The Garden of Gethsemane
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Good Friday 2017
The Garden of Gethsemane
Pastor Mike Fabarez
Come with me tonight in your mind’s eye back 2,000 years to a grove of olive trees just outside the old city walls of Jerusalem. It’s a place I know you’re familiar with it. It’s a place where in a dramatic series of events unfolds that commences an unbroken chain of events that leads to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Friday. That’s right, this Good Friday I want you to imagine with me what took place on Thursday evening. It was a very busy day for Jesus and the Apostles. He had inaugurated the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper in the upper room.
He had taught about many things in that upper room that he explained to his disciples that John the Apostle records. And then when he was done he said let’s go across the Kidron Valley to a place you know of as Gethsemane. To get your bearing if you haven’t been there and even if you have it may help you to think back to Jerusalem at the time of Christ looking from the south up the Kidron Valley you would be looking at the southern wall of the Temple Mount. It’s called Herod’s Temple because Herod had come and dumped all kinds of money into the refurbishment of Solomon’s Temple.
It’s the second temple and it is decked out. It is prominent. It is beautiful. It hugged the eastern wall of the Old City.
And as you can see it is just across from a large grove of olive trees. If you look beyond them up the slopes of that mount you would see the top of the Mount of Olives where so many biblical scenes play out both in the Old and New Testament and even in the eschatological scenes that are spelled out for us in the prophet’s events yet to come.
The old city of Jerusalem. If you look up this olive grove that was cut down some years later when in 70 AD Titus the Roman soon to be emperor came in and led that ransacking of the city. He felled most of those trees for battering rams and all that they did against the city but at the time of Christ, years before Titus arrived, there were olive groves all up and down the descending slope of the Mount of Olives. There was a garden, a place called Gethsemane that you’re familiar with in the story that commences a series of events that leads to the crucifixion of Christ, a scene that was filled with drama. Gethsemane. It’s a place that was familiar to the disciples. They spent time there. It was a place at the end of the day to go and sit under the trees maybe in the evening to feel the cool breeze coming down the valley to sit and look across at the Temple Mount and the activity of the busy city across the way. Jesus retired there often. And on this night, of course, you might remember that after all that took place in the upper room, it says here in John Chapter 18 that he went out with his disciples across the brook of the Kidron where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
And of course the most painful part at least in the scene of this garden was the betrayal of Judas which John is referencing here when he said Judas who betrayed him also knew the place. He was going to show up with the authorities to have him arrested with the sign of his betrayal, a kiss on Jesus’ cheek. And of course it was known to them and this is an interesting tidbit, it says for Jesus often met with his disciples there. Two of the four gospel writers tell us that. This was a frequent place for him to be and so this scene where so much comes into play the night before his crucifixion, it was a place that he and his disciples were very, very familiar with. It was a place according to Matthew 26 that was called Gethsemane. We get that in both Matthew and in Mark and his purpose at the end of this busy day and after all that teaching in the upper room was for him to go and pray. He knew he’d be betrayed, he said that at the dinner that he was going to be betrayed that night and he knew it was coming. In anticipation of that he wanted to spend time in communion and fellowship with his Father in prayer and he asked them to sit there just a short distance away from him and watch and pray, which of course as you know the story they were not able to do. They were tired, it had been a long day for all of them and they fell asleep. Gethsemane is the name of this grove, this garden where they met often. Gethsemane has a very interesting origin in terms of its name. It is transliterated, that means those letters come right across from the Greek New Testament into English. And they found their way into the Greek New Testament because this was a Hebrew named garden, a Hebrew named place.
