With so much focus in the Gospels on Passion Week, there are no recorded events or sayings that take place on Wednesday. Yet we do know this. Jesus was preparing and the Jewish leaders were plotting.
Tomorrow would be the Last Supper, as the Passover is turned into the Lord’s Supper, a visual picture of Jesus fulfilling the imagery of a lamb being slain for the protection and rescue of a family from slavery and oppression. He would be the Passover lamb. Because judgment would fall upon him it would pass over us — those covered by the shed blood-smeared not upon doorposts but upon a cross.
As the priests and elders gathered to plot Jesus’s arrest and execution, Jesus’s mind must have been turned to how the plot would come to fruition over the next two days. After Wednesday, there would be no time for rest. He would not sleep again until he slept in death–a death that was not only to be physically excruciating but emotionally and spiritually agonizing. Jesus wasn’t just going to die. He was going to endure the full weight of the law’s wrath upon sin. He would feel in his soul the righteous fury of the Father as our acts of demonic loyalty were incinerated by the fires of holy justice.
Jesus was not facing death as a martyr. He was facing death as a Savior. It makes me wonder how this affected the conversations he was having on this day with this Father. We call these conversations prayer.
We know from the recorded prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane late the following evening after the supper that he was in severe emotional turmoil. As the hour drew nearer and nearer, the stress intensified to such a degree that his blood pressure exceeded the capacity of human limits, bursting the capillaries on his forehead, causing blood to trickle down his face.
Two statements are recorded in Matthew 26:39 as “he fell on his face and prayed.” In this first, he asks, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” In the second, he concedes, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
In verse 42, he repeats the two statements in prayer, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
I’m thankful that we have that prayer. It teaches me so much about being brutally honest with God in prayer.
Why do we think our prayers have to sound right, using sanctified terms with pre-washed language? Am I afraid that if the Father knew my true thoughts and feelings and desires that he would be revolted by my lack of emotional stability and look upon me with the eyes of loathsome disappointment?
Why can’t I just be honest? Brutally honest. Like Jesus. What we can learn from Jesus in this prayer is that the language of lament, grief, and despair and the language of trust, hope, and joy are not mutually exclusive. They reveal a healthy and holistic relationship where there is the freedom to be real.
I wonder what would happen to us spiritually if we could be brutally honest with God with our darker emotions? Maybe in that context, we would experience substantial healing and re-wiring of desires. Maybe we would be able to have a conversation with God like Jesus.
Or like David in Psalm 13.
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has
dealt bountifully with me.
Brutal honesty and gospel sanity. Lament and hope. Grief and trust. They go together.
In the Garden, Jesus is brutally honest about his grief. But he also trusts the Father’s goodness. We can imagine that these dueling emotions were at war on Wednesday, fighting for the upper hand. Or maybe they coexisted in holy tension between transparency and trust?
What we do know is that Jesus knew the Father intimately. He was able to express his questions without fear, while still trusting the Father’s plan, even if it required him to endure the ultimate dark night of the soul.
Have you experienced a crushing disappointment? Had a dream shattered? The dark night of the soul?
Most of us have. All of us will.
What do we do with such sadness, anguish, and heartbreak? Jesus’s example teaches us that we shouldn’t suppress or whitewash it. We don’t leave our troubles at the entrance of the sanctuary. We bring them with us to the throne of grace to the God who understands and promises to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We cry. We shout. We wail. We lament. However, while we are expressing our lament, we also will need to fight for faith.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
This is what we can pray and believe when given eyes to see the cross of Jesus, being convinced that his lament was not in vain.
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