Lent Day 31: God’s Heart
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” — Mark 14:10-21
We are quite close to the beginning of Holy Week. A lot happened during that week. It went from joy to tragedy to triumph. We should all be feeling the coming anticipation. I hope as the week draws near, you are feeling closer to Jesus, perhaps more than ever before.
Hesed is found some 250 times in the Old Testament. Many biblical words such as mercy, compassion, love, grace, and faithfulness relate to the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד), but none of these completely summarize the concept. Hesed is not merely an emotion or feeling but involves action on behalf of someone who is in need. Hesed describes a sense of love and loyalty that inspires merciful and compassionate behavior toward another person. Hesed surpasses ordinary kindness and friendship. It is the inclination of the heart to show “amazing grace” to the one who is loved. Hesed runs deeper than social expectations, responsibilities, fluctuating emotions, or what is deserved or earned by the recipient. Hesed finds its home in committed, familial love, and it comes to life in actions. The message of the gospel—God’s act of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus—is rooted in hesed.
The deepest longing of our soul is the all-satisfying hesed of God—not in the abstract, but first-hand knowledge and experience, a tasting of God’s hesed. Have you been delivered by the hand of God, tasted his mercy, seen his power, heard his word, felt his presence? The degree to which we have known the presence and power of God is the degree to which we get a sense for what it meant that Jesus was the Son of God, and how devastating it must have been to bear the judgment of God against sin. All lament leads us to Jesus, in whom our sorrow and pain finds ultimate identification and hope. The culmination of good and evil came down to Jesus was on the cross. The physical pain was excruciating, yet it was nothing compared to the shock and horror of being forsaken by the Father. You see, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, the whole weight of the world’s guilt bearing down on his shoulders. This is the wrath we should have experienced. This is the pain we should have felt. But Jesus felt the pain and he internalized our shame. He, who knew no sin, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In that moment, he took up the lament of King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). When he said this he not only took our sin upon himself, but also voiced all our laments. For underlying all our laments are two questions: “God, where are you?” and, “God, if you love me, then why?” For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus felt the absence of the Father’s presence and the uncertainty of his love. God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became.
Why did it have to be this way? If Jesus was God’s answer to ages of laments, how did he end up in the most lamentable position of all? One approach to the question is to consider why so many ultimately rejected him, even his own people. The disciples, too, regularly stumbled over their expectations. They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and vindicate Israel. Instead, he predicted the destruction of the temple and died for the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to give them answers. Jesus gave himself. He predicted his own destruction, and then endured it in order to conquer our real enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God. “Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence” (Michael Card).