Silver moonlight cast shadows through the grove of olive trees and fell on a man who stood in a small clearing, with eyes closed, and hands raised toward the velvet sky. A cool breeze flitted through the garden and caressed his upturned face with its wispy fingers. He often retreated to this serene haven to escape the hectic chaos that accompanied daily life and to be replenished with the tranquil serenity of being still and knowing his God.
But this night was different.
This night he could find neither rest nor peace. Fear welled up inside him as he crept deeper into the foliage, hoping to find the solace that eluded him.
Though he did not fear death, a long torturous one did not appeal to him. Not only would he face an excruciating death, but the hours of torture he would be succumbed to beforehand would make the pain of crucifixion unbearable. He could almost feel the leather straps of the whip slice open his skin, hear the mocking crowd disdainfully hail him as king as they beat course barbs into his skull.
A tremor shook his body and he sank to his knees. “Papa, please,” he muttered. “Please, if there’s any other way, don’t make me go through this. Yet, your will be done, not mine.”
After awhile, he stood up and realized that he had never felt so alone. He wandered back to the garden entrance where he’d left his friends but found them asleep. Judging by the position of the moon, he knew only an hour had passed.
The sound of his voice woke them instantly and they stared in shock at the man they had followed for the last three years. His dark brown hair, damp with sweat, clung to his face, and his eyes, usually filled with a light and peace they’d never known, were dark and wild.
“Pray,” he said and then stumbled back into the cluster of trees.
As the moon disappeared behind clouds, the shadows of the grove grew deep and intense. He forced his mind off the pain of death and thought of his father, his constant source of strength. The past 33 years he had been separated from him physically, but never emotionally. He could always feel his presence; a hand on his shoulder guiding him, a whisper in the wind. His father was an integral part of him, yet in only a few hours, he would be separated from him. Abandoned. Forsaken.
This time he could not control the tremor that shook his body and he fell to his knees. The extreme emotional stress that wrenched through his body forced the tiny capillaries in his skin to break; blood mingled with sweat as he repeated his simple prayer.
This time he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see an angel standing beside him.
“You always knew you were born to die,” the angel said. “It is why you came to this world, relinquishing your place beside your father’s throne. You alone can rescue them. Only you.”
The words gave the man strength and as the angel faded from sight, he forced his thoughts to shift back to the reason he would go through this. For the people of this world, the people he loved, whose souls were in bondage to sin. His death would free them, but in doing so, he would have to pay their penalty – an eternity of suffering, for the millions who would believe, condensed into a mere nine hours.
The intensity of that holy wrath gripped him with terror and he collapsed prostrate on the ground. “Papa, please, please, if there is any way, any other way, let this cup pass from me.”
Before he could even wait for an answer, he heard the sounds of voices drawing closer. He turned and saw the flickering dance of torch fire flail against the night sky and knew it was time. If he walked away now, his entire mortal life would have been in vain.
“Since it is your will, Papa,” he whispered, “I will do it.”
The Creator of the very world He stood in, the One who’s very breath could extinguish the life from the men who would soon torture Him, and the King who possessed the power to obliterate with a single word the priest who would illegally issue His death sentence, laid aside His Deity and shed His blood, as the ultimate illustration of the power of love.
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