First Reading: Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 1-30
Second Reading: Gospel of John, chapter 18, verses 1-12
Focus Text: Gospel of John, chapter 18, verse 11

Put your sword back in its sheath!” Jesus said to Peter. “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?’”

INTRODUCTION: Jesus, Human and Divine

The entire span of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ reveals an extraordinary contrast between His human and divine natures.

He becomes a Man, conceived as a human in a human womb — yet it is a Divinely-worked miracle in a virgin’s womb. He is laid at the outset in an animal feeding trough — yet His birth is announced by angels and a mysterious star leads the Magi from the East to His birthplace. He is baptized with water in identification with sinners needing spiritual cleansing — yet a Divine voice thunders: “This is My beloved Son…”, and the Holy Spirit of God manifests Himself miraculously. He weeps at the death of a friend — then He calls him out from the grave!

Again and again, we find this pattern repeating itself: a mighty contrast between the human and divine natures. It happened again in the Garden of Gethsemane. John has not written about the agonised struggle in the Garden. He leaves that to the other Gospel-writers and picks things up here after that struggle.

But even in this garden we see the human nature at the fore. Jesus is a Man. He, too, humanly speaking, shrinks at the prospect of such a death and the hellish nature of what He was about to endure on the cross and leading up to it. He took on our flesh. It is in the nature of human beings to want to preserve life, and to avoid dreadful things. That is not sinful. And we see Him saying to the Father: “Not My will, but Yours be done” — a lesson for us all.

Incidentally, the spiritual problems of this world began in a Garden, and they also ended in a Garden. What do I mean by that? The first Adam said to God, in effect, MY will be done, not Yours. Whereas the last Adam (Christ) said Your will be done. Whereas the Adam in Eden did not walk in obedience to His Father (even though he was in paradise), the Adam in Gethsemane was wholly in conformity to the will of His Father — in spite of the fact that He was about to undergo all the pangs of hell for His people. (The teaching on Adam and Christ as two Adams, and the contrast between them, as well as the typological nature of Adam in Eden, can be seen in the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 45-49, cf. the Letter to the Romans, chapter 5, verses 12ff.).

Here in the verses of our text (Gospel of John, chapter 18, verses 1-12) we see the same pattern of contrast between the human and divine natures. We find the Lord Jesus being arrested by human hands — He who is very God of very God being taken into custody by a band of hypocrites and apostates. To be arrested in front of one’s friends is a dishonouring and shameful point in any person’s life and brings disgrace. The height of ignominy, and Jesus’ atoning experience is the epitome of ignominy.

Yet, what do we find happening at the same time? We find that in the midst of all this abasement in His human nature, the Divine nature is shining forth as clear as day. We see it in His knowledge (v.4: “Jesus, knowing all that was coming upon Him, stepped forward and asked them, “Whom are you seeking?”). We see it in His power (v.6: “When Jesus said, ‘I am He’, they drew back and fell to the ground”). We see it in His fulfilment of Scripture (verses 8-9: “’I told you that I am He’, Jesus replied. ‘So if you are looking for Me, let these men go. This was to fulfill the word He had spoken: ‘I have not lost one of those You have given Me’.). We see it in His willingness to undergo the trial that was about to come on Him (v.11: “Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?”).

What was He speaking of here? What is this “cup” which God the Father had given to Him? Why did the Lord Jesus speak in this manner to Peter? Why did He not resist arrest? Why did He just go along with it all passively (I use the word deliberately, as you will later see)? Would it not have been a good idea to continue His obviously very beneficial ministry among the people? These are the questions that I want to explore with you now.

Well, firstly, the Lord Jesus did not resist arrest because:


“Put your sword back in its sheath”.

So it had to be. His kingdom is not of this world. As He said: “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now My kingdom is not of this realm” (Gospel of John, chapter 18, verse 36). True kingdom-power relies on spiritual weapons not physical ones. This is the great fact of the New Covenant. Israel fought their earthly enemies with material weapons. We battle with our spiritual enemies with spiritual weapons (Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, verses 4-6).

