This year, the events of Jesus’s last days have gripped me like never before.
I have read and reread the accounts of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, being delivered over to the Jewish and Roman leaders, willingly being crucified on Calvary.
Perhaps for the first time, what Jesus endured has become very personal. In each scene from His final days, I have discovered something new. Noticed something encouraging. Been drawn to worship in a deeper way.
It’s hard to know how to pray when I’m desperate. Do I ask God for deliverance, crying out to Him for relief? Or do I simply relinquish my desires to Him, trusting that He has the perfect plan? Faithful believers through the ages have Scripturally supported one side or the other, but in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does both.
In His anguish, Jesus cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).
Jesus first draws near to God in His pain, using the intimate term of Father. He then affirms that God can do anything. This is not merely a perfunctory prayer; Jesus is confident that His Father is able to change the situation. Thirdly, He directly asks God to take away His suffering. He is boldly asking for deliverance; Jesus does not want to face what lies ahead. Finally, He submits His will to the Father. Jesus beautifully models in His short prayer how to pray in our suffering: boldly ask God for deliverance yet submit to His sovereign will.
Jesus's greatest work on earth was accomplished by submitting and not by “doing”
In the Gospels, Jesus is a man of action; He responds to everyone God puts before Him. He heals the sick. Raises the dead. Gives sight to the blind. Makes the lame walk. And preaches the good news to the poor.
But now Jesus is being acted upon. Rather than actively doing or saying anything, He lets others impose their will upon Him. He is “betrayed into the hands of sinners,” (Matt 26:45), “led to Caiaphas the high priest,” (Matt 26:57) “bound and led away and delivered to Pilate,” (Matt 27:2) where “they stripped him… mocked him… spit on him… and led him away to crucify him,” (Matt 27:31) yet “he remained silent.” (Mark 14:61)
In His final days, Jesus willingly submits to the cup of suffering set before Him. And this is what brought God the most glory. Through His submission, Jesus accomplished His most important work on earth.
For someone who is increasingly able to “do” less, this realization was powerful. I had always believed that activity and words glorified God more than stillness and silence. Yet the greatest work Jesus did on earth was not actively doing anything. It was in willingly receiving what God had for Him without complaint. Accepting God’s will and not fighting against it. Trusting God’s plan when it meant suffering.
It has been comforting to see that perhaps “doing” things for God is not as important as accepting the things that God is doing. Maybe submitting to God’s will, entrusting ourselves to Him and trusting that He is orchestrating our circumstances, is the most significant thing any of us can do for the Kingdom.
Jesus could have saved Himself
As Jesus is being crucified, the crowd is mocking Him. They jeer, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe.” (Mark 14:31-32)
If they only knew Who they were mocking. If they only knew how the Father loved Him. If they only knew what they were asking. Jesus could have come down from the cross. Answered all their questions. Satisfied their doubts. Proven He was the Son of God. They would have seen and believed. To their eternal damnation.
Jesus chooses the path of humility. Of not trying to prove Himself. He knows that enduring this painful humiliating death, misunderstood and mocked, bearing the weight of the world’s sin as the Father turned His face away is for a magnificent purpose. The most glorious purpose imaginable.
God can certainly save me from anything that I am dealing with. But many times He chooses not to because He has a bigger plan in mind. And just as He loved Jesus, but watched Him suffer and die for a reason, God often lets me suffer because He has a greater purpose as well.
Jesus was forsaken
And then there is the cross. Where Jesus is forsaken. Abandoned by His Father. On Good Friday, as Jesus is dying on the cross, He can no longer call God, “Abba.” That relationship has been broken. And so He simply cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
All of our sins, and the sins of the entire world - past, present, and future - are laid upon Him. And God’s righteous wrath is unleashed. God turns His face away from Jesus, leaving Him utterly alone. For the first time, Jesus’s fellowship with God is broken. He no longer has the comfort of God’s presence. He endures the crushing weight of God’s fury alone.
There are times I have felt forsaken by God. I have cried out in the dark and been met with chilling silence. Nothing. No comfort. No reassurance. No deliverance. No answered prayers. No respite. I have felt desperate and lonely, wondering where God was in the midst of my pain.
But the amazing beautiful wonderful truth is that because Jesus was forsaken, I never will be.
God will never leave me. I may not feel His presence and may need to rely on His promises, but He is always with me. He will not turn His face away. Because of Jesus, God will never abandon me.
I am reminded of the song, Amazing Love, recorded by the Newsboys. It says,
I’m forgiven because You were forsaken. I’m accepted; You were condemned.
I’m alive and well, Your Spirit lives within me. Because You died and rose again.
Amazing love, how can it be? That You my King, would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it's true. It's my joy to honor You. In all I do, to honor You.
What amazing love Jesus has for us. That He endured God’s wrath for me. And for you. So that we can enjoy unending fellowship with the Trinity.
What should we do in the face of such astonishing love?
Worship. Fall to our knees and worship. For there is no other fitting response.