Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope on A Gray Tuesday

It's Holy Week.  It's Tax Day.  It's cold and raining when it should be spring.

But there's hope, indeed.

Warmer weather is coming this weekend, and 10 days from now is the last official frost date for my town.  Tomatoes will be in the ground soon, yes indeed.

But the best hope?  The best good news on this gray day?  I'll leave that to Max Lucado to share, excerpted from his book And the Angels Were Silent:

It’s nearly midnight when they leave the upper room and descend through the streets of the city. They pass the Lower Pool and exit the Fountain Gate and walk out of Jerusalem. The roads are lined with the fires and tents of Passover pilgrims. Most are asleep, heavied with the evening meal. Those still awake think little of the band of men walking the chalky road.

They pass through the valley and ascend the path that will take them to Gethsemane. The road is steep, so they stop to rest. Somewhere within the city walls the twelfth apostle darts down a street. His feet have been washed by the man he will betray. His heart has been claimed by the Evil One he has heard. He runs to find Caiaphas.

The final encounter of the battle has begun.

As Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem, he sees what the disciples can’t. It is here, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, that the battle will end. He sees the staging of Satan. He sees the dashing of demons. He sees the Evil One preparing for the final encounter. The enemy lurks as a specter over the hour. Satan, the host of hatred, has seized the heart of Judas and whispered in the ear of Caiaphas. Satan, the master of death, has opened the caverns and prepared to receive the source of light.

Hell is breaking loose.

History records it as a battle of the Jews against Jesus. It wasn’t. It was a battle of God against Satan.

And Jesus knew it. He knew that before the war was over, he would be taken captive. He knew that before victory would come defeat. He knew that before the throne would come the cup. He knew that before the light of Sunday would come the blackness of Friday...

He then turns, steps into the garden, and invites Peter, James, and John to come. He tells them his soul is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and begins to pray.

Never has he felt so alone. What must be done, only he can do. An angel can’t do it. No angel has the power to break open hell’s gates. A man can’t do it. No man has the purity to destroy sin’s claim. No force on earth can face the force of evil and win – except God.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus confesses.

His humanity begged to be delivered from what his divinity could see. Jesus, the carpenter, implores. Jesus, the man, peers into the dark pit and begs, “Can’t there be another way?”

Did he know the answer before he asked the question? Did his human heart hope his heavenly father had found another way? We don’t know. But we do know he asked to get out. We do know he begged for an exit. We do know there was a time when if he could have, he would have turned his back on the whole mess and gone away.

But he couldn’t.

He couldn’t because he saw you, and one look at you was all it took to convince him...
He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your Garden of Gethsemane – and he didn’t want you to be alone.

He wanted you to know that he has been there, too. He knows what it’s like to be plotted against. He knows what it’s like to be confused. He knows what it’s like to be torn between two desires. He knows what it’s like to smell the stench of Satan. And, perhaps most of all, he knows what it’s like to beg God to change his mind and to hear God say so gently, but firmly, “No.”

For that is what God said to Jesus. And Jesus accepted the answer. At some moment during that midnight hour an angel of mercy came over the weary body in the garden. Jesus stood, the anguish gone from his eyes. His heart will fight no more.

The battle has been won. The sign of the conquest? Jesus at peace in the olive trees.

On the eve of the cross, Jesus made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.

Lucado, Max. And the Angels Were Silent. New York: Walker and Co., 1993. 165-169. Print.