And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
I saw things no one else saw.
I was there that night in the olive garden. The place known as Gethsemane. It was my one of my father’s many fields that our family owned. They were the perfect places to go and be alone. I had gone to consider the recent events in our community regarding the one known as Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing had divided the people more than the words and works of this man. Or was he God?
Thinking no one would be in the gardens at this hour, I left our home dressed very modestly. The spring evening was pleasant, with just a warm, faint breeze blowing through the trees on this balmy night in Jerusalem.
Then I heard the voice.
Frightened, I crouched low. I walked gently on the stones that marked the path through the olive grove, careful not to be heard. Someone was crying out in great pain. Agony.
I had never heard anything like it. Or since.
I don’t ever want to hear that distress and wail ever again.
Not the words. But the pain conveyed in them. Someone was pleading. Requesting permission to change what appeared to be an agreed upon course of action.
If possible, remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.
I listened. No response. Who was this? And who was he talking to? I crept closer.
Inching gingerly along the rugged trail, I crouched low to see who it was that was in such great pain and turmoil. Who it was that was pouring out his heart without response.
It was Jesus of Nazareth! He was kneeling in the tiny space between two mature olive trees. Resting underneath the trees appeared to be three of his companions. Sleeping. A fine group of watchmen they were, allowing me to get within 15 feet of their master! Just then, he raised his voice loudly.
My father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
He was praying to God! Loudly, fervently. With the certainty of one who knew God!
I had never heard anyone pray in such a way! I was gripped with fear and amazement all at once. I looked more closely and noticed that blood was coming off his brow. He appeared to be perspiring blood. His prayer was so intense, so filled with tremendous urgency. And yet there was no answer. Jesus seemed to know that there wouldn’t be. Whatever cup he was asking to avoid was unavoidable. The weight of this reality had set in on Jesus.
He waited. He looked toward heaven. He was crying, while his friends were sleeping.
Suddenly a group of soldiers violated the night with their torches, clubs and vile hatred.
They seized Jesus, treating him roughly. I was so caught up in the moment that I forgotten about my proximity to the events unfolding before my eyes. Panicked, I gave up my position of anonymity. Two of the guards seized me by the garment, which came off in their hands and facilitated my escape.
In the years since I have often thought of that night. I told no one of my true identity. But I have thought deeply about the prayer of Jesus of Nazareth that night.
What was the cup he would drink?
God promised that his enemies would be forced to drink the cup of his wrath.
I have the strangest and strongest sense that Jesus drank that cup for me.
I believe he died in my place.
That he died in the place of all those who believe in him.
That he was condemned for my sins.
He took my place on that cross. Freely.
My debt he paid, and my death he died that night.
And it is marvelous in my sight.