And it was named after two Aramaic words which was the lingua franca, the common language of the people. A Hebrew dialect of the first century and it was called “Geth” that was the first component and “smane”, just to pronounce it the way that we do, of these two compound words. Now these words, I think, are very understandable. The name Gethsemane is made up of two parts, the second part, “Semane” is the word for oil, which of course this produced an abundant amount of it. It was one of the staples of so much in terms of not only cooking and medicinal purposes and so much was utilized in the ancient world as oil and it was very important for them to have it. And so this slope of the Mount of Olives was producing much of it, “semane.” The first part of this word is apropos for all that went on here in the garden and on the slopes of the Mount of Olives “Geth” means press, an olive press. That’s, in short, what this garden was named because at the base of the mountain you would bring your harvest of the olive trees and you would put them through the pressing process. And if you have studied any of biblical history in terms of how they did that, both for grain in the milling out of the grain and also in the oil, they had a very similar piece of equipment that involved a very large stone. That stone would weigh anywhere from three quarters of a ton to as much as six tons, some of these archaeologists have discovered. These were giant stones that would crush these olives and produce their oil.
And of course at such large sizes when they got big at two and three and four tons they would often put this harness this axle to a donkey that would walk then in large circles and have this large, you know, cement donut, this stone donut if you will, crush these olives and produce the olive oil. If you go to Israel today and I know many of you have been there you see these artifacts in various places and some of them are very large.
These milestones for wheat or these press stones that they call them for the oil many of them in Jerusalem and in surrounding areas, Gethsemane, a place of crushing. It’s interesting that it’s called that of course for the olives it’s a word of consternation, if you’re an olive, but it was a place that certainly was a place of crushing for a lot of other people in the Bible. Any time you look for what went on in this little piece of real estate you’ll see it throughout the Old and New Testament of a very difficult place. A place of crushing emotions and if you want to ask what’s the first betrayal you know of in Gethsemane it wasn’t the son of David it was David himself. A very dramatic scene as Samuel pens it in the Old Testament when David was betrayed, not by Saul, that was one time when he was certainly driven through the wilderness being hunted down, but this time he’s being hunted down by his own son Absalom. And the scripture depicts him going out of the city and across the Kidron Valley and through Gethsemane and up over the Mount of Olives all the while being cursed. In this particular scene depicting Shimei, one of those cursing him, throwing rocks and dirt at him as he left the city in great dejection and a crushing blow to his spirit that his own son would now become his enemy.
It was also a place where there was a lot of crushing emotions because it was the place that was filled with graves. If you’ve been there today you know this is a large cemetery now. It seems like just almost three quarters of this lower slope of the Mount of Olives is filled with these upper ground crypts. These upper ground tombs of bodies and of course that’s all throughout this area and it’s not just the New Testament or even a modern place of burial. This goes all the way back to the Old Testament. One such passage that depicts this is Second Kings in Josiah’s reforms as he was cleaning things up and trying to bring religious reform to the nation. He took the Ashtoreth, or the false idols of the day, brought them out and had them crushed there in the Kidron Valley, in the brook of the Kidron. It says there at the end of this passage they beat those idols to dust. Then look at this last phrase, he cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. So here, just up from the upslope of the Kidron Valley were the tombs, which of course is what it’s littered with today. You think about the grief that took place there, I mean this was dotted, even in the first century, with people’s graves and tombs. Many a family had gathered there to bury their loved ones with weeping and tears and mourning and loss.
And it is interesting that often Jesus would retreat to this place and certainly at night it would seem an odd place to go and have your time with your disciples. A place that was surrounded by reminders of death and even if you know your Bible well of betrayal and even the blood of the south end of the Kidron Valley of the cows and the bulls that were sacrificed, the blood running into the Kidron Valley.
This was not a happy place at all. A place that I believe certainly hearkens back to its namesake, a place of great crushing pain and crushing mourning and grief.
