In the night in which he was betrayed...
It's Thursday, the day we remember Jesus' last meal with his disciples at the Passover feast. Jesus began the evening celebration by washing his disciples' feet, something which normally would have been done by a servant--just one more example of Jesus' complete counter-culturalism. In fact, Peter was horrified, at first, at the thought of his Master washing his feet. Jesus told them,
"I have given you and example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master...."John 13:15-16a
After supper, Jesus went to a quiet place to pray. He "began to be filled with horror and deep distress" (Mark 14:33), and told his friends "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me." (Mark 14:34)
He went a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him pass him by. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine." Mark 14:35-36
I'd just like to point out, here, that saying Abba is like saying Daddy. Can you imagine a 30 year old man calling his father Daddy? That, more than anything, demonstrates to me the sorrow and distress, even despair that Jesus was feeling. Luke reports that
He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:44
Once again, I love this picture of Jesus. It is so easy, amidst the miracles and healings and teachings and throwing out of demons and walking on water, to remember that Jesus is God. And it is so easy to forget that he was, at the same time, fully human. I think we just gloss over that part sometimes, because it's so difficult to understand how he could be both, God and human.
And yet, here he is in the garden. Jesus knows what he has to do, and, quite understandably, doesn't want to do it. It will be difficult. It will be humiliating. It will be painful. It is beyond words, what Jesus will go through. But Jesus, because he loves us (US!), does it anyway. Jesus has free will, too, we all do, and he chose salvation for the world, redemption for us all, in exchange for his life.
When I was younger, I never really understood why Good Friday was called good. I never understood why Jesus had to die. It seems to me that the day on which Jesus died was awful, horrible, terrible, anything but good. I guess I didn't understand salvation at that point, or how God can use even the most horrific situations to fulfill his purposes.
It is no accident that Jesus' sacrifice came during the season of Passover, the time when Jews remember the angel of death passing over the Hebrews' homes just before their escape from slavery in Egypt. If you remember, the Hebrew people were to slaughter a lamb, a perfect lamb, without blemish, and smear its blood on their door frames, which would signal to the angel of death that this household was to be spared. Jesus, on this night in which he was betrayed, became the perfect passover lamb, once and for all, and his blood is smeared over the doorways of our hearts, sparing us from the horror and the grief, the agony and distress of death: the slavery of this imperfect, sinful life.