Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them,“Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26: 36-46, ESV
The garden of Gethsemene was right on the very edge of Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples had come for Passover. Beyond the garden lay the wilderness, not dissimilar to the area in which He was tempted at the beginning of His ministry. It is in this garden that Jesus asks His Father if He can be released from the death lying in wait for Him. He asks three times, but each time there is a temptation:
He could run.
If He ran into the wilderness His disciples would praise His ability to elude those hunting Him. It would be easy. He had survived 40 days in the desert, but this time it was the simple presence of the wilderness that taunted Him. The easy way out was right there infront of Him and three times He asked God if He could get away, if He could run, if it were really necessary for Him to die.
He stayed. Why? Love. He loved God, loved the world, loved His people, loved you, and so He stayed and died.
Today is Black Saturday (also called Holy or Great Saturday). It is the day that is often left as a gap, and in a way the gap in Holy week makes sense, but on the other hand it is the lack that infact makes the day worth remembering.
Jesus didn’t come back immediately. It wasn’t that he came down off the cross, yelled “HA HA YOU CAN’T KILL ME!” and ran off. Jesus was buried in a tomb, a stone rolled in front of the entrance, and the entrance guarded. Mary, mother of Jesus, and His disciples, had watched Him bleed and die a slow, agonising death of suffocation and wounds and heat burning down on His head.
That sabbath was one of darkest for mourning and grief. They were also scared for their lives. Their leader, and God, had just been caught and killed for simply getting on the wrong side of powerful people. Who was to say whether they were also in danger? From their point of view they were alone, in danger, and had no hope or idea of what to do next. This Saturday did not just pass by, it would have been a long, drawn out, painfully slow and worrying Saturday, and from their perspective there was no Easter Sunday to look forward to.
But grief is important. It shows caring, passion, that something was worth anything in the first place. This Black Saturday was important because it held all their love and devotion to a man who had died, a God who seemed to have abandoned them, their tears and fear were bound up in the time they had spent with a man that they had never expected to lose.
They grieved for Him. Why? Love. They followed Him for years, listened to Him, obeyed Him, and so they loved and grieved.
There is power in love, it’s saves, changes, transforms, and lasts forever.
It is this love that we celebrate at Easter. As the sun comes up we remember the loving sacrifice of God’s grace in His son, we remember the joy of the disciples as Jesus returned to comfort them and give them new hope in His love for them, we remember the love in the beauty of creation that our loving God made, and we remember all those who have followed Christ to the cross in acts of sacrificial love for Him and those around them.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus said, ” As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. ”
The Father’s love, the Son’s love, and our love is but a giving until it hurts.
Love is the final and lasting investment we can ever make. It is something that never loses value. It will be what justifies us to God as it is a representation of the Spirit within us. Celebrate it this Easter, remember what was given in love for you, and act on the love you have for God.