Midweek Lent 2 March 4, 2020
Theme: “Walking in the Savior’s Footsteps 20:2178
Passion History Part 2: …To the Agony of Gethsemane
As the sun went down that Thursday evening, the blast of a trumpet rang from the Temple grounds, signaling the start of Passover. In less than 24 hours, Jesus would be dead, and the 12 disciples would scatter. Only 1 would witness His death, while the others hid behind locked doors, afraid that the Jewish authorities were coming for them, too. Jesus knew how all the events would play out. Judas Iscariot knew more than the others because of his part in it, but Jesus knew the plan of Judas as well.
During the Passover meal, Jesus served as head of the house. After washing everyone’s feet, Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him. Horrified the disciples suspiciously glanced at each other. They had just argued among themselves which of them was the greatest. Could one of them possibly think himself so great that he was above the Master? Motioning to John who reclined next to Jesus, Peter whispered, “Ask him which one.” Turning to Jesus, John asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus may have answered so quietly that the others didn’t hear in the hubbub that followed: “It is the one to whom I give this bread.” Dipping bread in the sauce of the Passover meal, He gave it to Judas saying, “What you are going to do, get on with it more quickly.”
Did Judas’ heart smite him, and fear arise within while sitting among 11 others who loved Jesus? If it did, he quickly crushed back those feelings. As he hardened his heart, Satan laughed with glee in his foolish pride – foolish for Satan could not see that the very thing he thought would rid him of Jesus forever was the very thing that would give Jesus the victory, glory to God, and new life to all who trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Quickly Judas left. His leaving did not seem to bring about any suspicion. Perhaps because the temple courts remained open until midnight so that supplies for the feast could be bought. As a result, many of the poor came to the temple at night to beg for alms from the visitors who came to celebrate the Passover. The disciples thought Jesus directed Judas to go to the temple and give alms to the poor. Judas did go to the temple, but he went to collect his 30 pieces of silver and a mob to arrest Jesus.
The Passover meal ended at midnight. That was the hour long
ago when the Angel of Death passed through Egypt, killing the firstborn. The leftovers were burned, and a final hymn of praise was sung. (In your bulletin you will find it printed on an insert – Psalm 136. As I read it, imagine Jesus leading the song in the Upper Room.)
As the eleven disciples milled about the room and headed with Jesus through the dark, narrow streets of Jerusalem, Jesus continued talking of their need to love each other. Then He warned, “Tonight every one of you will falter in faith and abandon me.” Peter vehemently objected, “All the rest might, but I never will.” The others said the same. Once again self-assurant pride arose among them, just as it had at the beginning of the meal when no one would lower himself to wash the others’ feet….except Jesus.
The problem of sinful self-assurance and pride persists. Like glowing embers under ashes, all it takes is a little wind to cause a burst of flame again. When I note the disciples on the way to Gethsemane, I am reminded that pride and self-assurance exists among God’s people, too.
I know the problem of pride that persists in my own heart. Too often I look for honor given by others or, as here, look to my own strength to accomplish a matter for the Lord. I want to be first or I want to be better than the rest. We still argue over who is best or who is strongest. In the Upper Room Jesus taught humility and punctuated His words with action as He, the Master, washed His disciples’ feet. He warned them of weakness, but more, He prayed that their faith might not fail.
He prayed for them, especially Peter in his self-assurant pride. He also prayed for us that night. He prayed, “Father, may they also be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You. May they also be one in us! Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am so that they may see my glory.” To see His glory as Savior, not ours! To be with Him! He ended it by saying, “That the love You have for me may be in them and that I may be in them.”
Ah, the love He has overcomes all that we think we are in our self-assurant ways. How good to hear the Savior pray for us and for our faith to be strengthened. He will not abandon His people in their weaknesses. He seeks to protect and pull each one closer to Him.
The little garden called Gethsemane grew on the hillside just outside the city wall. There were olive trees, fragrant herbs, and flowers growing there which made it a lovely park in which to rest and refresh oneself. Jesus and His disciples often came here to walk, to talk, to pray. Tonight was different. They felt it in Jesus’ bearing. “Stay here and pray with me,” He told them. Taking Peter, James, and John a little further, He told them the same, then went off a bit further to be alone with His heavenly Father. The quiet, the lateness, and the darkness were too much for the disciples. Their heads drooped and they fell asleep. But no sleep would be found in Jesus for He was in the midst of great agony.
Why such anguish? I try to answer that by thinking of the burden of sin He carried on his shoulders. I can’t ever imagine it. I know how heavily the burden of sin weighs on me at times. When I hurt someone I love with my words or actions, I feel ashamed. When I recall the sins of my youth, I cringe. When I wonder what lies ahead as I move another year closer to passing this life in death, it sobers me. Guilt and helplessness to change what I have done or to alter that which lies ahead, that burden is like a great weight that changes my outlook, erases my smile, and drags my spirit down.
Jesus carried that burden, but multiplied millions of times over for He shouldered the weight of the sins of the world. Multiply what I feel – and I imagine what you feel too – times every human who has ever lived or will live. Imagine the terrible burden Adam and Eve must have borne when they squandered the perfect world of God’s creation and ruined it, not just for them but for everyone. The burdens Jesus carried….I can’t imagine. Added to that, He was totally innocent of any of it. I am not surprised to hear Him cry, “Father, if it is possible, take it away from me.”
Three times He spoke the same prayer as He suffered great agony for all mankind – a man innocent of sin taking responsibility for mine and everyone’s. And during it all the disciples slept, even as many sleep today, either uncaring or ignorant of what the Savior has borne for us. But as the burden grew, there was no complaint; there was no argument with His heavenly Father. Indeed, there was trust, undying love, and full devotion: “Take it away. But, Father, not my will; may Your will be done.”
In one of this world’s blackest nights, the Father answered, sending an angel to strengthen His Son. The disciples slept; sometimes we do too. But the Father did not for His plan to have us back was at work. The time of salvation drew near. The Father was ready; so was the Son. May we Walk in the Savior’s Footsteps, rejoicing in their love. God grant it to us for Jesus’ sake.