There are few books of theology that I have ever read that handle their subject matter as well as Donald Macleod’s work of Christology The Person of Christ. Thoroughly walking his readers through the controversies and exegesis critical to the study, he takes them to where a ‘study of Christ’ most certainly must go if it is paying attention to its subject: worship and adoration and wonder.
In developing for us the reality of ‘the Word’ becoming flesh, he notes that possessing a ‘reasonable soul’, that is, a completely human personality, he faced, as any true human would, fear. And the fear he faced was the darkness of the abandonment of God.
(If you are not a Christian, understand that here is the absolute passionate heart of Christianity.)
“When Moses saw the glory of God on Mount Sinai so terrifying was the sight that he trembled with fear (Heb. 12:21). But that was God in covenant: God in grace. What Christ saw in Gethsemane was God with the sword raised. (Zc. 13:7; Mt. 26:31). The sight was unbearable. In a few short hours, he, the Last Adam, would stand before that God answering for the sin of the world: indeed, identified with the sin of the world (2 Cor. 5:21). He became, as Luther said, ‘the greatest sinner that ever was’ (cf. Gal. 3:13). Consequently, to quote Luther again, ‘No one ever feared death so much as this man.’ He feared it because for him it was no sleep (1 Thess. 4:13), but the wages of sin: death with the sting; death unmodified and unmitigated; death as involving all that sin deserved. He, alone, would face it without a hilasmos, or ‘covering’, providing by his very dying the only covering for the world, but doing so as a holocaust, totally exposed to God’s abhorrence of sin. And he would face death without God, … deprived of the one solace and the one resource which had always been there.
“The wonder of the love of Christ for his people is not that for their sake he faced death without fear, but that for their sake he faced it, terrified. Terrified by what he knew, and terrified by what he did not know, he took damnation lovingly.” [Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ, pages 174-175]
Read it. Weep. And then sigh the relief of one loved beyond what one can imagine.