“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Abandoned, betrayed, disowned
On the night before Jesus went to the cross, he was abandoned by some of his disciples. The passage tells us that Jesus knelt on the ground, and what looked like drops of blood fell to the ground as he sweated in agony, staring down the cup of God’s wrath. The sinless Son of Man was about to become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). And in their weakness, in their sorrow, the disciples fell asleep, abandoning their master.
On the same night, he was betrayed by one of his disciples. Jesus spent his ministry teaching his disciples how to guide others to follow him; instead, Judas “became a guide to those who arrested Jesus” (Acts 1:16). And in his weakness, he received 30 pieces of silver as his bribe.
On the same night, he was disowned by one of his closest disciples. As Jesus was led away, Peter was not by his side. He followed at a distance. In his weakness Peter, who promised to go to prison or death for his master, denied knowing Jesus three times. Why didn’t he say that he knew Jesus? Was it because he was scared witless? Was Peter expecting Jesus to be a political Messiah, overthrowing the Roman Empire? We don’t know for sure.
But Jesus was as strong as his disciples were weak. “He who made atonement for the sins of mankind, submitted himself in a garden of suffering, to the will of God, from which man had revolted in a garden of pleasure” (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary). Jesus knew what it was like to be tempted in every way. And Jesus knew what it was like to be let down by the people he loved.
As Jesus went to the cross the next day, he took every abandonment, every betrayal, and every disownment. Both the ones you’ve suffered and the ones for which you’ve been responsible. He took it all. “He is the propitiation (‘atoning sacrifice’ [NIV]) for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2).
In doing so, Jesus exchanged abandonment for reconciliation. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (Col 1:21-22ff).
In doing so, Jesus exchanged betrayal for faithfulness. “The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (1 Thess 3:3).
In doing so, Jesus exchanged disownment for adoption. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8:15).
So if you’re reading this and you’ve felt let down, if you’re tempted to fall into bitterness, if you’re struggling to forgive, there is hope, because Jesus died for all of your hurt. And if you’re reading this and you know that you’ve let people down in the past, and you are struggling to forgive yourself, know that Jesus Christ atoned for your sins on the cross, because he chose His Father’s will. RT Kendall writes that “not forgiving ourselves is a subtle way of competing with Christ’s atonement.” Challenging words. But Christ wants us to know we’re forgiven, and to live in the good of it. (In a few weeks we’ll see a transformed Peter living in the knowledge of his new identity in Christ!)
We worship a risen Jesus, who said “not my will, but yours.” We worship a God that is powerful beyond all hurt, all shame and all guilt. This is the power of the cross.