As we ponder Our Lord’s Passion, we often talk about His emotions. The ones we think of the quickest are emotions like sorrow, anguish, heartbreak, depression, pity, sorrow, and the like. Our first thoughts are sadness. But as Isaiah talks about the Lord winning salvation for His people, he gives us a noticeably different list. Some of the emotions he ascribes to Our Lord are anger, fury, and a desire for vengeance. For whatever reason, that’s not the first place we go. But it does help present us with a fuller picture of Jesus’ heart and mind while He suffers and dies. As much as it might sound backwards, those hot emotions are a sign of His love for His creation.
In the section we heard from Isaiah, he gives the analogy of the Lord defeating Edom as a representation of His destruction of sin and Satan. Edom was the land claimed by Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Even though Edom should have been at peace with Israel since Jacob and Esau did reconcile, they were often hostile. Edom had to be defeated by Saul and again by David, and they were kept under Israel’s rule by Solomon. However, as Israel’s condition deteriorated after Solomon’s death, the hostility from Edom increased. Eventually the Edomites partnered with the Assyrians to bring about the first destruction of Jerusalem. So, this people who never should have been an enemy of God’s people makes themselves one, and then takes an active role in their destruction.
It’s no surprise then that the Prophets use Edom as an example of the ferocity of the enemy of God’s people, but also as a picture of what happens to those who live in the pride and delusion of sin. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah all speak of the fury which God will pour out on Edom. God says He will expose their sins for everyone to know, that their land will be made desolate like Sodom and Gomorrah, and that any attempt to rebuild will be met with destruction.
This shows us that God has anger over sin. But unlike our anger, God’s is righteous anger. He has anger over sin because it has destroyed His perfect creation. It has broken His communion with us. It has made death and destruction common, when it was never intended even to be known by us. So God’s anger burns hot over sin, and it is directed squarely at Satan who brought sin into the world. God must destroy the one who ruined His creation.
So it is good for us to consider the anger, wrath, and fury that unfold in Our Lord’s Passion. The Father has sent His Son to destroy the destroyer. Jesus Christ has trodden Satan in His anger and His fury. He has taken away his strength and has hurled him down.
But as much wrath as Jesus visits upon Satan, the Father delivers even more wrath upon Jesus. There is a price that sin demands. It demands the death, the destruction of the sinner. So, Jesus, in taking upon Himself our sin, willingly took on our destruction. All those things Isaiah records that capture the thoughts of Jesus on the cross, His talk of trampling Edom in fury and wrath, are also in the Father’s mouth as He pours out all of His righteous anger over the sinner.
And Jesus as the perfect sacrifice bears all this wrath in our place. In His once-for-all offering of Himself, He exhausts the Father of all His righteous wrath. The Father crushes His Son like grapes in a wine press, spilling His Blood, which the Son offers up once for all to obtain your eternal redemption. As difficult as this was for Jesus, this was the plan from the foundation of the world. It’s why David put these words on the Messiah’s lips in Psalm 40: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God.’” In perfect obedience makes Himself the object of the Father’s wrath over sin. No blood of goats or lambs could do what Jesus’ Blood did.
Because of Christ’s offering of Himself, because of the satisfaction of His Father’s anger at sin and the satisfaction of His own anger at Satan, now destroyed, Jesus Christ turns to you in your penitence and, like He said to the penitent thief, He says to you: “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” The One who is mighty to save has saved you. All of your sins have been trampled down, they have been destroyed so that they can torment you no more. And not just your sins, but the devil, the father of those sins, has been destroyed as well. The full vengeance of God has come upon him and he is powerless over you.
Now with sin, death, and the devil destroyed and God’s righteous anger fully exhausted, there is nothing but steadfast love for you. There is only joy at your salvation accomplished by Christ. As He gives you His forgiveness, the fruit and benefit of His sacrificial death, you can proclaim with Isaiah: “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has bestowed upon us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.”
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.