This past fall we had the privilege of leading a tour to Israel and Jordan with folks from our church and other friends. It was not our first time in the Holy Land but this time I was touched in a new and profound way.
It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that I became overwhelmed by a mosaic of our weeping Savior.
The Church of all Nations, also known as the Church of Agony, stands in this location on the Mount of Olives. Inside the church is a large outcropping of rock on which Jesus is supposed to have prayed the night before his crucifixion. It is in the center of the church.
Our group took time to kneel there in silence and to meditate on this profound moment in the life of Christ.
Gazing in silence at this massive rock and magnificent work of art I was reminded of 2 truths that I often fail to meditate upon. Truths that are essential to the Christian faith and transforming to an individual’s soul.
1. None of the founders of religions or “gods” who have been worshipped throughout history chose suffering and death as Jesus did.
Jesus is the only one who suffered, choosing to die in order that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life with Him and the Father. Only in Christianity are we accepted, not because of our deeds, but because we are forgiven. We have nothing to prove. Nothing we can bring. Our part is simply to receive Him.
Legendary author and preacher, The Rev Dr. John Stott once said,
I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross … in the real world of pain how could one worship a God who is immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha … his eyes closed …the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world … and in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely twisted tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears, and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.” (from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.)
2. Of all the other “god” options, Jesus is the only one who completely understands us.
There’s a powerful ad campaign about Jesus running now with the slogan, “He gets us.” This is true but we must take it one step further and ask how? The writer to the Hebrews explains this in both Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 4 which say essentially the same thing:
We don’t have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin.” (Hebrews 2: 17-18, Hebrews 4:14-16 paraphrased)
How might these truths impact us in fresh ways during this Easter Season?
Have you ever been through a night (or days) of deep anguish? A darkness filled with paralyzing fear and anxiety. Sleeplessness, a stomach in knots, horrible stress over a difficult decision or a terrible situation? Many are now grieving the utter horror of the Nashville school shooting.
Consider Jesus: In this night before His crucifixion, he prostrated himself upon a rock and asked His Father God if there was any other way for Him to avoid what was to come. So great was his anguish that his sweat poured down like blood. (Luke 27:30-44)
Yes, Jesus understands your anguish.
Have you felt utter abandonment — perhaps by a friend, a spouse, a family member. Left to suffer the pain of deep loneliness — right at the time in which you need a friend?
Consider Jesus: When Jesus got to Gethsemane, he asked Peter, James, and John to be with him saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38). They let him down even though he asked them two times to keep awake with him.
Yes, Jesus understands your loneliness.
Have you been betrayed? A friend broke a confidence, a spouse betrayed you, you have been falsely accused? Betrayal, particularly by someone whom you thought was your friend hurts more than a deep wound.
Consider Jesus: Judas with whom he had spent approximately 3 years sharing his life, His love and training Him in the end betrayed Him for sack of money. (Yes, this was a fulfillment of prophecy, however this did not negate the pain of this moment for Jesus.) Or what about Peter, his best friend, the one upon whom He was going to build his church. The time Jesus most needed him, he denied even knowing him 3 times.
Yes, Jesus understands the pain of betrayal.
Have you been overcome by a deep sadness, a wrenching loss? Someone to whom you are very close has died or is dying. A child has fled the faith, fallen into sin, denied our Savior. Waves of pain crash down on you with relentless drenching. Weeping goes on and on. Your pain seems never ending.
Consider Jesus: When He was told by Mary and Martha that his dear friend Lazarus had died, He wept. Even though He knew he would raise Him from the dead, still he wept for the pain of Lazarus’s family and friends.
When he looked out over Jerusalem a few days before He died, He wept as he reflected upon the people’s rejection of Him and the terrible destruction of the city which was to come. (Luke 19:41-44)
Yes, Jesus understands your pain and weeps with you.
There’s a wonderful promise in Psalm 147:5.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
It is helpful to ask, “Where in Jesus’s life did he experience what I am going through? Is it possible He might know exactly how I am feeling? That He might actually understand my raw emotions? ’
When we look deeper into His death and resurrection, we catch a fresh glimpse of the humanity of our Savior. He identifies with us, and in this identification, we receive His supernatural comfort.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Watch a video of the song “He will hold me fast” by Keith & Kristyn Getty:
You might want to read this blog, too: Confronting Evil: 2 Sin Traps to Avoid and 5 Truths About Our Enemy
If you aren’t sure you’re a Christian and want to know more, check out Certainty in Christ.