Brash Peter, chest pumped full, head raised lofty,
So sure of his courage.
So sure of his loyalty
Even if all the rest of them fall away, even if I have to die with you, I am stronger than they because I will never ever betray you LORD. Matthew 26:33
And I am humbled to sit quiet in the emerald shade of this peaceful walled garden. As the scent of grief wafts heavy, I can see it all unfold heartrending, “Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He took along Peter, James and John “…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” “…He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:36, 37, 39
Though he asked these devoted friends, his closest companions to watch and pray with him,
Three times he found them sleeping.
And the drip of betrayal began to ooze.
Then the peace of the garden rent angry with a crowd of weapon carrying minions led by whistle blowing Judas. Yet instead of slinging caustic words of anger deserved, he received the double-crossing kiss unflinching. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Matthew 26:50
The slender olive tree shuddered in silent witness, appalled to see such violence for the first time in it’s young life. It would carry the sadness embedded in it’s rings as it still thrives, bent and gnarled and over two thousand years old.
Did greedy Judas flinch and waver as he gazed into Jesus kind brown eyes, tinged with sadness? Was he bull-headed determined, or just too weak to buck the incensed crowds pressing bold? As the Savior drenched him with the loving word “friend,” was it the final guilty dagger into his crumbling soul?
And the tree watched grieved.
As Jesus rebuked his followers for fighting, the betrayals bled like an open wound in a war zone. And the next words fill me cold with an ache of sorrow unbounded. “…All the disciples deserted him and fled.” Matthew 26:56
And the tree ached in despair.
Peter, trying to be brave, desperate to be loyal, followed at a distance. But sitting in the courtyard of the high priest, denials fall like a stream from his lips as two servant girls and then a pressing mob accused.
And the tree cannot forget.
Then the cock crowed brutal.
And the air sucked out of the universe as his weakness rent his soul.
And he wept bitter,
That the prediction rang true after all.
So Jesus stood lonely on cold white stones, refusing to defend himself, mute before Pilate. Wanting nothing to do with Jesus death, the Governor washed his hands in mock innocence as the crowd roared unconscionable.
Unretractable words uttered ignorant yet devastating in consequence, the masses condemned themselves guilty. The horror of their betrayal echoed through eternity,
“His blood is on us and on our children!” Matthew 27:25
And then it began,
They spat upon my LORD
They mocked odious,
They ridiculed atrocious.
And they rent his back with snakes of leather, splitting his skin in angry blood trails of hate.
The narrow street wound and inched it’s way between cluttered shops. In an agonizing walk to Golgotha along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief in Latin), the crowds pressed and stared while our bloodied and weakened Lord stumbled and fell under the weight of the cross.
Yet as he hung in physical agony, arms splayed and nailed, feet pierced, gasping for breath, he spoke love.
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
I notice the cracks in the entrance pillars at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And I stop short as I realize there are tiny crosses etched and folded prayers in every crack and fissure branching through the column.
Prayers for healing,
Prayers for understanding,
Prayers begging forgiveness.
And I stare at the white rocks of barren Golgotha, uncovered raw for viewing. And my stomach lurches and knots as I block out the splendor of the Church built on top of these stones, and remember the terrible holy event that transpired.
And I remember well.
I remember the blood spilled innocent,
His cleansing blood that makes me whole.
I witness solemn the pleading despair and fragile hope of pilgrims bowing low while caressing the traditional site of where his body was prepared for burial.
The traditional site of the preparation of Jesus body
And I remember that like his followers, I too betray him often in minuscule ways and also mountainous fashion.
He dreaded his death. His sweat dripped like blood from his brow as he fervently prayed. How terrible to know the future, to know forewarned the pain and agony to transpire. And the most terrifying realization surged to the top of his mountainous task–he would be separated from God the Father.
Yet he did it anyway.
His sacrifice wasn’t for naught. It is the saving grace of God that sets me upright and places me back on my path daily.
His forgiveness makes me whole and new and free each day.
And grateful is a mere word that can only touch the tip of the iceberg of emotions I feel toward him.
All I can utter is:
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
And I rejoiced ecstatic as I stood in front of the memorial grave and knew full well, my soul is saved and
The tomb is empty.