Good Friday, 2021

I want to share some words from a devotional by Max Lucado, In the Garden.

Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you’ll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.

Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that solitary figure? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?

That’s Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe you’ve seen the classic portrait of Christ in the Garden. Kneeling beside a big rock, snow white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. A halo over his head.

The painter didn’t use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. When Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases such as these: “Horror and dismay came over him,” “My heart is ready to break with grief,” [and] “He went forward a little, [and] threw himself on the ground” (14:32-42 NEB).

Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3 NASB). We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart. (YouBible, On Calavary’s Hill, Day 3) End quote.

We Americans (and maybe others, I don’t know) are a mixed lot. On one hand we are grossed out by something as simple as someone whose job deals with people who have passed away. Yet, on the other hand, we are entertained by grizzly, bloody movies. The grosser, the better it seems. So it doesn’t surprise me when we sanitize the Bible stories. Jesus in the Garden might be one of those times. The picture painted isn’t pretty. I know I tend to focus on the “not my will” part. Yet, he was there for hours: struggling, agonizing, for me. And you, and the billions of other humans who have ever walked the face of the earth.

It is said he carried the weight of our sin, all of them. That is quite a burden. Sure that was his purpose, that was the plan. But it didn’t make it any easier. This is not physical weight, but emotional and spiritual weight. A burden which was almost too heavy to bear.

The Garden is not the end of the suffering “man of sorrows” either. The whole arrest, betrayal (Judas), denial (Peter), hate, anger, pain, spit, cat of nine tails whip, crown of thorns, purple robe, mockery, nails, cross, the sense of abandonment by the Father. This was not a good day. It might just be the hardest day anyone, human or divine, has had to endure. It is Good Friday only because of how it turns out for us.

As I mentioned Sunday, I am in no hurry to move on from today. Fortunately, we get to, but let’s not hurry away. I sometimes ask myself, “Why? Why did he do it?” There are undoubtedly a number of reasons, but one certainly is how he felt about you and me. Am I ready to suffer this much for my loved ones? I am sure not, and I am not asked to. This day bring to mind the words of a hymn.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

And so we have visited the Garden, and more. Yet, despite all the dangers, all the pain, all the anguish, it becomes a place of victory. Why? Because Jesus does the Father’s will and not his own. Because angels came and ministered to him. Because his love was stronger than all else he faced that night in the Garden.

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