These are words, the depths of which we cannot begin to fathom. In that moment, the Father turned His back on the Son. He looked away and Jesus felt the distance and the separation. In that moment, "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). All of the sins of the world - past, present, and future - were laid upon Christ. Christ, the exact representation of God, holy in every way, became sin. The Trinity - the Godhead that created the universe and everything in it, was separated. Jesus became sin for us and the Father looked away. This was rejection beyond our imagination. This was loneliness greater than we can possibly understand. Jesus had never tasted evil, but the horrors of Dachau and Rwanda were placed upon Him. He never did anything wrong, but the lies, the deceit, the anger, and the lust of each one of us was laid upon His soul. His suffering was beyond that of any man, not just physically, but spiritually, emotionally, mentally. And, on top of all of that, God the Father turned away. Jesus died alone.
"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
"For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son . . . " John 3:16
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." 1 John 3:16
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, bu that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:31-35
I faced the very real possibility of losing my precious son over this past month. The grief and anguish that I felt was like nothing I've ever experienced. I've never felt such raw emotion, such suffering in my soul, such agony, fear, and sense of loss. He was still with us, but I felt the encroaching claws of death wrapping around his precious body. I sensed a hole growing in my soul that was all consuming, that I feared would never be filled. I saw myself at his grave, I saw my family without him. I am not usually that morose, and I was not through his entire ordeal with cancer. But, we know each other so much better now. He has burrowed his way into my heart in unexplainable ways. To lose him would be agony upon agony. On two occasions during that time last month, I felt the loss of my son and did not experience God's presence or comfort. Both episodes lasted several hours. Those were the most frightening, grief filled moments of my life. Then, we asked people to pray and in response to the prayers of the saints, God began to restore hope and His presence came near. He was there all along, but he allowed me to feel the loss deeply. Even though Caelan was alright (resurrected, so to speak), those days were so horrible that I never want to experience anything like that again. It was indescribable.
What I felt was miniscule compared to what happened between the Father and the Son as Jesus hung on the Cross. We often minimize the pain of this separation because we know that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Still, the pain and suffering of that moment continues to echo through the ages and it draws near to every human that has suffered since. Because of that separation and that pain, God takes our pain upon Himself. We never have to suffer alone. Even when I thought I was alone, I was not. God was hidden from me, but He came near. He never left me alone, even though I could not feel Him. The separation of the Father form the Son because of sin has changed our history and has made it possible for us to come near to God through faith.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21
UPDATE: Check out Michael Spencer's thoughts on loving others the way that Christ loved us. He speaks of the "new command" that Jesus gave His disciples: Love one another and he has loved us. Who is the "one another"? Just other believers, or all people? If we are to love our neighbor, and Jesus tells us that our neighbor is the Samaritan, then are we to not sacrificially love even unbelievers? If God so loved "the world" that He sent His Son, and we are to love others with the love of God, then maybe we should be laying our lives down in love toward even those who do not know Christ. Maybe Easter is about more than us getting our needs for salvation met. Maybe we are to bring Easter to everyone by sacrficially loving them in the same way that Jesus loved us.