Jesus of course was going to have the most pressing experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, a scene that you know of and we read about and certainly we think about, I would hope, every time we come around this week in our calendar, our Christian calendar. The time when he was so burdened, as the Scripture says in Luke Chapter 22, it was such agony for him, read this carefully, that he prayed more earnestly. How earnestly? That his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground. Now many a reader of this passage has imagined something that’s not at all what’s being communicated here. It’s not as though he’s having blood or capillaries bursting in his head or his forehead and dripping drops of blood. This is a simile, an analogy much like we might talk about something being white as snow, as the scripture does. It doesn’t mean that that thing turns into snow, it’s just a reference to the quality of it. And if you want to think about sweat, not on a sweltering August night, this was a spring evening long after the sun had gone down. There was no humidity, there’s no heat, you’re not in the middle of the day but he’s so stressed and so burdened by what’s taking place in his mind at this time in this garden where he’s gone to pray, that he’s sweating. Now when you and I sweat, we sweat beads of sweat that kind of bead up on our face or on our forehead, on our body and then I guess we get enough of that it starts to drip or dribble down our face.
But the picture of blood is different. You gash your arm, you gash your finger and that blood, if it’s a deep enough gash, it’ll just roll out like there’s a constant stream of it. And a picture sweat that is actually coming off the forehead of Christ. I mean to think this is not because of physical assertion, this is not because he’s in the gym working out or in a sauna somewhere.
The pool of water that’s dripping off of his forehead is coming off of his body because he is feeling the agony of what he is about to experience. Why?
Well here’s how the Scripture puts it. Luke Chapter 22. When he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw he knelt down and he prayed saying, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” Now you’ve read that many times, you’ve heard it quoted, you may have heard sermons on it but it’s interesting how often I hear people talk about this passage and just gloss right over the phrase, this cup. This cup. Have you ever given that phrase some thought? Is it to you something that might be said in our day like, well that’s just my lot or that’s just the agenda for me or that’s just what’s on the docket today? It’s not just an idiom that’s used. As a matter of fact this is a rich and deep theological reminder of what Jesus is facing. The cup. See when Jesus knelt down to pray in the garden in his mind literally was a picture of a cup. A cup because it’s so prominent in biblical history. It’s spoken of so often about something that made him so grieved in his heart that he was sweating like it was water, like blood coming out of a gash on his forehead.
A cup. Where’d that come from? Well, it’s all over, not just the Old Testament and the New Testament but certainly in this discussion in the Garden. In just less than an hour he’s going to have this conversation when they show up to arrest him after Judas’ kiss. Peter stands up and strikes Malcus on the ear, you might remember, and Jesus says to Peter, put your sword into its sheath. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me? Or earlier when the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest. Jesus answered, he says you don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I’m about to drink? Here’s just a few references of Christ constantly referring to this event that was starting by this series of situations that began with the kiss of Judas as a cup. The cup, the cup, the cup comes from the Old Testament. So often in the Old Testament when the Scripture is referring to the Lord and the things that he’s going to do it’s referred to as him having a cup. For in the hands, Psalm 75 says, of the Lord there is a cup.
There is a cup. What kind of cup are you talking about?
It’s God who executes judgment. When we speak of judgment, when we speak of retribution, when we speak of his penalty coming upon people it’s often spoke of in terms of a cup. The God who executes judgment putting down one and lifting up another. Well in this case it’s about his judgment in putting one down for in the hand of the Lord, there is a cup, a cup with foaming wine, well-mixed and he pours it out.
He pours out from it, this well-mixed wine and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
He will force people to drink the cup. This is not just some kind of strong alcoholic beverage. This is a picture of something that doesn’t intoxicate, it doesn’t knock you out, you don’t get a hangover from it. This is a picture, even as some commentators like to translate it, this is a cup of poison. A cup that not only kills you but a cup that when you drink it it’s ingredients make you suffer and writhe in pain before you actually die. It’s a cup that kills you, it’s a cup that punishes you as it kills you. God who executes judgment.
He has a cup. It’s in his hand and from time to time he pours it on those that in this passage are described as the wicked.
