Yet last night something happened that has never happened, not since the first molecule spun, nor ever before that.
Last night — or some 2000 years ago on the Thursday evening we marked last night — the Father told the Son "No."
This had never happened, ever, in all of recorded history. Never was a relationship closer, without the slightest stir of alienation, as that between God the Father and His dear Son.
Yet on that Thursday, we read
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26)Once, the Son asked His Father if there was any way — any way — that the cup could pass from Him.
The Father evidently said "No, Son; there is no other way."
Again, the Son came back. Same answer. And again — same answer.
Of course, we know we are not reading of a pitting of wills against each other. Each time, Jesus framed His request "if it be possible," and each time He added, "not as I will, but as you will."
If there had been a way, the Son would have chosen it!
If there had been a way, the Father would have granted it!
So great was the devastation, the disaster caused by our sin. So dire was our condition. So unsalvageable, so irreparable, so (if I may say it) irredeemable was our plight that nothing less than the Son dying in the stead of sinners would work salvation. All the blither-blather about other ways and broader hope are smashed to shivers in the Garden.
But consider one more thought, the thought that had tears pouring from my eyes as I dwelt on it.
What must it have been for the Father to say "No" to His Son? What must it have been for the Son to hear "No" from Heaven? To say it, to hear it once, let alone twice... let alone three times?
Clearly, no matter how well-schooled we might be, we don't grasp the full horror of what Jesus faced, if we can consider it without a touch of that horror ourselves.
Yet what love. What love of the Father to give His Son for such appalling rebels. What love of the Son to give Himself for such wrecks as we. What love of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, and draw us to repent and trust Jesus alone.
What great salvation, what a great Savior.