Easter is about the resurrection. In my evangelical faith tradition we celebrate the Risen Lord. Sure, I acknowledge the crucifixion and death of my Saviour, but the events leading up to Jesus’ death, all point towards atonement for our sin and victory over death to come. Through Jesus’ miraculous triumph over death, I have life.
As communion is served, I think about his broken body, partake of his cup and am reminded of his grace, love and the forgiveness I need to extend to others. I don’t dwell too long on the anguish of the cross. It makes me squirm.
This passion season our choir sang J.S.Bach’s, St. John’s Passion, which emphasizes the events leading up to Jesus’ death. “Weg, Weg mit dem,” “Away with him,” shouts the angry crowd in the dramatic oratorio. The German consonants magnify the effect and the clash of the dissonant interval in “Crucify him,” is chilling. They mock Him, hailing Him “King of the Jews.” Singing this powerful music has made me dwell, more than usual, on the suffering of the Christ.
Today I study the gospel accounts of Jesus in the garden. Jesus took his disciples up to Gethsemane, a garden at the foot of the Mt. of Olives, to pray and prepare for what was to come. He asked his disciples to pray with Him and to keep watch, but as tired humans are wont to do when their eyes are heavy, they fall asleep.
I am the same as those exhausted disciples. I don’t even have their excuse. Devotionally speaking, when I try to meet with God, I am rarely all there. My attempts to pray are interrupted by my mind spinning off in another direction. Like the disciples, I fail quite miserably.
But today, I contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice and how he faced it. Three times he prayed, asking the Father to take the cup of sorrow from him.
Who of us, in this realm, wouldn’t ask for pain to be removed? Nobody wants pain and I realize how excruciating this must have been for Jesus.
Rejection is part of our human experience. Sometimes a parent doesn’t love us the way they should or a person we thought was our friend turns against us. In Jesus’ case, rejection was multiplied. At his greatest hour of need, as he considered what was to follow, he was overwhelmed with sorrow (Matthew 26:38), but his best friends, who had ironically just promised their faithfulness, fell asleep.
Imagine a fatal diagnosis, your own wrongful conviction or the death of your dearest loved one and not one single soul to comfort you.
I don’t know how much Jesus knew about the physical pain that was to follow, but I would guess that he was familiar enough with the Roman version of justice to have an inkling of what was in store.
Jesus, the God-man, completely innocent of any transgression, faced what I personally fear the most; pain, loneliness and rejection of the worst kind. Jesus agrees to go through with it, swallowing that bitter cup of sorrow, praying in torment to His Father. “Your will be done.”
Why did He do it? Suffering silently before his accusers, dragging the cross He would die on, insulted by the crowds and abandoned by His friends. Added to that, the sin and guilt of the world is heaped on his shoulders and in a moment of utter darkness, the Father turns away.
He did it because sinner that I am, sinner that you are, God loves every one of us and He is patient towards us, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)
In the words of William Walker’s hymn, “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.”
What love indeed.