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verses 52-53). That is spiritual warfare. Incidentally, a legion is between 3000 and 6000 soldiers. Therefore, twelve legions must be equal to between 36,000 and 72,000 angels. And Jesus even says, more than twelve legions”!

Yes, He could have called on all those angels and many times more. But there was a fundamental misunderstanding amongst the Jews: they thought of the Lord Jesus as an earthly king like David, who would come and save them from the Romans and reign from a throne in Jerusalem. Such a longing still persists among the Jews to this day. But it will not happen. His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and it will find its fulfilment in the New Jerusalem — the new heavens and new earth, after the return of Christ.

So the first reason that the Lord Jesus did not resist arrest is because such action would have been entirely contrary to the nature of the spiritual kingdom He is building.

A second reason that the Lord did not resist arrest is because:


The Lord Jesus was continually aware that His life was unfolding in fulfilment of the Scriptures. It colours so much of His reasoning with His enemies. “Have you not read…?”, “The Scripture says…”, and so on. Even the Gospel writers make mention of this regularly: “…that the Scripture should be fulfilled”. Thus, when the Lord Jesus had reprimanded the zealot in the Garden of Gethsemane for getting out his sword and told him that He could easily pray down tens of thousands of angels if He wanted to avoid arrest, He added, “how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 54).

He would not resist arrest because it would run contrary to the necessary fulfilment of the Scriptures and thereby undo His own word!

A third reason that the Lord did not resist arrest is because:


Part of the shining forth of the Lord Jesus’ Divinity here in the Garden is the fact that although He could have resisted arrest with a massive demonstration of divine power, He gave Himself to it entirely voluntarily. “The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father” (Gospel of John, chapter 10, verses 17-18).

No mere human being could prevent the voluntary nature of Christ’s death, as He disclosed to Pontius Pilate:

“Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above’”.

Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 10-11

Remember that Christ had also voluntarily taken up a body. None of us has ever done that. This was His unique act. He could lay down His life and take it up again any time He wanted. Think about it. No creature can do that. Only God. He could cut the cord between His body and soul any time He wanted — and then take up with His body yet again. He had the power to do that. Extraordinary. However, if the Lord Jesus had resisted His arrest (which was the precursor to His substitutionary death) this would have denied the voluntary nature of that death. He was giving Himself to that, and nothing would stop Him.

Fourthly, the Lord did not resist arrest because:


“Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?” The Lord Jesus had been given a ‘cup’ by the Father. What is this cup and what does it mean to have it given to Him by the Father? The word “cup” has a very powerful symbolic connotation in Scripture. There is a stream of sayings throughout the Bible where it refers to the judgement of God. Psalm 11 concludes by saying:

“The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked; His soul hates the lover of violence. On the wicked He will rain down fiery coals and sulfur; a scorching wind will be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face”.

Book of Psalms, 11, verses 5-7

Then the Book of Psalms, 75, verses 7-8, states that “It is God who judges; He brings down one and exalts another. For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours from His cup, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to the dregs”. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 51, verses 17 and 22, we read:

“Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out… Thus says your Lord, the LORD and your God, who pleads the cause of His people: ‘See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it. But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you…”.

Book of Isaiah, chapter 51, verses 17 and 22

When the Lord Jesus spoke of “the cup My Father has given Me?”, He was surely alluding to this ‘cup of God’s fury’. Clearly, it was the Father’s will that He should drink this “cup of His fury” — that is, experience the full measure of God’s fury against Him. It was this same ‘measure’ to which Christ referred when He said to the Scribes and Pharisees, “Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your fathers. You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the sentence of Gehenna?” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, verses 32-33). That measure which they were filling up would be exacted by God.

