sin upon him, the wrath of God coming down on our sin placed upon him… [and] a separation the he would experience that he had never experienced before. All because of our sin. And he would endure that for us.

Looking back, I think my statement may have been a bit confusing, and for that I apologize. I did not intend to communicate that the Son, in his eternal and divine nature, was separated from the Trinity, even for a moment. If that were the case, the Trinity ceases to be the Trinity, and God ceases to be God. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What I meant to communicate were the signs of God’s wrath that Jesus, in his human nature, experienced on our behalf. In his human nature, Jesus experienced the curse of death for us. But I reiterate: the Son, in his eternal and divine nature, has not ever—in all eternity—been separated from the other two persons of the Trinity. God—who does not change—has always been wholly united as three distinct persons in one Godhead.

I hope this helps clarify some questions you might have had as you listened to me preach through this section of Mark 14:32-42. My greater hope is that the preaching of God’s Word has impacted your heart toward Christlikeness: to delight in and love the Lord and one another more and more.

With love for you in Christ,

Pastor Marttell