Jeremiah 25 says, “Thus says the Lord take from my hand this cup the wine of his wrath and I’ll make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” We picture these battles today in such precise ways, flying in bombs and launching missiles. But in those days, much like in recent American history in the battlefields of the Civil War when people died in battle, they died because of a horrific scene of people bleeding out on a battlefield with sword thrusts. And back throughout most of history those are the pictures of those loved ones, your brothers, your cousins, your parents dying on a battlefield because they’ve been slaughtered by an opposing enemy. And that picture of God’s judgment coming on a people is described as a cup, a cup of his wrath, which means of course his anger. Isaiah says, “Wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs of the bowl the cup of staggering.” This picture of God giving to people what their sins deserve, a cup of judgment, a cup that you’d be forced to drink if you were the sinner and deserved his just recompense. And the New Testament you see it reserved for a group of people that are so opposed to God they vow their loyalty to the anti-christ, to the man of lawlessness called The Beast in this apocalyptic vision of the future. One who worships that beast in its image, this idol that set up will receive the mark on his forehead or his hand and God says I’ll reserve something for them.
They will also drink of the wine of God’s wrath poured full strength, the cup of his anger. This is parallelism. That’s what it means, his wrath. He’s angry.
And here’s Jesus in the garden thinking about a cup of God’s anger. And as he envisions what’s going to happen and he knows he’s going to be betrayed and he knows he’s going to be crucified, he’s spoken of it often in his ministry, he thinks of that scene as the drinking of a cup, a cup that doesn’t kill you immediately, a cup that brings you great pain and torture before it kills you. And of course that’s what the crucifixion was designed for. There are lots of ways people have decided how to kill their worst among them and they usually do it with some kind of quick death. Crucifixion was not that way. The Phoenicians came up with a way to slowly torture people before they died. The Romans perfected it and they were about to unleash this horrific scene of torture and death on Christ and when Christ looked forward to it he wasn’t afraid of the Roman soldiers.
It wasn’t even the physical pain of being whipped or beaten or having nails put through his body. This was a concern he had about God, his Father, the One who he knows so perfectly that he says no one else knows the Father and no one else knows the son, only the son knows the Father and only the Father knows the son. You think you know the son but their relationship is so close that scripture says even those in heaven, that picture of the great festival of people worshipping Christ the Lamb that was slain, according to Jesus, no one really knows the Father but me and no one knows me but the Father. That’s the tightest relationship you could possibly imagine.
And now he’s thinking that Father who loves me is about to make me drink to the dregs his wrath and anger. A cup that makes me stagger, a cup that makes me reel, a cup that crazes the mind, the cup that’s like a thrust of a sword. Isaiah 53 speaks of our salvation being won, not just by a cross but by a scourging, by a whipping. When the Roman soldiers stood around mocking him, when they laughed, when they put a crown of thorns on his head to mock him in a purple robe on him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews.” When they laid his flesh open with the cat-of-nine-tails it wasn’t that Jesus was receiving the reproach and the anger and the hostility of Roman soldiers.
He saw it as a cup of God’s wrath, a cup of God’s punishment.
It was the Father who loved him most who was now going to turn as his enemy and make him drink the cup of his anger. When he carried his cross through the town with a freshly laid open and wounded back and they mocked him and they jeered at him and a few wept for him and he said don’t weep for me, weep for you, because if you don’t recognize what’s happening here and you don’t even engage in the transaction, your are the next ones to drink this cup. But I’m willing to drink it now. And the garden was a scene where he was ready in his own mind to envision nails through his hands and nails through his feet, spear in his side, a disfigured face, a back up against a beam that had been prepared for him and his death as something he was willing to endure for some good in his disciples. He had in his heart the horror of the Father turning against him, echoing the psalm of the psalmist who cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”
And it was the most horrific thought that Christ could have. And yet if you know the story that’s the good news that he ended that prayer with not my will but yours be done. I’m ready Father to receive the cup of justice, the cup of wrath that a holy God should spend on those that are adulterers, liars, those with anger problems, those who curse, those who lie, those who cheat, those who steal, those who don’t live up to the standards that you set for human beings to follow. I’m willing to take that cup and drink that cup as though I were the one who did those things.