Now, why did God have “fury” towards Christ? Or, to put it more correctly, why was the Father furious with the Son? These are deep, deep things that we are speaking of right now! Why was the Father furious with the Son? What had the Son done to make His Father furious with Him? Answer: nothing. Nothing whatsoever. As Jesus said, “The ruler of this world [at that time, Satan] is coming, but he has nothing on Me” (Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 30). Jesus was an innocent Man. Even Pilate, representing the secular ruling powers, declared His innocence (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27, verse 24).

So why was the Father furious with the Son? The Father was furious with the Son because “on Him was laid the iniquity of us all”. Do you know that Scripture? “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Book of Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 6). “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Book of Isaiah, chapter 53, verses 4-5). Yes, you know that Scripture well. But it pays to be reminded today —especially today — does it not?

The Lord Jesus says: “Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?” — the cup of His fury, with every last drop drunk by Christ our substitute. It is a rhetorical question. God knew that in the world He would create there would be a fall into sin — a turning away from Him of His first created human beings, and all the subsequent problems of the human race since then. But He had already taken account of that; so that from before the creation of the world there was an arrangement in the Godhead between Father, Son and Holy Spirit that would change everything and ultimately lead to the restoration of all things once the long, dark way of sin and death has been brought to its conclusion.

The Son agreed to take on human flesh (a body had been “prepared” for Him, Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 5), and to do the very thing which the first Adam had been unwilling to do. There was no way that He would resist that. For our salvation from the penalty for disobedience relies on His obedience so that He could be our substitute. His “active” obedience was in keeping the law; His “passive” obedience was in being arrested and treated as a transgressor, a criminal, culminating in the ignominy of the cross. That obedience — active and passive — has been imputed to us who believe. This is why he did not resist arrest and why He did not send them all packing with a simple wave of His finger. His passivity — His handing over of Himself as an offering on the cruel altar of evil men — was a vital part of His obedience which has been imputed to us and which has resulted in us being able to be considered by God as cleansed and made new, as I will elaborate on below.

“Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?” That cup contained the comeuppance for your sin (moral failure) and mine. The just deserts for all our waywardness and moral failure was in that cup: “For He (the Father) made Him (the Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21). In those awful hours of darkness on the cross, God the Father was treating His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as if it was you and me up there, by permitting the whole weight of demonic darkness to descend on that one man on the cross. And all so that we would not have to undergo the experience of what the Book of Revelation calls “the second death”, popularly known as “hell”. Now, how can anyone prefer that they had to undergo that experience themselves, when someone else has already undergone it for them, if only they will believe it and desire to lead a totally different and cleansed life?

Our sin has to be atoned for one way or the other. Either in ourselves in a horrible afterlife; or on the Cross in Jesus Christ. Now, which is it to be with us? I will have much more to say about all this in section seven below.

Again, the Lord Jesus did not resist arrest because:


At the time of His arrest, the Lord Jesus said: “When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, verse 53). It was their hour. It was time for the powers of darkness, in heaven and on earth, to be allowed their head, to be permitted to do their very worst. The divine restraints were off. It was their moment… and the power of darkness — the time for godless mayhem to be let loose (as it will again as the end of this age draws nearer).

Because of the compassionate nature of God, no one — not even the worst of the wicked — will be judged until they have made themselves ripe for judgement. This can take a long time. No one is judged until every last ounce of grace has been refused. The Lord says an interesting thing to Abraham: “You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Book of Genesis, chapter 15, verses 15-16). What does this teach us? It shows that judgement falls when our sin is complete, and not before the cup of our iniquity is filled up. Until that time, the Lord restrains. When that restraint comes off, all hell breaks loose — and then divine judgement falls.

