Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blood and Redemption

Jesus, in the Bible, is so human. Too often, I have turned him into some sort of other-worldly superhuman who relies on his divinity to survive the chaos we know as human existence. His “human-ness” (not to be confused with humanism) is possibly best seen in the garden (Matt. 26:39-46; Mark 14:33-41; Luke 22::39-46; John 18:1). It takes every gospel account to put together an adequate picture, but the different perspectives are often easily dismissed as nothing more than part of the puzzle of the cross.

Mark and Matthew provide more descriptive language (even though this “descriptions” falls decisively short of the emotion of the moment), but Luke’s account, mostly matter-of-fact, includes a paralyzing medical diagnosis—’His sweat became like great clots of blood dropping down upon the ground” (Amplified).

English, as a language, is sadly lacking in its descriptiveness. I may never be able to explain agony, distress or depression to a person who has never lived them, but when someone sweats blood, it’s hard not to wonder what sort of stress must be placed on a body to achieve that sort of physical reaction. That question led me to a conclusion: At the most, a gospel provides us with nine verses to share Jesus’ emotional (and human) predicament. Too often, I’ve glossed that text failing to realize that Christ was clearly laying his feelings bare—”I would like to have a different plan, but my job is to follow—not lead.”

I wonder if there were other times like this that aren’t recorded in scripture. When the sun set, and Jesus laid down and was alone with his thoughts, I wonder if there were moments of sobbing and begging the Almighty to turn things around. I hesitate to believe the garden is the first place Jesus asked to give that cup back. The truth is that the situation is not unfamiliar to many. Who will ever be capable of counting the number of tears that have been shed as godly men and women have asked—begged even—for one cup or another to pass from their lives? With many, you will rarely see the agony they face. The reality of the cup is daily; the hurt (maybe even feelings of betrayal) likely comes when everyone else is asleep, or as we’ve seen through familiar scripture, when everyone who has been asked for support sleeps. I guess sympathy is hard to come by when there is no precedent to draw on. How can night be explained to a person who has only seen daylight?

At the end of these scriptures, Jesus agony is just beginning. That scene is so poignant for me. I can’t believe I was so willing to pass right over it n the same way I would read a menu (“Chicken fingers—en, I had those LAST night.”). Christ didn’t keep on keeping on just because he knew His Father’s Will. He agonized over that circumstance. Suddenly I understand Paul’s admonition: “I want to know Him in His sufferings,” because now I realize that resolution may not mean twenty minutes at an altar followed by a potluck (Phil. 3:10). I want to understand how Christ was able to dislike the plan enough to beg for it to change, and still give himself over completely the hands of one who created that plan. I guess sometimes it requires self-sacrifice and the agony of a cross.

After Luke’s pronouncement of sweat and blood, the IVP New Testament Commentaries states that in “a literary sense, the shedding of blood is already beginning. A deep dependence on the Father sometimes comes with great pain.” It’s the simplest way to sum up one of the most difficult concepts I’ve ever faced. It’s a promise of pain—dying to self wasn’t meant to be pleasant. But the theme of blood is also coupled with the concept of redemption.

I had never considered the fact that my redeemer had to die to self before he could accept His Father’s plan fully. Why should my journey be any different?

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