It’s interesting this repeated discussion of a cup of God’s wrath continually seeing the cross as a cup that represented singularly in the Old Testament a picture of God’s judgment. He had just come from a discussion about another cup. I said just preceding this garden scene he had spoken of a cup.
There was a cup that he described in the Upper Room, a cup that I’m sure was envisioned in his mind much differently. A cup that he said would be a cup that represented a covenant. A covenant is a promise. A covenant promise that when you put the word new in front of it brought every single Jew who knew anything about the law and the prophets back to the passages of the major prophets who spoke often about a new covenant that God would make with his people. As it was put in Luke 22 he said at that dinner just hours before he prayed about this horrific cup he was to drink, he said this cup, that is poured out for you, it’s a different cup that’s poured out for me. But the one that’s poured out for you is the new covenant. The new covenant in my blood that is collected from the cup of the wrath that is poured out on me on a cross, I’m going to pour out a different cup on you and it’s the cup of a new covenant promise.
It is, as it was recorded in Matthew 26, a cup that he gives thanks for and he says, now you drink this cup, all of you. For this is the cup that represents the blood of a covenant, a covenant that does something that, as Jeremiah 31 says, changes your status before a Holy God and cleanses you of sin as he says here it’s poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. The cup of God’s wrath is the punishment for sin, the cup of God’s new covenant is a cup of the forgiveness of sins. One incurs the full weight of the penalty of what a holy God should dispense on sinners and the other one does just the opposite.
It cleanses the sinner.
It envisions the complete forgiveness, the separation of sins from sinners as far as the east is from the west. Paul looks back on this as he instructs the Corinthians and he says this is the cup of blessing.
This is the cup of God’s favor. This is the cup of blessing that we bless. We are so grateful for it. That Greek word, it’s a word that we speak well of something, we speak favorably of something. It’s the cup of God’s favor toward us and we speak favorably of the cup because that cup when we partake in it it’s a picture of our participation in the blood of Christ. Jesus is in a garden and he’s grieving over a cup of God’s punishment that’s come in direct contact in his own mind with the cup of God’s blessing. He extends to the disciples an opportunity for their sins to be forgiven as he takes to himself a cup that reminds him that he is going to take all their sins to himself.
He drinks the dregs and the poison of God’s justice so he can offer to them a cleansing elixir that would do something, at least in symbol, to take all their sins and have them blotted out and excised from their accounts. That he would drink the cup that they deserve to drink and that they would drink the cup that he was the only one entitled to drink. He said I’ll take your penalty and I’ll give you my blessing. This is the cup of blessing.
And Paul says, hey Corinthians, you’re going to continue to drink this periodically in your worship proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. The juxtaposition of the cups in the garden and the upper room that are just separated by a few hours is the most contrasted picture you could ever think of. When you read let this cup pass for me but not my will but yours be done, he’s just spoken of the cup that he longed to give to his disciples but it couldn’t be given to them unless he drank the cup of God’s wrath. The cup of blessing.
We often go to church and think of the cup of his blessing. We may not put it that way but we love the fact that we can sing of the favor of God upon us. We think Jesus loves me, we think we’re forgiven of our sins but certainly on Good Friday it’s important for us to remember there is no cup of favor, there’s no cup of blessing unless there’s a cup of God’s wrath, a cup of God’s anger that was willingly taken by someone who was qualified to incur the penalty. And you can’t have his love and you can’t have his forgiveness unless somehow the sin that deserves to be punished in your life was absorbed by someone else. And the Infinite One, the Perfect One, the one who would be pained the most by God’s anger because he didn’t deserve any of it, was willfully decided in a garden like this on a Thursday night that inaugurated a series of events, an unbroken chain of events that led to him hanging on a cross and finally yelling out “It Is Finished.” He was done drinking the cup of God’s wrath.