It wasn’t that long after the Flood that Babel took place. After the Flood only a handful of people were left alive. Yet, less than a thousand years later, the hubris and imagined autonomy of humanity is so advanced that the Lord has to intervene (see Book of Genesis, chapter 11, verses 6-8). Iniquity moves fast when the Lord takes off the restraints. Just look at the aftermath of the Lord Jesus’ arrest. He was arrested between midnight and 2am. After various ‘kangaroo-court’ trials and time spent in the hideous company of a Roman garrison, by 9.00am He was on the cross. Evil men work hard and fast when there are no restraints. Like a whirlwind. So the restraints were off. This was their hour and the power of darkness. The Lord Jesus did not resist arrest because it was the time for their cup of iniquity to be filled up.

Another important reason that the Lord Jesus did not resist arrest is because:


The Scriptures speak of the Lord Jesus making “a public spectacle” out of the entire demonic realm in His defeat of the fallen angel: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, verse 15). He was actually making Satan into a laughingstock, an exhibition of a vanquished enemy — much like the way that victorious generals would bring back the captive enemy in chains as a way of demonstrating the comprehensive nature of the victory. In fact, that very image is used about the demonic realm being paraded as a captive enemy at the time of Christ’s victorious ascension: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive…” (Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 8; cf. Book of Psalms, 68, verse 18). The Lord Jesus did not resist arrest because it was time for the powers of darkness to have their moment… and thus be overcome and made to look ridiculous throughout the cosmos.

There is a beautiful inversion in all this. I have mentioned it before, but it can never be mentioned enough as a way of engraving into our minds the fact that the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs at the folly of creatures who exalt themselves (Book of Psalms, 2, verse 4). Here is that beautiful inversion: Satan was originally created a servant of God, but he raised himself up way beyond his station, made himself into ‘God’ and, as a result of that, he fell and brought about the fall of humanity. On the other hand, in providing the way of redemption for the fallen human race, Christ, who is God, lowered Himself way below His station to become a servant and, in doing so, was exalted to glory and brought about salvation for people. Is that not a beautiful lesson concerning the great spiritual paradox?

The Lord Jesus did not resist arrest because — after the vast amount of time that the usurper Satan had falsely made himself ‘king’ of the earth — it was finally approaching the moment for him to be taught a lesson and have his nose rubbed in the dirt. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Book of Proverbs, 16, verse 18).

A seventh and final reason that the Lord Jesus did not resist arrest is because:


Now we come to heart of everything I am sharing in these writings. Christ came to this earth so that He could be treated as the scum of the earth who was betrayed by all and who even one of His closest disciples would deny. His humiliation had to be complete: crucified on a stinking rubbish dump, utterly forsaken — for out of that humiliation would come the pinnacle of redemption (for that is the nature of the spiritual paradox), as I will show below. He was God, yet, in some extraordinary manner, He set aside the fullness of the power of that ‘Godness’ — emptied Himself of it — in order to perform the task which He came here to do. Thus, Christ,

“existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be held onto, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross”.

Letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 6-8

Theologians can argue about the minutiae of those amazing words if they are so inclined (which, of course, they are!). I will just leave them to it. I do not have any time for pedantry. But it is pretty obvious what those words mean. Yet people get so worried about using a ‘religiously incorrect’ word or two, or displeasing their pastors, that they dare not state the obvious. There is much mystery here. Leave it at that! I have no idea how it was even possible for God to become a man, in terms of the physics and metaphysics. That in itself is a puzzle enough. But His becoming a man did not undo His ‘Godness’. Do not ask me how; but it obviously did not. I do not need some inadequate formula to state that. I just accept the mystery for the extraordinary mystery that it is.

