As they entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the disciples basked in Hosannas. Finally, the kingdom they anticipated was unfolding—and they were in the right place!
But when Jesus passed the bread and wine—his body and blood? — confusion must have swirled in their eyes. Betrayal? Secret doubts struggled within. Where would they lead?
In the garden, the long week took its toll. They slept. Even after Jesus chided them, they couldn’t get beyond exhaustion. Jesus shared his ministry with them for three years. Now, he was on his own.
I think his struggle in Gethsemane was with more than physical pain. At the start, Satan had tempted Jesus with shortcuts to the vision. Now, Satan returned to say it wouldn’t matter. Even if Jesus went through with all this needless suffering, the world wouldn’t care—wouldn’t accept his gift of life.
Then Jesus was arrested, thanks to that no-good-Judas (relief— it isn’t me!). Jesus let them take him away. What was going on? Couldn’t the power that just raised Lazarus from the dead protect Jesus from scruffy temple guards? What about our kingdom?
There was no understanding it. No entering into it.
There still isn’t.
We can’t go where only the Lamb of God can walk. Only the one who was GOD and man could carry our sin—everything wrong we would ever think, or say, or do.
Like the disciples, we look for the kingdom where it fits our idea of power or success. You can explore your spirituality, and even be a god. Or stay in church, follow rules, but miss the kingdom, thinking WE carry the cross—that we can do enough, or be enough, to merit the presence of God.
For years, I tried hard to do it right, to carry my own cross. When I stumbled and fell, floundering, I found myself at the foot of The Cross. I looked up at Jesus, hanging there in my place. Blood dripped from his hands and feet where spikes tore his flesh.
And he smiled.
My sin nailed him there, yet he looked down at me, through his pain, and smiled.
For months, every time I prayed, my only answer was Jesus on the cross, me kneeling at his feet, and Jesus smiling.
Finally on Good Friday, the day many Christians recall the crucifixion, I once again knelt at the cross. This time, Jesus smiled and said, “Janie, I love you.”
Weeks after that, every time I prayed, seeking answers and direction, the response was simply Jesus on the cross, smiling and whispering, “Janie, I love you.”
I was a very long time in believing it.
Why is it so hard for us to accept a gift that another paid so heavily for?
Accepting the gift of life has been my journey.
As Jesus cried over Jerusalem, he cried in the garden for all of us who would needlessly stumble on in darkness, unaware of the relief, redemption and salvation he offers.
Because of what Jesus conquered in the garden and on the cross, every one of us can have our lives changed. From the weight of our past, mistakes we made and those made against us, or from fear of our future, the center of our lives can become real and whole.
“The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest