Monday, November 18, 2013

In The Garden

                Our women’s study group has come into the last chapters of the Gospel of John. In these chapters we are faced with the persecution, the betrayal, the denial and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. As I was praying about the study and what the Lord wanted us to focus on, I heard Him speak, “For you, personally.” The chapters we are about to unfold over the next few weeks have been read, studied,
preached and taught over and over again. Many of us who are Christians can probably recite these chapters almost word for word. But, the Lord Jesus wants us to experience these chapters in a way that we never have before. He is asking our ladies group to forget what we know and to come before Him humbly, with open hearts to receive what He wants to teach us about His sacrifice for us, not as a group, but as individuals, and I believe He is asking the same of you today.
                We know that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world. We know that He took upon Himself the wrath of God, the sins of every living soul who has ever or will ever live and that through His death and resurrection He has given us victory in this life and the life to come. However, there is more treasure nestled in these chapters, a deeper and more passionate story that we, as His disciples get to experience. Today I found myself in awe and wonder over the obedience that Jesus demonstrated for me, and it is my prayer that you too see and experience this same awe and wonder.
                “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook of Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” John 18:1
                Our study opens with verse 1 of Chapter 18. Jesus has prayed for His disciples in Chapter 17 and for us who would believe on Him. Now, He takes the next steps towards our salvation- He enters the garden. We know that this garden was called the Garden of Gethsemane. But what caught my attention was that Jesus crossed over the Brook of Kidron, which was before the garden. Why would the Brook of Kidron be so important? Important enough that John would include it, by name, in his gospel? Because the Brook of Kidron (some scholars believe) was the same brook that ran under the temple.
                The Passover Feast is going on at the same time that Jesus is in the Garden. The Passover lambs are being brought to the temple and the priests are offering the sacrifices as required by God. The Brook of Kidron would have been red, because all the blood from the offerings would have been dumped into this brook. Here, Jesus, the true Passover lamb crosses this brook, this river of red which is stained with the offerings for sin. As I pondered on this, I pictured Jesus stopping before He crosses over and perhaps Psalm 75:8 is on His mind. “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed and He pours it out…”            

                John 18:4 tells us that Jesus knew that all these things would come to pass. He knew and understood as He crossed over the brook stained with blood that there was a cup prepared for Him, and He was going to willingly drink it. The blood stained brook was perhaps a reminder, or a sign of sorts that God’s will was in fact being fulfilled, that the hour had truly come. Not only did Jesus cross the blood stained brook, which gives us a picture of what He was so willing to take upon Himself on our behalf, but it also reminded me that Jesus crossed the divide of sin that separated us from God the Father, and willingly entered into sin for us.
                There is also another picture that we see here in these first few verses in Chapter 18. Not only did Jesus cross the Brook, but He entered the garden. The first garden is where sin began; (Genesis 3:1-7) the last garden is where sin will be defeated. Pastor Chuck Smith states, “It is in another garden that man first encountered the spiritual warfare with the enemy of his soul. The battle with Satan was lost by man; there he forfeited the rights of the earth over to Satan by yielding his will to Satan’s will. Now, Jesus enters another garden to do battle with Satan, the issue again is God’s will verse Satan’s will.” (Blue Letter Bible Chuck Smith Sermon Notes John 18) Here Jesus would fight the greatest battle that man would ever know. He would fight the battle for our sakes. He not only had to defeat the enemy through His brutal death, but upon Him would be poured out the cup of God’s wrath.
                “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’” John 18:11
  The cup of God’s wrath in the Old Testament was poured out upon all those who sinned against God. Here, Jesus, the perfect, sinless, pure Son of God would become sin, and would have the entire wrath of God His Father poured out upon Him. He would not only take all this upon Himself willingly, but He would take and drink it joyfully. “For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2) Because of His obedience, He would experience the wrath of God, He would endure the temptation of sin, He would battle the greatest enemy mankind has ever known, and He would find Himself separated from God all so that we could be His. Jesus would experience the one thing that no Christian will ever have to experience, separation from God- because He chose to be that for us.

                As I read these passages of Scripture, I am humbled, awed and broken. He took all this upon Himself, and I have denied Him, turned away from Him, sinned against Him and caused Him sorrow. But, no matter what I do, no matter who I am, there is one truth that we, as Christians, can cling to. Because of Jesus Christ I can live. It is my prayer today for me, personally, and for all who read this blog that we would no longer take for granted the sacrifice that Jesus went through on our behalf. That we would come humbly to His throne and that we would offer ourselves to Him, so that through us He may freely live. What else in this life can compare to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? Nothing and no one will ever love you more than He does. He is the One who crossed the blood stained brook, faced the battle in the last garden, and drank the cup which was prepared for Him for each individual who has ever or will ever live. Let us not forget, let us not take lightly the sacrifice He gave. Praise be to Jesus Christ who took my sins upon Himself and gave me victory and life everlasting. Amen and Amen.