It is similar to what was being revealed in a prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, as we saw in yesterday’s message, “Just as many were appalled at Him—His appearance was disfigured beyond that of any man, and His form was marred beyond human likeness” (Book of Isaiah, chapter 52, verse 14). Now, you might say, “how is that possible with God?” I can only answer, “Because Jesus really was human”. Occasionally, an inkling of all the power of His ‘Godness’ would suddenly be revealed, stunning or offending everyone around Him when it happened (For example, Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8, verses 26-27, where He quieted the wind and the waves; or another example in the Gospel of John, chapter 18, verse 6, where, when He said, “I am He”, to those who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is said that “they drew back and fell to the ground”. That is Divine power!). Nevertheless, He set aside the total fullness of the power of His ‘Godness’ when He walked the earth as a man so that, ultimately, He could be humiliated and increasingly assailed by the forces of darkness as His crucifixion loomed — all for an extraordinary purpose, as we will see below. (And do not forget what I said above: There is a remarkable contrast in play here. For Christ set aside the fullness of the power of His ‘Godness’ to make Himself into a servant. Yet, Satan, who was created as a servant (Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 1, verse 14), made himself out to be God, attempting to usurp God’s power. There is a strange and wonderful beauty in that contrast which must surely be deliberate on God’s part).

When Christ said in the Garden of Gethsemane to the authorities who came to arrest Him (and ipso facto also to the demonic discarnate entities who lay behind their dastardly actions), “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, verse 53), those mass forces of darkness were already beginning to assail Him in every possible way. Also, in the Garden of Gethsemane, a short time before saying those words to those arresting Him, it is noted in the Gospel of Luke that, “having been in agony, He [Christ] prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, verse 44). That was evidence of those massed forces of darkness already assailing Him before He had even reached His trial or the horrors of the cross. You can see clearly here how the fullness of the power of His ‘Godness’ had been set aside in order for Him to have been able to be “in agony”. Truly, as the text says, He had “emptied Himself”.

Those evil powers, both human and discarnate, concentrated their venom on that one innocent man, who even the Roman state had declared to be innocent of the charges (Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, verses 13-15) — a most important declaration. On Him, all the darkness of this fallen world in an evil age — human and discarnate — would amalgamate and congeal into an inconceivable mass of evil and force of destruction focused solely on that one innocent Man. No mere human can understand the full extent of that assailment and no mere man could withstand it; that is why only He could accomplish this task (the uniqueness of which can be seen in account of the seven-sealed scroll opened by Christ in the first five verses of chapter 5 of the Book of Revelation).

So, for a time, Christ (from a human standpoint) was utterly crushed by forces of darkness, the might of which cannot even be conceived by a mere human mind. Readers need to understand that the sheer malevolence, ferocity and ruthless barbarity of Satan and his demonic realm has no parallel even in brute human terms. No matter how many extreme horror or ‘snuff’ movies you were to watch, you could not even begin to grasp the horrific nature of what the Christ went through towards the end of His life at the tender age of thirty-three years when the massed cosmic forces of darkness descended on Him.

What Satan can do to a soul in extremis is beyond human imaginings. If you want an image of one tiny part of the sort of suffering which the demonic realm can inflict, when the fifth trumpet is said to sound in chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation, the resulting demonic infestation was so horrific in its spiritual and psychological torment of humans that it is said, “In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will escape them” (Book of Revelation, chapter 9, verses 1-6). Try to imagine that multiplied an infernal amount in the attack on Christ. Bear in mind the glorious irony that the more suffering they inflicted on Christ, the more they were contributing to their own destruction and the salvation of the cosmos — not to mention the massive deception that was pulled on Satan, as we saw in the previous section of this exposition!

This is what the Father had prepared for Him, and this is what He came to experience. On the cross, for all the world to see, the perfect Christ became the focal point of all evil, both human and demonic. Such forces would have crushed an ordinary man. Even the Christ, for an instant, knew what it was to experience a sense of complete separation from the Divine. We cannot conceive how this could be possible, but we have the proof of it in a couple of Christ’s terrible exclamations…

First, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “My soul is engulfed in sorrow to the point of death” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 38). In many ways, Christ’s experience in that Garden tells us so much about the atonement — about Christ’s vicarious suffering in our place as He identified with the experience of humans. Here He is identifying Himself with all the anguish and despair which lies at the core of the human heart when it is not wearing its mask of respectability and is not immersed in diverting entertainments. When He says, “to the point of death”, he is not merely referring to physical death but to the pangs of spiritual death, which He was on the cusp of suffering — again, as part of His vicarious experience on our behalf. God in the flesh entered into all the experience of humanity as forsaken and alienated from God. He was not actually forsaken and alienated but He totally underwent the experience of it.

