32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34And he said to them,“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48And Jesus said to them,“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50And they all left him and fled.51And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.69And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:32-72
Jesus betrayed into the hands of sinners. As I stand with James, John and Peter, I marvel at these words. At the irony they hold. That Jesus, who came to save sinners, to forgive them, to redeem them, to die for them, is betrayed into their very hands.
They come in a crowd, armed with weapons. They come as if they will face an army instead of one man. They come as if under their own power. Except that they are but God’s means to God’s end. That scripture may be fulfilled. That mankind may be reconciled to God.
This crowd of soldiers leads him away. Another crowd, this one including the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, tells lies about him and bears false witness against him.
Even so, it takes Jesus to create the circumstances with which they will condemn him to death. It takes his admission of Truth to move their lies forward.
And, oh, the incredible irony shakes me to my core. Especially as they humiliate him, as they shame him, as the mock him. Nausea fills my insides as pain fills my heart and tears fill my eyes. Is this really the Jesus I have been following? Is this really the Jesus of miracles, the Jesus of hope, the Jesus of amazing love?
Of course it is. But to see such anger, such cruelty, such hatred hurled at him physically hurts me. With each blow, with each ugly action, my muscles tense, my jaw clenches, my hands curl into tightened fists.
That such a moment of deep and utter hopelessness will be the birth of hope amazes me.
And I cannot help but wonder about these men. These men who tonight, in these moments, give into their basest natures and accost this man, Jesus, in their custody. This man they have seen perform miracles. This man they have heard teach with incredible wisdom. This man they have perhaps even followed at a comfortable distance. Perhaps drawn to him in a way similar to the disciples. Perhaps realizing that there is something about this man that is more than they can understand.
And yet, tonight they gather around this man, Jesus and strike him. Mocking him. Celebrating their own power.
But what about a few nights from tonight? What then will they feel? What then will they experience? What then will they encounter in their hearts and their souls?
Will they believe the news that this man, Jesus is not in the grave where he was lain?
Will they believe that he was innocent though he hung upon the cross?
Will they believe that he was the fulfillment of the scriptures? That he was the Messiah?
And what if they do?
What if they come to believe his claims about himself and the testimony of his disciples?
Will it be more difficult for them to come before him then, for them to gather around him? Will it be more difficult for them to come before the throne of God? Will it be more difficult for them than it will be for me? Or for Peter? Or for any of the disciples who abandoned him?
We each bear a burden of shame, of guilt, of hurt, don’t we? For angry words we speak to someone we love. For lying to someone who trusts us. For hurting someone who cannot defend himself. We each bear a burden of sin.
And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?
That’s why Jesus went so willingly to the cross as God and as man. Even though the human part of him begged the Father for some other way, Jesus went willingly. Even when the high priests and scribes and elders and pharisees couldn’t trap him, catch him, frame him, he willingly gave them what they needed.
Jesus went willingly.
And he invited us to follow him and to meet him there, at the foot of the cross. He invited us.
He still invites us. To lay down the burdens we bear. To take on his grace.
Jesus invites us to come to him even after all that he endured.
He invites us to come to him no matter what. He does not hold our weakness, our striking blows, our ugly, angry actions that we hurl at him and others against us.
That is difficult for my human mind to believe. That is difficult for my human heart to comprehend. That is difficult for my human nature that clings to the smallest wrongs of others against me to fathom.
And yet, I do believe.
I don’t comprehend and I cannot fathom, but I do believe.
Because I have walked with this man Jesus and I believe he is who he says he is. I believe him. I believe in him. I trust him.
I love him.
And I can love him only because he first loved me.
And that is what I am watching as I stand in the shadows of this courtyard, a witness to the end of Jesus’ ministry. The end of his life.
I am watching love. Absolute, unconditional, amazing love.
And my heart tells me that though it feels like the end, it is but the beginning.
And I cling to that. I cling to Jesus. Even now as he is mocked and beaten, I cling to him.
Because he is I Am.
Because he is love.