by Stan Leach, EFC Southwest Superintendent
Then [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
Mel Gibson did us no favor. In his film, “The Passion of the Christ” he explicitly envisions the brutality poured out on Jesus before and during His walk to Calvary. Gibson infers that the burden bearing down so terribly on Jesus in Gethsemane was the foreknowledge of His upcoming torture. I don’t think so.
Other martyrs experienced gruesome death. Jesus’ followers would experience terrifying deaths in centuries after. No, there is something deeper provoking Jesus’ sorrow.
As horrific as His physical death would be, Jesus here anguishes for His relationship to the Father. Jesus, in bearing the sin of the world, will be ripped away from His deep communion with the Father. Forsaken. Rejected by His Abba. This prospect was killing Him in the Garden. When Jesus asks for a different road, He is not seeking physical relief. He is begging for an option other than one that separates Him from His beloved Father.
Yet the words “Your will be done,” condemned Jesus to this most awful inevitability. And this is why Jesus’ death is unique from any other martyrs. While these other martyrs gave testimony to God’s powerful presence during their deaths (think Stephen, for example), Jesus was abandoned, unaccompanied to face His destiny. His heart would shriek, “Why have you forsaken me?”
While observing Good Friday, our appreciation of Christ’s passion will be limited if we do not recognize His greater sacrifice – shouldering the wrath and rejection of His Father. Jesus shouldered rejection so that we can experience acceptance. Jesus bears our sin so that we can be forgiven. Jesus died so that we might live – face to face – with the Father.
This, then, is the unrivaled passion of our Christ, our Brother, our Friend, our Lord.