Jesus Suffers: Garden, Via Dolorosa, and Cross

Texts: Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:52-53; Luke 23:32-47

Days 47-49 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

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If we had not been sufficiently convinced of the humanity of Jesus, perhaps because he also God in the flesh, the movement from the Garden to the Cross might just seal the deal. Jesus suffers.

Jesus wrestles with God in prayer, recognizes the powers of darkness surrounding him, and hangs on a cross mocked and humiliated. Jesus enters fully into the human experience of death, persecution, and injustice.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus leaves eight disciples behind, takes three deeper into the Garden with him (Peter, James, and John), and then finds a place to be alone. He has come to pray, and his prayer is saturated with grief and his spirit is agitated. He goes off by himself three times, and each time he returns he finds his disciples sleeping. He prays without a sustaining community surrounding him. Sometimes praying is more important than sleeping. His prayer progresses from hesitation to acceptance, and ultimately to commitment. Jesus submits to the will of the Father.

As Jesus begins his way to his trial and to the cross—the via dolorosa (the way of sorrow), he announces to his opposition—hostile rulers—that “this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53, NIV). Darkness evokes the memory of the chaos of Genesis 1:2. It remembers the power of God’s enemies, including Satan. When darkness reigns, innocent people are executed. When darkness reigns, the righteous are mocked. When darkness reigns, women weep over the loss of their children. Nevertheless, the light of the kingdom is present. Even as he hung on the cross, kingdom light breaks into the darkness.

While on the cross, according to Luke, Jesus speaks three times. He speaks about forgiveness, God’s Paradise, and trust. Though dying on a cross, Jesus prays for his enemies. He testifies to the death of evil and suffering because the Paradise of God is real. And, quoting Psalm 31, he expresses his trust in the Father.

Forgiveness, Victory, and Trust.

Though darkness reigns, the kingdom is revealed in Jesus from the Garden to the Cross. Amid the darkness, Jesus struggled, and then he accepted his journey, and finally completed it in full trust of the Father with forgiveness in his heart for his enemies and an assurance of the future to his new friend, a fellow-cross bearer.

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