Matthew 26: 36-39 (the message)
Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
When I was growing up in church I think I had the idea that Jesus was like a super-hero. I think this was just a result of my child-like understanding, but it wasn’t until I was around 18 or so that I started to grasp Jesus was 100% man and 100% God.
Growing up, I knew Jesus was crucified and that meant they nailed Him to a cross, but I assumed it didn’t really hurt that much because He was God! I remember as a child thinking that because He was God’s son, Jesus went through His life kind of like Super Man and that He didn’t really struggle with His mission. He was turning water in to wine, giving sight to the blind and raising dead men to life so I thought crucifixion…no sweat! Perhaps I didn’t think it in those exact terms, but you get the idea!
How many of us still see Jesus through that Super Man lens? To what degree are we so drenched in sanitized movie versions of Calvary and sweet depictions of Jesus on a cross in paintings in the church foyer? How many of us could never bare to watch Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” or could not finish it because it was too graphic? But when we read scriptures like Isaiah chapter 53 we see Jesus was beaten and marred beyond recognition. See, being honest, I always saw Jesus on the cross looking down with a trickle of blood on his brow, a few drops of blood on His hands and feet with the real criminals sneering on each side. You know, right? In your children’s bible, if you grew up in church, you could go to just over half way though your bible and find that picture. My impression? Jesus died for me but He was God so He kind of got a free pass on the agony part. How untrue.
What happens in our minds and hearts when we begin to meditate on verses like the ones above? While in Gethsemane, just hours before His arrest, Jesus is in mental distress, agonizing over what He knows is to come. His prayer is that if there is any other way to rescue humanity, please get me out of this. I pray that the truth of what Jesus did sinks a little more deeply into my heart and yours, as well. Jesus was a sinless man, God’s son, but He was entirely human, too. He did not get a free pass on the physical, mental or emotional agony He came to endure. That is what makes it beautiful…majestic…mind-boggling…overwhelming. In the garden of Gethsemane, it is clear Jesus did not want to endure what He knew was ahead, but His love for His Father and the Father’s love for you and I was greater.
I own the movie “The Passion.” Around once a year I watch it, usually alone. The only reason is because I want to be reminded about the truth of what Jesus went through. Most of that movie my stomach is in a knot, and I’m not saying it’s completely accurate. All I know is that Jesus was in fact whipped, beaten, had a crown of thorns driven into His head, was mocked and was so beaten that the Roman guards required a bystander to finish carrying His cross for him up the hill…all before He was actually nailed to the cross. Most importantly, as Jesus hung a bloody mess on that wooden beam all the sin of mankind came to rest on His shoulders…and God the Father looked away, for the first time, from His son. The Bible says He became sin who knew no sin. Jesus not only suffered a physical death, but He endured a spiritual death. He was separated from His Father. Jesus definitively took our place in spiritual death. God is holy and sin cannot abide with Him, so Jesus became our sin and suffered a spiritual separation from God. In my place. In your place. Jesus is our substitution. When we believe and invite Jesus into our lives, we are then “hidden in Christ.” God then sees Jesus, His righteousness (right-standing with God), when He looks at us.
My heart as I write this morning is that we let God give us a new set of “glasses.” That we no longer see Jesus as this super-hero character that breezed through physical and spiritual death in our place. My prayer is that we realize that God, the creator Himself, got into a human man’s body and walked the earth for 33 years. Because He had a super natural virgin birth, He was all man and all God. The Great I-Am loves you so much He lowered Himself to dwell in what He created…a physical body…and then gave Himself, freely, in that body to make a way to us. God loves us and prizes us to such a degree He took on His own wrath in Jesus…died a sinners death…experienced spiritual separation from God…and after the debt was paid Jesus’ body was again quickened. Yes, His human body was raised to life. He walked out of that tomb in power and victory…because death could not defeat Him. And Jesus lives forevermore in that body.
One day I will see Him. I will see the scars on his brow…his hands…his side…his feet. Most of all what I think about is seeing His face. Jesus is very real and what He endured was very real. So real that He agonized and pleaded with God in that garden to find another way. And yet, because of a love we can hardly grasp, Jesus said “…please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
Jesus said yes to God so you and I could say yes to eternity with Him. Now the question is…what do you say?