By Benjamin Stubblefield, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Like a lot of young children, my kids love the Narnia book series by C.S. Lewis. Aslan, Reepicheep, Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy are household names.
But there’s one scene in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” that they’re always conflicted about: when the noble Aslan arranges the exchange of his life for his friend to the murderous, wicked White Witch. It’s heroic, yet awful. Wonderful, yet horrible to see someone who is so good willingly go into the hands of fiends so insidious.
It’s the same kind of beauty and terror on display at the Mount of Olives in Luke 22. Jesus faces the dread, imminent before Him, with a lion’s heart — willing to live through the devil’s hour if that’s what’s necessary to work his
Father’s redemption plan.
In Prayer (41–46)
Knowing His time is near, Jesus removes Himself from His disciples to pray. I probably would have run, hid or called for that legion of angels (Matt. 26:53), but my Jesus, kneeling, gets into the agonizing work of real prayer.
And He asks, “God-willing, might there be another way?” Jesus our Lord is also Jesus the man, and here demonstrates His very real yearning to avoid the ruin ahead.
Yet He also reveals His overriding ambition to accomplish His Father’s designs. The Father responds by sending one angel to strengthen Jesus, not for war, but for the cross.
So Jesus has His answer, and He rises resolved now to face His betrayal.
In pastoral ministry, I have noticed that sometimes people walk away from Christian religion when their lives get bad.
I think that’s because people often imagine God as some sovereign, cosmic chess player and we are His pawns. He has to win His will, so He moves us in and out of harm’s way as He wishes — without regard for the agony of human suffering.
The feeling is: “He took me into this pain, and He doesn’t understand what it’s like.”
But at Gethsemane, the Savior sweats blood. The Father prepares His only begotten for the cruelest day in history.
In trial, therefore, we ought to hurry to the Lord, not away from Him, because He knows perfectly well “all about our trouble.” He has had the full cup of His own.
In Betrayal (47–50)
The tide now turns. His friend betrays Him with a friend’s gesture; His other disciples, roused from sleep, risk an armed escalation of violence. Jesus, however, remains confident in His task ahead.
Reminding the crowd that He is the Son of Man, He has no interest in war or escape. He is determined, even in betrayal, to do His Father’s will.
The wheels come off sometimes, don’t they? Circumstances can quickly go from bad to worse.
But the Christian, like Jesus, goes through them with the same confidence that He had — that what God has for us is better, that the garden is better than the tree of knowledge, the right side of the boat is better than the left, the raven’s bread is better than Ahab’s feast and the Roman cross is better than the kingdoms of this world.
In Action (51–53)
As things get violent, Jesus turns a physical altercation into another occasion to show mercy and rest in His Father’s will.
I think I would have left the dude’s ear on the ground. Maybe even high-fived the guy who sliced it off. I mean, it seems like a small thing: They take my life; I’ll take his ear.
So it is unimaginably compassionate, in this rejection, betrayal, hypocrisy, to witness Jesus caring for a man’s cartilage.
What Luke is showing is that this Jesus is not just another man; “He is abounding in lovingkindness,” who’ll heal His enemies, and soon pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”