The One Thing I Don't Want to do Alone
The neighbourhood was abuzz. Lazarus has been raised from the death. The story spread like wildfire. A few days later, as people gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus entered, riding on a donkey. The crowd reacted with celebration, throwing palm branches and their cloaks on the ground, shouting out their worship and their welcome to their “King” ( 12:13).
The authorities were annoyed, and not only was Jesus in their sights, but they were even plotting to kill Lazarus (12:10), and make him stay dead this time.
Some Greek converts were in the city for Passover and wanted to see Jesus (12:20). That simply added fuel to the fire of the authorities. They knew His fame would soon spread beyond the confines of Israel.
But Jesus was not focused on the fame and adulation. He knew what was to come and delivered again the message of His commitment to giving His life, emphasizing as well that His example would be the example His disciples would need to follow (12:23-26).
Then He said: “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’” (12:27, 28).
Do you recognize these words?
Just a little while later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord would repeat something very similar. Mark describes it this way: “...and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death....Abba, Father...everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (14:34, 26).
In the first statement, made at the beginning of His last week, we see a very human side of Jesus. He is “troubled.” I’d be troubled too if I knew that in a week’s time I was going to be crucified! But the Lord is also committed. And here is what seems like a contradiction. Jesus says that he would not asked to be saved from something that was His intention to carry out all along.
But when we get to the garden it sounds like the Lord has changed His mind and really would like to get out of this dilemma with all His human skin attached. He is still troubled but ends His prayer still fully committed to what lies ahead. So what is the difference here?
I think there is an added element to Jesus’ second statement. While death by crucifixion is troubling, the anticipation of the full weight of the wrath of God falling on Him is overwhelming. The pain of the separation that this will cause, the rift, the moment when His Father turns away from Him, is what Jesus would wish to avoid if He could. Our consolation as we face death is that God is with us. Jesus could only anticipate being alone in His death as the wrath of God fell on Him and the Father was forced to turn away from His own Son’s death, This was the “cup,” the cup of God’s anger against sin more fully described in places like Jeremiah 25:15-38.
I know that one day I will die. Though there is no guarantee that my death will be painless or quick, I do have the guarantee that the Lord will be with me when it happens. Psalm 23:4 will be true. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me....” Without that assurance, I’d be terrified too!