When I was 12 years old, our history class studied the Holocaust. As I learned about brutal acts committed against the innocent, I was shaken to the core. After school, I dug out my parents’ storage boxes, looking for pictures of my father in his World War II uniform. I knew that he’d been part of the clean-up effort of the concentration camp at Dachau. I did not know that he kept a stack of snapshots of the dead and near dead who had been interned there. As the gruesome pictures spilled out onto the floor, my history lesson became personal. I began to understand how those events must have shaped my own father’s life.
As we reach the Easter season, our minds should turn to Jesus and the sacrifice of the Cross. As a child, Jesus would have been schooled in the history of his people, studying the Scriptures from a young age. By the time he began his ministry around the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), Jesus knew them well. Speaking in the synagogue, he was able to unroll the scroll of Isaiah to the exact place that described the very Scripture he was at that moment fulfilling before them (Luke 4:17-21).
Consider our Lord as he grew and studied. Think about how he felt as he began to recognize each place in Scripture where the words spoke directly about him. Some words would bring great joy. Others would foretell a difficult future. Imagine yourself as a young Jesus, and as you read the following scriptures, think about how it would feel to realize that each verse is personal, and describes your future.
(14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
(15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
(16) Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
(17) I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
(18) They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.
(3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
(5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.
(6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Many times Jesus must have turned these words over in his head. He came to understand the brutal things he would be asked to endure, and still he chose to walk through them. That walk was not without internal struggle. As the time of his death approached, Jesus was in mental agony. He went to the Mount of Olives, to a place called Gethsemane (which means oil press). Here he was pressed brutally from every side. He walked about a “stone’s throw” away from his disciples (Luke 22:41) where, deeply troubled, he knelt and prayed.
(34) “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
(35) Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
(36) “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Surely at only a “stone’s throw” away, Jesus is well within view of his disciples. Still they fail to support him, even with wakeful prayer. Three times he returns to them. Three times he finds them sleeping. After the second time, Jesus again separates himself and falls to the ground in prayer.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
How utterly alone he must have felt, and yet, he was not alone.
Luke 22:43 and 44
(43) An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
(44) And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When Jesus was at his lowest point, God sent an angel, not to deliver him from his calling, but to strengthen him for it. That lesson alone should bring us to our knees. When Jesus had need, God strengthened him. Because of Jesus, God will strengthen us as we act upon His will.
After praying, Jesus got up to go to meet his captors. He was full of resolve and incredible courage.
Mark 14:41 and 42
(41) Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of the sinners.
(42) Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer.
Such strength! Such sacrifice on our behalf!
Every day, our lives are writing upon the pages of history. Even in the midst of troubled times, let us pray, not only for deliverance, but more and more, that we have the strength and the courage to do God’s will rather than our own.