Two cups, they play large in the biblical narrative. It’s something we can’t ignore when we read the scripture. It’s not just an idiom, it’s a picture of the difference between heaven and hell for you and for me. When you picture the cross, I hope you don’t just picture the cup of blessing that you receive because of that sacrifice. You need to remember the great cost and the cup of God’s anger, the cup of his justice. But it was a cup that was provided so that he could slide to you a cup, metaphorically and even in symbol in the practice of the Lord’s Supper, that would be for you a cup of forgiveness and acceptance and favor, a cup of blessing.
Ephesians Chapter 1 says in Christ we have redemption through His blood. We were purchased from the penalty and the place where we should incur this cup of staggering and we’ve been pulled out of it. Redemption. We’ve been redeemed from it. We’ve been brought back to God through his blood. What is it? It’s the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace. And that’s the problem with so many modern Christians. We love to say we’re loved by God. We enjoy saying we’re forgiven of our sins but we don’t often recognize what amazing grace that was, the riches of his grace. Which he lavished upon us and he did, if you’re a Christian, you have the redemption of your life because of the forgiveness of your sins.
But this last phrase is really where the Garden comes into sharp focus. Christ did that in all wisdom and insight.
When he stepped into it as an act of love saying I’m willing to lay down my life for my friends and he had said earlier that night, there’s no greater love that anyone has than if a person would lay down their life for his friends and he said I, with all insight, with all knowledge, with all wisdom, I know the full weight of the pain of it, it makes me sweat in the agony of considering it, I will in all wisdom and insight be willing to incur the wrath of God so that you can be forgiven. Redemption. It is as Peter put it a suffering, a one time suffering that was so intense that it was worth an infinite amount of payment for the sins of all of us. The righteous person who didn’t deserve to suffer for the unrighteous, the people that did, that he might bring us to God.
He might reconcile us to God so that we might one day, as is often said in the study of the book that we are now studying in our church, the Gospel of Luke, dine at a table, a banquet, a place where we enjoy the cup of God’s fellowship and as it says he’s willing to provide that for us, a cup that he will not drink until he drinks it anew with us in the kingdom and he says all of you on earth I want you to drink a memorial cup, a cup of remembrance. Drink it in remembrance of me and remember that I’m going to drink it with you afresh. I’ve reconciled you to the Father and when we meet up with the Father in the kingdom we’ll celebrate the end of all this. We need to see the sins of our lives transferred from our life to his. We need to see the punishment of our sins transferred from our account to his. And we need to see all the favor and blessing of God transferred from his son to us. The great exchange of the scripture. He drank that cup so you could drink this cup. He should have drunk this cup but he willingly drank that cup. It was so horrific for him to imagine but it was the only hope that we had. I trust that tonight, as the ushers come down the aisle to pass out the elements of the Lord’s Supper that you would think afresh and anew about what this all means for you. We’re going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which means you’re going to take the cup that envisions that forgiveness, that analogy of this great exchange that took place.
And I’d like you to look at that small cup, that insignificant cup, that common cup and say in this common cup, this symbol, there’s a picture of the greatest exchange of cups in all the Bible. And of course as Paul goes on to say we also participate in Christ’s body as we represent that reality in the bread. So you take that bread, you take that cup and just hold on to that. And as music plays in the background quietly, I just want you to spend time with God acknowledging the cup that you deserve and with gratitude, profound gratitude, not as entitled children of God but as grateful, profoundly grateful children of God, saying we’re so glad that we received his blessing because he took our curse. And then I’ll come back up in about three or four minutes and we’ll take these elements all at the same time. So hang onto those and if you’re not a Christian by the way it’s time for you to become one.
It’s time for you to look at the reality of sin and say, maybe for the first time, I recognize because God is a holy God I deserve to drink his punishment for everything I’ve ever done. No excuses, no rationalization, no justifications in my mind. I deserve his punishment.
