Cross Walk Devotional: Crushed

Then Jesus led his disciples to an orchard called “The Oil Press.” He told them, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”  He took Peter, James, and John with him. However, an intense feeling of great sorrow plunged his soul into deep sorrow and agony.  And he said to them, “My heart is overwhelmed and crushed with grief. It feels as though I’m dying. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Matthew 26:36-38 TPT

Hours before Jesus’ arrest, he had already begun to die.

As Jesus invites Peter, James, and John into his suffering, He says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:38 NIV), or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased in the The Message, “This sorrow is crushing my life out.” Before the first spike pierced our Savior’s flesh, grief began to crush his soul.  In the Greek, the word Matthew uses is perilypos, which means surrounded by or encompassed by sorrow, but it’s that “even to death” part that makes it crushing grief.  Jesus expresses the idea that grief closes in on his heart like two ugly, murderous, strangling hands.  I think of what Paul later wrote in 2 Corinthians 4, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed (8)”, and I realize that the crucifixion began right at this moment in the garden, when Jesus took our crushing.  In the orchard—Gethsemane, which actually means “oil press,” Jesus became the olives squeezed for our own healing oil. He became the grape-crushed wine we now drink to remember.

In fact, in reporting the same events, Luke the doctor adds a rather clinical note, “…he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground (Luke 22:44).  In modern times, this condition is called hematohidrosis, and it happens when “capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810702/). It’s all very scientific, the way that the pressure of stress, anxiety, and fear can actually smash your blood vessels so that you begin to leak blood through your sweat glands.  It brings to mind something the Hebrew writer challenges in Hebrews 12:4, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” The TPT makes the leap, translating this, “After all, you have not yet reached the point of sweating blood in your opposition to sin.”  In other words, we will never out grieve, out stress, out fear, out hurt, out overwhelm, or out struggle Jesus. We won’t, because he was crushed so that we never need be. As the writer of Hebrews also points out, we can now confidently take our needs to Jesus, because He knows suffering (Hebrews 4:15-16), and he overcame it.

We need to hold that wine in our mouths a little and let the flavor of it develop.  We can’t just read these verses and let them fall empty. The crucifixion of Jesus began when he was crushed for us.

When I begin to taste the bitter fullness of that truth, what stuns me even more is that Jesus invites Peter, James, and John to watch while he experiences this suffering.  “Stay and keep watch with me,” he compels them (Matthew 26:38). Why does Jesus invite his disciples, perhaps these with whom he shared closest relationships, to keep watch while he struggles in prayer with soul-crushing grief?  As disciple-makers following Jesus, we must wrestle with that question.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a “suffer alone” kind of girl, regardless of whether my pain is physical or emotional.  I learned a long time ago in my own broken moments that people can be disappointing and unreliable support when life falls apart, and I can save myself even more grief by working through it on my own.  The trouble is, that’s not the example of Jesus.  We can’t water this down.  In the account, Peter, James, and John come off as terrible friends.  They don’t get Jesus, and they don’t offer him any support. They sleep.  He even wakes them up a few times. But notice what he says when he wakes them.  It’s not, “Come on, can’t you even offer me a little bit of encouragement here,” which is always what I’m darkly thinking when I read the passage.  Instead, Jesus says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak (Matthew 26:41), and this reveals a shocking truth about Jesus’ purposes.  Even in his suffering, Jesus is a teacher, and this isn’t just about having his friends there to support him. Even crushed, He isn’t thinking about himself. Peter, James, and John are Jesus’ disciples.  He’s training them not just to get through the next few days but to build His church, and there’s something he wants them to learn about how to persevere when hard-pressed.

What does Jesus do right in front of them during the last crushing hours of his freedom?  He prays–so fervently he sweats blood, actively submitting his will to God. Jesus is honest about what he wants and thus the temptation he feels–”My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me (Matthew 26:39),” and he is also resolved to be obedient–”Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Notice that the longer Jesus prays, the more resolved he becomes, so much so that he rises to meet Judas instead of waiting to be found.

So how does the example of Jesus extend to our own disciple-making?  As we grow into the likeness of Jesus and take up our commission we should also learn how to actively submit to God’s will when we feel hard-pressed by temptation and the pain of our circumstances.  Our prayers should take on the flavor of Christ’s in the garden. And as we train other disciples to build the Kingdom, we should view even our own times of suffering as teachable moments. We need to invite those we mentor to keep watch with us, to hear us resolutely say through our suffering, “May your will be done.”

You are loved!

Elysa Henegar


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