I took the photo included with today’s essay while I was standing in the Garden of Gethsemane. It seemed an appropriate picture of what happened there on Thursday night, that first Easter. Jesus sent his disciples ahead, to prepare the Passover meal, and he joined them later that evening. The Passover meal was a reverent celebration for the Jewish people. They celebrated this feast as a family, remembering how their ancestors enslaved in Egypt, had been saved from the final plague. The plague brought death to the first-born of every household who did not have their doorposts covered by the blood of a lamb. This was the plague that caused Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt for the promised land. Passover had always been a celebration of how God’s people had avoided death. That Thursday night, Jesus knew he would not avoid death by celebrating Passover, but accept it. Jesus led the Passover meal telling his disciples, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to his disciples saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26). The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them, and many people still don’t today. Why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t there have been another way?
When Adam and Eve sinned, God made the first sacrifice. He killed the animals he had created, in order to clothe the man and woman he loved. I don’t know why blood covers sin, but it has been true from the beginning. I suppose God wanted us to understand the high cost of sin and the high value of his forgiveness. Sin separates us from God, and he wanted us to value our relationship to him as much as he does. Nothing is more valuable to God, than you. He has been telling us that since Adam and Eve. He shouted that to us that first Easter when he gave us his son.
One of my strongest memories from the Holy Land is standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, and looking at the East Gate of the Jerusalem wall. Jim told our group that it was probably a 30-45 minute march for those soldiers that night. And Jesus saw them leave the gate and then he watched them march towards him. He waited in that garden so that he could die for our sin. And his disciples didn’t understand, so they slept.
So today, on this Easter Thursday, may his disciples “wake up” and understand that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). There is nothing that God values more than you. I don’t understand why blood covers sin, but it always has. Jesus sacrificed his earthly life so that you and I could have eternal life.
I like that picture from the Garden of Gethsemane because, for me, it represents Thursday night of that first Easter. For Jesus, the unimaginable pain was worth enduring – because he knew what his sacrifice would make possible. This Passover Thursday, Christians are like the Israelites. We celebrate the death we have avoided. But let us celebrate with understanding. Our eternal life came at the highest price because nothing is more valuable to God, than you. Picture Jesus, waiting in the Garden for those soldiers. Is anything more valuable to you than Jesus?