What He Secured Wasn't Sympathy, But Immunity

What He Secured Wasn't Sympathy, But Immunity

Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He's a Savior who knows what it's like to be human, to live in a fallen world, to experience temptation. And better news than our exemplar, Jesus was our substitution.

Donald Macleod writes,

There can be no doubt that the Father loved him; here, at Golgotha, above all, because this was the magnificent climax of his obedience. . . .

Even at the lowest point, where he cannot say, "Abba!" he says "Eloi!" ("My God!"). As Calvin put it: "still in his heart faith remained firm, by which he beheld the presence of God, of whose absence he complains." It could not have been otherwise. To lose faith and lapse into despair would itself have been sin.

But what a tribute it is to have the spiritual strength of Jesus that even as he walks through this darkness he reaches out towards a God still perceived as his own. Here, even more than at Gethsemane, we have to remind ourselves that Christ suffered vicariously. The gospel of the dereliction is not that Christ shares our forsakenness but that he saves us from it. He endured it, not with us, but for us.

We are immune to the curse (Galatians 3:13) and to the condemnation (Romans 8:3) precisely because Christ took them upon himself and went, in our place, into the outer darkness. It remains true, of course, that he sympathizes with us in even the most acute of our emotional traumas, but the learning of compassion was not the primary motive behind the dereliction, which involved a journey into territory ordinary men and women will never tread. What Golgotha secured for us was not sympathy but immunity.

The Person of Christ, "Contours of Christian Theology," ed. Gerald Bray, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 177-178, paragraphing added.

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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God, and is the lead planter of Cities Church in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.