In this editorial we will continue our contemplations on the price that was paid for our salvation, what was involved in our Lord ‘bearing our griefs, and carrying our sorrows.’ As the time approached, “when he should be received up,” his impending death in Jerusalem weighed more heavily upon his mind.

Caesarea Philippi

In the remote north, in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus was encouraged by Peter’s confession that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). It was there that he began a concerted effort to prepare his disciples for what would befall him in Jerusalem. He pointed out that he would “suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (v21). Peter, so recently commended for his confession, reacted vehemently, taking him aside, rebuking him and saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Jesus’ response is notable. Peter’s words were meant to console his Lord, but in fact were opposed to the express will of God, for which the Lord had been preparing himself from early days. Turning to face Peter, he said, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence [a cause for stumbling] unto me …” (v22,23).

None to comfort

This incident provides us with another significant dimension of our Lord’s burden. His closest companions, his nearest and dearest, did not have an inkling of what he was about to face or what his mission as the Saviour of the world involved. It tells us that among men there was no one with whom he could share his sorrows, there was no mental companion from whom he could seek comfort and strength for the ordeal before him. He was alone so it seemed, but as he was to point out, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me” (Jn 8:16; 16:32). The Father had instructed him from the beginning and he knew exactly the mission he was to perform; as the Saviour he must maintain spotless righteousness, Sin must be conquered in a victory that involved the death of the cross. In that way his Father’s righteousness would be upheld and “flesh” shown to be rightly related to death. No, among men, there were none with whom he could share the anxieties and pain that this commission entailed: “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psa 69:20).

The precious knowledge of what redemption required could only be shared with the Father, from whom it had been derived (Psa 40:6–8; Isa 53:10). Knowledge of his death, this frightening eventuality, was what governed and shaped the course of his life. It was the end in view; “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).

Transfiguration

Before embarking for Jerusalem he informed the disciples that some of them would “not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt 16:28). Six days later on Hermon’s slopes he was transfigured before Peter, James and John; “they saw his glory” (Lk 9:32), “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matt 17:2). Moses and Elijah were present and “spake of his decease [Gk exodus, departure] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). In this remarkable foretaste of glory, the Father was giving him a vision of the promised reward, so enabling him to go to Jerusalem: “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame …” (Heb 12:2).

“His time was come” In a telling comment we read, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51; Isa 50:7). What does this mean? From a human point of view he recoiled from this journey, but as it was the Father’s will, he must go.

Luke’s gospel provides us with other insights into our Master’s thinking en route to Jerusalem. How aware he was of his mission as Saviour can be seen from his words to James and John. Denied hospitality in a village of the Samaritans, they proposed that fire might be brought down from heaven to consume them, as Elijah did. They were rebuked and informed that the Son of man had come to save men’s lives and not to destroy them (Lk 9:54–56).

“I have a baptism to be baptized with”

Reflecting on men’s increased responsibility to God and to judgment following the light shed by his ministry, he said, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Lk 12:49). So bright was the light there was no excuse for failing to respond. Tragically in the case of many, condemnation and not salvation would be the outcome. The statement, “and what will I, if it be already kindled,” in its context seems to express the desire that his sufferings would quickly come, that that awful phase might soon pass; or in today’s language, “bring it on.”

Elaborating on these feelings he explains, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [pressed, held in, pained] til it be accomplished!” (v50) In this we have a glimpse of his sufferings, the anguish of his soul, as his “hour” drew near.

“The Lord Yahweh will help me”

The more we contemplate our Lord’s sufferings, their growing intensity as opposition mounted; his complete control of his words, the depth of his understanding and ability to answer all questions, the more we marvel at him and wonder how he was able to endure. There are insights in the Word of God that help us to understand how he was able to overcome and to perfect obedience.

There was the promise of the Father’s help in trouble, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him” (Psa 91:15). This he well knew and he availed himself of this help, “The Lord Yahweh will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isa 50:7); or as we are instructed in Psalm 16:8, he was constantly aware of his Father’s presence, He was at his right hand that he should not be moved.

But the greatest factor explaining his dedication to his Father’s will was their mutual great love for each other, the Father for His beloved son, and the Son for the Father. This was the closest relationship that has ever existed and the Son would do nothing to jeopardise it. As he revealed to the Jews, “the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth” (Jn 5:20); and again, “therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (Jn 10:17).

The Lord was in constant contact with his Father. On occasions he was all night in prayer (Lk 6:12). Such was the intimacy, the closeness of this unique relationship. The prayer of the Lord spoken just before entering Gethsemane provides us with a wonderful insight into this relationship. In it our Lord’s focus is not upon his own imminent sufferings but remarkably upon the needs of his disciples, upon our needs. There was the urgent need for him to sanctify himself. Why? “For their sake.” In the drama about to unfold we witness how he “sanctified” himself, became the perfect offering, acceptable to the Father.

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth … And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (Jn 17:17, 19).