The second saying which proves Christ’s experience of separation from God is this: “My God, why have you forsaken me!” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27, verse 46). In other words, He knew what it is to experience the pangs of “the second death” — that utter desolation of soul which will be the experience of all those who die having wilfully chosen to reject completely any desire for a relationship with the Creator or with His Son, the Christ. [See my excursus on the ‘second death’ in §2 of chapter 1 in my book on the Book of Revelation]. In those words — which involved so much more than merely quoting the first verse of Psalm 22 — He was expressing in extremis that separation which humans experience from God because of the Fall at the beginning of human history. He was not actually separated from God as that would be an impossibility as He was Divine Himself (now there’s a mysterious spiritual conundrum for you!). But He suffered that separation as a necessary experience of atonement on our behalf.

The big question which arises here is this: why did He undergo all this hellish experience? The answer is that it was a vicarious act. He experienced this on behalf of all those who would be His disciples, so that they could become such and be released. It was not for Himself or on His own part. But “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin [like a sacrificial sin-offering in the Old Testament] on our behalf, so that in Him we might be accepted as righteous by God” (Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21). The same idea is written here: “He became a curse for us (Letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 13. See also the Letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 3). That completely sinless, perfect Being was treated as if it were He who was guilty of our moral failure. But it was all so that we who follow Him would be regarded as being righteous. He took the blast of the “second death” on our behalf, so that we who become His disciples would not have to experience it. Do you understand what is being said here?

This is what the oft-heard saying means to be “washed by the blood of Christ” or by “the blood of the Lamb” (For example, Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 7; chapter 2, verse 13, First Letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 2 & 19; Book of Revelation, chapter 7, verse 14, chapter 12, verse 11). In the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, it is said that He “released us from our sins by His blood”. “The blood of Jesus” or of Christ or of the Lamb is a ‘buzz-phrase’ in the Bible referring to His vicarious experience on the cross, though it does need explaining if it is to be understood by those not familiar with it, or it will just become another unintelligible cliché which only preaches to the choir. He was the sacrifice on our behalf. He took upon Himself what should really have been our experience at the hands of the demonic realm and in the afterlife of what we can call the ‘Cosmic Vortex’ of Divine ‘fury’. [This is discussed in full in §10 of chapter 6, in my book on the Book of Revelation, in an excursus about what is known as “the wrath of God” or “God’s fury”]. It is a hideous but beautiful exchange.

Because of what Christ has done — sacrificing Himself to be treated venomously by all the forces of darkness as the moral failure that He was not, and undergoing the full sting of satanic oppression, plus experiencing the pangs of the ‘second death’ — those who follow Him as His disciples are therefore treated as righteous by God. “God made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21). Our unrighteousness was accounted to Him (and He fully ‘paid’ the price for it), and His righteousness is thereby accounted to us who follow Him. Beautiful exchange, lovely contrast: He was treated as if He was the epitome of moral failure — which is exactly what we deserve — and, as a result of that, we who follow Him as His disciples are made righteous through His purity. We are made righteous in two senses: firstly, we are regarded as righteous if we are bonded with Christ (see Letter to the Romans, chapter 6, verse 5), solely on the basis of what Christ did for us in exchange, which I will explain more about below. Secondly, after we become His disciples, we have the Holy Spirit cleansing us and purifying us on a practical everyday basis. It is a win-win situation about which I will have much more to say.

