The Time of The Cross Is Upon Us

The agony in the garden has always been for me one of the most troubling accounts in scripture. This was the time and place where Jesus was utterly and totally abandoned, forsaken, by all, left alone, to shoulder the burden that would free mankind. The only consolation that he would receive was from an angel sent by God to strengthen him for the journey. My favorite painting of this moment is Karl Bloch’s painting titled, Christ at Gethsemane 1. I feel that this painting best captures the acute fear that Jesus must have felt when he prayed alone in the garden that night. It is a moving painting, that captures eloquently the abandoned Jesus in the arms of a solitary angel.

Just imagine the scene for a moment…

Jesus after sharing his last meal with the apostles leads them into the garden to pray one last time. Now imagine the fear and dread that Jesus must have felt. Imagine the anxiety knowing that in a few short hours he would be brutally tortured, mocked, and eventually crucified. Imagine the shocking humanness of Jesus as he asks his disciples to stay awake to comfort him. I feel that the greatest torture that Jesus felt was not the impending suffering, but the cruel, abandonment of his closest friends in his hour of greatest need. I believe that a great part of the agony that Jesus must have felt that night must have stemmed from that fact that he knew that Peter would deny him thrice, that his disciples would be scattered like sheep, and that Judas would betray him. Maybe he was distressed by the fact that Judas would eventually choose to hang himself rather than to accept his boundless mercy. Most painful to Jesus most have been the knowledge that despite his sacrifice that many souls would still choose to be damned. Just imagine the discouragement and futility of going through such an ordeal only to learn that everyone would not be saved? Imagine the sheer dread of hearing the distant soft thumping of footsteps in the distance growing louder and louder each second, each minute, as he tried in vain to awake his closest friends one last time. Imagine the poignant fear, of seeing the torches, the hidden faces, illuminated only by the moon, the rhythmic, impromptu marching of the group that would seal his fate. Imagine Jesus seeing the first vague silhouette of Judas, drawing nearer and nearer seeing those eyes, the eyes of the one who would complete the betrayal with a kiss. Now imagine that last kiss, that moment when the eyes of mercy encountered those dark forsaken eyes, desperately trying to penetrate the recesses of his soul, one last time before he too would die ignominiously on a tree. Imagine the immediate moments after that, when that forsaken band who under the cover of night would grab Jesus’ delicate but worn hands; those same hands that had brought sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, and life to the dead. Imagine the sound of that first snapping of the chains, the sound of metal beating upon metal, the dissonant clanking, and the gruff voices. Somehow Satan had won by some inconceivable feat; his plan of sinister revenge and hostile take over had finally had its crowning achievement. For the next 12 hours Jesus was his. Evil had temporarily triumphed in this darkest of days. Pope Benedict eloquently explains this tragic dynamic in his work, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection as he reflects,

“…Yet it is still the same Mount of Olives. Anyone who spends time here is confronted with one of the most dramatic moments in the mystery of our Savior; it was here that Jesus experienced that final loneliness, the whole anguish of the human condition. Here the abyss of sin and evil penetrated deep within his soul. Here he was to quake with foreboding of his imminent death. Here he was kissed by the betrayer. Here he was abandoned by all the disciples. Here he wrestled with his destiny for my sake.” (Pg. 149)

It is my prayer that we all find the time to comfort Jesus these next two days as he journeys anew that lonesome journey of our redemption. This is not an event that merely occurred once, two thousand years ago. Jesus still undergoes this journey this very day. It is my prayer that unlike his disciples we have the courage to comfort him, holding him gently in our arms, thanking him for his sacrifice, reassuring him that he is not suffering alone.


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