I’m working (at a snail’s pace) on a life group curriculum, and this week’s portion had me reading the story of Jonah, comparing it to the story of Jesus. I’ll spare you all my previous thoughts, but I was caught up on this one passage. At the end of chapter 3, it says that after the Ninevites heard Jonah’s message, they repented, called a city-wide fast, and God saw it and decided to relent His wrath that day. Now, I’m not going to answer the question of “what did God do with His wrath in the mean time” (because when you break it down, you can’t exactly say that He just forgave, because if that was possible, couldn’t He forgive mankind once and for all without the cross and without sacrifice? That’s a can of worms and a path that I’m going down individually, but that’s not my purpose in writing this blog.)
Instead, I got to thinking about God’s great wrath. I thought about Jesus and how He was the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2.) See, it doesn’t ever seem like God is thrilled to pour out His wrath. He’s a just God, yes – but that doesn’t mean that He delights in the process of unleashing wrath. That said, one of the endless miraculous traits of the cross is that Jesus – because He was fully God, flawless, sinless, perfect – was able to take all of mankind’s sin upon Himself. If He weren’t God, then first of all, He couldn’t flawlessly uphold the law, and second, His choice to take the sin of man upon Himself would be obsolete, because that wouldn’t be His choice to make. But because He was fully God – infinitely greater than man – and fully man – tempted in every way – and sinless, He was uniquely qualified to be the Savior of the world.
And on the cross, Jesus took on every single bit of God’s wrath. Selfishly, it’s incredible to think about what that means just for me. The punishment for every sin I’ve committed – every lie, every bit of lust, every fit of unresolved anger, every time I shy away and disobey God – and continue to commit was poured on Jesus. I don’t know if I would be able to bear the weight of my own sin, let alone all of mankind! But that’s the incredible thing about the cross – God’s unspeakable wrath was sated through Jesus. One of the issues people have with the Old Testament is that they can’t reconcile a God of wrath and anger with the God who is ostensibly merciful, kind, and loving in the New Testament. But that didn’t change – the object of wrath did. Jesus took on all the wrath of God – once and for all – so that our relationship with the Father who created us, loves us, and desires to walk with us can be restored. Incredible.