We had just finished our study in the Gospel of Matthew and rather than start a new book study in Holy Week I opted to look at some of the prophetic writings concerning the events of the week. We spent some time in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 but the liveliest conversation happened as we looked at Jeremiah 25. In this chapter we come across the phrase “the cup of God’s wrath”. One of the guys said “I know I get angry but I don’t think God gets angry like I do.” I both agreed and disagreed with that sentiment. God certainly does not get angry in the capricious way that I do but in other ways our anger is the same. I asked my friends how they felt when they were waiting in line (a common experience for folks at street level) and someone butts into line. They all would, and have got angry at such an occurrence. When we examined why we get angry it became clear that our anger comes from outrage at the injustice of it. As shattered as the image of God is in us, because of our fallen nature, we still are created in that image. In our example we do indeed reflect the anger of God.
King David was angry as Nathan described an injustice only to find that he “was the man.” His was the injustice! His anger was justified and the object was himself. This is where we drastically differ from Jesus. Literally or metaphorically we have all “butted into line”. Paul rightly avers in Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus alone is both just and justifier.
At Gethsemane he agrees to drink the cup describe by Jeremiah. On the cross he drains the cup to the dregs. Isaiah reminds us that the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. In that garden Jesus irrevocably agreed to drain this cup just hours after offering the cup representing a New Covenant to his followers.
These days speaking about the wrath of God is not in fashion in many circles. The love of God is the only permitted topic. I agree that we cannot exaggerate the love of God or limit any of its power. Yet we cannot remake God in our image. We cannot impose our limited understanding of the depths of love so as to preclude the wrath that is so often and so clearly expressed in scripture. We can ultimately rest in the assurance that in Christ mercy triumphs over justice.
We are looking forward to a wonderful celebration of Easter with our Street Hope friends. We are gathering in my newly renovated basement to celebrate resurrection. We will eat our ham and scalloped potatoes together. We sing and worship and pray. In our own shattered way we will reflect the wonder of God knowing that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us.