Jesus Bore the Wrath of Man Against God (Psalm 2:1-3)
Humanity’s rejection of God’s right to rule began in the Garden (Gen. 3:1-7). It advances in Israel’s rejection of God as their King (1 Sam. 8:7-8). It culminated in the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord on the cross, with a placard stating “the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37). There, in Jesus, God bore the full brunt of humanity’s anger against Him. The second Psalm describes it in almost apocalyptic language.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
Psalm 2 begins with the nations raging against the Lord with a seething hatred. Why? Because they view the restrictions of God as chains and shackles. The man of Psalm 1 views God’s Law as what produces a fruitful and thriving life that endures forever. The problem that comes in is that we are all, by birth, born as a Psalm 2 type of person rather than the Psalm 1 type. It’s called “original sin.”
In Adam, all die (1 Cor. 15:22) because God had said, “In the day you eat, you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam ate and because we were in him, we are implicated in his crime. It was the easiest possible test one could imagine. Could the Human allow God just one restriction in all His generosity of the garden? The Human answer was quite simply: “No!”
Fulfilled in the Cross: In Jesus, God bore…
Psalm 2 envisions human rejection of God’s rule at the point of rage and scheming against God by the peoples of the earth. This is fulfilled in the rejection, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus. Acts 4 begins with Peter and John still in jail because they healed a lame man in the temple area. Upon their release, they report back to the disciples what had happened. The response of the people is to pray. The prayer begins, after acknowledging the Lord’s right to rule because he made everything, by quoting from Psalm 2:1-2.
“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’” (Acts 4:24-26)
This prayer, then, goes on to specify the ultimate identity of the key players:
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed….” (Acts 4:27)
Interestingly, “the nations,” meaning Gentile nations, in Psalm 2 becomes the nations consisting of both Gentiles and the people of Israel in Acts 4. Both were complicit in the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord. It is hard to get humanity to agree on much, but this is one that seems to have unwavering commitment from the human race.
From His mock trials and His disciples’ denials, to His suffering and crucifixion, Jesus bore the full force of humanity’s hatred of God, even our own anger at God that might occur when we are suffering. He absorbed it all and died. And then…. Wait, before we go there, let’s back up.
Fulfilled in the Cross: In Jesus, Humanity Bore…
Not only was Jesus fully God while bearing the full force of humanity’s wrath against God, He was also fully human. Because He was human, His full obedience to the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; Phil. 2:8) was done as a human (Adam). While Adam ate and failed the easiest test that could possibly be given, Christ Jesus submitted in full obedience to the Father while facing the hardest test that one could possibly face. In doing so, just as Adam’s disobedience became our disobedience, so Christ’s obedience becomes our obedience by grace, made effectual when we trust in Him (Rom. 5:12-21).
Indeed, Jesus fulfills all righteousness in His life. We see it begin at his baptism which is immediately followed by a testing in the wilderness, a testing scene which is obviously reminiscent not only of Adam’s failed test but also of Israel’s testing in the wilderness. The twist is that Jesus passed the test with flying colors that they failed. (Again, note how easy their test was compared to His: they complained that they did not have enough food, or the right food, etc. But Jesus had no food!) He maintained complete trust in the Father, evidenced by His obedience, all the way through the sufferings of the cross to the grave.
Fulfilled in the Cross, for Us
Jesus’ obedience is now our obedience when we trust in Him. As T. F. Torrance put it:
We are to think of the whole life and activity of Jesus from the cradle to the grave as constituting the vicarious human response to himself which God has freely and unconditionally provided for us. That is… a final answer to God actualized in the flesh and blood of our human existence and behavior and which remains eternally valid. Jesus Christ is our human response to God. (The Mediation of Christ, 80. Emphasis in the original.)
This is what it means to say that Christ has become our Righteousness! He is, quite literally, our righteousness. Just as in Adam we truly became sinners, so in Christ we truly become righteous. And it is because Jesus was fully man in His obedience to the Father that Torrance could go on to say,
Jesus Christ in his humanity stands for the fact that ‘all of grace’ does not mean ‘nothing of man’, but the very reverse, the restoration of full and authentic human being in the spontaneity and freedom of human response to the love of God. (Mediation, 95.)
God did accomplish righteousness for us (grace) but did so as a fully human person thereby reestablishing an order of human beings restored fully into the image of God. And then…
From His unjust trials and His disciples’ denials to His suffering and crucifixion, Jesus bore the full force of humanity’s hatred of God. He absorbed it all and died. And then Easter—God raised Him from the dead. The best that humanity could offer in their hatred and rage toward God killed Jesus but could not win. In Jesus, God conquered the forces of darkness (which were not merely human) at work through the rulers of this age (Acts 4:27-28).
What do we celebrate at Easter? Darkness conspired to bring death to God and, once for all, to humanity, but God and humanity won in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! Human rebellion fails (thank God!) and Death is defeated!
Love the Gospel,
 Due to the nature of translation, sometimes helpful things are hidden. The first psalm calls us, indeed draws us, to walk in submission to God’s rule, which is done by meditating on His Law day and night. The second is about the nations’ rejection of God’s rule and how they “plot” (same word as meditate in Psalm 1) against Him. In one case, people ponder how God calls them to live. In the other, they ponder how they might throw off God’s rule.
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash