As I write this, it is the Thursday before Easter. And in these days of quarantine and isolation perhaps we have a little more time, if we will allow it, to contemplate, and meditate on what happened on that night before what we know as “Good Friday”. You probably know the story well: Jesus and the disciples celebrated the traditional Passover meal together. During the meal Jesus shared the bread and cup with them, establishing the New Covenant in his blood, telling them that they were to continue to remember him in this way.
Jesus In the Garden
Then they left that upper room and made their way to the Mount of Olives where Jesus left the disciples in one place and went further into the garden to pray alone. Luke 22 tells us “He knelt down and prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; but nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” An angel appeared and strengthened Him, and then verse 44 says: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
What was on His mind to cause blood on His brow?
A few years ago, as I read that passage I began to think about what must have been in the mind of Jesus to cause such agony of soul and spirit to cause Him to actually ‘sweat drops of blood’!? The most common thought about that is that He was facing the cross, and didn’t want to die that kind of death.
Well of course He didn’t, but I do not believe He was afraid of the cross, or the beatings, or the mocking… I think there was something much more terrible that He knew He would have to endure… something so horrible that He almost begged His Father to ‘let it pass…please, if there is any other way, do not let this happen to me!’
There have been many brave men and women throughout history who have faced torture and terrible execution, even crucifixion, with courage and faith; not begging to be excused from their fate. And the courage and faith of Jesus stands far above anyone who has ever lived. No, there was only one thing that could cause the Son of God such unspeakable anguish: to be separated from His Father.
No, there was only one thing that could cause the Son of God such unspeakable anguish: to be separated from His Father.
From before time began, Jesus and the Father had perfect union, perfect peace, perfect love: as He said “I and the Father are One – He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus had never experienced any separation from the Father. He was perfect, never having sinned, even on earth He had perfect spiritual fellowship with God. He walked in the Spirit, had the peace, and love, and joy that only those who walk with God can know. And that is all He had ever personally known.
But that was going to change. Sin is the thing that God cannot abide. Sin is the complete opposite of God’s nature, and it cannot even exist in His presence. And Sin was about to be poured onto Jesus. Not just one sin, but every sin ever committed, by every person who ever lived on the face of the earth.
Think for a moment of a time in your life when you knew that you were guilty of a grievous sin.
Do you remember the moment when you realized that God knew about it… the guilt, the sorrow, the sense of separation from Him? I certainly do, and it still is a painful memory.
Now, try to imagine (I know it’s impossible, but think about it) that feeling of guilt and separation multiplied billions of times! Isaiah 53:6 says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…”
Can you sense what He was feeling in the garden? Jesus knew the scriptures well; He knew what was about to happen. He had never sinned, but he was about to have all of our sins, all of the guilt, all of the sorrow caused by our sin released into His body and soul. And because of that guilt He could no longer stay in His Father’s presence…for the first and only time in history, Jesus was going to be separated from God.
And that is what caused His anguish; that is why He sweat drops of blood. That is why He prayed “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” It was the cup full of sin, and it’s result would be heard in His cry from the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” For those moments in time, God could not look upon His Son, because of Sin. Mine. Yours.
I am writing this with tears in my eyes, knowing what He did for me, for us. I am so glad that He closed His prayer in the garden with “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done”! In saying those words, Jesus received the cup, taking on the sins of all of the world, and carrying them on His shoulders all the way to the cross, and to the grave.
Yes, the scourging was terrible, the crown of thorns painful, the nails excruciating, all of it worse than anything we can imagine. But the physical suffering of our Lord is only half of the story. Because He loved us so much He not only endured the cross, but He willingly accepted the rejection and the separation from His Father, the Source of All that He was.
But hallelujah, we know the rest of the story!
That was on Friday, but Sunday was coming! (to borrow the title of a famous sermon) He did not stay in the grave. He defeated Sin, He defeated Satan, He defeated Hell and the Grave! He was reunited with the Father and was received back into Glory. He did all of that so that we could be forgiven. He suffered the separation from His Father so that we would never have to!
That forgiveness from the Father is not automatic. As Jesus had to willingly receive the cup of our sin onto Himself, we must willingly receive His forgiveness into our lives by turning from our sin and trust Him as our Savior. If you have never done that, you can do so right now by praying this simple prayer from your heart: “Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner, and I am truly sorry for my sin, please forgive me and come into my life and make me the person that you want me to be. Thank you for dying for my sin, and for giving me your Life”!
I pray that even in the midst of all the strange circumstances we are facing in our world today, that because of what Jesus has done for us, and all that He continues to do in us, this will be a wonderful Easter for each of you!