I was at the local library today and I saw a book by popular Reformed author and pastor John MacArthur called, “The Murder of Jesus.”
I did not have time to read the book, it was around 300 pages long, but the table of contents had every chapter devoted to how Jesus was unjustly accused, unjustly tried by a kangaroo court, unjustly tortured, and unjustly killed. The book appeared to be entirely devoted to how the Jewish and Roman plot to murder Jesus unfolded according to the Biblical accounts.
One section in the table of contents caught my eye, it was regarding the words of Jesus on the Cross when Jesus said “My God, why have you abandoned me.” Of course, Catholics have always said Jesus was quoting Ps 22 and applying that to himself, but that not acceptable to MacArthur. MacArthur spent about 2-3 pages talking about this verse, and what he said was so stunning that I pulled out my camera phone and took pictures of some quotes. Commenting on the “My God” passage MacArthur says:To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own beloved Son.
In this lies the true meaning of the cross.
(page 219, emphasis mine)
Christ died in our place and in our stead - and He received the very same outpouring of divine wrath in all its fury that we deserved for our sin. It was a punishment so severe that a mortal could spend all eternity in the torments of hell, and still he would not have begun to exhaust the divine wrath that was heaped on Christ at the cross.
This was the true measure of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. The physical pains of crucifixion - dreadful as they were - were nothing compared to the wrath of the Father against Him. The anticipation of this was what had caused Him to sweat blood in the garden. This is why He looked ahead to the cross with such horror. We cannot begin to fathom all that was involved in paying the price of our sin. It’s sufficient to understand that all our worst fears about the horrors of hell - and more - were realized by Him as He received the due penalty of others’ wrongdoing.
And in that awful, sacred hour, it was as if the Father abandoned Him. Though there was surely no interruption in the Father’s love for Him as a Son, God nonetheless turned away from Him and forsook Him as our substitute.
(page 220-221, emphasis mine)
What struck me about these comments* was that out of a 300 page book, what he says in the span of less than a full page, regarding God’s wrath, eclipses the other 299 pages dealing with the injustice received at the hands of men. In other words, for MacArthur, the REAL pain came from the Father, which made the physical sufferings a very distant second. What is even more interesting, and even more relevant, is that the Scriptures certainly don’t paint the picture MacArthur does, especially the Four Gospel accounts of the crucifixion (which are silent on such a thing). One would think that if this understanding were true, that would be not only much more clear, but that would be the main emphasis of the Apostles.
In case you were wondering, Catholics would reject MacArthur’s (and Protestantism’s) understanding of the crucifixion not only on the grounds it is unBiblical, but that it is downright blasphemy to even suggest such a thing.
*Apart from the fact these comments are utterly blasphemous, heretical and twisting of the Scriptures (akin to the way a JW interprets the passage, “The Father is greater than I”).