By Shawn McMullen
We picture him during his last days on earth cleansing the temple, teaching the masses, and warning hypocrites. We follow him as he observes the Passover, prays in the garden, and suffers a friend’s betrayal. Our hearts ache over his abandonment, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Following Christ in his final week helps us appreciate the scope of his sacrifice and the depth of his love for us.
If we’re not careful, though, we may miss something significant in these events. We assume it. Perhaps we take it for granted. But it’s worth another look. It affects our gratitude, our praise, and our worship. I’m referring to the presence of God the Father.
When we think about the Father’s role in the final week, we often picture him looking down from Heaven as Jesus enters Jerusalem, institutes the Lord’s Supper, pours out his heart in the garden, and suffers the cruelties of the cross. But there’s more to it than that. In every moment of the final week, just as it was in every event in the life of Christ, the Father was there. Right there. In person. Enduring the same suffering. Exposed to the same shame. Making our redemption possible.
Paul explained to the Corinthian Christians that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, New American Standard Bible). It’s clear to us that God worked through Christ to bring about our reconciliation. The Father sent the Son, and the Son died on the cross for our sins. But it’s not always so clear to us that all the while, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”
Some may take the phrase “in Christ” to refer to the means (the person of Christ) God used to bring about our redemption. But it also seems right to understand “in Christ” as a reference to location—that all the while Christ the Son walked the earth, God the Father walked it with him—in him.
That’s not new truth to us. We often refer to Christ as “God in the flesh.” Jesus himself said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Paul wrote, “For in [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
Even so, our thoughts go to Christ’s anguished prayers in the garden and his heartrending cry on the cross, and we imagine a certain distance between Father and Son. But when we stop to think that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” we realize once again that even in the Son’s agony, the Father was there.
It’s a beautiful thought. The infinite and holy God, in order to redeem a sinful and hopeless creation, satisfied his wrath and justice not simply by providing the sacrifice for sin, but by becoming that sacrifice himself.