Although for decades I saw people wearing a cross on a chain or cord around their neck, I never sensed any personal need to do so, and so I didn’t join the ranks of the cross wearers. One Sunday that changed, although it was not the intention of the church service or of the sermon part of the service.
We were directed to the Matthew 26.32-45 account of Jesus in Gethsemane. As my interest in correct interpretive methods kicked in I concluded that the author wanted the readers to not miss the following aspects of the narrative –
- Situations that develop because of the physical side of life, such as getting tired, can keep us from doing the righteous thing. The disciples were tired, and if they didn’t mentally overcome it, they would not do Jesus’ will. So, to do God’s will, we may have to deal with our physical-ness, and not allow it to have complete self-expression. . . . .
Jesus was extremely tempted to not go through the Father’s plan which was death on a cross. The physical-ness of life can take us from extreme pleasure to killing pain. Fortunately for both our psyche and our senses, we usually live somewhere between the extremes. Jesus overcomes the tendency to let the physicality of life rule. In contrast, the disciples don’t fare so well with their physicality.
- We can be completely unaware of the spiritual battle that is raging all around us. The apostles don’t seem to be in tune with what is happening in Jesus’ life. At the same time what was happening in Jesus’ life was of supreme importance to their present and future (a case could be made that their past was also at stake). There was more happening than they ever could understand!!
- Jesus relinquishes his grasp on life in order to fulfill the will of the Father. But, it is not just the Son. It goes even beyond that to the Father. The Father also has to relinquish His grasp on the life of the Son for the redemption of man to be accomplished. The Father will not stop the process that will lead to Jesus’ death.
This last point was very hard for me. I thought about how much I was grasping my wife’s life, thinking about her cancer every day. Just several days before, when she told me of having some pain at one of the cancer’s location, I winced (I think I managed to not gasp). I was asking God every day for His healing touch on her. But, I had to relive the time when she was comatose some years previously, and I told God that she was not “mine”, but His. In other words, I again had to relinquish her life to God. I wanted us to live forever as husband and wife; I asked for her health, but I had to accept her death.
That Sunday, my mind didn’t stop racing at Gethsemane. God was not stopping the process leading to Jesus’ death. Is it perhaps true to say that He could not stop it? Is God’s character such that He couldn’t stop it and still be God? Is part of the story of Jesus in Gethsemane that God wants His children to be very aware that He is willing to experience the pain of being involved in the death of His son?
Some of these questions became rhetorical for me. It was the last question that led me to begin to wear a cross. I not only do not dare to be insensitive to what Jesus experienced by dying. I also do not dare to be insensitive to what the Father experienced by Jesus dying. It reached its zenith that day when the cross was wearing Jesus.