Jesus Took It All
DECEMBER 26, 2023
The alarm bell on the Associated Press teletype machine in the newsroom started ringing madly.
Everyone in the building knew something big had happened.
I worked as an advertising sales representative for WNAV, a local top-40 radio station in my hometown of Annapolis. When I heard the ringing, I stepped out of my office and joined others who crowded into the narrow hallway outside the newsroom to see if we could find out what was going on.
The station’s news director read from the pages pouring out of the machine. Suddenly he dropped the pages and shouted, “The President’s been shot!” and ran into the broadcast booth.
It was March 30, 1981, and we had just learned that President Reagan had been shot by John Hinckley, Jr. Later that day when I watched the TV news, I saw something that has stuck with me ever since.
When the shooting started everyone in the vicinity of the president seemed to do whatever they could to make themselves tiny. They pulled in their arms; they squatted or lay down on the sidewalk. They wanted to make themselves as small of a target as possible. Everyone did that. With one exception.
Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy turned toward the sound of the gunfire, raised up on his toes, and stretched out his arms. Rather than making himself small, he made himself as big as he could. He did that so that he could become a human shield, putting himself, his own body, between the president and the source of danger. He succeeded in becoming a shield. He was shot. He took the danger into his own body. He offered his life for the life of the man he’d promised to protect.
What Timothy McCarthy did that day reminds me of Jesus. I thought about that yesterday when in our church worship service, we sang All I Have is Christ. One of the lines in the song is, “And I beheld God’s love displayed. You suffered in my place. You bore the wrath reserved for me; now all I know is grace.”
Left to ourselves we are God’s enemies. There is nothing in us that makes us naturally inclined toward him. But God, being rich in mercy, showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were his enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:9-11).
Due to our sin and rebellion, apart from Jesus, we are in mortal danger, objects of God’s wrath. As Timothy McCarthy spread his arms to shield President Reagan, Jesus spread out his arms on the cross and shielded us from God’s wrath. As McCarthy absorbed into his body the bullet that was meant for the president, Jesus absorbed all the anger and wrath that we deserve.
There is now no more wrath from God for those who are in Jesus.
My prisoner friends need to be reminded of this often. Many of them struggle with much regret for their crimes and sins, for the hurt they caused to their victims and their families. They have a hard time believing that God is not angry with them for all the hurt they’ve caused. They picture God as an unhappy Deity looking at them with his arms folded and a frown on his face.
Theirs is a struggle I understand. All too often that is the way I have thought of God, disappointed with me as I once again return to those sins I’ve promised to never commit again.
What I long for my friends to know, what I need to know, is that Jesus took it all, every bit of God’s anger, wrath, and disappointment for our sin into his own body when he was on the cross. “There is now no condemnation,” Paul wrote, “for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). As the song said, “Jesus bore the wrath reserved for me; now there is only grace.”
The Prophet Micah got it right when he wrote, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance. He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18).
God delights in steadfast love. Even for the worst of sinners, there is no wrath, no anger, and no disappointment for those in Christ Jesus, there is now only steadfast love.