It is clear that there is a deliberate link between sacrificial offerings in the Old Testament and the sacrifice of Christ. But we must not think that the purpose of sacrifice in the Old Testament was a human attempt to ‘appease an angry god’, such as it was with pagan religions. It was never about appeasement, as if a sacrifice would sort of ‘change God’s mind’ about us. Christ even plainly said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9, verse 13, quoting the Book of Hosea, chapter 6, verse 6). The primary purpose of sacrifice in the Old Testament was to bring an awareness of one’s moral failure and a restoration of relationship with the Divine. This is precisely the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice also. Sacrifice was never really about bringing ‘satisfaction’ to God through ritual killing — implying that God’s mind can somehow be changed through the act — but about Divine restoration. Many people imagine that God is some kind of invisible ‘dragon’ who is just itching for the moment He can ‘breathe fire’ on any hapless “sinner”. This is a very common delusion even among people calling themselves “Christians”. It is yet another example of people making God in their own image. For one very often finds that such folk are themselves somewhat censorious of others, always looking to spot other people’s ‘errors’ and are extremely hypocritically judgemental and have an extreme authoritarian idea of God as a stern judge who is implacable without animal or even human sacrifice in the case of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is true that “our God is a consuming fire” (Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 29), but this has to be correctly understood (and I do explain it carefully in that excursus on “the Wrath of God” which I mentioned above).

So, if God is not some ‘fire-breathing dragon’, what is He really like? That is very easy to discern. The Christ gave us a perfect way of knowing that when He said: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 9). In other words, if you want to know what God is like, just examine the life and deeds of the Christ. Watch the way that He worked and responded to people, dealt with them. Christ was not generally censorious towards ordinary people struggling in their lives, no matter how much they messed-up. He handled them with grace, mercy and love, though without giving them a ‘pass’. In contrast to the religious leaders of the day, with wisdom and insight, He always tried to encourage people who messed-up to examine themselves, discern the ways they have fallen short, and thereby have a restored relationship with God (For example, see Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, verses 18-23; Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses 2-11). His censoriousness and extreme disapproval were mainly reserved for the religious leaders of the day — i.e. the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees (and, sometimes, the Essenes also, as we see in such implications as the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 43, which seems likely to be a reference to that sect). All these sects had variously descended into either legalistic hypocrisy, or deliberate misapplications of the Old Testament, or obscurantist asceticism, arrogance, and personal greed or ambition. Thus, the righteous anger of Christ was poured out on such characters, whom He called “offspring of vipers!”, “progeny of the devil!”, “whitewashed tombs!” and so on. Whether it was His compassion or fury was determined by His love. God IS love. He does not punish His people in the way in which humans understand. He chastises. There is a vast difference. Human-style punishment is solely about retribution; whereas Divine chastisement is for teaching, to lead the person into a better way. If you work with God in His programme of chastisement, then you will be superlatively blessed. Humbled but blessed. But if you wilfully reject His chastisement, then you will fall foul of Him and find yourself spiralling into a welter of destruction. This is not at all an unjust situation, for you will have brought that destruction upon yourself. This brings us right back to what happened to Christ on the cross where, as the sacred prophetic text says:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all”.

Book of Isaiah, chapter 53, verses 5-6

On that Cross, God permitted His Christ to be assailed by all the forces of evil, both human and demonic, as they all converged on Him with their lies and vituperation, plus the experience of the “second death”, complete conscious separation from God — being “pierced” not because of His own transgressions but for ours! He was there in the place of all those who would be His true disciples. Without wishing to sound irreverent, to put it in modern vernacular, He was “taking one for the team”. That was “the chastisement that brought us peace” about which Isaiah wrote, and it will bring us peace if we follow Him as His disciples. The Hebrew word translated as “chastisement” there is מוּסָר, musar, which means discipline, correction, or moral instruction. That is God’s primary way of working. He is not really willing that any should fall into destruction (perish), but that all should come to that wonderful state of metanoia, repentance (see the Second Letter of Peter, chapter 3, verse 9). Even when He was permitting Christ to be “crushed for our iniquities”, it was designed to be a lesson for us. For, by the “stripes” which He received, we are healed, IF we will enter into that New Covenant in Christ as His disciples. The word “stripes” there means the marks that are on the back of someone who has been whipped. It refers not only to the actual marks on Christ’s back as He was literally flogged, but also symbolically to all His sufferings in general.

