A few action-packed days after Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we find him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew the time had come that he would suffer and die for the people he loved so well. He had told Judas earlier that evening – in the upper chamber where they ate their Passover meal – to do what he was going to do, and do it quickly.
After Judas left, Jesus takes the rest of the disciples outside the walls of Jerusalem, to the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The disciples sit down on various benches in the garden, enjoying the coolness of the evening, but Jesus walks a little farther. His heart is heavy. Three years he has walked from town to town, healing the sick and preaching the gospel. He has told his disciples what lays ahead; he has tried to prepare them, but they don’t understand. He has willingly done everything his Father sent him to do, except this. It will all culminate tonight. Jesus throws himself on the ground, dread overwhelming his spirit, and prays.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus fights his hardest battle. The battle against his flesh. He has left all the splendour of his kingdom in heaven, for this moment. Now it all comes crashing down on him, and he staggers under the load. He looks into the cup the Father has set before him, and is repulsed. That cup has every imaginable sin in it – gossip, addictions, stealing, adultery, abuse, incest, rape, murder, witchcraft – the dregs of the vilest criminal offence – you name it; it’s there.
Jesus was a flesh and blood man. He was tempted, even as we are tempted. Jesus is also God, and in that aspect, he has control over his life – to lay it down and to take it up. John 19:17-18. He has a choice to make. Man has no control over his life unless he allows it.
Jesus is holy. Pure. He never sinned in his life. Not once. Now, to save his creation, he must drink that cup and become that sin. Every single sin ever committed, and all future sins, he must take upon himself. Can you imagine?
Have you ever been falsely accused? It makes you mad. It’s embarrassing. You do everything in your power to clear your name. Your reputation is at stake.
Jesus looks into that cup of sin and cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me…” In agony, he pleads. His sweat becomes like great drops of blood, dripping from his face. How can he take the blame for all that sin?
Three times he gets up from his knees to seek support from his disciples, just to find them sleeping. How disappointing. His best friends don’t understand his agony. He falls to his knees again and submits himself to the will of the Father, “not my will, but thine, be done.” At last, Jesus overcame. The spiritual battle was over.
Then in the quietness of the late evening, God does a tender, loving thing. He sends angels to comfort his precious Son. From that moment on, Jesus becomes relatively quiet – taking every insult, every whiplash; every nail driven into his body – with great dignity. He submits to it all as a sheep led to slaughter. He is the sacrificial lamb.
The next day, while Jesus hangs on the cross, the sun refuses to shine for three hours as creation mourns the death of the Creator. An eerie darkness covers the land. Even then, Jesus is in control as he says, “it is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” John 19:30.
No one took his life – he laid it down out of his great love for you and I. He paid the price. “It is finished” he said. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He poured out his blood for every sin that ever was and ever would be. He completed the task his Father had given him.
The earth shook in a great earthquake and the veil in the temple ripped in two. It was no longer needed. God would never again hide behind a veil. Every person was now welcome to come boldly to the Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Even the Roman centurion, seeing all that happened, said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” Mark 15:39b.
What love! What a Saviour!
The price for our sin is paid. Now you and I can boldly come to the “throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Thankfully, we know that the story doesn’t end there. Jesus doesn’t stay on the cross. He doesn’t stay dead. We don’t worship a dead God. No, our God is alive! Stay tuned…
Until next time.