The night is dark, a cold chill in the air. Olive tree branches provide a protective canopy, their silver-green leaves reflect a sliver of moonlight. The wind rustles the leaves and the air weighs heavy. He lays prostrate and groans. His hands grip the ground and His face distorts in agony. He weeps, He moans, He cries and large drops of sweat trickle down His face, mingle with His tears, and fall to the ground around Him.
Nearby His friends sleep. One sits at the base of an olive tree leaned up against it’s gnarled trunk. The other two curl on the ground, their hands pillowing their heads. With their each slumbering-exhale His words, “My soul is swallowed up with sorrow. Stay awake with me,” fade into the night.
His grief, palpable, is shared by no one.
He is alone.
I spend my days sitting with people in their grief. Today I want to hold space for Jesus’ grief. I want to experience it with Him. I want to empathize and find my own grief in what He lost.
I’ve often thought Jesus’ agony in the Garden was the dread at what was to come, the physical pain, the spiritual separation. True as that might be, I wonder if there was more. More to His sorrow.
Grief is about loss. What was Jesus going to lose?
His life? well, yes.
His physical comfort? certainly.
His “togetherness” with His Father? Most definitely.
But what HAD He lost?
To understand that we must travel to eternity past.
High in the heavenly realms where angels sing praise and all is perfection and beauty, Jesus had a dream, a dream to make a family. So God, all of God, made a plan to make that dream come true.
In a world governed by love They created the ideal space. A place where the sun rose every morning and the moon and stars lit the night sky. Where birds landed on a finger to sing and didn’t fly away. Where a lion could be cuddled and a tree could be climbed with a monkey. Where flowers never faded and thorns didn’t grow.
And they created a family, a man and a woman made in Their image, Their relational image. A Family they could spend time with, talk with, be with in complete, whole, harmonious relationship.
And every day, “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8), God would meet with His family and they would be together.
But in a single moment, in an act of betrayal, Jesus’ dream was snatched away. His family was stolen from Him. And He could no longer be with them, not like He wanted to.
And maybe, just maybe, in that olive-tree garden, under the darkness of night, and alone, that is what Jesus was grieving.
Maybe after four thousand separated-years He let Himself feel it all, all the sorrow, all the loss.
Four thousand years of past separation and over two thousand years of future.
Six thousand years of suffering.
Six thousand years of death.
Six thousand years of destruction, broken people, and shattered relationship.
Six thousand years of being misunderstood and six thousand years of distance between Him and those He desperately loves.
And maybe in that Garden long ago He drenched the ground around Him with six thousand years of tears. The sorrow He’d carried far too long.
Do l weep with Him? Does my soul grieve for all He lost? Does my heart break?
Because when His grief was spent, He was ready. Ready to offer forgiveness to all who would ask. Ready to make a way, to reconcile, to be together again like we used to be.
And so He stood up, left His grief on the ground, and for “the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12: 2) ” – the joy of restoration, the joy of reconciliation, the joy of relationship repaired, the joy of His family being home again – He endured the cross.
Endured the cross, despising its shame so when I turn… when I seek His face…
when I confess my betrayal and grieve all He’s lost
He can forgive.
And with that forgiveness we can be together again.