Ever feel like nobody understands you? That you’re alone? Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Jesus. Let me tell you, He understands you.
Jesus walked the earth as both God, and Man. Which means He had emotions. He felt pain. He understands.
On Thursday, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is agonizing over what lies ahead. In fact, check out the detail and gravity of this moment that the gospel of Luke records: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” Luke 22:44 Have you ever faced a gut-wrenching life circumstance? This is the emotion that Jesus is facing and the anguish of what lies ahead.
I want to make this as real possible and put ourselves into the story. Often times, we can hear a story so often, we become numb to it. Do you think it’s possible that even though Jesus would physically suffer and die that he was foreshadowing anguish over something else? I want to throw out a few possibilities:
I’d think that his primary emotion would’ve been fear. When someone signs up for the military, what’s the one thing everyone always talks about? Boot camp! You know it’s NOT going to be easy! You know what’s coming. And, like all Jews at that time, Jesus knew what He was signing up for when he was facing Crucifixion.
First, the whips that tore the flesh. Then, carrying your own cross. And, there’s the crucifixion itself. You hang there until your legs can no longer support you, which causes you not to be able to breathe, which leads to death by asphyxiation. Just talking about is terrifying.
That’s the physical pain, but what about the spiritual pain? This is what Jesus references as they arrived at Gethsemane… He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Mark 14: 34
Because of our humanness it’s impossible to be free of all fear and anxiety. It’s a normal response to any threat or danger. But Jesus didn’t allow his fears to turn him away from his passion and death. Instead, he made the decision with seven simple words: “Not my will, but yours be done!
The second emotion Jesus experienced was loneliness. Loneliness is a pain that too many people face in our world. It’s a soul crushing kind of pain of its own. Is there a greater pain than we could feel than being alone? Jesus felt that kind of pain. And, perhaps this was the greatest pain Jesus would feel.
What did it mean to be abandoned and alone – not God turning his back on Jesus – but Jesus willingly going through the ultimate pain of dying. Our creeds state, that “Jesus descended into hell”. But what is hell? Hell is the separation from God. Is that what Jesus would ultimately feel – on our behalf? Separation from the Father and Spirit in his death? Imagine the feeling of complete loneliness. No sound. No emotion. Complete darkness. An existence void of life and consciousness of it and an absence of God.
What do you do when you’re lonely? You reach out to a friend. I remember my college girlfriend dumped me. I was heartbroken, so I called a friend and said, “can I just come over and hang out?” I didn’t want to face suffering alone. Maybe you, or a friend, has had a friend go through treatment or grief, and you just sat with them so they weren’t alone.
Jesus asked his close friends Peter, James, and John to go with him into the garden, keep watch and pray with him. But every time he went to them, what were they doing? They were sleeping. He suffered alone. It shows Jesus understands loneliness. Ended Friendships. Family strife. Marriages broken.
This helps us see how Jesus dealt with his feelings of loneliness, especially during the agony in the garden. It also shows that Loneliness is not a disease or a disorder. It’s painful and has to be endured. Jesus shared—and understands—our pain. He’s a suffering Savior.
The third source of agony might surprise you. Is it possible that Jesus felt a sense of failure? With a few exceptions, he’d been unable to convince the Jewish religious leaders that he was the long-awaited Messiah. He also knew that the common people who loved being around him, who learned from him, marveled at the miracles and waved palm branches, would soon yell “Crucify him!” And worst of all, even his closest friends, the disciples, would abandon him in the end.
Again, isn’t this us? We work so hard and put our best efforts into a class or job, only to see it fail or be rejected. You’re no longer needed. We’re downsizing. We’re moving in another direction. What did I do to deserve this? As a parent, you might feel like you’ve failed in some way if your child gets into trouble, or falls into an addiction. Or, you’ve shared your faith with someone, only to have them say, “eh no thanks.” Situations like this make you feel helpless. I tried, but I failed.
Jesus in his present humanness was afraid, lonely, and defeated. All of this is happening with Jesus, and remember what the disciples are doing? Snoring! Now to cut ‘em some slack, this was at night. I’m not a night owl, myself. So if my boss called a midnight meeting, I’d have a hard time stayin’ awake, too. Add to the fact that they just had a huge meal with 3 cups of wine…just sayin’.
The disciples abandoned Jesus that Thursday night because their own human weakness took over. Yet, salvation is accomplished for those who are asleep, by Jesus alone. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:37-38
The disciples were asleep because they didn’t feel the weight of their sins let alone the sins of the world that Jesus was bearing. It’s true for us, too.
The night before Jesus died, He pleaded with his Father, “Let this cup pass from me.” He’s fully human yet fully God, and He shows the depth of the sacrifice, with God’s divine love in that prayer. All while facing fear, loneliness and defeat…and a feeling of being separated from his Father.
Jesus knew that physical death was ahead. And, more importantly, he knew the weight of the world’s sin was ahead. But, Jesus my Jesus, your Jesus, didn’t back down. He completely submitted to His Father’s will.
I remember being bedside when my sister was sick with a disease. I prayed, “not my will, Lord, but yours be done.” It’s hard submitting to the Father’s will. And, she passed. Yet, I felt a peace and trust that I can’t explain to be able to just keep moving forward. I’m sure you’ve had your own experience, too. It was a tiny glimpse of what Jesus endured on the journey to the cross.
What happened at the Cross is that God, in the person of Jesus, embraced us. God is personal. He isn’t a theory. He’s not some distant being who doesn’t care. He is not an angry judge eagerly waiting to drop his gavel because He is out to get us. God is for us. And in Jesus, God became a full participant as one of us – was crushed for our rebellion – and did it because we are worth it.
There’s a great line in a Zach Williams song, “He’s not sittin there shakin’ his head, writin you off, leavin’ the lost, wishin’ He’d never went to that cross. There’s only love in the Heart Of God.” He came because he loved us. Because He loves YOU!
If you’ve ever felt stuck in some kind of mess in your life, or maybe you are now, you just want someone to give you the key to unlock you from the handcuffs. “I’m sick of the drink”, “I’m sick of going to that website”, “I’m tired of being the Gossip”, “I’m tired of being labeled the mean girl”. Through the Cross, Jesus holds the keys, not because he’s angry, but because He loves you!
That’s John 3:16, “God so loved the world He gave His one and only son”. God loves the world. He loves those who don’t go church. He loves those who yell, “Crucify Him!”
Jesus, in his humanness, was in anguish because He was afraid, lonely, and felt defeated. But now, He’s telling you to rise…and inviting you into a life with him.
It’s Friday. Sunday’s coming!
Jesus understands. Go make a difference. Always Run by Faith.