In a letter to a woman suffering from depression, John Newton wrote:
“They who would always rejoice, must derive their joy from a source which is invariably the same; in other words, from Jesus. Oh, that name! What a person, what an office, what a love, what a life, what a death, does it recall to our minds! Come, madam, let us leave our troubles to themselves for a while, and let us walk to Golgotha, and there take a view of his.”
This is the sort of clear-sighted faith that we require for joy, and to our hearts, broken by the troubles of this fallen world. Newton, by the power of the Word of God and of a baptized imagination, wrestled his inner eye to behold Christ. Yet it is not enough to view Golgotha as the place of Christ’s physical suffering. His suffering for his people there did not end in whips, thorns, and nails. It culminated and was fulfilled in the eternal Father turning his face, his pleasure, his presence, from the eternal Son. The Trinity, seemingly rent apart. Only a man with an infinite capacity could pay the infinite debt we wracked up.
Considering the eternal uselessness of worldly wealth, the Sons of Korah write,
Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit. (Psalm 49:7-9)
Bad news. But good news follows:
But God will ransom my soul from
the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. (Psalm 49:15)
What a glorious “But God“! Without those two words, we would be eternally lost. We have incurred infinite, unpayable debt; but God. We could never fulfill the law’s demands, but God. We could never guard our own true wealth in heaven, and could never reach it unstained; but God.
The Father turned his face away from the Son, abandoning him as he hanged naked, our curse and our shame. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani! Surely this verse from Psalm 22 was screamed out from the parched lips of our savior in agony. The joy of Jesus was rooted fully in God, more deeply than any human in history. All his joy was set in the Father–the very same Father who forsook him as he bled. Yet Psalm 22 is his Psalm, and Jesus was faithful, for he knew how it ends:
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go
down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it. (Psalm 22:27-31)
When we behold Christ crucified, we behold all of our eternal suffering, suffered in our place. From his suffering, we receive joy and glory. And now, our savior risen and ascended to the right hand of God, bids us to lift our drooping heads and see that he has done it. What chance does my world-weary sadness stand in light of his glorious grace, and tender love?
George Herbert (1593-1632) wrote,
Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answered, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
Look to Christ. Behold him, and sit down to the feast.