But I’m willing to accept the fact that no greater love has anyone than this that a man would lay down his life for his friends and he laid down his life and drank the wrath of God so that I could have the complete forgiveness of my sins and say with the Psalmist of the Old Testament “how blessed it is for a person to not have his sins counted against him, his transgressions not imputed to his account.” And you can celebrate with the rest of us tonight to know what it is to be forgiven. How good it is to have the blessing we didn’t deserve. To have all the blessing and favor that he earned for us. So you spend some time with God. I’ll come back up. We’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper by taking these elements all the same time in just a few minutes.
Some of you have been a Christian so long and maybe all you think about is the blessing that we have being related to Christ without remembering the great price tag attached to it. See if you can put yourself in the sandals of Christ that night when he walked into that garden. Walking out of one of the city gates across the Kidron Valley. Kidron, by the way, in Hebrew means darkness, gloominess. If you’ve been there it’s of course paved and the buses drive down that road but back in the day there was a small brook there, little bridges, sometimes dry, sometimes flowing.
But a crevice in that valley that was often filled with shadow when they would put the torches up on the temple mount either for the Feast of Dedication in the winter or the Feast of Booths. They put those torches up there and, of course, the light would shine across the Kidron Valley and light up the groves of the olive trees.
But it would ever penetrate down into the Kidron Valley. Late afternoon, same thing. Early morning, same thing.
It was certainly that day that Jesus walked across with his sleepy disciples in tow. Walked through the valley of the shadow of death. A valley that was constantly traversed by families carrying their deceased on their shoulders out to a funeral. A place with so much bad history in the Old Testament, a place that flowed with blood from time to time depending on the sacrifices that were executed in that bloody scene of the Old Testament reminding people that without the shedding of blood there’s no remission of sin. There’s a cost for your sin, the wages of sin is death and someone has to pay that. When John sees the Messiah, his theology is so clear in his mind he can say, “Here comes the Lamb of God.” The bloodshed will stop in terms of the picture and we will now have a cup that replaces it. There’ll be no lamb sacrifices, no bulls, no cows. You’re going to have the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. A once for all sacrifice as the writer of Hebrews says. One time suffering, as Peter says, as he walks through the most grievous shadow of death to say to his Father I’d like this cup to pass from me but I’m willing. And out of love for you and me he drank that cup of the Father’s anger down to the dregs. The cup of staggering. So that he could pass to his disciples two hours earlier a cup that he promises would be a cup of forgiveness. This little cup symbolizes that, this bread symbolizes the broken body on a cross that was broken for our forgiveness. Early translator of First Corinthians took that word translated “blessing” and often replaced it with the word “eucharisto,” the thanksgiving, the Cup of Thanksgiving. You can’t take it without being thankful that you get the favor because he took the guilt. So I hope tonight if you know that transaction and have experienced it you can with me with great and profound thanksgiving eat this bread and drink this cup. Let’s do that together.
God, we know if we’re real Christians here tonight how undeserving we are. Even for those of us, as you said to Peter, who have been washed we still get our feet dirty. We recognize in this world our stumbling and our frailties and we hate ourselves for it. And yet even the stumbling saints in that night that couldn’t stay awake and watch and pray with Jesus for an hour, Jesus was willing to walk back across the Kidron Valley to be tried before these courts of Caiaphas and Pilot and be hung on a Roman execution rack so that we could have the cup of blessing. Let us as this song has already been sung, let it be the kind of anthem for us that a love that is so amazing and so divine like that should demand our life, our soul, our all and while we fail so often God we aspire to that. To give you our all, to live for you, to respond to you no matter how difficult it is, no matter how much hostility we receive from our culture, our world we will stand with you in great thanksgiving knowing one day that we will celebrate in this great memorial, this cup, one last time in the kingdom when we see you face to face. God we look forward to that day when sin and death and pain and mourning is all behind us because you’ve conquered the victory for us by drinking the cup of God’s wrath so that we could be blessed. For that God we’re so grateful and I pray we be even more grateful because we spent time here together tonight. In Jesus name. Amen