Summary: This first in a series of three Easter sermons looks at the brokenness found in Gethsemanes garden. The broken promises of the disciples, the broken religion of the pharisees, and the broken heart of Jesus.
Shadows of the Cross
Pt 1 – Broken in Gethsemane’s Shadows
The first three days of July 1863 marked a turning point in our nation. Two armies gathered in little known Gettysburg, Pa. George Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac – Robert E Lee the Army of Northern Virginia. In three bloody days of battle 51,000 men were killed, wounded or captured. Those three days marked the turning of the tide in the war that made our Nation what it is today. Three days that shaped the future of our country and the future of the world as we know it today. From the shadows of Gettysburg a Nation would rise – no longer a confederation of States – One Nation under God would rise and live to seize the reigns of world history.
You know me well enough to know that I am not here to teach you about American history today. What I do want to do however is teach you about three days in history that marked the turning of the tide in the war of all mankind, past and present. Three days that have shaped history and eternity. Three days spent in the shadows of the Cross.
Our journey opens in the shadows of Gethsemane where brokenness reigns.
In Gethsemane’s Shadows we find…
1) A Place of Broken Promises – v50 – They all left Him and fled. Remember that these are the same men who just hours before had been fighting amongst themselves over which one would be sitting at his right hand. Men who had declared wholehearted allegiance and undying loyalty. Peter went so far as to say – “even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” Then they left the lighted upper room where they shared the Passover – and entered the shadows of the cross. The truth is that the world is full of broken promises. Our faithfulness waxes and wanes. Our commitment often falters – and our best intentions go awry. This is how Paul talked about his struggle in the shadows. “I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:21-25 TMNT) Jesus comes to us and asks couldn’t you stay awake for just an hour. “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” The ultimate broken promise walks in the shadows in the heart of Judas. One who had walked with Jesus for so long – three years he had seen all that the other disciples had seen – but his heart was far from God. Ambition was his god. These men walked in the shadows of Gethsemane not because of the darkness around them but because of the darkness in them. We walk in the shadows today not because of the darkness around us but because of the darkness within us. Something has gone wrong deep within us, and it gets the better of us every time.
2) A Place of Broken Religion- Here in Gethsemane’s shadows stands the Messiah of God. And here in Gethsemane’s shadows stand men blinded by Religion. There stood the chief priests, officers of the temple, and elders – all stood blinded in their religion. Their eyes so blind that they see in the Savior of the world a criminal, a traitor, a blasphemer of God. So blinded in the darkness that they feel a perfect hatred of the one who has come to save them. So blinded in heart that they completely miss all that they have been so diligently searching for – the fulfillment of all there religious searching – the answers to all their fervent prayers. The power of religion is to blind us from the reality of God. Religion convinces the lost man that he is happy in his worldly trappings. Religion prevents the sinner from seeing the despair of his own soul. Religion prevents the Child of God from understanding the love of the Father and his position in the world. We are struck by the power of blindness and only the light of Jesus lifts the shadows of Gethsemane from our hearts and makes us see. Only when our Religion becomes Relationship do the shadows begin to recede.
3) A Place of a Broken Heart – And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood. That is how Luke’s Gospel shares this scene with us. How deep the darkness must have been for Jesus that night – as He fought the final battle between His humanity and His deity. Nothing demonstrates better both the weakness of the flesh and the determination of God combined in the Messiah. In Gethsemane’s garden we see the greatest test of that challenge hurled at Jesus upon the cross – “Are you not the Christ – Save yourself and us!” Therein lies the agony of this night – that one thing was impossible. He could not save others and Himself. Here in Gethsemane’s shadows the dark reality of the cross finally took shape. On what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday – Jesus riding into Jerusalem stops on the hill overlooking this great city – the seat of all that should be Holy – the place where His people have worshiped Him – and He weeps. (the greek word is Klaio – sob) He weeps because He knows that soon he will be enveloped in the shadows of the cross. He doesn’t weep for fear or for hesitation – the word Klaio means to weep in lament – as over one who dies. He weeps on Palm Sunday and He weeps in the shadows of Gethsemane because His heart is broken for a people who have rejected Him. His heart is full of the broken promises of His people – full of the broken religion of His creation – yet He kneels in Gethsemane’s shadows and prays “not my will but thine be done.” His heart broken for a broken creation – Jesus will willingly lay down His life and take it up again.