Posts tagged ‘Garden of Gethsemane’

Put Down Your Sword

When I was in seminary, I took a road trip with some buddies to the tiny west Texas town of Marfa, famed for its “mystery lights.” These lights appear regularly at dusk and before dawn on Mitchell Flat, just east of Marfa. Strange orbs hover in the night sky – joining with and separating from each other, appearing and disappearing, and changing colors. For decades, researchers, scientists, and curious onlookers have tried to figure out the mystery of the lights. Some say they’re a mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between cold and warm layers of air. Others say they’re headlights from nearby U.S. Highway 67. Others have paranormal explanations.

The night I and my buddies saw the lights, we made it our mission to solve the mystery once and for all. We took my friend’s Camaro off-roading across the plain to catch the lights. Shockingly enough, we did not. We did, however, raise the hackles of some very annoyed locals who did not like us leaving tire tracks across their land. They let us know in no uncertain terms that the plain was off-limits and it was time for us to leave.

When Adam and Eve stray from God’s command to not eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and go off-roading into evil, God lets them know in no uncertain terms that the idyllic Garden of Eden in which He has placed them is now off-limits and that it is time for them to leave. In fact, just to ensure they never enter the Garden again, He installs what is quite literally a “flashy” security system:

He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

Adam and Eve were able to eat from the tree of life before their fall into sin because they were designed to live eternally. But now, that tree and God’s garden is blocked by a sword that will bring about their death if they try to breach it.

The night before Jesus goes to the cross, He, like Adam and Eve, finds Himself in a garden – the Garden of Gethsemane. After He spends some agonizing moments in prayer about His impending torture and death, a coterie of Jesus’ enemies comes to arrest Him and drag Him away to a series of show trials to try to convict Him of heresy against Jewish theological teaching and treason against the Roman government. Peter, who is with Jesus, boldly brandishes his sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant, who is part of the seditious mob. But Jesus, instead of thanking Peter for his loyalty, rebukes him:

Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

It was a sword that once guarded Adam and Eve from a garden. But Jesus will not allow a sword to guard Him in a garden.

Jesus, it turns out, has come to cast out the sword from the garden. As He makes His way to the cross, He is systematically disarming the curse of sin that blocks us from eternal life and threatens our eternal death. The sword is disarmed. The garden is open. As Charles Wesley says in his great Easter hymn:

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

The paradise that was once closed by a curse to Adam and Eve has been opened to us by a cross. That most certainly deserves our hearty, “Alleluia!”

April 12, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Deep Anxiety

It’s called hematidrosis.  Dr. Frederick Zugibe, the Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York, explains the disease:  “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form.  Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict.  Then as the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture.  The blood goes into the sweat glands.  As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface – coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.”  What a gruesome picture Dr. Zugibe paints of someone so stressed and so anxious that he actually sweats blood!

The evangelist Luke recounts Jesus’ final hours:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)

Jesus’ final hours before His crucifixion were so anxiety inducing that He developed a case of hematidrosis.  Indeed, when Luke relays that Jesus was “in anguish” in verse 44, the Greek word is agonia.  I’ll let you guess to what English word this is related.  But needless to say, it’s not related to a word for peace and serenity.

One of the things that never ceases to impress me about Jesus’ life and ministry is how Jesus not only experiences all that we experience, but He experiences it in a deeper and fuller way that we experience it.  We experience anxiety.  Jesus experiences anxiety to such a level that He develops the extremely rare condition of hematidrosis.  It is not surprising, then, that the preacher of Hebrews would say of Christ, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Being tempted in every way means that a mammoth amount of temptation was leveled at Jesus, greater temptation than any of us know, for who of us can say, “I have been tempted in every way?”  But Jesus was.  Jesus experienced it all – literally.  Thus, it behooves us to take Jesus at His word when He says things like:

Do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

If Jesus warns us against anxiety, then perhaps we ought to listen.  Because if there’s one person who knows anxiety, it’s Jesus.  After all, He experienced tremendously – indeed, He experienced it infinitely – in the Garden.

So then, how are we to combat anxiety, for anxiety is something which we all experience?  Jesus says that pagans try to combat anxiety by running.  They run after food and drink and clothes, thinking that if they could just acquire the right things or the right knowledge or the right securities, then their anxieties would be alleviated.  But such a run is futile.  It only results in more anxiety.  Instead, we are to seek.  We are to seek the things of God, even as Jesus Himself seeks the will of God as He experiences anxiety in the Garden.  Jesus prays, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  May we, like Jesus, seek God in our anxieties.  For He alone can give us strength to confront them and walk through them.

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August 9, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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