You went into the darkness of that garden you loved. It had once been a place of refuge and prayer, a place where you could be still with your beloved father, where he would enrich you with his love and power and you would share the insights that came to you with your closest friends.
Now like a bird desperate for its nest, you sought the solace of the garden once again. But it was dark. It was dark and it was cold and that was how you felt in your mind and heart.
When you gave Judas that sop of bread, you had longed somehow that everything would change. Could the man who had been your friend those three years really betray you? Did he not know how much you loved him? Eagerly you took up that bread and in the midst of your own words predicting betrayal, you gave him that symbol of special honour, special love. Surely he would see your love now and step back from what he was going to do?
For a moment your eyes met as you stretched out your hand towards him. He glanced at you and you tried to pour out all your love in your responding look. For a moment you saw the agony of his indecision. Deep down he yearned to love you, to step back from the decision he had made. He yearned to understand why things had not turned out as he had hoped. He had been so sure that you were to be the Messiah, that Israel would now be restored to its former glory, freed from its slavery. Why had you not fulfilled your mission? It was all very well to heal people to establish your power and authority, but why keep on doing it when there were more important things to do like overturning the might of the Romans and establishing the new Kingdom? Seeds of disappointment became shoots of resentment deep in Judas’s heart. He never thought to come to you, to talk through his disillusionment. How readily you would have answered if only he had, but he was sure he already knew. He could not be wrong, it was you who had led them to hope and then betrayed them. And thus the shoots of resentment became rampant plants of anger that were easily fed and nurtured by the promise of gain.
For that brief moment as you held out the bread, he looked and in your eyes he saw that you knew, that you could perceive the thoughts of his heart.
Desperately you cried to him through your eyes, ‘It’s about love and forgiveness Judas, not about might and power,’ but that he could not see. The shame of knowing that you knew blinded his heart and goaded him into the decision he had already made. The moment of indecision fled. He looked at you with Satan’s eyes and turned and left. He never heard your whispered thoughts from a heartbroken heart, ’There is always forgiveness Judas, whatever you do, if only you’ll turn back to me to receive it…’. He did not hear, and in the noise of his sudden departure, you wept inside.
How deeply you felt that pain now as you came into the garden. You glanced at those you had brought in with you. Your closest friends, yet you could see from their faces that still they did not understand. They were sorrowing, they were frightened and full of dread, but still they did not understand. Would anyone ever understand? Were you about to give up your life for nothing?
“Please wait here, watch and pray with me, I feel such despair.”
They looked at you and nodded dumbly and again you could see the bewilderment in their eyes. How could their Lord who had been so wonderfully in control in every situation, now be admitting to despair?
You could not explain but turning from them ran like a wounded animal into the cover of the trees and throwing yourself upon the ground began to sob out your anguish to God. The ground was rock hard and twigs and stones scratched and tore at your skin. You could see all too clearly the mockery, the scorn, the derision and suffering that would soon be yours. But more than that, you could see what no human eye could see, the filth of human sin that was about to be poured over you. You who were sinless were now to become the lowest of the low, so defiled that your beloved father would no longer be able to look at you. Tortured by the images in your mind and the mocking whispers of Satan, sure at last that he had you in his grip, the anguish came from so deep within you that your sweat and tears flowed like drops of blood.
Heavy upon your back you felt that unyielding weight of your father’s love. Love that was so vast you knew no man had ever comprehended it. Nothing would deny that love. Even the scum of human sin would not hold that love back but just cause it to be poured out all the more. You were part of that love. You had rejoiced in your mission, delighting in showing mercy, healing broken bodies, touching broken minds, restoring broken spirits, helping this fallen people to see something of the heart of God. But now the weight of that love was becoming too much to bear. The father needed to sacrifice you so that all others could become like you were, his beloved child.
“If only there was another way”, you cried into the darkness. ”I love them as you love them but if only it need not be like this.”
But even as you cried out, you knew there was no other way. You yourself had been part of the plan’s formation when man turned from God so long ago. That was what all the old sacrificial system had been leading up to, the giving of the perfect Lamb of God for the sin of the world. There was no other way.
Suddenly, in your memory you saw the faces of those you had recently met and loved. As each had come something had cried to you from within them. It was something deeper than their need of healing, deeper than the filth of their sin. It was something beautiful right inside them that only you could see. Dirtied, masked and blackened maybe, bruised and broken, but you could always see it shining there, the gift that you and your father had put within them right at the beginning of time, the precious jewel of an immortal spirit destined for unbroken belonging and bonding to God.
And suddenly that knowing filled you, burning its way into your spirit with such intensity that you were stunned and shaken. That beauty in man that you had seen, longed for and loved, for so long was about to be extinguished for ever. The dirt, filth and brokenness blackening each of those beautiful jewels would overwhelm and destroy them unless, unless you yourself took it. No cleansing, no scrubbing, no effort of will would work, only you.
From deep within you a cry tore its way from your heart.
“O Father, O Father, yours is the perfect way, yours is the way I choose.”
And even as you cried out, that weight of love you had felt so crushingly upon you, poured into your heart. Wave after wave it filled you until your heart felt it would explode, and still it came. No longer just the father’s love, the father’s will, but your love, your will. Weeping you stood and stretched out your hands to the world that was about to destroy you. Whatever it took, whatever the pain and anguish, you would take that blanket of filth and pain onto yourself. You would save those beautiful jewels, you would cleanse them, restore them, bring them alive again. The tide of love was now so great within you that you knew it would tear and wound your very body to pour it all out.
“But that is why I am here,” you said, and calmly, lovingly, you walked from that garden to meet your murderers.