Thoughts from Gethsemane

Sometimes the internet just gives you the best gifts: the perfectly worded meme, an inspirational (and unattributed) quote, a video of someone making a fool of themselves-just what you need as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Many a time during witching hour the internet has saved me. Yesterday it gave again. With Easter in just a few days so many of you are sharing inspirational truth. My facebook newsfeed (let's use the word "news" loosely here) and my instagram are littered with pictures of  three crosses silhouetted on a hill and hand-lettered scripture nested in a bouquet of water-colored flowers that I most certainly do not know the name of because I am no botanist. I kill everything green, or that is supposed to be green.

This Easter I have felt myself feeling a bit angsty over all these posts. Don't get me wrong. I love them. I love their beauty. I love their meaning. I love their truth. I even love to let out a slightly troubled laugh at the occasional Easter themed Jesus Juke. The problem isn't the posts; its me. For some reason this season I wanted more. To be honest, I have felt a little blasphemous about the whole thing. I have sat with my Bible and read and re-read the story of Jesus' last week on earth, his death and resurrection, in every book of the Gospels. I don't know what I was looking for. Did I really think I would find something new? Could there really be anything better than what was already written there- that Jesus took MY sin upon him, undeservedly suffered MY punishment and then conquered sin and death to claim victory for ME?

The story could never get old, but yet I found myself tearfully pleading with God for Him to let it wash over me with new, personal meaning. Give me something new in the Good News-some new sprout of hope, one that even I can't kill.

And then the Internet delivered in the form of a John Piper quote.

At first glance it did not seem  to be particularly "Eastery", but oh how it spoke to my heart. 

I've always been so captured by the part of the story where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, the part where He is so overcome by sorrow, so troubled that He literally sweats blood. Jesus-fully God and fully man, falls on His face and pleads with God, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; never-the-less, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39). I just love that of all the parts of Jesus' life and ministry that were intentionally left out of the Bible, that God chose to give us this moment. In this moment the fully man part of Jesus is so evident. The weight of what He is facing is something we can not even begin to fathom. God wants us to know the magnitude of what was happening here. Have you ever seen someone sweat blood? I mean, whoa. But I think God wants us to see more than that here. Jesus was never less than fully man and fully God. It wasn't a 50/50 deal, or a fluctuating thing. So, in this moment when we see His humanity mingled with the tears and sweat, He is still fully God. He still never sinned. He is still all-powerful and could have called an army of angels to defend Him. He could have chosen to just walk away.  And that is another reason I am so glad this part of the story is included in the Bible. If Jesus begged God to take something from Him, then there is no sin in me doing the same. I have never faced Crucifixion, the burden of the entire world's sin or total separation from God, but there have been times where I have wanted to plead with God (and have) for Him to take "this" away from me.

"Yet not as I will but you will". Jesus washed His face, trusted God and chose obedience. He chose sacrifice. He chose love.

I always get a little squirmy comparing myself to Jesus. In reality, I definitely am much more like the poor, pitiful disciples who keep falling asleep, despite Jesus asking them to stay awake and pray with Him. "The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (vs 41b). I have made that verse one of my prayers. I know I am nothing like Jesus. But I can be comforted by knowing He struggled with the cup He had been given. And I can learn from His example of surrender and love. What Jesus faced, He knew was the plan all along, and He chose it anyway, every day. I might be surprised and grieved by some of the direction of my life, but I know that those pieces are no surprise to God. If He can bring good out of the devastation of an entire world's sinful, wandering hearts; if He can solve the greatest problem to have ever existed, than I can trust that He has my problems covered too. If the ugliness of sin can be redeemed by the spilled blood of His own perfect Son; if even death can be robbed of its sting, I can trust that He will bring good from the painful parts of my life too, even if that "good" looks a little bloodied or has a rougher grain of grace than I imagined it would.

Can I just say again how thankful I am for Gethsemane? I am thankful that Jesus pleaded with God to take take away what was coming, but I am even more thankful that He followed it up by surrendering to God's will. Because He did, because He was obedient and surrendered, because He did the hard thing that He knew He must do, I can face the hard things in my life that I know I must do. Because He died, because He conquered my sin, because He rose victorious, I too can have victory over my sin and weakness. The Easter story is hideously beautiful beyond words. For me, the beauty is only enhanced by Gethsemane.

Gethsemane was where we saw Jesus at the crossroads, the same crossroads He would have faced countless times. But God pulled back the curtain a little and let us see in. I am so humbly, eternally grateful that He did. If Jesus hadn't chosen God's will in Gethsemane than I would be powerless to choose it now. I would be dead in my sin, hopeless and losing. But because Jesus chose the path of sacrifice, I am filled with the Fruit of the Spirit. I can be defined by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). Because of His choice, because of his sacrifice, because of His victory, I can do as John Piper said and as Jesus did. I can weep and grieve but then get up, wash my face, trust God and embrace the life I have been given.

So, with feeble steps that is what I will do, walking in the footprints of the One who went before me. When I find myself in my own Gethsemane I will trust that good is coming from this, and that God's glory will prevail. In some of the last words that Jesus spoke to His disciples He told them |"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world". I am pretty sure even John Piper or some anonymous internet quote couldn't have said it any better.

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