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Dear Friend,

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34).

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to show signs deep distress. He appeared to be under siege to a weighty and mysterious grief. SO much so that the disciples were frightened. “They did not know what to say to him” (Mark 14:40).

There is something sacred about grief. Instinctively we tiptoe around sadness. But in the grief of Jesus the reasons for reverence are multiplied. The record shows that his was no example of ordinary sorrow. At the start of his Gethsemane ordeal Jesus informs the disciples that a sorrow presses so heavy upon him as to crush out his life. He turns to God and prays: “If possible, let this hour pass from me.” And again: “Father, take this cup from me” (Mark 14:35,36). The ‘hour’ and the ‘cup’ are one and the same. Jesus had once before spoken of the cup. He had asked James and John: “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” In the Old Testament, the cup symbolizes God’s judgment of evil (Isaiah 51:17, 22). It is the cup of God’s wrath or the “wine that makes men stagger” (Psalam 60:3). Jesus' language reveals his understanding that the paroxysm of dread to which he is exposed comes to him from the hand of God. The hour, the cup, the baptism are his destiny. They have loomed over him since his birth. Now he experiences them viscerally-and God seems to be behind it.

In the hours that follow, Jesus is subjected to some of the worst barbarities ever contrived by man. It is true that many of his followers since have endured equal or worse miseries. Some have been stretched on racks, drawn and quartered, boiled in oil, burnt at the stake or made to watch their loved ones suffer torture.

Jesus suffered terribly bodily pain, and yet there was a dimension to his horror that made his physical torments secondary. God was there with a task to be accomplished. There was a cup to be drunk-not the cup of Judas' nor that of Pilate and Caiaphas. It was God's cup. The mystery of Christ's agony lies here. Though his trial and execution were in every way a human crime; the carrying out of the malevolent will of mankind, that very will and those very actions were subjugated and surmounted by the will of God.

God was in Gethsemane. Even Jesus’ prayer implicates God in his trauma. “Everything is possible for you, take this cup from me; yet not what I will but what you will.” In his dismay Jesus lays hold of the idea that God can do anything (all things are possible to God), yet his faith goes further. He trust the God who will not do everything.


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