Last Sunday we began a “Focus on Israel” emphasis by featuring the Mount of Olives. Today seems the perfect time for the second installment as we follow Jesus from a garden of agony to a garden of victory.
We’ll begin back on the Mount of Olives. Nestled there is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus’ agony over the sin of mankind was manifest most severely. All four gospel writers share the account. (Matthew 26:36-56, Mark 14:32-50, Luke 22:39-53 and John 18:1-11)
It was the time of Passover and Jesus had just shared the last supper with His disciples in the Upper Room. During the Passover seder, there are typically four cups of wine, rooted in the “I will” statements of Exodus 6:6-7: cup of sanctification (“I will bring you out”), cup of deliverance (“I will deliver you”), cup of redemption (“I will redeem you”), and cup of praise/restoration (“I will take you as My people”).
Interestingly, during that last supper, Jesus declined the third cup…the cup of deliverance. Jesus was about to become the Deliverer, yet it required taking on the sin of the world. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with His Father to take that cup from Him. If there was any other way to deliver atonement for sin, Jesus asked it to be done. He was about to partake of that third cup in all its fullness, and He yielded Himself to the Father in doing so. As horrendously inhumane as crucifixion was, I have to wonder if deeper agony gripped Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
After His arrest in the garden, Jesus was dragged off to the home of the high priest, Caiaphas. It was nighttime and, by law, trials were to be held in the daytime. So, Jesus was cast down into a dungeon, used as a holding cell for criminals. For Jesus, the agony continued.
Today there are steps down into that dungeon, but in Jesus’ day, there was likely only the hole through which he was dropped, later to be fished out by ropes. Our recent tour group crowded into that small dungeon and, as many groups do, we read Psalm 88, imagining the heaviness of that night.
Huddled near a fire in the courtyard that fateful night, Peter denied Jesus three times. A memorial statue reminds us of Peter’s denials today, and just beyond that memorial is a rocky walkway where Jesus was almost assuredly brought up to Caiaphas’ house.
After multiple illegal trials, Jesus was handed over to Roman soldiers to be crucified. Good Friday was not so good, as the soldiers beat Jesus mercilessly, played cruel games to mock Him, spit on Him, and crowned Him with thorns. Matthew 27:33 tells us He was taken to Golgotha, place of the scull, and was crucified.
But friends, that was Friday, and today is Sunday…Resurrection Day! The grave could not hold Him! He arose victorious over our sin, which He took on in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now, in another garden, the Garden Tomb is empty!
Indeed, millions have peaked inside and have found the tomb empty! From garden to garden, Jesus bore our sin, took it to the grave, then arose again that Resurrection morning, giving us new life! May you be especially blessed today as you revel in the ultimate love of a Savior who loves you too much to allow sin to rule!
If you do not know Jesus, today is your day! The evidence is clear. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and He paid the price for your sin and mine, so that those who know Him will spend eternity with Him! Please know Jesus today!