It is not enough merely to believe with one’s mind intellectually. That may be a start, but it is only when we immerse ourselves in Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then take up our crosses, and follow the ‘strait way’ (the afflicted pathway of life in this wilderness of a world) that we can become His disciples. When we follow Him and become His disciples, with a thoroughly penitent heart, that is the trigger for the healing of the cross to be ‘fast-tracked’ into our lives. Part of that healing is that the disciples of Christ, those who are guided exclusively by His Light, discover that their former wayward lives have been forgiven and the slate wiped clean. We are given a new start (and a new ‘heart’), have become a new creation (Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17), and thus begins a journey which will take us not merely to death but through death and beyond, ultimately into the new creation. For He broke the bondage to death when He burst through it in resurrection and all those who follow Him will partake in that resurrection to life. Furthermore, those who are Christ’s disciples will be those who populate the new heaven and new earth in the new aeon (the true ‘new age’, as revealed in chapters 21 and 22 of the Book of Revelation).

However, the work of Christ through His death and resurrection is not merely about personal forgiveness (for we can easily become far too self-obsessed about that) but is about wiping out the dominion of moral failure and Satan over our lives and throughout the whole cosmos, as well as overcoming death. For “Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil” (First Letter of John, chapter 3, verse 8). Those works are the impurity of moral failure (sin), and death. That is the beauty of the cross. It is a two-pronged victory for those who will cling to the coat-tails of Christ for the rest of the journey of their lives — those who pledge themselves to turn around their lives completely to be ‘in sync’ with the Divine will. It brings the complete forgiveness of our former wayward lives and also overthrows the power of Satan over us, which he had wielded through death — the tearing apart of our body and soul — and our moral failure or, to use that old-fashioned word: sin — a word which really needs to be grasped and understood, especially in this day and age.


The entire span of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is an extraordinary contrast between His human and divine natures. No less here in the Garden – but above all when He is impaled on the Cross. This is the lowest point that any human being could ever reach. He was put to death by the powers of the world and of the demonic realm. He was put to death by the most ignominious method possible, and deliberately so. As it is revealed:

“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you must not leave the body on the tree overnight, but you must be sure to bury him that day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse”.

Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 21, verses 22-23

Paul applied this statement to the Lord Jesus: “having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 13). And yet, in the midst of all that human cursedness, the Divine nature is working the most stupendous miracle imaginable: God manifest in the flesh to take our sinful folly upon Himself and release us from it. You may say, “Do you mean He has actually taken away the penalty for my sins?” Well, He asks one thing of you first: “Repent and believe the Gospel”.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved. It is just as the Scripture says: ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame’”.

Letter to the Romans, chapter 10, verses 9-11

Do you believe that all this is the truth? Do you really believe it with all your heart? Is there anyone reading this who does not believe it? If you believe it, then you can do only one thing, if you haven’t already done so: Tell the Lord Jesus that you do believe. (This next bit is a matter of life and death). Tell Him (and really feel it) that you are so sorry for the way that your life has not been conformed to His will. Then ask Him to forgive you. Ask it as if your next breath of life depended on it (and in a way, it does). And you will find that what happened on that Cross was for you.

Then you will realise that when He said, “Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?”, He went on to drink it for you! What better knowledge could one have in a twisted world such as this?


[Coming tomorrow: “What Happened to Christ Between His Death and Resurrection?”]



© 2021, Alan Morrison / The Diakrisis Project. All Rights Reserved. 
[The copyright on my works is merely to protect them from any wanton plagiarism which could result in undesirable changes (as has actually happened!). Readers are free to reproduce my work, so long as it is in the same format and with the exact same content and its origin is acknowledged]