I’ve been thinking of the events leading up to the resurrection, specifically the moments in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though I would love to travel it’s well-worn paths, I’ve only seen pictures of it, both actual and artistic renditions. My mind flies most readily to the green-toned garden with the bent and gnarled tree, and a gracious, loving Savior with clasped hands and an upturned face, kneeling at it’s base. I think of Him walking in, heavy-hearted, filled with a myriad of emotions. Though he had been acquainting himself with humanity and mortality for the past 33 years, I am sure what He was about to be immersed in was far more daunting than the one-on-one empathy and healing he’d been extending.
I used to think of Him trudging into the garden with the nebulous idea that he was there to take care of humanity’s experiences and mistakes. I imagined Him slightly irritated with Peter and the others who could not watch one hour with Him. I thought of the pain he was feeling because of us. My view of Him was filled with so much condescension and pride when in reality, I think the only condescension was the fact that He was here. On earth. To bring the perspective and Presence of heaven here, to a place where we feel so far from God.
I now believe He took those steps into that familiar garden with a heavy heart, knowing that he was about to feel all the pain that would be unleashed because of the fall of Adam. Because when you set people loose with choices, in frail bodies, outside the presence of Deity, a lot can happen. I believe those moments of agony had more to do with His love for us and His desire to understand the wounds that we would inflict on ourselves and others and that he wanted to feel the pain with us, not because of us. That’s the way it’s always been right? He has been possessed of a perspective and understanding that illustrates His knowledge of growth. He has championed principles that enable people to own their growth as opposed to forcing growth upon them. He donned mortality with whispers of his long-held belief that His role was to help, guide and support us along our way. And this act, so gracious and all-encompassing, would be monumental in His and our journeys on this earth. So I believe He walked into those trees purposefully, and without thought of turning back because He would not be willing to leave even one of us alone in our pain if we needed or wanted Him there to understand us. And because His life would only hold 33 years of experience, He would have to take in a condensed dose of that understanding, there, in the garden. Knowing the heartache He had already witnessed in His short life, I can see Him importuning heaven for any other way to accomplish this task. As I think about the kind of experiences that would’ve been dealt Him in those moments, I can see how His very soul would bleed. I imagine the raw, heavy, uncomfortable heartache would’ve been enough to bring Him to His knees. But then to know that those experiences would be attached to individuals, souls He holds such beautiful love and high regard for, that must have been almost overwhelming agony.
As he went to check on Peter, I wonder what He was going to tell him. I wonder if He was going to confide in him or offer him some idea of what that awful, lonely place was like. But instead, he tried to help Peter see the importance of what was taking place. I imagine it must’ve been kind of disappointing to find Peter sleeping. Not because the Savior couldn’t understand exhaustion, but because that probably meant that Peter didn’t completely grasp what was going on. With all of His teachings and intimations, Peter, at least was still not quite ready and prepared for these next few days and his slumber illustrated that. But really, how could he be? Had Peter, who had such a complete and enthusiastic love for the Savior, understood completely, doubtless he would’ve been watching and praying, both for the Savior and for himself. Instead of explaining, Christ, ever-patient, would let Peter come to this knowledge on His own, as He often does.
I imagine it would’ve been hard to see Peter sleeping the second time because he was one of the few on whom the Savior was relying to share the poignancy of these moments. Based on the records we have, it was the last time He would talk privately with Peter as a mortal man. Doubtless He’d hoped the exchange would entail more wisdom than a request for alertness. But the Savior knew Peter, and He knew that Peter loved Him with a pure and sometimes frantic love and that these next few days were going to be rough for him as well. As the Savior made His way back into the garden, I wonder if he was considering how much Peter would miss Him? I imagine that knowledge might’ve made His steps that much heavier.
As he walked out of the garden for the last time, and found Judas, what did He think? Did He have that heavy feeling of awful anticipation in his stomach, knowing what was to come? The atrocities of the day had been spelled out in prophecy pretty clearly but something about a lamb going to the slaughter suggests a measure of unknown. He knew it would be Judas who would surrender Him and He had asked that it be done quickly. He knew about the the thorns and the mocking, jeering crowds, the stripes, the vinegar, the raiment, and He knew about the cross. Did He know how much it would hurt?
Did He know that beloved John, the infamous “other disciple,” would shamelessly accompany Him as He stood in halls of judgment before souls who just didn’t understand. Again and again, He would endure whatever ugliness they would hurl at Him in word and bodily fluid. Doubtless there were those who knew Him and still rejected Him but for many, I believe He was thinking the same thing he finally uttered about the guards (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do). What kind of love would it take to even look in the face of someone who was pounding a thick metal nail through your fragile, worn, miracle-working skin? And then to have your beaten, exhausted body hauled up onto a cross, agonizingly bearing it’s own weight? And yet that was the love He possessed, made evident by His actions before and after. In those hours on the cross He took in all the pain around Him in addition to His own. He addressed the fear of the thieves alongside Him, He sought to comfort His dear mother and beloved John in their inevitable grief. He connected with His apostles and His disciples. And then, when the veil was getting thin, He addressed His Father. I would love to know what their reunion was like, after proclaiming his work done, and commending His soul home, what did Heavenly Father tell His Son? What did the Savior convey to the Father about us and mortality? We only have a small glimpse, the beginnings of what that conversation would entail and these are the words “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I wonder sometimes if that is His argument for most of us in mortality. It’s so hard to know principles the way Heaven knows them. It’s hard to know each other the way Heaven knows us. We struggle to understand Heaven and her grace from such a distance and so we struggle to offer Heaven and her grace to each other. His words seem more idealogical than actual. The soldiers must have known they were nailing a man to a cross. The actions were not necessarily in question. However, their understanding of what they were taking from the Earth and the pain they were inflicting on the most loving man to ever walk her trails, that was the thing He perceived that they didn’t understand. And because they didn’t understand that they couldn’t understand Him. I want to understand.
It’s Good Friday. I’m thinking of Him.